Stradbally, County Laois, Ireland 31st August – 2nd September.
Got the Citylink commuter to Kinnegad on Sunday 26th August to be picked up by Derek who was bringing his daughter Shannon to Electric Picnic, the final bash of the year beckoned and although it wasn’t the best lineup this year by all accounts there was definitely something for everyone there, what with thirty five stages there is always gonna be something out there that would grab you.
Sunday 26th – Thursday 30th August – The Advance Week.
There was a bit of rain every now and then this year so the fine John Dooley got a loan of a small marquee from JD (a local man also working the festival) that sat beside his camper. This was perfect for watching films if it happened to be raining and John had a fine selection of films and the Father Ted box set, so back to back episodes to keep the laughs coming laughing at our Irish follies.
I was working at the production gate again this year directing arrivals to a temporary car park and to their health and safety induction where they would get temporary wristbands. Working with two other volunteers Shannon and her boyfriend Cian and changed over to two different volunteers during the week. I brought the beat box with playlists of Massive Attack, Death Grips and the Prodigy among others.
Security was telling me on Tuesday that themselves and the Gardai were chasing some fence jumpers, which made me wonder, where the hell would they go with the festival not due on till three days, hide in one of the portaloos perhaps.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were fairly mellow days where I had some great chats with some of the Eventsec security and the volunteers I was working with, some of them into exploring the festival and music whilst some had no interest at all, one security chap was more into musicals rather than rock and pop music, I suggested he check out Body&Soul or the Trailer Park for possibly pop up musicals, which could happen.
Festival Republic seemed to be messing with peoples heads, they kept changing the wristband colour for accreditation each day, so one minute you would be on your way and the next you would be blocked, meaning you had to get in touch with your supervisor to get the new wristband.
Thursday seemed to be the messiest of all with it being the most ultra busy day on the eve of the festival. There seemed to be a lack of communication between departments of the festival as the wristband had changed colour again which I found out when I went to use the production loos. I was working with security out on the roadside entrance today and there was a lot of heated exchanges between festival staff and security. What basically happened was bunches of workers going out on their lunch break and discovering they couldn’t get back in again through the production gate until they got in touch with their bosses to get the relevant accreditation again. Anyways my shift came to an end and I became a wristbanded festival punter. The one thing bugging me was having a blocked right ear, either wax or an ear infection, but I wouldn’t be able to hear full stereo. Was delighted to meet Catherine, Susan and Ross again and countless others who I forgot the names of already, my head is like a sieve sometimes. There was talk that because of the scarcity of tickets this year, on average they were going for 400 Euro each that volunteers and security would abscond from their duties.
Friday 31st August.
The predictions were right, some volunteers disappeared as soon as they were accredited , I could never do something like that as its like breaking a contract, your wristband number would be given to security and if any of the staff from the volunteer HQ had seen you, you would’ve been reported and ejected of the site. I would be too paranoid to enjoy the festival and plus its not a nice thing to do. I willingly sacrificed DJ Shadow, Boys Noize, Shit Robot, The Undertones and half the Jimmy Cliff gig at EP 2011 to work the late shift working alongside Declan, a lovely man who is now head of security at the production area, as Catherine needed someone to man the gates leading to the back of the marquees, very important, ferrying musicians and bands to their gigs and having an emergency lane for fire trucks, Gardai and ambulances and keeping the path clear in such emergencies. Because of these absences security have to do some of these roles instead and they work long enough hours as it is.
I met Dagmara Zolty and Mati the people I had been doing the work experience with this year at the crew camp, they were going to be doing a pop up scratch workshop at the festival Dagmara with Mati runs this streetwear fashion boutique called 1984 Miracles in Galway city that is also a scratch hip hop record shop and label (Cut&Paste Records) in 5 Augustine St, where they also host Community Scratch sessions once a month in their shop, anyone can come in off the street and have a go on their decks and they’ll show you how to scratch.
I took the opportunity to film a small bit of the journey after the hole in the wall, I wanted to capture the wooded walk in the staff entrance to the festival site with the lovely lights through the trees and the buzzing people zipping into the festival.
