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Body&Soul 2016 in review

Body&Soul 2016 in review

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it! We sent our Dave Hanratty (@hanrattydave) down to Body & Soul with nothing but a weekend ticket, a one man tent and a mandate to sample as much atmosphere as he could. He returned invigorated and full of good stuff. 

FRIDAY – Contrast and crowd pleasing…

What’s the first thing you do at Body & Soul immediately after setting camp? If you’re this writer on his maiden voyage to the grounds of Ballinlough Castle, you happen upon a foosball table and enjoy a cagey victory over a friend before following the crunchy guitar strains that begin to emanate from the Midnight Circus tent where Bitch Falcon fire the first real shot in festival anger. Not a bad way to start!

What follows is a real ‘I was there’ moment for both band and audience as the frenetic Dublin trio light up a constantly filling tent – the video wall, strobes and other visual effects are incredible – with guitar heroics and an impossible-to-resist barrage of noise.

As people soak up the sun to the jazz antics of BadBadNotGood on the Main Stage, we head to the Absolut Bar where the R.S.A.G. live show is taking flight. Though the venue will mostly host DJs over the course of the weekend, the Kilkenny native throws out the script and commands attention from behind his drum kit. Indeed, few draw as much from the humble disco beat as Hickey – latest effort ‘Leave A Light On’ is the kind of earworm that stays in your head days after you hear it – and here he deftly incorporates elements of funk, house and rave in a busy, crowd-pleasing turn.

Between the aforementioned chaos and the delicate beauty of Friday night headliners The Gloaming, day one is a perfect illustration of the sheer variety of performers at Body & Soul. An act of tremendous pedigree, the traditional Irish supergroup keep their appointment with a fading blue sky, honouring the summer solstice in rich regard. Children dance and play to the sounds of ‘Song 44’ and ‘The Pilgrim’s Song’, lights twirled aloft as charm and heritage win the day.

Continuing the contrast, Girl Band close out Main Stage duties after midnight as only they can. This is an outfit as diametrically opposed to the legendary musicians previously seen on the same platform and yet no less compelling. Live, they are essential viewing. ‘Paul’ opens, teasing and teasing until that kick-in prompts a frenzy in the front row. Things don’t really let up as Dara Kiely and co. advance the distortion-heavy assault, culminating in a stunning closing run of ‘Lawman’, Blawan’s ‘Why They Hide The Bodies Under My Garage’, the 25-second fury of ‘The Cha Cha Cha’ and the unnerving ‘The Witch Doctor’. You forgive the bruises earned the following day.

SATURDAY – Mother and mohawke…

Saturday kicks off in the Vodafone Comedy Tent where comedian and writer Tara Flynn holds court over a master-class in the art of Irish complaining.

A cutting social commentator, Flynn brings insight and wit to the microphone, penetrating the issues of the day in clever fashion.

Later, the Dublin Comedy Improv Team innovatively exert themselves in a bid to put smiles back on faces. Deep into the woods, Max Zaska and his handily-named ZASKA project hit the Pagoda Stage for their second set in as many days, justifying those ‘next Hozier’ comparisons. Strolling about the woodland area, you hear a blues band dole out playfully lazy covers of ‘Way Down In The Hole’ and ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’. Later, when enjoying a spot of Reiki (hey, a festival is about new experiences, right?), you’re thankful of such a soundtrack.

Also grateful for well-selected tunes are those gathered for Mother’s takeover of the newly-expanded Reckless In Love arena. This “zero-commitment community” actually commits pretty hard to belting out the likes of Justin Bieber, Will Smith and Shania Twain but one must away in search of Mercury Rev on the main stage. Latest album The Light In You appeared to light a fire under Jonathan Donohue and his experimental rock charges. Today he bounds about the stage like a man possessed, clambering atop the drum kit, furiously conducting and generally communicating skyward, his histrionics so spirited that the heavens duly open and rain cascades down. Cheers, dude…

The Main Stage offers up a pretty fine evening triptych in the form of sets from Neon Indian, Floating Points and Hudson Mohawke. Stacking one act atop another results in the ultimate festival mix. The build begins with shimmering synth from Neon Indian – themselves dressed to the nines in an all-white suit affair – before Sam Shepherd changes the tone, bringing an incredible rumble to the arena with his patient payoffs. It is, at times, positively mystical, but leave it to HudMo to tear the wall down and build it back up again around about 1am. His hour is a probing one, familiar building blocks and kick-ins offered but there’s an air of contemplation to this, aided by minimalistic yet blinding lights and the kind of ominous hissing usually reserved for a good sci-fi horror film. The Kanye-approved Scottish producer isn’t about immediacy, and the end result is always worth the journey.

SUNDAY – Take me to church…

It’s Sunday, so it’s time for church – of a sort. Sanderson Jones might have the name of a cult leader and, well, he might even kinda behave like one but his congregation at the Sunday Assembly is met with uber-positive vibes. Love is on the agenda here as comedy, beat poetry and shout-a-long chanting dominate a revitalising hour where the hymn sheet contains the work of Bowie, Queen and Bon Jovi.

Outside, there’s no getting around it – the weather is the talking point of the day as rain refuses to let up and deep mud makes its presence felt. Only one thing to do in such circumstances; embrace the damn thing. And so you trudge and stumble and occasionally slide about the site as the story continues. Such elements mean that the likes of Slow Skies, Feather and Bleeding Heart Pigeons are met with less than full houses for their Main Stage slots but all power through admirably nonetheless.

Rusangano Family, however, seize this challenging day by the scruff of the neck, delivering a blistering set to a swelling crowd. 2016 really has been their year, with debut album Let The Dead Bury The Dead winning deserved critical acclaim. Today, the trio are in scintillating form, delivering a performance so triumphant that even noted curmudgeon Mark Kozelek later calls it out for praise during his set.

Back under the cover of a tent, Gold Panda treats a packed Midnight Circus to expertly-crafted pulsating belters but the Main Stage calls once more, this time for the glorious return of Wolf Parade. Back from a hiatus, the Canadians begin with a quite adorable group hug before showing that they’ve, as one front row punter astutely observes, “still got it”. What follows is truly magical, this great band enjoying themselves once again and the crowd swallowing up the likes of ‘Shine a Light’, ‘Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts’ and ‘Language City’. An absolute masterpiece, one that the mysterious and engaging Santigold later follows in her typically intriguing way.

So that was Body & Soul 2016; the kind of place where you go for a wander and end up sitting in front of a fire for an hour – no acoustic Oasis covers in sight or sound, mercifully – and make new friends, where you bump into old ones and you both discover a fresh favourite band, where an amble through the forest leads to a screening of Stop Making Sense, where even a downpour of biblical proportions can’t ruin the atmosphere. Invigorating, to say the very least.

Got the festival bug and fancy winning some tickets for Castlepalooza? Stay tuned to the site…