Ed Power reports from Stradbally after three days of music, mixed weather and great fun - here's what he learned.
“Live” performances by deck-spinners Jenny Greene, Annie Mac and Pete Tong drew some of thelargest and most enthusiastic crowds of the weekend.
This was especially impressive in the case of Tong, whose set of “Ibiza Classics” with orchestra accompaniment coincided with the arrival of the predicted deluge. With actual rock stars increasingly thin on the ground nowadays, it seems high profile DJs are their replacement.
There was grumbling on social media when the line-up was unveiled, with Saturday night’s “big name” A Tribe Called Quest drawing a great deal of the flack. That they were a storied hip hop group was beyond dispute — but were they worthy Picnic headliners? However, speaking to the media on Sunday, festival director Melvin Benn pointed out that Electric Picnic wasn’t about iconic performers — it was about that distinctive Picnic atmosphere.
“If you are only after the big names then this is the wrong show,” he said. “The picnic is about more than superstars. It’s a different concept… If the superstar headliner is available at that time then we’ll get them, there is no question about it.”
Veteran gig goers in Ireland can share many horror stories regarding poor organisation. However, Picnic 2017 was a triumph of logistics. Staff toiled through Saturday night and Sunday morning to ensure that the site was road-worthy after the heavy rains — and the care and effort showed, with the fields of muck that were once an Irish festival staple prominently absent.
Helpful, low-key security also enhanced the experience – and while it may be a bit Alan Partridge to praise the clear signage, that made a difference too.
“Electric Picnic isn’t about the music,” Glen Hansard said as he presented an evening of songs by the band Interference at the Jerry Fish stage (unfortunately the iconic Irish group was described as “Interface” in the title card).
You can see his point — the event is as much about the ambience as the tunes. Nonetheless, this year the Picnic featured banging sets by Interpol, Clarke, The xx — while Hansard and Interference’s tribute to the outfit’s late singer, Fergus O’Farrell, was deeply moving and drew a huge crowd.
On Saturday and Sunday both Madness and Rag’n’Bone Man commanded their afternoon slots.
With a long slog ahead, punters appreciated the laid-back music and lack of intensity. With the sun peeping through for Rag’n’Bone Man, in particular, it was possible to enjoy his unchallenging blues-rock, simply because it chimed so well with the atmosphere.
There were worrying signs last year that Electric Picnic was turning into two festivals existing side by side: a nostalgia-heavy affair for older attendees, and a more gung-ho event for the kids. But there was no such bifurcation in 2017, largely because of a bill which was low on divisive millennial acts such as Walking On Cars and Picture This.
Instead, the generations came together for the likes of Birdy (who prompted an unexpected mass singalong with her hit ‘Wings’) and Sunday headliners Duran Duran.
Corporate-sponsored stages are an unfortunate reality of the modern festival and Electric Picnic certainly did not lack for those. However, much of the traditional quirkiness endured. Body and Soul arena, for instance, “The Haunt” — a 20th century jazz and blues club ostensibly manned by ethereal spirits.
Classic rock-loving brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario may not be household names but judging by social media and overheard conversations, their Sunday afternoon performance at the Cosby Tent was the rock connoisseur’s performance of choice.
London Grammar are a sublime pop act — but felt a little lost on the main stage, when the would surely have triumphed in a more intimate setting.
Some felt the same about The xx — though others will insist they were a highlight — and A Tribe Called Quest, a fascinating ensemble but arguably not sufficiently high profile to shoulder the burden of headlining Saturday.
With the 2017 festival selling out before the line-up was even unveiled, there have been calls for the Picnic’s capacity to increase. However, Melvin Benn ruled this out in the immediate term.
English band Madness playing the main stage at Electric Picnic 🎶 . . #electricpicnic #electricpicnic2017 #madness #ska #nuttyboys #music #concert #live #livemusic #festival #musicfestival #stradbally #picnic #suggs #madnessband #laois #electric #2tone #twotone #onestepbeyond #houseoffun #baggytrousers #summer #mainstage #ireland
“I could double the capacity and then you’d say, ‘Well you’re spoiling the Picnic. “It’s a popular show for all the right reasons… all I can say is, ‘get in early’…I’d love it to be bigger [but] it’s not the right right time.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved