Stradbally, County Laois, Ireland 30th August – 1st September.
Build and Break ( 25th – 29th August).
Got a lift with Kristian from Tyrrellspass to the festival site on Sunday 25th August and was surprised about all the back roads that led to Stradbally, arriving just after 4 PM it wasn’t long till some of the other familiar faces arrived, Anne Delaney had already put a tent up for me the same one I used at All Together Now and had mats, sleeping bag, pillow and lights all set out, so this was absolutely perfect, just a matter of moving into the tent. Aaron Cleary and his friends kindly gave me a lift to the Festival production area where we met Catherine and got our build and break advanced orange band and John Dooley gave me a lift back to the crew camp.
John had the cinema up and running, some lovely dinners cooked and a plenty of hot caffeine beverages on the go and whenever I met Jenny and Jill I would scream ‘wave your hands in the air.’
For our shifts myself and John were working in the traders accreditation area, where we issued temporary vehicle passes and wristbands to the arriving workers, we were supposed to also help them in doing an online health and safety induction via downloading a QR Code and they would take a picture of the Festival Republic code which they were then supposed to open and complete a questionnaire to email back to FR, but half the traders couldn’t get wifi or else their phones were too old and not smart phones. Jenny, Jill, Anne and John had some run ins with some of the FR production staff and a phrase that came about coined by John Dooley and JD called ‘Beautiful People.’ You meet them in a walks of life
Monday was a fairly quiet day and for the following afternoon shift of Anne and Clídna. Tuesday a little busier with a load of traders arriving in from the Reading And Leeds festivals in the UK. John was working the crew camp for Wednesday and Thursday so I got JD and Anne to help me for these days too which were the busiest of the lot and the RSA fellows were involved too, to make sure the queue of vehicles didn’t block the main road and to keep things moving. Some familiar faces at Body&Soul festival showed up such as Arthur from Belfast although I didn’t get to see him again for the rest of the festival.
I took the opportunity to explore the festival site on Wednesday after my shift bringing a yellow bib with me as I had to hand back the pink one and because of the health and safety rules about festival build being basically a building site, security could be ratty if you didn’t stick to the rules. I explored the new Freetown area and noticed some of the main arena marquees had changed as well.
There was a face missing from the festival crew this year, Declan Jordan, Eventsec supervisor and Guardian of Gate 6 for many years. The first time I volunteered Electric Picnic in 2011 I worked with Declan, a humble man. He died tragically in 1st November last year and will be remembered fondly as the smiling security boss who helped his colleagues keep their cool in heated situations such as ‘guess the wristband’ during the festival workers lunch break. RIP Declan you’ll be sorely missed.
Thursday night was spent chilling with Dave in the Hendrix campsite believe it or not, the Thursday night was mellow there and felt like the Picnics of old. Dave still had his trusty late eighties ghetto blaster and a vast selection of CD classics, recordings from the Later with Jool’s so similar to 2012 EP, felt no need to go exploring the site just chilling and catching up with old friends and making new ones with the neighbours.
Friday 30th August.
Went into Stradbally for a filled roll and to pick up a two litre of spring water to mix with my favourite drink later, had a shower and just chilled around the tent as John was away at a family wedding for the night. Kevin arrived in the afternoon after being misdirected twice by the Gardai because he didn’t have the crew band at the time.
Music in the arena started at six so we made tracks about seven as I was curious about this emerging new artist Billy Eilish. When I arrived at the main arena all I could see was a entire meadow of youth moving, running in mass towards the main stage, I remarked to Kevin ‘Jeez there must be about 15,000 – 20,000 people already gathered down there’ and it was only the second main stage act of Friday. A quick decision to watch from the very back for five minutes was in order and then go off to another gig, with her green hair jumping about like a monkey on a elastic the roars of the audience was insane. Eilish certainly has the confidence of an up and coming pop star and through her tour she has been quickly bumped up in the festival listings around the world on the strength of her Coachella and Glastonbury appearances. She has a pleasant enough voice and no auto tune on sight which is refreshing, but not for me, I wanted something a bit rockier. She certainly had the audience in the palm of her hand and at the age of seventeen must have matched the ages of most there. The new main stage screens are pretty decent, very large and you can see quite well the action from way behind the seating stands. There is reports emerging recently of crushes that occurred before and after the gig, I will add the photo of the crush coming from the Hendrix camp to the main arena as this needs to be looked at if Mr Benn is thinking of adding another 20,000 people.
Miles Kane – Electric Arena 7.15 – 8.15 PM.
English musician Miles Kane also a member of The Last Shadow Puppets gave a spirited enough set, my mate Dave likened him to a sort of Oasis/Noel Gallagher buzz and I think he hit the nail on the head. He had a decent backing band keeping a solid rhythm and pleasant enough melodic alternative rock. You might like Miles Kane though, check out his solo stuff in his album’s Colour of the Trap, Don’t Forget who you Are and Coup de Grace as well as The Last Shadow Puppets back catalogue.
JARV IS – Electric Arena 8.45 – 10.00 PM.
This was my third time seeing Jarvis Cocker, having seen him at EP 2007 and with Pulp in 2011, he always puts on a good show, standing aloft on his monitors he exudes a powerful charisma and stomps through a catalogue of classics such as Further Complications, House Music, Must I Evolve, a funky You’re in my eyes and a brilliant cover of Pulp’s His’n’Hers among others. Cocker has one of the finest voices in alternative rock and he and his band were in fine fettle tonight.
After the gig myself and Dave somehow lost Kevin, which kind of happens at festivals, Dave phones him, he’s at the Heineken bar, we walk up to there but no sign of him. We decide to go for a wander up to Freetown and the Salty Dog area to explore the different sites. The Spike Island house is a impressive area made of wood and illuminated in cool lights, a cool looking cottage area with a small gig space inside. I took a short video taken in the structure from outside and into the gig area where folk band Rake the Ashes had a decent crowd cheering them on.
Dave was going on about an area he visited earlier in Freetown that was a burlesque circus so we trooped about till we came to a smaller marquee in the Freetown area, with raucous girls performing burlesque dances to rock music and hoop tricks, it reminded me of the Lost Vagueness area from the earlier Picnics and that other circus crowd the Lucent Dossier Experience. I found out later that the performers formally worked at the Jerry Fish tent during the intermissions between music acts but that now they had their own marquee in Freetown called The Dirty Circus.
Amelie Lens – Terminus Marquee (Freetown) 10.30 PM – 12.00 AM.
One of the fastest rising stars in the minimal techno dance scene, Belgian Amelie Lens probably put on one of the most riveting shows over the festival weekend, The venue itself, Terminus deserves a mention with freight containers built into the structure to contain the sound and absorb any noise bleed and holding up to 6,000 capacity within. This was the perfect venue for Lens and she must’ve had at least three quarters of the tent full of techno disciples worshipping at her altar. Post event I notice that my Amelie Lens video clip has the most likes on Facebook so she must be one of the youths main highlights of Friday anyway.
We walked back to the Salty Dog area and checked out the new seating area that overlooks the stage taking in some of the music of Khartoum who had a delightful old school indie, punk and new wave sound. There is always something about the Salty Dog that brings you back to the roots of rock n roll and punk.
Scary Éire – Salty Dog 1.00 – 2.00 AM.
Now a few people recommended me checking out this act, especially Dave, reforming after an absence of fifteen years on St Patrick’s Day this year, the Irish hip hop pioneers from Dublin made for an interesting gig, especially now that Irish hip hop these days is becoming fairly big with the likes of Mango X Mathman and Jafaris among others. What I also liked about Scary Éire was they used old school dub plates and had a DJ scratching records to their sound which you don’t hear so much these days and was more of an early nineties thing. The band comprising of members RiRa, DJ Mek, Dada Sloosh and Mr Browne had a nice crowd tonight enjoying the sounds when they played their classics Thief and the Liar, The Dole Q and Truncheon Song among others, an interesting and entertaining gig.
This next clip is taken from the seating area of Salty Dog overlooking the Scary Éire gig.
It was just after 2.30 AM that the heavens opened, rain had been predicted to start late enough, so it was a rush for us to get back to our tents before we got soaked and the close of Friday night for me.
Saturday 31st August.
Got up and into Stradbally for a sandwich and a few other groceries, chilling at John’s camper with himself, JD, Clídna and Ross. Kevin was shattered and staying in the tent as he had just come off a night shift on Friday so only had a few hours sleep since. After a shower and a chill around crew camp I started decanting some absinthe, the choice for tonight was some La Capricieuse Suisse La Bleue (Clear) absinthe from Val De Travers in Switzerland and some Serpis Spanish red absinthe, two shots each louched with chilled sparkling water into 550 ML bottles, two for myself and two which I placed into Kevin’s tent for him. I studied the timetable and worked out who I wanted to see, Kneecap, Christine & the Queens, Yankari and the Viagra Boys before turning electronica for Richie Hawtin and Four Tet at night time.
Firstly I wanted to check out Global Green and Green Crafts just for a little sit down and chill and maybe take some photos. Maybe someone can correct me I believe the first three photos are from the Global Green area.
Kneecap – Terminus Marquee (Freetown) 6.45 – 7.30 PM.
This was the second time catching this controversial Northern rap act and they had a fairly packed out tent for this gig, I wanted to catch them again as I only caught the end of their set the last time at Body&Soul Festival this year. They had accompanying visuals on the backdrop this time of their slogans and a smattering of singalong classics as Sniffer Dogs, Cearta, Bouncers and the very incendiary HOOD culled from their album or mix tape 3CAG. I hope they keep at it as the rap scene in the North and Ireland in general seems pretty healthy and with the likes of Scary Éire and Kneecap floating about.
Christine & the Queens – Main Stage 7.35 – 8.35 PM.
Having being watching a bit of Christine & the Queens on television at Glastonbury and various other performances, I was intrigued about this show, not knowing much about the band I know that Christine is trained dancer and that her backing troupe are incredible at their choreography in dancing along with her. I’m trying remember who else does this, yes, Madonna would put that same effort into dance moves with a dance troupe sometimes. This French group is interesting, It looks like they might be influenced in bits by eighties and nineties synth pop and funk, experimental pop and dance art. Christine has a sweet voice and the Queens are a nice early evening act to start the party going, with selections culled from their two albums Chaleur humaine and Chris. Christine kept affectionately referring to where she was as Dublin even when her band corrected her in saying Laois, she sill brazenly referred to it as Dublin, a wonderful interesting act to catch if you can.
Yankari – Trenchtown (Kingston 12) 8.00 – 9.00 PM.
How could I miss this act after they blew me away at All Together Now, Trenchtown in general was fairly empty at this point I may have counted about fifteen people spread out between the two DJ stages but the Kingston 12 stage had a decent gathering for Yankari, the ten piece Afro Beat. Now I have already talked about Yankari in depth in my previous review at ATN and I was delighted to have the Nikon with me this time so I’ll let this HD video clip do the talking this time. Alas I never made it in time to catch The Viagra Boys as I was trying to do twenty to thirty minutes of each act but didn’t take in the time it would take to get to each venue.
Richie Hawtin – Electric Arena 9.45 – 10.45 PM.
It was seven years since Richie Hawtin had last played Electric Picnic and it was amazing the difference in the size of venue, in 2012 he played the Little Big Tent which was clearly too small as half his fan base were milling about outside trying to get in. This time he was in the Electric Arena which is about four times as big as the Little Big and a sizeable chunk of it filled by ravers mad for his minimal techno. With seventeen albums behind this techno legend he put on a damn good show of bass heavy beats and throbbing lights and strobes, a kicking performance from Hawtin.
Four Tet – Electric Arena 11.30 PM – 1.00 AM.
This was my second time catching Four Tet and I was looking forward to this one, Kieran Hebden had a fairly basic setup this time around and like his Coachella performance all he had in forms of light was the two desktop lamps each side of him to light up his equipment so that he could see what he was doing. It was strange looking at an electronic dance gig in the inky blackness, but I grew accustomed very quickly and had to admit I liked it. It was like being placed into an isolation tank with the most delightful orgasmic electronic sounds, Hebden’s idea being it was all about the sounds and not the visuals. There was a great banging cover of Malin Genie’s Bulbocavernosa and some nice new numbers in the mix from his most recent album New Energy (2017) such as Lush and SW9 9SL and finishing with Lion from Pink (2012) among others that guarantee’s Four Tet is one of the best when it comes to experimental dance grooves.
After this I took the short cut to Body&Soul Village where Lamb was blasting out Gorecki from the B&S main stage to a packed out audience, it was a sight to behold and a nice blast from the past to walk into. I was in search of the Haunt but it looked like it was moved to another area, I eventually found it and got a bit of a seat, the DJ playing some nice obscure Irish folk stuff. I eventually met Kevin again and we went back to the Body&Soul main stage for the close with Kelly-Anne Byrne.
Kelly-Anne Byrne – Body&Soul Main Stage 2.00 – 3.45 AM.
It was nice to have Kelly-Anne Byrne with this closing slot and some people made note that this set was more beats heavy than the usual happy soulful house, but still damn good party music, Kelly was a big hit at Body&Soul festival this year when she closed the Reckless in Love stage on Saturday, I also met Aaron my Body&Soul coordinator from Body&Soul festival this year who was down with a load of his mates. Good times galore and a nice way to blow out the Saturday night.
Sunday 1st September.
Another classic hangover today and off to Stradbally for a pouch and a sandwich, funds was low enough so I was avoiding eating at the festival site as it was just too expensive. Quite a lot of people went into the festival site early, but nothing seemed to be grabbing me from the bill earlier in the day. And that’s the difference between ATN and EP, the walk from crew camp to ATN was a mere five minutes whilst with EP it about half an hour depending on what state you were in. After a bite and a shower and louching up some absinthe, this time one of the green French ones and the stronger Spanish Serpis red we made tracks to the arena for 5.20 PM.
We headed for Trenchtown going by the big wheel route as it was better than entering through the one way system at Freetown, it was still very quiet in Trenchtown for this time of day with maybe 25 people spread around the two DJ stages, but it was nice to hear some Toots & the Maytals and Bob Marley and to have a wee bounce to the sounds.
Johnny Marr – Electric Arena 6.00 – 7.00 PM.
Having caught Johnny Marr at EP 2013 but in the outside of the Electric Arena as the tent was wedged this time around I was near the front and middle of the arena. The ex-Smiths guitarist put on a great show with a selection of tracks from his most recent album Call the Comet, some Smith’s classics in How Soon is Now, Bigmouth Strikes Again and This Charming Man as well as covers from other groups such as Depeche Mode and New Order. Marrs packed out the tent with his performance and when there was technical glitches such as the sound cutting out the guitarist wasted no time in doing a stage dive while technicians repaired the problem. An excellent concert by an excellent musician.
Richard Ashcroft – Main Stage 7.00 – 8.00 PM.
I was looking forward to this one as I always liked The Verve and Richard Ashcroft didn’t disappoint, he still has a marvellous voice and a very tight backing band, he also helped bring the sun out with his optimism. A selection of tracks from his back catalogue including his more recent album Natural Rebel released last year. Myself and Kevin noted though that there wasn’t as big a crowd as we anticipated for this iconic singer and the applause after his newer material seemed a bit muted. This picked up when he played some of his Verve classics such as Lucky Man, The Drugs Don’t Work and closing his set with the powerful Bittersweet Symphony. Yep Richard Ashcroft has still got it and a very pleasing gig for the Sunday evening it has to be said.
I was at a loss then of where to go or who to see in the lineup plus my energy was flagging, I could have went to catch the second half of Roisin Murphy but didn’t, I wasn’t too sure on tonight, should I check out Florence & the Machine or The Streets, none of them were grabbing me really or maybe I was just tiring of the main arena, it was mostly more busier today as well because of the Sunday day tickets crowd that adds a fair few extra thousand people. I headed with Kevin over to the Today FM Soundgarden to catch the last 40 minutes of Kelly-Anne Byrne’s set. Her music tonight more akin to her Casa Bacardi set of the last few years, noticeably she wasn’t doing the Casa set this year but on that wee bit later in the Soundgarden stage. It was nice to hear some of her happy soul house funk and she had a decent content crowd dancing away, Byrne even came out for a dance herself to her last number and a beautiful lady is she.
Kodaline – Main Stage 8.30 – 9.30 PM.
Now I’m not too keen on Kodaline but Kevin wanted to catch a bit of them, so I tagged along, the crowd was absolutely massive gathered for the group, stretching to the very back of the main arena and right up to the sides of the food stalls. Described as alternative rock, indie pop. Irish band Kodaline has a very melodic FM friendly rock sound that I suppose was easy to sing along too hence much of the audience singing along to their tracks. I wouldn’t be too familiar with their material since I would be too busy blasting my ears with dirty rusty Aphex Twin beats but to give the band their dues they paid a lovely tribute to Dolores O’ Riordan from the Cranberries (Another band not too high in my listening pleasure stakes) and done a nice rock out of the Limerick group’s smash hit Zombie which was impressive. The band finished their set with their popular hit High Hopes, which had the entire audience singing along to it and after the gig too I remember.
Now to get out of this Kodaline crowd was next to impossible and a situation I regretted, the same with Kevin, we were standing behind a couple of people chatting but the crowd en mass were moving every which way and we went into slight panic mode for a while and hoping we didn’t fall. I eventually moved toward the fencing near the stalls until the crowd ebbed after half an hour. This where I made the decision I had to get out of the main arena and into somewhere safe, Body&Soul beckoned, so we made straight for the staff short cuts straight into the Body&Soul area. It was straight up to the Haunt for me and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing, a lone couch beckoned me to sit, I sat down and remained there for the night. Various friends came and joined me from time to time, the lovely Clidna, John Dooley and random characters, Kenno, a grey haired and bearded hippy fellow from Dublin who played his bones and clapped to the music. I remember Kenno playing the bones to Paddy Keenan’s gig at the Body&Soul main stage at Body&Soul festival a few years back. When the music turned Irish trad for while at the Haunt I couldn’t resist taking out my bodhran out and playing along and tonight I recognised some of the DJ selections.
Here are some of the selections I heard over the night.
Kevin and Clídna headed off to see The Streets at one point and then to see King Kong Company at the Body&Soul main stage, but I was fairly content where I was and when they DJ switched to the Irish traditional for a while he played this little gem featuring one of my hero’s Johnny ‘Ringo’ McDonagh from Galway city on the bodhran and I played happily along.
Alas I fell asleep there and was woke up by security at 4.30 AM and kicked out of the Haunt, so for the last thing I decided to take a photo of the Body&Soul Village on my way home.
Monday 2nd September.
Hungover to hell today the lovely John Dooley served me up a life affirming coffee, I was actually going home with more clothes than I came with, Jenny giving me a t shirt of her Wild Alantic Tattoo event which is absolutely gorgeous and Ann giving me a spare pair of jeans. Kevin was going home to Clare so I went back with him and then onto Galway after where he was starting his night shift at 10.30 and me to my session in Tigh Cholis. Thanks everyone for looking after me, you know who you are, you will always be in my heart. Special thanks to Catherine, Susan, John Dooley, Anne Delaney, Jenny the Pink Lady and Kevin Keehan amongst other fine people, thanks for putting up with me Kevin, I’m not the best for communication sometimes by phone. Roll on next year for Electric Picnic 2020. I don’t know if I’m getting too old for this now but if Aphex Twin is announced next year I’ll be charging to the head of the queue with my lightsaber. See ya all next year. 🙂