Electric Picnic 2014 in Co. Laois didn't start off with the best weather we could have hoped for, rain pouring down to meet the opening acts on Friday, with party goers sopping through the mud. Luckily it brightened up the next day, with spells of sunshine the spirits lifted and with that, the atmosphere. Face-painting, fake beards and fairy dresses, favorite field appearances, made for a very colorful gathering.
With more than 14 stages, jammed with hundreds of artists, it's needless to say there was something for everyone and impossible to see everything. Though music was the main focus, many other arts satisfied our cravings, ranging from comedy to sculpture and beyond.
Apart from the main stages there were corners everywhere, full of surprises. Spontaneous outbursts of drum circles, trad sessions, even random jams on a seemingly lost piano in the woods, smaller bands playing in dreamlike scenes, complete with dressed up corpse brides and attributes ( e.g table with colour pencils and knitting needles!)
All senses were bombarded with treats of all kinds, the visuals at the 'body and soul' area were incredibly well done, when you stepped through that gate it was as if you had plunged into a different world. Between the shire-like hills there were trees with sculptures, lights, stages of all shapes and sizes, decorated with amazing attention to detail.
There, at the sort of natural amphitheater, we saw Ronan O Snodaigh from Kila giving his all on the bódhran. He got the crowd dancing bare feet in the mud, back to basics, while the smells of food wafting across tempted us over. The Wok 'n Roll stall is still an all time favorite for Thai red curry.
At the main stage on Saturday Wicklow-born Hozier rocked the people with his by now legendary 'Take me to church'. The crowd nearly drowned him out singing along, while the sun peeped out for the first time, bathing the scene in golden light.
Placed too early in the line-up for Friday night revellers or the hoards of people arriving on Saturday. Still it takes a legendary name like The Stranglers to entice the crowd to swell. I was brought up on the medicinal melody of golden brown but have to admit that that track along with “peaches” which they played early on in the set got replayed many more times than that of the others. As i suspected the were also the stand out live tracks.
Within the bands repertoire they still manage to belt out a collection of crowd-pleasers, that incorporate jazz Walk on By, and a final outburst of pure punk No More Heroes. All of this from four old geezers who look like they could comfortably keep this up all day.
Bombay Bicycle Club open their set with the atmospheric, cinematic sounds of Overdone, the intro from their latest record. They burst onto the Main Stage to play in front of a stunning sunset and very enthusiastic crowd. Whenever, and Home By Now are also stand out songs from the bands set.
Paolo Nutini started off just singing before he picked up the guitar for which we love him so much, although the start with his newest song 'Scream' was definitely a good way to grab the attention. The masses gathered to see him, and he didn't disappoint, bringing a great mix of old and new.
Portishead followed with a change of style, setting quite a sombre and haunting mood, enhanced by strange visuals. The droning electronic sound seeped through into every fiber and Beth Gibbons' characteristic voice echoing across sent shivers down the spine. It was the first time in 17 years Portishead performed in Ireland, after which Chic featuring Nile Rodgers closed the main stage for the night.
On Sunday Simple Minds pelted us all back into memory lane having us sing the chorus to their 1985 hit 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' as if it was released yesterday. Jim Kerr jokingly introduced themselves as a 'young and upcoming band from Glasgow'. The atmosphere was fittingly nostalgic and the blue and white of the Scottish flag dotted the field.
Sinead O' Connor impacted strongly, starting her set off with 'The Queen of Denmark' that moved to tears, and lived up to high expectations. Her charisma and voice as powerful as ever led to a beautiful performance, swinging us from almost angelic tranquility to rough, angry and powerful agitation, an emotional roller coaster. Seeing her perform 'In This Heart' (a capella) with her daughter Roisín Waters was a real treat, letting us see a lovely exchange between them.
Lily Allen got us all very much in the mood with her baby bottle stage set up, purple hair and relaxed chatty personality. Toeing the line between her older and more recent stuff she had us singing and dancing along, while she put on an entertaining show of sexy dancing, daring lyrics, and catchy melodies.
Beck Blew us away with the the incredibly smooth sound of the mouth harmonica, to begin with, and so much more. Definitely a high of the weekend, with the energy levels falling and rising between the more up tempo and the more emotional songs. The enthusiasm of the people singing along at maximum capacity was infectious, and it felt like riding out a wave, carried by the current.
Some of my favourite moments from the weekend were out on the peripherals of proceedings such as the Salty dogs late night shenanigans, the hillbilly dreamland of the Trailerpark stage were the finest bluegrass this side of the Appalachians could be heard from Prison Love string band, whose members are also part of “I draw Slow”…. Body and Soul was the perfect place to take it easy for a while and soak up the soothing tunes and melodies without the full on crowds. Indeed many people had a cracking time without even buying a ticket. The car park party next to where I parked my car was buzzing all night and all day.
So many places to be, acts to see, feelings to feel, people to meet, there is no way you could cover all grounds, but what we did manage was unforgettable. The acts I'd least expected moved me the most, unknown bands made my day or night, and hidden treasures, nearly lost in the chaos of it all will be amongst my best memories.
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