You would have thought setting off for Stradbally on the morning of Electric Picnic at 9am would see you arriving to minimal queues, cramped camp sites or general fuss. Not so. It turns out most have taken today off and have themselves set up and tucking into a celebratory beverage in their foldy-upy chairs by noon. It could be that the -fun-employed’ make up the bulk of these committed picnickers, in which case missing work on a Friday is no longer an issue. Either way, the feeling that a blitz of colour and activity is about to commence is tempered by teasing flecks of rain that sweep through now and again.
But all was not well on site this year, and judging by the long delays before we noble punters were given access to the main arena site (-Don’t ask’, ordered one steward), the weeks of wet had left the area sodden and measures had to be taken. Why exactly said measures had to be taken mid-afternoon on the opening day of one of Europe’s premiere music and arts festival is unknown. Wouldn’t the morning have been better?
Before you can say -new regime at Electric Picnic’, the heavy throng of impatient revellers at the arena entrance has broken the floodgates. The stewards sigh with frustration but we are in and some of us are being drawn to a lively din down at the always reliable Crawdaddy tent. It’s those THE TEMPER TRAP people I keep hearing about, and bar having the most hammy and punchable bassist State has laid eyes on, it all sounds rather superb – thumping, warm and danceable. It’s just as well, because everyone has energy in spades right now. A nice welcome.
If only DAVID KITT could shout and roar and scream if the need arose like it did during his Electric Arena set. Although new LP The Nightsaver is one of his more beat-laden offerings, the tunes never seem to kick off for the first half. But Kittser being Kittser, everyone suddenly starts moving when that thing happens half way through -Learning How To Say Goodbye’. It’s not long before the peaty smell of wet earth is wafting through the marquee.
There’s time for a beer and some greasy noodles before post-punk godfathers MAGAZINE lend a cold, Northern England edge to the evening. A fine band, yes, but skin-headed Howard Devoto mincing around in a pink jacket somehow gives nasty belters like -Shot By Both Sides’ an innocuous delivery. It’s a shame that they of all bands have to open their Irish account this way. Perhaps I’m too young and should be asking the older generation for their informed opinion. Feck me, there’s J Mascis! The festival mood and seven ciders usher me over to him. His eyes flick over to spot me and he braces himself. -What do you make of these guys?’ I grin. He makes a tired expression with his eyes and shrugs. What a legend.
I appease my friend’s friend by remaining in the now-rammed Electric Arena for SEASICK STEVE. Watching an old dude with three-strings on his guitar sitting on a potato box and being screamed at by 10,000 people got old very fast. I don’t care if he is the purest blues component on earth, and is -the real deal’. It’s gimmicky, and besides, DUCKWORTH LEWIS METHOD are about to kick off and it’ll take at least 20 minutes to squeeze past all these Irish Times journalists.
This, along with a massage which I will happily recount in Sunday’s report, turns out to be the best decision of the weekend. The Crawdaddy tent is holding what promoters optimistically call a -good’ crowd. Resplendent in leg pads, handlebar moustaches and generally looking like a Butlins sideshow, DLM simply kicked out the jams to us motherfuckers. Tune after sweetly rocking tune, the duo put it all into this, regrettably their last ever show. Dry wit, tight band, CATHY DAVEY on guest vocals. It could piss rain now and Laois would still be beaming.
It’s already that time of the night. Time to repair to the comfy hollow of the Body and Soul area, where our old friend R.S.A.G is reliably drumming up a storm, punctuating the chilled vibes with those Jerry Lee Lewis yelps he likes to do. Like a Kilkenny cockerel crowing, he marks the start of the wee hours, which in Electric Picnic land, are some of the biggest of all.
Photos by Fionn Kidney.