Tuesday 25 October 2016

Festival-goers wonder whether Electric Picnic has lost its buzz and power to thrill

Claire O'Mahony

Published 12/09/2015 | 02:30

Florence and the Machine, who went down a bomb at the Electric Picnic last weekend
Florence and the Machine, who went down a bomb at the Electric Picnic last weekend

It is now five days since Electric Picnic finished and festival goers have put the wellies (largely unnecessary, as it turned out) and the sleeping bag back into storage for another year.

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Those who didn't Picnic are pretty much over their FOMO, if they had it, by now, and those who Picnicked with gusto have recovered from their UFIs (Unidentified Festival Injuries).

The relief that the whole thing is over for another year is huge, because the constant Facebook posts from people documenting their experience was tedious in the extreme.

It's amazing that some people had the time to see any bands or put up a tent, such was their commitment to providing visual confirmation that they were at the Picnic.

So what have we learned? Festivals always provoke some kind of moral outrage, whether that's concerns about binge drinking, the proliferation of dodgy pills or the case of 2013's unfortunate Slane Girl, who was 'slut shamed' after performing a sex act on two men at an Eminem concert.

This year's talking point was children at Electric Picnic, and it caused a lively debate online. Arguments for both sides were strong.

There's absolutely nothing wrong about bringing children to Electric Picnic, declared those in favour of mini-Picnickers, and they cited areas like Soul Kids at the event, which is dedicated to children, the family camping area and interesting things to do and see in the Global Green and Science Gallery areas.

An article on an online forum posited that parents who took their kids to Picnic were, in fact, idiots - pointing to the excess of alcohol branding, the hard partying, the noise and the fact that small children might be a bit of a buzzkill for other attendees - as some of the reasons why festivals are very much an adult environment and not suited to kids.

It's a matter of opinion as to whether children at Electric Picnic is a good idea or not, but it's matter of fact that bringing small ones to see Underworld - alongside 45,000 ravers singing 'Lager, lager, lager,' - would be ludicrous, no matter what calibre of protective headphones they had on.

And you can't really police other festival attendees. As anyone who has ever been at a gig - and been jostled to one side by someone too blind drunk to acknowledge anyone in their path- will know, it's not that they're deliberately trying to knock your child off your shoulders, they just never saw you both in the first place. At Picnic, as with anywhere here, sound judgment is a prerequisite for good parenting.

Before the event, Electric Picnic's other major discussion topic this year centred on the question: has it jumped the shark? Did this year's lack of Oxegen result in an influx of rowdy, boozed-up young ones, ruining it for seasoned Picnic goers?

Does the fact that it was bigger (50,000 attendees this year as opposed to 17,000 when it first started in 2004) mean that Picnic's boutique feel was destroyed, and it's a victim of its own success?

And can it get any more mainstream than Sam Smith as a headliner?

Such fears were largely unfounded, with many punters declaring it to be their best Picnic ever, and they have probably purchased their tickets for next year's event, which went on sale yesterday morning at 9am.

But there's no doubt that the Picnic is no longer the same. Festival Republic have made it a more smoothly operating occasion, with better toilets and fewer queues.

There are still enough quirky elements to make it feel like you're not just at any other festival, even if it no longer feels like your own little private event, as it did when it first started.

As it currently stands, procuring Picnic tickets causes something like a national panic - resulting in Gumtree pleas and begging requests on Facebook as it gets closer to the event.

Would-be attendees have been known to get seriously annoyed with friends who inconsiderately hold their wedding on a Picnic weekend.

It's unlikely to suffer from any waning of popularity in the near future. But one possible threat to Electric Picnic, however, is that we could be approaching 'peak festival' and developing ennui about all the things that used to be thrilling about festival-going.

We've been to Silent Discos, we're not going to get excited about a posh burger when every village fete in the country now has a gourmet fast-food element, and creative festival dress has been practically replaced by a uniform of tiny denim cut-offs, spray tans and plastic flower hair garlands.

Should it get to the stage where you begin to feel about festivals the way you do about St Patrick's Day or Christmas - something to be observed, because it would be weird if you didn't - there's always the lure of festivals in other countries to snap you out of your world-weariness.

At Burning Man in the desert in Nevada, which has just taken place, a nude welcoming committee welcomes Burn 'virgins', temperatures hit the high 40s, there's no running water and there are 70,000 other festival goers. After a week of this, you'll be ready, able and longing for three damp days in Stradbally once again.

Irish Independent

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