Wednesday 7 December 2016

Clash of the Titans: Oxegen vs Electric Picnic

Published 09/04/2010 | 05:00

To paraphrase the words of Fatboy Slim, we've come a long way, baby. Not too long ago, in a galaxy very close to home, the Irish festival experience used to consist of a wedding band cranking out Do the Hucklebuck from the side of a Hiace van.

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Lisdoonvarna, immortalised in song by Christy Moore, was something of a precursor of today's full-on festival frenzy. The early Féiles were single-stage events, but in the early 21st century, we've wholeheartedly embraced navigating our mucky way through three-day multi-stage bashes.

Once upon a time, Ireland had no music festival whatsoever to rival the likes of Glastonbury, Roskilde or Reading. Now, we've got two. Between them, Oxegen and Electric Picnic entertain in the region of 125,000 people -- a number in excess of the total population of Cork city.

The choice of acts can be mind-boggling, while both events boast their respective pros, cons, age profiles and demographics. And there's much, much more to the festival merry-go-round than music.

"The line-up really is inconsequential," believes broadcaster and festival veteran Dave Fanning.

"Face it, you never see all the acts you want to see, not even a fraction of them. The joy of a festival is stumbling into something you've never seen or heard before. A few years ago at Electric Picnic, I walked into a small tent and happened to catch this band who were like an instrumental Nirvana. They were amazing. To this day, I've absolutely no idea what they were called. It doesn't matter. A festival should be about losing yourself in the moment."

To prepare yourself for a summer of getting stuck in a moment you won't want to get out of, we've pitched this year's Oxegen versus Electric Picnic under several different criteria. The music is just a starting point.

Take care of yourself and each other -- but please don't forget to have an absolute blast.



HEADLINERS

Oxegen rules the roost with a roll-call of blockbuster names including Massive Attack (bottom right). The pick of the crop is arguably Arcade Fire, a band who can be remarkably good in a festival setting -- even if Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips isn't a fan of the people themselves. "Whenever I've been around them, I've found that they not only treated their crew like shit, they treated the audience like shit," he famously blasted. "They treated everybody in their vicinity like shit."

OXEGEN 8/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 6/10



HIP-HOP ACTS

Another round that Oxegen wins with ease. Jay-Z and Eminem (right) are the genre's out-and-out trailblazers, respectively the most consistent chart-topping album artist since Elvis Presley and the biggest-selling act in hip-hop history. However, the star of Marshall Mathers has badly waned in recent years and you'd wonder if there is any concession in his fee to his infamous Slane cancellation in 2005.

Jay-Z may have played a blinder at Glastonbury 2008, but a previous visit to the Point was a complete damp squib. Doubts remain as to whether hip-hop works in a live setting, especially at a festival.

OXEGEN 8/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 3/10

DANCE ACTS

Leftfield fly the flag for so-called 'intelligent' dance at Electric Picnic and they're certainly a notable coup. Again, Oxegen weighs in with the heavyweight names and a rogue's gallery of has-beens and new kids on the block.

Fatboy Slim (right centre), The Prodigy, Groove Armada, Faithless, Armand Van Helden, Erol Alkan, Simian Mobile Disco, Steve Angelo, Calvin Harris, David Guetta and Steve Aoki are all Puncho-bound -- but I'd expect the EP camp to have a few more aces stuck up their sleeves for a later announcement.

OXEGEN 7/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 6/10

POP ACTS

Black Eyed Peas have the most populist appeal here amid the endless sea of landfill indie schmindie. Despite playing two shows in the O2 in early May, both are already complete sell-outs, making their Punchestown appearance a highly anticipated affair for the disappointed.

Personally, I'd rather catch the endearing chip-monk pop anthems of La Roux rather than Cheryl Cole's rumoured new-shoulder-to-cry-on and his over-rated posse.

OXEGEN 8/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 3/10

HIPSTER ACTS

Electric Picnic consistently delivers the freshest batch for the tastemakers, securing Arcade Fire (below) long before they struck crossover gold. But they've switched sides to Oxegen this year. However, The Horrors, Jonsi, Caribou, Edan and Memory Tapes are all pretty cool coups for Electric Picnic for starters.

Some reckon that you don't need Arcade Fire if you've got the New Pornographers, but personally, they leave me rather cold.

OXEGEN 4/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 9/10

IRISH ACTS

Electric Picnic's roll-call of Adrian Crowley, Villagers and a special 20th-anniversary appearance from The Frames (above right) is considerably better than Oxegen's announcement of new indie stars du jour Two Door Cinema Club, but it's still early days. Villagers could well be humongous come early September if the forthcoming album Becoming a Jackal on Domino Records lives up to its lofty expectations.

