Electric Picnic, Sunday 31 August 2014
For plenty of picnickers, the last day of Electric Picnic and the last day of August coincided with a symbolic end to the summer; one final blow out before a return to school, work, college or whatever else. But as send-offs go, Electric Picnic was a pretty good one.
Sunday provided a huge variety to suit all tastes, and probably the most annoying artist clashes of the festival. The worst (of many) was probably Lily Allen, St Vincent, Jungle and Wolf Alice all playing at the same time.
And that’s without taking into account the brilliant showcases of Irish music that were taking place on the Salty Dog stage, the Oxjam tent and Jerry Fish’s Electric Slideshow (which we’re happy to report was wedged to capacity all day).
Then there was the amazing showcase of Ireland’s incredibly vibrant spoken word scene over in the Mindfield area, as well as countless other diversions.
So while we probably missed far more than we saw, the following were our highlights of Electric Picnic day three.
St. Vincent is a crusader, blazing around the world with one of the hottest shows of the current touring circuit and there is an exhilarating atmosphere in the Electric Arena as she commences her performance. The crowd is familiar with the material from her latest album and each song is greeted like a single. Prince Johnny marks a mellow, eerie moment in the set while Bring Me Your Loves shakes things up. St. Vincent is simply a force to be reckoned with and tonight she is on fire.
She knocks the ball out of the park with a standout performance of Surgeon and absolutely tears it up on the guitar – Annie lets go and is not rigidly tied to her choreography. Towards the end of the show she hops on a security guard’s shoulders, and moving towards the front of the pit almost loses her guitar to the crowd. St. Vincent thrives off the thrill thoughout. She returns to the stage, giddy, laughing and wearing a mask. She is the last to leave the stage and pauses to say goodbye to the crowd. For a second year in a row, St. Vincent arrived into Stradbally like a whirlwind, conquered, and vanished in the blink of an eye. ‘Til next time, Annie.
Outkast are celebrating their 20th Birthday this year and after much reluctance, Andre 3000 was finally persuaded to schedule a few headline festival dates. The first half of the set is strong and the audience are groovin’ and schmoozin’ to the best of Outkast’s back catalogue. Ultimately, the major singles Hey Ya, Roses, Ms Jackson, Gasoline Dreams and The Way You Move are what enliven the crowd and keep things animated. Electric Picnic has seen a lot over the years but we’re not sure it has ever seen this amount of derrière on the Main Stage screen before.
About three quarters of the way through the performance, things start to wane and no amount of rear end plastered across the screens could save the momentum. Audience members start to look bored and the set is about twenty minutes too long. The constant shout-outs to Dublin instead of Laois (and then “Dublin, Laois”) do not go down well across the arena. The hits were enjoyable but as a headline act, it doesn’t come close to Chic the night before.
We can hardly think of a more appropriate time to see Bob Marley’s former bandmates break out a slew of the reggae legend’s classic tunes than a Sunday afternoon of a festival. The sun had finally come out for more than a few fleeting moments, the drink was just starting to flow for the final day’s merriment, and all seemed right with the world.
It’s a shame then the Wailers set got cut down to a mere thirty or so minutes, leaving little time for anything other than a cursory run through of a selection of choice tunes. Is this Love, Three Little Birds and I Shot the Sheriff kept the breezy, feel-good vibe going, but with such a rich back catalogue to choose from, there unfortunately wasn’t time for much variation. Slower, more meaningful tunes like No Woman, No Cry or Redemption Song didn’t make an appearance.
It’s hard to fault the Wailers for their lively, uplifting delivery of Marley’s music; we just wish they could have stuck around for a bit longer.
Bands playing a big festival are always going to have to deal with audiences who just wandered over to this stage and don’t really know to whom they’re listening. Two-piece Drenge overcome this problem by opening with a song called I Wanna Break You in Half, which sets out their stall as well as any tune could. It’s aggressive, it’s grungy, it’s got a metric ton of distortion, and it’s seemingly designed for people who like their music exclusively loud, hard and fast.
Guitarist Eoin Loveless is a factory of dirty, sludgy riffs, while his brother Rory supplies the kind of drumming that could be transplanted into a band like Sepultura without anybody noticing anything amiss.
