Electric Picnic, Saturday 30 August 2014
With the first night’s antics continuing long into the wee hours, Saturday morning saw a slow, tentative start to day two of the festivities.
A good portion of the campers didn’t make it back to the main arena until around five that evening when they realised it was already time for Hozier and streamed in en masse. But the morning acts had plenty of treats for the dedicated early risers. Trinity Orchestra’s funk-tastic set of Gorillaz covers got the party started nice and early, and the incredibly varied bill ensured that there was always something worth seeing from then until 4am, including a laser-tastic DJ set from Le Galaxie that defies all description.
The second day of a festival is where the marathon runners get separated from the sprinters.
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow afternoon for our review of Sunday’s events, or have a read of our Friday review here.
If a 40-year career in music has taught The Stranglers anything, it’s to keep things nice and simple.
Where other bands strive for complexity, The Stranglers know that sometimes a couple of basic chords played without any fuss at a reasonable pace is sometimes enough. Guitar, bass, keys, drums and vocals all sit nicely with each other, never struggling for prominence or drowning out the others in a flurry of reverb. Early on in the set the earth-shaking bass riff of Peaches heralds in the bawdy brawlerish pub rock the band is famous for.
Within their admittedly limited repertoire they still manage to belt out a collection of crowd-pleasers that incorporate jazz (Walk on By), new wave (Golden Brown) 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.
It’s not their first visit to the Picnic, but after a couple of minutes onstage, it’s clear that Raglans are absolutely delighted to be here. They stir the Electric Arena tent into a hooley of movement with their foot-stomping folk-rock, from the sizzling earful of music that is White Lightning to a left of field cover of MIA’s Paper Planes (with a pummelling drum roll filling in for the sampled gunshot sound).
After that it’s not really clear who’s having more fun, the band on stage or the crowd watching. Digging Holes sees an animated guitarist shredding out a barrage of notes on his mandolin, before the whole band breaks off into a percussion only interlude, with each of the four lads finding something to hammer out a beat on before one final knees-up chorus comes crashing back in like a clatter of falling bricks. When your performances look and sound like this, it’s easy to see why Raglans enjoy doing what they do.
Twin Shadow – otherwise known as George Lewis Jr. – is like the thinking man’s MGMT. He’s got the dazzling synths and uber-catchy tunes, but underneath it all are the carefully constructed melodies and beats that manage to both sound beautiful on first listen and reward repeat listens with hidden depth.
For his afternoon appearance on the Rankin Woods stage, Lewis deployed a supremely chilled out set of gorgeously arranged ambient rhythms that flow from the speakers with the gentle tingle and care-free pace of a mountain stream. Every so often this flow gathered a little momentum and broke out into anthemic new-wave power pop hooks, but this was only a momentary diversion from the otherwise tranquil and unperturbed pace of the set.
In a tribute to their Irish fans on their first visit to the country, Twin Shadow finished on a chillwave cover version of Thin Lizzy’s Don’t Believe Me. For anybody who overdid it the night before, Twin Shadow was the perfect antidote.
A year can make a big difference. That’s how long it’s taken Hozier to go from being just another Irish musician plying his trade wherever he could to being a household name. As we soon see, it’s also how long it’s taken him to go from being just another little act on the Electric Picnic bill to drawing the biggest crowd the Main Stage saw all weekend.
Take Me to Church had a lot to do with that, and when it lands halfway through the set it’s like the sun has just come out from behind the rainclouds for the first time all weekend. On a big stage it is a rousing call to action that is near impossible not to respond to – and the crowd duly does, singing along in crazy numbers.
Hozier makes a second appearance later the same evening for an intimate secret set in the Other Voices tent. Even if he plays essentially the same set verbatim, the difference in scale is staggering. The Van Morrison-esque rhythm and blues warble of Jackie and Wilson sits right at home in the intimate surrounds, while the soulful show-stopping From Eden permeates the tiny tent with more sound than should have been possible, but remains hauntingly clear and beautiful.
He may have songs so good it doesn’t matter, but it’s still hard to avoid how static Hozier looks on stage. On a small stage, with the space small enough for a nod of the head to mean something, this was almost a positive, but for a crowd of thousands the performance is a little uninspired. There may have been a few complaints from the huge numbers who turned out to see him, but it’s scary to think that Hozier still has room to improve.
