John Reynolds THE MAE­STRO

The sad death of John Reynolds has come as a huge blow to his fam­ily, his friends and to the Ir­ish mu­sic in­dus­try. Over the next six pages, Hot Press pays trib­ute…


It’snot an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that John Reynolds per­ma­nently al­tered the gig­ging and fes­ti­val land­scape in Ire­land. Hav­ing de­buted in 2004, Elec­tric Pic­nic re­ally hit its stride in the en­su­ing two years – in­cred­i­ble events that have a fond place in the mem­o­ries of all who at­tended.

John had hit on the rather ex­cel­lent idea of build­ing an event around left­field acts who could get some­what lost at other fes­ti­vals. Fea­tured in one of the tents in 2005, Ar­cade Fire be­came in­stantly leg­endary. But there were so many other mem­o­rable mo­ments, both that year and next: Deven­dra Ban­hart, Mog­wai, LCD Soundsys­tem, Kraftwerk, New Or­der, the Pet Shop Boys, Gary Nu­man, Sparks, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and more.

Throw in a bril­liant ar­ray of ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tivies and a hugely pop­u­lar chill­out area, all tak­ing place in an in­cred­i­ble at­mos­phere at the Strad­bally Es­tate, and it was clear that a new type of Ir­ish fes­ti­val ex­pe­ri­ence had ar­rived.

“John was no idle tourist: he was a scout, a prospec­tor, a pi­o­neer,” com­mented his friend and col­lab­o­ra­tor Dave Bell. “And it wasn’t just place and prop­erty to him; no, John too saw the prom­ise of its peo­ple, the cus­to­di­ans of these mag­i­cal places, and set about work­ing his charisma and charm on coax­ing and ca­jol­ing them into be­liev­ing his vi­sion, and shar­ing it.

“Who could for­get sen­sa­tional Strad­bally and all that played out there? I re­mem­ber a friend en­thus­ing that Elec­tric Pic­nic was like a week­end away in the mind of John Reynolds. It was a breath­tak­ing won­der­land, a car­ni­val of sights and sounds with art and cul­ture at its bub­bling core. No two at­ten­dees ploughed the same path: it re­ally was en­rich­ing to in­fin­ity and be­yond.”

Even­tu­ally, Elec­tric Pic­nic would be­come a fully‡y edged phe­nom­e­non in Ir­ish so­ci­ety: a cher­ished an­nual party in late Au­gust and early Septem­ber, at which we re­ally did be­come one na­tion un­der a groove.

While he is no longer in­volved in the fes­ti­val, be­ing the founder of Elec­tric Pic­nic alone would have as­sured

John Reynolds’ place in Ir­ish mu­sic his­tory, but it was just one of nu­mer­ous heavy­weight achieve­ments he had to his credit.

As Leonard Co­hen’s man­ager, Robert Kory, out­lines fur­ther in this trib­ute, the Cana­dian singer’s gigs in June

2008 at IMMA – host­ing gigs in the grounds of the art gallery be­ing an­other of the pro­moter’s in­no­va­tions – were cen­tral not only to Co­hen’s re­la­tion­ship

"John was no idle tourist: he was a scout, a prospec­tor, a pi­o­neer."

with Ire­land, but to his de­ci­sion to un­der­take widescale in­ter­na­tional tour­ing over the neÝt five years. /hus was an Ir­ish­man the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind one of the most glo­ri­ous fi­nal chap­ters in the his­tory of rock.

Co­hen would also re­turn to Ire­land to per­form a brace of truly mag­i­cal dates at Lis­sadell House in Sligo in July 2010, the WB Yeats con­nec­tion mean­ing that they ranked amongst the sig­nif­i­cant and spe­cial shows of the singer’s ca­reer. Again, the seed had been sown when Reynolds pre­sented Co­hen with a spe­cial vol­ume of Yeats’ po­etry at the IMMA dates a cou­ple of years be­fore.

Ear­lier this year, an­other re­mark­able con­cert took place at the Kil­main­ham venue, with the iconic duo of Nick Cave and Patti Smith both per­form­ing sets on an evening that ev­ery­one who was there speaks of in rev­er­en­tial tones. Both were among the many artists pay­ing trib­ute to Reynolds fol­low­ing his pass­ing.

“I’m so sorry and sad,” said Smith. “What a sup­port­ive in­tel­li­gent man. What a loss to our com­mu­nity and to all.”

At the time of his pass­ing, John Reynolds was, as ever, busy work­ing on var­i­ous pro­jects. On the Au­gust bank holiday week­end, he staged the in­au­gu­ral All To­gether Now fes­ti­val at Cur­ragh­more Es­tate in Water­ford, an event which suc­cess­fully brought John right back into the heart of things. The pro­moter’s death co­in­cided with the lat­est edi­tion of Me­trop­o­lis in the RDS, the win­ter event that filled the gap for a mid-win­ter Ir­ish fes­ti­val out­ing.

"To us, John was a mav­er­ick, a men­tor, a friend, and in his own words 'the so-called cap­tain of the best team in the world'," Will Rolfe told Hot Press on be­half of POD Con­certs. "There are no words that can de­scribe our hurt at his pass­ing, but also no words to sum up the joy of his life and the mo­ments and in­spi­ra­tion he gave us all! We would like to thank ev­ery­one for the beau­ti­ful trib­utes and mes­sages of sup­port sent over the last week. John hasn't gone, he's just be­come a piece of us all now!

"Our ac­tions can speak louder than any words, by hon­our­ing John's vi­sion and con­tin­u­ing to come to­gether to col­lab­o­rate and cre­ate a new fu­ture."

His pass­ing oc­curred two years af­ter the sad deaths of his par­ents within a cou­ple of days of each other. Though he was only 52, John Reynolds pro­vided many peo­ple with some of the best mem­o­ries of their lives – and we would surely all set­tle for that as a legacy.

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