Entertainment Festivals

Thursday 18 September 2014

Walking in the rain with a beer in hand . . . talking rubbish with the world

Published 31/08/2014 | 02:30

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Mark Petson, Edwina and Sarah Walsh and Stephen Gillen. Picture Conor McCabe
Wes and Ros in the VIP pen at the Picnic
Some of the Large crowd at the Electric Picnic on Sat evening to see Hozier
Some of the Large crowd at the Electric Picnic on Sat evening to see Hozier

41,000 Electric Picnic revellers ignore the weather and party on

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Ireland's answer to Glastonbury my arse. Podge of Ham Sandwich had a far better description of the Electric Picnic.

"Electric Picnic is like Lapland for music lovers. It brings out everybody's inner Santa," the wide-eyed guitarist told me yesterday backstage, as 41,000 people were enjoying themselves outside like there was no tomorrow.

Niamh, the lead singer in the aforementioned Ham Sandwich added: "The Picnic is always a great vibe that never changes, year after year, which is why people keep returning.

"The line-up is always a great mix of music for every taste and the party atmosphere and music goes on late into the night. It's the best weekend you'll have all year."

It would appear so.

Niamh and her band of bon viveurs had enjoyed, apparently, two days of boozing. "Gathering around the tents in the morning to discuss the night before is always the best laugh," she said. "Lots of slagging and laughing is great for knocking off a hangover!"

With the country finally healing from the ravages of a recession, what better activity for the nation's cooler youth (and slightly older, and less cooler, folks like me) than to disport themselves in some very large fields in county Laois to some very loud music?

So it proved yesterday at the Picnic.

It was virtually impossible not to be captivated by what was unfolding in the Stradbally sonic pleasure dome.

Some of the bands might occupy the shallow end of the talent pool, but that soon pales into insignificance when you have acts like Portishead, Bombay Bicycle Club and Sinead O'Connor with creativity as deep as the Marianas Trench in the western Pacific Ocean.

The Pet Shop Boys had given a spectacular show on the Friday night, complete with a lightshow that you'd call state-of-the-art.

The weather, despite its moments, wasn't too bad. Generally, music festivals in Ireland are to rubbish weather what Roy Keane is to dagger looks.

Either way, the music and the atmosphere at Electric Picnic was good enough to make believers of even the most cynical of us - i.e. me again - which isn't difficult since, deep down, most of us want to be believers, especially when you have a beer in each hand and The Stranglers are onstage.

As the sun came out as they came on stage, it almost immediately started to drizzle again and the lead singer Baz Warne told the crowd: "As usual, driving here, we came across most of Ireland's micro climates. It's raining! It's sunny! No - it's raining! There are lots of rock stars backstage dying to put on their rock star sunglasses, you know!" he laughed, as the band launched into 'Golden Brown' and then 'Duchess'.

The crowd danced to the singalong misogyny of 'Peaches'. And then, as if by magic, the drizzle stopped and the sun came out again.

There was a beautiful, almost spiritual, feeling to the site yesterday. It was like going down the rabbit hole into another world. There was zero talk of the economy or how the downturn has chewed up so many people's lives - except of course at the Leviathan 'Mindfield'.

There was merely a lot of people you had never met before dancing side by side and having the time of their lives. Everybody seemed in good form, even when it lashed rain.

My unconscious mind, always wiser than my conscious mind, sent a signal that this is really what life is about: walking in the rain and the mud with a beer in your hand, talking rubbish to people about the world and what Sinead O'Connor is going to play today (on the back of her best album in years, it is one of the most anticipated performances at the Electric Picnic). It was like being a kid again - roaming about the fields, laughing, joking, talking about music and making new friends.

It is a unique experience. Hearing old hippies waffling about auras in the area. You have entered the territory of the profound.

Yesterday morning, there was plenty of evidence of over-indulgence from the night before.

Festival-goers morphed into the walking dead with hangovers, their humanity momentarily erased by whatever they did the previous night.

The power of music was revealed a few hours later when you saw the same specimens of self-torture dancing with unmatched rapture to some band or other (actually, the DJ playing AC/DC's 'She Rocked Me All Night Long') and preparing for another relentless session of GBH of the liver.

And why not?

Sunday Independent

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