by Joey Maguire
Body & Soul encourages its patrons to “shed your weekday skin and enter an otherworldly realm.” The summer solstice in June 2017 marked my inaugural visit to the mystical grounds of
Ballinlough Castle in the beautiful Irish county of Meath. The ivy clad walls of the Ballinlough estate enshroud the annual Body & Soul festival - a fantastic, three-day, boutique-camping, fist-pumping weekend of tunes, tunes, tunes.
I have spent much of my youth and disposable income attending festivals across Europe, and I still look forward to the buzz and energy that assaults revelers’ senses at the main entrance. Body & Soul did not disappoint. We were allured by drumbeats in the distance - a low muffled thump of a kick drum coming from behind a wall of trees. As we slowly navigated the queue, we caught wind of one of my favorite tracks of the year, Karizma -Work It Out, from a mystery DJ within the arena. This high energy toe tapper set the tone for an exhilarating, enriching weekend of non-mainstream festival culture that is Body & Soul.
Saturday was spent wandering through the forest installations with the my girlfriend Amy, stopping for an occasional groove at one of the many woodland stages and bandstands. Body & Soul offers alternative surroundings and a wholly different sensory experience when compared with other Irish music festivals. Enchanted groves lead past formal gardens to a spellbinding maze. Often historic settings such as Ballinlough are cordoned off to us ‘enthusiastic’ festival goers. However, the experience at Body & Soul is unrestrictive and revellers are unconstrained in their explorations. The experience is heightened greatly as a result.
After much adventuring throughout the day, darkness fell and it was time for tunes, and who better to be first up for the day only DJ Deece! Knowing his Boiler Room set, I had understandably high expectations; but these were easily surpassed on seeing this Irishman perform live for the first time. Undoubtedly a high point in his set was dropping the house classic ‘Inspector Norse - Todd Terje’, setting the tone for an energetic Saturday night!
The festival then swept us to the Reckless in Love stage to embrace the disco vibes set by the Mother DJs. Leaving this party atmosphere was a wrench, but it was time to move to the main stage to see one of the headliners, Bonobo, a personal highlight. However, Saturday night at an Irish festival often means one thing: King Kong Company. The Irish electronic rockers played a banging set in the Midnight Circus tent. This was their warm up for the Glastonbury festival in the UK, the following day. It was the perfect end to a perfect day - a sublime show.
Aaaah, waking up on the final day of a festival is, for me, always an odd combination of tiredness, mild melancholy and a determination to make the most of the final hours. Cures for our fragile state were sourced, and we were soon back in action. With it, this day brought a whole new energy in the form of ‘Today is the day’, a twelve hour Maeve back to back, featuring Mano le Tough, Baikal, The Drifter and Lil’ Dave. Algorithm Visuals provided exquisite lighting, matched only by the Funktion-One on sound.
During the day we wandered around the mystical gardens before settling in for the Maeve guys’ set. The early vibes in the Reckless in Love area were of a somber spacey variety, featuring hypnotic, house rhythms. The guys then went for separate mixes, where we caught Lil’ Dave and The Drifter playing extended sets. The tone set by The Drifter is always exceptional, with flawless mixing and excellent song selection providing a deep sensory vibe. Lil’ Dave and Baikal then both delivered exemplary sets, building an incredibly energetic atmosphere. Baikal dropped his own production ‘Pelican’s Flight’, bringing light to the Reckless in Love area, while Mano dropped tracks from his new EP “Arganol ’N’ All”, inciting massive reactions from thrilled revelers. Over the course of the day, the Maeve guys built up and sustained a magical atmosphere and wrapped up the Body & Soul experience on a high. Such is the unique nature of this intimate Irish spectacle of music, that we met some of the Maeve boys in the campsite at an ungodly hour the next morning and thanked them for their mesmerizing performance.
photo by Jay Skelly
Admittedly we did sneak out of the Reckless in Love area once or twice for one last wander around the grounds of one of the most beautiful sites in Ireland. One last accomplishment was managing to catch Waterford legends Get Down Edits. These guys lit up the Absolut Bar one more time with a combination of their newly released remixes and old school Disco and House classics. Always a great time with these boys!
The Body & Soul weekend is an assault on the senses; a wonderful blend of the historic and modern, of antiquity and youth, of past and present. Chalk it down, plan your next summer solstice weekend and “...tap into the side of yourself that might stay hidden year round...., celebrate a time when the boundaries between worlds mingle and meld”.