Bombay Bicycle Club
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 around dinner time on a lovely sunny evening in Stradbally. Kids are playing in the sun and a grown man cartwheels through the crowd in a playful spirit to Luna. This is a feel-good gig and tracks from the new album ‘Wherever, Whenever’, and ‘Home By Now’ are enchanting. For the latter, Jack is joined by Liz Lawrence whose presence adds a different, captivating element to the set.
This was a solid performance from the band but the crowd was not as big as anticipated. After seeing the band blow the roof off a tent in Melt Festival at 2am it’s possible they are better suited to a later slot and we would be keen to see this the next time they are in town. A strong performance nonetheless.
Paulo Nutini stepped onto the Main Stage oozing charisma and within minutes the crowd was in the palm of his hands. Singer/songwriters, take note. His set was nicely divided between new and old material but no matter what the origin date of the tune, the delivery was impeccable. He’s got the old school vibes of the classic soul masters with a contemporary twist. This is best exemplified in his heartfelt rendition of CHVRCHES’ Recover with rip-roaring vocals in the last chorus pulling on heartstrings across the main arena. The crowd sing along to Alloway Grove, chanting ‘I love you more’ as the dusk slips over the arena. Paolo and his band raised the bar for the weekend and showed the rest of the singer/songwriters how it’s done.
The Electric Arena went from ghost town to bursting at the seams in approximately five seconds before London Grammar’s set. This is the biggest Irish performance the trio have played and it is safe to say they have come a long way from their gig in The Academy last November.
The set is opened with Hey Now and there is a real sense of the band coming into their own. They exude confidence as Hannah Reid’s crystal clear voice cuts through the arena. She is no longer stuck in a static stance behind the mic stand, she is freer in herself moving around and interacting with Dan and Dot. Strong and Flicker are both particularly strong performances and the latter runs into Help Me Lose My Mind which results in a mini mosh pit. “We never think people will dance to our music” says Hannah laughing. The dancing is replaced by a deafening sing-along for Wasting My Young Years.
Whatever “it” is, London Grammar have it. Their live show has come on in leaps and bounds and we are very much looking forward to seeing what they do next.
It’s well and truly dark by the time Portishead take to the stage, and this is only right. They appear almost devoid of lighting, so all that’s visible is the big screen behind them displaying some trippy visuals. The band themselves are almost invisible, as if they are just another piece of equipment chugging along mechanically that needs to be concealed, rather than the focus of the show people came to witness.
But really it isn’t about what is onstage at all, but the sonic landscape that Portishead build between themselves and the audience. Sour Times surges up in a bulge of groovy bass, peppered through with dissonant rattles of samples, while Beth Gibbons practically screams the lines “Nobody loves meeee” in the most melodic way possible.
A burst of aggression come in the form of Machine Gun, accompanied by a selection of ripped-from-the-news-headlines visuals of a bombed out streets that could be Palestine, or Syria, or Iraq, set to a beat of pummelling, explosive beats.
The show culminates on the slow, sleepy, back and forth swell of Roads. Gibbons’ vocals reach their most chilly and haunting, slicing through the night with an expression of abject loss. The music drifts languidly through the arena, worming its way into the ear and summoning uncontrollable shivers down spines. Then it all fades to black, dropping us back in a field in Laois on a night at the end of the summer.
After playing for thousands on the main arena, Annie popped in to play a surprise set in the brand new Other Voices Stage. Annie bopped around on stage like a mad DJing scientist, twisting knobs and pushing buttons to create unbelievable sounds, making sure everyone was on their feet and dancing.
Annie kept it fresh and unexpected with samples of tunes such as Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody where you wouldn’t think it would fit. While this writer is generally sceptical of DJs bringing crowds on a “journey” this is exactly what Annie does. Her set is broken up into phases and the tempo is constantly on the rise until the end. Towards the end she invites everyone on stage to dance with her, which despite being amusing, is a bit of a failure, and her tour manager has the tough job of kicking everyone off again. The music is temporarily paused before she wraps things up with Bill Withers’ Lovely Day.
Chic took to the stage on Saturday evening to create the shindig of all shindigs. This was the epitome of merriment as Nile Rodgers and the gang knocked out tune after tune. There was not one dull moment in this entire set as they rolled through the classics; Le Freak, Good Times, I Want Your Love and Everybody Dance.
A medley of songs that Nile had written for other artists including I’m Coming Out kept the crowd on their feet and smiling from ear to ear. Chic are unbelievably tight and still at the top of their game with incredible vocals, groovy syncopated bass lines and energy to boot.
Words: Anna Job & Bernard O’Rourke
Electric Picnic – Saturday – Photo Gallery
Photos: Kieran Frost