Friday 19 July 2019

Blur, Bob and Jones grace stage for one big party

Blur singer Damon Albarn on main stage Electric Picnic. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography
Blur singer Damon Albarn on main stage Electric Picnic. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography
Blur on stage at Electric Picnic
Doireann Garrihy, Aoibhin Garrihy and Charlotte Casey enjoy the last day of festival. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Bob Geldof performs with the Boomtown Rats on main stage at Electric Picnic. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Grace Jones on the main stage. Photo: Michael Donnelly
Andrew Scott and Amy Huberman enjoying Stradbally's ultimate party. Photo: Tony Kinlan
Florence and the Machine
Ed Power

Ed Power

The biggest Electric Picnic yet had a heavyweight line-up to match. Britpop cheeky chappies Blur, techno veterans Underworld and clothes-boycotting icon Grace Jones gave the festival a nostalgic gloss, though with contemporary chart-toppers Florence and the Machine and Sam Smith also on the bill, this was by no means an oldies-only weekend.

Friday night belonged to Jones, who snarled and hip-waggled through hits like 'Pull Up To the Bumper'.

However, music took a backseat in a scorching performance featuring Grace and dancers in nothing but eerie body paint and grass skirts.

How to follow such fleshy pyrotechnics?

The solution presented by touchy-feely techno titans Underworld was to wear their emotions on their sleeves as they led thousands through the 'Lager, Lager, Lager' chant of mid-1990s smash 'Born Slippy'.

Saturday swept the record 47,000 attendance back to a different version of the past, with Blur reprising mockney anthems 'Parklife' and 'Girls And Boys', along with material from moody new album 'Magic Whip'.

Earlier, audiences had basked in sunshine and the engaging/disturbing sight of the belly-dancing Future Islands frontman Samuel Herring.

Vowel-challenged electro threesome Chvrches, for their part, drew one of the largest crowds of the weekend in the tented Electric Arena.

With frontwoman Lauren Mayberry singing in her native Glasgow accent, the angsty Scots were irresistible - as were The War On Drugs, gracing the same space with their Bruce Hornsby-goes-krautrock heartland pop.

Back on the main stage, Hot Chip's neurotic electronica went down surprisingly agreeably with revellers as darkness descended.

Bobble-headed singer Alexis Taylor looked like he should be manning the help desk at your company's IT department, rather than rocking Stradbally.

Yet he was endlessly endearing, negotiating a yammering cover of Springsteen's 'Dancing In The Dark' with dignity unblemished.

Sunday's line-up was just as varied.

Flame-haired belter Florence Welch (aka Florence and the Machine) topped the bill while other performers included dapper New Yorkers Interpol and Bob Geldof's Boomtown Rats.

As evening drew in and peckish hordes descended on the endless foodstalls, a concerted effort was required to reach the far end of the site and the pop-up 'Despacio' nightclub.

Manned by James Murphy, late of LCD Soundsystem, and brothers David and Stephen Dewaele of 2ManyDJs, the room boasted state-of-the art speakers and a twinkling tapestry of 1970s and 1980s disco obscurities.

In plain view of fans, the bearlike Murphy manipulated dials and hoisted 12-inch records with visible diligence, as if making a sacred offering to the electro gods.

To dissuade the (many) gawpers, Murphy had hung a sign outside his booth reading: "There is nothing to see here - the party is behind you."

He was half right but also quite wrong - at Electric Picnic, the party was everywhere.


Irish Independent

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