We have an admission. Despite what we claimed in our review, our Saturday night didn’t actually end in Despacio. We found what we were looking for in the Together Disco again and then afterwards, with the most amount of people in the smallest space of Juke Joint, we saw the night down and the sun almost up. Thus we’re more resembling pieces of people rather than whole units at this point. It’s not the day to deal with it either, as the influx of enthusiastic day trippers makes the site even busier still, especially around the main areas – although oddly some of the smaller stages are quieter than ever.
Jurassic 5 are certainly an act to benefit from this effect early on, drawing a crowd to the Main Stage that swells their fanbase with curious onlookers. They’ve picked the right band though, as this is as good as it gets. While they may not be offering hit after hit, their energy and sheer enthusiasm carries everyone along and ‘Concrete Schoolyard’ adds a mass singalong to the mix. While it’s doubtful whether many will go home and check out their back catalogue, they have been thoroughly entertained.
Playing in a tent right next to a big screen showing the All Ireland final probably isn’t the best set of circumstances for a relatively unknown band, especially if – like Girlpool – you don’t have the most dominant of sounds. Yet maybe that’s what makes their Little Big Tent appearance such a treat. One bass, one guitar and two soaring punk rock vocals are absolutely all they need, the less is more approach personified. Their tunes are great too, which always helps, but we really could have done without the crazed back projections on the huge screen (not their idea we suspect).
There’s always a few heritage acts across a Stradbally weekend, and the Boomtown Rats arrive to a suitably warm welcome. So far so good, but it all starts to go wrong when Bob Geldolf opens his mouth. His singing’s not the problem mind, it’s the bits inbetween where things go arry. His foul mouthed bravado – claims to be the best rock ‘n’ roll band Ireland has ever produced – sound a bit forced and in general he tries too hard to still be the classic punk frontman. The songs, however, are still killer and perhaps Geldolf would do wise to let the music do the talking. It doesn’t help that, across the field, a young band are playing with a genuinely dangerous edge. Fat White Family may have played up their outsider status but they are brilliant today, fucked off and furious and fronted by a young man with arrogant charisma. Remind you of anyone?
A quick look at MS MR doling out some easily digestible pop in Rankin’s Wood brightens the corners, and warms us somewhat for an early assault on the dancing muscles. Django Django just get fuller and louder and better the more we see them. A solid crowd are in the Electric Arena and there is WAY more movement than this Sunday expected. It’s like we’re all transported to a second Saturday night for an hour. All killer, there’s a predictable and hugely enjoyable moment when ‘Waveforms’ drops, just after we bump into our own Saturday night random crew, back dancing as hard as ever.
Having already delivered a memorable set with the Redneck Manifesto on Friday night, Richie Egan is obviously on a roll and now steps up in his Jape guise. Adding backing vocals and the Booka Brass Band (also having a pretty busy weekend), the EP veteran has rarely been better. It’s an up and at them approach that works a bit better in this setting than Villagers’ more subdued sound, which is undoubtedly beautiful but gets a little lost when you’re watching from the back of a huge tent. You find yourself wishing that you could see him somewhere intimate, which luckily we do when he plays solo at Cathy Davey’s My Lovely Ranch at midnight – performing a selection of heart melting covers.
The greedy Interpol are not happy with the Irish giving them three amazing days in the Olympia in February, but have landed the Picnic as the gig to close their 18 months of touring. Black-clad cool as ever, they must battle the bright evening. The set is back to an Interpol of old. Detached and somewhat unenergised, perhaps they are tired or need the cloak of darkness and the embrace of venue walls to really shine. They service the tracks with enough gusto, and Daniel Kessler does seem lost in the moment as the set warms up and dusk creeps in. It’s over too soon leaving plenty pleading for ’NOT EVEN JAIL’! and other skipped favourites, Interpol happy to leave them wanting more.
Unlike many of those here today, we’re aware of what’s happening in the far flung corners of the site so take a spin to find the usual selection of gems, hidden or otherwise. Homebeat’s curation of the Oxjam tent is going nicely, especially when Æ MAK come into our lives. Bouncing along on a tUnE-yArDs style backing, we’re officially smitten – as we are by Staring At Lakes’ delicate ambience on the Body & Soul Earthship stage. Young Wonder have had a quieter year than you might have expected following their superb debut album, yet their B&S Main Stage slot is a reminder of just how special they are.
Back at the main arena a crack of guitar, a “hello” turn us from the bar in enough time to see Manic Street Preachers catapult into ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’. From the first blast of light into the now dark air, there is something especially energised in them tonight. Perhaps a most perfect of stage slots, they wasted none of this opportunity. Not taking a breath and pirouetting through a clutch of tracks we hit ‘From Despair to Where’ then into ‘La Tristesse Durera’ and you forget how great the splintering boom of Bradfield’s guitar kicking in after the first verse is, and his solo after the second. With State’s recent Manics related podcast in our minds from Friday’s journey down, we are just falling head over heels here. And mass singalongs can be carved from hollow enough moments, but the passion and purpose of their closer pumps the heart fast enough to belt it out. ”…we are told that this is the end. A. Design. For. Life’. Triumph.
If you needed proof that this is an Irish festival (negating all those ‘Irish bands to see’ previews), check out the number of home grown bands closing stages across the site. In the main arena, Girl Band are up first bringing to an end what’s been a noisy day on the Cosby Stage. They’re certainly impressively vicious, but we’re afraid we just don’t get it. As Fat White Family proved earlier, this kind of stuff needs substance to back it up and we can’t find it here. We even try again later on the Salty Dog stage, but we’ll have to stay in the minority. You can always rely on Le Galaxie to deliver the goods, however, with every big show feeling like an event and given a subtle makeover. Tonight we’re talking Segways, white suits and a party atmosphere that you’d be pushed to replicate – unless you’re at Hare Squead or King Kong Company of course.
Florence + The Machine are giving it a good go though. We’ll report back in more depth from their 3Arena show this week, yet suffice to say this has been the first EP in a while where all three headliners have delivered the goods, and Welch is probably the pick of the bunch. You could argue that if you saw her at Glastonbury this was virtually identical (even down to the song introductions) but that’s the curse of the modern age and we say that you should just chill out, wave some clothing above your head and enjoy it. Paranoid at a rush on the Tame Impala tent we are early and well located for an act that have erupted in the last months, making this appearance more special by the day. An intro focusses us in and the typically tardy are racing in to get a spot, then the intro gives way to that beat-of-the-summer and ‘Let It Happen’ is pounded out, maybe even a bit too soon. Still, the Sunday crowd are on point and you can hear the voices rise up. The trippy, swirling visuals at the core of the psychedelic sounds. And the song rises back into itself and we cut loose.
Glowing with joy on stage, this weekend’s crowd have been feeding the bands the most consistently amazing vibes for three days and still it goes. A slow, deliberate song, when the lights light up for the chorus the ENTIRE tent sing “EVENTUALLY!, Ah ah ah ah” and the spine just tingles to be part of the crowd. The band must be delirious.The sound, as per every stage all weekend, is astounding and we don’t miss a note. As we near the close, Kevin Parker gets control of a huge balloon and launches it as he kicks off ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’. As we sway along, sing along and drink in these final big-stage moments, we are almost ready to let it go. A Picnic that once you were there in front of a stage and not trying to find an exit, a taxi, or how to get to your campsite, you were in constant heaven.
Reporting: Simon Roche & Phil Udell. Photo: Olga Kuzmenko