Last weekend saw the once city-based Beatyard festival move out to the seaside. The switch from various Dublin venues to a new, outdoor home at Dun Laoghaire Harbour was a bold decision given the delightfully temperamental Irish summer but, thankfully, the weekend was every bit as glorious as we could have hoped for.
The most striking aspect of the relocated Beatyard is how little it feels like a music festival. The sight of people playing human foosball, the Teddy’s ice-cream van serving up 99s and stalls selling vinyl records and slick trainers, all serve to create a certain distinct vibe. Sunshine, free Lucozade and the Sim Simma crew are all there to greet us as we enter the strange industrial surroundings of the former ferry terminal, and it all perfectly sets the almost overwhelmingly positive tone of the weekend. Cian Finn is overseeing proceedings here, doing a great job as an engaging MC, calling out to the “Dun Laoghaire Massive” over the immense reggae tunes.
On the main Hidden Agenda stage, our Plec Picks of 2015 Meltybrains? prove as ever why they’re ones to watch. Clad all in white, they put on a spectacular little show – their dance moves during latest release The Vine are made all the more fun in the sun. It’s particularly impressive given their violinist is on crutches. Meltybrains? finish on an enticing new song, Lovely Cherie (dedicated to their friend Reeta) and it’s a suitably sparkly, tropical number to end their set.
Detroit heavyweights Slum Village get things hopping, offering up a sublime set full of late, great former member J Dilla’s beats and some rousingly spirited rap. This is complemented perfectly by the DJ set from Madlib, who takes to the stage next. Though initially things seem a little hit and miss, ultimately the phenomenal producer knows how to get the crowds going. He seamlessly blends smooth funk and banging hip-hop favourites – people go particularly nuts when he drops Pharoahe Monch.
Then there’s Sister Sledge, who were always going to put on a show with their refined, sugary disco. The set is great overall, and as well as their own classics (He’s The Greatest Dancer goes down especially well) they throw in some sweet Chic covers. Le Freak and Good Times are well chosen in keeping with their disco theme. As it goes on though, things start to get a little self-indulgent. Lost in Music goes on a bit too long, and features a dubious interlude from one of their musicians, who somewhat incongruously interacts with the crowd through a vocoder. The trio themselves seem to be loving every minute of it though, and their happiness is contagious – by the time they get to We Are Family, everyone is having a no-holds-barred boogie.
Sunday is, alas, a gloomier, blustery day which comes to a head in some bemusingly atmospheric rain during Four Tet’s spectacular headline set. Before that, though, Neneh Cherry seems a little jaded on the main stage, and she’s not as garishly 90s as one might have hoped.
Barrington Levy is probably the stand-out performance of the weekend, with the reggae and dancehall legend in superb form. He really gets the crowd involved, with him and his band making everyone dance, jump, sing and (attempt to) scat along as he schmoozes his way around the stage (proving himself to be one of the few people who can pull off a bucket hat). It’s all incredibly euphoric – be it the way he swoons and smiles his way through She’s Mine (and dedicates it to the ladies), or gets everyone going nuts during what is arguably his definitive anthem: Murderer. A wonderful set.
Limerick hip-hop trio Rusangano Family get rowdy and it seems to be a lot of fun when we stick our heads into the Wigwam Tent, but we end Sunday with the aforementioned Four Tet. Kieran Hebden is in fine form, and his set seems to bring together that sweetly global vibe that seems to have emanated over Dun Laoghaire throughout the weekend. He opens with a shimmeringly ambient piece of Hindi music which feels positively cinematic as the clouds begin to pour, and works his way into a multitude of fantastic tunes that cover everything from Afrobeat to heavy electronica. There are a couple of jarring stop-start moments in the set, possibly due to interference from the rain, and the crowd starts thinning earlier than anticipated as things get a little more torrential, but it’s still a fantastic end to proceedings.
Mixing up the formula for its eleventh incarnation absolutely paid off for Beatyard, and it ended up being the kind of weekend where everyone just seemed incredibly happy to be there. So, for the foreseeable future: we do like to be beside the seaside.