Spring has sprung – and Forbidden Electric Fruit Picnic Palooza fever has broken out

Electric Picnic, Indiependence, Castlepalooza, Longitude, Forbidden Fruit, Sea Sessions – let the battle of the festival line-ups begin


Spring is sprung. It’s a time when festival launch parties and line-up announcements pop up with the florabundance and fanfare of brightly trumpeting roadside daffs. Last night, Indiependence hoisted their flag, laying claim to another August bank holiday weekend of muzak in Mitchelstown. We can expect Castlepalooza to be a late bloomer, laying out its stall for the same weekend in about two months’ time – much too far away for my liking. How are festival obsessives meant to cope?

On Wednesday the good ship Electric Picnic was launched, and the first batch announcement of deckhands and crew has been analysed and dissected with all the enthusiasm and glee of Gunther von Hagens with a sharp new scalpel and shaper fedora. Outkast have been well received and there’s a good balance struck between nostalgic nods and neo-noise makers – The Stranglers and Simple Minds vs St Vincent and Sohn. There’s something there to please most of the people most of the time and you can be sure it will only get better as the full parade of sails is teasingly revealed over the coming months.

It’ll be interesting to see if Electric Picnic starts to suffer from the Facebook effect – it’s a great place to hang out with your mates for bants and buzz, but your tipsy and over-enthusiastic auntie joining proceedings can be somewhat embarrassing. It probably points towards a failing in my character, and suggests more than a pinch of session snobbery, but spotting Joe Duffy at Electric Picnic did nothing for my esprit du festival. Any chance he could be barred?

Body & Soul have made a virtue of eschewing heritage act bankers and it’s stood to them. The summer solstice-centred soirée will undoubtedly sell out again this year. Longitude is leaning more towards the hirsutely hip and pedal-pushing pendeltons, but even in Marlay Park there’ll be some old-skool trip-hop dealt out. Forbidden Fruit’s line-up is nestled neatly between Electric Picnic and Longitude, but with this proliferation of páirtithe sna pairceanna, something has to give.

Helium festival was in my Top 10 from last year’s offerings, but unfortunately it’s fallen off the calendar. After five years of buzzing up festivallers, winning awards and raising funds for Ataxia Ireland, the Ballymahon bunch are pressing pause. Another of those included in last year’s Ticket readers’ poll is scaling back for 2014; I’ll keep you posted as info is released, but if you catch me for a pint I’ll fill you in.

The lads from Sea Sessions outlined the economic pressure on festivals when we chatted about jamboromics. Sponsors want their products pimped to a large slice of the pie-chart of our partying population, but they also like to see that festivals can grow year on year, increasing their reach. This puts pressure on some organisers to set out long-term plans of yearly expansion in order to meet the targets they’ve set with flagship sponsors, sometimes to the detriment of the festivalgoer’s experience.

Longitude will be an interesting festival to watch in coming years. It operated well below full capacity last year and the site was awash with clipboard-wielding bean counters who analysed the migration and gyrations of the audience. Expect it to get bigger and bolder – it’s a work in progress.

Outside the world of high-flying festival finance, there are smaller holdings ploughing tough furrows, hoping to sow seeds that grow into nourishing and wholesome organic events. A world away from the schmoozing, boozing launches and lunches, the late, lamented Flat Lake Festival in Co Monaghan has been Frankensteined and reborn as Son of Flat Lake, running from August 15th to 17th.

I’m looking forward to this almost as much as finding out if Omar Souleyman’s moustache really has boar-bristle brushes, Brylcreem, Buckfast and rich tea biscuits on its Electric Picnic rider. A moustache of that calibre must be high-maintenance.

Safe travels, don’t die.


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