As the dust settles on the picturesque grounds of Belvedere House in Mullingar, there is a huge sense, not only of nostalgia, but of satisfaction and hope amongst the electronic music community in Ireland, and here’s why:
On Friday 27th May the sun was shining brilliantly, the forecast was for more of the same and it was all consolidating in a very attractive manner. On arrival, a buggy service from the campsite to the Silk Road teepee area was a tremendous touch. It saved a lot of people a lot of effort and of course, more importantly, the odd serendipitous attendee finally got to play out their fantasy of being Noddy, as a passenger, at a festival… or so I heard.
From the off it was noticeably superior with regard to organisation, convenience and general ease of access in comparison with previous years. We arrived at the entrance to the campsite area to be greeted by a team of security and medical staff and just beyond them was the teepee area overlooking the lake. It was a truly beautiful expanse and was equipped with free tea and coffee, toilets, showers and a phone charging station.
The Electric Lounge or lake stage was the first stop. People were draped across the verdant plain by the lake. Others were grooving to the funky house and disco being provided at the DJ post neighbouring the sheltered coffee and food stand. Once I had fuelled up and taken in the spectacular view it was time to do some further exploration. I hadn’t veered far when I was greeted by chilled reggae vibes coming from the world music area The Ruff Hut; an area that played host to some of the most mind-blowing and razzle-dazzle beats heard all weekend.
Not too far from there was the Party In The Woods stage. This hosted some excellent techno and house and was markedly good on the Saturday with the Building Society and Connection take over. This had the likes of Omar O’ Reilly, Defekt, RSCH14, Ellll, stand out selector Jon Hussey and Bastardo Electrico’s Jamie Behan. It also had for me the best set of the whole weekend and that was pumped out by a young Dublin man that goes by the name Rift. This man had hard hitting, busy, challenging techno emanating from the function one sound system, and really had those in attendance beaming from ear to ear. A short stroll up the hill brought me to the main area where District 8, Loose, The Main Stage and Side FX were all located.
The Friday night was great fun and the vibe was very composed with John Talabot warming things up nicely at District 8. Maebh O’ Connor and Daire Carolan were giving techno lessons at the Loose stage while Heidi had the place hopping on the Main stage. Laurent Garnier gave a masterclass at District 8 on Friday night with his colourful style of vibrant techno, the buzz inside the monstrous marquee was electric. After Mr Garnier’s set, I headed straight for the Life famous Big Blue Bus for some vittles.
I ordered a margarita and received my ticket number. It was quite busy but I wasn’t waiting very long at all before I was called. The pizza was delicious, to be honest, it was up there with the best pizza I’ve eaten at a music festival anywhere in the world. After a bottle of dreamy sleepy night snoozy snooze on Friday night and a hearty breakfast on Saturday morning, I eventually made my way to the Side FX area. This played host to a big psytrance lineup and had the usual energy and good vibes going on, with the renowned Energy Collective due to take over on Sunday.
Performances of note were from Annie Mac and Bandia on Saturday. After leaving the Side FX stage we decided to chill out by the main stage for a breather of sorts, and one Gemma Dunleavy, an extremely talented Irish artist had us mesmerised for the duration of her performance with her grimy dreamlike nostalgic ways. There was another feast on Sunday, this time of the techno variety, with Vril followed by Sunil Sharpe b2b with Truss and then Blawan who really upped it a gear when he took to the stage. I had spoken with one of the photographers Robbie on the Saturday just outside the District 8 arena. We spoke about the visuals provided by MKW and how they were celebrated across the festival. I met countless people who praised them over the weekend.
The two biggest crowds of the weekend were undoubtedly for Paul Kalkbrenner on the Main Stage and of course Jeff Mills who gave an incredible live performance. It was something special to say the very least. The ovation when Jeff had finished his set was one of great appreciation and love and my, was it deserved. Since that dust has settled I have heard people say things like, “…it was the best electronic music gathering since Homelands” and “This was the best year yet without a doubt”.
Personally, I have been to all Life festivals barring two and I can safely say that this year, they reached a new level and it has excited quite a few people. In saying that, the thing that struck me about this year’s festival is that there was a real sense of the old skool. Life festival 2016 found a perfect balance between no frills and an inordinate level of accommodation. The work that went into this was there to be seen, and we all felt it, old friends, and new. The location, the music, the organisation, the service, the good life. It’s one inspired by love and guided by knowledge…and this?
This wasn’t good, this was great. Life just keeps on giving.