Highs, Lows & Lilos – Electric Picnic 2016

whatsapp-image-2016-09-05-at-22-25-25It’s over. Again. It’s a bit mean really, the way Electric Picnic sneaks into your life for 3 days, then without a word of warning, it’s gone again. The sadness and depression that follows this annual 3 night stand cannot be put into words really, yet every year I try to do so all the same. Ok, here we go again.

Day 1 – Friday, September 2nd – The Best Laid Plans

Traditionally, arriving early or even on time to a festival isn’t something I’ve ever been much use at. This year for EP we were travelling with a convoy of 3 cars and more importantly, 3 six man tents that would need adequate space so we were on a mission to get down there nice and early. Let’s just say it didn’t go entirely to plan – though we still arrived a good two or three hours earlier than I ever have to any festival before – but we were still way behind the pace. The ever growing capacity of EP causes concern among some of the more long-standing veterans, and whilst I don’t agree with all their concerns I can definitely see where they originate. The first knock -on effect of said capacity increases was seen by ourselves on arrival. Though we landed in substantially early by normal standards, there was still a heap of revellers ahead of us as we headed in and very little room in our usual camping haunt bordering Hendrix/Warhol. The only thing I can chalk it up to is the increased attendance whilst the camping space remains the same. Not to worry, after much trepidation over who would fit where, we got settled. Cans out, time for a recharge. It was time then for the traditional return trip to the car (after duct taping Rachel to her chair as is tradition at this stage :D), then with all the gear in place, time for a wander into the main arena. Having been to 3 of the last 4 EPs previous, that feeling of “we’re home” is at this stage overwhelming when setting foot into the main arena and it hit like a tonne of bricks. Yes, there was no Cocktail, Cocktail (something which I know pleased a lot of those in attendance) but more on that later.

First up was a quick dip into the Oxjam tent, our one song stopping point all of last year. We got the last minute or so of Military Road, though I can’t say I remember all that much of them, then it was on to the Main Stage for the closing track of Ryan Sheridan’s slot. He’s a perfect midday festival act and hearing ‘The Dreamer’ blaring out from the Main Stage was just the ticket to get the blood flowing. Once again, as is tradition, we scurried over to Casa Bacardi for a drink and a boogie. My allergy to house music kicked in quick though so it was time to hit Body & Soul for the first time of many over the weekend. We took in a few beats of Ollie Bell on the Body & Soul Main Stage then headed on over to the Trailer Park, a spot I’ve been guilty of neglecting in the past. We had a purpose though, with homegrown outfit GRAND playing a slot on the Mobile Home stage at 6pm. This septet hailing from Drogheda know how to throw a party, with their biggest release to date ‘Lonely Road’ getting the well gathered crowd in fine dancing form. Some even felt the need to join the lads onstage for a boogie, until they were unceremoniously shooed away by staff! Time then for a corn dog, where I once again judged Peter for refusing mustard on his, just as I had done 3 years previous. And just like 3 years previous, said judgement earned me a high five from one of the owners of the stand, just one of those little Picnic moments that are just great craic when they come about!

I mentioned Cocktail, Cocktail being absent this year, well thankfully for those of us that like to hop from gypsy jazz folk to thumping EDM, vape company logic came through with their own take on it. Much like the aforementioned Cocktail, Cocktail, the logic stage was a Miami beach style open platform to dance your feet off in front of a DJ giving it socks. Or at least it was, until we broke the floor. No seriously, have a look for yourselves. Yeah, that one was a little scary but all in all it felt like it epitomized the go hard or go home approach Picnic encourages! After that we returned to the Main Stage where I did something I’d usually try to avoid at Picnic. Half of the fun for me is not being all that interested in the Main Stage line up and discovering weird and interesting music elsewhere on smaller stages. We regrouped at Main Stage with the rest of the posse though and I have to say Nas put on a hell of a show and we stayed for the duration. Whilst waiting on The 1975 we sat down at what would become known as “the tree” and, as you do at EP, had a grand singsong, dragging in some randomers to give our best shot at ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ amongst others. As for The 1975 themselves all I’ll say, for fear of incurring the wrath of several of my EP compatriots, is that they aren’t my thing. Thought they might be, I was wrong, let’s move on. Time then for The Chemical Brothers. I have to say these guys were high up my list of must see acts for the weekend and I was a little disappointed to find I got a little bored toward the tail end of their set, even leaving before they wrapped up. It was the same issue as Fatboy Slim in 2013, when it’s primarily just tune after tune, as someone who is primarily a fan of rock bands, I lose interest a little quicker than I would like. No ill feeling towards them however as I was clearly in the minority with that opinion. We headed back to the campsite with grand dreams of the Rave In The Forest but as is my remit on the first night of any festival, I was early to bed. Well, no, technically speaking I passed out blowing up my air mattress and probably could’ve done with a trip to the welfare tent, but either way I was asleep while most of the rest headed off for some house music and laser shows. I did make it to at least midnight though, baby steps.

Day 2 – Saturday, September 3rd – Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

In the run up to EP this year, wildly false info floated about regarding a hurricane expected to hit over the weekend. Whilst that may of course have wound up being bulls**t of the highest order, there was indeed plenty of rain, starting on the Friday night. Though it did wake me several times during the night as it pounded away on the tent, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t once stir whilst an entire tent housing 4 of our fellow revellers sprung several leaks. Have to hand it to them though, even amongst the frustration they managed to head off and buy a 4 man tent, which they then pitched inside of said leaking 6 man. That’s mental fortitude and innovation of the highest order, Ann you’re a trooper! Though this put a bit of a dampener on things, pun intended, the bigger issue was that the rain still wasn’t done. I’ve only ever experienced heavy rain at one previous festival, Oxegen 2006, and it was enough to send me home for a few hours, and EP is no different when the rain won’t let up. So the Saturday morning was a little miserable, but thankfully the rain did indeed f**k off eventually and we were fighting fit to head in at 12pm to catch the Trinity Orchestra perform their David Bowie tribute set. As I remarked to Peter at the time, Bowie is already nearly a year gone and it seems as though my mind had nearly half forgotten this seismic event. Suffice to say, when they launched into an absolutely beautiful rendition of ‘Life On Mars?’ I was gone, just a broken shell of a human being as I sang along whilst whinging away. Gone but never forgotten after all it would seem. The early rain had got in the way of my daily trips back to the car I’d usually do in the morning, and with a lot of crucial supplies, namely all the drinking water I had, back up in the car park, I had to take the trek back and resupply. Pity, as it meant missing out on a lot of the midday acts, but that evening I was definitely better set to go full on! We trekked in via Salty Dog as we were bound for the Comedy Tent to catch Reginald D Hunter. En route we took in a song from FangClub in the Other Voices area. I’m as far from being a grunge fan as you can find, excluding the obligatory period wherein I thought Nirvana were the greatest thing in the world before becoming a metal head, but these guys have got something. At first glance, with the hair and check shirts, you’d swear you were looking at a Nirvana tribute act, but they undo all that with a great live energy and above all else, any genre when done right can be enjoyable and they do grunge right.

