Ireland’s leading dance music gathering, Life Festival celebrates its 12th anniversary this month, but it’s come a long way since its first edition all the way back in 2006. Before the festival found its home in Belvedere House & Gardens, it changed location twice. Originally taking place in Charleville Castle, Offaly, in 2006, it then moved onto Lough Cutra Castle in Galway for three years before nestling just outside of Dublin in its present home of Weastmeath for the past seven years.
The lineups have changed massively over the past decade as you can imagine, and reflects how electronic music tastes and trends have changed over the last decade or so. Believe it or not, the first edition was mainly a psy-trance festival, and it’s evolved since then to include hip hop, jungle, drum & bass, dubstep, and every other genre under the sun before settling in as the house and techno festival that we all know in its current guise.
Below is a list of headliners and relevant artists who’ve played Life over the past twelve years. See if you can notice when the big switch happened. PS, I couldn’t find lineup posters for the first four years.
2006 – Hilight tribe, Peaking Goddess Collective, Aphid Moon.
What? Who are they? I know I’m going to get some 34 year old psy-trance fan going mad at me in the comments, but for a 22 year old fan of techno/house, I have no idea what’s going on here. This is what Life started out as, a psy-trance festival in the arse end of nowhere with about 500 heads at it. A million miles away from what it is now.
2007 – Long Range, Krafty Kutz, Dreadzone, Grooverider, e-Skilz.
This was the first year Life packed everything up and changed location… to Galway! The main headliner was still psytrance but the addition of Krafty Kutz gave punters a Hip Hop element to the festival.
2008 – Finley Quay, Cold Cut, Dj Marky, Skream, Hallucinogen, Mala, Max Romeo.
Would you look at that, Skream! Still located in Galway, but a small change in style, they seem to be calling out to the underground fans, who at that time were listening to Dubstep and DnB, a testament to the popularity of these genres.
2009 – Carl Craig, Green Velvet, Astrix, Goldie, Sebastien LegerR, Altern8, Oscar Mulero, Andrew Weatherall.
The start of the big switch up. This would be Life Festival’s last year in Galway and it’s clear to see why. Carl Craig, Green Velvet, Andrew Weatherall, Goldie, these acts would get almost every fan of underground electronic music to buy tickets, but, would it get them to travel to Galway?
2010 – Infected Mushroom (Old School set), Ricardo Villalobos, Chris Liebing, LTJ Bukem, Ben Sims, Surgeon, a.k.a, Frequency7, Mad Professor, Joker, Mc Nomad, Hilight Tribe, The Japanese Popstars, Ancient Methods, Neil Landstrumm.
This was to be the iconic year in Life festival history. Just as things were starting to really heat up in Dublin again, techno and house was starting to have a resurgence and this festival’s new home was just a stone’s throw away. What a way to welcome people into your new home, with Resident Advisor’s number one DJ in the world at the time, Ricardo Villalobos.
Note the live element too with Irish band Japanese Popstars performing in 2010.
2011 – Vitalic, Jeff Mills (First ever Irish Festival show), John Digweed, Dr. Lektroluv, Slam, X-Dream VS The Delta (retro 90’s set), Juno Reactor (dj set), Cafe Del Mar Positive, Ramadanman, The Orb Soundsystem, Ed Rush, Dan Ghenacia (Apollonia).
A watershed moment for all involved, Jeff Mills made his Irish festival debut. There also seems to be an old school twist with other acts from the 1990s playing like Slam, The Orb, and Digweed. Dan Ghenacia from Apollonia doesn’t even make the poster.
2012 – Ben Klock vs Marcel Dettmann, Jamie Jones, DJ Marky, Planetary Assault Systems, Engine-Earz Experiment, Matthias Tanzmann, Blawan, Emalkay, Martyn, Ace Ventura, Simphonix, Doc Daneeka & Benjamin Damage, Cosmin TRG, Lovebirds, Ed Davenport.
A sign of the times. Life does what it does best, and caters to what underground music fans want. 2012 was a key year for the likes of Jamie Jones and Lovebirds who were starting to build house music again in Ibiza. On the other hand, Klock and Dettmann went head to head in a thumping set.
2013 – Leftfield, Seth Troxler, Booka Shade, Modselektor, Kerri Chandler, Karenn, Bicep, Midland, Sunil Sharpe, Ben Pearce.
On the back of their massive hit ‘Vision Of Love’, Irish duo Bicep make their Life festival debut, but are pretty low down on the poster. Little did anyone know how big they would become.
Groove Armada were scheduled to play but Life pulled it out of the bag and replaced the duo with another iconic act in Leftfield.
2014 – Groove Armada, LFO, Maya Jane Coles, Joy O, Hot Since 82, Nina Kraviz, Dixon, DJ Koze, Ben Klock, Ejeca, Rödhad.
This is the year people start really waking up to dance music outside of the underground circles. If you weren’t into going on a journey with DJ Koze, as always with Life, you had the techno option in Dixon, Nina Kraviz and Ben Klock.
Groove Armada made up for the year before by giving the Belvedere massive what they wanted.
2015 – Eats Everything, Maceo Plex, Kolsch, Nas (Live), Modselektor, Ben UFO, Skream, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Ben Klock, ÂME, Derrick Carter, Robert Hood, Blonde.
A huge, and odd, surprise when in 2015 Life announced hip-hop legend and arguably the man behind the greatest album ever, Nas. This was the year that Maceo Plex opened his set with a massive kick drum and blew the speakers…
2016 – Paul Kalkbrenner, Jamie Jones, Patrick Topping, Jeff Mills, 2manydjs, Laurent Garnier, Mane Le Tough, Hot Since 82, Huxley, Bicep, Ejeca, Joy O, Blawan, Sunil Sharpe, Truss, MK.
In my opinion, this year was the perfect balance between house and techno. Bicep, Jeff Mills, Laurent Garnier, Blawan, Sunil on one end and on the other end you had Huxley, Jamie Jones, Paul Kalkbrenner and more.
2017 – Nina Kraviz, Ricardo Villalobos, Dixon, Regis, DJ EZ, Rudimental, Alan Fitzpatrick, Goldie, Maya Jane Coles, Patrick Topping, Gorgan City, Bjarki, Cleric, Duke Dumont, DeFeKT.
Although there has been major controversy this year that Life has ‘sold out’ and gone commercial when they announced acts such as Duke Dumont and Rudimental, if you look back over the years, they’ve always changed it and catered to what the crowd want whilst sticking to their techno roots we all know and love. You could complain about the big Smirnoff signs, Gorgon City and the crowd they will attract, or you could just shut up and enjoy some Ricardo Villalobos down at the lake. Oh and don’t forget to catch Goldie…
For me, the big switch up happened over a two year period between ’09-’10, due to the change in acts being booked for the festival and the move from their previous location to Belvedere House & Gardens just outside Dublin. As most electronic music fans in Dublin would know, around 2010 was a sonic boom for clubbing in our city again and it has been back on the rise ever since.
This most definitely affected the bookings with Life and all electronic music festivals in Ireland to be honest. We are delighted it happened because we wouldn’t have seen Ejeca play the lake in 2014 and grow as an artists from there on. We wouldn’t have seen Jeff Mills make his first Irish festival appearance and then return last year in the District 8 tent. Most importantly we wouldn’t have ever seen Nas play alongside Robert Hood!
We owe Life Festival a lot over the years.