If you go down to the woods today: Body & Soul preview

IF YOU’VE been on Facebook this week your head’s been wrecked by two things — hundreds of annoying OMG posts about the Game of Thrones season finale, and pleas for Body & Soul tickets.

It’s not the first time the Westmeath weekender has sold out, and the recent run of sunshine and al fresco partying probably pushed many off the fence to shell out for a ticket. Now in its sixth edition, Body & Soul is the only mid-sized festival that can still claim to be ‘boutique’, while still boasting a carefully curated line-up, rather than a group of middle-tier acts who just happened to say yes.

It’s a cliche but we may as well repeat it again — the annual blowout at Ballinlough Castle is like the first few years of Electric Picnic. It’s small enough for you to slot in right at home, with enough psychedelic wormholes and wooded walkways to keep you exploring. While B&S doesn’t max out the wallet on big buzz acts it can’t afford, this year we’ve got another main stage line-up that lands a bullseye even before we hit the smaller stages.


Making good use of the increased capacity this year, the main Body & Soul Stage is open on the Friday this year, where previously it had been smaller dance arenas. Tonight, knife-edge post-punks Savages (above) will drag some new songs kicking and screaming to Ballinlough, following up their LP Silence Yourself, that was top 10 in every 2013 list. Electronic composer Dan Deacon won’t let the gap between stage and barrier get in the way of his trademark live show that takes audience participation to daft levels. Closing the main stage tonight, jazzy trip-hop originators Lamb prove their 2011 comeback wasn’t just to pay off a few debts.

Tomorrow, the main stage is captained by Aussie electronic duo Flight Facilities, whose floaty house will spread some glitter around, after indie space-folk antics from Super Furry Animals, back in Ireland after too many years away. Also tomorrow if you see a bunch of veiled and masked voodoo tribe, you haven’t been spiked — it’s Swedish psychedelic afrobeat troupe Goat (below), playing the most left-field main stage set you’ll see anywhere this year. Unless you catch the actual Leftfield — who are back with a new album to show off in the fields this summer.  Revered dubby house pioneers Leftfield ripped the ass out of their comeback in 2010, playing about six Irish dates, but tunes from Alternative Light Source will shift it up a gear again.

GOAT. 2014 press images from Silver PR Band.

In one of the most cruel clashes of the weekend, Canadian electro innovator Tiga is going toe-to-toe with Leftfield, headlining the Midnight Circus tent with his new live show that’ll be lit up by a visual art installation and live vocals to modern synth classics like Sunglasses At Night and You Gonna Want Me. Midnight Circus has plenty of wall-to-wall DJ sets over the weekend, with tonight’s headline account opened by Barcelona’s John Talabot going b2b with Axel Boman, so expect plenty of dark house and techno from the pair. David Kitt’s New Jackson project with Diamond Dagger is also a must tonight, dropping deep vocodered house as the sun goes down.

Another epic few hours in Midnight Circus will kick off on Sunday evening, as Dublin audio-visual chiefs Clu run into lush techno duo Kiasmos, followed by analogue techno expert James Holden. Warp Records veteran Clark’s new live show incorporating modern dance is another highlight that could steal plenty of bodies from the main stage. And King Kong Company will throw in some surreal brass and house music among the more serious Circus acts.

With 15 stages and areas, there’s plenty more besides the headliners, with the walled garden Wonderlust area boosted by plenty of Irish talent, including orchestral pop from i am niamh, fiddle/house star Daithi, Katie Kim’s gothic folk and all-round festival good buzz Donal Dineen. Elsewhere, Reckless In Love is the night owl’s electronic haunt, with showcases by Hidden Agenda, Mother DJs and loads more — and Mali act Songhoy Blues will do the job of blowing away your cobwebs on Sunday afternoon.

I could go on and on, but it’s all about stumbling into little wormholes and finding out later who it was, which is often the real beauty of Body & Soul.


Original version in Irish Daily Star 

(Main featured woodland image by Hywel Evans)