10 things you can't miss at Electric Picnic
It's back and even bigger. Our reviewer lists the unmissable aspects of this year's event for the festival virgin and veteran alike
When one calls to mind a music festival, chances are an image of frothy pints and mucky wellies is conjured up. In many cases, you'd be right - some festivals are just a sea of heads gazing at the stage.
However, Electric Picnic has always been a different kind of animal, a festival like no other. Over the years it has grown and multiplied, but still manages to retain a special atmosphere not present at other gatherings - intimate despite the sheer scope and variety. Whatever music you're in to, be it guitar, acoustic sessions, electronica or flat-out dance, there's something to suit every ear. Yet EP is about so much more than the music; there's art, debate, poetry, dance, crafts, food and frolics aplenty that don't involve a single instrument.
Quite simply, Electric Picnic is an event that has to be seen, and explored, to be believed. These are the top attractions, events and acts gracing this year's programme, so do yourself a favour and don't miss a single thing on the list!
1 Get your rave on
Many people mistakenly believe that festivals are all about guitar music but if dance is more your thing, there are several stages dotted around the arena that cater to throwing some shapes. The Red Bull Music Academy is famed for its late-night rave in the woods surrounding Stradbally House, while Casa Bacardi, situated near the main stage, pumps out tunes in to the wee hours while also serving special cocktails you won't get at any other bar. It's this area that's usually hopping day or night, even when major acts are performing, and A.Skillz is the one to catch this year; his set promises to be something very special.
2 Visit Tokyo
Er, kind of. Heineken's Sound Atlas area this year is turning Japanese after a successful inaugural year that channelled all things New York. Fueiho, the No-Dancing Law, was introduced to Tokyo in 1948, prohibiting dancing in small venues and clubs after midnight and inspiring an underground movement in the process. It was overturned this year, and has inspired this year's theme. The area will also include a Japanese-style Izakaya noodle bar, a ping-pong tournament, a photo booth, viewing platform and, of course, karaoke, as well as DJ sets, lasers and, you guessed it, lots of beer.
3 Look beyond the headliners
The main acts are undoubtedly special, from Sam Smith to Blur, Grace Jones and of course Florence + The Machine. But often at Electric Picnic, it's the smaller acts that are the most memorable. This year's hottest tickets include FKA Twigs (fiancée of Hollywood superstar Robert Pattinson, will the Twilight hunk make an appearance?); Despacio, a combination of LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and 2 Many DJs; and Future Islands.
4 Words without music
Spoken word, poetry and politics have long been a part of the Electric Picnic tradition, a reflection of the hive mind that makes up the festival. Miriam O'Callaghan and Al Porter host a brunch show on Sunday, the Science Gallery are taking up residence with experiments and workshops, and debate will abound in Leviathan.
If you're in need of some comic relief at EP, you're in luck. A place to chill out and have a chuckle amidst the musical hustle and bustle, this year's Comedy Tent line-up is bound to cheer up even the most exhausted Picnicker. Highlights include Des Bishop, the Rubberbandits, David O'Doherty and Adam Hills, but the tent will be busting with funny people from the moment it opens on Saturday and Sunday at 1.15pm.
5 Listen to some Other Voices
Back again after an incredibly successful debut last year, the Other Voices stage brings a little bit of Dingle magic to Stradbally with its intimate setting and eclectic line-up. HamSandwich, The Academic and Gavin James will be performing among others, and there are two special surprise acts. Hozier and Little Green Cars made an appearance last year to rave reviews, so it's definitely worth wandering down to the woods to check out the ethereal vibes.
6 Try the Magic Mush Room
A newbie to Electric Picnic, the Mush Room is the brainchild of magician Shane Gillen and inventor John Belling, and promises to add a new performance element to the festival - that of magic. Through a secret entrance guests will arrive to both trick and be tricked. A lot of what's planned for the weekend is still top secret to maximise the thrill, but it has been revealed that revellers will be able to control professional pick-pocketer (and magician) Brian Daly as he causes mayhem out in the crowd.
7 Catch some special Irish acts
The Boomtown Rats are making their Electric Picnic debut after reforming two years ago, but it's electronica diva Roisin Murphy that's likely to make the biggest splash. The Arklow native rose to fame as the front woman of Moloko in the 90s but she took a five-year hiatus in 2009. Now back and raring to go with new album Hairless Toys, her set promises to be unmissable.
If singer/songwriter material is more your thing, don't miss Gavin James. The Cabra man with the voice of an angel is a breath of fresh air. Le Galaxie, on the other hand, are the kind of band that get the party started wherever they go.
8 Go for a ramble
One of the most amazing elements of Electric Picnic is its variety; there really is something for everyone. There's Body & Soul, an area so popular it spawned its very own festival. Anyone with an inner hippy, head here.
Trailer Park is a collective of caravans each with its own distant personality and smaller musical sets, while Trench Town channels the chilled vibes of the Caribbean with reggae music, jerk chicken and traditional Jamaican crafts.
The Salty Dog is a pirate ship-cum-stage stranded in the forest, while the Global Green ecovillage has music, artisan food and conversation on sustainability. That's just a fraction of what's on offer, so do yourself a favour and make sure to do a lap of the entire festival - if you don't, you could miss out on something that's right up your street.
9 Have family fun
If you're planning on bringing your little ones, there's a whole host of PG delights on offer. The Soul Kids area promises a miniature Body & Soul style experience, a mix of art, entertainment, nature and imagination. There's an underage disco in Trench Town and gorgeous animals for kids to coo over in Cathy Davey's My Lovely Ranch (situated in Trailer Park).
10 Step back in time
Electric Ireland have had their own stage at EP for several years, but last year it really came in to its own with power ballads and an appearance from Bonnie Tyler. This year the 90s are the theme and the 90s Power Party welcomes not one, but three acts. The Vengaboys will dust off their Vengabus, 2 Unlimited will prove there really is no limit to their longevity and the man who brought us Maniac 2000, Mark McCabe, will take to the stage on Saturday night to spin the unofficial Irish anthem.
Festival-goers can be a hungry crowd. Forkful's Aoife McElwain shares her top food picks for the weekend...
Parked in the Trailer Park, Home Fries (pictured) are a potato-frying operation working out of a refurbished retro caravan. Grab a box of baby potatoes fried to a pleasing crisp and slathered in a chorizo and red pepper sauce.
Suha's Falafel are housed in a little blue tent and will be in the main arena serving their deliciously authentic Palestinian falafel with crunchy cabbage and thick hummus.
Global Green is a pop-up ecovillage and, as food is key element in sustainable living, Global Green highlights local food producers and artisan food crafts through
The Outsiders' Food Project. All the food is sourced within a 50-mile radius of Cloughjordan ecovillage in Tipperary.
Dublin-based Pakistani restaurant Kinara Kitchen are bringing their food tent back to Stradbally. Look out for the sound of meat being diced on their Katakat hot plate, or for the smokey smells of charred chicken and lamb drifting from their tandoor oven.
GULP! is a two-man show about the science and culture of food brought to you by science broadcaster Jonathan McCrea and chef Ivan Varian. They'll be serving up insects, miracle berries, the world's hottest chilli and more at The Theatre of Food at 12.45pm on Saturday.