IF you’re not going to Electric Picnic, your head must be wrecked with the biggest hype-machine ever for an Irish festival. And if you’re on your way to Stradbally today, there’s no harm in gloating as you hit the last summer caper.
After 11 years the Picnic may well be Ireland’s favourite ever festival, besides all the cider-soaked Trip to Tipp memories being shared online recently. Sure, we’re spoiled now so it’s lost the WTF impact of the early days, with people shaking their heads that Kraftwerk were actually coming to play a field in Laois.
And there’s hardly a square inch of Stradbally grass that hasn’t been sponsored by some company. The daftest one yet this year is Surf (aye, the washing powder) running a laundrette to wash your sweaty drawers.
But over the years the Picnic has become the most consistent weekender we’ve ever had — with plenty of leftfield acts among the predictable enough headliners.
This year it sold out in record time, three months before the gates opening, leading to a stream of like and share competitions and pleas. There was even a pair of tickets on eBay this week for a grand. It’s easy to say it sold out because of safe bets like headliners Blur, Florence + the Machine and Sam Smith, but there’s more of a mini-Glastonbury feeling about it. Not in its impact or scale or whatever, but there’s a real Picnic faithful, with plenty of ticket-holders due a testimonial match. There was even a discount reward system a few years ago if you could prove you were a repeat Picnicker. And no laughing at the back about muck savages and their one big yeehaw of the summer.
And with 170 acts over 20-odd stages there’s no point in making a list — you could throw a dart randomly at the line-up 15 times and come up with a decent enough schedule. The undisputed queen of the fest is Grace Jones and she’s on at 8.45pm tonight, so no stalling on the way to Stradbally. Villagers’ Conor O’Brien is taking his stripped-down Darling Arithmetic show to an Irish festival for the first time, and the Manic Street Preachers are back after their special sold-out Holy Bible shows last December. Synthpop fans will be queueing up for Roisin Murphy closing the Electric Arena tomorrow — with Shamir on an 11pm slot at Little Big Tent and 3am in Body & Soul.
And with The War On Drugs, Jurassic 5, Fat White Family, Ride, Jon Hopkins and Girl Band just a few other highlights, you still mightn’t have time to catch Despacio (James Murphy vs 2 Many DJs) playing three six-hour sets over the weekend. Nah, we’re only joking, Despacio is an unavoidable dead cert.
And of course besides the music there’s a few havens to escape the din. You won’t go anywhere near the place, but Mindfield is back for political debate, poetry readings and drama, and the comedy tent is a perfect way to laugh the fear away. You can also learn how to rustle up a Monday recovery meal with tips learned at the Theatre of Food.
Original version in Irish Daily Star