Electric Picnic 2017 Festival Review

EP2017

The Prelude: Sunday 27th   –   Thursday 31st August. 

The wonderful Aibhe Jagodic gave me a lift on Sunday afternoon from Galway to Stradbally, the Electric Picnic and Body&Soul festival stalwart commutes regularly from the West to the South East for her work, but she entertained me with some lovely festival memories and she couldn’t go this year because of work commitments, which I think was tearing her up.  She is also a great friend of the lovely Juley-Ann Collins who gave me a lift to the Body&Soul festival in 2012 and would be working the festival from Wednesday onward.

At Stradbally John Dooley, Ann-Marie and JD Corcoran were already set up at the crew camp as well as some of the other regulars, Jenny and Aidan arriving from Cork not long after me.  John was back at the same spot and set up the cinema screen for tonight’s film, I’m delighted to say that he chose the DVD I brought down with me, a gift from my brother a few years back, Angel’s Share, a Scottish film about disadvantaged Glaswegian youths who through the help of a social services worker carve a new interest in collecting rare Scottish whisky and it becomes their salvation, the film also deals with how to deal with anger management.  Crash from 2005 the following night, Paul Haggis’s masterpiece about race and ethnicity.  Wednesday nights film never materialised as there was too much copious amounts of craic to be had. But John entertained the arriving weekend volunteers with Trainspotting on the Thursday.

The work duties for the festival was fairly easy peasy,  I was working at the Production gate this year so my job was to direct arriving inductees to the staff car park and direct them to volunteers further down the field who would give them a health and safety induction and pre-event wristband so that they could progress further into the festival site.  The Grandstand was our shop of choice, the little green shop just beyond the Production entrance and across the road from Supervalu, it had the best breakfast rolls in the town, so scrumptious lunch or brunch breaks were to be had.  I was working with JD, who was great craic and appreciated my sounds I was playing on the beatbox and my blog reviews.

The tiny gate at the production entrance, I marvelled at the enormous articulated lorries that managed to squeeze through that tiny space, bringing rigging to the stages, bar set ups, circus and fun fair equipment, catering and some of the most creative caravans out there, destined for the Trailer Park area.

I got wristbanded on Wednesday night with my proper weekend cloth band, it was nice to have that out of the way as it can be hectic when queuing with the weekend volunteers on Thursday for the wristband, I also set about taking some pictures of the site build. Thursday seemed to be the quietest day as far as activities was concerned because all the trucks had already served the festival, the infrastructure was already in place.

John is like the Electric Picnic volunteer saviour, he made some lovely meals over the past week, kept us watered with fine beers, coffees and teas.  Was a recharge point for many people and to top it off, his infectious humour kept us on a buzzing vibe, oh!  And I forgot to mention his cool sound system playing the best funk on Spotify.

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Aidan and Jenny.
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A rainbow and rain showers over the crew Camp on Wednesday.
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One of the many roads that cut through the festival site.
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The Picnic still has to go up.
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The majestic 7,000 capacity Electric Arena Marquee.
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Electric Arena.
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The towering Electric Arena.
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The Casa Bacardi Stage.
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The Body&Soul Village ready to go on Thursday night.
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Installation at the Body&Soul Village.
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Body&Soul Village.
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Fairy forest in the Body&Soul Village.

Friday 1st September.

First priorities was to go to Stradbally from the crew camp and procure a breakfast roll and coffee from the Grandstand shop, this set me up for my first exploration in the main arena about two or three hours before official festival day opening times.  I headed up with Gearoid Isainmdom who came down with Kevin Keehan on Tuesday night, a good friend of mine and we wandered about the main arena bumping into other Galway friends Gavin Grennan and Caroline Crow, festival stalwarts of a multitude of festivals, some of which I was at.

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Gearoid, Caroline and Gavin.

We headed up to the Body&Soul Village where myself and Gearoid stopped at the Tiny Tea Tent, had a lovely cuppa and some chocolate flake and sponge cake, sitting relaxing and loving the sunny vibe of the place.  Then my Whatsapp buzzed, it was David Curran and he was wanting to buy a ticket, only I forgot, Kevin had given it to me the night before which I put in my jacket.  Of course, my bloody jacket was sitting in my tent at crew camp.  So it meant I had to trudge through the arriving festival crowd out of the arena back to crew camp, luckily David met me there and everything worked out grand.

We headed into the main arena again about 5.30 – 6 pm and headed to the Bacardi Bar to listen to some of the Get Down Edits set, a great funky tech house sound that had a busy enough crowd getting down.

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Get Down Edits – Casa Bacardi Friday 1st September.

I went to the merchandise stand as I wanted to buy the timetable and booklet, some of the times printed would turn out to be incorrect during the weekend and why no Rankin’s Wood info for Friday.  There was obviously stuff going on in the marquee so why was this omitted from the timetable people are paying money for.  Kevin wanted to see the Jenny Greene show so he relied on the festival app which always had the correct info.

The Divine Comedy   – Main Stage   7.30    –   8.30 PM.

I enjoyed a bit of the Divine Comedy’s set, the band were going through some sound problems when we arrived and Neil Hannon didn’t seem amused about it, but the rest of the set proved faultless.  They played some of the classics such as Indie Disco, National Express and some of the recent album Foreverland.  The band got a decent crowd and was a nice kick start for the main stage as the third opening act of the weekend.

The History of Hip Hop, Jenny Greene and the RTE Concert Orchestra – Rankin’s Wood –  9.00  –  9.40 PM.

Kevin wanted to see this, so I trooped along for the craic, another stage to go to I suppose. I wasn’t that much impressed with the hip hop selection although I wasn’t there for the whole set and we were listening from outside the tent, but there seemed to be some glaring absences in the history such as Grandmaster Flash, the Sugarhill Gang, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, NWA and Public Enemy.  If you are going to do a history of hip hop you have to go as far back as James Brown’s I’m Black and I’m Proud and Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Not be Televised to even understand social commentary and poetry and prose to the bass beat.

Jenny Greene’s set was very short at about forty minutes, it was bouncy enough dance classics and a great sound system but I wouldn’t say I was absolutely ecstatic about it but it was a lot of fun and it was the audience that made it a really good atmosphere.

The XX   – Main Stage    10.00 PM   –   12.00 AM.

The XX put on an amazing show, they are exceptional musicians who take their dark jangly indie rock into an electronica realm with Jamie XX coming over as a beats master, exemplary DJ and drummer too.  Lashings of tracks featured from their new album I See You including their single On Hold and some of the classics from their previous two albums such as Islands among others.  Tops to the main stage crew who had a fantastic sound coming from the PA and some of the visuals from the XX show were breathtaking, exotic lighting backdrops and pretty cool lasers made for a very enjoyable show.

We mainly wandered about Body&Soul after that soaking up the atmosphere, visiting the main stage numerous times, catching snippets of various acts like HMLTD, Lowly and New Jackson who provided some nice dance grooves to close the B&S main stage for Friday.  Wandered over to the Peace Pagoda and caught a bit of some set, the music, a long constant ambient drone that was so, painfully loud, had we stayed there we would have been deafened, so maybe ambient in a torturous kind of way.  There was some nice ambient techno emitting from the Earthship stage courtesy of Lumigraph and later on Neil Flynn.

The biggest surprise though was the Haunt, a new barn type venue that looked like a set from a David Lynch film.  Now the Haunt is quite a small venue maybe marginally bigger than the Red Bull Soundome, well maybe a crammed room if 150 people were there, but it had a creepy cool clandestine feel to it, almost like a candle light glow.  The softest seats to the side and a great selection of DJs spinning the wonderful music.  The music ranging from vaudeville, bebop, blues, folk music from around the world, deepest Africa, Cuba, Klezmer, Balkan, Mexican and Ireland too ending on a Christy Moore/Planxty note, it was really loud but beautiful sounds.   There was no timetable information for the Haunt so I have no idea who was playing Friday or Saturday night.  I just wonder if its the same people who ran the Gramophone Disco at Townlands Carnival as I remember a similar Planxty/Christy Moore thing happening in there too last year.  Myself and Kevin headed back to the crew camp for the night at about 3.30 am, time to get a much needed rest.

The Haunt
The Haunt, Body&Soul Village.   photograph by Siobhan Venables

Saturday 2nd September.

Woke up to the fine John Dooley who delivered a cup of coffee to my tent, what a legend you are and a nice bacon sandwich later in the camper.  I think myself, Kevin and Gearoid went into the main arena about 3 or 4 PM,  I called up to the volunteer HQ to say hello to Catherine Kehoe, our coordinator and Susan, her assistant who were doing a fine job looking after the volunteers, special mention to the weekend volunteers Kim Austin and Niamh Ryan for getting out there and organising a bus to bring 30 volunteers to the festival site from Dublin on the Thursday preceding the festival.  Kim was my next door neighbour in the campsite, in fact I was surrounded by people from County Wexford, thanks for putting up with my wild Aphex Twin audios on the beatbox.  When my Ipod seemed to go on permanent lock I hope my green speaker was of some use to you. 🙂

This year I avoided the usual haunts of Trenchtown, Hazelwood and Rave in the Woods and decided to try a few different areas, mainly Trailer Park that I’ve never really explored at the festival before.  There was some really gorgeous caravans and strange stalls and characters who populated the area.

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Trailer Park.
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Trailer Park.
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Panto in the Trailer Park.
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A turban making stall at Trailer Park.
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Caravanoke.
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Jaheire on the Trailer Park Stage Saturday 2nd September.

Jaheire  – Trailer Park Stage    4.05    –   5.00 PM.

Jaheire were covering all the famous Bob Marley and the Wailers hits as well as classics by Toots and the Maytals, The Specials and Madness.  They are a fairly tight band who had a nice audience gathered no doubt some destined to be at the Madness set later, but Jaheire has a fine singing voice and got us into good form for the upcoming shows.

Madness   –  Main Stage     5.30   –   6.30 PM.

It was just as well we were milling about for half an hour as Madness came on at 5.30 rather than the timetable advertised time of 5.45 PM, possibly pissing off people with the incorrect laminate times as they would automatically miss fifteen minutes of the gig. Anyway, the lads put in a classic performance of all their famous hits.  Kicking off with Embarrassment and then into their 1979 debut single The Prince, they still sound incredible and Suggs still looks great with his voice in fine fettle.  I was delighted that they played One Step Beyond as they didn’t play it at EP in 2009, the audience delightfully sang along to the melody.  Hit after hit reeled out Our House, Baggy Trousers, It Must Be Love and My Girl amongst others and a fine cover of Max Romeo’s Chase The Devil. The perfect band to enliven the audience at the main stage for today’s proceedings.

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Madness on the Main Stage   Saturday 2nd September.

The Rusangano Family   –  Rankin’s Wood Stage    6.30   –   7.15 PM.

Whilst wandering away from the main stage area after Madness, I was liking what I was heard coming from the Rankin’s Wood marquee, good bassy energetic rapping.  So into the tent we go and another new discovery, The Rusangano Family.  Now some of the folk on Boards.ie have been raving about this lot for the last few years so I was delighted to finally get to see them for the first time.  African kids who had been brought up in Limerick and now were a fully fledged hip hop act with their own slant toward Grime as well. They are currently promoting their debut album Let The Dead Bury The Dead released last April and their popularity is growing.  They may have had half a tent full but it was an ecstatic lot who were in there, the group having worked very hard at touring, playing small venues and small festivals around the country, I’m delighted to see them get the recognition they fully deserve.

We met up with Gearoid and his girlfriend Orla Gibney after the Madness gig, she had travelled down today has she had to work in Galway on the Friday.

Columbia Mills   –  Jerry Fish’s Electric Sideshow   6.30   – 7.15 PM.

Gearoid recommended this band and we stopped at the Jerry Fish tent to listen to a few numbers.  The band from Bray had a packed tent and had an energy similar to the National, New Order also came to mind and a few other Manchester acts.  They had a great explosive energy and I really hope big things come their way, I even suggested that Body&Soul festival book them for next year.

We wandered about the main arena and were quite taken but the ensuing footage coming from the outside Electric Arena screen, this fine looking auburn haired lady with a fine larynx rocking it out with an extremely tight band, Birdy.  This was a new discovery for me, here was a band who had similar energies to Florence and The Machine and London Grammar, but this girl with a rather long name, Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer Van den Bogaerde could wipe the floor with Florence, she has a much nicer stronger voice and with such passion and emotion.  We came into the side of the tent to watch the last few closing songs and man, she had a pretty rammed tent, Birdy could be headlining the main stage next year judging by the reaction to this gig.

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The packed audience at the Electric Arena for Birdy  Saturday 2nd September.

Bill Bailey   –   Comedy Tent    8.25   –    9.10 PM.

Lets say I was in a suitable enhancement for this stand up gig, I have always loved Bill Bailey, especially his stuff in Black Books and other TV appearances and stand up shows and cameos in films like Saving Grace.  He is the perfect tonic to help us laugh at Brexit, his summary of Mumford and Sons almost broke my ribs and his musicianship is incredible.  He is a walking encyclopedia of rock music, with his pisstake of the heavy metal genre of music or taking a simple thing like the Iphone ringtone and turning it into an incredible ambient piece of music or playing the American National anthem in a minor key.  It was the first time I have watched a proper stand up show actually sitting in inside the tent at Electric Picnic.  Last year I watched part of the Dylan Moran performance on the outside screen of the comedy tent as it was absolutely rammed.  The same with Tommy Teirnan’s performance in 2005, not a hope in hell of getting into the tent for that, so I was delighted to be in the company of the brilliant Bill Bailey.

Suitably elated after such a brilliant show that you are pinching yourself to check it actually happened we were greeted by heavy drizzle and wind, personally I didn’t care I was happy as larry and made my way with Kevin toward the wonderful soulful and playful sound coming from the Earthship stage in Body&Soul, twas the beautiful music of Attention Bebe, an act who has played numerous Body & Soul festivals as well as a few Picnics.  This was the first time I got to hear them as I would usually be doing other things and have missed them before.  A few were talking about them in the Boards.ie Electric Picnic thread and recommending that we should try and catch the group if we can, to which I’m glad to say I did this Saturday night at the Earthship.

The Haunt, Body&Soul Village   (Possibly entered at 12.30/1 AM till 4.20 AM.

The Haunt (2)
The Haunt, Body&Soul Village.  Photograph by Lucy Goodier.

Well plans went out the window for maybe getting to see A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Tong and Orchestra, Tiga and Clark as the wet and the wind got more intense, I didn’t fancy walking over the plain in that building cyclone.  Body&Soul seemed that more enclosed, sheltering and more colourful, loads of chill areas beckoning us.

We settled for the second night ending at the Haunt, that cool fully enclosed wooden looking byre, with intoxicating world music on a superb PA, the bass causing explosions and ruptures in your ears but it was ever so delightful.  Yes, seats have become available. YONK! No sorry, not moving, can’t move.

The music that was brought to us over the weekend, courtesy of, Maxtractor-spudnikki Monchici, Killian Redmonk, Christine McQuilan, Mick T-woc, Chrissi Ferris, Andy Aforce, Ollie Moore, Gully Docktah Irie and Colin Olwill was so, so refreshing compared to what was in the dance stages of the main arena, not the marquees now but the Logic and Heineken stages.  Some even reckon the Haunt was placed there to strategically counterpoint the dance stages, I think it worked too.  I am proud to say, myself and Kevin were the last two thrown out of the place by 4.20 AM.

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The Haunt, Body&Soul Village  Saturday 2nd September.
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The Haunt, Body&Soul Village  Saturday 2nd September.

Sunday 3rd September.

Woke up and headed over to John’s camper with my Lavazza and mobile continental coffee press container and had a few nice strong coffees, there was always people stopping in for a blether or a joke or two with John.  Gearoid and Orla was there, Kevin joining later.  There was also some of the St John ambulance crew who were camped up next to John who talked me into getting out my bodhran and singing a few songs, I had a nice appreciative audience for Tippin’ it up to Nancy and the Dolores Keane version of the Raggle Taggle Gypsies called Seven Yellow Gypsies, specifically because it mentions Stradbally in the lyrics.  I got a nice round of applause and this was my sole bodhran playing for EP this year.  John took up my bodhran then and performed As I Roved Out which was brilliant and well received.

The Skatalites    –   Main Stage    2.30   –   3.30 PM.

The Skatalites are a classic old style jazzy ska band with a shit hot brass section and an incredibly tight act, one of the old Studio One classics who I think played EP in 2006 too. The group has been going since 1964, many of its members have passed on now, but the sons and nephews of the original members have kept the group up to scratch, I also witnessed this marvellous band back in 2009 at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh and they are absolutely fantastic for an oul stomp.  Doreen Shaffer who is one of the original founding members provided superb vocals to the classic British hit by Millie Small, My Boy Lollipop getting the audience bopping and special guest choreography from John Dooley.  The Skatalite’s played loads of familiar classics such as the Guns of Navarone and Phoenix City which brought the red hot sun out for a few hours.  A glorious way to kick off Sundays proceedings of music.  This was the only time I managed to meet up with David Curran again and his girlfriend for a quick chat.

King Kong Company  –  Electric Arena    3.30   –   4.15 PM.

This was my fourth time catching this superb Waterford electro/rock act and they have come a long way, with a packed to the rafters Electric Arena, Electric Picnic’s second biggest stage.  The first time I seen this band they were playing at Life Festival 2012 with a small enough crowd gathered at the main stage, but within 10 minutes they had a few hundred there.  They are one of the hardest working bands in Ireland and have done an incredible amount of festivals this year including Glastonbury.  The band released their debut album King Kong Company in June 2016 which they have been playing and promoting at events internationally and nationally over the last year, power to them and I have a great respect for Mark Graham too, a brilliant journalist who has made writing about festivals an art form.

A special mention to Kelly-Anne Byrne who gave a fantastic set at Casa Bacardi, I wasn’t sure if she was doing The Beat Goes On live from there but some of her playlist reflected Sunday’s show alright.  Especially a really cool remix of New Order’s Blue Monday and Giorgio Moroder’s and Donna Summer’s classic I Feel Love and man it was hot there, especially with gorgeous scantily clad girls dancing about and the hot sun, I must have at least drank two pints water there.

The Pretenders   –   Main Stage     5.45   –   6.45 PM.

Caught a bit of the Pretenders set on the main stage bringing back nostalgic memories for me of the early eighties, some of my family went to see the Pretenders in Glasgow when Brass in Pocket was at number one in the charts, I will always remember the sexy Chrissie Hynde in her cool jacket and leather trousers on Top of the Pops, she looked more gorgeous with the jet black hair.  That’s not to say she still looks fabulous and still has her voice in fine fettle.  Listening to some of the more unfamiliar tracks I get the sense that although they are British apart from Chrissie who is from Ohio they were probably  influenced by the New York punk scene much like Blondie and had that rushed energy of the Ramones at times.  Because I came halfway through the set I probably missed some of the older stuff like Stop Your sobbing and one of my all time favourites, I Go To Sleep.  I was delighted though to catch them do Brass in Pocket, one of their most famous hits.  A fantastic act that still has it.

Chaka Khan   –   Main Stage     7.15   –   8.15 PM.

Chaka Khan was pretty amazing, we looked at some of the show from the seating stand but decided to move closer to the stage as the music was just too good.  Chaka Khan would be more blues and soul based than Chic or Pfunk, previous EP acts, but she still has an amazing voice and also looks great after all these years.  She is of that gospel soul tradition that you can just feel when she sings so naturally.  She had a superb backing band and backing singers too.  I wouldn’t be too overtly familiar with her material but did recognise some of the melodies through the set.  Like what Nile Rodgers and Chic have, she was part of another funk and disco collective called Ashford and Simpson and could turn on the funk when required namely with I’m Every Woman which is probably her most well known hit.  A fantastic performer though and you should try and catch her when she performs in Dublin later in the year.

Wandered about Body&Soul Village with Kevin, we eventually sat down at the seats at the top of the Body&Soul main stage amphitheatre and watched some of the acts.  Moses Sumney ( 8.30 – 9.15 PM) was on stage, a one person act who worked mainly in a croony soul vein, a wee bit too laid back for me, Kevin saying “Where’s the beats?”  He had a few listeners alright but there was a bit too much Wooo Hoo Hooo! being sung in the music for my liking, but we just sat there as it was nice, dry, warm and ambient.

IDER   –   Body&Soul Main Stage    9.45   –  10.30 PM.

IDER are two lovely blonde ladies, one from London and one from Birmingham who do some decent dreamy pop electronica, they are perfect Body&Soul fodder and I would like to see them back at Body&Soul festival next year.  They were very enthused to be playing the festival as this was their first gig ever in Ireland, so their joy added to the gig.  The music would be kinda harmonic and folky in bits and some nice pop hooks with just a nice amount of chill ambient electronica keeping the beat, a nice and refreshing new sound.

