Body and Soul day one: Rubberbandits push the comedy tent to breaking point

The first night of the festival featured sets from EMBRZ, BadBadNotGood, The Gloaming, Girl Band, Optimo and Lumo DJs

Music, comedy, performance, food, drink and lots of tents. It’s the annual Body and Soul Festival. Video: Dominique McMullan


EMBRZ is third to take to the Midnight Circus stage, and it’s a half full tent looking to get hyped. Jack Casey, the 24-year old Maynooth producer, comes on stage, pulls a woolly hat on and says ‘Howiya lads’, and the crowd goes insane. They are here for a party.

EMBRZ has found himself a very refined signature sound, using chillwave sounds, downtempo beats and euphoric vocals to create breathtaking electronic remixes, as well as his own original tracks. Knowing it’s early in the evening yet, he starts with his more twinkling, ethereal tunes but the crowd are looking for something a little less relaxed. He goes from those ethereal, ambient electronic sounds to filthy beats in about ten seconds flat.

His set is tight, super versatile, and great fun. An impatient crowd perhaps don’t appreciate the evocative, daydreamy vibes at the start, but are as hyped as they’ll be all evening by the time they leave.

The only act to grace the comedy tent on Friday gave the security team a run for their money; Rubberbandits drew a crowd fit for the main stage. The lucky punters who got there 20 minutes ahead of time hit the ground running with an obligatory preamble bop to the filler musak. Outsiders attempted to steal in underneath the tarpaulin walls before anything started. Such is the promise of the gas Limerick duo. 

Rousing an immediate self-generated energy is an amazing feat for Festival Land where late on Friday evening is the equivalent of an early Monday morning. Blind Boy Boatclub and Mr Chrome started a quaint riot with Up the Ra and surreally dropped the tempo for would-be power ballad about their pet, Spastic Hawk. They also plugged their upcoming “73 tour of Mullingar”, hoping to fill out seats in pharmacies and fields across the town.

The Body and Soul stage is really well set up for BadBadNotGood, an experimental jazz trio from Toronto. Second on the main stage, their slot near dusk was perfect for those just gearing up for the night.

Half the crowd was up front and centre, ready to jump and scream on cue, while the other half were happy to enjoy from the hillside. Those rolling around in the hay laid out to dry up the muddy field or who seemed to just wander over for a look weren’t there for jazz, but BBNG very quickly captured their attention.

From the first slightly hypnotic symbol, everyone was feeling everything. If you didn’t know experimental-jazz-cum-hip-hop was your thing, you did by the time they finished their set.

BBNG played one of the most enthusiastic, energetic sets of the evening, never dropping the ball for even a second despite playing very intricate piece after very intricate piece. To top it all off, they were as nice as they say all Canadians are and seemingly delighted and grateful for every single person taking the time to enjoy their ‘toons.’

The Gloaming
The Gloaming have never been more suited to a surrounding landscape. Ballinlough castle under a large clear moon is arrestingly scenic and the five lads weaved an exceptional acoustic set, but it was still somehow lost on the audience who incessantly spoke over the trad to express their fondness for trad.

This is unfortunate for a band who have masterd the delivery of quiet moments, usually a very refreshing break from the overly compressed sound quality that bleeds through the mainstream. On this occasion however, it was shouted down by an audience that at one point was overheard dissecting the inflexibilities of car taxation.

Even so, their undulating tempo prompted a few unforeseen jigs that stole the crowd’s full attention back, and their delivery was unrivalled.

Girl Band
Girl Band, the confusingly all-male Dublin-born rock foursome, are one of the most interesting acts in Ireland at the moment. The crowd had been hungry all evening for something they could jump up and down to and dance all their energy out. Closing the main stage right after the Gloaming, they were everything the crowd needed.

Dara Kiely, the frontman, was the focal point for the night with his slightly frenzied delivery. He’s a man of few words, but his performance was both enthralling and unnerving. The whole band seemed ready to wreak havoc on stage and they rarely put a foot wrong all night. There were a few overly long pauses, which slowed them down slightly, but nothing that stops their visceral sounds consistently assaulting your senses. In a good way.

Girlband are an explosion of chaos, and provided an electrifying close to Friday’s festivities.

Optimo and Lumo DJs
Optimo did well to round up the night for the Midnight Circus, bringing a relentlessly banging two-hour house set to a full house. DJ duo Twitch and Jonnie Wilkes borrowed some of the soul from their legendary Glaswegian club night and delved between disco stormers and kick drum heavy beats. They initially ended on The Special’s Ghost Town, Ireland’s alternative national anthem thanks to Father Ted, before coming back on for a 20 minute round up encore.

It was nearly the ideal finale to a first night of Body and Soul until the Lumo DJs tore up the Absolut tent with an obligatory drop of Ireland’s Italia 90 World Cup song. Everyone in attendance uniformly lost their heads, suitably wearing themselves out for bedtime.

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