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Excitement is building for the annual trek to Ballinlough Castle, with Body & Soul 2017 marking this writer’s first time. Last year would have been it, only for the small matter of Ireland qualifying for Euro 2016, But alas, my B&S punter debut is fast approaching.
There are quite a few types of festival goers. I fall easily into the category of the militant set-time watcher. Some people prefer to kick back with a bag of cans for the whole weekend (I’m not judging as one’s festival experience is a personal thing) but ceol miners alike will know the all too familiar feeling of having to bite the bullet, leave everyone behind and go see that band on your own. More often than not, you’ll end up having a great time anyway. At least the line up for Body & Soul 2017 offers enough to keep you occupied.
The gang over at Body & Soul did well when they announced the addition of Bonobo to the line up. Despite almost not going ahead, his visit to Vicar St. in February was a complete sell-out and if reports are to be believed, this scoop for Body & Soul might just be the one that pushes it towards sell-out territory too.
My first glance at the early announcement threw me a little bit. I could count on one hand how many names jumped out at me but a very short while into listening through and I was of a completely different opinion. The festival looks to have pulled out all the stops in order to ensure a diverse range of high quality acts that have also managed to escape ‘household name’ status up to this point. It’s now unquestionably the festival I’m looking forward to the most. Below are but six of these acts that you may or may not have heard of and, clashes allowing, you should definitely try catch a glimpse of if you’re heading along:
Birdy Nam Nam
This turntable-equipped quartet from Paris have been around for quite a while and come across as the beautiful child of French electro and hip-hop. That there are four of them should be enough to peak some people’s curiosity as most budding electronic acts would struggle with two turntables. Large chunks of their back catalogue is reminiscent of the likes of Claude von Stroke’s tech/minimalist Dirtybird label, but on their 2016 release ‘Dance or Die’ they land on hip-hop end of the spectrum.
BNN clearly see themselves as more than a ragbag of DJ’s and if their anti-establishment modus operandi doesn’t come quite come through in their earlier stuff, it most certainly has recently. If the weather is right and they decide to drop ‘No J, No P’, it could make for some interesting theatre between festival goers and on-duty guardians of the peace.
Check out: ‘No J, No P’ – ‘Cadillac Dreams’ – ‘Abesses’ – ‘Lazers From My Heart’
This lot have found themselves in a category that I seem to specialise in; discovering a band a matter of days after they have played a show in Ireland. Fronted by Johnny Rocket of Fat White Family, The Moonlandingz are about as unconventional as they come. Their debut album Interplanetary Class Classics’refuses to settle down into any consistency or groove, which turns out to be its biggest strength. Rather, the band’s rejection of an increasingly homogenised pop scene seems to be constant throughout. The production on their tracks is of such a high quality that my only concern is that it’s all going to be very hard to replicate in a live setting. If there’s even a chance that they can even come close to it, they’ll not be one to miss. Any band that enlists Yoko Ono to scream against a bassline which owes a small debt to Noel Gallagher and the Chemical Bros’ ‘Let Forever Be’ is worth forty minutes of your time. As if that weren’t enough, one of their B-sides ‘Man in Me Lyfe’ sounds like a 21st Century take on Surfin’ Bird.
Check out: ‘This Cities Undone’ – ‘Neuf du Pape’ – ‘Lufthansa Man’ – Man in Me Lyfe.
Reggae vibes make it almost impossible to be in a bad mood. Sinkane returns to Ireland for the first time in 3 years and should provide the perfect balancing act to a line up that’s going to take care of a good chunk of the summer’s cardio. Aside from having jammed with the likes of Yeasayer and Caribou, Sinkane has a wide range of instruments and influences in his arsenal. It’s the staple of Marley-esque beats that allows him to roam between them. He’s a big risk taker and it’s substantially more hit than it is miss. His set should be up there among the most soulful of the lot. Judging by his unique falsetto techniques, the man has obviously never smoked a rollie in his life.
Check out: ‘Yacha’ – ‘How We Be’ – ‘Telephone’
A Tribe Called Red
Despite this being my first year at Body & Soul, it’d be hard not to get a sense that it prioritises acts which fuse different sounds together. A Tribe Called Red encapsulate this in perhaps the most unique way; taking modern dubstep and hip-hop and adding a serious blend of First Nations chanting. ATCR are ardent defenders of their culture but also have an awful lot to say about the way that the world works. They want us all to realise who the common enemy is and we’re all welcome to be part of the global side as long as we’re willing to be sound to one another. It’s the kind of heart-pounding sound that you’d want to hear upon celebrating your biggest victory of your life.
Check out: ‘R.E.D.’ – ‘Electric Pow Wow Drum’ – ‘Stadium Pow Wow’
When a composer-in-residence decides to pack it all in and give electronic music a go, you know you’re in for something off the beaten track. To her credit though, Anna Meredith doesn’t bask herself in her impressive background. While crossovers between the classical and electronic worlds aren’t exactly new, her debut album Varmints has found a little niche for itself. More than any of the artists I’ve named here, I took a while to acclimatise to Meredith but that sort of feels intentional on her part. Some of the beats are thicker than most electronic music but the flow is often interrupted by some other cadence pulling you in a different direction. It might be a bit of an uncomfortable listen for those who listen to more conventional electronic music as their staple diet but trust me, it’s a grower and there should be plenty to jump around for when Meredith lands on stage.
Check out: ‘Nautilus’ – ‘Scrimshaw’ – Taken
Lu arrived onto the scene last year with Church, a 6 track debut album which is almost entirely comprised of her simultaneous cello playing and singing (and FYI was recorded in a church). The cello is used sparingly enough so as to shine almost the entire spotlight on her voice. Anyone who was lucky enough to catch Lapsley at Electric Picnic in 2015, or who has experienced a gig where people feel compelled to stay silent for the whole performance will want to get up close and personal for Kelsey Lu. Passion cannot be staged and it’s clear that Lu’s words are introspective. Her performance promises to be cathartic for both herself and those in attendance.
Check out: ‘Dreams’ – ‘Time’ – ‘Morning After Coffee’
HeadStuff’s music editor is a veteran of the festival, read about her experiences at Body & Soul here
Tickets and full line up are available here