Festival Flashback: Electric Picnic

As the wellies, tents and (for some utter clowns) Native American headdresses are packed away for another year, Sean Hayes takes a look back at Marlay Park’s Longitude festival, in the last of a series on the best Irish festivals that took place over the summer.

ELECTRIC PICNIC: 29th – 31st August 2014

NOW ENTERING ITS second decade, Electric Picnic has become an essential weekend for any avid festival goer. As some 40,000 campers poured into Stradbally, there was only one question in mind. “Where is the best place to camp?” This question was usually answered with “Do you want to sleep or not?” The consensus was unanimous, Janis Joplin was for the sleepers while Jimi Hendrix was for those looking for three days of non-stop celebration.

Friday’s rain did little to dampen the mood of the crowds as all stages played host to a wide range of diverse and eclectic names. If Longitude was accused of marketing to a younger crowd, Electric Picnic certainly capitalised on attracting a more mature audience.

Friday’s main stage welcomed the veteran names of Blondie and Pet Shop Boys. While both acts played energetic and well-received sets, Debbie Harry’s (of Blondie) dance moves resembled that of an embarrassing uncle at a family wedding. Foals, on the other hand, stayed true to their reputation and grabbed the attention of the crowd with an absolutely exhilarating and energetic show.

The weather improved on Saturday and with it, the line-up seemed only to get better. The extensive list led to heartbreaking and relationship-testing decisions having to be made as to who go and see.

Local bands Spies and We Cut Corners played impressive sets in the Little Big Tent and Heineken Electric Arena respectively, while Cathy Davey played a relaxed and laid back set on the Rankin’s Wood Stage.

Saturday’s Main Stage played host to a wide number of big names including Hozier, who attracted the largest crowd of the festival, and Paolo Nutini. Bombay Bicycle Club played a show for all ages. In the audience, one could see a greying man as he sang every word while, a few rows further in, two little girls dressed in princess dresses and matching crowns danced with everything they had.

Similarly, in the Heineken Electric Arena, London Grammar and James Vincent McMorrow played captivating shows. London Grammar chose a ‘favorite member of the audience’, allowing the crazed fan to come back stage and meet them after the show.

The festival proved popular with parents, their children already more hip and cooler than any of the more try-hard festival goers could ever wish to be. Festival toddlers had no need for face-paints or (God forbid) Native American headdresses. They were happy to be carted around in painted mini-wagons, their look completed with protective headphones and a slight look of bewilderment.

Sunday morning welcomed the Dublin Gospel Choir to the Main Stage for those who were up and about (or not gone to sleep yet) while later on, Sinead O’Connor sang a mix of both new and old material. Her performance was slightly hindered by her continuously asking for the mic to be turned up, despite an agreed feeling from the audience that there nothing wrong with the sound.

The Heineken Electric Arena played host to The 1975, who were screamed at by most of the teenage females at the festival. A bedraggled looking Matty Healy relished the attention, swigging from a wine bottle and lighting up a cigarette on stage, truly believing himself to be some kind of new James Dean.

Lily Allen also played a stand-out set and was a highlight of the festival. She (at times quite literally) gave two fingers to the other acts who had graced the stage before her and fully embraced her mainstream pop background, getting the audience to take out their mobile phones and encoring female audience members to “shake it”. Her performance, however, was refreshing as a result and welcomed by a crowd of ecstatic youth and slightly shocked elders.

As the clouds came over Stradbally once again, Beck and OutKast closed the three day festival with electrifying displays of stage lights and energetic performances in front of a delighted crowd. Electric Picnic’s eclectic line-up for both young and old, family friendly atmosphere and wide range of other various activates cemented its place as Ireland’s premier music festival this summer.

Verdict: It will be exciting to see how EP organisers can outdo themselves after this year.