Our Contributor Mark Davis took a trip to Mullingar for the heavily anticipated return of Life Festival, Ireland’s biggest dedicated Electronic Music Festival to discuss and review the happenings for our readers.
Life Festival 2022 finally made its return to Mullingar after three years and made its mark once again as Ireland’s premiere electronic music festival. With the scene plagued by years of uncertainty and two cancellations of the festival for the 2020 and the 2021 edition, it was so great to see such a buzz around the festival again and its highlighting of rising and new local talent that are taking clubs and festivals by storm on a local and international level. During the lead up to the festival, the buzz around it was felt through word in the clubs, pre parties taking place in its native Mullingar and around the country, and by also seeing local DJs you have been keeping an eye on getting a well deserved booking at the festival along with the international headliners of course. One of the best parts of Life Festival is that along with our clubs, the festival has been a main breeding ground for local talent to rise up to huge levels to then return to the festival in years to come as international headliners, which is very powerful to see as both a punter and a DJ myself.
The Friday opened with huge excitement as punters flocked into the campsite, setting the tone for the first camping festival on the island in three years. Life Festival always had such a buzz as for me and many others it marked the start of the summer ahead jam-packed with gigs, which was distinctly special when its something we hadn’t been accustomed too for so long. Once people got in and set up, the party had well and truly started before the arena even opened. Campsite tunes were flowing and this year it was all about ‘BLK – Enter The Dragon’ (a DJ who stole the show on the main stage on Saturday, but more on that soon) which definitely topped the playlist in the campsite, while also ‘MCR T – My Little White Pony’ did too, a fair bit heavier from the days of ‘Bicep – Glue’.
With the energy levels up in the campsite, it was time for the main arena. The day started with the notorious Slither DJ’s starting things up on the Index tent, a collective who have brought some of the most forward thinking sounds in Dance Music to Dublin over the past few years, while rising star Kaycee made her life debut opening the District 8 stage with blends of classic house, trance and major dance classics. Yasmin Gardezi also killed it in her set with her hard techno and trance sound, a name who has been making waves not only all over the country but in the UK and Canada as of lately and drew in a huge crowd for the opening of the festival, it already showing all across the board the major support and platforming of local talent that Life Festival prioritises.
The District 8 stage then followed with Obskür, another home grown talent proving to be a major highlight for the punters. There was the don Tommy Holohan on the Main Stage, banging out his new but classic ‘Iced out 3D’ at the end of his set, the wholesome father-daughter duo of Robert and Lyric Hood Floorplan on the District 8 stage, along with more life debuts on the Index Stage for Small Crab, Geist, Efa O’Neill, Collie and Tamisya. They all provided a range of sounds from house, techno, jungle, hardcore breaks, experimental techno and bass music showing a rich diversity of sound in electronic music that we have locally on the isle and it was so exciting to catch their life debuts imagining where they all could be in a few years to come.
Among so many internationals playing that night, a huge highlight for me was Efa O’Neill’s set right before LSDXOXO. Efa made the crowd go wild with her set, consisting of Breaks, rave stab filled Jungle, and finished on ‘DJ Heartstring and Narciss – Juicy’, a favourite bootleg for many of us so far this year. It was so amazing to see such a local legend of the scene fill up the Index stage and send people crazy while international headliners played in the distance. I would say the pressure was well and truly on for LSDXOXO to follow up, but he did what he does best and closed the night on a perfect tone with a genre blending set of techno, gabber, hard house and Philly club music.
On the Saturday, there were a few sore heads of course but the feeling of last night had people going for it straight away and not holding back on getting out to the arena for another stacked day of partying. Today was the day when I really noticed the ‘trance euphoria’ theme of the weekend in a lot of sets standing out, more so than on Friday. Sonia kicked off my day with a set of uncompromising donk and trance which were once taboo genres among techno purist types. I love to see people express a genuine love, knowledge and appreciation for genres considered unfashionable in the past and Sonia truly showed this and the crowd loved it. Sam Greenwood and Aero then followed up for their debut b2b set, legends of the scene and Four Four’s own, of course. They provided a set packed full of techno, showing their vast array of selections within the genre. Highlights for me throughout the daytime across the District 8 and Index stages included Pagan, Siofra, Offtrack and MAV666 b2b Shannen Blessing. As a massive fan of all their work, they all brought it as they always do in clubs across the country. Siofra with her style of Progressive House and Trance evolved into Hard House towards the end of her set, Offtrack with his insane skills at running the vinyl full of hard groove techno, MAV666 and Shannen brought their techno sound towards a trance finish at the end and the stand out being the classic ’N-Trance – Set You Free’ and Pagan brought his sound of glistening trance infused Breaks to the crowd at the District 8 stage before Shampain.
The Reboot Events crew, brought a very distinct energy to the Main Stage throughout the day, they were sandwiched in between Sligo’s impeccable house Selector Ricky Chong and they all continuously packed out the place from 2pm with Shona Brophy and MADN, then onto Reboot DJ’s and of course BLK. They had their whole crew up on stage raving with them, firing through dance classics and some crowd pleasers. BLK stole the show on the Main Stage that day and even led to some teary eyes amongst those in attendance, everyone who was there told me that they were just in awe of the moments that were created by his set and the support that a rising local DJ can gain from their scene reflecting all the graft they put in.
International highlights for Saturday come from Hector Oaks, VTSS and Kettama. Formidable DJs and producers that have taken the world by storm over the past few years. Hector played his set completely vinyl of course, blending hard techno and hard groove throughout. VTSS played a set packed with techno which she was originally known for but displayed her recent pivot into her more experimental side in her selections and productions, the most stand out moment for me was when she dropped ‘Four Tet’s ‘KH’ Aliase’s track ‘Looking At Your Pager’, it was very interesting to hear a more hyperpop sounding track dropped in the middle of a techno set at a festival of Life’s kind.
Kettama proceeded after VTSS with the whole G-Town gang present, once again another local talent who had Life Festival by his side during his rise to becoming a major International DJ. His set was complete with some of his classic and new and upcoming productions, and definitely a much harder sound than when I saw him at the festival a few years previous. Saturday night closed for me with Aeron XTC on the Index stage, once again one of Four Four’s own. The Research boss packed out the stage with a set full of earth shattering techno, mixed together eloquently and he showed what he is known best for and near finishing up he played some uplifting trance, again proving the weekends musical theme to me.
The Sunday of the festival started out slow as always after two hectic days of partying. The final day is always the hardest, but with some much needed rest the punters got right back into it. Sunday started for me with Queen Beatz opening the main stage with some house classics as the sun was beaming, providing an uplifting and reminiscent set to start people off right which was a lot of fun. Air Jackson followed proceedings on the District 8 stage, it was a treat and my first time seeing the long time Dublin DJ. The mid-day really got everyone back into the swing of things once again due to major Irish talent’s performances between DeFEKT, Chantel Kavanagh and Dart playing on both the Index, Main Stage and District 8 stages.
Following up in the Index Tent was Mercorn, Maedbh O’Connor’and then Taint b2b IMNOTYOURMATE. Once again all formidable local DJs showcasing their sound during their well deserved slots. The variety in local artists throughout Sunday on the Index stage helped make the day for me, from Mercorn with progressive, trance and hard house, to Maedbh and her hard techno set, to Taint and IMNOTYOURMATE finishing on happy hardcore and gabber and then onto Cailín’s closing set with her finest selections in techno, vinyl only of course. It was very fitting that Cailín closed the Index stage, bringing out the techno heads of the festival for a final dance and as she is one of the most hardest working DJs on the Irish circuit who recently had her highly anticipated debut EP release ‘Phantom Love Affair’ which was released on AllCity Records and a recent Boiler Room appearance at Belfast’s AVA Festival.
The proceedings to the festival then ended, but the buzz in the campsite kept people up to the early hours and an overwhelming sense of joy and belonging was felt between everyone who was just so happy to be with their people again after three years of uncertainty. Life Festival 2022, did absolutely deliver everything that was expected and more despite the set backs in the past and reduced size this year. I am sure that everyone who was there experiencing the festival had them moments of goosebumps watching local talent rise whether they were dancing to a newcomer DJ or a now international one take to the stage right in front of them. It all created really special moments. I had been to some festivals and clubs within the past year overseas, which were great experiences but it cannot compare to the feeling on finally getting one of our biggest dates in the calendar back at home. As always, I had an incredible time at Life Festival and I am so excited to see what is next for the team and to return to Mullingar next year.
Photo Credits: https: YCM Media