Well I couldn’t really afford the lanyard this year i had to be careful with the spending, eating wisely and cheaply, mainly in Stradbally itself and through the kindness of John Dooley. But I knew the Roadhouse Doors (2.45 – 4 PM) was playing the Salty Dog stage and that some Boardsies were planning a meet up there, Boardsies as in posters to the Electric Picnic thread in Gigs and Events in the Boards.ie chat forum. After messaging a few, some of them were still on their way to the site, so it never happened. I loved the music and it sounded pretty authentic, they done great covers and the singer had an amazing larynx. A great start for the festival to get you in the mood and a good old rock out.
This year I’m rocking out, its either a combination of metal/hip hop or trap metal, punk or hardcore hip hop and punk techno, DnB and Jungle music. I will be mainly watching and listening too, three selected artists, Scarlxrd, Death Grips, The Prodigy and whatever else comes along. Also looking forward to Massive Attack. It has to be said, there was an awful lot of dross in the lineup this year, will be hot footing from the likes Gavin James, The Coronas, Picture This, George Ezra and Walking On Cars.
Grabbed a Charcoal Grill steak burger and sat at a table that was already polluted with everyone else’s crap and bins a mere two metres away, there is no self respect, so much for the green message projected on the main stage screens.
CHVRCHES – Main Stage – 7.30 – 8.30 PM.
Glasgow band CHVRCHES put on a nice set airing tracks from their new album Love is Dead. Lauren Mayberry the singer joked about playing festivals and concerts around the world in seriously sweltering conditions and was glad to be back to a similar climate to Scotland. I saw the band the last time they played in 2015 and their interest has swelled pulling a reasonable crowd to the main stage. they have a nice buzzy synth pop going on and Mayberry has a lovely soaring voice. Its nice to see a band from my home sod and one worth checking out if you like good electronic rock and pop. I also met fellow boardsie Scruff Monkey at the side of the mixing desk area. The clip I think was taken too far away, but sometimes we feel comfortable watching from a distance, that would change during the weekend.
Got a message that David Curran had turned up at the crew camp and was on his way to the arena, so I went up to the volunteer HQ and there he was, I stopped for a coffee and we made our way to the right of the mixing desk for the main stage in preparation for the Kendrick Lamar set of who David was a big fan of.
Kendrick Lamar – Main Stage 10.40 – 12 AM.
Now I wouldn’t be a big Kendrick Lamar fan, I do like some hip hop just different types really, but I was intrigued all the same as he is one of the biggest touring the circuit at the moment. BANG! well I didn’t expect that, shook me to my senses, so this guy has some interesting pyrotechnics and what looked like a strange fascination with Chinese / Kung Fu culture mixed with Blaxploitation in the visuals on the back screen backdrop. He was definitely entertaining enough and worth seeing once anyway. Would have preferred a dance act in the end, The Prodigy would have been a good start but we’ll get them in the end. The video clip is from Vegan Viking who always manages to get the best close ups of acts at the Picnic. Don’t let my review put you off, I don’t really review it as such as I don’t know his catalogue nor bothered to check, but if you like that type of hip hop you’ll love this guy. He certainly puts on an interesting visual show.
After that myself and David went wandering about Body&Soul Village, up to the main stage to look at the Super Extra Bonus Party, but they didn’t really do it for us so we wandered up to the Earth Ship stage and caught the end of the Bobofunk set and the start of Jah Monk’s set. Bobofunk doing a techno/house kind of thing that got us bouncing and Jah Monk playing a mixture of roots reggae and jungle which also got us bouncing nicely. A cold enough breeze came in so we needed somewhere sheltered, I suggested we go to The Haunt which I don’t think David regretted, he was well impressed with the venue and the sounds emitting. The only thing I Shazamed this year and was particularly taken by was Beyond Belief by Elvis Costello & the Attractions, such is the diverse compilations of their playlists, I loved all the tracks they played but that was the only one I took the trouble to find out about. We stayed there till 3.50 AM and headed back to the crew camp after that. Met Kevin at the crew camp, he had done his first weekend shift at family camping so I joined him for a few cans while David crashed for the night.
Saturday 1st September.
Went over to John for a coffee and he produced a rasher and sausage sandwich to me, what a legend. Met David who told me he was going for a beer run with Kevin wanting a few cases too. So myself, David and Coby (Adam Coburn that is) piled into the car. Got myself another tray of Guinness. Had a shower to refresh and jammed a bit in the bodhran with the 1975 Paddy Keenan album on the ipod, I think some of the crew enjoyed my effort.
