As day three dawns it’s a case of Sunday morning bleeding mercilessly into Sunday afternoon and a pinch of the old heavy heads as we take in Old Hannah aboard the good ship Salty Dog. Southern Gothic has never been so warming as the americana-folk outfit let their rhythmic alt-country wash over our ever-so-slightly pummelled brains. So far, Electric Picnic has been a trip, but, what else could you expect?
There’s more in the way of remedy to take in, and so it’s to the main stage for some musical novocaine and sonic group hug therapy in the shape of Toots and the Maytals. The Dublin Gospel Choir are finishing up their by now well established slot as openers of the day’s festivities on the main stage by the time we arrive, and judging by the chilled out vibe they seem to have hit the delicate mark of soothing the sore heads of those facing into their third day and welcoming those very clean and sprightly looking Johnny and Jane Come-Latelys in all their Sunday ticket finery. Day Trippers..
Thankfully the sun gods, though not quite shining on us, are keeping the rain and drizzle at bay as Toots opens up with ‘Pressure Drop’. It’s enough to get the old school mods, modettes and skins assembled in the crowd up and skanking. ‘Funky Kinston’ and ’54-46 That’s My Number’ proves that not only is there life still left in Toots but that there may be some left in our legs too. This is Sunday, the sermon is in full swing, and we’re surrounded by our brethren and sistren. If there’s a finer place to be on this great big planet, this early on a Sunday, it’s yet to be discovered. Testify.
A step outside of the main thoroughfares and there’s a noticeable, yet welcome, decline in footfall. Be it Saturday’s downpours, Sunday’s hangovers, or a general malaise having set in from two consecutive days of visceral enthusiasm, Electric Picnic’s numbers have today dwindled and somewhat dispersed – home comforts perhaps being too much of an appealing alternative. Nevertheless, there’s still a palpable buzz in the air, and checking in to Body & Soul between State’s Oxjam shenanigans (the good gospel here) proves fruitful not only for our own musical cravings, but for the crowds gathered for the Sing Along Social, Niamh Regan, and later Elm – all of whom seem to have plenty of eyes locked and ears perked for their offerings.
Rankin Woods is well and truly in the palm of Jehnny Beth by the time we make it to Savages. She’s pretty damn near peerless as a front (male or female) and is mesmerising to watch, striding across the stage, full of swagger and menace, channelling Bowie, Patti Smith, Nick Cave et all and sounding like a lean and mean Siouxsie Sioux in the process. The intensity continues to rise and climaxes with ‘Fuckers’ and her repeated instruction of “Don’t let the fuckers get you down” as she is held aloft by the front rows, standing in an Iggy-esque pose, tall and proud in all her leather clad Gallic glory. Savage by name, savage by nature. A lie down might be in order after this.
It feels like a case of once more into the breach as this Citizen State hauls its by now very weary ass over to the main stage for New Order. The darkening arena is filling up as we gingerly navigate our way through the not so golden hordes and traverse the now seemingly endless and thronged expanse of the site. Our expedition is soundtracked by the non-stop cacophony of a thousand sound clashes emanating from the bountiful selection of food stalls, oxygen bars, tattoo parlours, and what-ever-you’re-having-yourself as the hawkers vie for the gawkers’ attention in an attempt to squeeze the last few euros and cents out of us before we’re ejected and re-birthed anew as non-festival, broken folk in the morn. If that sounds cynical it ain’t, this is the festival life, we’re here by choice, we’ll be back next year and by sweet baby jebus do we love it.
With the light declining and the behemoth that is EP flexing and steeling itself for one final bacchanalian assault of music and dance, the lights sparkle and tango, melding with the soundscape to form an endless Babylonian stream that bombards and beats the senses into submission. It’s all very reminiscent of one of the chaotic cityscapes from Scott’s Blade Runner with shades of the final scenes of Apocalypse Now with Jim Morrison singing us out. “This is the end” indeed, sort of.
