Beatyard 2018: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Nautical Boogie

Station to Station Wine appeared on the Eatyard stage at 230pm and 5pm Saturday

Day 1

Straight in, no kissing:  The best thing about Beatyard? No warm up time needed. Whatever the crowd size, the festival is so busy with activity it is banging immediately. I have a 3-year-old in tow and I hit the main stage to watch Jenny Greene open things up and she is appealing to just about everyone. Pink ice-cream from Teddys for the little one and a pint of Nautical Boogie – a very sunny Friday afternoon is a perfect kick-off. We Dance.

Food Glorious Food: Relieved of my parenting duties I have time to wander. Band clashes over the packed 3-day bill are going to pale next to the food clashes. Eatyard is an absolute behemoth this year, with Eatyard Alley straight in the main entrance and Wingit and Box Burger overlooking the main stage there is something for everyone. The Hidden Agenda Stage is a huge innovation to the general layout as it provides an alternative focal point and the whole festival area becomes a walkable circuit. The Reflex are first on in the new tent and have a willing core of followers warming up the tent.

Golden Oldies: The Bodytonic guys have chops when it comes to putting together a line-up but with this Friday night they raise the bar once more. The Family Stone have been on my wish-list for quite some time. With glorious sunshine still beating down on the mainstage, The Stone ravish their formidable catalogue. Some original members still going strong, next year will mark 50 years since they played Woodstock. Flower-Power in upstate New York to Nautical-Boogie in Dun Laoghaire, what a journey it has been! Conventional wisdom would possibly have been to have The Wailers foot the bill, but it proved a masterstroke to have them as the meat in a Family Stone/Jacksons sandwich. As sun turned to dusk, the crowd was treated to an incredibly tight set led by two of its founding members. Lead singer Josh Barret has a beautiful voice and they punched through originals and favourites with aplomb, we even spotted Family Stone members left of stage filming on iphones! I Shot the Sheriff was a real treat. Darkness descends and the crowd converge and concentrate for the Jacksons. If you had heard Jackie Jackson openly weeping on Dave Fanning’s show during the week you will have guessed it wouldn’t be a run through the motions thing…..and it wasn’t. Boy do they rehearse! The band they employ is incredibly strong, allowing them to play the hits with all the famous moves dance moves replicated in old footage on the big screen. Half way through, they walk off and we are treated to a several minute-long documentary on the Jacksons, with a large focus on soundbites from the usually very quiet 88 year old Katherine Jackson. Maybe they needed a rest – they are a combined 255 years of age. Back out and they slay a Friday night that ends up all about glitter lapels, glitter gloves and moonwalks. Their first ever Irish show was a riot.

Sly Stone, Bob Marley and Michael Jackson are almost peerless and there is no denying that these bands are in part trading on the fame and legacy that they have left. The cynical would suggest it is the only reason they are still here but one song of any of the 3 sets is enough to persuade anybody otherwise. There were mentions of the imperious front men for sure. Sly Stone’s daughter plays with the Family Stone. The Wailers see themselves as some sort of vessel to continue to transmit Bab Marley’s love and music, and the Jacksons as mentioned were far from afraid to talk about MJ. They were all well drilled and well-rehearsed and just loved what they were doing. They are also all embarking on touring schedules that would put younger bands to shame. They all loved the energy the Beatyard crowd showed. This day belonged to the bands and not the demographics and this is best illustrated by the sight of Nell McCafferty dancing wildly with her walking stick during Dance to the music. Day 1 dusted.

Day 2

Eatyard & Nautical Boogie: Day 2 starts with blistering sun, libations from the Eatyard and Finding Nemo on the big screen. Station to Station Wine is due on stage to talk about Wine and Cheese at 2.30pm and again at 5pm for Wine and Crisp matching. I am told by my 3-year-old daughter that she can sadly not attend because it is too boring. Along with fairground rides and arts and crafts upstairs, she seems to have a lot to pack in before she gets pulled ashore today. Upstairs at the Top Deck and Banteryard there is a plethora of speakers and demonstrations. Wines Direct kick off followed by Wine and Cheese with the beautiful Corleggy cheese and Wicklow Way Wines (Station to Station Wine only delighted to run my mouth and help eat and drink). Dr Sparkling of Quintessential Wines, Seamus Daly talks about new-wave fizz and then we match crisps and wine. Meanies with an expensive and beautiful Champagne (Vilmart) was the winner, followed by Scampi Fries and Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc. The hugely popular Sing Along Social and Lords of Strut bring the curtain came down on a wildly successful Saturday Eatyard. Valet parked buggies for the parents downstairs, to the arts and crafts area run by imaginosity on the top deck (located beside all the wine and cheese for the parents) to the Banteryard on the top floor with some serious cocktails on offer, it was a huge success. Moving from the Eatyard tent last year, this was an imperious re-imagining and really a huge risk in some ways but curated by Ali Dunworth and worked hard by the vendors it managed to lift people out of the main arena and blistering sun for large tracts of the day.