Duran Duran    –   Main Stage     10.45 PM   –  12.00 AM.

I was all set to catch a little bit of Duran Duran, Kiasmos and Soulwax tonight, but Duran Duran just blew me away and I stayed, they are much heavier live than the studio versions of their singles.  The band had an amazing light show and visuals, Simon Lee Bon seemed to be in top form sporting a lime green biker jacket and he still seems to have an amazing larynx, kudos to the band too for being super tight, John Taylor, Dom Brown and Roger Taylor on drums make a fine rhythm behind the synths and Bon’s vocal.  It was a hits packed set with Wild Boys, Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf, Girls on Film and A View to Kill among others.  At the end of the set the Dublin Gospel Choir came and joined the band for Save a Prayer.  A fantastic finale to close the main stage for EP 2017.

Mother DJs    –    Earthship Stage, Body&Soul Village.    12.00   –   4.00 AM.

It was off to the Mother’s set after that, Mother DJs are festival stalwarts of the Picnic and Body&Soul festival and play all year round in the likes of the Grand Social and their own club the Mother Club in Dublin.  They are always guaranteed to have a packed house because they play such infectious groovy electronica and they had a packed stage tonight closing out the Earthship stage.

Donal Dineen’s This Ain’t No Disco/ Patrick Kelleher   – Body&Soul Main Stage                 1.00   –   4.00 AM.

No Disco was a popular Irish music series I would tune into in the early nineties. it had dedicated presenters and an overall excellent choice of bands and musicians featured on each programme and it had about a decade run with RTE 2 from 1993 to 2003 and was responsible for bringing one of Ireland’s biggest and most loved trad folk bands out of retirement, namely Planxty.  Amazing presenters such as DJ, Donal Dineen, Leagues O’Toole and the late Uaneen Fitzsimons who died tragically in a car crash gave the show a credible feel.  I don’t know why RTE binned it, it simply just baffled me.

Anyway Donal started of the TV series again for broadcasting on the internet and re-titling it This Ain’t No Disco.  Having watched two episodes so far I was well impressed with the calibre of bands, DJs and musicians featured in it and was hot linking it anywhere that had a wall or a space for the link.  Its great that Body&Soul have given space in the stage to showcase some of the talent from this music show, I really hope one of the TV channels takes it up again, I might suggest to Donal that there is a DJ in Today FM that could fit nicely into Uaneen’s shoes, namely Kelly-Anne Byrne who I think would make a perfect TV presenter for the music series, if she is even half as passionate as she is on the Beat Goes On show.  Other presenters who come to mind would be the people behind Under Ether, Michelle Doherty and Elton Mullally.  This is not to take away from Donal Dineen who is also a fantastic passionate presenter for the music series himself.

And now for the clips featured, since there was no schedule for the live show.  The first clip features an excerpt of the track Aspergillus played by Sunken Foal, a nice ambient droning techno track. The second clip features Patrick Kelleher and His Cold Dead Hands (Sunken Foal) – Stereolith (Alright With You).  The music a industrial grinding white noise electronica with Patrick Kelleher putting a rockabilly vocal to the whole thing, so creating an electronica Cramps vibe if you like.  This was the final live music I saw at EP 2017.

Monday 4th September.

Surprisingly not as hungover as I’d thought I’d be, a bunch of us was sitting at John’s camper whilst he was taking things down, crew camp was disappearing before our eyes, tents becoming green spaces.  Was trying to suss a lift to Galway when Kevin suggested to hang on till he finished the breakdown at Soul Kids at 6.30 which just got me into Galway in time for the session.  Thanks all to John Dooley, JD Corcoran, Kevin Keehan, Gearoid, Catherine Kehoe, Susan and everyone else who helped make my week, it was such a buzz and dammit I have to wait another year to do this all over again.  All the best and I’ll see ya’s at some festival next year if not the Picnic.  Roll on Electric Picnic 2018.

4 Replies to “Electric Picnic 2017 Festival Review”

  1. Hi , Colm from the Haunt here, happened to reread what you’d written about the haunt just now and thought I’d pop over here to thank you for your kind, accurate and perceptive words. Great work.

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