Well, the sun is out as the gates open, so it’s a good start considering we’re long overdue a solid dry Picnic. Straight away, it’s a throwback on the main stage under a blue sky. ABC are the sartorially sharp end of the ’80s pop spear. This is a decade you never need to prepare for. Sweeps of ideal pop, hooks you feel like you know (even on the few new numbers which obviously hark back to their golden Lexicon of Love days) and then the ones we DO know. Brass too. Suits. Swagger. And the shiniest pop sheen reflecting the sunlight over our heads.
Time to take in the site before the masses fill it – all 55,000 this year. Is it pushing the envelope? Too early to call yet as we still have acres to ourselves. In Electric Arena Broken Social Scene have whistled up a surprisingly large crowd and it feels oddly homecoming-y, in the tradition of great Canadian bands returning to the scene of previous intense festival gigs. There are a lot of them of course, so there’s a lot going on but out of the vocal and instrumental mist are those melodies, warm and familiar. Goading the crowd into a chant for Robbie Keane is a great twist. A Friday gem for those who beat the traffic and tent construction clock, and a gig to bring with you for the weekend like a lucky charm.
Dropping off the main site and into the womb-like Body & Soul area hollow for the first time is comforting. Add to this the dusk in the air and a full-band Talos weaving those deep, electronic-textured threads and sure you’d be made up. For those who only know Talos through the releases, the live show is a great engaging piece and like all good live shows, send the listener back to the recorded music with a fresh take in tow.
The 1975 on the main stage aren’t quite utilising the same technique – the songs are big, colourful pop propositions and they’re pulled off with vigour, but they’re album-perfect and there isn’t much in the way of differentiation. That’s not a terrible burden to bear, and the masses that have swollen before the main stage seem content. The 1975 do their thing, they do it well and it’s easy to see why they’ve got such a following. It’s getting crowded, and with dancing wellies adorned, the Electric Arena calls again.
Todd Terje has a bag full of disco bangers, and a laptop and one slide to project behind him. And that’s it really. One man and a laptop playing the party-est tunes, yet he looks like a freelancer in a coffee shop, and there have been amateur DJs in the corner of house parties play TT tunes with more engagement then the man himself. Finally, moving briefly to a mini keyboard to bring us ‘Inspector Norse’, the crowd he brought are ready to go for it and most definitely do, but as a live event it’s minimum effort and expenditure – an atmospheric dip that won’t last for long given the next port-of-call.
The complete opposite is perhaps one of EPs greatest efforts, and in this fairly dead year for breakthrough acts at the festival, it was to be a highlight. The RTÉ Concert orchestra playing ’90s dance anthems with 2FM’s Jenny Greene. While difficult to isolate the orchestra earlier in the set – Jenny’s beat track proves a bit overwhelming – we find our ears in the RAMMED arena. Then we picket out the peak of rave anthems, Faithless’ ‘Insomnia’ and its epic synth riff, now all strings. Our conductor turns around and pinches himself. Forget the BBC Proms, this is the RTÉ Creamfields. With a great singer in Gemma Sugrue well able for Rosala’s ‘Everybody’s Free’ amongst others, it proves a point this year: really fresh new talent on the tiny stages, and big old reliables in the big slots – the in-between filled with throwbacks and none more creative and appealing than this, the one that has 50 people on stage at once.
With the ground still reasonable to trod, and the night sky seemingly swallowing droves of the slack-jawed pre-cans brigade, it’s clear sailing to the mighty Chemical Brothers, and in typical Chems fashion, they deliver the goods, the hits, the occasionally terrifying visuals that you’ve seen every time you’ve seen them in the past four years, and it’s still achingly transcendental. Sing alongs are in abundance as ‘Push The Button’ and ‘Go’ are offered, limbs flail as ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’ and ‘Star Guitar’ ring through the air, and it’s pure, unbridled, slightly sentimental joy. They’re a festival’s safest bet, and there’s nothing wrong with that, right? Right.
You make your way through the first day, then make your way down the hollow at 2.30 am and there’s the brightest band-of-the-moment, All Tvvins, lighting up the evening. There’s a wrestling with some tech gremlins through the set, but that could all be brushed aside at the smallest hours of the morning in this location. There’s an interruption to a flow when the link between songs is spent fixing things on stage, but the new-born album sounds strong in this open night air.
With the bars and foodstalls long closed, and the gigs winding down, the perennially-reliable Jerry Fish’s Electric Sideshow tent is hosting a back-to-back from two of Dublin’s best party DJs, Billy Scurry and Kelly-Anne Byrne. And in the thick of it we see the night through, the good vibes of the picnic landing on everyone on this first fresh, dry night.