Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bloggy O'Soul


Last Wednesday I decided that I wanted to go to the Body and Soul Festival that was on that weekend.  As I had no money and no ticket, deciding that I wanted to go was the best I could do.  I had enough money in the credit union to cover the cost of diesel to drive up and back.  After that I'd be stuck up in the midlands with no ticket, no money, and just enough diesel to drive back home again.  Also my rent was due, and I didn't even have enough money to cover that.  So maybe it would be a good idea to try to shneak into the festival and dodge my landlord for the weekend.  As a millennial, this means I have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and an underdeveloped work ethic, so it would appear that someone owes me a free ride to Body and Soul.  I scrolled down through my phone book, skipping over all the invaluable music industry contacts I have built up over the years, and instead texted my eldest brother who works in an off-license in the barren wastelands of North Tipperary.  At some point on Thursday, weekend tickets sold out, so any chance of getting a spare off someone at discount or face value was going to be impossible.  Then at quarter past four on Friday evening my big brother phoned me to say that he had gotten two tickets from the Bulmer's rep, all I had to do was drive up and collect them at the gate.  Finally, all my hard work had paid off!


I would be staying in a friend's place just outside Mullingar, so camping or trying to sleep on a deflating mattress in the back of my van was out of the question.  He was currently in South Africa, but his landlady would be able to let me in.  So after some hurried shopping (four litres of bottled water, three rolls of camera film, and two packets of fig rolls) and an even more hurried packing, I pointed Greta in the direction of Dublin and sped off up the motorway.  She still overheated when been driven hard over long distances, and while jacking up the heating still kept the engine cool, the current heat wave meant that it felt like I was driving an oven.  So shortly after the toll booth on the M8, I pulled over to the hard shoulder and took off my trousers.  Extra special prayers to the almighty were put out that I wouldn't need to stop and ask for directions at any point, or that I wouldn't get pulled over by the GardaĆ­ for any reason ("Could you show us your license and PLEASE keep your hands where we can see them").  The good news is that neither of these things happened, but the bad news is that driving sans pants is so bloody comfortable that I may never go back.  This could earn me a very interesting reputation when I start work placement in a school in September.

So I pulled up at the cottage outside Mullingar, whipped on my jeans, and stumbled out of the van fumbling with my belt and flies as the landlady came out to greet me.  She kept stables and explained that she was only just back herself, having been at the vet to pick up enough semen to cover a mare.  I know very little about horses, so to me it sounded like the mother and father of all money shots and not another term for AI.  So after a grand mug of tae and quick trip to the jacks, I was back in the van and heading to the festival.  There is a bizarre law of the lever logic with these excursions, as that I get closer to the destination (or fulcrum), the more effort is required on my part.  Initially this was apparent as I got to the last few miles leading up to Ballinlough Castle, whereby the magical combination of festival traffic, silage tractors, and cyclists on a narrow winding Westmeath road had brought things to a standstill.  The next bit was going to be even more tedious and problematic.  I had to pick up two tickets that were not in my name, nor were they in my brother's name (who at least shares my surname), but in an envelope marked Rob Bennett.  I have no idea who he is, I'm sure he's quite nice and all, but if problems should arise, I was to ring Edmund Flavin who would be able to sort all of this out.

