You bring so much gear with you for three days! The little Corsa struggles to Stradbally in the delicate sun. That said, we could probably reduce down the load slightly by not bringing a six man tent for two people, complete with large canopy. I really hope the scouts are easy to find because if we can’t get them to put up the tent, I’ll probably just be settling the ground sheet come Monday morning. The Sun teases us, disappearing, only to reappear. Nobody mention the weather, if we talk about it, it will go away for real.
The Vector still cuts a massive silhouette on the horizon of the Charlie Chaplin camp-site. We manage to get it erected in record time. The extra space is a nice luxury. Though one works up quite the appetite doing so, and eight ham and cheese sandwiches later we’re capable of heading into the main arena to see what the organisers of The Irish festival have in store for us.
Electric Picnic is like nowhere else. So much going on, so many surreal concepts and wonderful creations. All access would put any crowd at ease and you really feel like you have it here. There’s a banter with security you don’t usually experience, and the attendees seem to look out for one another. Our first intro is a crashed bus, dug into the ground inside the main entrance. That and ‘The Best Pulled Pork’, apparently, a fine pulled pork sandwich with jalapeno, crispy onions and lettuce. It’s pretty good, but I won’t be ceasing the search just yet.
Musically, we see a couple of bits here and there to start. Really while we wait for Buffalo Sunn on The Salty Dog Stage. The perfect easing into the festival. An hour set, not too long, not too short. Just a shame they don’t play ‘Witches’. That was Sweet Jane I guess, but pretty much the same band. Oh well. We head back to Charlie Chaplin for a few cans of moderately cold beer before we get back into the arena proper for the night.
When we arrive at the security check en route to the main arena, there’s a queue and after about 10 minutes we haven’t really moved. So, keeping an eye on the distracted sentry guard on the exit side, I pop the barrier and we dash into the venue past security. Boom. Just as well too, it would have been a real shame to miss My Morning Jacket, who are captivating. They drag you into the music. The seemingly tiny confines of the Electric Arena tent struggling to hold the roof on as ‘Wordless Chorus’ flows over the crowd. Beautiful. Belle and Sebastian are up next. They’re enthusiastic, and the music isn’t bad, but we’re just not feeling it. So after a few tunes we move on for a wee jive in Tokyo and Heineken’s Sound Atlas. Shit is pumping up in here. The bars are open till 1 a.m. but at €6.20 a beer, you’d not be doing too much boozing. We rather quickly have our fill of pumping dance tunes and head to Body & Soul to sit in the warmth of a fire pit and save a girl from falling in. The percentage of very drunk people is ever increasing so we make a move back to the tent at the relatively decent hour of 12:30a.m. The only regret being that we can’t bring the fire pit with us.
We wake to the sound of Blur doing a sound check. I wander into the Oscar Wilde camp-site to grab a coffee. Anything but grab though, as for ten minutes the queue doesn’t move and I give up and head back for our peanut butter, rye cracker and banana breakfast. I’ll make a second attempt for a coffee later.
After a quick clean up and some relaxing post breakfast, we head for a stroll through the Jimi Hendrix camp-site, and on into the main arena. At The Brew Crew we queue for a coffee. Their statement is bold, ‘Our coffee is an experience that chalk is unable to convey’. The experience being, you get to queue while they train their staff, on day two of the festival. All for a cappuccino that’s more like a weak Americano with some slightly warmed milk. Thanks Brew Crew, we’ll chalk that one up to experience.
The venue is packed with areas, tents and wooden structures to explore. The Literature area has a very funny Q & A, and while we laugh at the author as he paints a brilliantly detailed portrait of the courtship of his wife, we have no idea who he is and move on without ever asking that question. There is almost an overwhelming amount of things to see, the barrel is most definitely scrapped as we catch a man thatching a roof (he may have just been doing actual work, and have had nothing to do with the festival) and some chumps paying about €20 to knock a middle out of some flint. Takes all sorts I suppose.
Lunch comprises of a gourmet, foot long sausage and fried potatoes. All for the princely sum of €10, and enough to feed the both of us. On our way back to the tent for our early thirty year old necessary nap, we see Trinitones, an a cappella formed in 2012. I’m not quite sure why that is relevant, but at least three of the many lads on stage mentioned it. They are very good, when their microphones are on! A noticeable silence for one or two solos as the sound guy must have been in the queue for the gents toilets.
We relax over a couple of beers back at the tent, before smuggling our wine into the comedy tent for Daniel Sloss, a controversial and good comedian. Several of the audience finding his humour a little too edgy and walking out. All very noticeable when the whole crowd is sitting on the grass and they need to excuse themselves through the picnic blankets. Terry Alderton follows and he’s not for me.
The Electric Arena hosts The War on Drugs at 19:15. They are brilliant. A stunning performance of an incredible collection of songs. A very satisfied crowd leaves under protest.
