Electric Picnic: Bourgeois, Overpriced, Clique-ridden and Twee

The music festival hasn’t even started and already I feel like I’ve been to it 10 times this week alone

UFOs and the industrial era in the middle of the woods, these are just a few of the things to look out for this weekend at Electric Picnic. Arts Editor Laurence Mackin takes us around this year's festival site. Video: Kathleen Harris

 

“A range of Nivea products will be available exclusively in the showers located in the Jimi Hendrix Campsite” is the most Electric Picnic sentence you can ever hope to read. I’ll go to my death screaming about how Nivea Daily Essential products provide intensive moisturisation leaving skin looking healthy and beautiful but I have concerns about how about they have been bundled up with the legacy of one of the best musical instrumentalists of all time on the Electric Picnic website.

The music festival hasn’t even started and already I feel like I’ve been it to it ten times this week alone. I have read the interviews, profiles and stage times, have anticipated this year’s unmissable moments and underlined important sections in the traffic and travel information and condom and sunscreen advice.

Even though I’m not going this year I’m still in a position to provide precise directions to the “abandoned and forgotten” city of Anachronica on the Stradbally site; can happily debrief you about the different recycling areas; know where the best after hours parties will be on and I have made an educated guess as to where the “Secret Room” in the Heineken Sound Atlas area is. I also now know how best to secure Electric Picnic 2017 tickets.

I did have concerns about whether they would be talking about “Solar powered greenhouses, vertical barrel grow towers and potato pods” at this year’s festival but I just checked and they are.

To be fair, 55,000 people are travelling to the festival so we could probably do with a few more volumes of these essential preparatory stories. But is the amount of coverage representational of the scale of the event or proportional to its news value?

There’s a lot more people, 82,000 of them in fact, also travelling for an important event this weekend. But all those Kilkenny and Tipperary fans going to the Hurley final in Croke Park this Sunday seem to be managing just fine without “sneak video previews”, interactive maps and interviews with the sandwich makers.

I’m all for the Electric Picnic: I love to see the young people enjoying themselves. I’ve been to it many a time as I’ve also been to Roskilde, Primavera, Coachella, PinkPop, Glastonbury and countless others.

But no other music festival in this world is as bourgeois, self-celebratory, overpriced, clique-ridden and twee as Electric Picnic.

And in my decades long experience, no other festival apart from Electric Picnic receives such an adoring act of fellatio from the national media. Yes, Electric Picnic has many virtues but the incontinent use of superlatives to describe it in print and broadcast need to be substantiated with something a bit more robust than “It’s the highlight of the year!”

Not least because for many it’s prohibitively expensive.

For the average twenty or thirtysomething, Electric Picnic comes in at a minimum of €500 for the weekend. The market dictates - that’s fair enough, but when you’re charging that amount of money, shouldn’t the festival like everything else in this country be subject to the normal rules of scrutiny and criticism? Or does a VIP Press Pass for the weekend absolve you from the basic tenets of journalism?

At the Roskilde festival this year they had Neil Young and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Both acts have headlined Slane Castle. Is there anyone on this year’s Electric Picnic bill that could do the same? From the coverage so far I can recite all the different stage times, but are the acts playing value for money? And isn’t that a more important question as to what time they walk out onto the stage at?

I do recognise that the Electric Picnic is more than just the music. There’s the Salon du Chat which, it says here, “recreates the atmosphere of Bohemian Paris”; there are “yoga classes and inspiring workshops” and “otherworldly goings-on” which are “concealed among the trees”. But I can get all that from going down my local on Friday night and during the walk home afterwards.

We need to put down the Cheerleader Pom-Poms. Some cold showers in the Jimi Hendrix campsite wouldn’t go amiss.

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