And just like that, summer has ended. The annual end-of-season bash that is Electric Picnic is in the book and it might go down for some as one of its best ever.
The rain held off, sustainability issues were addressed (although it remains well behind many of its peers in that regard) and the music was pretty damn good.
There are, however, always a few complaints, none more pertinent this year than the decision to bring all stages into the “arena” and thus not allow attendees to carry alcohol to some of the smaller stages as was allowed in previous years.
The free-carry policy of yesteryear was the lifeblood of many of the festival’s smaller stages such as the Salty Dog and Trenchtown and to see such low footfall in these areas at times during the festival was disappointing to say the least, especially when many of the bands (Irish especially) playing these stages are finding outlets for their music decreasing at an alarming rate
That said, the quality of the booking of the acts at the Salty Dog and at the new Three Made By Music stage was so high that they still managed to draw decent crowds at times. However, the difference was more than noticeable and is something the festival may have to reconsider in future.
Anyway, back to the tunes. There was an incredible array of talent on display all weekend, with Irish acts more than holding their own. Here are some of our highlights.
Probably the most divisive set of the entire weekend, we found ourselves leaning towards the “that was incredible” side of things as we looked back at Saturday night’s headline slot by The Strokes. Others were less enthused. But what’s a rock band if it doesn’t polarise? What rock band doesn’t want to invoke some sort of reaction, either positive or negative from its listeners?
A headline slot that was initially listed to last for two hours was cut to a 16-song 90-minute set instead. We’re not sure who by? But we also didn’t care because those ninety minutes were pure rock’n’roll. Guitar solos by the dozen, pulsating non-stop action and a frontman who just about gave the right amount of fucks.
Julian Casablancas’ attitude on the night drew ire from some, with Irish musician Paddy Hanna labelling him a twat during his set with Autre Monde on Sunday. For us, Casablancas was just having fun, teasing his bandmates and giving off the impression that the audience was just party to a regular jam session in their garage.
Highlights included a blistering rendition of New York City Cops, the sublime Meet Me In The Bathroom, Reptilia and 12:51, even if the latter was disappointingly played at 12:47. So close to perfection. Despite the printed setlist including Is This It? And Juicebox for the encore, just Last Nite was played. But with the crowd none the wiser, everyone disappeared into the forest happy to have seen one of the best bands of the 21st century do their thing. It’s what festivals are made for.
Attracting the biggest crowd the festival has ever seen, with over 60,000 squeezing into the space around the festival’s main stage according to director Melvin Benn, we already knew we were in for something special from the world’s biggest popstar right now, and Billie absolutely delivered.
A lot of the pre-festival hype had surrounded 17-year-old Billie Eilish’s debut on Irish soil, and she delivered with aplomb. Despite sound issues, she delivered a rousing performance, showcasing the dynamism, energy, and stage presence that has made her shows unmissable. The instrumentation (provided by brother Finneas) was superb, and with tracks such as Bad Guy, Bury A Friend, and the haunting When The Party’s Over, Eilish blew all in attendance away. ‘Did you see Billie?’ quickly became the question of the weekend.
The first victim of the festival’s new blanket alcohol ban in the arena, the members of Sports Team looked less-than enthused as they finished their soundcheck in front of six people, two of whom were litter pickers. Being scheduled to perform halfway through Billie Eilish’s set, the most attended set in EP history, obviously didn’t help matters.
However, despite his dour pre-show appearance, frontman Alex Rice bounds on stage moments later a changed man. In the intervening minutes, the crowd had grown to a still sparse but far healthier 30-40 members. Sports Team blasted through a whirlwind set of sardonic, tongue-in-cheek yet extremely catchy tunes that tells us exactly why they’re one of the most-talked-about indie bands in the UK right now. Rice is all the best parts of Mick Jagger, contorting and twisting himself as he prowls around the stage shouting into the space above the crowd’s heads and below the stage’s canopy.