We’ve left it late for food, and end up aimlessly attempting to navigate the queues. I end up with an average burrito which makes me feel a little ill and Orla orders a chicken fillet burger from a different vendor (which turns out to be two chicken goujons in a bun). She promptly changes her order to a beef burger but there is no way either of us won’t regret our meals here and it’s damage limitation. The queues are ridiculous.
We check out Sam Smith on the main stage with all the kids. We’re quickly losing our enthusiasm and there’s only so much alcohol can push you through. We end up arriving at one, overwhelming conclusion; Fuck Blur. Both of us discovering we don’t really have any interest. Eventually realising we’re actually going to see them because other people like them. I really tried in the weeks leading up to Electric Picnic, and Orla tried even harder than I did, to listen and familiarise myself with the music of Blur. I just ended up listening to Gorillaz every time. Long story short, we head to Shamir instead. A Las Vegas native with a bizarre voice, who reminds me of Chris Tucker in The 5th Element, but really quite good. So much so, that I note the name and even check them out when we get back to civilisation. I preferred the show. I will not be buying the album.
We’re back around 1 a.m. and asleep pretty quickly. But, alas, we’re woken at around 5a.m. while some people next to our tent have a bit of a session. I wouldn’t mind ordinarily, but we are subjected to the most annoying girl continuously attempting to remember the film ‘White Chicks’ without success. It seems incredibly important to her that she does remember, however, because, you know, she thinks it’s such a like, funny film. She seems genuine too. She ends up making some pretty distasteful and ill-informed remarks about Syrian refugees with a resulting silence from the rest of her tent mates. She doesn’t ‘really mean that’ though. Probably more as a result of the reaction rather than the morality of it all.
Commencing with a nice long stand in a queue for an hour for coffee. I love a good queue. It seems like they may have underestimate the number of people attending Electric Picnic. Which is strange, because the organisers are the very ones who should have that information. Anyway, the chap inside the mobile coffee machine pokes his head out, sheepishly, and states that the steamer is broken. No more cappuccinos or lattes. I scurry away with the last two, the girl handing them to me as the announcement is made to the sounds of groans and even one gentlemen shouting ‘ah, fuck off!’ I’d like to say they were worth the €3 price tag but…….
After breakfast, and a nice cold-water wash, we aim for the Trailer Park to see The Dublin Ukulele Collective. There isn’t a soul in the crowd without a smile on their face. Wonderful stuff. We’re sad to see them finish, and we’re not the only ones. As a consolation, I try my first corn dog. Surprisingly tasty. The hot dog inside is good, but the corn bread on the outside is outrageously delicious.
We treat ourselves to a coffee in The Global Green area for €3.50. They get lucky, it’s a damn fine coffee. It’s funny how quickly you settle into the way of things at a festival like this. You just start living this way until you go home and don’t have to or can’t any more. The wandering, relaxed attitude to everything. Time is only important because the bands need some indication of when they should start and then stop playing. Otherwise it’s pointless.
On our way ‘home’ for our mid-day lay about we finally get a falafel wrap, having both seen and smelled them with jealousy all day Saturday. Absolutely delicious, worth the wait. Unless you’re just going to eat them all weekend, which I would recommend, then you don’t need to wait. I get to finish Orla’s too as they’re massive. The perfect set up. Still on our way back, but fed now, we check out The Academic on the Other Voices stage. It’s a great venue in the woods. Set up like an old tin church. The band are rocking the place and there’s an overflow of people as they pack into arguably the finest venue here.
Back at base camp for a lie down and some snacks before heading in, wine and all, to see Interpol. The security is far more lax today. Basically no checks, we could have just walked in with the glass bottle of wine, and not the River Rock plastic bottle of wine shoved down my pants. Interpol are fantastic. The crowd is very calm and just dancing, loving the music. You can see Paul Banks appreciate the atmosphere and the chorus from the crowd with a very subtle smile. A lot for a man of little expression I’d imagine. The fire pit in Body & Soul calls us back for an hour or so in between Interpol and Manic Street Preachers. I’m not familiar with Manic Street Preachers at all really, the odd track, but they would make you want to get familiar. A great show.
Back to the main stage for Florence + The Machine, we start out in the special 3 area, where the sound is terrible so we move down to the dangerous crowd. Which is manic with anger and lacking in all consideration. Florence + The Machine were very good, her voice is just mind bending it’s so perfect for what they do, but the crowd put you on edge throughout. Too many people not able to just relax and enjoy the final stages of the festival. It’s like being in a pub at times, music in the background and constant conversation. Strange chains of people barging their way through the crowd. Making their movement more awkward. You wonder why people bother sometimes, a festival is a lot of effort for a chat and a walk. We make our way through the Trailer Park for a second corn dog, but the stand is closed and on stage is a sort of pastiche to Red Hot Chili Peppers. Within the crowd there are some very wasted looking faces. Here are people having a good time, without the need to inflict themselves on others.
There is no day 4 in reality. It’s just a day in which you work out what happened? Where did the year, and the festival, go? All this while tearing down your accommodation and being defeated by tent pegs. It really teaches a man his place in the world.