Beats and boats, raps and rigging - Beatyard transformed Dún Laoghaire’s former ferry terminal into an excellent small festival for the bank holiday weekend.
In its previous incarnation, Beatyard took place in several bars and venues throughout the city centre, but this time out, promoters Bodytonic and Hidden Agenda have collaborated on a much more ambitious undertaking.
The former carpark and passenger terminal is transformed. Mirrorballs spin under archways. The windows of the lofty passenger bridge have been whitewashed with the Beatyard name. An Eatyard food area is packed with picnic benches, complete with green felt and a white picket fence. The bars offer a range of drinks and cocktails above the bright hum and click of a bank of pinball machines.
There’s a stall selling trainers; another selling vinyl, that can be posted anywhere in the world with a custom-printed envelope; and several people are dressing for the occasion with sailing hats and naval gear.
Ever since the Festival of World Cultures was wound up in 2011, Dún Laoghaire has been missing a large-scale arts event to call its own. This is a much more specific event than that, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. "I don't see this as a music festival to be honest," says Trevor O'Shea from Bodytonic. "It's just a mish mash of a bunch of ideas. It's just the usual Bodytonic stuff. Get a bunch of ideas, chuck them into the pan, and pray that what lands on the plate doesn't give anyone food poisoning."
The festival has the look and feel of a grown-up European event, akin to Barcelona’s Primavera. In the warmth of a Saturday afternoon, it feels like an obvious one to set up; more blustery conditions on Sunday prove a little more testing. Bars close at 10, with the venue closing shortly after. Unusually for an Irish festival, there are no specific kids’ areas, and with ticket prices somewhat on the high side, this set-up seems geared towards adults.
The lineup might be light on big names, but there is no lack of quality on the bill, with an emphasis on electronic music. JG Wilkes of Optimo and Eamon Harkin put in a cracking DJ set, a taster of things to come from their after party show in the city centre's Twisted Pepper. On the main stage, Slum Village get the car park bouncing with the finest in Detroit hip hop. Madlib follows that up with a set that runs the gamut from radio-friendly hip hop down into some 1970s scuzzy funk.
The main event is Sister Sledge. Forty-four years of playing music means this is always going to be a classy, funked up affair and they deliver a pulsing, professional set of downtown disco. They might have pop classics such as Thinking of You, We Are Family and Lost in Music in the locker, but they also work through their contemporaries' best tunes too, such as Freak Out and Rapper's Delight.
Sunday's line-up promises Neneh Cherry, Barrington Levy and Four Tet. Overall, it's a quality addition to Dublin's festival calendar, in an almost industrial setting that's packed with urban charm.