A tragic death overshadowed the fun and games at the annual music festival, writes Ellie O’Byrne.
It was a weekend marred by abrupt tragedy at this year’s outing to Ballinlough Castle in Co Westmeath, as word filtered through the 15,000-strong crowd of the death of a 31-year-old man, who collapsed suddenly on Saturday afternoon and was pronounced dead at the scene after being attended to by the festival’s medical personnel.
It’s the first time in the festival’s eight-year history that a death has occurred. The organisers released a statement saying the death was non-suspicious but under investigation by gardaí.
You might be forgiven for thinking they were, given the sneering, vitriolic swagger of frontman Jason Williamson, and the snot and spit he relieves himself of onstage during the set, but: “People say we’re punk just because we’re angry, but nuns get angry too; squirrels get angry too.”
The Nottingham duo, nevertheless, delivered a blistering and satisfyingly sweary set on Friday night on the Body and Soul stage. A mid-sized crowd joined in with gusto on ‘Jolly F**ker’.
Theresa May, NHS cuts, Brexit and the Grenfell Tower fire: Britain’s political landscape is ripe for the wrathful return of punk sensibilities, and Sleaford Mods fit the bill, even if they won’t admit it.
Sunday’s line-up was thrown into disarray by large, last-minute cancellations, with the subsequent delays and stage changes causing confusion.
A substitution of veteran ska act The Beat for Songhoy Blues’ slot was a hit with senior members of the crowd, providing relief from the electronic-heavy line-up.
The generational divide was also evident when pronoun-swapping rapper and performance artist Mykki Blanco took to the stage in feminine frills and a wig. “Jaysus, Beyoncé has let herself go,” an older punter in the crowd muttered to his friend.
As ever, Body and Soul proved itself cream of the crop of Irish festivals for discovering interesting emerging acts, with the Bulmer’s Lounge hosting a good line-up.
Percussion-led Kerry band Ten Past Seven were spectacular on Friday night, and Sunday evening’s set from Cork trio Sillk was a melodic treat of fairy-tale ballads.
The Woodlands stage delivered everything from a live chain-saw sculpture to a particularly smooth Saturday night performance by rising Cork soul stars Shookrah.
Changes to the festival’s lay-out included the notable absence of both the Trenchtown reggae stage and the My House area, where in previous years themed shenanigans and party tricks enlivened the entrance to the main field.
The Food on Board area, a valiant combined effort by food stalls to cut down on disposable food containers, moved deeper into the woods and hosted foodie-friendly events, as well as a kids’ version of the emerging festival institution that is the Sing-along Social: en-masse, themed karaoke that never fails to get the crowd going.
Anna Meredith, Bonobo, Sinkane: much musical virtuosity on the main stage over the weekend, and some good turn-outs, but as far as atmosphere goes, the Midnight Circus tent’s closing act on Saturday night, Waterford festival favourites King Kong Company, won gold with their vivid and visual stage show and high-octane, dance-floor-breaking beats.
A guest appearance from the Lords of Strut, space-hoppers lobbed at the crowd, and even the release of their own limited-edition craft beer infused with Buckfast: they went all out, and the packed tent responded in kind, dancing ten-deep outside the tent when security refused to allow any more people in.
Crowds varied at Midnight Circus over the weekend; on Sunday, there was a disappointing turn-out for The Moonlandingz, whose lead singer Lias Saoudi, aka Johnny Rocket, arrived on stage with his mother cling-filmed to his back. A larger crowd would have fed off his energy better.
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