Electric Picnic – the end of an era

Mark Graham winds up his three-year odyssey with one final fling at Electric Picnic 2014


Ara would ya relax, it’s only a festival. They’re like buses. Another one will be along very soon to take you where you want to go, and if you wait long enough, the one you just missed will actually come around again (it was probably overcrowded anyway).

Electric Picnic is undoubtedly the heavyweight champion of our summer sessions, but last year I enjoyed Knockanstockan more and this year I will eat my Indian headdress if the session in Stradbally outdoes the buzz in Ballinlough at Body&Soul. That said, Electric Picnic does hold a particular attraction.

On this very weekend three years ago, I resolved to attend three festivals in Ireland every single week for 12 months. (I overshot the target ever so slightly.) I chose to start and finish on this weekend, with the shindig in Stradbally as a finale. (My third finale looks like sticking. For reals!)

It wasn’t a headlining act on the main-stage, a comedian in a tent, a chef on a pedestal or political satirist on a rant that made me want to cast my final fling at Electric Picnic. I knew that of all the festivals on our féile-infested shores, many of my friends would be in that field in Co Laois at the end of August. There will always be memorable acts that blow your mind and set the night on fire, but it’s the people you surround yourself with that make a festival momentous.

As you fall into the gravitational pull thrown out by gregarious groups of spacers, get distracted by a large rabbit handing out nitrous- oxide balloons or end up having such a laugh in the back of a banjaxed Ford Transit with a crew of head-the-balls from Birr, you’ll be lucky if you get to see one third of the turns on your personalised festival timetable.

Immersing yourself in that feckless abandon is part of what the weekend is about, but still, I’d start to twitch if I didn’t have a highlighted timetable on the way in the gap.

Unmissable acts It’s unlikely that any third-party catalogue of “Unmissable Acts” or “Top 10” offerings will provide the best navigational chart through any festival waters, but by sharing my aspirational plan of attack, you’re at least provided with a 3-to-1 chance of being able to avoid me.

From the wide and varied selection of big names it’s Outkast, Mogwai and SBTRKT that’ve attracted my highlighter, with the possibility of a little nibble at Neneh Cherry. The gloom folk of Mirel Wagner sounds interesting at the Other Voices stage, but gloom may best be left until Tuesdays’ post-Picnic palsy.

I’ve been avoiding the MindField ever since Joe Duffy had a slot there two years ago, but Will Self’s stint in the Literary Tent might see me scuttle down that way. After a freakish debut at this year’s Barndance, the macabre buzzers of Guerilla Aerial have their own area at EP, a good spot to gather material for Monday night’s DT nightmares. Meltybrains? were a highlight at Castlepalooza, if memory serves me right. I’ll be double checking on Saturday evening at the Body&Soul stage, staying put for the Special Guests at 10pm, cos I know who they are.

At 2.30pm on Sunday in the Theatre of Food the Boyle sisters will be making dry-ice-beer- ice-cream. That sounds like a cure to me. A proper freak-out dance session is always welcome, something that Dublin Afrobeat Ensemble will be facilitating down in Trenchtown at 6pm on Sunday.

As King Kong Company and special guests headline the Salty Dog Stage at 1am on the final night of the festival for any hardcore hedonists left standing, I’ll be adhering to the This Side Up (Salty Dog 3am Saturday) festival approach: “You know it’s no secret that rowdy’s how we keep it. Don’t understand, just leave it, cos we’re gonna act the eejit”.

Safe travels, don’t die.


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