OXEGEN 5/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 8/10



NOSTALGIA ACTS

Oxegen's announcement of Earth, Wind and Fire doesn't hold a candle to the appearance of Bryan Ferry (far right) and Roxy Music, regardless of whether or not Brian Eno is going to be on board.

Public Image Limited actually deserve to be a much bigger deal than John Lydon's appearance with the Sex Pistols in 2008, as the carrot-topped upstart claims that PiL are his "first love". Lydon announced at their first gig in 17 years in Birmingham last year, "This is the band that taught all those second-rate wankers how to play music." PiL are a defining influence on the likes of Radiohead, Primal Scream and a plethora of others.

OXEGEN 5/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 8/10

FOOD

Enough about the bloody music. The popular perception is that Electric Picnic is a bit of a foodies' fest, complete with celebrity chef demonstrations and global cuisine -- but, to be fair, Oxegen has definitely upped the anté. There's a lot more to the 21st-century festival menu than the customary burgers'n'chips.

In fact, the way things are going, you'd be hard pressed to get burger'n'chips!

OXEGEN 7/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 8/10

TOILETS

To be honest, I've never found this a particularly pressing problem at either festival. The bottom line is that you don't go to a festival for the loos, and there's going to be a level of mankiness no matter what the organisers do. This paper was inundated with complaints about the state of the Electric Picnic lavs in 2007, but if the same people got one whiff of the bogs at the top of Penard's Hill in Glastonbury, they'd have a nervous breakdown. Please do us all a favour and at least flush afterwards.

OXEGEN 5/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 5/10

VALUE FOR MONEY

Value might be in the eye of the beholder, but €224.50 v €240 tips it slightly in Oxegen's favour, especially if you're after the blockbusters rather than the EP hipster/nostalgia combo.

Electric Picnic operates an all-or-nothing ticket policy with no day tickets. Meanwhile, Oxegen offers a single day option for €99.50

OXEGEN 8/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 6/10

SITE

Oxegen has the feel and atmosphere of a well organised and structured large gig. The Punchestown site isn't particularly green or lush, and while this can be an advantage if conditions get muddy, it sorely lacks the rustic charm of a rural festival site. Stradbally's postcard-pretty country house backdrop and unique character win hands down.

OXEGEN 5/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 8/10

WEATHER

It's been snowing in bleedin' April, so Punchestown will probably be a Saharan desert and it'll rain frogs in Stradbally. To date, Electric Picnic has led a charmed life weather-wise, apart from some damp muckiness last year. Late summer tends to be a lot more settled, but it's really anybody's guess.

OXEGEN ? ELECTRIC PICNIC ?

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The Dublin bus service to and from Oxegen isn't exactly cheap, but it is efficient and provides a handy daily commute option. Bus Eireann upped the ante with an improved Electric Picnic service last year and there's also the option of taking a train to Portlaoise and availing of shuttle buses or cabs.

OXEGEN 7/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 5/10

CULTURE VULTURING

It's a massive Paul McCartney-style thumbs up for Electric Picnic. Jon Show, David McWilliams and Irvine Welsh are just some of the stellar names who have provided topical and cultural alternatives to the music over the past few years, and the Des Bishop-curated comedy tent can also be an extra comic treat.

The presence of the comedy tent at previous Oxegens has been tokenistic, but arguably its target audience has as much interest in spoken work at a festival as the English syllabus they've just done for their Leaving Cert.

OXEGEN 1/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 9/10

FASHION

There is always a prevalence of GAA jerseys at Oxegen. I remember the sadly demised Woodstar opening the main stage a few years ago with a clutch of Limerick colours adorning the front rows. Electric Picnic can go to the other extreme and almost become a catwalk of too-cool-for-school indie band T-shirts, Hunter wellies and festival fashionistas. Comfort and dryness first folks, then dazzle.

OXEGEN 4/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 6/10

FESTIVAL FRIENDLINESS

Electric Picnic is renowned for attention to detail. After getting it spectacularly wrong at the one-day event in 2004, they've consistently got it spectacularly right every year since.

Oxegen may have come in for some serious flak in previous years, but little extra touches are becoming apparent. If you need ID to get in, for instance, you can avail of the on-site post office to mail your passport back home by registered post rather than leave it in your tent for the weekend.

OXEGEN 7/10 ELECTRIC PICNIC 8/10

Irish Independent

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