It’s interesting after Jim Carroll’s blog post on Monday commending Body & Soul for another excellent festival that one of the comments instantly lamented what the future holds for Body & Soul. The comment reads: “This festival is slowly but surely being ruined by scumbags completely out of their heads. The Oxegen crowd have ruined E.P and now they’re ruining Body & Soul too.” It’s a claim that reminded me of something Ed Vulliamy said in his Observer feature on his life in festivals: “Hard-and-fast rules dictate the fortunes of art under capitalism. Among them are: 1. If something exhibits creative authenticity, it will be commodified and ruined.” He’s talking about how Glastonbury, the king of music festivals – I went to its website this week to look at the lineup; I was scrolling down for about three minutes because there are that many bands playing over about 900(!!!) acres – has changed from its early incarnation. It’s inevitable that when you love something you don’t want it to change.
Body & Soul has become Ireland’s favourite festival (sorry, Oxegen). Try to find somebody who’s been to Ballinlough Castle who is truly negative about their experience. Sure this year had its problems: long queues for showers on the campsite, the toilets were nasty, sunburn was impossible to escape, James Holden cancelled, a few more food outlets wouldn’t have hurt, there were a lot of people on drugs. But these were minor problems in the grand scheme of things. The vibe across some 8,500 heads was amazing. The capacity has increased slowly over the years and when I heard it had sold out this year I was worried at how cramped things would be, but it really didn’t feel like the tents were arranged like battery hen coops. There was plenty space to breath. And the site is so big that it’s pretty easy to escape the masses. The forest featured a slew of unique tiny stages, including Myles O’Reilly’s chilled Arbutus Yarns shack, the My House house party venue, and a couple more which I didn’t even get a chance to discover. The main stage is pretty small as main stages go, looking like a Caribbean bandstand than the place to catch the likes of Goldfrapp and Caribou, but with a vast green all around for people to lap up the music and sunshine.
There were a few special acts there over the weekend. Jape was predictably wonderful, focusing on new material that offers up some mega dance vibes. The next time we see Jape at a festival, they should be headlining. A reworked ‘Floating’ was my song of the weekend with its first line – “we took our first pills when the music was shit” – unsurprisingly sung by the crowd with pills-assisted gusto. John Grant followed, and his hour-long set was singularly engaging, a mesmeric performance that provided evidence if evidence were needed as to why Grant commands such love and dedication. That a song which begins with the line, “You could probably say I’m difficult, I probably talk too much,” is so beloved of the crowd tells you everything you need to know about the 6ft 2in frontman. God Knows & MynameisJ0hn have released one of the albums of the year and their energetic Sunday afternoon set was enough to live up to the hype – and should convince plenty of people to catch their standalone gigs in Limerick (July 3) and Dublin (July 4). Caribou’s closing set (pictured above by Bríd O’Donovan) on Sunday was astounding. I’ve listened to them a bit over the years but never got into it, but their 75-minute set was one of the best festival slots I’ve seen over the years. A great live show, huge songs and a crowd delirious that things have to come to a close. Elsewhere, the Wonderlust stage combined talks and music pretty well and the Happy Pear food stall and DJ area was immense. Again. How I wished I lived in Greystones so I could go there all the time.
2014 was the fifth instalment of Body & Soul, which is still the best area at Electric Picnic. It hasn’t really changed from its first years, slowly adapting and growing bigger, a trend likely to continue in 2015. And it will probably sell out again and people will be raving about it again. It still hasn’t jumped the shark and still hasn’t resorted to David Guetta. You have to trust the organisers and so far they haven’t put a foot wrong. Don’t fear for Body & Soul changing – embrace it, and er, don’t drink too much Buckfast. Ahem.