As I quite accurately predicted, this did not go smoothly.  "I'm here to pick up two tickets, they are in the Bulmer's pile in an envelope marked Rob Bennett."  (Shuffles through a stack of envelopes for a minute or two) "Ah yeah, here it is, could I see some photo ID?  (Takes my passport)  You're not Rob Bennett?  I can't give these to you to you so."  "Well you see they were put aside for my brother, and I'm here to pick them up.  I was told to call Edmund Flavin if there was any problem."  "Who's Edmund Flavin?"  "I have no clue, but I have his number here, so let's see what he has to say."  So I got him on the phone, and after explaining to him that I was me and not my brother, I handed my mobile over to the man in the box office and watched him talk and talk and talk, while I stood there holding my breath with my fingers and toes crossed.  He handed the phone back to me just before my eyeballs burst out of their sockets.  "That's grand, just give me fifty euro and the tickets are yours."  I thought I was getting comps, so even though they were waaaay cheaper than what the plebs were paying for them, it was still beyond my budget.  He explained that there was some sort of charity tie in, that the money would be donated, and that the minimum donation per ticket was twenty five euro.  This would not be a good time to explain that I had no money and that my plan for the weekend was to use one ticket to get in, and then sell the other one so that I'd have walking around money.  As it was now sold out I could even have sold it at a sufficiently inflated price so that I could cover the rent that was due in Cork.  I explained that I only had twenty euro on me (the reality was that I only had twenty euro, but at a push I could have siphoned thirty euros worth of diesel out of my van).  He took the twenty euro and handed me the tickets.  "Will I come back to you with the remaining thirty?"  "You're grand, enjoy the weekend!"  So without further delay, I sold on the spare at the very fair price of one twenty, got my wristband, and I was in.

After having such a lovely jaunt at Electric Picnic on my own, this would be no different.  Anyone who has ever been to a music festival with a group of friends knows how torturous it is to get about, as a mini committee meeting is needed every step of the way.  "I want to go to the main stage", "I need a piss", "I want a burger", "I want a beer", "I need to get something from the campsite", "Hey look chairplanes, let's go on the chairplanes" and so on, and so on, ad nauseam.  Fortunately, as the world's most personable misanthrope I have a habit of bumping into someone I know every fifty yards or so, so loneliness would not be an issue.  My trusty companion for the festival would be my Minolta slr, and I was so intent on taking photos that I even brought along a bounce flash to show that I meant business.  So much so, that I'd barely gotten a few hearty strides inside the perimeter when an attractive girl ran towards me asking if I'd take her picture.  "Sure," I said and she waved her boyfriend over and struck a pose with him.  (Click/Flash.)  (Excitedly)"So what's it going to be in?"  "The shoebox in my flat where I keep my photos, why do you ask?"  As the realisation dawned on her that I was not an actual photographer who will catapult her to some level of fame, and just some guy fluting about with a camera, I wasn't sure whether to feel sorry for her or be slightly tickled that she was the victim of her own vanity.  The good news for her is that I have since acquired a scanner, so now she has some level of fame amongst the ten or so people that read this blog.

Again, there would be no gameplan, there was no one that I really wanted to see over the weekend, which meant lots of faffing about while drinking tea, which is not too far removed from what I normally do.  After a good hearty faff, I went in to Midnight Circus to check out Shane Linehan's set.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that we're friends, but we are well acquainted.  A few years back I designed a few posters for him, and once when I lost my car keys he had a guy who could jimmy the door, break the steering lock, and hot wire the ignition ready to come round within minutes (fortunately I managed to find the keys).  When I bumped into him outside South Infirmary in 2011, he said he had been messing around on Ableton for a few months and finally had made a track he was willing to self release on vinyl.  Not to be outdone in terms of ambitions, I revealed that someday I hoped to get my act together sufficiently and buy a van.  For all our crazy talk back then, Shane is now a record label boss and one of the more respected producers and DJs on the scene today, while I have my own van.  His set wasn't too deep with just the right amount of dirt, and it was a sheer joy to see someone I know rocking a big system at a festival.  My knowledge of house is fairly limited, but I did recognise a few of the tracks as I'd been listening to his mixes in the gym these last few months.  Unfortunately the day had been long and my body was tired, so I had to clock out early and leave his set behind.

All that was left to do was wander back to the car park, hop in my van, and drive back to Mullingar to kip down for the night.  I remembered walking through the campsite on the way in, so it would simply be a matter of following the line of tents and I'd find myself back at the main entrance.  I figured there can't be too many tents at a music festival, so there would be no chance of getting lost.  After half an hour of this, I thought it wise to go back the way I came and find a steward or someone who could point me in the right direction.  It was easily an hour later before I was back in my van.  Friday is done.


I got up late enough and had a decent feed of porridge and scrambled eggs for breakfast.  To get myself suitably intoxicated for the day ahead, I jogged out to Lough Ennell, then stood there for about 10-15 minutes with my hands on my hips panting loudly as I gazed upon the lake.  I gave it extra welly on the way back, hoping to build up sufficient runner's high for the rest of the day.  After a shower and a shave, I headed in to town to pick up a few bits and take a few snaps of the Joe Dolan statue.

It was only when I finished snapping (several pictures were taken from all angles, what you see above is the best of the best) that I noticed the ice-cream shop across the street, and how his right hand is just begging for a cone.  Unfortunately by the time I got served, the sun had gone in, and taking a picture of a statue holding an ice-cream cone while it's overcast makes no sense whatsoever.  So I was left with no other option than to eat it myself while tooling around town with my camera, before hopping into Greta and heading over to the festival.

One of the painful lessons from the Picnic was that festival tea is muck.  To get over this I brought in forty bags of Barry's Gold Blend with me so that no matter how deranged, depraved, or dehydrated I might get, I wouldn't have to resort to sub par tea.  Most of the vendors thought it strange ("You brought your own teabags to a music festival?!?!?"), but humoured me and only charged a token price for the hot water, milk, and cup.  To make sure I wasn't completely mad, I went to the one group of people who would definitely understand.  When I asked the girls at the Rebel Burger Company if they had Barry's Tea the response was "What d'ya expect, we're from Cork like!"  When I showed them my precautionary stash, it was met with nods of approval.  "First rule of travel: If you're going somewhere foreign, always bring Barry's Tea."  One of them then launched into a story about how a cousin of hers accidentally drank Bewley's at Electric Picnic and had to be rushed to hospital to get his stomach pumped.  At this point another one broke down into tears as a close relative of hers had a similar experience but wasn't so fortunate.

Back in 2011, I played at the festival.  It was a major coup at the time, but the real victory is getting called back to play again the following year, which didn't happen.  So I have gone down the slippery slope of being a DJ with festival experience, to being like that uncle who was in a band once.  Since it was looking unlikely that I would ever be asked to play at a major festival ever again, it was necessary that I take matters into my own hands.  So not only did I have a hefty stash of Barry's Gold Blend in my pocket, I also had a Sesame Street record player and a bunch of 45s in my backpack.  So when the time was right, I sat down in a quiet(-ish) spot in the Walled Garden and started playing.  My set lasted about an hour, there were considerable gaps between each of the songs, but I did manage to gather a small crowd, all of whom swore their lives had changed for the better as a result.  So when anyone asks if I DJed at any festivals this summer, I will nonchalantly reply how I did an intimate set of seven inches in the Walled Garden at Body and Soul.  It was really nice, so chilled, shame you missed it.

