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 fullyy 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.