by / June 26th, 2013 /

Body & Soul 2013: What State Saw

Set deep in the Westmeath wilderness, Body & Soul is perhaps the most impressive of Ireland’s boutique festivals and has grown to encompass far more than the most intriguing in independent music and art, boasting a magical, unique location and an ever-burgeoning line-up of tasteful heritage acts and eclectic newcomers from all over the world to complement the strong bedrock of fringe electronic acts. Here’s what our writers thought of the 2013 edition.

Candice Gordon – Body & Soul Stage, Saturday

Dressed in black and armed with a guitar, Candice Gordon is an instantly engaging visual presence on the Body & Soul stage. Her roots-rock styled set is buoyed by versatile vocals which fluctuate deftly between deep, velvety drawls and banshee shrieks Siouxsie would be proud of. The set is steeped in Gothic Americana and rockabilly sounds, best displayed on the jolting ‘Cannibal Love’. Gordon seems to exhibit influences from a roll call of artists, from the Cramps to the Who, with her band even serving up an interpretation of classical composition ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’. (Sophie Elizabeth Smith)

James Murphy – Midnight Circus, Friday

“DJing is really, really pleasant”, the DFA figurehead has said of his sets. “It’s like having people over and making hors d’oeuvres.” By his own standards, James Murphy’s offering on the inaugural night of the festival is an opulent gathering. Beneath luminescent blue and dangling bird cages in the lavish Midnight Circus tent, the bar furnished with vodka cocktails, Murphy, in a crisp white shirt and suit, serves the crowd a selection of minimal disco cuts before thanking them profusely. Those expecting a set filled with LCD-esque jagged dance-punk would have been disappointed with what is an uncharacteristically subdued performance, albeit it from a very gracious host. (SES)

Jon Hopkins – Midnight Circus, Sunday

Sunday is clearly not a day of rest in Body & Soul. In many cases, people are down on the one day ticket, some to just soak up the wonderful friendly vibe of walking around the site, others to party like there’s no tomorrow. If there’s one man going to deliver you into that tomorrow with no desire to not only not show up for work on Monday, but never leave the festival, it’s Mr Jon Hopkins. Hopkins is a man alone on stage but is so tied in with the beat and pulse of what he’s producing from his electronic array that his fingers are jerking and popping between pads, buttons and knobs as he himself crouches in low and pulls away in release a few times per second. Running almost seamlessly through tracks from his just-released yet defining Immunity album the tent becomes a beautiful merge of musician, DJ and dancing with Hopkins the Alchemist turning a Sunday night into a Friday night before our very eyes. (Simon Roche)

Kate Boy – Midnight Circus, Sunday

Backlit in dark blue for the entire show, Kate Boy have a small set of the sharpest-edged pop – primary shapes but polished to perfection. Lighting the stage as a DJ set, the four-piece are in-line across the front with Kate Akhurst (Aussie accent belying the Swedish make-up of the band) herself an intriguing silhouette of baseball cap and bondage-strapped arms. Half the set at least being unreleased made no difference, this was an early evening dance event more than anything and We. Were. Dancing. If the angular, glitchy, widescreen pop of ‘The Way We Were’ isn’t the second best pop song of the year there’ll be no justice. (SR)

Kurt Vile & the Violators – Body & Soul Stage, Saturday

The infectiously insouciant Kurt Vile and his psych-drenched folk-rock complements a brief interlude in the rain as he opens with the delightfully applicable ‘Wakin’ on a Pretty Day’, setting the tone for the casual delivery of a series of soul-soothing, hazy rock songs. The performance is flecked with momentary technical difficulties that are dealt with in a quintessentially breezy fashion and swiftly forgotten amongst bursts of shoegaze pop (‘Peeping Tomboy’) and stomping indie rock (‘Freak Train’). (SES)

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Body & Soul Stage, Saturday

Under a full Supermoon, the black shard of Nick Cave appears like a foil to Charles Bradley’s troubled preacher man. Black and grey pattered shirt under his black suit, this is as summery as the man gets as we get a few tracks from Push the Sky Away to show some acknowledgement of the new album’s presence. But Nick knows the difference between an intimate show and being in a grass hollow in a field in the Westmeath badlands and soon the mask of decorum is cast off. Song three and Cave is detonating ‘From Her to Eternity’ in the front row. He has climbed onto the crowd, a place where he’ll spend most of the gig. The clouds seem afraid to rain and during ‘The Weeping Song’s dark chanting and the demon ghost of Elvis was brought up to dance feverishly for ‘Tupelo’.