Is that fucking David Kitt?: Sean OB opens the main followed by The Scratch, while Bad Bones and Jacques Greene get the Hidden Agendas wake up the Hidden arena. It turns out that David Kitt is now a DJ and I catch some of his performance as New Jackson. Out on the main stage, Little Dragon are dispatching their usual mix of flambouyant and ponderous tunes with frontwoman Yukimi Nagano bossing the stage Grace Jones style. Beatyard is in full bloom at this stage and the weather is as idyllic as it can get. The second Boatyard Party is making port now too and kids start to disappear – the face painting stand will have a quiet couple of hours before another rush of older punters!

The Dilemma: A hard fought decision on where to eat (wingit and buffalo fries from BB) is followed by a trip to Hidden Agendas to watch the start of Canadian DJ Dan Smith, AKA Caribou, AKA Daphni. Looking more and more like Hunter S Thomson, Daphni proves why he is one of the most well-loved operators around. Immediately starting at the top of his range, he reads that he has a crowd of people that want to dance, and fever pitch is reached very quickly. I take a trip out to watch a little Kamsi Washington, but I keep looking over my shoulder and there is something happening in Hidden Agendas. I return to find Daphni blowing the roof off the place. Playing on past his allotted time, I have planned to see Django Django close out the day but decide I will watch a little Modeselektor first. If Daphni blew the roof off the place, Modeselektor dismantled the roof with a can opener and their teeth. Following Daphnis lead and leaving aside their sometimes technique-led set they spent a couple of hours turning everybody into wild animals playing un-ashamed bangers. With a partial view of the mainstage I wander out a couple of times to Django Django, but my heart is with the Hidden Agendas stage today.

Some people spend most of their day indoors at Eat & Banteryard. Some people spend the day in the sun, some people danced all day in the tent. The variety presented at this festival is truly astounding. It feels as though you would need a week of it to get bored. There are lots of kids and some stay deep into the evening. There is no dominant demographic. In the que for the bar I listen to a bemused older couple in front of me discussing the nearby Daphni set: “I’d have a headache if I went any closer, its like a train driving through a metallica concert” and a wide-eyed younger couple behind me: “OMG this is totes the most chill festival eva”. The cops have had a very easy day. As usual there is nothing even resembling trouble. We start to disperse and find the tail end of the bar service uptown in Dun Laoghaire.

Day 3

Confident Music for confident people: A little slower this morning, and unburdened by not having to be on stage at any time myself, I choose not to reveal to the little one that The Little Mermaid is playing on the mainstage at 12, and reluctantly decide to miss Loah and get in for Confidence Man. I have seen bits and pieces of them in Australia I knew this was a fun proposition. Silly dancing, costume changes and a bratty vocal from the incredibly charismatic and energetic front woman ‘Planet Janet’, if you don’t enjoy it or at least appreciate the silliness then you need more fun in your life. Beatyard is now completely rebooted and again drenched in blistering sun. I head over to Hidden Agendas to watch a little of the legendary Andy Weatherall, and he is in the middle of building a cathedral but today for me is Main Stage day. I want to graze and gaze.

Rappers Delight is better than Angel Delight: The Sugarhill Gang arrive on stage and there is quite literally a tonne of MC hopping around, this stage had better be well built. Lots of call and response and crowd interaction is just what the doctor ordered to keep the crowd kicking along. It feels like Grandmaster Flash is presiding over the whole thing and The Gang play a monstrous set. The precession of legends continues with the Skatalites taking the stage. With two founding members present, the number of over-70 performers for the weekend hits double digits. We reach peak legend as Doreen Shaffer Queen of Ska comes out. We are getting deep on the final day, you could tell that a large part of the crowd had come specifically for her, she is utterly immense.

If you don’t mind me saying Dun Laoghaire, you’re a good-looking bunch: King Kong Company explain that they are used to playing for people who have been rolling around in the mud for three days and are generally quite certifiable before they attend KKC’s now legendary Valhalla of debauchery. There is a core of hardcore in front of the band as their full set unfurls and they run through walls of sound, guitar distortion and dancing cassettes, not to mentions lyrical musings culminating in frontman Mark Grahams most universal and poignant philosophical position: I’m getting nuthin off thah! Unfortunately, St Germain have had to cancel earlier in the day, but their slot is ably filled by Confidence Man who once again come out and play the shit out of the mainstage, Planet Janet adding to her mountain of adoring and oogling male fans.  

On and On: There are people playing in Hidden Agendas. There is more still going on upstairs. Last chance to get the delish food and drink on offer. Really though, there is one thing on everybody’s minds: Orbital. The construction of the stage gives a hint of what was to come. Orbitals massive rig assembled, eventually the old masters arrived. Backed up by a huge light show, it would is visible from space (well, Dublin Airports flightpath anyway). The crowd, still enjoying the humid evening began to strip of layers as the now old hands get going. Some of the new material from their upcoming album Monsters sounds great, and given the current climate, video motifs admonishing the carnage and idiocy of the Brexit negotiations go down a treat, but people there are waiting for the big tunes, and they come. Halcyon and Belfast come at the start of the second half, with Chime a little later. They bring the curtain down with Dr Who. Orbital are still one of the best live sets touring. Utterly unreal.

There is no pontificating needed about this festival. I wish I could have seen more acts and done more but there is just too much happening – I was present for all but three hours. I am delighted and honoured to have had a tiny part on stage in this extravaganza the last couple of years.

It has everything. If you have missed it, don’t miss it again. I can’t wait to hear who they get when they start booking acts for 2019. I can’t wait to go.