Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

On The Road – Josh Ritter at the Electric Picnic

The last word on Electric Picnic 2008 and who better than regular On The Road diarist Josh Ritter to deliver the view from the stage? He’s back in Ireland later this year, playing with a 24 piece orchestra at Vicar …

Mon, Sep 8, 2008, 16:00


The last word on Electric Picnic 2008 and who better than regular On The Road diarist Josh Ritter to deliver the view from the stage? He’s back in Ireland later this year, playing with a 24 piece orchestra at Vicar Street, Dublin on December 11 (show now sold out) and 12. A special Irish edition of his “Live at the 9.30 Club” album is out now, containing additional tracks and videos from his December 2007 Irish tour.

Tonight I’m back in my kitchen, listening to the Republican National Convention going on in Minneapolis. There is something truly surreal about the proceedings, not the least of which, John McCain’s Vice Presidential candidate was educated in my home town of Moscow, ID. Just when I had started to dream that my state would one day go Democratic…

The band and I had a completely whirlwind trip to Co Laois and the great Electric Picnic festival. Our flight landed and we jumped into a people mover driven by the skillful and polyglot Noel. Our hotel was called the “Formerly Comfort Inn,” and we had time to throw our bags down, but not quite time to take a full nap. There was time for a shower, and then back to the car to go check out the first day of the festival. My first stop, and the first stop of many, was the Little Big Tent for Dawn Landes’ show. Dawn has been my great friend and friend of my band for a couple years now, and her show ruled.

From there, I saw the Gutter Twins, Gomez and a tiny bit of Sigur Ros. Gomez ruled. Such awesome guys and they are really great performers; I was reminded why my tour with them was so much fun and hopefully that’ll happen again in the future.

The next day was busy, but the weather was sunny and the food was so good that I found myself doing interviews followed by pies, followed by radio, followed by delicious beer. If it was “work,” I’ll do that work any day. The time went fast though, and we began to get our stuff on stage. Because festivals feature acts that follow each other quickly on the same stage, there is a great deal that goes on behind the curtain to make sure that the upcoming band is ready to jump on stage as soon as possible after the performing band is done. Lucky for me that my band and crew kick so much ass. Before I could eat my third pie of the day, we were wired to go.

I’d never seen Wilco, so with twenty minutes to go before my show and after catching Lisa Hannigan’s set, I ran about half a mile to get to their stage and see a few songs before running back. I knew all that running would pay off one day.

When I arrived back at the stage, the tent was packed to the gills. Jammers, chock-a-block, rammed. I don’t know how many people came, but it was certainly the biggest show of mine we’d ever played. We huddled, as we always do, and then I stepped out on stage. The place was immense and it was a tremendous rush. First, though, I had to find my way to the microphone. At the last minute, the smoke machine had broken and was spewing the thick smoke of Dickensian factories across the stage. We found our way with little incident however, and jumped into our set. From there I don’t remember what happened, but it was awesome. It was a pretty “up” set, because in a big tent filled with happy singers, that was the best way to be heard. It was also the way we were feeling. This show felt like a victory and a landmark. I found myself pretty speechless and was glad I was in a line of work that involved memorized things to sing.

We got off stage and were steaming in the darkness. There seemed too much feeling to totally soak in, but we opened some beers and toasted the show as we sat in the dark behind the stage as Tindersticks loaded in. It was a great , great evening.

I’ve played a lot of festivals and the Electric Picnic is a real model for the way a festival should be done. The grounds are stunning (I swear I saw trees that had been replanted from Middle Earth), the stages and stage crews were well-organized, and the musicians and punters seemed to be treated with real courtesy and care. I hope everyone else had as much fun as I did. Let’s do it again!