Of course it’s sunny as we arrive back on site on day two of the Electric Picnic, it’s shaping up to be that kind of a weekend. It’s still early so we take the opportunity to have a wander around some of the site’s fringe areas. Trenchtown is just coming to life but already there’s a nice vibe developing, while Trailer Park has already gathered quite a crowd – most of them in front of the main stage where the High Hopes Choir are kicking us off in the best way possible. Just over the way at Salty Dog we find another vocal group, the Trinitones, who could be straight out of Pitch Perfect.
Much as we love We Cut Corners on record, they’ve either amazed us live or sometimes left us cold. Thankfully, on the big stage of Rankin’s Wood, they are more the former than the latter. Their large duo sound is even larger today and that extra punch sees them through, striking a nice balance with their more delicate moments and even throwing in a fantastic cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’. Now to back to the business of album number three.
Having been intrigued, if not blown away, by Joni’s Body & Soul performance yesterday we decide to have another go in the Little Big Tent. The results are somewhat the same, although we find ourselves warming to her quirky performance style – one that almost reminds us of Madonna’s debut on the Tube. With only an anonymous onstage partner behind a laptop for company, she’s not quite up for carrying the entire endeavour but the tunes are already well in place. She certainly holds her own against the lauded Kwamie Liv, who is certainly far more polished yet almost entirely lacking in charm, and Kwabs’ far too smooth take on urban soul.
We have had ears soothed by Nialler9 DJing in the Glasshouse, we’ve had our tea and cake in State’s defacto base the Tiny Tea hut, a staple at this festival and a lifeline into day two, and we truly know we’re at a music festival when the early morning pastoral sounds to follow this come at 4:45pm. Paul Noonan’s Printer Clips project has himself and a mirage-like Gemma Hayes robed in white, playing quiet guitar songs to a crowd happy to be seated. A ridiculously pleasant aside to the day, we get a Bell X1 track, and one of Gemma’s too and must leave the moment of bliss because Summer is coming on the 5:15.
Samuel T. Herring has vanquished the clouds. The sun is out and Future Islands are kicking us to life. The man is a narrative in his motions, and just keeps rising and rising the mood. The bright light suits them so well today, and as good as you ever saw them play ‘Seasons’, under a blue sky moment, with warm sun on faces we get a five minute long, full-hearted Summer to treasure. Mac DeMarco is also a treasure. We swear we can hear some gold seam of yacht-rock in there (he calls it jizz jazz) but the off-kilter party he’s throwing in the Electric Arena makes you want to rush the front and get under his stage dive. Addictive joy.
Following the wonderfulness of what precedes is never going to be easy but, even still, George Ezra manages to suck the life out of the place. The first big ‘pop star’ of the weekend, he’s depressingly dull and has settled all too quickly into the middle of the road. Some of the songs are nice enough but this really isn’t what we need right now.
This time last year Bitch Falcon (or Girl Dog Falcon as one of the younger members of our party renames them) were closing out the Oxjam tent for us at 3am in chaotic fashion. Twelve months later and they’ve upgraded to the Body & Soul Main Stage in a more refined late afternoon slot. Perhaps no surprise then that this is an exercise in controlled power, a persona that increasingly suits them. Gone is the slightly goofy approach to stage craft that let them down in the past, replaced by a cool as you like demeanour that matches their music perfectly. You suspect that EP ’16 will find them in even larger surroundings again. Back at the Tiny Tea Tent for a breather, the sound of hip-hop catches our ears from across the grass. On closer inspection it’s being made by a punky looking guy, the female singer who had joined Dah Jevu on stage at Oxjam the previous night and a laptop. Joined by a guitarist and drummer as the set progresses, we’re completely drawn in and, by the end, reckon that Anti-One might just be our answer to B Dolan and Sage Francis.
There is a fizz in the air back at Electric Arena as it’s time for The War on Drugs. The many fans who didn’t get to that small Vicar St show last year bring an anticipation into the tent and by the time we hit ‘Red Eyes’ there’s an energy cycle going from the crowd to the band (Adam Granduciel in particular), and back. He licks off into a flailing solo, so alive so early in the set. In a whirlwind we’re lost in ‘Eyes to the Wind’, all souls pumped. All weekend bands finish by saying that the EP crowd are the best festival crowd they have ever experienced, and right here, though unsaid, you can almost see the sparks fly.