On we marched to the Comedy Tent, taking in some bits and pieces from the Trailer Park on the way. We arrived just in time to catch the finale of the Rubberbandits set which of course was the notorious ‘Horse Outside’ and Jesus it was just great craic. The entire crowd on their feet singing along, followed up by a new tune from the guys to close it out, an extremely ballsy and likely to be horrendously controversial track about the hot topic of abortion. Due for release soon according to the lads on their Twitter account, can’t wait! Time then for the main man, but no. Some pretty infuriating delays first. I’d only been to the Comedy Tent once before at previous EPs and that was midday, everyone chilling on the ground. For the Rubberbandits everyone was on their feet and I presumed that was the norm for the bigger acts but seemingly not. So out comes our MC Andrew Stanley who proceeds to go through a painstaking 10 – 15 minute process of trying to get everyone to sit down. I get it, most likely it’s to do with stand up comedy requiring a sit down crowd, but it just wasn’t happening and made the wait all that more painstaking. Add to that the fact the Hunter was due to perform for 35 minutes and I’m pretty sure it only lasted 20 and all in all the delay was unwelcome. On he came anyway and, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. Having always enjoyed his appearances on various panel shows but never seeing him live, I felt that at times he fell a little flat. Maybe it’s just the festival crowd and vibe didn’t blend with his style. Oh well. From there we ventured into Mindfield to catch some Waterford Whisperers News at 9pm. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this but what we wound up with was an Irish version of a Not The 9 O’Clock News/The Daily Show type routine and here’s hoping it starts up as a regular online or TV routine for those guys, laughed my ass off! Afterwards we linked up with most of our group and took in a track from The Avett Brothers, who had also been high on my list but I managed to completely forget about them! Great energy from those guys, yet another act that would help with the impending cold. We ventured on to logic once more, via Body & Soul where we caught the very end of Daft As Punk. Suffice to say they were playing way beyond the reach of the Body & Soul Bandstand that’s for sure and we should have all been there for the entirety, won’t make that mistake again!

We ventured over to Gavin James in the Jerry Fish Electric Slideshow but as is always the case, the tent was wedged. What we caught sounded good, not much up for sentimental acoustic tracks at Picnic myself though to be honest. We had other places to be though. Much like Blur last year, I was on a mission to catch the meaty portion of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. I’m not much a fan of either this group or Oasis, but there was no way in hell I was missing the inevitable hits back catalogue he would finish with. Sure enough we found our way back to “the tree”, a complete group once more, and sang ourselves hoarse right up to the ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ crescendo. A serious moment and one that will stick with me, Gallagher himself seemed genuinely blown away by the crowd too, always a good sign. We decided to once again return to camp, with no pressing acts lined up just yet. This time we took the long way home to hit Salty Dog and Trenchtown for the few EP newbies in our group that hadn’t made it that way yet. We got a little sidetracked though and wound up making a pitstop at logic once more, if for no other reason except to warm up with some dancing. Then came the realisation how late it was when I was informed I had just purchased my last pint of the night in the Body & Soul bar. Given my track record of early nights I was a little shocked how awake I was! We headed back for the camp, but not before two of us made a detour to the piano. Anyone who has been to EP knows it, the piano on the trail from the Salty Dog back into Warhol/Hendrix (although I could swear the location changes but can never confirm it!). Myself and Rachel made half arsed attempts at chopsticks, drawing the attention of a couple who began listening in. No sooner were the words “My husband plays piano” uttered when we were listening to a damn fine rendition of ‘Great Balls Of Fire’. From there came ‘Piano Man’, ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and more. I regret not getting their names as they helped give myself and Rachel one of the greatest EP moments we’ve ever experienced but shout out to you guys whoever and wherever you are!

We then finally made our way back to the campsite and the plan, which would for once be acted upon, was to head either to the rave or into Salty Dog for Le Galaxie who were doing a DJ set. I settled on Salty Dog having missed Le Galaxie earlier in the day and managed to drag 3 bodies with me. Once we arrived 3 became 2 as Peter made a quick detour back to camp. The first, but definitely not the last, Picnic Crash victim. Le Galaxie gave a good show, with a DJ set there’s substantially less to judge on, but finishing off with ‘Born Slippy’ left me delirious with joy and that feeling was only expanded upon when I realised I’d finally managed to stay up ’till the end of a late night EP act!. Sleep was badly needed at this point though and after a torturous slug through Oscar Wilde we hit the hay, ready to face the next day.

