Thursday 23 November 2017

Fans and acts sizzle in the sun at Electric Picnic

Music fans arriving at the
Electric Picnic site
in Stradbally
Music fans arriving at the Electric Picnic site in Stradbally
Fans arrive for the first day of the Electric Picnic music festival. Photo: Damien Eagers

Jason O'Brien in Stradbally

The self-styled, family-friendly music and arts' festival is the antithesis of 'pack 'em in, bleed 'em dry' festivals that shall remain nameless

SNOWDROPS and daffodils, butterflies and bees. Sail boats and fishermen, things of the sea. Wishing-wells, wedding bells, early morning dew.

All kinds of everything reminds you why Stradbally, Co Laois, is the place to be, see, be seen and brag about being at -- via 'Twitter for iPhone' naturally -- this weekend.

There is music, too, if you insist on conforming.

Unfortunately, there is no sign of Dana herself on the line-up, but surely it's only a matter of time, what with Electric Picnic rather adept at plucking former stars from obscurity and foisting them on a crowd happy to contribute to the pension fund, and which presumably lists 'nostalgia' as a hobby.

This year it's the turn of Roxy Music, and the sun -- both of which you possibly remember shining brightly in the 1970s before disappearing up their own backsides.

"It's a very Irish thing to go to a three-day music festival and talk about the weather far more than the acts," Saoirse Ni Cheallaigh from Booterstown, Co Dublin, said yesterday.

"But it makes such a difference to have the sun out and no mud when you're going to be living in a tent for three days, it makes it all less of a chore, and you don't have to wear those poxy ponchos either."

Good weather or not, the first day of an EP is always brimming with optimism.

You will drink those 48 cans of cheap Bulgarian beer you lugged three miles from the car park.

And you will be able to hold on to a half-acre of prime camping site for your friends who land in seven hours, using just a strategically placed deckchair.

"We have our list of must-see bands and there's six on there including LCD Soundsystem," Emmet Lorcan from Co Monaghan said. "It won't be like last year, when we missed everything because the campsite was such fun."

Sure it won't.

But then it's never really been about the music here.

Electric Picnic hasn't been shy about promoting its differences, the self-styled boutique, family-friendly music and arts festival is the antithesis of the "pack 'em in and bleed 'em dry" concept of other festivals that shall remain nameless.

Or so the promoters would have us believe. The mask, however, may have slipped a little.

"One of my best friends is in a theatre group that was due to perform here," Claire Rigney from Co Offaly said.

"They put a lot of work into it, only to be dumped at the last minute and told that they wouldn't be getting their passes in return for performing.

"It really rankled with me, because it's the different attractions -- other than the music -- that you're always hearing about," she added.


But though Claire didn't know it, the situation was resolved and the 22 theatre groups got a reprieve.

And, to be fair, there was no shortage of delicious delights anyway.

All the old favourites -- holistic therapies in Body and Soul and the chance to hurl intelligent insults at David McWilliams or Ryan Tubridy in Leviathon -- return, while the spectacular Arcadia laser show and the Bridgestone Food Awards are among the disparate charms helping to keep it fresh.

And, yes, there are some tunes on offer.

Perhaps they were consulting the smartphones again, but the crowd seemed pretty clued-in to who's who on a far-from-instantly recognisable line-up.

Janelle Monae commanded a large audience on the main stage as the sun set yesterday. "We're hip," the crowd shrugged. "We know who she is."

Monae is undoubtedly hip, and an early highlight.

Whether Tony Blair might turn up today was still under wraps last night. He'd be a most unlikely highlight.

All kinds of everything, indeed.

Irish Independent

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