Tired of Electric Picnic articles? Tough luck
The Stradbally festival will be around for another decade at least, because once you’ve experienced it it’s hard to leave
Exhausting yet invigorating: fans at last year’s festival. Photograph: Gaelle Beri/Redferns via Getty
Oh great, you must be thinking: another article about Electric Picnic. Haven’t seen one of those for about six pages. If you’re still here, and reading it on Saturday, and reading it in print, you’re unlikely to be at the festival at Stradbally Hall, in Co Laois.
Perhaps you’re not at Electric Picnic because you have never been, have no interest in it and just never will go, which means you don’t want to read yet another piece about how great Electric Picnic is, in a week when there’s more than enough of that going on anyway.
You mightn’t be there because, although you have been before, you couldn’t make it this year – which means you only want to read a piece that tells you it’s just not the same without you.
Maybe you’re not there because your teenage kids are going now, and that would wreck your buzz.
Or you mightn’t be there because you have a long-held view that Electric Picnic is an adult creche, at which they serve one giant falafel stuffed with the nausea-inducing sauce of middle-class smugness. We’ll deal with that objection in a moment.
In any instance, I’m aware that this is a column written primarily for an audience that isn’t around this weekend to read it. But do hang around anyway. Beanbags will soon feature.
Electric Picnic does not always hold up well to discussion. There are a few – this paper’s Jim Carroll among them – who have found a way to analyse it as a business, a brand, a grand musical event, a cultural cornerstone and an intergenerational adventure.
Otherwise it can drift into the standard media festivalspeak of “revellers”, of rain that “didn’t dampen spirits”, and an obligatory mention of the ostrich burgers. Or it shrivels under the needs of the well-meaning promotional talk.
Here is the curator of the excellent Body & Soul area this week, outlining what’s on offer: “This year in the Peace Pagoda by day are pop-up performance, and by night it’s going to turn into a bean-bag-filled sanctuary curated by Donal Dineen, filled and exuding with Irish electronic artists predominantly. So it’s going to be a real Zen area.”
Once “pop-up” popped up, that sentence was always going to be an exercise in unintended stereotype reinforcement.
Nice sit down
It was also reported this week that seats would be available at the Main Stage, pushing further the notion of an audience that every now and then demands a nice sit down and a cup of tea.
Pushing Electric Picnic into the language of a press release is something like trying to explain a joke. The moment you start, it turns to ashes in your mouth.
Electric Picnic requires experience. It lives up to its stereotype and then some, yet it has a glorious ability to sweep the cynicism away, to chase away the snarkiness. It is exhausting yet invigorating. Most importantly, it succeeds because of what every person brings to it and survives because of what they take away.
This weekend there are the usual mix of regulars and newbies among the 35,000 present: veterans who can’t bear the thought of missing it, teenagers giddy for their first experience, and the always delightful sight of locals in their best Sunday jumpers on a post-Mass stroll through the human debris.
And as they flake on a beanbag in the Peace Pagoda, they will share a loose connection with 50,000 people in a desert in Nevada. This is the week of Burning Man, a festival that has no musical line-up but is instead a construction of its visitors, from the large-scale installations emerging from the hard ground to the small details on the clothing they’ve decided to wear – if they’re wearing any, that is. It is a self-reliant, DIY festival, and the result is stunning creativity and a formative experience for those lucky enough to end up there.
Electric Picnic is not Burning Man. Not in its scale nor in its undoubted creativity. It is also far more reliant on good old-fashioned capitalism to get everyone through another year. But Electric Picnic has taken a spoonful of Burning Man’s essence in one key respect: the simple fact of being there, of experiencing it, means you feel like a participant. Even in its layers of commerce, music, art and punters is a sense of interconnectedness that gives it a welcome magic.
This weekend you’re either connected or you’re out. Electric Picnic heads into another 10 years knowing that those who are in don’t want to leave. As for the rest of you, keep the chin up. “Electric Picnic is great” pieces will die down in a couple of days.