It was quite the night. And afternoon. And evening. State’s curation of the Oxjam tent at this year’s Electric Picnic took in a mighty twelve acts – all of whom could have graced any stage at the festival. Put together in once place, though, we like to think they contributed to one of the most vital spots on site during day one, something backed up by the continuing flow of audience through the tent.
EP ’15 seems to have barely begun when Ainé Cahill kicks us off in confident fashion, offering a nice twist on pop by introducing elements of artists from the ’40s to modern day. Indeed, what’s noticeable about all the acts today is how they bring something new to what could be a familiar template. On the folk and acoustic front, Old Hannah (playing the first of three shows across the weekend) are developing so fast that it’s hard to keep up. The addition of bass and drums has given them an extra kick that gets the place moving from the very first bars of ‘Matterhorn’ and the atmosphere that they create is so warm and welcoming that those smiles never leave us for half an hour.
Heroes In Hiding, meanwhile, are a more commercial proposition but none the worse for it. The mix of electronics with the organic instruments works well and there are some seriously impressive songs in there too. Nothing could have prepared us for the response that Seo Linn incite, as the tent becomes full to overflowing in double quick time – mostly it seems with teenage girls. Their angle, mostly pop covers played in a trad style and sung in Irish, has clearly got them a long way already but there’s a depth of talent here and we look forward to hearing them develop their own identity more. Whatever, the sheer joy that explodes from all involved is a wonder to behold.
Then there was the noise boys and girls. Wolves Of Youth give us an early shot in the arm, their indie rock bolstered no end by a powerfully bluesy lead singer and the fact that a large number of the audience are wearing gold and silver lupine masks. They’re followed by Beware Of You, who make full use of the space given to them, both on and off stage – filling it with their sound and charisma. A No Doubt cover wears their heart on their sleeve for sure but this is a band already going places. As are Megacone, who draw an excitable faithful come early evening. They’re good, really good – a triple guitar instrumental blast that throws in influences from all over the place, helping them stand out in the post-rock rush and have the potential to pull in a myriad of listeners.
Night falls, the Picnic starts to come to life and it’s time for Not Monsters. Such is their wealth of experience that to consider them a new band seems slightly off the mark and indeed they have clicked as unit incredibly quickly. Already they pretty much seem to have it all – a great sound, great songs, a winning stage manner and, for such a special occasion, a cover of Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’. They follow Robocobra Quartet, who bridge the gap between the loud as you like brigade and the hip-hop contingent, albeit with a mixture of jazz and spoken word. It’s an intense experience and one that probably confuses some passing punters, yet those who get it REALLY get it. They’re that kind of band and all the better for it.
Fellow Belfastian BeeMickSee sits at the other end of the crowd pleasing spectrum and rapidly wins over another packed tent. The inclusion of two Wonder Villains in his live band makes total sense as he bounces his way through a set of feel good rap that culminates in a mass, singalong to ‘Belfast Slang’ and a definite triumph. Then we see a darkness as Dah Jevu are here to take us down a more sinister route. The strides the duo have made since their Faces of 2015 launch show in January are staggering, now a complete six piece live unit – although it’s the front pairing of Bobby Basil and Tafari Pesto who are electric, spending as much time performing to each other as the audience. They don’t mind, however, and the atmosphere is incredible (we even spot Hare Squead crowd surfing at one point). Astounding.
All of which just leaves The Winter Passing to see us home, which they do in fine style. As with Dah Jevu, the pairing of Rob and Katie Flynn is a key factor, the latter’s vocal adding an extra dimension to their searing pop punk. Soon the tent is full again (Hare Squead are back, giving it loads down the front) and the band respond by raising their game. It’s the perfect end to a long, amazing day that saw our guests make their mark on Electric Picnic in a major way. Thanks to all the acts, to Laura at Oxfam, Pete and all the crew and everyone who joined us along the way. See you next year.
Photos: Olga Kuzmenko