David and myself made for the arena about 5 PM to go and see Mavis Staples the famous soul singer which should be good or so I hoped, not so as Specialised Security held me up at the gate. They found my two cans of Guinness and told me I had to drink them at the gate before going in, despite my protests that no stout is for sale anywhere in the festival site. So Specialised Security, the Heineken overlords are forcing stout drinkers to drink watered down 6.50 Euro pints of lager. We need Heineken kicked in the ass out of the festival, bring Guinness back like at Witnness festival. Met a few randomers at the gate including a Murphy’s drinker who felt the same. Bring free flow to the Picnic please like Body&Soul Festival and All Together Now so we don’t have these needless delays. By the time I got to the main stage Staples was at the last few minutes of the set, so missed most of it and it put me in a steamer of a mood, I almost took it out on my phone, there was gritted teeth for ten minutes at least. Plus I was half cut a little too quickly after gubbing two cans at a fairly fast pace. But time to get out of there quickly before I heard the first note of Gavin James.
Scarlxrd – Little Big Tent 6.30 – 7.15 PM.
Thank god there was other stages to go to and such a noisy metal or should I say mental hip hop act like Scarlxrd. Wikipedia has a few genres attached to Scarlxrd, trap, heavy metal, rap metal, nu metal or hardcore hip hop. I bloody loved it, being a metal fan when growing up, I still liked a bit here and there but this was a new type of signing for the Picnic. The Picnic this year also attracted a much younger audience too and a lot were in evidence at this gig as this is one of the first times I’ve seen a mosh pit forming at a gig at the festival. The music a grinding metal sound that sounded so rusty and Scarlxrd practically wearing his throat away into his abdomen from screaming the lyrics. His beats man was also another lunatic leaping about like a nutter but you could see they really loved it. How would you describe it, the complete opposite to Gavin James anyway. It was too much for David and he retreated after a few minutes motioning to his ears, I said I’d meet him after. But I loved this new type of violent music, its nice seeing the Picnic give this a go.
I met up with David again at the Trailer Park and I had a bite to eat, settling for Home Fries and their lovely garlic and cheese potatoe fries. I don’t know if it was Scarlxrd’s music or the mood after drinking the cans quickly but I developed an eye strain headache and made the decision to go back to the crew camp for a quick power nap as I became exhausted quite quickly and dehydrated so a sit down or lie down in the quiet was the order of the day, setting my alarm for 11 PM so that I might catch a bit of NERD and the full Massive Attack set.
I realised I couldn’t really sleep anyway but the peace was nice and I savoured the rest, I headed up to the arena at the back of 10 PM making for the volunteers HQ only bringing water with me this time so there would be no delays at the gate going in. Met Catherine and she kindly gave me some aspirin which killed the headache and I had a few coffees there, she also gave me a bottle of water as she reckoned it was dehydration too, most definitely after leaping about like a lunatic to Scarlxrd. N.E.R.D ( standing for No One Ever Really Dies) was making a delightful sound from the main stage and they had a great crowd gathered for their set. I went down to watch the last few numbers of their set and Pharrel Williams knows how to get a crowd going as he is a big name in his own right, funky party hip hop that is perfect for a festival environment.
Hip hop has seemingly become the number one genre for festivals these days, what with Kendrick yesterday and Longitude devoting most of the acts to be hip hop this year in their bill. Beat poetry over a dance beat, The Sleaford Mods, a very different kind of beat poetry who got my attention at Body&Soul Festival last year but alas they clashed with the Prodigy set at this one. The spoken word is overtaking vocals, some of it good and some not so good at times, this doesn’t reflect on N.E.R.D’s set though which sounded extremely good.
Was getting hungry again and seeked out a food stall, I fancied fish and chips, the Fish & Chip Shack catered exactly for my needs, done in the style like the Scottish/Italian chippers, scrumptious and delicious but a pricey enough 11.20 Euro but worth it.
Massive Attack – Main Stage 12.15 – 1.30 AM.
Well I’m glad MA didn’t cancel this performance like they did at Mad Cool Festival in Madrid this summer and I was looking forward to some beautiful ambient downbeat triphop and their usual flair for cool visuals and propaganda messages, I was also praying that it wouldn’t rain like the last time in 2010 where I got soaked to the skin.
