In its final year at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Beatyard provided a convenient and mud-free setting, along with some great music, writes Ed Power.
The traffic, the camping, the general tramping about can make even the best summer festivals a bit of a challenge.
Thank goodness, then, for Bodytonic’s Beatyard weekend at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Overlooking the sea and in the shadow of the Victorian promenade, here the summer fest is re-imagined as an urbane, 100% mud/stress-free affair.
Craft drinks, specialist coffee and street foods from Korean barbecue to French-Canadian poutine come as standard.
Family entertainments are laid on, there's a games area and a seaside ambience (it seemed everyone was wearing sailor hats this year, possibly non-ironically).
All that and you can get there by public transport (at least you can unless the Dart suffers a systemic signal failure).
To this can be added a top -rank bill. Sunday featured Glasgow electronic maximalists Chvrches, London disco revival crew Jungle and DJ/comedian/one-person emotional meltdown Marc Rebillet.
A gentle rain, which could never entirely decide if it wanted to be a downpour, was blowing in from the sea as Rebillet took the stage. The Texan wore super-sized glasses and a super-short shorts. In the milky Irish summer light the pale and scrawny performer looked almost translucent.
Rebillet's unique talent – you’d call it a gimmick if it wasn’t so entertaining – is for improvising his set on the spot. He croons, raps and conjures techno onslaughts using only his laptop and a deep, expressive singing voice.
The performance got weird quite quickly. Rebillet shared pizza and beer with the punters, turned the unnerving catch-cry “Olé, Olé, Olé” into a Prodigy style war-dance and engaged in endless, pasty strutting. It was unnerving and very engaging.
The Beatyard was fucking amazing today. pic.twitter.com/CTV8FcoyF2— Marc Rebillet (@marcrebillet) August 4, 2019
At the end, a roadie appeared with an enormous fluffy dressing gown for the DJ to vanish into. One trusts that backstage a fancy cocktail awaited.
Jungle meanwhile proved the perfect festival booking.
Their music, sophisticated and tuned into disco’s roots as a rallying point for minorities, is above all about having a good time, all the time.
They brought an infectious enthusiasm. And just as well as the rain took the opportunity to return with a vengeance.
Jungle started out as an enigmatic project, the identity of its members a secret. They’ve long since dropped that ruse.
Watching them it’s slightly baffling why they ever pushed it in the first place. Amid twinkling grooves and slinky guitars, favourites The Heat and Busy Earnin’ whipped Dun Laoghaire into feel-good soufflé.
Chills of a different variety were provided by Chvrches, the hardworking trio returning to Ireland a little over a year since their main stage performance at Electric Picnic (with two sold-out Olympia dates in between).
It was essentially the same set that they had previously performed; frontwoman Lauren Mayberry even sported identical sparkly blue faceprint.
Incredible show last night from @CHVRCHES at @BeatYard . Inspirational group of people, my biggest influence!#livemusic #ireland #chvrches #pop #synthpop #synth @laurenevemay @Iain_A_Cook @doksan @thejonnyscott pic.twitter.com/TTjYxg2g7V— Stepping On Lego (@steppingonlego_) August 5, 2019
They nonetheless knocked it out of the pier. Bury It blended synth thrills with gothic angst; Miracle swept punters off to an alternative universe where awkward outsiders from Glasgow could be big league pop stars.
The festival faces a momentous year ahead with the promoters announcing they won’t be returning to their present Dun Laoghaire harbour site in 2020. That’s due to uncertainty over the space’s availability.
So they’ve put the call out for potential alternatives. The hope must be that these logistic issues are solved and that, someway, somehow, somewhere, Beatyard goes on.