Everyone knows the Irish love their tea in the morning and a festival usually that means styrofoam cups and weak cuppas. Not at the Picnic of course. The Little Tea Tent in Body and Soul were serving up all kinds of tea in mugs (for a small deposit) while it lashed rain outside. It took 48 hours for the downpour to come and the already-muddy fields soon became wet and murky ones.
Some let that deter them and sauntered off home early lunchtime content with their lot for the weekend but they missed out on Sunday’s highlights. Across by the amphitheatre, under the crow’s nest DJ box, where we danced into the early hours, FIRST AID KIT were letting minor sound problems mar the sound of their pleasant Swedish voices rising out of the speakers. Their songs are simple folk ditties with beautiful harmonies and melodies, yet the duo looked a bit annoyed with their lot. This impetuousness won’t be present in future we hope.
Wonder Mike and Master Gee aka the original members of THE SUGARHILL GANG were up next. The other original member Big Bank Hank has since been replaced Hendogg and the trio are rounded into a quartet by DJ T-Dynasty. After a lengthy delay, their set started with the usual dull hip-hop “throw your hands up” fare and never really took off from there. It was disappointing to hear the original hip-hop group including the first MC to ever say “hip-hop” on radio sound so generic and pedestrian. Their voices could have been switched for any other rappers and even snatches of fellow rap classics ‘The Message’ and ‘White Lines (Don’t Do It)’ sounded done to death. When they asked if we wanted to hear some “new shit” we got worried. When they picked up their instruments and started playing some 80s-sounding slow jam “new shit”, we knew it was time to leave.
Mica Levi aka MICACHU looked a little worse for wear before her performance with her band, The Shapes. She quickly explains that she had stayed up all night and sent a shout out to the “Push-through Crew”. If anything, the haziness suited Micachu’s live vibe which is deceivingly ramshackle and markedly precise. Kooky and weird yes, but in the most delightful way. A wine bottle and a cheap empty bottle of ale are used for percussion, the drummer keeps constant eye contact with one other member in case it falls apart but it never does and it’s this tension that works so well. All the while Mica strums her guitar held up with string and keeps herself largely in check.
The delayed start times at the Electric Arena meant that SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO overlapped with the set time for one Florence Welch. After the duo worked their way through a set front-loaded with a lot of Attack Decay Sustain Release material and the divisive (we think it’s brilliant) ‘Audacity of Huge’, it was time for FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE.
Just a year ago, about 80 metres from that tent, State saw a great fledgling set from her. She’s grown so much since then, looking even more like a superstar every day with more elaborate costumes and a complete presence. With a crowd eager to see her and a capacity tent, there was only ever going to be one outcome. She conquered. Song from Lungs like ‘Rabbit Heart’, ‘Dog Days’, ‘Cosmic Love’ were all received rapturously and as the noise emanated from the harp swirled around the tent, it felt majestic and the only place to be at that point.
As we took a quick sweep around the site we catch short bits from a few acts as well as trip on the Ferris Wheel. THE BIG PINK’s shoegazing 90s’ sounding album tracks weren’t enough to hold our attention, THE WAILERS – sounds exactly like you’d expect, definitively classic reggae yet with with only one original member left and of course, the great man himself, the spark was missing. AEROPLANE knocked out some great dance music in The Little Big Tent with a tag team DJ set which took in an edit of Blur’s ‘Girls and Boys’ while the surprise guests in Body and Soul turned out to be Chicago’s HYPNOTIC BRASS ENSEMBLE, the funkiest damn ensemble in the world who displayed hip-hop swagger and a whole load of soul in their nine-strong brass-led performance.
With the late evening, 9pm curfew breached we headed into the last hours of the festival, first to a stuffed tent where PASSION PIT delivered many punters’ highlight of the weekend. State couldn’t make it into the tent but having caught them in Paris at Rock en Seine the week before we know just how far they’ve come since their Whelan’s gig earlier in the year.
We marched headlong into our best set and atmosphere of the weekend just moments after leaving Passion Pit. Mali’s AMADOU AND MARIAM were warming up hearts and moving feet with their unique blues and Afro-beat pop music stuffed with Western-influenced melodies. On stage, the blind married couple who huddled together were joined by two gorgeous backing dancers, a percussionist, bassist, drummer and a keyboardist. Amadou himself plays a mean guitar for every song and the set taken from their most recent two albums Dimanche a Bamako and Welcome to Mali. If anyone ever tells you world music sucks, pop them along to an Amadou and Mariam concert. Superb.
There’s not a much better festival closer than THE FLAMING LIPS around these days. The band put so much effort (and money) into their live show that surely, other bands must feel inadequate next to them. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, there was confetti during ‘Race for the Prize’, giant balloons fired into the crowd, a huge half-circle visuals screen that the band passed through at the start, Wayne Coyne’s blow-up bubble passing over the heads of the audience in the ultimate crowd-surf, a slew of trippy green lasers and a camera mounted to Coyne’s microphone displayed large on the screen behind. The band played slowed-down versions of songs like ‘Yoshimi’ and ‘Fight Test’ with some new songs from October’s Embryonic mixed in and they finished with the golden ‘Do You Realize??’. Some complained it was the same set and show as their 2005 appearance and perhaps the set could have been more varied and focused but as a spectacle, it was an experience.
The night, and indeed Electric Picnic 2009 was capped off with a chilled set from Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally aka BEACH HOUSE who at 2.30am in the morning or thereabouts covered the dark and slippery Body and Soul area in ethereal sounds, just the right kind of songs to send us to our tents content for another year.
Photos by Fionn Kidney – Click to see full-size.