The best bits from Electric Picnic
Midway through the set, the packed crowd at Rankin’s Wood Stage is amped up and ready to party, so when Grant introduces Sinéad O’Connor – who provided backing vocals on the new album – things get a little crazy. The waifish singer is greeted like a returning heroine, but even she cannot steal the thunder of the burly Colorado man. The pair run through spinetingling ballads Glacier and It Doesn’t Matter to Him like they’ve been singing together all their lives, while Grant’s grin is almost as broad as ours as he clearly delights in her presence on the gleeful thud of raucous closer Queen of Denmark.
His hour-long set isn’t long enough, but it’s just about enough to engender that feel-good buzz that usually only happens once or twice at a festival. Outstanding.
9. Disclosure’s pop life
This is what pop music is all about in 2013. It’s 1am on Sunday and the main arena is jumping. For the first time this weekend, nearly every blade of grass in this open-air theatre is populated by shiny happy people who are dancing and pulling variations on the big-fish-little-fish shapes with their hands.
Onstage, there are two brothers standing at their consoles and hopping from foot to foot. Guy Lawrence is 22 and his brother Howard is 19. They are Disclosure, they’re playing to their equally youthful peers who’ve colonised the festival this year and everything in the world is alright.
You could hear the brothers’ touch over and over again at the weekend.
Earlier in the day, Sam Smith, the vocal star on Disclosure’s Latch, warmed hearts with his robust, soulful solo turn in the Electric Arena. White Noise, the duo’s collab with AlunaGeorge, battles Get Lucky in the ubiquity stakes in terms of music blaring from food stalls and sideshows.
In 2013, the brothers and their guest vocalists have bossed the charts and pop radio playlists with their debut album Settle and its grand parade of tunes.
Onstage in Stradbally, they set the picnic alight by simply doing what no-one else saw fit to do. They take house music’s four-to-the-floor foundations and nonchalantly turn the structures upside down and inside out with panache and poise to create something which looks familiar, but sounds wholly unique and fresh.
The music, fused with shards of disco, techno, electro and r’n’b, works like nothing else. Be it White Noise, Stimulation, or Latch, the only thing to do is lose yourself to the euphoria. The kids are more than alright.
10. 10 years of Electric Picnic
When it comes to open-air music festival shenanigans in the current economic climate, 10 is a big number. At this stage you’ve laid out your stall, you’ve done the spadework and people have voted yeah or nah with their feet and wallets.
Get to 10 and you’re established. You’ve survived slings, arrows, recessionary ill-winds and food poisoning from that dodgy burger stall from a few years ago. It’s telling that very few Irish festivals of comparative size have made it to double figures and maintained their bona fides (just look at the woe-be-gone Oxegen, for instance).
But the Electric Picnic, that weird, wired and wonderful arts and music carnival of the bizarre, bemusing and beautiful, has done so. When Electric Picnic founder John Reynolds shook hands with Thomas Cosby to strike a deal to use Stradbally Hall for a one-day festival at the end of the summer of 2004, neither man could have predicted what was to come.
The most memorable thing about that first year was that it was a fierce hot day and there were long queues for the bars. In 2005, the zeitgeist came crashing to earth in a field in Co Laois. That year the picnic provided highlights which still burn bright in the memory banks. Arcade Fire played out of their skins in the big tent and put in one of the shows of their career. It’s an event which is now Irish music’s GPO 1916, with more people claiming to have been there than could have possibly fitted in the big tent.
Since then the picnic has established itself year after year as the leader of the pack when it came to festivals in Ireland. In 2006 you’d Pet Shop Boys, Basement Jaxx and New Order stealing the show.
The following year the Daily Ticket made its first appearance and the Beastie Boys put on a thumping show.
Grace Jones provided the big wow in 2008, while 2009 was the year of Chic making their Irish debut and turning the Electric Arena into the biggest, loudest, most glammy disco in Co Laois.
We’ll remember 2010 as the year we saw the late, great Gil Scott-Heron, while Janelle Monae showed her smarts with two shows on the first night. In 2011, it was Santigold’s mesmeric funk in the big tent and PJ Harvey’s spooky folk on the main stage which dominated.
Last year? Well, last year’s highlights were provided by Orbital and the Roots, with Gavin Friday taking the rosette for the worst main stage appearance ever.
But those are just the headlines from the despatches. Our Picnic memories all blur into one giant, giddy, gleeful, gregarious mush of stuff. Catching the likes of Laura Marling and Lisa Hannigan on tiny stages, the stuff that goes bump-bump-bumpity- bump after midnight on Saturday night in the woods, the parallel universe that is the Body & Soul area, the brilliance of an
unplanned and unlisted disco in a yoga tent, brain food to store for the winter months from the assorted gatherings in the Mindfield area, enlightened conversations with randomers: you could probably draw up your own list along similar lines.
Over 10 outings, the Electric Picnic has become an essential part of Irish cultural life. Other fests may attract more people – the Fleadh in Derry drew 10 times as many, for instance – and others may be more bespoke in their bookings – come on down Longitude, this year’s most impressive new arrival – but the picnic has the X, Y and
It’s the big one on the calender for many and you can understand why. So, 10 more picnics? Sure, why not?