For years, Electric Picnic has been pointing out that it’s more than just a music festival, and every year they double down on this USP as Ireland’s main music and arts festival that rivals any of the blockbuster weekenders in the UK and wider Europe.
For many of the Picnic old-school heads who bang on with reverence about Nick Cave, LCD Soundsystem and Kraftwerk at the breakthrough 2005 edition, it’s changed beyond recognition – more than tripling in size and with so many off-shoots that you could realistically get lost and have a full-on festival experience without seeing a single band. Even in the case of Body & Soul and Other Voices, there’s a chance to visit a festival-within-a-festival, with their own bookers and individual stamp.
Perhaps the funniest edition in recent years has been the Electric Ireland Throwback Stage, which is the equivalent of the afternoon Sunday slot at Glastonbury – a chance to lose the plot and get your guilty pleasures buzz on. This year, M People’s Heather Small will be asking you to search for the hero inside yourself, and Johnny Logan could well inspire the biggest mass karaoke session of the whole festival.
Returning for the sixth year celebrating “unity through diversity” Jerry Fish’s Electric Sideshow is another festival within a festival, curated by the cult Irish hero and featuring Le Galaxie, The Frank and Walters, Mick Flannery, Loah and the brilliantly-named Pontious Pilot and The Naildrivers, and loads more.
Another Picnic favourite, the Salty Dog returns, with a packed weekend of acts in the old galleon that’s getting even more shipwrecked by the year. Among the bands this year are Otherkin, Bionic Rats, Interskalactic, Skatesques, Cathy Davey and Mick Pyro.
No big festival these days is complete without a comedy line-up, and the Picnic’s Comedy Tent is back with a line-up that could rival any comedy festival. David O’Doherty will be the biggest draw for Picnic heads, with his surrealist sings and off-tangent skits working no matter your level of pint intake. The whole weekend is MC’d by Karl Spain, and also features Russell Howard, Jason Byrne, Jarlath Regan, Alison Spittle, Eleanor Tiernan and plenty more.
For a real time-out, the spoken word area Mindfield returns this year, with a chance to recharge your brain with political debates, literary talks, discussions, live podcasts and theatre productions.
Highlights include a Sky News-style special preview of the satirical Waterford Whispers News new live show; Miriam O’Callaghan presenting the Sunday Brunch; Ireland’s newest podcast king Blindboy, as well as a series of podcasts from the Headstuff network – check out the No Encore music podcast on Sunday lunchtime if you can drag yourself up.
And even though festival food has come a long way in Ireland since the soggy burger years, as always, the Theatre of Food is a chance to up your game even further, with chef demonstrations, cocktail masterclasses and discussions with the biggest figures in the game, including Kevin Thornton, Caitlin Ruth and Professor Ted Dinan.
And even though the heatwave is a bit of a distant memory, if you bring your swimming togs there’s a chance to go swimming at Stradbally lake, with separate adult and family times sets aside. Better than queueing for ages to get a shower, and a lot more refreshing for getting rid of the cobwebs. There’s a familiar site of bored kids at festivals wearing ear protectors at a gig squarely aimed at their parents – but they’re catered for at the walled garden area Little Picnic, with live music, workshops, chillout zones, craft classes and loads more.