Any festival is an includible feat of logistics and organisation, and with so many moving parts, it’s just a fact of life that one of two bands on the bill will end up not making it along. Unfortunately, the Sunday of Body & Soul suffered in this regard – with Songhoy Blues, A Tribe Called Red, and Birdy Nam Nam all failing to make it to Ballinlough. But if anything, this was evidence of how the Body & Soul spirit isn’t about any one name on the lineup, or even dependant on the music at all. The party goes on no matter what. And on Sunday – with a fresh arrival of day ticket holders to inject some fresh life into things – the party most definitely went on.
Kicking the day into gear, AE Mak opened up the main stage with their blend of punchy, bright alternative pop. Vocalists Aoife McCann and Ellie McMahon harmonised with a beautiful, dreamy unity, all while executing a series of precision choreographed dance moves. It was a performance bursting with life – from the delightful tunes (like the gorgeous I Can Feel It in My Bones), to the sheer energy they were delivered with.
Following on from this, folky singer-songwriter Ailbhe Reddy took things to a more introspective, heartfelt place with her set of stirring sad songs. Opening up with the rich and mournful Distrust, Reddy took calm command of the Body & Soul main stage. Unfortunately something got a little lost on a stage like this, and not every note of the set landed as well as the first one.
It was just as well then, that Reddy got a second performance later in the day, this time in the much more intimate environs of the Bulmers tent. Here Reddy treated a mostly seated audience to the full power of her sound. From a bittersweet cover version of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn to a tender and spacious rendition of Enough, Reddy captured a very different vibe to her early mainstage performance – striking a balance between the minimal heart of her songs and a rousing guitar-led sound.
Meanwhile, back over on the mainstage, the exuberant Sudanese-American genre fusion musician Sinkane was unleashing some seriously infectious grooves. The set flowed from conventional good time soul numbers like Telephone, to more trippy sections of musical experimentation. There were more moments of spacey psychedelia with squeals of guitar layering in on top of each other in a wild mash-up of noise. Meanwhile, My Favourite Song saw the group grooving their way through a joyously upbeat number. It always helps when a band looks like they’re into what they’re doing, and as they danced their way through their set, Sinkane and his backing band seemed to be having as much fun as anyone in the audience.
Like many of the bigger names on the Body & Soul lineup, the Moonlandingz shared their weekend between Ireland and England – with a Glastonbury set the night before their appearance here. Unlike those other bands, the Moonlandingz really looked like they’d just arrived from another festival – with no time to sleep, shower, or properly sober up. Larger than life front man Johnny Rocket (aka Lias Soaudi from the Fat White Family) emerged shirtless and unstable-looking, toting a pair of rockstar sunglasses like somebody afraid to show his eyes to security in case they toss him out. Add to this the fact that for the duration of opening track (Vessels) his own mother was attached strapped back to back to him with cellophane.
The Moonlandingz are a pastiche of a big rock band, but they also probe even weirder, more inexplicable territory. How much of Rocket’s insane stage persona is just an act never really becomes clear, but it scarcely matters. As he leapt precariously across the front of stage monitors and yelled out the chaotically cool lyrics of Sweet Saturn Mine and Black Hans, the punk-fuelled energy of the show took over. The Moonlandingz don’t hold a lot back. Rather at each moment they seem to be hurling everything they have out at the audience, with scarcely a care if anybody gets what it is they’re up to or not.
It’s a bit of a cliché to describe an act as “like nothing else around,” but to do anything less for Mykki Blanco would be a gross understatement. The queer, gender-non-conforming rapper/poet/performance artist was way out there on his own, not just on the Body & Soul lineup, but in terms of just about anybody who could conceivably been on that stage that night.
By way of an intro Blanco’s DJ treated the audience to a 40+ minutes set of instrumental beats, with the briefest fragments of recognisable hip-hop samples serving as a cheeky teaser of what was coming up. After an absolute mountain of build up, Blanco hopped out on stage – dressed in a loose, flowing white dress and a long black wig – without any further introduction and launched into a whirlwind show. Blanco is more than just a drag queen or somebody wearing a dress as a prop – every aspect of the performance: musical, visuals, the unmistakable charisma of Blanco, came back to the core of his work as art: an attempt to shatter the constrictions of gender norms. It was wild, fierce, transgressive, and impossible to turn away from.
By the third song Blanco had taken an almighty dive from the stage and vaulted across the front barrier. He ran through the crowd, conjuring up a circle of space in the crowd around him as he went. One minute he was all the way up on the hill overlooking the stage singing directly at the people who’d been content to sit on the grass and observe from the distance. The next he was back up on the stage, stripped of the dress and dressed just in a pair of shorts started dancing like a stripper up against a section of steel barrier fence he’d gotten out of somewhere. The show raged from slick (almost) pop tunes Highschool Never Ends to furious raps, and even found to time slip in a couple of spoken word segments.
By the end Blanco had even stripped off the long wig and tore it up in his teeth between spitting verses. There was a huge amount of anger channelled into the performance, but ultimately the show revelled in a huge swell positivity. As a rainbow flag filled up the stage display Blanco gave a mighty shout out to those marching for Pride. Blanco is an artist doing their own incredible, unique thing – it was a hell of a way to bring the weekend to a close.