Saturday 19 January 2019

Best of the fest: Your survival guide to Electric Picnic

As headline acts, comedians, pizza trucks and hot tubs compete for your attention, you'll need Ed Power's guide to make the most of this year's Electric Picnic

Simon Le Bon and Duran Duran
Simon Le Bon and Duran Duran
Electric Picnic
Doin' it for the kids: Don't keep your children up to see The xx

Electric Picnic 2017 is almost upon us, with Duran Duran, The xx and A Tribe Called Quest among the big names headlining the Stradbally event this weekend. Of course, any music festival - even one as self-consciously quirky and cuddly as this - requires preparation.

Here, then, is our ultimate Picnic Survival Guide. Pay attention - there will be questions at the end.

1: Catch some of the big performers

'Eclectic' is a worn-out cliche when it comes to music, but it absolutely applies to Electric Picnic. This year's headliners run from the gloomy goth pop of The xx (Friday) to the thoughtful hip hop of Saturday night booking A Tribe Called Quest (think a late 90s rap group with a PhD in sociology) via the unabashed cheesiness of Sunday's big draw, Duran Duran.

Simon Le Bon and Duran Duran
Simon Le Bon and Duran Duran

But big names are just the start of it. The best festival performances are invariably those you stumble upon at random.

Picnic acts worth seeking out in 2017 are Interpol, the stately New York band who will be reprising their fantastic debut album in full, thoughtful piano basher Perfume Genius and Kiasmos, a dance side project by Iceland composer Ólafur Arnalds (you'll know him from the haunting Broadchurch theme) and Janus Rasmussen.

On the other hand, if you like your rock raw, may we suggest gut-bucket punks Parquet Courts. Admirers of more commercial pop for their part could do worse than investigate Birdy, whose song 'Wings' has soundtracked innumerable commercials and video montages.

In the same vein, Rag 'n Bone Man is sure to draw a crowd, with his bluesy, blokey makeover of Adele.

Keep an eye on the official website for details of performance times.

2: Check out the Irish acts

Doin' it for the kids: Don't keep your children up to see The xx
Doin' it for the kids: Don't keep your children up to see The xx

Divine Comedy, Le Galaxie, Talos and Lyra are among the Irish names on the bill. Ed Sheeran devotees will, for their part, make an effort to catch Beoga, the cross-border trad ensemble who accompanied the Ginger One on opinion-dividing hits Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan. Will Sheeran make a surprise cameo with the band? Almost certainly not - but Ed devotees can live in hope.

3: Familiarise yourself with the layout

Some festivals are a brain-burner to negotiate. Electric Picnic, by contrast, is comparatively simple. The bigger acts tend to headline the Main Stage - what a surprise etc - while other major draws are found in the Electric Arena.

Foodies have a soft spot for the Picnic, with stalls selling everything from Thai to pies. Most of the food trucks are at the rear of the arena, where you will also find the entrance to the Body and Soul area and a new sit-down restaurant, The Hot House. Body and Soul is the beloved chill-out spot that fuses pagan symbology, a hippy ambience and the world class tea-huts.

At night, things can get wonderfully weird. Last year, for instance, wee-hours party goers may have found themselves in the Twin Peaks-esque Haunted Music Hall, where a DJ spun choral versions of Queen hits over footage of dancing Oompa Loompas. The Zen Garden, for its part, features hot tubs for you to splash about in. Recommended!

Adjacent to this is the Trailer Park, an ersatz parody of a trashy American caravan park. Twelve months go, there was a comedy "Trump For President" section - presumably the joke will have turned sour this year. One component we hope to see returning is the Christmas stage, which in 2016 featured festival-goers in party hats dancing to Wham! and Slade through the night.

4: Eat well and eat often

As already pointed out, dining is a big Picnic draw, with The Mindfield Arena again welcoming the popular Theatre of Food. Among those giving talks and demonstrations will be Happy Pear duo Dave and Stephen Flynn, cult pizza purveyors Gaillot and Gray and Ralph Rolle, drummer with Chic and proprietor of an acclaimed cookie chain in New York. Stay tuned to the Electric Picnic website for times.

5: Don't limit yourself to music

When you're at Mindfield checking out the food, also carve out time for a talk on the Science of Online Dating by the Irish Research Council, and comedy and poetry performances at the Theatre Stage (presented in association with Dublin Theatre Festival). Sunday morning, meanwhile, will see Miriam O'Callaghan and comedian Al Porter join forces for Miriam and Al's Sunday Brunch - billed as "a heavy-headed, light-hearted review of the Sunday papers with special guests and music". Close by at the Leviathan Stage, Lisa Hannigan will be recording her Soundings podcast.

6: Remember where you camped!

'Camping' is a multi-faceted term at Electric Picnic. Many attendees will of course be staying in traditional tents, but there's also a camper van area, while those who forked out extra can enjoy boutique camping, with bonus hot showers, toilets and accommodation including chalet-style FestiHuts. Round the clock security is provided at these facilities - elsewhere in the campsite, be smart and do not leave valuables in your tent. Also carve out sufficient time to put the darn thing up in the first place so you don't miss many acts while struggling with hammer and pegs.

Oh and remember where your tent is. That may seem like stating the obvious but after nightfall, it can be difficult to retrace your steps. Make a mental note of where you have fixed your lodgings - and then keep a tight grip on that note all night.

7: Don't try to be everywhere at once

With dozens of performers, it's going to be almost impossible to see all your favourite acts. So don't panic and enjoy what you can fit in.

Also, if you can, bring a spare battery pack for your mobile phone - queues for the charging points at the festival are long. Oh and someone's phone will die, so if you and your friends are splitting up, arrange a meeting point (and not the big tree outside the Electric Arena - everyone will be there).

8: Arrive early - but don't worry if you're late

Friday afternoon can be stressful with all roads leading to Stradbally.

So make an extra effort to leave early - getting on site by lunchtime can spare you a lot of anxiety.

On the other hand, not everyone can bunk off work at 11am, so if you do find yourself stuck in a jam approaching the car parks, chill out.

You will make landfall eventually and won't miss any of the big acts.

9: Don't keep your kids up too late

Bringing your family to a festival can be a wondrous experience. But remember, children tire easily and dragging them along to The xx at 10.30pm - even if they're in a wheelbarrow and wearing trendy headphones - is a bit excessive. Enjoy the festival as a family day out and get back to the tent at a sensible hour.

10: Don't use the word 'revellers'…

Unless you are being ironic. Even then, best avoided.

Irish Independent

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