Body & Soul festival crackles with life and mischief

Brand Brauer Frick’s electro-jazz set is a highlight of boutique festival

Zoe Readmond and Claire Lynch from Dublin enjoying the Body & Soul festival in Co Westmeath.  Photograph: Allen Kiely.

Zoe Readmond and Claire Lynch from Dublin enjoying the Body & Soul festival in Co Westmeath. Photograph: Allen Kiely.

 

When it comes to favourite Irish festivals, Body & Soul is less a contender and more like a defending champion. It takes its boutique status seriously, and its programming aims more towards the atmospheric than the A-list acts.

This year, attendance was punched up to 10,000 from 8,500. This means stages were rarely quiet, which was great for atmosphere made all the balmier by largely sunny weather. Where the site starts to show the strain was early in the morning. In previous years, it was easy to get lost and make new discoveries, while bumping into friends amid the trees. This year the stages and paths were packed, which saps a little of the mystery.

The atmosphere though was crackling with life and mischief throughout, helped along by this festival’s attention to detail. Strange double-helix light installations spinning in the trees, boxes made of white LEDs, a suspended ceiling of mirror: 101 small additions that make the site a pleasure to wander through.

Campsite legends of the weekend have to be Ross Dungan and Emma Gleeson, who were so delighted to be going to a festival that they set out nice and early, and arrived in Stradbally a full 10 weeks before Electric Picnic gets under way. One sheepish detour to Westmeath later, they were in flying form.

Cerebral performer joke of the weekend came from Dan Deacon who told the crowd to “Dance like you’re in Game of Thrones devoid of all the patriarchy.”

The “Were you there?” set award goes to Brand Brauer Frick’s superlative early doors electro-jazz set on Saturday.

Meltybrains? proved once again why they are one of the most creative bands in the business. Super Furry Animals had something of a misfire on Saturday night, while Clark, Flight Facilities and Shit Robot put in superlative sets to boss Saturday into Sunday morning.

The best site addition this year? The Glasshouse bar in the walled garden – the best cocktails in this or any other town, from the crew behind Electric in Galway, together with a roster of cracking, crowd-pleasing DJs. This little corner of the castle had a full-on block party for the entire weekend.

It’s glitzy, glamorous and endlessly friendly – another crafted detail in a festival that works harder than the rest. For full, day-by-day reviews see irishtimes.com