by / September 9th, 2009 /

Electric Picnic 09 – Saturday [Niall Byrne]

There’s been a slew of hype about THE XX’s debut album and deservedly so, but as mentioned in a recent review the live proposition does not automatically get a free pass. Their early afternoon show (and our first of the day) takes place in the Electric Arena, a gargantuan place for any band who have just released a debut album and it does them little favours. In fact, the band look a bit frightened but maybe that’s the way they always look. They’re an uncharismatic bunch, eyes down on their instruments delivering note-perfect versions of their sparsely-arranged songs from debut album XX. It’s a performance made ultimately disengaging by their placid stage presence and barely there demeanor. I’ll stick to the headphones version for now.

Thankfully, MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS made us forget all about that disappointment with her gig in the Cosby Tent. Resplendent in a sparkling top, hot pants and high heels she soon abandons, Marina has just the right amount of fresh, endearing humility and stage presence at this stage in her career. She may only be recording her debut album at present, but there’s a knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowd present for her show. She plays her early buzz songs ‘Shampain’, ‘Seventeen’ ‘I Am Not a Robot’, ‘Obsessions’, covers Late of the Pier and is generally charming. She’s back here in November so don’t miss out. If this year was the year of Florence, 2010 could be Marina’s for the taking.

In between the indifference of The XX and the Marina Irish fan club formation, State got another chance to catch THE LOW ANTHEM. Our last meeting together was in a church at SXSW and this time around was no different. We swayed to their brand of quiet Americana folk with the odd loud curveball thrown in. Their album Oh My God Charlie Darwin come highly recommended and judging by this performance we’ll be seeing them again soon.

After some delicious hot stew and an Irish coffee in Body and Soul, we arrive at the Crawdaddy stage to see what all the fuss about IMELDA MAY is. We never find out though as the tent is stuffed to the gills and security is not allowing us backstage for a sneaky gawk. The crowd were extremely appreciative and the ring of people trying to watch from the outside indicates that the Liberties rockabilly singer has plenty to offer modern audiences.

State loves The Beach Boys but there was something not right about BRIAN WILSON’s main stage performance. We wanted to love it but ultimately, up close Wilson looked like a man past his prime slumped at a keyboard while his ten-member band did all the work. The tunes are stellar of course but there’s something a little depressing about seeing a 67 year old man with a history of mental problems sing a song like ‘In My Room’ so many years later. From further back, where Wilson was only a speck on the horizon, the songs sounded better and there’s not many songs that can match ‘I Get Around’ for pop perfection. We’ll try and remember him for the good and not the bad.

At the Electric Arena, it’s the return of KLAXONS, a band that the last couple of years had nearly forgot. They start with a nu-rave siren but what follows quickly discards that almost-derogatory tag. This is a band with an obvious abundance of talent, a great live prospect, delivered with panache and confidence that the likes of MGMT could take some notes from. Plus, they have great tunes in ‘Golden Skans’, ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’, ‘Magick’ and a cover of ‘It’s Not Over Yet’. With a second album forthcoming in the new year, Klaxons look set to drag themselves clear of any ill-conceived musical genre quagmires.

Later, on the same stage, it’s the turn of the disco old-school as CHIC dressed all in white bring the good times and funk in one of the sets of the weekend. Nile Rodgers and co. delivered some stone cold classics like ‘Good Times’, their work with Sister Sledge – ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ ‘We Are Family’, ‘Le Freak’ and ‘I Want Your Love’. I’ve never seen so many pale Irish people break out the disco moves. Brilliant.

The rest of Saturday was dominated by electronic music’s best offerings. MODERAT who consist of Apparat and Modeselektor are due to wind up the Moderat project soon so it was the only real opportunity for State to catch their live show. Flanked by three visuals screens controlled by Pfadfinderei and a three laptop setup – one for each member, the set was tame by Modeselektor’s usual standards and more controlled than Apparat’s modus operandi. It was all a bit too slick and lacking an unplanned diversion away from the recorded songs. It wasn’t helped by a low sounding set and a distinct lack of bass.

Technical problems were also effecting the start time of CHRIS CUNNINGHAM’S show. No-one in attendance really knew what to expect but we did know it a show that it involved Cunningham’s work as a music video and short film director soundtracked by music. What we got was the ultimate breakcore slasher movie – violent, visceral moving images matched to equally troubled beats. There was footage from Flex in which a naked man and woman pummelled the living daylights out of each other, Rubber Johnny – the disturbing Cunningham short featuring a deformed basement-bound mutant child, his Playstation ad, Star Wars lightsabre fights, Hitler, cocks and Windowlicker.

An intense experience like that doesn’t really leave you for a while but FOUR TET did his best in the open-air at Body and Soul after hours playing some open-ended versions of his own tunes like ‘Pockets’, ‘As Serious as Your Life’, and ‘A Joy’ in a relaxed atmosphere. The set culminates in his collaboration with Burial, Moth – one of the year’s finest electronic releases. A perfect end to day two but day three brings many further delights.

Photos by Fionn Kidney – Click to enlarge.
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  • AstonishingSodApe

    Didn’t I warn ya about the XX’s “live experience”? Tut tut, nobody listens to me, I’ll just sit in the corner and dribble etc.

  • Well I fully expected it but what would I be if I didn’t check for myself?

  • XX were awful at Reading, too. Very disappointing live band, and as I have a tendency to judge bands a little too much on live showings, the album’s pretty much been put aside since, too. Those guys are in need of some charisma lessons if they’re gonna work in anything stage related. Glad to hear Klaxons were good, though, always had a soft spot. I think they’re much better than they’re given credit for.