Face like a Skull sees the brothers embracing a free flowing, distortion heavy jam between verses, taking their instruments for a meander through a flurry of eardrum assaulting blasts of noise. Let’s Pretend meanwhile is a doom-laden mammoth of a track, and builds by getting slower rather than faster until there is nothing left for Drenge to do but toss their instruments aside and leave the stage drenched in feedback.
Jenny Lewis has crossed our radar in various guises over the last ten years through her involvement in musical projects such as Rilo Kiley, Jenny and The Watson Twins and Jenny & Johnny. Following a break from recording, Jenny was catapulted back into the limelight with the release of her new solo album ‘Voyager.’ Electric Picnic marked her first Irish performance in years and her highly anticipated return was a multi-coloured, pastel, indie extravaganza.
Jenny skipped onstage looking like she had just arrived in from the height of the 1960s and kicked off her set with a Rilo Kiley favourite, Silver Lining. Performance highlights from ‘Voyager’ include the refreshingly honest opening track Head Underwater followed by Just One of the Guys and Slippery Slopes. “There’s a little bit of magic, everybody has it,” she sings and if it’s magic you’re after, Jenny has it in bucket loads. ‘Voyager’ is the album we have been waiting for her to release and we very much hope this is the Jenny Lewis who’s going to stick around for a long time.
Laura Mvula’s debut album ‘Sing to the Moon’ was an unexpected release of neo-soul music that made its way to mainstream critical acclaim. Her recent reworking of the album with the Metropole Orkest enhanced the original collection and resulted in a truly magnificent body of work. Laura arrived at Electric Picnic with a full band (cellist, violinist, harpist, drummer and double bass player) to compliment her powerful vocals. Father Father was an unusually intimate moment at a festival and served as a stark contrast to the jangly Green Garden. The ever powerful and frank Make Me Lovely closes the performance and stands out as the highlight of the hour.
It is difficult to pin point exactly what is missing from this show as Laura packed the tent to the brim and delivered a flawless performance but it falls short on some points. At times, there is a distance between Laura and the audience, and this is hopefully something that will improve with time. ‘Sing to the Moon’ has positioned Laura as one of the most promising vocalists and composers of this generation and once her stage presence is boosted there is really nowhere Ms. Mvula cannot go.
A starry swirl of synths and a barrage of flashing spotlights heralded The Horrors’ arrival onstage, and once that started neither the music nor the lightshow gave a moment’s respite for the duration of the set.
Hot off the release of their latest album ‘Luminous’, The Horrors drew primarily on their new material for the Electric Picnic set, striking a manic balance between raw, chunky guitars and the gorgeous synthesiser rhythms, never quite settling in garage rock or shoegaze or some weird form of pop or a dozen other things, but rather constantly striving for a thing that is entirely The Horror’s own.
There were moments however, where all of these sounds get a little mushy, drowning each other out and leaving little for the listener but a wall of jagged noise.
The set culminated in I See You, with the four-piece pummelling their respective instruments in an attempt to force just a little bit more sound out of them while the dazzling lights pummelling the audience in a similar manner. Once again, certain individual instruments got a little lost in the swell of noise, but at this point, that hardly mattered. The Horrors may be many things, but they remain a rock act, and it is a joy to watch them rocking out.
The Other Voices tent proved to be one of the most consistently delightful stages across the weekend, and for its finale on the Sunday night, they pulled out the big guns. The Strypes, Mick Flannery and St Vincent all paid a visit to the yurt in the woods to close out the picnic, but before that singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey played a tender, soft-spoken and utterly charming set.
Giving the backing band he had played with earlier in the day the evening off, Mulvey appeared solo, accompanied with nothing but the gentle strumming of chords from his acoustic guitar and the even gentler lilt of his voice. His soothing folk style provided the kind of intimate, relaxed performance that could not have worked on even a slightly larger scale, and served as a neat antidote to the claustrophobia of being constantly surrounded by thousands of people at the bigger stages.
Words: Anna Job & Bernard O’Rourke
Electric Picnic – Sunday – In Photos
Photos: Kieran Frost