At one stage, he jumps down into the crowd and orders four pints at the bar for anyone in the audience who wants one. “That’s a good bit that,” he jokes upon his return to the stage. “We’ve been given 40 minutes but we’ve only got a 30-minute set.” 30 minutes, however, was enough to know that this won’t be the last time we see Sports Team in Ireland. We expect there might be more people there next time.
The Claque, currently one of Ireland’s most-talked about new bands, showcased exactly why there is so much hype around them on Friday night. Like a brilliant horror film that you can’t take your eyes off, they make a noise that can only be described as melodically unholy. Even if you weren’t in sight of the Body & Soul main stage, you were going to hear what The Claque had to offer.
Frontwoman Kate Brady has come out of nowhere to be one of Ireland’s most mesmerising performers, as she stares blankly into the darkening night sky, an island of calm in the sea of cacophonous noise that surrounds her. Of course, part of the hype comes from the inclusion of Girl Band’s Alan Duggan, who plays his guitar in such a way that it never once sounds like it’s actually a guitar.
It remains to be seen if the return of Girl Band later this month means The Claque will be put on the back burner for a while, but something really exciting is brewing here. Here’s hoping there’s time for both bands to succeed.
Having binged on her Soundcloud last week, bedroom producer April’s appearance on the Body & Soul Stage on Saturday was one of our most-anticipated shows of the weekend. Backed by a tight band, the Kildare native, inspired by the likes of Gus Dapperton and Lana Del Rey, grasped the opportunity presented to her with both hands and delivered a delightful, polished set of soulful, introspective tunes.
Nerves were present throughout, however, with little said in between songs other than to introduce the next. But such was the quality, especially vocally, throughout that nobody present was complaining, instead they were happy to see the songs just coming and coming. With a debut EP on the way later this year, we’re very excited to see how far April can go.
Somebody’s Child is a bit of an enigma. One of the most-talked-about acts in Ireland among industry folk, his name is still relatively unheard of in the public realm. Not for long. Some scheduling issues meant we were only able to catch a short set on the Today FM Sound Garden stage on Saturday but it was more than enough to pique our interest.
Distance, the Dubliner’s latest single, is gripping, with Somebody’s Child’s slightly fractured vocal brought to the fore in an acoustic setting. A quick between-song interview with the radio station reveals an anxiety-laden young man who has found new confidence through his songwriting and through his band. It’s a heart-warming insight into one of the country’s most prodigious new talents. With new single Jungle out in October, expect to hear Somebody’s Child’s name mentioned at an increasing rate. The boy’s going to be big.
girl in red
One of the moments of the weekend came at the Cosby Tent on Saturday afternoon, with Norway’s girl in red delivering a memorable set of the “lo-fi queer-pop” tunes that has led to her being dubbed by some outlets as a spokesperson for queer teenagers across the world.
Greeted with a chorus of high-pitched screams and rainbow flags as she bounded on stage, the energy in the tent never let up for one second throughout. girl in red’s band leap and throw themselves around the stage, and we mean this in the best way possible, like a Busted tribute act.
Summer Depression descends into karaoke as the crowd belt the lyrics back at their idol. There is crying, laughing, screaming and an abundance of pogoing. It’s quite something to witness. Set closer I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend, however, will go down as one of the most-beautiful live moments we’ve witnessed. Standing on the barrier, girl in red invites the audience to come as close to her as possible, before launching herself on to them and crowd surfing throughout the second half of the stage. The joy on the faces of those up the front as they streamed out of the Cosby Tent will live long in our memories. Bravo.
“What’s that sport you guys play here? It’s like field hockey but a bit crazier?” asks Sebastian Murphy, frontman of the hilariously deranged Swedish post-punk band Viagra Boys on Saturday evening before adapting Sports, the band’s biggest hit to date, to refer to hurling at various points. It’s a little thing, but one that endears the band to its audience, showing a distinct interest in them, something others playing the festival could learn something from.
Although that’s where the Viagra Boys lessons might end for other bands, because what the Swedes do is so unique to them that anyone else trying to replicate it will look ridiculous. There are partial strip shows, human vodka fountains, enough cigarettes to satisfy the entire festival’s nicotine cravings, and a never-ending string of pulsating, erratic, growling post-punk tunes. Viagra Boys are real contenders to IDLES’ crown as the best live band in Europe right now. They might even just come out on top. Go see them.
