body & soul day one
ballinlough castle, westmeath
A (very gentle) riot of shamanic tepees, bamboo dragons and a chap on a bike powering a mobile blacksmith's forge; Body and Soul is a rock festival with a difference. The emphasis is on spirituality and hardcore chilling rather than the traditional lager chugging, mosh pit flailing and passing out in a tent slathered in mud.
For those whose tastes run towards the esoteric, this weekend celebration of hippy-dippy values, set on the whimsical grounds of a Co Westmeath castle and kicking off on the longest day of the year, will surely feel like all their summer solstices arriving at once.
As conditions flit between baking sunshine and mood-killing downpour, the main stage welcomes Kid Karate, a trio whose vaguely memorable tunes are entirely upstaged by the bassplayer's one-piece silver body suit and knee-high boots. They are hilarious, and draw a big early crowd – though this possibly owes as much to the shock outbreak of nice weather as to their lumpy alterna din.
By the time Candice Gordon, a Botswana-born Dubliner living in Berlin, appears, punters have fled en masse, presumably to one of the myriad of non-musical diversions sprinkled through the adjoining gardens and woods. Despite singing to a front row of approximately four people, Gordon gives it her everything: 'everything' being some PJ Harvey-esque fem-rock delivered with a cabaret flourish.
You have to feel for Breton, an excellent punk-funk outfit from London's hipster wasteland of Shoreditch, who manage to scare away even Gordon's meagre attendance. Jittery and paranoia-soaked, their dystopian new-wave pushes against the grain of the festival's relentlessly mellow vibe, which may explain the depressing turn out. Either way, Body and Soul missed an intense, engaging performance.
As darkness descends, the main stage witnesses a goosebump-inducing Irish debut from soul belter Charles Bradley, a formerly homeless James Brown impersonator who has stumbled upon international fame at the age of 65. He is followed by the evening's big draw, Nick Cave (left).
The cartoon prince of gothic balladry has an average new record to promote, so it is a relief when he is soon snarling his way through fire and brimstone classics such as 'Papa Won't Leave You, Henry' and 'The Mercy Seat' and getting, very literally, into the audience's faces.
It's an angry, cathartic climax to a day when the prevailing mood of peace, love and tree-hugging harmony has started to become a little suffocating.