Now in it’s eighth year Life festival has earned its place as one of the best ‘niche’ festivals in Europe. A solid lineup of underground electronic music against the backdrop of the beautiful Belvedere House and Gardens it would be easy for Life to be overrun by hipsters or hippies. Instead, the atmosphere belies the stereotypes and shows why Life has become a staple on the festival calendar for so many people.
Musically, Kerri Chandler set the tone perfectly on the Red Bull Music Academy stage on Friday night (Listen here) with a set of his perfect old school house rhythms punctuated with his unique mix of soul, afro and arty sounds. It was a hard act to follow as the New Jersey native drew a big crowd to the stage but Dublin’s own underground legend Sunil Sharpe was more than a match for the challenge. A familiar figure to anyone with an interest in Irish techno, Sunil always manages to show why he’s built a reputation as one of the best live DJs around. It might have taken two to do it but Karenn (made up of techno masterminds Blawan and Pariah) upped the level again with a near-perfect set to mark their Irish debut and wrap up the first night.
On the Saturday a triple package set of Booka Shade, Leftfield and Laurent Garnier to close out the main stage was met with rapturous delight from the crowd. Frankfurt duo Booka Shade’s brand of melodic techno doesn’t always satisfy on record but on the festival stage they showed why they have a reputation as one of the most exciting live acts on the European circuit. Leftfield are loud, so loud that sometimes they knock the plaster off the roof but with no walls to keep the sound in Neil Barnes stole Saturday with a DJ set that gave a glimpse into the influences that made Leftfield such an inspiration act in UK house.
They say what’s seldom is wonderful but in the case of Laurent Garnier every opportunity, however frequent, to hear him work is a treat. The French-by-way-of-Manchester DJ is an institution with his live shows, podcasts and radio mixes pointing the way to new sounds for over two decades now. Notable mentions on the Saturday should also go to two of Ireland’s most exciting producers Lumigraph and Toby Kaar who kickstarted the evening on the RBMA stage.
Sunday on the RBMA stage belonged to Eglo Records with Fatima, Alexander Nut, Funkineven and Floating Points taking over the tent for the second half of the line up. Having won a lot of converts to their exciting and eclectic mix of the London scene last year with a show in Twisted Pepper, the four acts’ proved again why they deserve their growing buzz. A welcome mix of hip-hop, soul, deep house, boogie and whatever else they fancy made for some of the most thrilling hours of the weekend.
Over on the mainstage Modeselektor closed the festival out with their own mash-up of styles, whipping the crowd into a frenzy and spraying champagne into the crowd in a fitting celebration of the variety and quality on display at Life Festival.