New Order play a career spanning and audience pleasing set and in keeping with the festie vibe they’ve added plenty of whomp to the bass on tracks like ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ to give it an added four-to-the-floor-in-the-mud feel in an attempt to keep the great unwashed bopping. They make like bandits for the home straight with a triple play of ‘True Faith’, ‘Blue Monday’ and a stonking ‘Temptation’. ‘Blue Monday’ is quite simply stunning as its stripped back proto-house, austere beauty fills the arena. As we get sustenance and substance from the music and as our tired eyes lap up the visuals on stage all thoughts of our own impending blue Monday are banished.
The drizzle inevitably turns to rain as Bernard and co leave us with ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. For some unfathomable reason New Order have reworked this anthem of the disaffected into a near bombastic rock-out – its triumphant move from a minor to a major key gives it a feel more akin to stadium rock than bedsit indie postpunk. The song is robbed of its original melancholic and understated magnificence. New Order and the weather gods are literally pissing on our parade at this stage.
Soon after, and as if caught up in the noir style of her silver screen vision, the skies open for the return of Lana Del Rey. The rain falls in crystal sheets glossing and misting up the main stage cameras to fuzzy, Vaseline effects as the Saddest Girl in the World walks out in black and white. The neon lights in cursive spell out her stage surname like a Sands hotel supper club, the moss green curtain unveils the Valley of the Dolls floor show. She cracks a smile in her pristine party dress, accompanied by a full band replete with two dancing girls and mournfully crashes into ‘Cruel World’. This is the Lana show that never was. Two years ago she seemed dulled, a medicated Stepford Wife bored by a set list that trotted through the same mix of her debut with a smattering of newer work that she’d been performing since 2012, the cracks and fatigue were showing.
Now with a broader back catalogue and having seemingly made peace with the pitch-black beauty of the Ultraviolence album she lets tracks from it and Honeymoon fall like a broken string of pearls. She seems almost relieved, admitting she was happy to be back and for once looking like it too, filing in line with her dancers, giggling and twirling like a runner up in a small town beauty pageant.
After the surprise thrill of ‘Cruel World’, its low-level menacing thrum escalating into a stormy crescendo of duelling guitars and drums, it’s followed by the witty, misunderstood brilliance of ‘Cola’. The power of hundreds of drenched girls, flower crowns dripping into their perfectly made-up faces screaming “My pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola” into the night seems like a force of nature, an act of purest rebellion and freedom, the kind of full-blooded hysteria that headliners like The 1975 could only dream about igniting in their fans.
It’s those girls that press themselves up against the barrier, desperate to be noticed, it’s the girls that chant her name over and over, and they fuel this performance. Boys and men circle the crowd on the outskirts bemused by this cult. The girls cling to her image; her tales of commonplace unhappiness, Lana is filled with meaning for her devotees because she is our worst behaviour pushed out centre stage. She doesn’t demand that her audience be strong or beyond reproach, she whispers stories of having a heart of tar, of messing up and failing, of falling short of being the good girl ideal time and time again.
Behind all the Instagram poses and bleached out smiles that blind, under the heavy spotlight she divulges those moments of transgression, the bitterest of midnight truths spill. It’s the unhappy, subjugation of ‘Ultraviolence’, the youthful fatalistic romance entwined in ‘Born to Die’, the blank apathy of ‘High by the Beach’ – every song hits like a sucker punch under the bruised purple sky. They are an acknowledgment of the vulnerability of being a girl navigating the minefield of love and lust in a world where they must constantly perform for each other.
Lana performs for all of them. The Patron Saint of Bad Girl Blues, in the driving rain, icy shards swirling through the wind, her voice of pure velvet purrs through the irony of ‘Summertime Sadness’ and a cute acoustic version of ‘Video Games’, where rain mixes with tears on upturned faces. She clutches her old-school Flying V guitar and picks out the haunting yodel of ‘Yayo’ through frozen fingers apologising for her playing, intoning “Let me put on a show for you” like a deathbed promise.
Flinging a bouquet out to the audience through the pounding finale of the juiced up ‘Off to the Races’ at last she clambers from her perch and reaches right into the crowd, touching faces, taking selfies, beatifically benign, a David LaChappelle depiction of an El Greco painting, she moves along the front row until she looks like their reflection. Hair stuck to her face, dress soaked right through, she was one of them for one unforgettable, magical moment and then she was gone.
New Order & Electric Picnic 2016 photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko.