Body and Soul festival stretches even further this year

Flight Facilities, Clark, Sohn, Goat, Austra and Asgeir just a few of the highlights as the event flies into form

Adam King from Terenure Dublin  at the Body and Soul festival, which takes place in Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath this weekend. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Adam King from Terenure Dublin at the Body and Soul festival, which takes place in Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath this weekend. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Each year, Body and Soul stretches itself a little further. This year, its punched attendance up to 10,000 from 8,500 in 2014.

So can a festival that prides itself on attention to detail keep the boutique festival atmosphere that is one of its main attractions?

On Friday night, the early signs are encouraging.

Last year saw the main stage opened for the first time on the Friday, and this year that line up has been significantly built up.

Dan Deacon is the early festival pace setter though he doesn’t have a huge crowd to play with initially.

Huge queues of an hour and a half at the main entrance even after negotiating the carpark traffic mean most people are late getting in to the festival proper.

Deacon though wastes no time to divide and conquer.

He creates a furious sound for a two-piece band (Deacon on vocal with his electro tooled-up trappings and drummer Jeremy Hyman), and spends his time between tracks splitting the crowd in two, organising dance offs, inciting a mass high-five-a-thon, and also dropping the smartest line we heard all night: “Dance like Game of Thrones wasn’t made by the patriarchy.”

At times Deacon’s sets can feel a little like organised fun, but here it’s perfect fuel for Body and Soul’s early festival fire.

Savages continue a trend begun by Deacon: thanking the crowd for voting yes in the recent marriage equality referendum.

“You proved to the fucking world what it is to be equallead singer Jehnny Beth with plenty of heartfelt emotion.”

If they didn’t have the crowd on their side with their furious stage presence, sleek styling and impeccable playing, they’ve got them now through old-fashioned charm.

It’s a terrific set from Savages, slugging and chugging their way through their post-punk tunes while looking like one of the slickest outfits in the business.

David Kitt’s discotheque electronique doesn’t deviate from a gritty momentum, but the incremental delivery of deeper, rougher sounds sits well with the Midnight Circus arena.

Inversely to most of his contemporary kin, the peak of New Jackon’s set is its ambient exposition.

The progression on to darker beats falters slightly in comparison. Covering (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction wrangles the energy back in his favour and the acidic sound is well received, but a repetitive undercurrent means that Kitt’s set doesn’t wholly deliver on the promise of a stormer.

From there, Lamb close out the main stage with a polished performance.

It’s more cerebral than what’s gone before, but with plenty of trip hop break beats to hustle and harry things along.

Lou Rhodes holds centre stage in a white dress that makes it look as if she’s just wandered in from a Greek tragedy: this is a set loaded with dark drama.

Meanwhile on the Midnight Circus stage the collaborative effort of John Talabot and Axel Boman fires up as soon as the decks are out.

Without preamble they delve into a two-hour melodic spree that closes the stage for the night, and diffuses the wound-up pep of the day.

As a back to back set, the pair have a boyish charm of mock competitiveness. Pace-changes and stylistic segues abound while they try to out-do each other’s jiving on the sly (Talabot is the more established buzzer, where Boman is a becoming groover).

The funky, rumbling swell of their set keeps the audience on lock with every swap over, an uncommon treat in back to back sets.

From there it’s on into the woods, and it’s here that the impact of the larger crowd becomes more evident.

Previously a place to wander around and get lost, the woods around the enlarged Reckless in Love stage are thronged until the early hours.

Overhead, an illuminated double helix spins in the wind, light and mirror installations peek out from trees and shadows, and parties form and whirl until the far side of 4am.

By Saturday afternoon, the overcast conditions of Friday have cleared for brilliant sunshine and no sign of any forecast showers.

Forget the wellies and bring the suncream: with Flight Facilities, Clark, Sohn, Goat, Austra and Asgeir just a few of the highlights today, and Dublin club Mother bossing the forest’s main stage, Body and Soul is in flying festival form.