“I view Electric Picnic as a sporting event”

Patrick Freyne on a festival filled with mud, music, madness ... and a bleeping Deprogramming Machine

 A different kind of blue: Festival-goers getting into the swing of things during day one of the Electirc Picnic Festival in Stradbally Co.Laoise. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

A different kind of blue: Festival-goers getting into the swing of things during day one of the Electirc Picnic Festival in Stradbally Co.Laoise. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

Sat, Aug 30, 2014, 13:31

There’s a sort of honour guard of people having a wee on the wa into Stradbally. At the main entrances, hordes of people queue up with all their worldly possessions and beer. It’s like a refugee camp for alcoholics.

A woman dressed as a bear snogs a girl dressed as a tiger. “They aren’t even from the same ecosystem,” sniffs a girl pulling a wheelie cart (lots of people have wheelie carts). “How can they mate?”

Inside, someone drops some cans of beer in the mud and I help pick them up. One has burst and is spraying everywhere. “You can have that one,” she says. “As a reward.” Some people jog by with “tour-de-picnic” T-shirts. One is drinking a can of Heineken. “To keep hydrated,” he gasps.

After a brief consultation (“When were you last hugged by a tree?”) Dr David Sumray’s whirring and bleeping Deprogramming Machine is used in the Trailer Park to suck unwanted influences from my body in the form of coloured fluids. “We’re taking too much! He can’t take it!” cries “lab technician” Jake Ennis. “Are you a real doctor?” I ask.

At the Body and Soul arena campfire, Cormac Fitz, Paul Curran and Lewis Kenny deliver street poetry unamplified to a huddle of people. They’re brilliant. “Now do it naked,” shouts a passing wag. Curran has a tattoo of Keats. In the Greencrafts area, Mark Wilson, who wears a tri-corn hat, is beating a red-hot poker into the shape of a hook. In Mindfield, Kerry from Kerry cadges a cigarette while her children are distracted in the Coder Dojo tent. “They don’t know I smoke,” she says. “Shit, they’re looking for me. Hide me!”

Lots of people are wearing costumes. Batman rides a penny farthing. Eoin and his friends are dressed as Sesame Street characters. “It’s child-friendly,” says Eoin, who’s dressed as Oscar. Unfortunately, a few years ago one of them dressed as “pedobear”. “Not so child-friendly,” he says.

Just before Blondie’s set, the sun comes out. Brian Breen carries a massive flag featuring a unicorn, “so my friends can find me”. John Nolan wears a runner’s “camelpack” which he has filled with whisky. “I view Electric Picnic as a sporting event,” he explains. Such innovation. Lots of people sing along to Living on a Prayer, which is being played over the PA. “It’s going to lift, this recession,” slurs a young man in a Dublin jersey. “Are you an angel?” asks a man in a cowboy hat. Then he burps.

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