Day 3 – Sunday, September 4th – This Is The End…And It Really Feels Like It

Sunday morning hit like a vision, there was a yellow thing in the sky and everything was dry. Oh the glory of eating the fantastic Charcoal Grill breakfast bap whilst everything is dry (I practically drank the one on Saturday morning!). Once we confirmed all were present and accounted for, and once we’d managed to get a boot up everyone’s arse to get moving, it was time for Main Stage and The Dublin Gospel Choir. In a total reversal of my previous festival efforts, I’m now 3 from 3 in the last 3 EPs for making it in to the first act on the Main Stage on the Sunday. Dead chuffed. As always, they gave a spirited performance that was just what the doctor ordered to get us all moving. We took a wander into Body & Soul after, having neglected it a little by comparison to previous years, and stumbled upon the Galway Street Club in the Earth Spirit Garden. Playing a fully acoustic but electrifying rendition of ‘The Ballad Of Thunder Road’, we thought we’d stumbled upon another one of those EP moments. Until the end of the set that is, when one of the Club informed us they were actually just warming up before playing the Hurly Burly Tent next door. Just awesome, and damn I need to hear that track again so get recording guys! We took a wander Trailer Park direction, where one of the weekend’s highlights would come later on, and took in a bit of Rubbish New Song For Europe, with the original Lovely Lady herself; Imelda, making an appearance on stage. The place was wedged though so we went back campsite ways via Salty Dog once more, making sure that all in our party had now seen that magical place. Then came the pilgrimage.

I have made it my mission when driving to festivals, to muster up the strength to make one final trip to the car on the Sunday to lighten the load as much as possible on the Monday morning. This time I went a little too far, proceeding to bring nearly everything bar some beverages and the tent back up to the car. What’s the problem there? Well had I known the forecast for the rest of the day was horrible cold rain, I’d maybe have held onto another few bits of clothes! You live, you learn. Later in the evening we took a spin into the Theatre Of Food for what was my first ever venture in there and took in the last five or ten minutes of a presentation from the guys at LEVIS Bar in West Cork. Food, songs and kitchen utensils being used as musical instruments. That is all that needs to be said really, mad stuff! James Bay was rocking the Main Stage around this time and to be honest, he was hard to resist audibly (and I’m sure visually for most!). I wouldn’t know much of him outside ‘Hold Back The River’ and ‘Let It Go’ and to be honest, those two tracks are a terrible representation of the man – this dude rocks! We caught the remainder of what was a great set and Bay himself struts the stage and tears it up on guitar like a ready made rock star. Then came the disaster.

We headed for a falafel (I’ve mentioned previously how I first ate this delight at EP 2013, 3 years later and it still rocks!) and shortly after chowing down something didn’t feel right. The falafel wouldn’t betray me like this would it? Then a headache set in, and walking seemed like one hell of a chore. This was no food poisoning – this was a Picnic Crash. Let me be clear, this is no run of the mill hangover we’re talking here. On a given day at EP you have top notch entertainment provided to you for 15 hours of the day, 4 of those hours running into the next day. You’re having a few beers, you’re walking non-stop, eventually your body just says “f**k this, how dare you!”. That’s exactly the delightful message I got from my own HQ, man I felt like crap. Time to hit the campsite and hope for a nap. From past experience, my biggest fear was the fact that I can sleep for Ireland. Alarms were set but a firm rap on the head from Peter was still necessary to awake me from my slumber (coma). Thankfully, said nap seemed to have done the trick. I had grand dreams of changing outta my wet clothes but then the aforementioned return of said clothes to the car put a stop to that! Turned out it wouldn’t matter though because the cure to all these ailments was in the Trailer Park. We first saw Aindrais De Staic & The Latchikos as they wrapped up a Body & Soul Earthship Stage set with the infectiously catchy “Sugar Beat”. We took two key points from what we saw – this is fun music and this guy is absolutely nuts! So when we saw him lined up for the Trailer Park at 9pm we weren’t missing it under any circumstances and man was it worth the rain. Singing songs such as ‘Horse Dance’ about a local lad out the Mayo way who ran into a spot of bother with some concrete, De Staic spins the yarns between rousing choruses accompanied by his spectacular fiddle playing alongside acoustic guitar and tea chest. It’s just live music exactly as it should be, never a moment given to catch a breath, laughs aplenty throughout and let me tell you it was some cure for the damp miserable rain we were stood in. I need to see more of this guy, immediately!