David met me and Ross too, we were positioned to the top right of the mixing desk so just perfect where we were. Massive Attack didn’t disappoint, lovely dark ambient stuff, they kicked off with I Against I, the collaboration they done with Mos Def and a nice lively start to the proceedings. Their set was plucked from their array of five albums and various EPs they have done over the years. Inertia Creeps and the brilliant Rising Son from the Mezzanine album, Future Proof from their 100th Window album that probably had the best visuals of the set going from a set counter in the middle of the screen, a countdown clock which exploded into a brightly lit backdrop and that kind of jamming sound that only the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead can do, incredible stuff. The only niggly thing for me was their random messages across the screen which hurt my eyes after a while trying to read them so I concentrated on other dynamics of the show.
Having studied their setlists over the summer on setlist.com I knew that Teardrop had been dropped for the last few years now, but some of my buddies (Kevin included) still vented about it being missing, it is their best known track but I suppose ultimately it was the bands decision in the end. I also would have liked to have heard Karmacoma but Tricky wasn’t around nor was Horace Andy, who I hear is doing poorly at the moment so hopefully he recuperates, the singer they used for Angel though done a commendable enough job. The band closed with Unfinished Sympathy which is still my favourite Massive Attack track and the beautiful vocals of Deborah Miller. The background soulful keening you hear in the track I often made the connection that, that could be influenced by Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky and the wordless soulful vocal from that. A nice super chilled set from Massive Attack to close out the main stage on Saturday night.
After that we vowed to catch the spectacular show put on by the Picnic up by the big wheel by the Catalan theatrical group La Fura dels Baus of the giant man and Irish volunteers pulled in to do the acrobatic performance from a pyramid structure suspended from a crane. Having missed the Friday performance at midnight, this was our last chance to catch this act at 2 AM as there would be no performance of it on Sunday night. A number of the volunteers involved were staying at the crew camp and we were talking to them at John’s camper, a pretty exciting project to be involved with. A few rehearsals over the week and two shows on Friday and Saturday. Its nice for the Picnic to be bringing back this kind of stuff, it would be akin to the Burning Man artist’s structure that was set alight in 2008 in near enough the same area and the Cubatron installation among others.
And this is where my Nikon camera battery ran out, but how could I resist not filming stuff like this, you have to show the people what they are missing.
Body&Soul beckoned after that, my apologies to other Electric Picnic areas that I didn’t go near this year such as Hazel Wood, Trenchtown (the reggae seemed to be more spread out this year, Earthship stage I’m looking at you) also it must be the proximity of it being near the Jimi Hendrix campsite that it can be messy and sometimes you can confuse the way you are going and end up in the campsite and it takes ages to get out again, but I’ll vow to do Trenchtown next year as I do love my reggae. I also avoided Anchronica (Rave in the Woods) where I would have liked to have seen DeFeKT’s set and Aoife O’Neil’s set.
So Body&Soul Village again for Saturday night/Sunday morning. Up to the Earthship stage, one of our favourite venues and bouncing about to the sounds of Fat Puppy Party. Of course when it came to sitting down again The Haunt beckoned. When we arrived there they were playing Wing’s hit Simply having a wonderful Christmas Time which I found pretty amusing and then back to the obscure fantastic nutty stuff again, Kevin Keehan showed up later and we stayed until the close of the venue. I met a friend of my cousin Joanne Doherty there who remembered me from Joanne’s wedding over a year ago, a small world within the Picnic, I also met Cathal Johnson who gave me a swig of some Jameson and asked me to come over to his gig at the Village Hall in the Global Green tomorrow. Finally back to the crew camp and a bunch of cans in Kevin’s tent to which we stayed up till eight in the morning, it just dawned on me that I left my Nikon camera in the Haunt venue, but I knew it was in safe hands there.
Sunday 2nd September.
Got up around noon or thereabouts and surprisingly I was quite refreshed even though I had only four hours sleep, straight over to John’s camper to boil some water for my drink as you go cafe press and Lavassa coffee, met Gearoid, Orla, Donal and David sitting under the marquee, it was sunny but with a cold enough breeze so non t-shirt weather.
