Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Electric Picnic 2009 review

(Apologies for taking so long to get something up on the blog about the Picnic, the last few days have been spent recovering from a great weekend! Below is the piece I wrote for the Limerick Leader, pics are courtesy of Tonya O'Neill and Deirdre Cussen, so thanks to them. Looking forward to next year already, and Cois Fharraige this weekend! Cheers.)

THE sixth Electric Picnic festival was a very different affair this year with wellies a necessity rather than accessory as attendees trouped through mud fields that resembled the Somme, and stood in fear as black clouds threatened to rain on the colourful Stradbally parade.

However, although the feted ‘Indian Summer’ failed to materialise, neither did apocalyptic storms and the rain was restricted to showers on Friday and Sunday morning – with those hardy souls that stayed until Monday greeted with the perverse sight of clear blue skies and sunshine.

It hardly mattered for the near 32,500 fans that made their way to Thomas Cosby’s fields on the Stradbally plains, as those that pilgrimage regularly to the ‘Picnic’ were just relieved to be back, and those that were experiencing the music and arts extravaganza for the first time were wide eyed with wonder, some heard to mutter how they were simply “never attending Oxegen again”.

While the age profile may have met somewhere between the stereotypical notion of the Picnic and Oxegen being on opposite ends of the spectrum – certainly the mix of age was more noticeable this year – the fact that the organisers chose to extend the family campsite meant that many more free-running children were on display, a large crowd of whom were seen crafting toy swords in the Soul Kids area on Saturday, with an exciting series of duels taking place afterward.

Oxegen also scooped some of the top-of-bill acts that would have been more at home at Electric Picnic, and Friday’s line-up in particular was a bit hit and miss.

Main stage acts MGMT and a reformed Orbital failed to galvanise the huge crowds that greeted them, while even Zero 7 failed to turn in an impassioned performance. However, the acts on the fringes more than compensated, Villagers performing to a handful of well-rewarded fans on the Body and Soul stage and hip-hop crew Major Lazer turning in one of the gigs of the weekend by welcoming half of the crowd in the Little Big Tent onto the stage for their finale.

Comic Limerick rap duo The Rubberbandits later packed out this same tent, drawing huge cheers for their inspired blend of rap, hip-hop and showmanship, magicians, people dressed as drug paraphernalia and the Gardai drawing huge cheers.

On Saturday afternoon Ryan Tubridy made his way to the Leviathan area of the Mind Field – a large area that included the Literary and Theatre stages. Tubridy – fresh from his first Late Late appearance – hosted a festival revue, with a bizarre line-up of guests, including former TV3 presenter Lorraine Keane, and was later seen by the Leader in the VIP area nodding his head to the engaging strains of Madness, performing nearby on the Main Stage.

Ska trio White Cholera – featuring David Blake, from Limerick band the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra – performed on the Leviathan stage on Friday and Saturday night, drawing wild applause for their equally wild set.

Back out in the main site, the Tulla Ceili Band played the first of two gigs on the Body and Soul stage, first performing at 4pm and returning almost 12 hours later to close the stage, to the delight of the huge crowd present.

In between East London neo-folk band Tunng impressed on the main stage, while Lisa Hannigan looked a bit lost on the mammoth stage, but then she has played on every other stage and her success warranted such a slot. Limerick duo Size2Shoes played a Saturday lunchtime gig on the bandstand in the middle of the site, the O’Suilleabhain brothers professing their delight at playing at the festival afterward.

A large crowd gathered to hear fellow Limerick band Nick Carswell and the Elective Orchestra perform on the Tree Stage in Body and Soul on Saturday evening – and were moved to a standing ovation for final song From the Ground Up after a passionate and exuberant performance.

Brian Wilson lit up the arena on Saturday night through the strength of the set-list on offer, a Beach Boys greatest hits collection that almost made one forget they were listening in a muddy field in Laois. Wilson and his band The Wondermints brought the house down with spine-tingling performances of Good Vibrations and Surfin’ USA.

Although campers awoke to rain on Sunday morning – causing some to leave for home – the afternoon stayed dry and the evening boasted some of the best music on offer of the weekend, stellar performances from Florence and the Machine, Fleet Foxes, Bell X1 and Basement Jaxx delighting fans, while electro-pop outfit Passion Pit played what many termed the gig of the weekend.

Another superb year for Electric Picnic, despite the weather, and let us hope that organisers keep with the boutique, quirky nature of this festival for as long as possible.

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