Electric Picnic, Friday 29 August 2014
Around forty thousand ticket holders travelled to Stradbally on Friday to set up camp at Ireland’s biggest music festival. Excitement was running high as festival regulars and newbies alike poured into the site grounds to experience a little bit of the renowned Electric Picnic magic. Tents were pitched, cans were opened and face paint was donned as laughter and jubilation trickled through the campsite.
The rain held off throughout the evening and Electric Picnic 2014 was officially opened. Good vibes dominated as punters happily ran around the main arena for Blondie, Foals and Pet Shop Boys. Those with a penchant for exploration were rewarded with hidden gems such as a Little Green Cars set in the new and fabulous Other Voices Stage or with a Blondie interview in the Hot Press tent.
Read on below to see what we thought of Foals, All Tvvins, Blondie, The Strypes, Girl Band and The Minutes.
Check back tomorrow afternoon for our review of Saturday’s events.
Opening the main stage on day one is no-doubt a daunting task for any band, but if All Tvvins (formerly Tvvins) were fazed by the pressure they didn’t show it. This could be because their hook-laden, anthemic sound was perfectly at home on a stage this size. Even if the arena hadn’t exactly filled up very much yet, those early birds that made it along were treated to rousing stadium-ready sound. You Better showcases All Tvvins ability to bring their myriad of musical stimuli together – there’s proggy guitars, spacy melodies, swimming vocals, a poppy chorus – and it all treads that elusive line between being radio friendly and trying out something new that may or may not work.
If you want to piss off a Led Zeppelin fan, the best thing you could say is that they were never any more than a really good cover band – as in, their best songs were all more or less appropriated from pre-existing blues tunes. A similar argument could be made for The Strypes, but this serves as both a compliment and a criticism. The compliment is that not many bands can play rhythm and blues this well, with such a neat and effortless looking unity. Early on in the show a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning comes thundering out of the speakers in a bombastic swell of blues chords, with the youngsters from Cavan strutting across the huge main stage with a rock and roll swagger that speaks of a total confidence in their own abilities. The criticism is that they have yet to write a song that is genuinely on par with their musical ability. The straight forward simplicity of Blue Collar Jane and What a Shame could work in their favour, but the Strypes seems to have taken a detour into punk and end up blasting through these songs far too fast. It’s impressive to see how fast they can play with such seamless precision, it just isn’t necessary. Of course all of that isn’t to say that The Strypes aren’t fun to watch, because they are. As music to kick a festival into gear, you could to a lot worse.
As far as Friday’s acts went, Blondie definitely sat near the top of the “most anticipated” scale. And like most great expectations, the promise was better than the reality. For a band that came to define a musical generation with their stylistic blend of everything from to disco to punk to reggae to rap, Blondie’s Electric Picnic set was a fairly monotone run through of the hits. From the early appearance of Hanging on the Telephone and Call Me the set established a momentum of a fun show to dance along to, but not all that much else. Even a cover of the Beastie Boys’ (You Gotta) Fight for your Right (to Party), while amusing, didn’t manage to kick the show into top gear. Debbie Harry may have looked like she was still prepared to give it all she had, but the gulf between how she used to sound and how she sounds now reared its ugly head on Make it Magnificent and Heart of Glass. The band grooved on through it regardless, but by pasting over the multitude of cracks that have appeared over the years they left the performance feeling hallow. Maybe it’s enough for a show just to be fun without being brilliant, but it was a let-down not to see enough of the Blondie that dozens of contemporary bands on the bill would probably cite as an influence.
We’re calling it now: we expect to see Girl Band come back on a bigger stage at Electric Picnic 2015. Their earth shaking set on the Body & Soul main stage on Friday night was a huge, scuzzy, headache-inducing tidal wave of noise-rock. From the droning build-up of a single chugging chord, drum fill and lyric repeated over and over again Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage, to the frenzied release of dirty feed-back wails of The Cha Cha Cha – clocking in at a breezy 25 seconds long, Girl Band squeezed more intensity into their snarling, screaming barrage of noise than most so-called heavy bands manage in an hour long set. AC/DC were wrong, sometimes rock ‘n’ roll is noise pollution, but that’s just fine with us.
Foals took to the Main Stage on Friday evening as darkness fell over Stradbally. The five piece band from Oxford struck out hit after hit, with lesser known tunes going down just as well as major singles such as My Number. The tantalising Inhaler was a definite highlight. A solid drumbeat from Jack Bevan layered with funky, foot-stomping guitar riffs and Yannis’ piercing vocals succeeded in turning the crowd into a mosh pit. The party continued with Providence as their impressive light show made it rain with lasers.
They played for slightly longer than scheduled, much to the delight of the crowd. Yannis evidently thought the audience needed a cooling down and in a slightly obnoxious move poured his water bottle over those in the pit. But before you could say ‘Antidotes’, Two Steps, Twice was wrapping up the big shindig.
Foals are undeniably one of the best live bands on the current touring circuit, though this show didn’t quite hit the same mark as their outstanding, sweaty performance in The Olympia Theatre earlier this year. The festival arena seems to remove a little bit of the magic that is so prominent in their smaller intimate shows but all in all, this was a high-powered, dynamic, enjoyable performance from Foals and we are already looking forward to their next show on the Emerald Isle.
The Minutes took to the Salty Dog Stage in the late hours of Friday Night to create a bit of mayhem. Old favourites such as Black Keys and Fleetwood proved they still have some life in them and went down a treat. Cherry Bomb and other tunes from the new album added some fresh blood to the set. Special guests and festival favourites Booka Brass Band were invited on stage towards the end of the performance to add some foot-stomping brass to The Minutes’ classic rock ‘n’ roll anthems. A successful first night of three for The Minutes down at Electric Picnic.
Words: Anna Job & Bernard O’Rourke
Electric Picnic – Friday – Photo Gallery
Photos: Kieran Frost & Tara Thomas