I intended to go to the arena early enough today, as I was invited to all sorts of things, Cathal’s Dominic Street Ramblers were playing the Village Hall at 2 or 3 PM, Cathal said 3 whilst the clashfinder said 2. Also Dags and Mati were also doing the scratch hip hop thing around the same time, but I thought Cathal was inviting me to jam with them playing Irish tunes so I opted for there with my bodhran.
Dominic Street Ramblers – Village Hall, Global Green 2 – 2.30 PM or 3 – 3.30 PM.
This was probably the chillest gig I was at for the Picnic, the Dominic Street Ramblers specialised in Appalachian and old time style music, with two acoustic guitars, Cathal playing one and alternating between that and harmonica and a five string banjo player, It wasn’t Irish trad like I thought and basically I was going to do a solo spot at the end, but time ran out beforehand and the sound was cut, but I enjoyed their set and filmed a clip.
I missed the Inner Circle set on the main stage at the same time as the Dominic Street Ramblers but Kevin caught a bit of their set and filmed the clip for the Bad Boys track. I went up to the volunteer HQ for a quick coffee and a hello to Catherine and Susan before heading down to the main stage to catch a bit of Garbage’s set.
Garbage – Main Stage 4.15 – 5 PM.
Went right down to the front barrier for this gig and met Jenny, Gilly and Ross down here too, Jenny being a big, big Garbage fan. The band rocked the place out and Shirley Manson, another Scots lass had an amazing presence on stage and looked fabulous all decked in red and a great rock n roll voice too. She was delighted to be here and talked about how it had been twenty years since the group had last played Ireland. I didn’t realise that I already was familiar with some of their old hits especially Stupid Girl the group playing stuff from their Version 2.0 record. A very tight band of Scottish and American musicians and a great group to blow away the Sunday hangovers with, an apt choice by the Picnic I have to say.
I headed off near the end of the set as the hunger pangs had got to me, I was set to try the cheesy bread stall but came across the reasonably priced Hans Frankenfurter German food stall that I visited in 2014 EP for the pulled pork sandwich that done the job perfectly having to run in to Natasha’s Kitchen seeing as there was no seats available outside the eateries plus there was a drizzle shower.
Nile Rodgers & Chic – Main Stage 5.30 – 6.30 PM.
The always reliable Chic were the perfect dose for the Sunday blues, their classic back catalogue of hits had a packed audience dancing to their hearts delight, the chic singers Kimberly Davis and Folami still look absolutely amazing looking and still have the most glorious soulful voices out there. Le Freak, Good Times, We’re Lost in Music, absolutely tremendous stuff and with a bit more umph to the sound system this time than their last visit four years ago, although the sound was probably quietened because of the later time they were playing that year. A fantastic gig by all means and a perfect crowd pleaser.
I done a quick wander of the Body&Soul Village again this time the intent was to film the Haunt in a daylight shot as its too difficult to get a proper shot of the place in the night time unless you have 1600 shutter speed and film in your camera. So I took a daylight video which still shaky enough even though I try to be still, I will never make a top photographer or great film maker, but I do my best hopefully.
Twas a quick dash from Body&Soul after that to the volunteer HQ so to avoid a heavy downpour and a few coffees and had a nice chat with a volunteer from Leitrim called Enda McLoughlin from Manorhamilton town, a place only ten miles or so from my parents hometown of Kinlough.
After the rain shower set off along the staff walkway toward the Little Big Tent to see who was playing in there, Mango X Mathman an Irish rapper was doing a set there but I couldn’t get into the sounds, I found the backing too cheesy, perhaps if I had more time I would have stayed and listened to the lyrics, but I was already bound for the Rankin Woods tent. I stopped at the new Jerry Fish tent on the way and watched a bit of Bitch Falcon’s second set of the weekend who were blisteringly loud as usual and a nice rocking crowd gathered for them. Working my way up to Rankin Woods to get a good spot for the explosive Death Grips.
Death Grips – Rankin Woods 9 – 10 PM.
