Electric Picnic - sure it’s only a festival

To those who are going – spare a thought for the people outside the gates

Festival goers in the Body and Soul Arena at the Electric Picnic Festival at Stradbally House in Co Laois

Festival goers in the Body and Soul Arena at the Electric Picnic Festival at Stradbally House in Co Laois


If you’re not heading to Electric Picnic this weekend, you’ve probably heard enough about it at this stage. Radio ads running after it sold out felt pretty cruel to those who’d missed buying a ticket by one payday. For a festival that only 35,000 people are attending, it certainly gets more than it’s fair share of coverage per-punter-head. More than 430,000 people are estimated to have attended The Fleadh in Derry; somewhere in the region of 85,000 hit the air show in Bray; the shindig in Stradbally gets more oil than your average squeaky carnival wheel. Marketing, money, PR, demographics, cultural cache and being an appealing playground for a higher than normal proportion of the popular culture commentariat contributes to the coverage, but there’s more to it than that. It’s the best in it’s field. The range of distractions on offer, the diversity of punter, the quality of turn, the production, the build, the organisation, the vibe, the timing and the feckless abandon. It’s our Glastonbury.

When you look closely at its constituent parts, you’ll notice that it’s possible to enjoy a piecemeal version of this festival spread out over the whole year. The Salty Dog Stage will be rocked by The Hot Sprockets, who tore it up at Knockanstockan. Ben Klock should not be missed at the Rave in the Woods tonight if you are going, but Klock also wound up Life festival goers in Mullingar last year. Dylan Moran sold out all his shows at the Cat Laughs and Vodafone Comedy festivals and he’ll be packin’ ’em in in Stradbally too. The Mindfield contingent will have graced writers’ weeks and arts festivals all over the country. The foodies will have done the same from Dingle to Inisowen. The Body and Soul Area is a haven for Electric Picnic regulars and they have their very own festival.

For three days at the end of summer, all the best elements of so many other festivals are taken, condensed, concentrated and squashed into 60 acres in Co Laois. You good folk who occasionally read these ramblings voted it your favourite festival of 2012 in this very publication. Spare a thought for the huge amount of people who would love to be there, but won’t be going this year. Some couldn’t afford it, others are working, many left it too late, lots have been ripped off in the stampede to get tickets from nefarious sources and there’s more than a few tragic tales.

It might sound glib, but it’ s worth remembering that it’s just a festival. There’ll be more and it’s likely you’ll get to another one.

All week I’ve been listening to festival stories from people who are dying to attend Electric Picnic and their tales are debauched, insightful, surreal, touching, deranged, honest and hilarious, but they all have something in common: they all involve other people. It’s usually groups of mates and randomers that make the most memorable times at festivals. It’d be awful if you’re not there and you’ve been waiting your entire life to see Wu-Tang Clan and they all snuff it on the way home due to some dodgy west-coast shellfish in business- class (God forbid!). The Clan may lie in a scattering of spent shells, but the bants and lolz will be there waiting for you the next time you decamp in the mud. You might even consider No Place Like Dome, Valentia Isle and Spirit of Folk festivals, all deadly and all in September.

To those who are going – remember the people outside those gates who are gutted that they left it too late. You owe it to them and to yourself to make this one count. Spark on the collective effervescence, immerse yourself in the freedom, embrace the feckless abandon and milk it dry. Safe travels, don’t die.

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