I know I know, fuck the begrudgers and all that, but this year’s Electric Picnic line-up is pretty underwhelming. I’ve missed two or three since 2005, but this is my first year of zero fomo. Maybe I’m getting bored to death of orchestras playing chart dance hits into the ground, maybe it’s the dry boke I got when I saw Elbow and Rag’n’Bone Man playing Sunday, or maybe I’m just done with it. Hope not though, the Picnic has been good to me over the years.
Even though I’m taking a time out, I had to do a top 10 don’t miss list for The Star. I included all three Main Stage headliners, and a few other genuinely brilliant acts among the meh.
English producer Chris Clark has for years lived in the shadow of fellow Warp Records cult heroes like Aphex Twin, Autechre and Boards of Canada, but he’s one of the most consistent artists on the iconicelectronic label.
He’s touring his new album Death Peak, with a stunning light show and abstract performance art complementing the record’s shape-shifting beats, glinting synths and a huge sound board to take the tracks down different paths.
Californian rapper Vince Staples may not shout as loud as Run the Jewels, but the 24-year-old has released some of the most devastating records of the last few years. His breakthrough LP Summertime ’06 is a rite of passage record without the inherent hope in Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City — prickling with realism and carried with his conversational tone.
His latest album Big Fish Theory has plenty of sharp club-ready electronic productions like Party People and Yeah Right, that’ll slot nicely beside older bangers like Norf Norf and Lemme Know.
Staples has been exclusively playing festivals all summer so he’s got this set nailed by now — around 20 cuts in an hour, no waffle, no hangers-on, and no drop in energy.
Bad Bones is the solo music and performance art project from Dublin-based electronic producer and singer Sal Stapleton, whose singles are all accompanied by her own spectacular monochrome videos.
Her blunt one-word song titles like Worship, Beg and Come evoke Filth-era Swans, while the music is pitched-down R&B, skittery minor key garage and downbeat house with multilayered vocals and filtered bass and guitar.
Catch the Bad Bones live show twice at the Picnic — on Saturday afternoon at Rankin’s Wood with the full live visual showcase and two dancers, and a 2am Sunday into Monday slot at Body & Soul for Donal Dineen’s This Ain’t No Disco special.
RUN THE JEWELS
It’s RTJ’s fifth Irish show in under three years, but no one seems sick of Killer Mike and El-P’s shtick yet. After their Olympia show in March sold out in minutes, the duo followed through with a hip-hop tag team masterclass — tight, on point, nailing every line with a swagger. Killer Mike even downed a pint of Guinness in one go — twice.
The duo’s three albums are rare rap records with zero filler, inching into the mainstream without any compromise. Their instinctive rhyme trading and El-P’s industrial strength beats mean the setlist will be lit from the first minute.
Of the hundreds of acts over the weekend, Chaka Khan has the undisputed belter single to beat them all in Ain’t Nobody — the 1983 funksoul synth classic that should be every DJ’s back-up plan if all else fails.
The Queen of Funk is making sure Sunday at the Picnic is doubling down as a nostalgia fest as she’s coming on just before Duran Duran, but expect a joyous run-through of timeless disco, soul and funk. And with weapons like I’m Every Woman, Everlasting Love and I’m a Woman, you’ll forget she’s well into her 60s.
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
Rap icons A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 album We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service was one of the most bittersweet records in recent years. Recorded as a comeback, their first since 1998, it’s turned into a swansong after the passing of founding MC Phife Dawg, who died last year.
Q-Tip, DJ Ali Shaheed and their wingmen Jarobi and Consequence are going on the road for one last time, for a victory lap of tracks like Can I Kick It and Check the Rhime, and their powerful protest parting shot We the People.
Duran Duran were never supposed to be elder statesmen of pop — but they’re growing old more gracefully than the video for Wild Boys would’ve suggested 30-odd years ago.
Still touring with their original core members of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor, the band’s 80s hits like Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf seem positively refined now. McGregor fans can also play spot-the-sample during Notorious.
Belfast production duo Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson aka Bicep are closing the Electric Arena tomorrow with the first official showcase of their debut album, out today. The self-titled LP is on legendary English label Ninja Tune, a hint to the eclectic nature of the collection.
As well as their usual raw house and techno, the record touches on Italo, electro, classic rave and breaks, while still latching on to the pair’s signature sound. Primarily music fans — their Feel My Bicep blog has been live since 2008 — the pair were never going to release a strictly 4/4 album, but they’ll be keeping you in that tent tomorrow till closing time.
Derry teen punks Touts can go toe-to-toe with Stiff Little Fingers’ provocative song titles (Bomb Scare, Saturday Night Scumbag), but they’ve got more of an early Clash edge.
Describing themselves as “singer that can’t sing, mod that can’t play bass and drummer that can’t see”, they play like they’ve never heard a Green Day album, which is always a good thing.
On paper, The xx’s hushed minimalism is a hard sell headliner for a crowd on the first-night festival session, but they’ve been pulling off this slot for years.
Current album I See You has more of Jamie xx’s house and garage flourishes and even playful Hall & Oates samples, so it’ll be more upbeat — but expect gentle sways rather than techno fist-pump.
- Published in Irish Daily Star