No alarms. No surprises. This year’s Electric Picnic seemed familiar in so many ways, a warm feeling for certain but also one that leads you to feel that you know exactly what to expect. And then you wander into a tent and see Marc Almond in a gold sequined jacket. It’s something you would never see at other big festivals in this country and is an unquestionable joy. Unlike another certain vintage act on the bill tonight, Almond knows what his audience want to hear and gives it to them straight. Such fired up versions of his familiar songs create an atmosphere that welcomes the new material and he leaves us with the glorious ‘Tainted Love’ and as the weekend’s first hero.
Don’t call it a movement, but the fall out from Sunday’s big boys Mumford & Sons has certainly had a knock on effect. Laura Marling’s two albums to date have both been fine pieces of work yet the boisterous welcome that greats her arrival on the Crawdaddy stage is still a surprise. Her first two numbers ‘Devil’s Spoke’ and ‘Rambling Man’ set the place a hopping and all seems right and proper. It’s when she attempts to play the quieter stuff that it all unravels. It’s not entirely her fault (the sound doesn’t help) but Marling is still to fully work out how to transfer her beautifully fragile records into this kind of setting.
For an artist arriving on the back of a weighty triple album, the Duke Special Electric Picnic is a huge amount of fun. The intimate surroundings of the Cosby Stage suit him perfectly – a trend that is repeated throughout the three days – and he and his band strike the perfect balance between pop concert and old time music hall and suddenly the idea of Duke as a mainstream star doesn’t seem that odd. The appearance of Phill Jupitus for a version of Ian Dury’s ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is just icing on the cake.
Thirty five years on from the birth of punk and John Lydon is still fighting the good fight. While Roxy Music are dying a slow, self-indulgent death on the main stage, PiL are proving that there is life in the snarling old dog. It’s not a completely pleasant experience but that is by design, the band were never mean to do anything but divide opinion. The strangest sight is that off Lydon applauding the audience and telling us that he feels like he’s come home with what feels like genuine sincerity. The likes of ‘Rise’ prove that he didn’t completely throw out his songwriting baby with the punk bath water and an unexpected ‘Open Up’ is a massive finale.