Electric Picnic 2016 reviews: the best of day three
Julia Jacklin, James Bay, Saint Sister and the best review of the weekend? Fire
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats on the main stage at Electric Picnic. Photograph: Dave Meehan
(THE BONFIRE AT BODY & SOUL)
Tucked away in Body & Soul around 80 people gathered around my new favourite Electric Picnic act – Fire. “Ooh,” they said. “Aaah!” they said. This lucky few felt the joy of discovering a hot act. What did fire make me feel? I felt warmth and yet, danger. Fire burned me. I poked fire with a stick. I also poked Gavin James with a stick. Fire responded better. Compared to many of the other acts I saw this weekend, Fire had several benefits. I found I could warm my cave with it and that it made the animals I hunted more digestible. It also gave me an advantage over tribes at the Picnic who had not discovered fire and so died during the long winter.
I have just discovered fire. I think fire will catch on.
In three words: Don’t get burned
A hush falls over the Other Voices church as Julia Jacklin takes the stage. It doesn't last long. Any fears that a crowd weakened by the weekend's festivities might be lulled into a coma by too chilled-out a set are quickly dispelled, thank Christ. This isn't standard manic pixie dream girl fare, and there's a kick behind Jacklin's lovelorn vocals that keeps the weary audience on their blistered, muddy toes. Those vocals, though - achingly tender and quietly tough, Jacklin takes us to a higher plane. On quieter songs, as a soft rain starts to beat against the tent, there are more than a few tears shed in this room. This is music to warm the soul and set hearts ablaze.~
Three words: lights you up
AIFRIC NI CHRIODAIN
To those of us not yet intimately acquainted with James Bay - which, at a guess, is anyone above the age of 17 and not yet a parent - you might listen to his studied but toothless emulations of blues rock, embroidered with the sweet nothings of generic motivational lyrics, and wonder what all the fuss is about? Rail thin, with raven-dark long hair, Bay's style seems modelled on Jack White with the edges sanded smooth. So is his playing. Non-threatening swains rarely go out of fashion, though, so people who like this sort of thing will find this to be the sort of thing that they like. Me, I defer judgement until a misguided cover of Proud Mary, which exposes the thinness of the act and the material. He's a competent and successful front man, who doesn't shy from adulation, whether ours or his own, but while he's found a pose, he seems yet to earn it.
In Three Words: The White Types
Little Big Tent
Saint Sister's plaintive, wistful vocals combine with lush harp and keyboard arrangements to create a pervasive feel of melancholic charge. Potentially twee, it's testament to the sincerity with which these elements are deployed that the winsome atmosphere is unbroken even by some feedback problems and the inscrutable presence of a well-endowed sex doll hoist aloft (and occasionally reinflated) by one fan near front of stage.
Layer by layer, Saint Sister's ethereal richness blocks out all but the gorgeous sound they make.
Three words: mine's a harp
Body and Soul stage
Elm's tunes would break your heart, they really would. Opening with "Concentrate", a song as gorgeous as it is desperately sad, the young band give this set everything they have. Dylan Walsh's haunting vocals haunting vocals tear through the sleepy Body and Soul area, drawing passersby in to join a shamefully small crowd. Gentle cello notes soften the punch of all this blisteringly raw emotion, sending a shiver down your spine. There's not much cheer to be had here, but there's a catharsis shared between the audience and performers. This is the good kind of emo.
Three words: I'm not crying
AIFRIC NI CHRIODAIN
It's Sunday afternoon and you're running on empty. What can you do to preserve some battery other than have a wee lie down and listen while Californian group with healthy tans strum and plink inoffensive rock about loving and then losing the girl. Local Natives are a little lost on the main stage but the catnip effect that they're having on the crowd will benefit everyone at Electric Picnic in the long run. They announce that they've been gigging in three different countries in the last three days and this set is the best hour that they've had... Today. Not best gig but best hour of this very day. Lads, you are welcome. Your best hour of the day has been our best lie down of the day.
Three words: cat nap ceol.
Another indie nostalgia act on the bill just to remind us that youth is fragile and maybe, just maybe, Garden State was always a terrible movie; we were only won over by the soundtrack The Shins are very much of a doe-eyed, simpler time with their saccharine melodies with tales of desperate heartache and optimistic whimsy. Tunes like Phantom Limb, Sea Legs and Australia have the power to make the hair on the back of your neck stand with the very first chords, such is their staying power.
However, in this cold, cruel world, with so many la-la-led choruses, it feels terribly twee at times. But, look, when they hit the right notes, you could forgive them for almost anything. Even the Zach Braff association.
Three words: soft cardigan rock
Nathaniel Ratecliff & The Night Sweats
Your mileage may vary depending on your enthusiasm, or tolerance, for straight down-the-channel Americana, but it would take a heart of stone not to be moved by the jubilant liveliness of Nathaniel & The Night Sweats in full flow, his full band yelping and hollering at his command as they roll through a songbook of unapologetically earnest soul-infused rock.
The feelgood factor only increases in those moments we're treated to a bravura display of distinctly flamboyant funkiness from his utterly joyous horn section. Dancing on their heels, bow-legged, as they play, their enthusiasm is always charming and often transcends to riotous fun.
Ratecliff himself is a delight throughout, whether in his endearing, old-timey patter to the sodden crowd, or merely in the authenticity one infers from the combo of his beefy frame, moonshine beard and wide brimmed hat; a look that gives him the air of a kindly saloon owner in a 19th century prospect town, but one you fancy knows his way around the ostensibly decorative shotgun kept behind the bar.
His mighty vocals are never less than delightful and skip nimbly from the maudlin to the ecstatic from song to song. This is toe-tapping music for anyone with even a passing fancy for old fashioned rock and roll.
Three words: rock and roll.