It’s ten years since John Reynolds shook hands with the owner of Stradbally Hall, Thomas Cosby and came up with the concept of Electric Picnic. For the tenth anniversary of the festival, new promoters Festival Republic, who took over from POD, pulled out all the stops.
On Friday night, headliner Fatboy Slim was on the main stage when a ten tier cake was wheeled out; a tier for each year. Festival goers were given tokens for their very own birthday cake and a ten minute fireworks display lit up the skies above the stately Stradbally Hall – to the delight of the fans.
Despite a mixed forecast, barely a drop of rain fell on Stradbally, and festival diehards brightened up the place with head-dresses, hotpants and hubris. For the first time in five years, the event was a sell-out, with 35 thousand revellers in attendance. But the Picnic, with its myriad stages and areas, still managed to come off as a boutique event, catering to every taste.
Parents came with children in wheelbarrows, buggies and ear-defenders, and soaked up the offerings. Toddlers danced under trees and got their faces painted, while braver ten year olds jumped up on oversized books in the Literary area.
The Theatre of Food dazzled with cocktail making classes as well as master classes in cooking by Ireland’s best chefs including Derry Clarke from Michelin-starred restaurant L’Ecrivain.
The Literary stage played special tribute to Seamus Heaney, whose son Michael had to pull out of the event due to his father’s sudden death. Each writer who performed at the stage read a poem, or a piece of the late poet’s work, honouring the great Nobel laureate.
Body and Soul drew in the crowds with its magical mix of massage, healthy foods and soul tunes. Once again, the main stage in the area attracted an after-dark crowd of late night music lovers, eager to take in the heady atmosphere and dreamy lights.
If you wandered into the woods, the Salty Dog stage would welcome even a thirsty pirate to join the adventure, and Trenchtown partied on, like the last man standing.
The word on the site was, there was even an illicit showing of the Dublin v Kerry showdown, to the delight of the sport-deprived.
And the music? Oh the music!
There are so many acts on, and so many incredible gigs dotted around the immense site, that sometimes, tough decisions have to be made on who to see, and who to miss. To name a few, not meaning to leave anyone out, here’s a flavour of who rocked the picnic;
On Friday, Wu Tang clan played the main stage, delighting new fans and their diehard followers. Lisa O’Neil mesmerised in the main stage of the Body and Soul area, knocking the crowd dead with her searing voice. Fatboy Slim played an epic set, punctuated by the cracking fireworks display.
On Saturday, things started earlier as more people arrived for day two of the Picnic. Ocean Colour Scene weren’t to everyone’s taste, but the crowd loved the songs they knew. Ellie Goulding drew a huge crowd to the main stage for her set and Robert Plant drew tears from grown men. Honourable mention goes to Little Green Cars who clashed with the aforementioned “Mr. Zeppelin”, and still managed to fill the Electric Arena, and then some.
Love her or loathe her, Bjork was brilliantly bonkers, complete with a suspended Tesla coil and its lightning bolts. Two Door Cinema club took to the stage next and again wowed the crowd. Disclosure were a massive hit as headliners on Saturday night, with the UK brothers belting out the tunes.
Sunday was a slow burner, with the better-known acts not really gearing up until the afternoon. Eels were wonderfully wacky and interacted brilliantly with the crowd. Johnny Marr had the audience in raptures with his Smiths-sprinkled-set, and the Strypes posed and strutted and loved it. While I missed David Byrne and St. Vincent for the energetic Franz Ferdinand, I’m told the former were incredible. I still managed to dance my welly socks off. And as for Arctic Monkeys, they’re as rare as their name suggests. Pretty incomparable.
Festival Republic have promised to make next year even better, with a target of 40 thousand to attend. And with contracts signed for another decade, I’d better go home and rest.