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Thursday 14 December 2017

Song tribute to radio legend Ryan strikes a chord with Picnic revellers

ESCAPISM: John Lydon, of Public Image Limited, performs at the Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Co Laois
ESCAPISM: John Lydon, of Public Image Limited, performs at the Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Co Laois


The Ryan Line is always open, it appears, even months after Gerry's tragic death. During The Waterboys' rousing set at Electric Picnic, frontman Mike Scott saw someone in the crowd holding up a picture of Ryan.

He commented on this fact and proceeded to dedicate Fisherman's Blues to the late legend of the RTE airwaves.

The song provoked a frenzy of celebratory fists pumping the air and general merry-making. I suspect Gerry was smiling in heaven looking down on 25,000 people dancing in a sunny field in Co Laois in his name.

John Reynolds's three-day festival in the pastoral idyll of Stradbally was a sensory gala of incredible music and spiritual escapism.

There were thousands upon thousands of very cool people all talking about everything (life, love, sex, music, and more music) apart from one thing: the recession. This was a recession-free zone.

Instead, you got wellie-clad festival-goers of all ages, nationalities and demographics sitting around their tents discussing the merits of Leftfield v Jerry Fish or Roxy Music v Republic Of Loose (whose new album, Bounce At The Devil, is out next week) before going to see said bands perform, or stopping for an organic coffee, a poetry reading or a bop in the Body and Soul area.

There was something special in the ether over the weekend. "The Electric Picnic is a rare example of how multiple cultural platforms can be presented in a fun, cool and seemingly effortless marriage of arts and culture for the welly set," Tracey Ferguson, communication grande fromage of the Galway Arts Festival, told me yesterday afternoon.

Author Doodle Kennelly was in firm agreement. "As a 40-year-old festival virgin," she said, "I have to say that I couldn't have chosen a more magical place to pop my cherry. I want to live like this all year. Tents are the new southside mansions!"

Kennelly told me this as she trudged obliviously through the mud and rain yesterday afternoon; the previous night was scorching as John Lydon of Public Image Limited gave an exercise in crowd control: for example, he had them in the palm of his hand from the opening bars of the band's set.

"This is coming home for me," Lydon -- whose late parents were from Ireland -- said during his breathtaking performance. "It's great to be in a field in Ireland."

And he was right. It was great to be in a field in Co Laois. Make that lots of fields. (Earlier, Lydon held court at the Heritage Hotel, which is where all the stars stay during the event.)

I saw David McWilliams in the bar with his wife at 2am one of the nights. It was great to have a conversation that didn't involve the economic downturn.

There were no downers. Well, perhaps one. For me, Roxy Music on Friday night were a disappointment. Bryan Ferry lost the crowd from the beginning.

My minor quibble apart, there was an incredible joie de vivre about the place in Electric Picnic. The talk was of Liberties chanteuse Imelda May, who was expected to rock the main stage and the whole festival to its foundations.

Van Morrison was rumoured to be giving a poetry reading today. Someone else said he was in Los Angeles. Christy Turlington and hubby Ed Burns were due at the festival today, as was Sean Penn and his NBF Louis Murray. Either way, Electric Picnic 2010 was a triumph on many levels.

Sunday Independent

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