Electric Picnic: 15 unmissable acts for the 2018 festival
From new acts to old favourites, here are the most exciting shows at this year’s festival
Benjamin Clemantine,Sigrid, Sevdaliza, N.E.R.D, Nina Kraviz and Kendrick Lamar are just a few of our critics top choices.
Electric Arena, Saturday, 4.30pm
Those Scandies sure know how to a spawn a stellar songstress. Norway’s Sigrid has rapidly become a pop sensation. The 20-year-old winner of the BBC’s Sound of 2018 is amassing an ever-increasing fan-base with her deft ability to mix the melancholy, wistfulness of Lorde with the power and energy of Danish firecracker MØ. Like her fellow sob sisters, she is a devotee of the sad-banger, she excels at emotional confessionals piped over pulsating beats that can transform the dancefloor into a refuge for the vulnerable and loveless.
Her delicate, ethereal voice soars over dramatic hook-soaked songs like the irresistible earworm Strangers and the icy electro-pop of her mission statement, Don’t Kill My Vibe. The sophisticated nature of her song writing coupled with her steely determination not to be dismissed as the flavour of the month, will no doubt produce a powerful performance. The Electric Picnic audience is hers for the taking, ready to be wooed.
Main Stage, Saturday 8.45pm
Who doesn’t want to witness several thousand girls in a field screaming the words to New Rules like a terrifying choir of bumbag-wearing agony aunts? New Rules was not just the song that defined 2017 it has now become a moral guide for every person that has had to deal with a dreaded ex. It’s Martin Luther’s 95 Theses but about useless boys and distilled into a three-minute pop song. Dua doesn’t mess around. There is no time to waste now that her career is turning supernova. After a few false starts (which saw her re-release several tracks until they finally stuck) she is a symbol of perseverance in the face of apathy. A savvy, sultry starlet with an arsenal of sensational pop hits, her success is the old-fashioned kind with every second song a single, making her debut album sound like a greatest hits collection. She is a true world-beater and her performance is sure to be an unforgettable EP moment.
Main Stage, Saturday, 10.30pm
Pharrell Williams is one of the architects of modern pop music. His fingerprints are all over the biggest hits from his work with everyone from Daft Punk to Justin Timberlake, he combines a magpie aesthetic with an innate inventiveness - managing to patch together the past of soul and disco with a freewheeling futurism full of skittering beats and beefy hip-hop licks.
His passion project N.E.R.D may be most famous for their early noughties filthy dancefloor fillers like Lapdance and She Wants to Move but last year’s album No One Ever Really Dies was a less straightforward, more discordant, arresting piece of work. Featuring collaborations with M.I.A, Andre 3000 and Rihanna it was a harsh, disorientating mash-up of samples and styles changing tempo every few seconds as if to squash in more of the melodies rattling around the vast galaxy in William’s head. How this discomforting disorder will play live in a festival setting will be intriguing, but no doubt maverick Pharrell will have a few tricks up his sleeve, with collaborator Kendrick Lamar also on the EP bill, there may be a spot for him on the stage.
Little Big Tent, Saturday, 9.15pm
As far as genres go, trip-hop is one of the most hypnotic. While trip-hop legends Massive Attack will fill one of the headline slots on the main stage, putting on a high-end show that encapsulates three decades of their career, the lesser known but up-and-coming trip-hop performer and producer Sevdaliza will be putting on an arthouse show that freezes the senses and celebrates femininity. Born in Tehran, Iran and raised in the Netherlands, Sevdaliza lilts her voice, harking to traditional Iranian songs, over icy beats that punch and pinch. Using subtle movements onstage - and occasionally calling in ripped male dancers to assist - her live set will be nothing short of mesmerising. Her debut album ISON, which features the incredible single Human, was released last year and if you’re looking to be lost in a trance and love Portishead, Sevdaliza’s set is the place to be.
Cosby Tent, Saturday, 11pm
With her debut album Lost & Found, released this June, touching on topics of racism, sexism, capitalism, greed, young love, toxic masculinity and gun crime in the UK, Jorja Smith is both beyond her years and very much of her time. At just 21 years of age, the R&B singer has collaborated with Drake, Stormzy and Kali Uchis and earlier on this year she picked up the Brit Critics’ Choice Award, beating Mabel and Stefflon Don.
