things to make and do on Saturday at Electric Picnic

Electric Picnic 2012 review

published: Thu 6th Sep 2012

Friday 31st August to Sunday 2nd September 2012
Stradbally Hall Estate, Stradbally, Co. Laois, Eire, Ireland
230 euros
daily capacity: 32500
last updated: Thu 30th Aug 2012

Sleeping bag aside, waking up on hard ground is never easy. It's eased slightly however by the intelligent decision of a nearby camper to play the back catalogue of Arcade Fire (carefully sweeping Neon Bible under the carpet). We leave our tents to feel sun on our faces and are greeted with free Electric Picnic newspapers, including set times for the day. And it's a day to realise just how big this place really is. If you walked past you could probably cover the perimeter of the main site (minus campsites and forest surprises) in an hour, but why walk fast? It's best to amble and browse, taking everything in, like Aaron Taylor Kuffner's Gamelatron: a bungalow sized installation in the Body And Soul area complete with gongs, bells and mallets providing surround sound, a living lullaby for the baby being rocked to sleep to its chimes.

Apart from the Gamelatron nappers, in the Body And Soul area people are always up for a dance. Even at 4pm. Cork duo Young Wonder are comprised of DJ Ian and Rachel who sings over the beats and it's a good mix. Her voice is perhaps a little young and unformed but her wistful edge is delightful and the hip-hop lite beats take over as they always do, going in unexpected directions. The audience spur them along in the friendly atmosphere, although perhaps a bad idea to wear a similar Indian headdress that the formidable Alabama Shakes' frontwoman Brittany Howard carried off so successfully the day before.

The chance to see Kevin Rowland perform 'Come On Eileen' is one that punters of a certain age can't afford to miss. Wearing matching flat caps (and with one member nodding to the past in a pair of dungarees) Dexys assume their stances and begin with the solid soul sound of 'Liars A To E'. His voice is more than capable of carrying this off, vocal hot chocolate with the occasional vocal yelp we're familiar with, the equivalent to finding a marshmallow in your drink. It all goes a bit wrong when Madeleine Hyland appears though. Her voice is no problem but storytelling male/female duets can veer dangerously close to Jimmy Nail's 'Ain't No Doubt' and when the pair break into Cockney dialogue, stage fake fights and she pretends to cry as if in an episode of Eastenders, even the promise of 'Come On Eileen' isn't enough to keep us here.

If you're not here for the music alone interactive is a big word here and nowhere says it more clearly than the Greencrafts Village. Adults and children alike mill around what is basically based on a village from times stretching from 4AD to the Middle Ages. For a small fee you can try slate work, writing your name in the Ogham alphabet which is helpfully displayed nearby. Wood carving is of course offered, hands-on chisel advice being given in a patient manner. You can make corn dollies, throw a pot on the potter's wheel, create silver jewellery or buy the premade article, or try your hand at copper work. For the slightly less adventurous there are knitting materials and embroidery workshops, with natural plant remedies on offer for those who feel under the weather. The odd hula hoop is strewn around the place too, for those who feel like releasing their inner child.

With so much else on offer it comes as a surprise that the theatre tent stays packed throughout the weekend, standing room only for the majority of performances. Saturday afternoon in the theatre brings the delightfully titled 'The Year Of Magical Wanking', a one-man series of rhyming monologues dealing with living in Ireland as a gay man while being diagnosed with HIV. Starting lightheartedly and getting gradually darker and darker with each scene change, speeches on porn addiction and child abuse are humorously dealt with, a witty quip appearing every now and then just before it gets too bleak to bear. Unfortunately, a planning snafu means that the theatre tent is right behind the main stage, so this one-man show is competing with a monster of a sound system, but Neil Watkins simply raises his voice valiantly and gets on with it. Uncomfortably unsure exactly how autobiographical the story is, it's a worthwhile way to spend an hour, but a blessed relief to step out into the sunlight again at the end.

Of course the main event of the day is the proposed 3-hour set from The Cure, running from 9pm until midnight. Once we realise this isn't a typo in our timetables we feel slightly daunted by the prospect of a Godfather-length set. The early double bill of 'In Between Days' and 'Just Like Heaven' raise our hopes that this won't be a gloom-laden set whereas 'Lullaby' and 'Pictures Of You' are the perfect soundtrack to gazing at the perfectly clear sky above while Robert Smith plays the doomed Goth martyr, living up to his legend. There's often-ignored exceptional drumming on 'Just One Kiss' and the joyful 'Lovecats' saved for the encore; basically every last memorable shred of their back catalogue is explored. With the striking sideburned daddy-long-legged bassist Simon Gallup complementing Robert's hair efforts the band are as striking visually as sonically, especially when we see the moment we weren't sure would ever come: Smith breaking into a smile.

It's left to relative newcomer Grimes to really provide Saturday with its festival 'moment', upstaging The Cure's epic sound with entirely disposable fluff. Arriving at a packed, sweaty tent with wide-eyed youths already going crazy, it's a tough trip to the front. Our first glimpse of the stage reveals a male dancer in turn sombrely displaying glowsticks and a lightsabre. The realisation gradually dawns that the balloons being tossed around the crowd are coming from the stage and that's not all as a confetti cannon is added to the... canon. A topless male dancer, long hair obscuring his face shakes bottles of champagne over the audience when he isn't dancing at Grimes' right hand. Another male dancer straight from the podiums has a routine that's part ABBA, part Madonna video and part gracefully writhing with a rubber ring. It's much more elaborate but all pales in comparison with Grimes herself. Speaking with a delicate lisp she's a stunning performer, her voice undeniably beautiful on 'Oblivion', throwing shapes akin to Vogueing, ponytail flying as the audience try to copy her. The music is much more visceral live than on recordings, energy levels in the Cosby tent rising and rising until 'Genesis' kicks in, satisfying everyone with its active skipping rhythm. For a set she threw together on borrowed equipment after her own got stolen two days previously in Manchester, it's pretty special.
review by: Elizabeth McGeown

Friday 31st August to Sunday 2nd September 2012
Stradbally Hall Estate, Stradbally, Co. Laois, Eire, Ireland
230 euros
daily capacity: 32500
last updated: Thu 30th Aug 2012


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