We're in the car park of Junction 14 Mayfield, a service station on the M7 that is a previous forecourt-retailer-of-the-year winner: an award I'd be keen to judge. A man is playing a guitar, another is wearing an inflatable-mattress box on his head, and a girl in shorts and wellies is going for a pee. "Get the whole roll," her friend calls. The car park is great craic. We feel we may never tear ourselves away. But it seems as if the whole world, or at least the world of Mayfield, is going to Stradbally, so we join the throng.
There's a sense of dread. That feeling of being a victim of what's to come, of forgetting my off-switch and needing to be scraped off the floor, or out from under a hedge later on. Let's name that feeling: bitter experience. You can feel it on the Electric Picnic site at Stradbally. People pacing themselves, full abandon to be saved, perhaps, for dusk. Not everyone is pacing, it must be said. At the campsites, groups sit in circles, cracking cans. "I missed a whole day hanging out here last year," a girl in a gold sequinned boob tube says, but she doesn't sound regretful.
We stop at Trailer Park to discover how misunderstood and maligned seagulls are in a small exhibition dedicated to their rehabilitation. At Gangsta Granny I knit a row in hot-pink wool in return for a gin, which seems a good trade-off. Oddly, as I sit and ply my needles, a small crowd gathers to watch. Perhaps it's one of those niche thrills you read about.
I wonder how long it will be before I succumb to a headband and face paint. You'd need a heart of stone not to want to go native
A small crowd gathers at the inflatable chapel to watch a couple getting married, their union pronounced “by all that is unholy”.
We get to Salty Dog to hear The Wednesday Gang playing Where's Me Jumper?, by the Sultans of Ping. To its great credit the crowd knows every word.
Over at Mindfield they're still setting up, so (in the spirit of pacing myself) I briefly lie down on the very comfy double bed at Annika Stridh's Leavin' the Lights On, a mini outdoor bedroom parked in the middle of the field. I mentally file the spot away for later, although I imagine it might get rather crowded in there come nightfall.
The skies are grey but not ominous, and bright flags flutter and billow. It’s all very laid-back and lovely, and I wonder how long it will be before I succumb to a headband and face paint. You’d need a heart of stone, and a fathomless well of cynicism, not to want to go native, especially after dark.
Amid all the loveliness the corporate branding is jarring, but over at My Lovely Ranch they're offering cuddles with dogs, and the chance to pet a goat. Naturally, I avail of both. We walk through the caravan at Tow Ho Ho and suddenly we're dancing to Brimful of Asha in a blizzard.
Someone is bemoaning how many people are here, and how they’re all too young. I quite like the Younger Generation, having been a member myself. “It’s when they get messy,” the man says. Again, I have no problem with messy young people, having been . . .
Matthew Devereux of The Pale is singing and dancing like someone untroubled by dodgy hips. “You can tell I’m actually staying,” he shouts from the stage to yells of delight. “I’m not doing the old person’s thing of doing the gig and pissing off.” Matthew, we never doubted you.
For some reason we believe the toilets will be better in the Gaeltacht camping area. “Dia daoibh,” says the girl at the gate. “Dia is Muire duit,” we reply, and we’re in.
We start to make a list of must-see gigs. Hamsandwich is on it. So is St Vincent, and Sigrid and Bitch Falcon. Rumours fly of secret gigs. Hozier and Mavis Staples are set to play at 5pm on Saturday. Will we make it that far? Will we live that long? Will we manage to leave the comfort of our cans at the campsite?
Electric Picnic is so vast that you have to abandon your Fomo in favour of embracing Jomo: the joy of missing out. You can't see it all. You probably won't find it all. I'm very glad I brought the whole roll.