Early birds descend on Electric Picnic


It’s amazing what a half-decent day’s weather does for the collective mood at the Electric Picnic.

As this year’s festival got under way in Stradbally today, the thought of a few days without rain, an occurrence almost as rare this year in these parts as the weekend’s blue moon, lifted the spirits of the early arrivals.

There certainly seems to be a lot of people who have decided to make a proper weekend of it and really get value for their €230 ticket. Friday is traditionally a slow-burner, with the bulk of folks usually arriving on site to pitch their tents after night has fallen.

This year, though, there was a noticeable increase in the numbers to see the first acts on various stages. Those who were there to see Kormac’s Big Band open the event on the main stage had plenty to reasons to smile, as the ensemble’s brassy, swinging, feel-good sound got the weekend started on the good foot.

But not all the day’s main stage acts were so fortunate with the turnout. There was a much smaller crowd in attendance for Gavin Friday’s set a few hours later, with the audience deeming that other, more current acts playing at the same time, like Willis Earl Beal or Grizzly Bear, were more deserving of their time and attention.

This is the ninth year that this rolling, unpredictable, adventurous carnival of music, arts, family activities, food, politics (you always need hot air at a festival), and imagination has set up camp in the middle of the Co Laois town. What began as a one-day music beano back in 2004 is now the premier event of the summer events season, a place which has room for seemingly everything you could tag as festival-friendly.

In terms of festival logistics, the official campsite opened at 9am today and will close at 1pm on Monday.

It takes 50 minutes to drive from Dublin to Portlaoise via the M7 motorway, although there will be heavy traffic surrounding the festival site. Organisers have recommended car-pooling to reduce congestion.

The venue is more than three hours by road from Belfast. Drivers coming from the city should take the A1 and then M1 to Dublin, then the M50 on the outskirts of Dublin and leave the M50 at junction 9 to take the M7.

Stradbally is two hours or so from Galway. Drivers should take the N6 to Portumna and then the R489 to Birr, N62 to Roscrea and M7 onward. The roughly two-hour drive from Cork will see drivers take the N8 to Portlaoise and then N80 to Stradbally.

There are special bus services going to Electric Picnic, leaving from Custom House Quay in Dublin, Parnell Place bus station in Cork city and Galway bus station. Departing and return services will run from 8am in some places and from noon in others. There are also trains to Portlaoise, which is about 25 minutes away by road.

The Abbeyleix Road (R427) will be closed from Money Cross to Stradbally until 4am on Sunday and from 8am until 3pm on Monday. Access to Stradbally along this route will be for residents and event traffic only.

Any motorists not attending the event are advised to take alternative routes. There is no official closing time for the campsite on Monday, meaning many will be in no hurry to get on the road.

Tomorrow will be even warmer with temperatures ranging from 18-21 degrees, although it will be more overcast than today. Sunday will still be warm with temperatures reaching 21 degrees, but there will be increased likelihood of light showers.

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