Sunday really is the day of the child 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

Tradition dictates that if the Friday and Saturday of a festival are dry, even *gasp* sunny, then it will all come tumbling down spectacularly on the Sunday and raincoats will be in order, with the possible need for a boat. Imagine our surprise then when we wake up on Sunday to actual sun, a sun that stays in the sky all day. And Sunday really is the day of the child. The decision of the festival organisers to offer a Sunday only day ticket was a controversial one, the weekend campers resenting the added checks, queues and general crowding that comes with an influx of people but it's hard to complain about an influx of under 12s. These under 12s can attend free all weekend if accompanied by an adult in possession of a ticket and attend they do, seemingly everywhere we turn. After two failed attempts to get into the full Fossett's circus tent on the Saturday – and seeing the queue immediately reform after giving up and walking away – we finally make it inside on the Sunday afternoon. It's no great surprise that this show, like all the others, fills up rapidly with families and tired ravers alike who sit on the bleachers and watch the statuesque ringmistress introduce an array of acrobats including tightrope walkers, jugglers and high-wire acts. There's even a rockabilly clown called Otto who sings current chart covers and spins plates. The children lap it up, relishing the chance to play a game of Musical Chairs in front of an audience and the adults relax, only too happy to let someone else do the entertaining for the duration of the two hour long show.

There's a designated 'Soul Kids' children's area too, perhaps wisely hidden carefully behind the Greencrafts Village with one-way access meaning you can only enter it through the family campsite and you can only enter the family campsite with a child. As smart as this is, it's a little disappointing for those of us who might want to take part in The Roald Dahl Theatre workshops and tell the tale of The BFG, make pizza in a wood-fired oven with the help of a puppet team of chefs or join a hip-hop dance class. There is a solution though: The Mindfield, an area dedicated to intellectual pursuits. It contains a bookshop, an Irish-speaking pub complete with guest speakers and debates, Hot Press have their usual band interrogating tent where the audience can take part in a Q and A with Richard Hawley amongst others and there's even a Theatre Of Food in which world-renowned chefs attempt to pass their skills on to us.

Some bands get all the luck. County Meath band Ham SandwicH are everywhere we turn this weekend, doing their third set of the weekend on the eco-conscious Earthship Stage. ERP recycling have taken over this stage for the weekend putting on a series of talks on recycling, composting and an eco fashion show. The stage itself has TV screens attached to it like many empty staring eyes, a reminder to recycle old analogue TVs that cannot take part in October's digital switchover. Ham Sandwich brave these empty eyes and they eyes of the large and growing audience, the busiest this minor stage has been all weekend with keen fans standing on picnic tables just to get a glimpse. They're a little bit more acoustic than usual, singer Niamh holding back her rock growl in favour of a gentler sound, soft crooning. The outdoor grassy setting and fiddle playing leads to a hoedown feel, if there was a little more room to move you get the feeling the crowd would definitely be square dancing to their cover of 'I Feel Love'.

Fittingly, the sun sets while Elbow play. Choosing to focus mainly on songs from Mercury Award Prizewinning album 'The Seldom Seen Kid' and their newest offering, the slightly less grandiose and more introspective 'Build A Rocket Boys'! it's a glorious mix. Guy Garvey as always plays the everyman, chatting away casually to the audience about everything and nothing. For those that hadn't already made it to the Main Stage, the familiar chugging of 'Grounds For Divorce' gets everyone running there and there they stay. As if the layer upon layer of 'The Birds' and slow-moving monolith 'The Loneliness Of The Tower Crane Driver' weren't moving enough, Garvey encourages those who have lost loved ones not to think of them alone but to think of them here, in this supportive crowd as the sun sets and it's a perfectly judged moment.

There were worries that the absence of Oxegen this year and the somehow incongruous presence of The Killers here would attract undesirables; Killers fans Hell-bent on destruction, kebabs and a singalong to Mr. Brightside. It's not what we feared however. Songs from album number two that raised mirth when compared to anything off Hot Fuss are greeted like old friends, 'For Reasons Unknown' and the melodically simplistic 'Read My Mind' providing moments that unite everyone. Controversy over whether Brandon Flowers can sing or not seem unfounded, he's in fine voice this evening for the full hour and a half set. New songs are introduced, 'Flesh And Bone' having enough familiarity to keep the audience interested and the synth is epic enough to cut through the incoming night's chill. A nod to Ireland with a cover of Van Morrison's 'Brown Eyed Girl' is a nice idea but really turns into an excuse for people to chat to their friends and have a toilet break. 'All These Things That I've Done' is the high point of the evening of course, the bridge being delayed to build tension, all arguments about ham and hamsters forgotten in the pleasure of the moment. An encore begins with another brand new song but with the hits already played, the audience begin to drift elsewhere.

It's left to old hand Glen Hansard to close the festivities on the Crawdaddy stage. Billed as a solo set we're unsurprisingly pleased when he's joined by the rest of The Frames and his personality is just what we need to wake us when we're on our last legs. He waxes lyrical on the thousands of years of gatherings and celebrations Ireland have had, triumphantly revealing that "This is why this weekend feels so natural!" to a roar of approval from the crowd. Making the audience waltz to a mournful fiddle version of the Father Ted theme tune seems bizarre but the waltzers seem unfazed, moving from that straight into 'Revelate' which brings the post-Killers crowd in, linking arms and swaying in a way usually only reserved for 'Fairytale Of New York' on Christmas Eve.

And so it's over. Time for one last carousel ride, one last late night wander through the forest to the Jamaican-themed Trenchtown where there's one last skank to the reggae on offer. It's a long journey here to Ireland's Electric Picnic but it's a journey worth taking. Just don't be surprised if a kindly stranger high-fives you on the way.
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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