Electric Picnic: Stars of tomorrow
Declan Cashin checks out the talent off the main stage to find the up-and-coming acts you can’t afford to miss. Remember — you heard it here first
Some of the biggest and hottest names in music have bestrode the stage in Stradbally over the years, but Electric Picnic has always had something of a knack for helping to launch the mainstream careers of fledgling and cult bands too.
Canadian rockers Arcade Fire (who played on a small side stage in 2005) are a good case in point. Then there's Florence and the Machine, who debuted at EP in 2008 playing to around 300 people. Last year, Ms Welch packed out a 9,000-capacity tent -- with a couple of thousand others trying to get in.
"Some of the acts last year, like The Temper Trap and The xx, were relatively small when they played their first gigs at EP, and then they just got bigger and bigger," says Declan Forde of Pod Concerts.
So who are the down-roster bands and artists to watch out for at Electric Picnic this year? Is the next Arcade Fire or Florence lined up to perform on the small stages, just waiting to be discovered by the crowds?
"Keep an eye on Delta Maid, who are playing the Crosby Stage on Friday," says Forde. "They're a UK-based blues-y duo and have an album coming out on Geffen Records next year.
"The Freelance Whales, from the US, are also ones to take note of. It's their first time playing in Ireland. Broadly speaking, they have that alt-country-indie sound, but are a little bit more eclectic and psychedelic, with more electronic influences than the average folk-rock act.
"Also look out for Mountain Man, who could best be described as a female Fleet Foxes. They're basically three female vocalists from the US with amazing harmonies and a fantastic album [Made the Harbour]. You'll see that album in lots of end-of-year polls. They played Crawdaddy in June and sold it out, so they're already making an impact."
For Forde, some of this year's most exciting new acts are Irish. "They're as good as any of the international ones in the line-up," he says.
"James Vincent McMorrow is a singer-songwriter from Malahide in Dublin who's got the voice of a black soul singer. He has a really special sound. When you hear him sing a cappella, it's spine-tingling.
"James has been gigging in Dublin for a few years, where he has built up a decent following. He released his own album, Early in the Morning, independently this year, but he seems to be making the breakthrough. He just signed a big deal with an American record company two weeks ago.
"Kormac's Big Band are also a revelation. They're a 10-piece hip-hop/folk orchestra very much influenced by the swing sound of the 1940s and 50s. They're very theatrical: for instance, they use a stand-up double bass, and all wear smart outfits. They also have a barbershop quartet.
"They've been gigging in Ireland for a few years, but I saw them this year at Glastonbury. Their set and Stevie Wonder's were the two best acts I saw there all weekend. They packed out the festival. If I were on a scouting mission, I'd have signed them up immediately. I can't even compare them to another act. They're that unique."
"I also think Two Door Cinema Club, from Bangor, will get bigger. Their song Undercover Martyn is currently being used on a mobile phone ad. They played EP last year to a couple of hundred people, but they're playing a bigger tent and slot this year. I think people will be surprised by how much they will fill the tent."
Elsewhere, 2FM DJ Cormac Battle is looking forward to seeing Steve Mason at EP. "He used to be the singer in The Beta Band, and is back after many years in the wilderness," Battle explains. "He has his own album, but I don't know if he'll do any old stuff with it.
Like Forde, Battle is a fan of rising star Janelle Monae. "She could easily be headlining the whole festival next year," he says. "I've just reviewed her album, which is bordering on being a concept album, which we haven't seen in a while. She's an unbelievable talent.
Battle will also be checking out James Vincent McMorrow, whom he describes as "Bon Iver meets Fleet Foxes", as well as the aforementioned Kormac's Big Band for "matching swing with hip-hop".
The unlikely duet of The Rubberbandits and Crystal Swing is a favourite of Battle's fellow late-night 2FM DJ Dan Hegarty. "I'm calling The Rubberbandits the missing link between the Wolfe Tones and Goldie Looking Chain," Hegarty says. "I guess you'd call it comedy hip-hop. They gave me a great laugh. I think that could be one of the highlights of the festival.
"Elsewhere, Manchester duo Hurts are pretty well known by now, but I think they are going to be way bigger this time next year. I'd predict they will be on the main stage at the 2011 EP.
"Another act that's really interesting is Crystal Fighters. They're from London and have an album coming out this month called Star of Love. I think they're going to be an awful lot bigger in a few months time." Hegarty pauses before adding: "Either that or they'll sink without trace; it's always one or the other."
Come to mention it, what about those acts that played EP over the years that were tipped for fame and fortune but, for whatever reason, it never came to pass?
"The Detroit Cobras played the first year, and I thought they were going to be huge," admits Hegarty. "They had the buzz and a sexy lead singer. They then released an album [Baby] that didn't do much for them.
"JJ72 were on their way back when they did their second run at EP in 2005, but vanished after that, which was a great pity.
"Another band, Aberfeldy, played in 2006. They were tipped as ones to look out for, but then nothing seemed to happen afterwards.
"One of the other big disappointments for me was Tom Vek, who also played in 2006. He released a super album in the run-up to the festival called We Have Sound, but as far as I can tell he hasn't done much since."
Let the EP lucky dip commence.