Electric Picnic Day Three Review
A subdued Sunday afternoon feeling settled on Stradbally for day three of the festival. Far less populated than Saturday, it was a lot more relaxed, feeling like the old Electric Picnic we know and love. Families strolled about, enjoying the oversized flowers and sculptures dotted around the site. Belly dancers and a man on stilts at the Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow create a carnival atmosphere as a few hungover heads indulge in fast food soakage.
At the Other Voices cottage in the woods, the inimitable Roisin O takes the stage, her distinct vocals tempting passing traffic inside. She packs it out, there’s no room for a toothpick in here. A folk singer with more angles than a geometry set, she blows the crowd away. ‘Here We Go’ engages and delights her audience, a song she wrote about an Electric Picnic experience she had a few years ago. ‘It’s the only place where you can lose yourself and find yourself in the same weekend’, she smiles before launching into the feisty, folky, well layered track.
Roisin O leaves the room warm for Wyvern Lingo, fresh from a bigger gig over in the Electric Arena. The all girl trio rolled out their set to receptive fans that had followed them to the forest. Over at the main stage, The Boomtown Rats had taken over. Bob Geldof, resplendent in his snakeskin suit, roared ‘We are mega’ at the crowd rapidly filling the field. He treated his lifelong supporters to the infectious urgency of ‘Clockwork’ and ‘Someone’s Looking At You’ before the jewel in the crown, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ was delivered. The irony of the song in the face of gun culture in America not lost on the crowd.
Just down the hill, The Clameens set up their kit at The Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow. The circus setting working well for these charming indie kids from Derry. Their set was a little slow to start but quickly gathered momentum with the tent filling out nicely. They were well able to deliver their own flavour of youthful and enduring guitar driven tunes with a large helping of melody. They had one song called ‘Fall’ that’s a real indie niggler.
The Frank & Walters were up next. The cheeky Cork boys are charming retro popsters from the late eighties and early nineties indie scene. Looking dapper in black skinny ties and B&Q orange shirts, they thanked everyone for not watching Interpol, who were on the main stage at the same time. Amongst their own twinkling set, they did Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’, before bringing everyone back to the glory days of 1991 with the adorable, ‘After All’. The nostalgia was almost tangible as the quirky crowd relived their musical youth.
A two minute trek took us over to The Electric Arena to catch the end of Villagers set. Everyone was sitting down in the tent, which was packed, Conor having instructed his audience before bathing them in blue lights and ethereal sound effects. This is about as relaxed as it gets. ‘Hot Scary Summer’ from their last album Darling Arithmetic keeps everyone happy as they finally arise and go.
It was left to The Manic Street Preachers to keep the party going as the clock ticked towards Florence time. True to form, they plugged in their jukebox of nineties indie hit nostalgia. The overwhelming reception from the crowd made it a joy for everyone, with Nicky Wire, still strutting about in mirrored shades lashing out the riffs. ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, ‘If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next’ and ‘Suicide Is Painless’ enhancing the fans indulgence. James dedicates a song to all the Irish rugby fans who ever visited Wales, before offering up, ‘You Stole the Sun from My Heart’ to glorious adoration and ‘A Design for Life’, providing an anthemic conclusion, whipping the nostalgia frenzy into overdrive. I hope they felt the love in the crowd; they made the picnic hipsters very happy.
And so to Florence and The Machine. A ‘Queen of Peace’ sign, handmade by a doting super fan indicates the passion and pleasure that’s about to begin. Any festival fatigue quickly subsided with the opening notes of ‘What The Water Gave Me’, before the slender form of Florence appeared onstage. The tragic drama of the track magnified by Florence’s Ophelia-esque persona, it seems as if she lives in every story, character driven intensity seeping from every song. ‘Ship To Wreck’ unfurls its sleeping pills and great white sharks into the air as the field of fans bellows back the tormented chorus. ‘Shake It Out’ sees her barefoot running along the barrier into the crowd and wearing a flower headband donated by an appreciator of her art. When she speaks, her voice sounds fragile and shy, the polar opposite to her vocal projection. The whispering opening verse of ‘What Kind of Man’ hangs in the air until that killer bass line kicks in and we have lift off. Lyrical melancholy is contrasted against glorious triumphant horns, carrying the crowd, in awe, it seems, of her vocal range. ‘Delilah’ is not so well known to the masses, but still gets a good reception from the professional fans of which there are many. The crash and crescendo arrangement is perfect arena gold and will translate better in the 3 Arena on 10 September. ‘St Jude’ with its understated pared back vocals is somewhat elusive in effect. It’s too tender for this set up, another one for the arena faithful fan base who will no doubt revel in its indoor beauty. A generous populist encore of ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and ‘You Got the Love’ are lapped up. Florence’s vocals swell and swoop through the gnarling thrashing guitars on ‘Dog Days’, whilst the Goddess and her Machine deliver the much loved quirky pop epic sampled on Candi Staton’s original, ‘You Got The Love’.
The lights go out, the crew dismantles the kit and the trucks line up for load out. Another one done with rumours of bigger and better next year. Yes, it is mainstream; with middle of the road men like Sam Smith featuring prominently, there’s bound to be an X Factor feel in there somewhere. However, I think Electric Picnic maintains its artistic integrity by offering quality output in quaint and imaginative venues. The Other Voices stage is a great example of how to do it right, as is The Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow, which came with its own circus theatre. The chance to see expanding acts shrink down onto the smaller stage is alluring and for some, unmissable. Offerings such as the Red Bull Music Academy with industry stalwarts like Todd Terje bring another aspect to the festival, whilst the Body and Soul and Mindfield areas ensure that there is a general bohemian flavour in most of the picnic. The smaller stages like the OXJAM stage ensure that unsigned and aspiring acts get their chance as well.
In my view, as a festival veteran, I can only say that I think Festival Republic have pretty much got it right. Despite the e-cigarettes over branding and the price of a beer inflating to €6.20, they’ve more or less managed to expand the festival and increase their customer base into a younger generation without straying into the dreaded Oxegen/Creamfields territory. Well done Festival Republic. Arctic Monkeys, Primal Scream, Depeche Mode and Edward Sharpe next year please. I’m looking forward to it already.
Words by Ciara Sheahan
Photo by Jamie Tanner