Now in its fourth year, Body and Soul 2013 expanded capacity to 6,500 – up 1,500 from last year – and stepped up its game with the headliners, bagging some impressive acts for the weekend.
The biggest name on Friday night’s bill was former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, who DJed in the packed Midnight Circus tent. There wasn’t much room for the crowd to dance to his blistering set, but that didn’t stop them from trying – a good start to the three-day party.
Like its big sister Electric Picnic, there was plenty of unique action around the Body and Soul site. The festival featured hundreds of art installations in all sorts of locations – even the compost toilets were colourfully decorated.
Other attractions included lectures on the Wonderlust stage, children’s workshops in the Soul Kids playground and trad sessions in Natasha’s Living Food. But the Shrine Shack (a stage inside a garden shed) was the neatest of all these spectacles. One of the best performers in the Shack was Laois musician/comedian Steve Bennett, who belted out his hilarious songs about heartbreak and awkward moments.
One of Saturday’s highlights was Kurt Vile and the Violators on the seriously exposed main stage. Plugging his new album Wakin On A Pretty Daze, Vile played some good old fashioned rock and roll to the crowd who flocked the dome-shaped stage between heavy showers.
But the high point of the second day (and the entire festival) came later on, with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds storming the tiny, wooden main stage. Ol’ Nick spent most of the gig in the pit, screaming directly in the faces of women elevated on their boyfriend’s shoulders. Nick and the band blended the best of their new LP Push The Sky Away with gems like ‘From Her To Eternity’, ‘Deanna’ and a roaring rendition of ‘Jack The Ripper’. The audience seemed to lose interest during the quieter ones like ‘God Is In The House’ and ‘People Ain’t No Good’, despite some haunting performances. But the King of the Goths won them back whenever he launched back into his fire-and-brimstone shtick. The gig ended on a weird note, with Nick aborting ‘Lucy’ after a few seconds because he couldn’t remember “the f**king chords” before storming offstage.
After a windy Saturday night, Sunday was a lot calmer than the previous two days. With day-ticketers onsite, the main arena was livelier. Reggae superstars The Congos and Beyoncé’s little sister Solange Knowles pulled out all the stops on the main stage, and diverse acts like storyteller/fiddler Aindrias De Staic and the sitar-wielding Bahh Band had everyone smiling in the intermittent sunshine.
Other Sunday highlights included a brief but explosive set from Australian/Swedish electronic act Kate Boy in Midnight Circus and a storming late-night performance by Spilly Walker (David Kitt and his little brother Robert) on the Wonderlust stage.
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) gained lots of attraction under his calmer guise with Public Image Ltd (PiL), who regrouped in 2009 after a 17-year absence. Sporting a poncho, the punk hero performed with perfect diction and maintained an almost operatic stage presence while the crowd bopped along to PiL’s alternative disco hits.
Food around the festival was top notch, and generally reasonably priced. Sausagefest (a sausage vendor, honest) in the camp site was a lifesaver in the morning. Their traditional sausage revived plenty of weary campers and they also made the best coffee on site. Definetly one to consider if you're looking for event catering.
Having stepped up a gear this year, Body and Soul has really caught up with the bigger festivals – but it seems like organisers weren’t prepared for the larger numbers. Broadband was down for most of the weekend, which made it impossible for people to buy their tickets at the festival with debit/credit cards. There was a serious lack of basic facilities like toilets and bars, and it wasn’t until after three days of stewing in muck that we finally discovered where the phantom showers were.
Overall though, Body and Soul did make for a great weekend and we expect even bigger things for 2014.