We hit the Caravan Stage for a group whose name I didn’t catch unfortunately but they were belting out some great soul covers that helped further with the cold misery about. From there we were killing time. Much like my aversion to hanging around Main Stage, I also usually don’t like to sit around waiting for any one act in particular at EP. It’s time that could be spent elsewhere, seeing other things. This year was different though, this year was the year of The Blizzards. I got into The Blizzards right about the time they went on hiatus. And I mean I got into them, seriously ranking high on my all time favourite bands. Before their hiatus I had ample time to see them live, even briefly did at the Trinity Ball many moons ago, but hadn’t paid all that much attention. When I heard they got back together, there was no way I was watching them from outside the Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow so on we went to wait around. Before that we caught the last song at Body & Soul Main Stage from The Dead Hevys. Good, but I would have needed to hear more to give an opinion to be honest. Back to waiting for Bressie and The Blizzards. The wait was arduous, running massively overtime by 30 mins with a lacklustre MC trying to keep us all engaged while we waited, on they finally came. One thing is for sure – the reunion was the right call. Their energy on stage and general performance were all on point, and the packed out tent and enthused singalong from the crowd definitely suggests they have been missed. Breslin acknowledged as much and seemed genuinely blown away by how much interest there was in them still. After their rockingly good set we regrouped, found one more of our own and as a trio took a wander around various stages. But the rain just would not let up, and worse still it had been down so long that life was getting pretty cold out in the elements. Against our best wishes, or mine anyway, we begrudgingly called it a night. Back at camp we found the rest of the group had felt the same and so we burned away the rest of the night huddled in a 6 man tent, comforting our cold, wet and tired bodies with some well earned beers.

Day 4 – Monday, September 5th – Gentlemen, It Has Been A Privilege Picnicking With You

Then comes the Monday, that thankless day that wants you to pack up all your stuff and get the hell outta dodge. As I mentioned earlier, I’d been a little smart about getting as much gear back to the car as possible, but you always forget the horrendous dead weight that is the tent. I’d been sneaky on the Friday, avoiding carrying it with very little effort required on my part. I’d forgotten what that was setting me up for on the Monday (though I did actually volunteer to take it, damn my empathic ways!). That hike back to the car, every year, is the pilgrimage to beat all others and as per usual we went in our own staggered way, myself and Monika trucking on ahead as we fought against hungover gravity, stopping to wait for the rest in the car park only to discover that Rachel, Meg and Lisa were beyond help amongst the Picnic masses and Peter had gone all Sonia O’Sullivan and somehow powered on ahead of us! Not to worry, we eventually all regrouped back at the cars and proceeded to gather ourselves before the drive.

We spent the next 20 minutes or so dawdling around by the cars, mostly to mentally prepare ourselves for the drive home. A little bit of me can’t ignore the fact that we also just didn’t want to leave though. See, Picnic does that to you. Even though some of us had a sore head or two over the weekend, some of us forgot to eat and some had to take birdy baths. Even though some can wash all they like but the glitter will never come off, some had to get by on a crutch and some of us can’t remember much of many portions of the weekend – Picnic is a hard one to say goodbye to. Sure enough, half of us have our tickets for next year already, and we’ve even managed to recruit more for the cause but the days that follow immediately after Picnic are the toughest. You remember the laughs, the hikes, the tunes, the torrents. Summer may officially end with Electric Picnic but the next year truly begins when you start scratching the days off the calendar until September. Here’s to you Stradbally, and to all my lunatic compadres that helped make EP 2016 one of the best yet.

 

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niallhetherington

Bachelors Degree in Arts from NUI Maynooth. Double Honours English & Philosophy.

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