Interjecting elements of spoken word into Lost & Found, Smith’s combination of social activism and R&B music isn’t a far cry from Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip but with her smooth voice running through beautiful songs like Goodbye, she’s proves herself to be an incredibly capable and dynamic songwriter. Thought-provoking and whip-smart, Smith is a star that’s very much on the rise and one to catch now before every show of hers sells out.
Main Stage, Sunday, 4.15pm
Without Garbage’s Scottish front woman Shirley Manson, the 90s would have been a much duller place. While Oasis and Blur were busy throwing playground jibes at each other, with a curled lip and an unimpressed stare Manson was busting balls with songs that challenged societal norms with her American bandmates Duke Erikson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig, who produced Nirvana’s Nevermind. Celebrating 20 years of their second album Version 2.0, their EP set will celebrate mammoth songs like I Think I’m Paranoid, Special and When I Grow Up, while (hopefully) giving Stupid Girl, Queer and Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go) a look in. While it might be easy to peg Garbage as a nostalgic act, the twisted nature of their music feels more relevant today than it did back in 1998, uniting all of the outcasts and weirdos who felt like they had nowhere to go turn back then.
Sigrid - Don't Kill My Vibe
Sevdaliza - Human
Jorja Smith - Blue Lights
Inner Circle - Sweat
Massive Attack - Angel
Rankin’s Wood, Saturday, 11pm
Here’s fascinating piece of techno trivia: the Siberian DJ, producer and record label boss Nina Kraviz holds a doctorate in dentistry. She fixed teeth in a war veterans hospital in Moscow by day, while cutting her teeth as a DJ by night. Kraviz has earned a reputation as an highly energetic DJ who puts on a real show, and she likens DJs who are over-reliant on software as delivering a stale experience that is “pre-cooked, taken out of the fridge and burnt in a microwave”. After several low-key appearances in the Twisted Pepper over the years, Kraviz richly deserves this bigger Irish festival billing as her selections and Trip label are excellent. Last year’s cracking Fabric Live mix album is a great place to start as an introduction to her blend of cutting-edge yet accessible techno. One of the first of a long overdue wave of female techno DJs, Nina Kraviz, and emergent Hamburg superstar Helena Hauff, are kicking down the boy’s club door.
Main Stage, Saturday night, 12.15am
In their first half decade, Massive Attack headlined the dance stage at Feile ‘95 and the old Point Depot. Neither were particularly memorable occasions, but something profound happened when the Bristolian collective toured Mezzanine in 1998 and blew the roof off the Olympia for three nights in a row. They’ve done some of their best work in recent years, and the Ritual Spirit EP from 2016 is a late career high.
God only knows when they’ll finally deliver another album, but if they’re even half as good as they were at Longitude in 2014, when their powerful visual show took in everything from Niall Harbison to the war in Gaza, then we’re in for one hell of a night. Massive Attack are the festival veterans to turn to if the Emperor’s new clothes aren’t fit for purpose.
Electric Arena, Sunday, 6pm
Londoner Benjamin Clementine became homeless when he moved to Paris. In 2015, he won the Mercury Music Prize for his debut album, At Least for Now. Some might say he’s another victim of the curse of the Mercury, as last year’s brilliant I Tell A Fly didn’t receive a fraction of the attention, but Clementine continues to be a bigger draw on the continent and the States than his native land.
His stunning examination of the effects of war and bullying, Phantom of Aleppovile, was one of the best tracks of 2016. Blessed with one of the most singular and original voices in contemporary music, the erstwhile Gorillaz collaborator deserves some of your precious festival time and attention.
Cosby Tent, Sunday, 9.30pm
They may be so far down the bill that you’re at risk of forgetting that they’re playing at all - but whatever you do, don’t miss Field Music. Led by the Brewis brothers, Peter and David, the Sunderland band have consistently provided ever-evolving output in the form of several remarkable albums since 2005. We’re not joking when we say that they’re one of the most criminally underrated bands on the planet, and their sense of melody and songcraft is unrivalled by most; heck, even Prince once unexpectedly bigged them up on Twitter, which tells you all you need to know.
