Body & Soul 2015 Review
Body & Soul is that perfect size festival where you can realistically expect to find someone if you’re looking for them while also being able to avoid particular headcases if necessary. 10,000 tickets through the gate. 90% of a festival’s atmosphere is down to its attendance and Body & Soul attracts a broad cross-section of hippies, families, and pure buzzers in nice proportions. Campsite reviews spoke of cleanliness, fair ticket prices, the top-notch lineup and almost complete lack of scald. It’s like Electric Picnic, but better craic and one hundred quid cheaper.
Outside of Delvin in Westmeath, Ballinlough Castle grounds, from car park to camp-site are golf course level gorgeous. Rolling hills and meandering hedgerows make it feel less like an event and more like a camping session getting out of hand. And the glorious, glorious sun. Go on the weather.
The weekend saw fifteen stages light up, including the Comedy tent and the Wonderlust stage, a quieter space located at the end of a wander through woods and walled grounds, surrounded by some of the more yuppy food stalls. Wonderlust saw individuals and groups take to the stage in TED fashioned talks as well as musical acts featuring over the weekend. Passing through, you might find the quiet storming of Dublin’s Margie Jean Lewis, or the lively ska of Interskalactic (who played a seriously rousing cover of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’), or Daithí, who played the late slot on Saturday evening.
Group meditation, workshops and other such wonderful new-age exploits were held in another hidden spot, The Sanctuary, where you could find relaxation at any time. Smithfield’s Lighthouse Cinema shared the tent and screened Labyrinth there on Saturday.
Andrew Maxwell experienced some issues with children during his set on Friday evening, claiming that his material was unsuitable for the many “hippy children” present. He made it through well all the same, demanding at one point that a wandering one-year-old join him on stage. The comedy tent was, in general, well-attended, but as with the covered Wonderlust stage, more so when the rain was about, as rare as it was.
GOAT, on Saturday night, specialised in freaking out. Their music might hold up better on record, but it’s definitely a show worth seeing. There’s a tribal world theme to their aesthetic, meaning that colourful traditional cultures are borrowed from often and liberally, reminding the listener of no particular heritage or place, but rather of everything exotic and unknown, passed through the psychedelic blender of a Wah pedal. There’s huge energy to this music, particularly the first album, released in 2012. Commune, appearing last year, is somewhat more reserved, though what may have been attractive about World Music, its balls-out energy and driving guitar riffs, aren’t exactly missing from Commune either. Nor are the tight and thoughtful compositions that make them working albums. At Body & Soul, two vocalists decked out in violent colour, surrounded by more swarthy masked and hooded bandmates strode and danced on the stage and roared to the crowd.
Meltybrains? are ignorantly good. Like, almost criminally enjoyable. It’s hard not to be taken in by their childlike enthuse when they take to the stage, wearing bright clothes of primary colours, usual white uniforms were dramatically revealed in the middle of the set. Most of the tracks played were new material, relatively unknown, but well-received and the lads behaved like power rangers for the whole thing, Ben in particular handling some serious aerobics.
Twin Headed Wolf, hailing from County Clare, played Wonderlust on Saturday evening, showcasing an unconventional use of teapots and hand saws, relying otherwise on guitar and vocal harmonising, with strains of Celticism and scattered lyrics as Gaeilge. The audience were endeared to the whole show by means of nervous and awkward banter, sojourns under blankets for hand-puppet antics and invitations to howl along to songs. As a neighbour put it, “you’d just want to wrap them up in a blanket and share your pizza with them”. Fair play so.
The Midnight Circus tent in the main arena featured electronic music non-exclusively. King Kong Company set the tone in full form early on Friday, closing the Chai Wallah stage the following night to boot. They knew how to talk to their crowd, even wielding a bottle of Buckfast as a prop for new song, ‘Space Hopper’. The tunes were as lively as the band, who expressed a genuine delight at being there.
MMOTHS, joined by a guitarist, played an ethereal set there too, exiting the stage amid a looped wash of noise. As with most of his music, it seemed to be more about the listening than the jumping around, though definitely a great act to see even at a festival. The crowd may have expected to hear tracks like ‘Heart’ and ‘THNX’ and they were relatively quiet, though it was a theme of the weekend that acts were surprising with their selections, pulling out unconventional takes on old material.
Saturday night was a big one. Super Furry Animals captivated and led us into another of the most anticipated acts of the festival, Australian duo Hugo Gruzman and James Lyell, otherwise known as Flight Facilities. By the time they closed off Saturday night with The Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’, the entire crowd were carried away and off their feet.
Sunday came with a new note of desperation in the campsite banter. Almost aggressively fun. Long gone is innocent Friday, with four tent pegs in the ground and a bag of cans in your hand. Unruly thoughts of life on the outside trouble your mind, but you shake it off by honking loudly for all to hear. A man insists, wild-eyed, that you join in his hundreds-strong game of limbo. Not much you can say to that.
Rhye played one of the most interesting sets of the festival on Sunday evening. Their unique 2012 release, Woman, met with critical approval and had a very singular, smooth and lounge-y sound. Towards the end of ‘The Fall’, vocalist Milosh decided a standard run of things wouldn’t suit the brightness of the day, or the venue, or the mood, or all three and the audience were treated to a groovy, funked up arrangement. For me, they shed entirely new light on some of their tracks, such as the previously moody and reserved ‘Last Dance’, now in my head as a jam track.
Following Rhye, was a thumping show from Nightmares on Wax. Suitably roused, the audience was arranged well before they turned up on stage. We cut out of their set to see James Holden in the Midnight Circus tent which ended up being an intense visit, crazily spiralling walls of electronic sound and a set of drums. SOAK played an absolutely breezy set early on Sunday, finding dedicated interest at the main stage, her light and breathy tones carried off the last of the previous night’s remains.
Other stages included a whole reggae clearing, situated just off the main arena and smaller booths and setups belonging to establishments in the arena. The food on offer was tasty and diverse, although best of course early in the weekend. Regardless, the atmosphere was hugely inviting and festivals, being communal, tend to bring out the best in people. Body & Soul was no different. If you like fun, you’d love this.
Review by Luke Etherton