Cave is on one tonight, the moon clearly pulling on him, and he seems more possessed than performer. Finally, during ‘The Mercy Seat’, the clouds give way, slowly then heavier as we build up to the protagonist’s electrocution (not making this up) and he stops the rain dead on the last beat of ‘Stagger Lee’. A set of fire and brimstone, weather changing at his command and preaching from a pulpit of human hands Cave entranced and defiled us and lost in a swirl as he was walking off stage, he sits at the piano and begins the first bars of The Good Son’s ‘Lucy’ only to trail off again claiming forgetfulness and slink back into the black. (SR)

Overhead, the Albatross – Body & Soul Stage, Saturday

Stormy skies and sporadic bursts of sunlight are the atmospheric accompaniment to a wonderfully kinetic set from the instrumental math-rock outfit. The band is unmatched in its ability to blend choppy electro loops, staccato percussion and distorted, heavy guitar lines to create exciting, richly textured sounds. Overhead also debut new track, ‘Daeku’, which is as experimental in spirit and exhilarating as the rest of the setlist. The band offer a bottle of Buckfast to an enthusiastic crowd on the promise they stay for the duration of the gig, though it’s clear they need no further incentive beyond the music. (SES)

Public Image Ltd – Body & Soul Stage, Sunday

“Nice to see ya”. Outfitted in what can only be described as a leopard print kaftan, Johnny Rotten greets his audience with a roguish cockney drawl before launching into a strident rendition of ‘This is Not a Love Song’. The synth-heavy set is interspersed with leading one-liners from Rotten: “If you want more, we are willing”. The post-punk scion excels at whipping the crowd up with hymnal drums, breaking his lyrics down into absorbable mantras, until they are standing fists raised, euphoric, chanting “Thunder is an energy” into blinding stage lights and Rotten’s outstretched mic. (SES)

Richie Egan – Wonderlust, Saturday

On the yellow Wonderlust stage, a relaxed setting in the walled garden, Richie Egan is playing a solo show. Going under his own name, he is playing stripped-down versions of previous songs as well as some new ones in advance of a mellower album coming later in the year. Egan commands such respect in Irish music circles that the quiet grass area, peppered with people having coffee, beers, bean salads and such, is almost completely silent for his set – with some whoops and hollers as he broke into ‘To the Sea’. Apologising for breaking a golden rule of a festival gig and covering a song by an artist on the same bill, he intro’d a Nick Cave song with a story of how his mother, who passed very recently, and him bonded over it some years before. He fought his way through a gorgeous rendition of ‘Into My Arms’ to pin-drop silence. The most touching moment of the weekend at a festival with enough room for this sort of intimacy. (SR)

RSAG – Midnight Circus, Saturday

If one thing was notable at Body & Soul it was how just one person on a stage can often bring SO much more than a band noodling their way through endless tune-ups and internal discussions. Jeremy Hickey is a man, a drumkit and a laptop live, but so much more. The instruments he plays (and they are manifold) are cleverly videoed and projected behind him as a live backing-track and he has the same magnetic performance gene as Toby Kaar, and is riveting to behold. His David Byrne-esque voice and sweaty precision drumming pumps the heart faster and sunglasses are falling off heads with the intense nodding going on. Early evening magic in the Midnight Circus tent. (SR)

Solange – Body & Soul Stage, Sunday

Swirling across the stage all leather pants and long braids, the fashion maven’s gossamer-light vocals gloss over her Motown-infused blend of glam-disco. The rhythm section evokes a Phil Spector Wall of Sound penetrated by Miami Sound Machine and Solange cements her crossover credentials with a smooth disco cover of Dirty Projectors’ ‘Stillness is the Move’. By the time she’s reached the opening strains of shimmying pop gem ‘Sandcastle Disco’, pockets of the bubbling crowd have erupted into elated dance-offs. (SES)

Tig Linn – Natasha’s Living Food, Sunday

While the combination of Irish and African music isn’t a new concept, the discovery of Tig Linn on Sunday evening is still one of the highlights of the weekend. The venue come cafe in the middle of the woods is in many ways the perfect embodiment of the festival itself, a bit ragged around the edges but still good hearted and often damned exciting and this particular band fill much the same role. The trad instruments blend perfectly with the Nigerian rhythms and vocalist Zeenie Sarumi is the star of the show, effortlessly cool amongst the homely, hippy confines of the tent. (Phil Udell)

Willy Mason – Body & Soul Stage, Sunday

“Do you remember the forgotten America: justice, equality, freedom for every race?” The poignant poeticism of Willy Mason’s stirring, honest lyrics are brought to emotional piques by his sweetly trembling high notes. Songs such as ‘Hard Hand to Hold’ and ‘Fear No Pain’ comprise a warm, gentle soundscape that serves as idyllic Sunday afternoon listening. Charmingly unpretentious, his structurally simple alt-country melodies are, on the surface, as humble as his stage presence, but redolent of a beguiling intimacy that draws in the audience deeply. (SES)

Photos by Allen Kiely and Niamh Moriarty