Their recently-released seventh album Open Here is another fine display of a band still in strident form - and they’re fantastic live, too. If you like your indie/art-rock with funk-driven twists, glorious harmonies and an irresistible pop sensibility as heard on songs like Them That Do Nothing and The Noisy Days Are Over, you know what to do.
Electric Arena, Sunday, 9pm
Look, you don’t need us to tell you what a talent St Vincent is. No doubt you’re already aware of Annie Clark’s glittering CV to date, from her remarkable solo work to her collaboration with David Byrne (including an unforgettable performance of their album Love This Giant at Electric Picnic in 2013) to her various offbeat collaborations over the past decade or so.
Just don’t make the mistake of thinking ‘I’ve seen her before, so I won’t bother this time’ at this year’s festival. Every St Vincent gig is a different experience, and with a stellar fifth album Masseducation under her belt - her self-described most personal album to date - you’re in for a exciting set with a few hits in the mix, if recent setlists are anything to go by. If nothing else, she’s worth seeing just to witness her awe-inspiring prowess on the guitar. Yep, the girl can really play.
Other Voices, Saturday, 7pm
If you’re looking for a new band name to write all over your metaphorical schoolbag, try Whenyoung out for size. The Limerick trio, now based in London, make the kind of indie music that’s both a throwback to the glory days - think lots of jangly guitars, sharp new wave riffs, bouncy basslines and absolutely killer choruses - and thoroughly modern in its approach.
Fronted by the magnetic Aoife Power, they’re a band who put thought into their visual aesthetic without compromising on the music, as proven by the brilliant glut of EPs they’ve already released to date (not to mention a wonderfully rousing version of The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’ that they occasionally drop into their setlist). One of the brightest Irish prospects to emerge in years, if their excellent new single Heaven on Earth doesn’t sell you on them, nothing will.
Main Stage, Friday, 10.40pm
King Kendrick graces us with his regal presence just six months on from his last state visit. That gig, in the 3Arena, Dublin, has been described in just about every hyperbolic synonym you can imagine. Now, Lamar returns to an Irish festival stage two years on from an appearance at Longitude. But there’s no feeling of inertia setting in from his increasingly regular visits.
Lamar isn’t just making some of the most vital, politically assertive, straight-banging music in the world right now - he’s one of the most phenomenal live acts on this rock of ours too. And with his recent work on the Black Panther soundtrack backing up last year’s still-vital .DAMN and his impressive stack of past classics, there’s a lot for Kung Fu Kenny to get through in his headline set.
Main Stage, Saturday, 2.30pm
Legacy artists tend to do very well at festivals. Take Chic: It was Electric Picnic that tempted the band to make their Irish debut back in 2009, sparking this nation’s 21st century love affair that continues to burn. This year’s most tempting hit of nostalgia comes in the form of Jamaican legends Inner Circle, aka The Bad Boys of Reggae. Believe me, there are young bands playing EP this year who would sell body parts to write two songs as good as Bad Boys - which you definitely know from the movie of the same name or that TV show Cops - and that ultra-catchy, arms-in-the-air classic Sweat (A La La La La Long). Inner Circle also tend to throw reggae classics like Three Little Birds into their sets, which should do very well, particularly if the sun makes an appearance at Stradbally.
Body & Soul, Earthship Stage, Sunday, 10.45pm
Irish R&B music can reasonably be described as flourishing right now and one of its most potent rising stars is Erica Cody. Still in her early 20s, the Dubliner makes fresh, zealous cuts constructed from light electronic, pop hooks and her crisp vocal cords.
Songs such as Good Intentions and Addicted draw strength from 1990s soul, UK garage and modern indie R&B in equal measure. Cody’s first EP Leoness is due out later this year (hopefully we’ll be honoured with a preview) so Electric Picnic offers future opportunities to tell your friends you a saw a homegrown star her right at the genesis.
Dean Van Nguyen