Every Irish-based music blog and webzine has been singing the praises of the Electric Picnic since it ended late last Sunday night. The general consensus is that this year was the year that, despite a weak line-up musically, the festival came of age. It’s also the year it repositioned itself as a ‘Music And Arts’ Festival, a deliberate strategy to distance itself from other music festivals, especially MCD’s Oxegen, and to give it a distinct identity of its own. It’s a smart move but I hope the music will always remain the most important part of the festival’s remit. Comedy, spoken word, theatre, even the bloody cooking stage are fine, and nice diversions when you want to take a break from the music, but they should always remain that: diversions. For me, the Electric Picnic will always be about the music and, despite a handful of big-name acts such as Sigur Ros, My Bloody Valentine and the Sex Pistols, they really need to improve the line-up for next year. Yet, it was still a brilliant and highly memorable weekend with little or no trouble and very little to complain about. Ok, the bars shutting down at 10 pm was a bit ridiculous. And the Body & Soul Area was too overcrowded. And everything is ludicrously expensive. And Franz Ferdinand were terrible. But apart from that, it was an amazing three days.
Anyway here is my top eleven best bits from the festival:
1.My Bloody Valentine on Sunday night. Not as loud as when I saw them in London but still a mind-blowing exercise in audience annihilation. Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant.
2. Sigur Ros. I had reservations that such a musically introspective band could cut it as a headline act on an outdoor stage. How wrong I was. Life-affirming and beautiful.
3. Goldfrapp. Alison’s voice is the eight wonder of the world.
4. Henry Rollins’ spoken word performance. Charming, engaging and funny.
5. Getting The Clash’s Mick Jones’ autograph. An absolute gent.
6. The sunshine on Sunday. How the fuck did that happen?
7. Wilco. One hour of musical brilliance that was over too soon. An extraordinary band.
8. The amazingly chilled-out, friendly and benign vibe. The way complete strangers talk to you as if you’ve known them all your life. The beautiful women, Irish women, everywhere. As Mr.Morrison might say: wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?
9. Crystal Castles. Spare, brutalist-electro with an amazing frontwoman in Alice Glass, who doesn’t sing but instead emits a strange, guttural scream that will haunt you for days. Amazing.
10. Sex Pistols. Derided by almost everyone, and an unpopular choice to close the weekend, but I found it fascinating to see a band that changed the course of rock music in the flesh banging out ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘Bodies’ in a field in County Laois. Johnny Rotten remains one of the most compelling and provocative frontmen of all time and he was his usual, sarcastic self on Sunday night.
11. The Leviathan Political Debates. Great fun.