When the sun came out over Ballinlough on the Saturday morning, it signalled the start of by far the most summary (by Irish standards) day of Body & Soul. Even with generous applications of sun cream, there were more than a few red faces by the end of the day. But the weather really allowed for the character of the festival to come out in full – patrons donned a host of carnivalesque costumes, featuring a colourful array of wigs, masks, and outrageous outfits.
Loah’s unmatched style was a perfect fit for Body & Soul’s Saturday afternoon. Her huge sound rose and fell with slick ease, with her incredibly dynamic vocal range drifting from high to low notes and back again with captivating charisma. The rhythmic and uplifting This Heart was a real stand out in terms of powerful delivery, a sweetly sung anthem that still carried a ton of heft behind it.
In any festival line-up there’s bound to be one or two mishits, and in this case that duty fell the Nashville act Lambchop. The group delivered dull and dreary hour or so of music with a listless attitude. Originally an alternative country band, the group have in recent years begun experimenting with elements of electronica in their sound. This fusion – like many of Body & Soul’s eclectic selections – sounds great in theory, but in reality, it failed to deliver much of a show.
During the day at least, the best things at Body & Soul were taking place away from the bigger stages. Over on the Woodlands Stage, Dundalk singer-songwriter/punk-poet Jinx Lennon unleashed a performance that, even for perennial fans, must rank up there with his best. Lennon raced his way through song after song, cramming as much into his set as possible. At times he almost seemed a little unhinged, like he’d really lost himself in his performance. Utilising nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a simplistic back beat, Lennon matched his harsh yell of a voice with a flurry of sound.
While Lennon’s sound could be most typified by its harsh, unpolished nature, there’s a real beauty at work between the lines. Take the gorgeous piece written for his daughter – You’ll Make It to the Moon Before I – an uplifting ode of belief, of encouragement. Look a little closer and you’ll find this positivity in all his tunes. Lennon has a passion for the people he’s singing about, and the people he’s singing to. Everything he does, from the unassuming honesty of his modest tunes to the comical simplicity of some of his lyrics, all work towards the realisation of this one message.
If Metronomy set the bar on the mainstage the previous night. Bonobo took a shot at topping it on the Saturday. The UK musician and producer brought a set was that was a richly constructed euphoria of sounds and dazzling lights. The slick choreography of it all alternated focus between the different instrumentals played by members of his band, and the occasional appearance of dreamy vocals. It all came off with an incredible, machine-like precision, yet at the same time seemed to embrace the capabilities of the live band to morph the songs into a new, free-flowing improvisational quality – peppered with a neat smattering of unexpected samples.
Over at the Midnight Circus stage, Idiotape were getting a much more intense party started. Although ostensibly an electronic band that play synths, the three-piece are really just a rock band without the guitars. Their sound felt big enough to fill a stadium, backed up vast chunky riffs and dazzling solos. The entirely instrumental set was a marvel of technical ecstasy to behold, and in the darkness of the subtly lit big top, it could be forgotten for a moment that there wasn’t some great big rock band up there making all that tasty racket.
King Kong Company
With a newly released craft beer (flavoured with Buckfast, obviously) named after them, King Kong Company are doing pretty well for themselves these days. The Waterford band also have a fairly notorious reputation among regulars to these type of things for bringing one of the best raves to whatever festival they happen to be playing. For their headline slot on the second to largest stage at the biggest small festival in the land, King Kong Company came out all guns blazing. Literally. One member emerged on stage toting a strange rifle with a green laser sight that scanned the crowd like a eerie surveillance device. By the end of the set the rifle was blasting huge clouds of smoke out over the audience.
The tunes weren’t half bad either, from the fiendishly dirty beat of Scacity Dan to the freakishly upbeat iPop. There are few enough bands that could use a prolonged spoken word section as a lead in to a whopper drop, but on Donkey Jaw King Kong Company pulled that trick off too. It’s safe to say that the King Kong Company’s reputation for mayhem stands. And the Commotion Lotion ain’t bad either.