Last weekend, June 21-23, the fourth edition of Body & Soul was taking place in Ballinglough Castle, Co Westmeath. The lineup seemed like a real step-up on previous years, with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds a massive coup for the Saturday night. It was my second time seeing the band in less than a month. But whereas at Primavera I was about 20,000 people from the stage, squinting to catch his 1.89m frame, on Saturday he was impossible to miss, towering over the crowd on a tiny stage. It was an intense show, one that I didn’t want to end. You knew it was only going to get better when his lorry pulled up beside the stage halfway through, emblazoned with the line: ‘rock n roll touring’. Cave played half the show standing on the people down the front; his screams during ‘Red Right Hand’ were ably matched by those devout followers. Also, the cheer of the weekend went to the woman in her 60s or 70s who was up on shoulders at the start of the Bad Seeds’ set. Once you’re a fan of Nick Cave, it seems, you never stop. (All pictures, including the one above of Fuck Buttons, are by Brid O’Donovan.)


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

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The Body & Soul site was a sight to behold:
Man, getting to the site from Cork is difficult. It took about an hour once we got off the motorway, going down country lanes, over tiny bridges, through tunnels, before we arrived at the site. It looked great, once we were settled though. I think the capacity was around 7,000 this year, though it didn’t sell out. Lots of room for campers, and the site never felt too full. It certainly seems to have perfectly captured that ’boutique’, eclectic feel that festivals all strive for now. Body & Soul is most people’s favourite area at Electric Picnic, so put it on sprawling grounds and watch it entice. You could probably have the best weekend of your life even if you didn’t know any of the bands playing.

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Kurt Vile beat the weather:
Yeah it wasn’t great weather wise, particularly on Saturday. I thought Kurt Vile was going to be the big washout of the weekend, playing around 6pm on the Saturday, preceded by a massive downpour which left few there for his first couple of songs. I said beforehand that Vile in the sun would be the perfect festival band, and whaddyaknow, a few tracks in, the clouds split, the sun came out and it was impossible to not feel like this was all down to the music coming from the stage. Wakin On A Pretty Daze is one of my favourite albums of the year and the likes of ‘KV Crimes’ just sounded so great.

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Charles ‘James Brown’ Bradley:
It was such a good main stage lineup on Saturday. Sandwiched between Kurt Vile and Nick Cave was Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, who seems more than capable of filling James Brown’s shoes (he’s actually worked as a Brown impersonator). The 65-year-old only released his debut album in 2011 but he has been winning fans over for years. A few people I talked to over the weekend didn’t know who he was before he took to the stage – I bet Bradley was the first thing they searched for on Spotify when they got home from Body & Soul. The feelgood set of the weekend. I’ve put up all of Brid’s photos of Bradley – I think there’s a Buzzfeed post in there somewhere about ‘the many faces of Charles Bradley’.

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Richie Egan closes one book, opens another:
I loved Richie Egan’s set on the Wonderlust stage. He played Christ Church in Dublin the previous night, and continued the sombre theme at Body & Soul. His mother died a couple weeks ago and he tells how he and his mum really connected over the Nick Cave song ‘Into My Arms’, so much so that his father asked him to play it at her cremation. He couldn’t do it then, understandably so, but he did a stellar job of it at this festival. It was one of those moments that hushed the crowd, a special moment that I feel honoured to have seen. He may have broke the golden rule of festivals – don’t do a cover of another act on the bill – but I’m glad he did. He also played some new stuff and lost oldies like ‘To The Sea’, announcing that he’s working on two new albums, a slow one and an electronic one (Visionair, perhaps?). The two sets over the weekend seem like Egan closing one book, readying to open another.

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The rest of the Irish:
I had planned on leaving Nick Cave’s set early to catch Slowplacelikehome over at Wonderlust, but as you may have guessed from above, I wasn’t for shifting. I heard it went down well though. Overhead, the Albatross opened the main stage, winning over a good few of those watching on, and feeling genuinely chuffed to do so. Adultrock at Midnight Circus has the songs but 3.30pm in the afternoon probably isn’t the time for his chilled out dance music – a similar story for Almighty Sion. The night before, Friday, Donal Dineen put on a set that I enjoyed possibly more than James Murphy’s, who was on before him. Whereas Murphy busted out some classic old school disco, funk and more, Dineen played techno and dance for the most part, alongside what I think was a lot of original music. I don’t know what his plans are, but if you come across him over the summer, be assured that his set will get you dancing. I’d love to see Adultrock given a late-night slot like that. Lisa O’Neill drew a good crowd after Richie Egan’s set. I left pretty sharpish though – her voice, a kind of Irish brogue adapted from Edith Piaf – was too much for me. Brid loved her though, claiming she was out of this world. And what do I know, eh?

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It was jammers in the Midnight Circus on Friday for former LCD Soundsystem leader James Murphy. He seemed quite humble when he told the crowd: “Thank you for letting me play some of my favourite records.” This year was the first time that Body & Soul was a three-day. There probably wasn’t enough on on Friday though. So still a few things for B&S to figure out, but all in all a thoroughly enjoyable festival. There were a couple of reports about stuff getting stolen from tents, but hopefully these were isolated incidents. We arrived back to find our tent half open and a girl’s handbag left behind. All the stuff in my bag had been emptied out, including my Converse. We decided it must’ve been a girl who was completely out of it, and who finally figured out it was the wrong tent after she went through EVERYTHING in my bag. I think the word of the weekend was ‘yolks’ – everyone seemed to be on them, and everybody else wanted to be on them. My favourite chat-up line of the weekend: “Have you ever tried ketamine?” I don’t know how the rest of their night went, alas. Bet they’ll be back for Body & Soul 2014 though – I know I will.

What did everybody else think? Who was the best set of the weekend? Did it live up to previous years? Was Nick Cave not the best act of the weekend? (DOI: Work commitments meant we couldn’t do the Sunday of B&S, so let me know how that went down.)