Our personal highlight of the weekend, Easy Life, who we interviewed earlier this year, took a timetable clash with “the world’s biggest band” The 1975 in their stride and delivered a joyous performance on the Three Made By Music stage.
“Why aren’t you all at The 1975?” asks Easy Life singer, who chooses to go by just Murray. “We won’t keep you long,” he jokes. Just one of a string of endearing moments throughout the short set, including stage invasions, light slagging of County Mayo, and Murray wearing an outfit made entirely out of donations from the crowd. Lyrics to the likes of Nightmares and Pockets are roared back in unison over layers of jazz-infused hip-hop beats and it’s clear something special is developing in front of our eyes.
Easy Life are from your traditional boyband, and that’s why we’re tipping them to be main staging festivals in no time at all. In a world of pop acts who believe their own hype, the down-to-earth soundness on show here makes for a refreshing and exciting change.
Taking a brief break from recording their debut album in Donegal, Pillow Queens delivered one of their best performances to date on the Salty Dog stage. With the sound on the stage being praised by every band that took to it over the weekend, Pillow Queens are no different, with every chord, note and lyric crisp as the descending night air.
An over-eager smoke machine enveloped the band throughout, but all eyes in the crowd remained locked on the stage. The band are all in top form, asking if anyone in the crowd is a pillow queen. Some very self-assured hands shoot up, others raise their hands without quite knowing what they were admitting to. Laughter erupts throughout as explanations are offered by those around them. It makes for a gorgeous atmosphere. Everyone’s at ease, nodding along, taking it all in.
New tunes Dog’s Life and Brothers are graciously accepted, the latter in particular causing some emotions to spill over. Ragin’ is the highlight as co-front woman Pamela battles with the now out-of-control smoke machine. “Any chance you could tone down that shmoke machine?” a disembodied voice asks from the stage in a thick Dublin brogue. “Or have I made myself an enemy now?”. Pillow Queens made no enemies made tonight though. Just a legion of new fans.
Bow down everyone, Ireland has a new soul diva and she goes by the name of Toshin. Ever since we premiered Toshin’s single Love & Defeat back in February, we’ve been super excited about catching the Dubliner live, even making her one of our must-see acts for the festival, despite not having seen her perform yet ourselves. We weren’t disappointed.
Dubliner Tosin Bankole is a superstar in the making. Backed by a seven-piece band, including Bicurious guitarist Taran Plouzané, Toshin delivered an attitude-drenched set of groovy soul as she opened the Body & Soul stage on Friday evening.
The aforementioned Love & Defeat, about an unfaithful ex goes down a treat. “Can you believe he cheated on me!? Look at me. I am a QUEEN!” she proclaims towards the end to rapturous applause. Bankole’s vocals combined with her enthralling theatrics on stage lift songs such as Oh Lord and Girl Go Off to new levels. It’s a thrilling show. Watch this space.
When a rain-soaked Sunday in Blessington led to The Scratch’s much-awaited headline slot being cut short and downgraded to a smaller stage due to safety issues on the main stage, many felt we had been robbed of an incredible moment, none more so than the band themselves who, despite their best efforts, looked disheartened throughout.
What better way, however, to blast away that disappointment than with a Sunday night slot on the Salty Dog at Electric Picnic. Playing the Knockanstockan headline set they never got to play, The Scratch absolutely obliterated the audience, turning a group of curious passers-by into an all-out, arms flailing, sweat-drenched and half-dressed moshpit.
The signs were there early on, with a circle pit formed around a tree during just the second song of the set. The energy never let up from there. Cunla, Punisher, Old Man and Flaker are met with more jumping than a trampoline convention. The Scratch are probably the most-unexpected success story in Ireland in recent years but the work they’ve put into perfecting their unique brand of trad-metal has paid off in abundance. There’s not a person in the country who wouldn’t find themselves losing their mind at one of their shows. A perfect way to wrap up the festival.