Electric Picnic 2013 – Friday | Review

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Electric Picnic Festival at Stradbally Estate, Laois on September 30th – August 1st 2013

The weekend finally arrived, and as the crowds were ferried into the grounds of Stradbally Estate in Co. Laois for this year’s Electric Picnic, it was with no small sense of anticipation. This year’s hooley was a sell-out, and the flurry of activity online in the lead-up from those looking desperately for a ticket no doubt instilled an even greater sense of satisfaction in those lucky enough to be milling through the gates. Alice and Justin were just two of those lucky punters who went along to report back from the inside. Here’s what went down on Friday…

Daithi

Daithi turns out to be our first gig of this year’s Electric Picnic, and it’s as good a ‘welcome to the party’ as we could hope for. He stands behind his assortment of electronic devices, cradling his fiddle like a guitar, throwing shapes as the songs play out. Bodies soon start to gather in front of the stage while others bop around the natural amphitheatre; a spot of rain causes a few of them to run for cover but most brave it out. “Good crowd…fuck yeah!” shouts Daithi in appreciation for the solidarity, before getting the now energised dancers going once more with a deep bass groove. Shrill wails of ascending fiddle tones accompany the beats, as he samples them to let the fiddle become a more prominent feature of the gig towards its latter stages. It’s an eclectic but cohesive selection from Daithi, who utters a prophetic “This is gonna be a fucking amazing festival!” as his set winds down. He certainly helped things along. JMD

The Eskies

The Eskies took their gypsy-folk to Body & Soul’s Main Stage at 5pm. Taking into account most people had either not arrived in Stradbally yet or were still drinking their first can at their tent, a impressively sized crowd gathered. Halfway through the set,  the dancing bug caught most of the crowd, in particular to ‘Down By the River’ and ‘Jailhouse Sun’. Even if their music wasn’t your thing, the banter between songs (In particular between frontman Ian Bermingham and drummer Steven Kearney) was enough to keep you entertained and start the weekend off in style. CMD

Lisa O’Neill

Taking to the stage on day one in Body & Soul, and ready to help kick off the festival is Cavan’s own Lisa O’Neill. Bringing along her bag of folky tricks, her band, and her favourite wooly jumper, she arrives on stage to face the already rowdy and substantial crowd gathered in front of the stage. Opening with the love  ballad England, O’Neill slowly starts to win over her crowd with her distinctly unique, but wonderful, voice and her quirky songwriting skills. Moving through some gems like No Train To Cavan and Come, Sit, Sing, O’Neill reaches a high point in the wonderful tune written for her uncle, Neilly’s Song. A heartfelt dedication to a lost loved one, a lot of the crowd are certainly won over with this track. Finishing up with Same Cloth Or Not, Lisa O’Neill has proven herself to be a folk act to watch over the last year. Although struggling against a start-of-festival, excited and chatty crowd, Lisa O’Neill does well to hold her own and entrance much of the crowd, a tough feat as one of this year’s less aurally invasive acts. AG

Wu Tang Clan

Wu-TANG!Wu-TANG!” comes the call and response from the main arena as we make our way towards Wu Tang Clan’s evening set before the band Bring Da Ruckus. Bringing da ruckus may not seem the most natural thing to do at this bright, early time slot but with the full complement of musicians onstage by the song’s end it’s looking like they might just do it. Things kick off then in style with Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ and the gig is punctuated with those intermittent crowd interactions, with the arena divided in half after Liquid Swords for some “Hell yeah!” and “Fuck you!” fist in the air shenanigans. “The livest MC’s in the world are on the stage right now” and they waste no time in giving the spotlight over to their DJ, who engages in an array of impressive  turntable acrobatics, rounding off by kicking off his runners and standing on the decks. Band and crowd jump in unison, and the audience make the Wu Tang hand symbol before an Ol’ Dirty Bastard dedicated Shimmy Shimmy Ya. The kinetic, united front that is WTC go out with a reprise of Shame On A Nigga, leaving a trampled main arena in their wake. JMD

My Bloody Valentine

Even approaching the main stage as My Bloody Valentine gear up the volume level is impressive – par for the course for this group. The crowd is thin enough as they begin I Only Said, but the bludgeoning sonics soon bring them closer, and when Come In Alone starts up, the guitars come on strong, grinding up to a new level of noise at the chorus. Belinda Butcher takes a swathed lead vocal for New You before a grungey When You Wake (You’re Still In A Dream). Vocals and guitars continuously melt together, whether it’s Kevin Shields or Butcher at the mic, and some grumbles are heard post-gig that the levels are too low, but this is a hard one to judge at a MBV gig. The crowd respond to Only Tomorrow’s intro, and Butcher’s ascending vocal, but it’s the guitar solo that sets this one apart as a set high point. Drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig leaves his kit and joins the other three on guitar towards the end of the set, all a flurry of hands at guitar strings; when he sits back down the set transforms once more, into a garage-y, cymbal lashing, guitar washing straight-up noise rock finale. And on it goes, layer on layer, blasting off into the night sky as MBV flashes on the backdrop. Shields mutters thanks, and that’s that. What a gig. JMD

Meltybrains?

The rat-a-tat of fireworks popping off to the left off the Block T stage at Body & Soul peppers Meltybrains? songs, but the constant bursts of colour seem an apt accompaniment to the band’s after dark set. One of their number tosses chocolate to the crowd while the band get down to some reverbed, dual-vocalled noise. Outside of their often-impressive arrangements they can rock out in 4/4 with the best of them, but things are never far from the epic ambience they strive for. The drummer is upstanding for their final spacey number, pulling a crucifix pose as the singers harmonise in largely acapella style. Things take a techno turn for the better before settling into a proggy synth piece. The fireworks stopped, at some point…we hadn’t noticed. JMD

Fat Boy Slim / Aeroplane

A distinct buzz is rising around the main stage just before 10pm, as festival organisers, friends, and  some acts are invited up on stage for the cutting of a ten-tier Electric Picnic birthday cake, followed by a massive fireworks display lasting about ten minutes,  entrancing pretty much everyone in the vicinity with its pure scale. Moments after it draws to a close, Friday night headliner Fat Boy Slim takes to the main stage, to the delight of the huge crowd preparing themselves for a dance fest. And they were not to be disappointed as he explodes into sound, moving quickly from one beat to the next, flying through tunes, including Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat and a cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. Fat Boy Slim certainly delivers what’s expected in the form of some top quality dance  music, but just not quite enough to hold our attention for too long. After spending some time throwing shapes by main stage, the bright lights of Casa Bacardi beckon us over, where we catch the second half of the Aeroplane DJ Set. Again, people are clearly in the mood for dancing with the dance floor packed to capacity with bodies, all throwing themselves into the atmosphere, with some more than interesting dance  moves on display. Both acts provide a well polished performance, and have hundreds and thousands of the weekend’s punters up on their feet and dancing themselves silly – surely a triumph by any festival’s  standards. AG

Electric Picnic Friday Photo Gallery

Photos: Yan Bourke

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