Body and Soul 2012
The third Body & Soul festival at Ballinlough Castle in Co Westmeath was the most ambitious yet and, over two days of sunshine and rain, revelers witnessed first-hand the telltale signs of the festival's growth over the years. A direct sign of the festival's upward momentum was in the ticket sales, with all 5,000 tickets snapped up, affording us the opportunity to see how the relative newcomer to the scene would cope when its resources were stretched.
Festival-goers were clearly subjected to some sort of meteorological reprieve when it came to the weather. Despite the scaremongering, Saturday's weather wasn't as bad as anticipated and as for Sunday's sunshine; well that was just a glorious and unexpected surprise.
The rain prior to the festival was definitely a factor though, reducing the grounds to one big squelchy mess of mud and puddles. You really have to feel for the poor soul responsible for the upkeep of the once pristine grounds of the castle, he's got his work cut out for him over the next few months.
What sets festivals like Body & Soul, and its big sister Electric Picnic, apart from the rest is their non-reliance on the standard festival fare of stages/bars/merch stand/toilets and an understanding that some of the best times punters have at festivals doesn't necessarily involve music. Walks through the woods reveal hidden gems, bog cottages and other such delights which underline the inherent creativity at Body & Soul's core.
Ultimately, though, Body & Soul is a music festival and should be judged as such. Saturday's musical highlights, as witnessed by us anyway, all took place on the main stage (located at its new home to the left of the campsite exit; what was formerly the main stage was now known as The Upstage). With nods in the direction of The Herbaliser, Gold Panda and Spiritualized, the real stars of Saturday evening's Body & Soul were Django Django and Villagers.
The Scots/Irish/English hybrid of Django Django, adorned in matching copper and white shirts, were one of the real success stories of the day. Their self-titled debut has been one of the best reviewed albums of 2012 and their distinct sound translated admirably to the Body & Soul main stage. 'Default', their hit single from earlier this year, was definitely the song that roused the most interest from the crowd but for those familiar with the album, there was also fine renditions of 'Storm' and 'Love's Dart'.
After taking a break from performing following the extensive touring that came with the first Villagers album, Conor O'Brien and his band are back and armed with a rake of new material. Three quarters of their set (8 of the 12 songs) was new material, bookended by opener 'Becoming A Jackal' and closer 'Ship of Promises'. New songs like 'Earthly Pleasure', 'A Lighthouse' and 'The Bell', the latter of which has featured in occasional Villagers set-lists for a while now, all give the impression that the second album will be every bit as gargantuan as their first.
Sunday was supposed to be the worst weather day of the weekend, if you were to believe the weather reports. You can only imagine our surprise when the sun came out - and stayed all day! Say what you will about 'making your own fun' and whatnot, but there's really no denying the enjoyment of summer festivals is increased tenfold when the sun is shining. After all, there's a reason outdoor festivals aren’t held during November - even if June had been doing a pretty believable impression of November lately.
Hollie Cook, formerly of The Slits, took particular delight in the early after sunshine. Reggae and sunshine have always been a good mix and the crowd enjoyed every minute, even forgiving Cook's drummer for repeatedly asking: "how are you doing today Dublin!?"
Kormac's Big Band, by now Body & Soul veterans, saved themselves for this - their only Irish festival appearance of the year - and it showed in the exuberance of the collective crammed on to the stage. DJs, MCs, a brass band, percussion, all combined to create a sonic delight.
Oklahoman St. Vincent was up next on the same stage, touring on the back of her third album Strange Mercy which was released late last year. Towards the end of her set, Annie Clark told a story of how she was given a gift of a dish-sponge in the shape of the Sex Pistols' bass player Sid Vicious called 'Sid Dishes' before bemoaning "this is what became of punk". Was the following stage dive and crowd surfing from Clark more of a statement than anything else, or was it just fun? Hmm.
Having spent the majority of the weekend entrenched at the main stage, a quick jaunt to the Wonderlust stage to see Rhob Cunningham was next. The Dubliner delighted the rather giddy crowd with his repertoire of lyrically beautiful and elegantly constructed melodies. The crowd swelled significantly throughout the course of his 45 minute set, which says a lot about just how good it was. One of the highlights.
Speaking of highlights, if you walked around the site long enough it was only a matter of time before you came across someone speaking about their anticipation of the M83 gig in revered tones and the French electopop act didn't disappoint. The French electronic music movement is incredibly fertile and M83 are just the latest to emerge from the assembly line, following Daft Punk, College and, to a degree, Phoenix.
Their set was the perfect way to end the festival, with their music acting as an ideal soundtrack to the descending sun. We can only imagine what Body & Soul 2013 will have in store for us.
Story by John Balfe | 15:51 | Monday 25th June 2012 | Live Reviews
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