Putting Hot Chip on as the sun gives way to dark is a no brainer. It’s good that the band are also at the absolute peak of their live show existence. Drummer Sarah Jones now adding a better focus, and such a back catalogue to pick from too. We’re almost TOO happy. ‘One Life Stand’, ‘Over and Over’. No time to hit the bar. ‘Ready for the Floor’, and oh YES, ‘I Feel Better’. Your feet and endorphins belong to them. And as a cover of ‘Dancing in the Dark’ closes, Al Doyle takes us into a verse of his old band LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’ and it’s such a lift to the finish, with James Murphy mere metres away in his own Despacio tent.
Back in Trailer Park we’ve made a date to check out Third Smoke. We’re glad we did as they turn out to be one of our highlights of the weekend. Described in passing as “like Kodaline but not boring” there’s definitely a mass potential here but also a pleasantly off-the-wall edge. Another band who’ll be back next year on a bigger stage for sure.
Meltybrains? are one of the acts that we picked out as a highlight at the beginning of the Summer and the prospect of them under cover of the Body & Soul night is a mouth-watering one. It’s a shame then that it falls so flat. The expectation is certainly there on the crowd’s behalf but the band fail to match it, taking far too long to get going. Maybe it picks up, but we have a date with Fight Like Apes at the Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow. Their recent Latitude show was one of the best times we’ve seen them play and on home turf they’re even better. It’s total mayhem of course but would we have them any other way? If FLA began the year with something to prove, they’re ending it back up where they belong. Compared to the days of Feile, Electric Picnic must seem like another world to Sultans Of Ping FC. The band haven’t changed much though, despite their advancing years, and although the whole thing build inexorably towards that one song, when it kicks in the sheer joy that it invokes is actually quite moving.
Róisín Murphy shuffles out like an old lady but casts off the garbs and takes to one of many fantactic costumes to power through a set of Moloko and songs from her new Hairless Toys. Great capes, and a very smart pop aesthetic aside, she seems SO happy to be on Irish soil in front of a typically delirious crowd. While everyone is enjoying her finely crafted cocktail, the carton of milk lads are outside making people fall in love with them all over again. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people were expecting to be annoyed by Blur but one by one the doubters are won back. ’Out of Time’ gets some, ‘This is a Low’ others (like, HOW good is that song out loud over a summer field at night?). And the gold at the end of the rainbow, ‘The Universal’ takes us in. The band on form, Albarn visibly loving it and perhaps it all just pops free of the last mooring ropes of Britpop’s largery era.
Every nerdy music fan we met for the last 24 hours insisted we get the hell into Despacio, and with the benefit of those perfect moments of EP when you randomly bump into the people you totally want to spend the next few hours with, we move with a crew to the tent. Capped at 1000 capacity, in we get and sure there’s James Murphy and 2Many DJs rooting through crates of vinyl (for six hours a night, three nights). The idea of some DJs taking a tent around festivals is a novel one, but once inside there’s nothing tokenistic about it. We are immersed in the highest end of speaker stacks. There is nowhere bad to stand and no one is leering at the famous DJs because the music is just so unbelievably killer that everyone is dancing. Even the walls are build to enhance the sound. You can chat to the person next to you, yet still the music flows around you. All sorts of rare grooves keep you under the vast mirrorball. Just as we round-up the crew for the final march to Jon Hopkins, ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ drops. Best. Club. Ever.
So across the dusty, chaotic fields with us, herding our cats to arrive to lights, beats and pulses pouring out of Hopkins like lightning from The Emperor’s hands. We have seen his shows before, but now even heavier, even more intense like he’s just pushing us more each time. Dancers with trippy ever-moving hula hoops abound the stage, and Hopkins is building and adding on layers. A rapture of electronics, we almost burst with joy.
Dazed as we are, our uninitiated friends are staring into our eyes saying ‘holy shit’. Yeah, that was a good one. Only thing to do is take ourselves back to Despacio, swapping one group for another until we are under that disco ball again. Literally dancing the night away. One that couldn’t get any higher. Yet then, to close the tent, at 3:30am an as yet unreleased beat trickles out, then the vocal, “It’s always around me all this noise…” and we KNOW we are probably hearing Soulwax playing a Soulwax remix of Tame Impala’s ‘Let it Happen’ and the sun, moon and stars join the disco ball, and we reach for them all. 10 long minutes of right place, right time, right tune genius. No more running around today. Everything just stopped at perfect.
Reporting: Simon Roche & Phil Udell. Photo: Olga Kuzmenko