The Picnic Report
The tents are gone and the site is being dismantled, so how did the Electric Picnic go?
You can pour over the Irish Times’ Electric Picnic coverage here, and there’s loads of writing, reviews, videos, and the rest to digest. Here are my post-Picnic musings.
There was a feeling of growth at the Picnic this year (#boomisback). There was more “stuff” on site, with Heineken’s Sound Atlas stage giving Casa Bacardi a nudge when it comes to creating a little bit of competition for an alcohol-branded dance stage on the site. The Other Voices stage was also a brilliant addition with great special gigs (St Vincent, Little Green Cars, Hozier) adding a feeling of spontaneity and creating those unexpected moments that have been lacking from a festival that had become quite predictable in recent years. That sense of discovery is key to a festival like the Picnic – people want to come home talking about “festival moments”.
Related to the scaling up of detail on site, there was a welcome increased selection of things to eat and drink. No on can really be enthusiastic about going to a festival bar and being only given a choice of Heineken or Heineken, so it was really nice to be able to have a selection of drinks available over the weekend. From the beer hut offering a few different beers and ales, to the Car Au Vin’s wine selection, the wine and prosecco bar in Mindfield, along with the Red Bull bars, Tiger bar, Desperados bar (who drinks that?!) and Heineken bars. The bar extensions (midnight Friday and Sunday, 1am Saturday) gave a more permissive vibe, and I definitely believe the later the bars open, the less likely people are to binge drink and wreck someone’s buzz.
Irish acts rule
The biggest crowd of the weekend was an afternoon gathering for Hozier on Saturday, which was a truly stunning gig. But elsewhere, Irish acts drew big crowds: James Vincent McMorrow, Sinead O’Connor, Ham Sandwich, and Le Galaxie‘s DJ set to name a few. But the smaller Irish acts had people heaping praise on them too. I missed Girl Band, but by all accounts they were fantastic. One of the best sets of the weekend was Maud In Cahoots on the Earthship stage in Body & Soul on Sunday. It’s been fascinating to watch that band grow, develop and morph into something truly captivating with bags of star quality. Plutonium Dust held court on another small stage at Body & Soul on Sunday night, and were a delightful discovery. Meltybrains? played one of the most fun and interesting sets of the weekend. Youth Mass showed lots of promise at their Saturday afternoon set. Adultrock played some great stuff at Body & Soul Upstage. Special shout out goes to Ghostboy who played a whopping NINE DJ sets over the weekend.
The twenty-somethings who went to the early Picnics are now thirty-somethings, the thirty-somethings are now forty-somethings. It would be fascinating to get an actual age breakdown of the Picnic crowd, but it really felt as though Longitude had ring-fenced everyone between 18 and 22 this year, because the youngsters at Electric Picnic were the ones being wheeled around by their parents, not falling over drunk.
Be polite, get politeness
For the first time at an Irish festival, I didn’t encounter a grumpy or ignorant security person, a rude bar staff member, a shouting steward, or an obnoxious festival worker. Everyone was polite and friendly. This definitely has an impact on crowd behaviour. When you’re sound, people will return the favour.
One of the best Picnics yet?
Probably. That’s certainly what a lot of people were saying. I didn’t meet anyone who was having a bad time or who had seen a terrible gig. The weather helped, of course, and the site held up despite the rain on Friday. There were all round good vibes in Stradbally, and a feeling that this was a new era for the Picnic. Everything felt more efficient and less hassle – the toilets were clean all weekend and there were rarely queues. The festival is missing an element of queerness though – Glasto has the NYC Downlow, the Picnic did have the thisispopbaby tent – so it would be great to have a little more irreverence, queerness and glamour on the site. Maybe that’s something that can be considered for next year.