After I brought my records and player back to the van, I spent some time trying on different hoody and sports coat combinations until I finally found one that made it look like I didn't put too much effort into my look.  I then bumped into Ollie, an old buddy from college that I hadn't seen or spoke to in a good ten years.  Once upon a time we used to get tonicked up, turn off the lights, and play The Prodigy's "Electronic Punks" video from beginning to end several times over the course of a night, busting out the most bucked out shapes imaginable (it was our way of acknowledging that Leeroy Thornhill was the king of Prodigy dancing).  Many key anthropologists now believe that those VHS get downs we had in Corrib Village were the original precursor to the Youtube parties of today.  Even though it was the same video every time, which had to be rewound (and rewound, and rewound), the absence of ads or laggy connection meant that it was also vastly superior.  It was really nice to catch up with him, and when we went for pizza at the Big Blue Bus, a conglomerate of my favourite Cork DJs (only two of whom are actually from Cork) were lashing out the tunes.  It was one of those weirdly sentimental moments with the sun low in the sky, eating festival standard pizza and having the craic with a friend from the ever more distant past, with present day friends providing the sound track and shenanigans, while all sorts of everyone on all sorts of everything flowed around us.  Every now and then when one of my favourite tracks dropped I just got up and gave it socks with reckless abandon, and then seamlessly sat back down to pizza and chats and whatnot with Ollie.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Cawley
Later on in the night, I was wandering past Radioshack and was drawn in by Al Wilson's "The Snake" and was obliged by the immutable laws of the universe to pull out my best Northern Soul moves.  At the best of times, proper Northern Soul dancing requires a tight combination of well practised moves, athleticism, and amphetamines.  At that moment in time I had none of the above, was fairly knackered, and was wearing hiking boots.  Still, the immutable laws of the universe are there for a reason, and while it was not going to be pretty or well executed, it had to happen.  My energetic, spirited, and well-meaning moves lasted for about three songs, after which I was utterly crapped out but felt strangely liberated.  My mother always assured me that I was a great dancer, so I'm certain I was hardly the honkiest mofo on the dance flo'.  So if anyone out there has video footage of me and my moves that night, please feel free to keep it to yourself.  I then did a few more hours of meandering around the festival before deciding to call it a night.


I got up early on Sunday with the plan of touching in with some friends down by the Chakra teepees.  While everyone was having a good time overall, complaints about poor nights sleep, not having access to a proper jacks ("I haven't had a proper shit in three days", quote of the festival and best chat up line I've heard to date), and all the usual stuff that's part and parcel of a weekend like this.  Then everyone looked at me and said: "It must be alright for you, having the van to sleep in and all?"  I said it was, but what was even alrighter was having a flat to stay in for the weekend.  Porridge and scrambled eggs for breakfast, as well as having a proper shower and shave before I got in that morning really took the edge of things.  When their glowers started burning my skin, I hastily and tastefully started backpedaling.  "I say that I had a shower, but to be honest the water pressure wasn't THAT great".  Their glowering persisted so I shut up.

The light was good so I wandered off, shooting as many snaps as I could.  Local heroes "Sunday Times!" were playing at the Jook Joint at three, so I had a nice bit of time to go around supping tae and befuddling vendors until then.  The lads started off their set with some nice simmering jazz, and I found myself curling up on the grass and having a semi conscious doze as it washed over me.  As it worked its way up to midtempo house and boogie I came to, and sat up to find that I had gotten a wee bit sunburnt while I slept.  Hurrah, a proper festival credential!  As much as I was enjoying their set, I had it in my head that I wouldn't be staying much longer, and so went off for one last walk with my camera.  It had been a good festival experience and I didn't want to tear the arse out of it by staying too late, but still didn't want to leave too early for fear of missing something.

Once again, it was Radioshack that lured me in.  I could hear some wonderful Brazilian piano track winding its way out so I had to stop by for a listen.  A woman, probably about ten years older than me, was behind the decks, and she just kept racking up more and more beautiful music.  There was a good half hour of piano based Latin American grooves, before she worked her way into afrobeat, and then into soul, funk, and dub reggae.  There was nothing fancy about her mixing: no sharp cuts or complicated blends, but every segue was a perfect mini masterpiece, and all of her selections were seriously spot on.  I sat there transfixed for ages, occasionally breaking down into tears of joy at the sheer beauty of it all.  Al Wilson's "The Snake" popped its head up again, but I spared the world my moves this time.  When she finished up I thanked her for the set, told her that she made my weekend, and started heading towards the main entrance.  Now there was nothing left for me to do but get back to my van, drive to Cork, and hide from my landlord like it's an Olympic sport!

Huge thanks to my brother Ian O'Brien, Bulmers, Greta Greenbus, Claire Moloney, Gavin, Tanya, Kevin, and all the other pure sound folk that I spent time with that weekend.  It was wonderful!

(The rest of my photos can be seen here)