Arriving down on the Sunday of a thus far rain-soaked Electric Picnic to cloudless blue skies would leave even the most seasoned of festival-goers feeling a little guilty; however, such is the historic moment that is the first Electric Picnic in three years, a sense of community has developed among those who’ve been in attendance since Thursday evening/Friday morning. Expecting to be met with a swarm of gloomy, mud-caked faces, what instead greeted GoldenPlec in Stradbally was a crowd who’d been through the trenches and were now fully embracing the hand that they were dealt. The fact there was a plethora of musical talent awaiting them for the day was merely the cherry on the cake. Here’s some words on who we saw.
Fresh from supporting Snow Patrol in their hometown of Bangor, Northern Irish four-piece The Florentinas opened the Rankin’s Wood stage on Sunday afternoon with an assured and promising performance. Slated by many as the future of Northern Irish pop punk, what transpires is far more alternative indie, with The Academic and The Coronas (both main stage bands this year) being the obvious reference points.
While Snow Patrol frontman and co-owner of The Florentinas’ management company Third Bar Gary Lightbody was nowhere to be seen in the crowd despite playing later that evening, his influence on the band and especially lead singer Paddy Boyd is plain for all to see and, if the quality of the songwriting continues to improve, it won’t be long until The Florentinas will be joining the male-heavy main stages of Electric Picnic in future.
One of the big Irish success stories of the pandemic era, Tullamore’s Tolu Makay has gone from strength to strength since her cover of The Saw Doctors’ N17 with the RTE Concert Orchestra brought viral success. There’s no sign of that cover in Sunday’s set, but the hits are non stop. Backed by a band led by all-round good dude Max Zaska, Makay summoned her inner-Beyonce as she sang, rapped and danced her way into the hearts of all in attendance.
Unreleased tune Earth is the obvious highlight, while previous singles Behavin’ Like A Lil Bitch and You Are Enough provide plenty of opportunities for the crowd to get involved. Tolu Makay perhaps hasn’t quite got the plaudits of the likes of her compatriots CMAT & Denise Chaila of late but on the evidence of this performance, she isn’t far from reaching that level.
Camp, Majestic, Amusing Tunes. While that’s not what CMAT stands for, it most certainly is what Global Celebrity Teen Pop SensationTM Ciara Mary Alice Thompson brings in abundance each and every time she takes to the stage. With cowboy hats in plenty supply around the arena long before CMAT’s debut Electric Picnic performance, it was no surprise to see the crowds spilling out of the Rankin’s Wood tent as 4.15pm rolled around. A heavy dose of dry ice and a blast of DJ Cammy was met with some bemusement from those in attendance, which soon turned into a deafening roar as CMAT and co took to the stage.
This particular reviewer has seen CMAT four times already this year and yet every show is like experiencing it for the first time all over again. There aren’t many bands who can do that (hiya Confidence Man) to someone who has seen thousands of gigs in their lifetime but Thompson has star power like no other. I Don’t Really Care 4 U is every bit the banger CMAT introduces it as. No More Virgos sees us treated to an audiovisual experience like no other as the band are joined on stage by drag queens Maura Darragh, Viola Gayvis and Lavender. Potentially the biggest singalong moment of the entire weekend was saved for what is easily the best Irish song of the decade so far in I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby. International stardom for CMAT is inevitable, if not already achieved.
A lot has been said in Ireland in recent years about the lack of gender balance on Irish radio and also when it comes to the platforming of Irish acts on prime time television. Joy Crookes falls perfectly into the crossover of those two points. The Irish-Bangladeshi R&B star, born and raised in London, is nominated for the Mercury Prize this week for her debut album ‘Skin’. In June, she played to tens of thousands on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. Yet, Ireland’s biggest festival can only find room for her on its relatively small Rankin’s Wood stage. Something has to change, as there shouldn’t be any debate that an artist with the star power of someone like Joy Crookes should be main staging Irish festivals.
Scheduling gripes aside, Crookes showed exactly why she should be much higher up on the bill with a jaw-droppingly beautiful set on Sunday evening. Showcasing exactly why ‘Skin’ is up for a number of awards, the Londoner reeled off tune after tune, demanding energy from those in attendance, which was a little slow to arrive. However, when it did, the love and enthusiasm for tunes such as Don’t Let Me Down, Feet Don’t Fail Me Now and When You Were Mine was palpable throughout the tent. A cover of Kendrick Lamar’s YAH went down a treat and the only thing missing was a guest appearance from Dublin rapper Jafaris for their collaboration on Early. That would have been the cherry on the cake but its absence doesn’t detract from what was a joyous performance. Main Stage next year please.
Let’s be honest here. You could put Arctic Monkeys on any stage, at any time, on any day of the year and you’re guaranteed a good time. One of the greatest bands of the 21st century, they just know exactly what it is every festival punter wants from a live show. Spearheaded by the inimitable Alex Turner, the Sheffield four-piece treated Irish fans to a career-spanning setlist on Sunday night that had a little bit of something for everyone.
On their previous tour, AM focused heavily on their latest record ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, an album which was met with quite a mixed reaction from fans and critics alike (personally, this reviewer thinks it’s the best work they’ve done). However, with a new album on the way, Arctic Monkeys have decided to ditch the piano-heavy schmoozing and go back to their live guitar-heavy roots and it pays off in big style. The trio of Brianstorm, Snap Out Of It and Crying Lightning is resplendent. Every song from 2013 record ‘AM’ is met with deafening singalongs from the adoring crowd and what’s most noticeable is how Turner’s vocals are every bit as good as they were when he told us not to ‘believe the hype’ way back in October 2005.
A knockout closing couplet of Knee Socks and 505 leave the crowd baying for more and, to be fair, having survived the absolute deluge of rain that had timed itself perfectly with the beginning of the show, they deserved more. And more they got. The plinking brilliance of One Point Perspective is followed by the rambunctious and ageless I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor before Turner sends us all into the night with R U Mine? Yes Alex, tonight, we are once again yours.