Thursday 22 November 2018

Barry Egan: the best of what's on offer at Electric Picnic 2018

With acts like St Vincent and Kendrick Lamar playing, Barry Egan looks forward to Electric Picnic in Stradbally Hall in two weeks' time

Kendrick Lamar is the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize
Kendrick Lamar is the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

'Blessed are the bullies, for one day they will have to stand up to themselves/Blessed are the liars, for the truth can be awkward." Thus began Kendrick Lamar's Bono-beautiful benediction on American Soul from U2's album Songs of Experience.

The Compton-born rapper also contributed this powerful spoken-word verse to Get Out of Your Own Way from the same U2 record, (echoing The Beatitudes, a series of eight blessings that Bono's VBF, Jesus, preached in Matthew 5:3-11): "Blessed are the superstars/For the magnificence in their light/We understand better our own insignificance/Blessed are the filthy rich/For you can only truly own what you give away/Like your pain."

The 55,000 people expected at the Electric Picnic between August 31 and September 2 can also hope to give away their pain when Kendrick headlines the festival in Stradbally Hall, Co Laois.

We can see the groundbreaking hip-hop artist (who made history as the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize for his 2017 album Damn) show why he is still Compton's crown prince, one who retains the raw magic that first announced him to the world with his 2012 major label debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. It was on this masterpiece that he wrote about seeing the South Central riots at four years of age, and his first murder a year later - among other moments from his youth reworked as wisdoms to use in your life. ("All my life I want money and power/Respect my mind or die from lead shower." And: "Any nigga can kill a man. That don't make you a real nigga. Real is responsibility. Real is taking care of your motherf***ing family.")

Other great acts playing the Picnic this year include Dermot Kennedy, Wolf Alice, N*E*R*D, Ben Howard, The Kooks and Bristol trip-hop godheads Massive Attack; 1991's Blue Lines - the single Unfinished Sympathy from this album was voted the 63rd greatest song of all time by New Musical Express - and 1998's Mezzanine are two of the best albums of that era.

As well as Mr Lamar, one act I am counting the days to see in Stradbally is the shape-shifting superwoman from Tulsa, Oklahoma - St Vincent. Born Anne Clark, as a kid in junior high school she would carry around a copy of Bertrand Russell's not-uncontroversial pamphlet Why I Am Not a Christian. Ms Clarke - who got the name St Vincent from a Nick Cave reference to the Greenwich Village hospital where Dylan Thomas died of pneumonia on November 9, 1953 - has been described as the female David Bowie. Make of that what you will.

On Pills, which features her ex, Cara Delevingne, St Vincent name-checks the wonders of pharmaceuticals: 'Pills to f***, pills to think, pills pills pills for the family.' Other tracks from her relatively new but relatively wonderful album Masseducation worth listening to include the title track, I Can't Turn Off What Turns Me On, and Savior ('You dress me in a nun's black habit/Hail Mary pass, cuz you know I'll grab it'). St Vincent joked that she "did toy with calling the record Ass Education. That's better suited to be the title of the sequel".

Of the aforesaid song Pills, which some have taken to be, in some diary-type way, about English supermodel Delevingne, Clark told New Yorker magazine: "It's a composite. That's just a sexist thing [the assumption that it is about Delevingne]. 'Women do emotions, but are incapable of rational thought'. Every record I make has an archetype," she said of the album. "Strange Mercy was housewives on pills. St Vincent was near-future cult leader. Masseduction is different, it's pretty first-person. You can't fact-check it, but if you want to know about my life, listen to this record." Or you can simply go and see her for yourself.

Electric Picnic, August 31 to September 2. www.electricpicnic.ie. Sold out.

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