Having seen these lads in a Lollapalooza stream a few years back I wondered when they would hit the Irish shores, although I’ve heard since that they’ve played Dublin a few times. But man, like Scarlxrd they rocked the very foundations of Rankin Woods with outpourings from The Year of the Snitch and The Powers That B among other albums and a crazy young audience moshing out to their hearts content, I was delighted to be at the front barrier for this as I had something to hold onto and my bodhran against the barrier when it got crazy at the front. MC Ride is a nutter but a tight rapper with an amazing stage presence and the energy of a few hundred of us in the tent. Zach Hill is one of the best rock drummers I’ve seen in my lifetime, spot on in the rhythm and Andy Morin was getting incredible sounds from his keyboard like nothing else on earth, an amazing gig and a bloody good alternative to Picture This on the main stage. Go on Electric Picnic keep booking acts like this and I’ll keep on coming back. 🙂
I made my way in anticipation to the main stage my ears ringing from Death Grips to possibly more loud amplification from the Prodigy. I met another Boardsie, the lovely Mimimcmc on the way to the front for the Prodigy.
The Prodigy – Main Stage 10.30 PM – 12 AM.
This was the second time catching this act, the last time being a day trip to Oxegen in 2010 where they were closing the Vodafone stage and only had a few thousand people (although an enthusiastic bunch all the same) in one of the muckiest patches of ground (totally neglected by MCD after two days of torrential rain) while everyone else was watching Eminem and other acts and I didn’t give them the proper attention they deserved.
This time it was different, I think this was the biggest crowd gathered for the whole weekend and I was about ten people back from the main stage so still a great view and hopefully not too wild there. The lights came on to some symphonic classical music and I knew this was going to be epic. Camera on the ready as I have been studying their setlist at Home festival in Italy on the Friday and I knew my favourite track by them, Breathe kicked of the set. As soon as the familiar riff kicked off and the drum roll started I was thrown of my feet by the crowd going mental, first thing I thought of was grab my bodhran to put between my legs so I could steady the camera, you can hear me panicking shouting ‘my bodhran, watch my bodhran and finally the camera focusing again.
There was guitars and drums in the sound too so it was like metal/punk and techno, with some DnB, Jungle too and a mixture of other stuff. Resonate, Firestarter, The Day is my Enemy, Voodoo People (Remix version I heard people saying), Wild Frontier and closing the first set with Smack My Bitch Up. They came back for a bunch of encores premiering a new track called Light Up The Sky and closing the set with Take Me To the Hospital.
An amazing gig and a bloody good rocking EP for me this year, leaving Aphex Twin and a handful of other dance acts (Moby perhaps) to play Electric Picnic which will surely happen at some point.
I headed to the Body&Soul area and met up with Gearoid, Orla, Donal and Kevin at the Bandstand with a sizable crowd dancing to the funky house of PrYmary Colours, David headed home before the Prodigy set as he had an important flight to do with his work the following day to Oslo in Norway. We all headed over to the Earthship stage to the ever reliable Mother DJs to dance the night out and close up the stage.
Myself and Kevin headed back to his tent to finish off our booze but Kevin was tireder than I thought and was out like a light bulb in the space of five minutes so I left him and crashed out myself.
Monday 3rd September.
Over to John’s for some recovery coffee and meeting everyone there again while we scraped our heads together and decided to disassemble our tents and pack them away, I found I still had three cans of Guinness left so gave one to Donal who was delighted. I was supposed to be heading back to Kinnegad with Derek, Shannon and Cian but Kevin offered to take me to Loughrea where I could get the bus there. There were people I regretted not meeting up with, the lovely Lisa Lawless, Derek’s wife and Stephen Kerr who I met briefly with on Thursday I still have to actually go to an actual gig with you ha ha. And to everyone else, you know who you are, Love from Niall.
In the light of the green message that Electric Picnic showed in all their screens this all seemed to go on deaf ears when you look at the carnage and aftermath of the Jimi Hendrix campsite and other main campsites. Shouldn’t Electric Picnic make it compulsory that all campsites at the festival including the crew camp become BYEco Camping, whether this could be policed is another thing altogether, but another method that would reduce waste in campsites would be to introduce a free flow system, therefore people wouldn’t spend too much time in the campsite and would maybe drink out in the arena and use the bins there.
This was taken by Ed Rice and posted on his Facebook page.
Anyways, I’ll love ya and leave ye and until next year I’ll bid you goodbye and maybe will see some of you at Body&Soul Festival, All Together Now or Electric Picnic in 2019. 🙂