It’s certainly bigger, but is the Electric Picnic getting better? Standing alone on the Irish festival circuit, you sense that those behind the Stradbally gathering could rest on their laurels but the 2014 edition suggested that this isn’t the case. Still very much an event of two halves (Main Stage and the various big tops against Body & Soul, Trailer Park and a host of smaller spots, including the State curated Oxjam tent), it manages to combine the big hitters with the up and coming, as well as the completely out there. Long may it continue.
Here’s what captured our imagination over the three days….
Alice Boman – Body & Soul
Pastoral electronica, perfectly timed for a bit of a sit-down before the madness, Boman’s stock of plaintive songs were wrapped in with a tidy band and some mournful brass, but she was just as plaintive when left on her own with her keys. A beautiful balm in the sleepy hollow of Body & Soul. (SR)
Blondie – Main Stage
The main draw of the day, uniting the young-at-heart remembering them the first time around and the youth who may have failed miserably at ‘Heart Of Glass’ on SingStar this century, Blondie – bar a few concessions to later material – deliver a hit-packed crowd pleaser. ‘Call Me’, ‘Maria’, ‘Rapture’, a cover of ‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party) and ‘Glass’ are all lapped up in these rockier live iterations and the sing along rarely stops. Debbie Harry remains largely stationary behind her long blonde wig and dark sunglasses but she allowed herself a bounce on the spot every now and then, knowing the main stage crowd are more than content to belt out this collection of disco/pop/rock gems in the presence of one of music’s great femme fatales. (GM)
Girl Band – Body & Soul Main Stage
On a Dublin-bound train coming back from last year’s Other Voices, conversation turned to new music, specifically Girl Band and their France 98 EP of a couple of years ago. The words ‘ones to watch’ may have been uttered. Nobody could have predicted just what a whirlwind of hype would envelope Girl Band in 2014 though. Since the release of ‘Lawman’ in January the four piece have been setting a torrid pace for themselves, and their set tonight feels very much like a culmination of their efforts this year. The track’s grinding, winding stomp sets the tone with battering intensity at a premium. It’s a balls-out rock gig, the type of which is otherwise conspicuous in its absence today; just a brazen assault on the ears, but one that leaves this amphitheatre sweating and smiling. (GM)
Pet Shop Boys – Main Stage
There was a time when a festival headliner would simply have a few more lights than the rest of the acts on the bill, helped by nightfall to make an impression. Nowadays we get the full monty and none more so than with the Pet Shop Boys. In truth the subtleties of their theatrical extravaganza are probably better suited to more intimate surroundings but it’s still diverting, even if the band themselves are a little rough around the edges. By the time they reach the final straight of hits, though, it’s party time and day one is guaranteed an all singing, all dancing finale. (PU)
tUnE-yArDs – Body & Soul Main Stage
Merrill Garbus has an oddly androgynous shriek. It perches nicely atop the sophisticated patchwork of her music and is selectively unleashed when this rolling cacophony needs to be lifted to a more immersive level. Built on tUnE-yArDs latest effort, Nikki Nack, the set is an interlocking gem. Building to something electric it all comes together. It’s a primal jigsaw: limbs flail and teeth grind but every piece is placed with absolute precision. (GM)
Tvvins – Main Stage
Opening Electric Picnic this year are State favourites Tvvins. Persistent drizzle finally dies a death and the sun comes out, much to band’s delight and the tens amassed at the main stage. Six songs of shimmying funk, alien rock and danceable pop beauties. Conor Adams and Lar Kaye’s versatility really justifies Tvvins as the catch-all outlet that allows them freedom their first bands don’t. It’s all good fun and the perfect remedy to an arduous tent pitching session. (GM)