Tuesday 17 September 2019

Heading to Electric Picnic again? Festival survival tips for middle-aged music fans

Class act: Florence + the Machine is basically Kate Bush trapped in a wind turbine. Photo: PA
Class act: Florence + the Machine is basically Kate Bush trapped in a wind turbine. Photo: PA

Ed Power

Irish festival season reaches its apex this weekend with Electric Picnic. And while the tens of thousands of Gen Z-ers attending the event at Stradbally will be counting the days until they are letting their hair down and doing exciting young people stuff, for the older music fan, the outlook's a little more complicated.

Musical festivals in 2019 are obviously for everyone. And it is no novelty for the Stradbally masses to include a fair chunk of individuals the wrong side of 30/40/50/60 (delete according to how banjaxed your knees are). Nonetheless, if you are middle-aged, then the great festival experience must be undertaken with a degree of forewarning. Throw caution to the wind and the breeze is likely to turn and send caution flying right back at you.

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There's the obvious risk that, by the end of the first night, you'll be pining for your pipe, slippers and Netflix queue. But there are other ways to come unstuck too. Dad dancing is the obvious worry (however groovy the music, you have to promise us that you will not go there).

And think of all the fashion fumbles you could potentially commit. Try too hard to be down with the kids and you'll come across as tragic and delusional (skinny jeans are not your friend) ). Yet dress as if it's just another weekend in your humdrum and excitement-free life and there is the danger everyone will mistake you for a careers counsellor lost on the way to the staff room.

Still, fret not oldies of Ireland. We've spoken to some ancient people of our acquaintance and coaxed forth from them the ultimate festival survival tips for wrinklies. Hold onto your false teeth, artificial hips and Strokes vinyl as we dive deep.


You won't have heard of half of the acts… and that's alright

Your list of potential Electric Picnic highlights picks itself. You can't wait for The Strokes, aka the Rolling Stones for millennials. Florence + the Machine is great because she's essentially Kate Bush trapped in a wind turbine. And Hozier sounds like Bono, just back from a slightly bedraggled camping holiday. You're fine with all the above.

Elsewhere, though, the line-up is full of acts you won't possibly be familiar with. You can't even pronounce Jyellowl, let alone name any of his /their /its songs (sounds like one of the antibiotics in your last prescription, actually). Gerry Cinnamon - singer or something to do with the food arena? And by all means enjoy Billie Eilish but do so knowing you're probably older than her parents.


You'll survive three nights in a tent… with precautions

Big festivals such as Electric Picnic have lately divided into two very different experiences. The kids rough it in their tents; the oldies hire camper vans, yurts etc and stay in designated zones with names such as Pink Moon and Orange Cucumber.

But if you weren't able to bag one of these luxury accommodations, do not despair. Tents are survivable providing you pack a yoga mat for your back, a duvet to go with your sleeping bag, several sets of thermal underwear, a hot water bottle, ear-plugs, and a dozen of your favourite mindfulness podcasts downloaded to your phone (with spare battery).

And if it all gets too much, cast your mind back to your formative festival years. Back then you'd think nothing of passing out on some grass with a crumpled burger carton for a pillow while your best pal threw up into his rucksack (actually your rucksack, but you didn't cop that until the following morning). Ah, those were the days.


The poetry tent is your friend, even if you hate poetry

Festivals can be relentless regardless of your age. But respite is at hand via the spoken word areas that are always a feature of undertakings such as Electric Picnic. Think of all that comfy temporary seating. These tents are rarely full so just sneak in, pull up a stool and pretend to pay attention. Minute by minute, sensation will finally return to the lower half of your body. By all means nod off - though with the knowledge that your snores may interrupt the intersectional beat-boxing up on stage.


Make peace with your trip to Portaloo purgatory

Even with all the progress humanity has made in so many other facets, a portaloo is still its own special experience. Accept that you're going to have to step into the void more than once across the weekend. And make a silent pact with yourself that whatever you see/hear/smell/experience will be forever tucked away in a quiet and frightened corner of your mind, never to be acknowledged again. And do bring all the loo roll you can carry.


Don't drink too much, eat too much, dance too much… actually try to do as little as possible

You're at an age when everything, even fun, is best sampled in moderation. That final pint, a late hour's dash to the chip van… you already know how much you're going to regret it in the morning (that's the benefit of being ancient and embittered, older friends tell me). So save yourself the hassle. There is only one thing we say to the god of hangovers - not today!

Irish Independent

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