By Ken Rooney
Electric Picnic is approaching fast - have you decided who you're going to see?
Here's a few acts well worth a look if you're heading to Stradbally this weekend!
Clu (Friday, Body&Soul, 9.40pm)
There won’t be much shapes thrown by these guys, but what they lack in movement they more than make up for in blissed-out beats and mind-melting visuals.
Think Kraftwerk - if that style of live performance isn’t for you, avoid.
Otherwise, it’s what the Body and Soul Main Stage was made for!
Joey Negro (Friday, Casa Bacardi, 10pm)
Even with its expanded dancefloor, Casa Bacardi can be a pretty full-on experience. But if you’re willing to brace the sweaty masses, this should be the highlight of the weekend here.
Joey Negro has been a stalwart of the house scene for decades, remixing practically every artist you think he might have, sprinkling his magic disco dust and bringing the happy.
If you just can’t get enough, Sunday’s Red Bull Disco Brunch in the woods should be worth a look, if only to satisfy your curiosity (and hunger).
SOAK (Saturday, Rankin Woods Stage, 4.45pm)
The unassuming Derry songstress has been making a huge impact here and abroad with a lyrical maturity way beyond her 19 years.
Catch her in the relatively intimate surrounds of the Rankin Woods Stage before she goes proper global.
Dublin Oldschool (Saturday, 5pm, Theatre Tent, Mindfield)
Ya, this video is NSFW...
You’re not JUST going to music acts are you? As good as they generally are, there’s SO much more to enjoy.
The perceived chin-stroking vibe of the Mindfield area might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this tale of a wannabe DJ’s chemically enhanced trip through the streets of Dublin should provide the perfect middle ground for a coming together of cultures.
It stars ‘Love/Hate’ star Ian Lloyd Anderson, and ‘Sarah & Steve’ co-creator Emmet Kirwan, and that’s it.
Blur (Saturday, Main Stage, 10.30pm)
Last year’s screamy comeback gig at Glastonbury was a cautionary tale of what trying too hard looks like (see also: Future Islands), but hopefully their Electric Picnic debut should be a more restrained affair.
Some of those Parklife songs have aged very badly indeed, but Damon Albarn and co can still come up with some magic when the put their minds to it.
So if the stars align, this could be quite special.
Roisín Murphy (Saturday, Electric Arena 00.30am)
A cursory listen to Roisin’s latest album may have latecomers scratching their heads at the seemingly untourable nature of it.
But never fear - the kooky former Moloko frontwoman is a canny operator and will get the crowd moving in abundance.
There will oddities aplenty too of course, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s great to see that organisers have entrusted her with that all-important Saturday headline slot on the Electric Arena too - she won’t let us down.
Jurassic 5 (Sunday, Main Stage, 3.45pm)
There’s something so compelling about live hip-hop done well, and from Wu Tang to Young Fathers, there’s been some great ones to grace Picnic though the years.
This year, the festival will welcome the genre’s nice guys in the form of LA's Jurassic 5.
It’s not always easy for a gang of festival-goers to agree on who to see, but this is about as close to a guaranteed crowd-pleaser as you can get.
Girlpool (Little Big Tent, Sunday, 4.45pm)
Two girls, a bass and an electric guitar - it doesn’t get more stripped-down than that. So you won’t even have drums getting in the way of that delightfully simple style and vocals on the charming side of twee .
If you’re not quite ready to get your dancing shoes on just yet, it’s perfect stuff to ease into the Sunday before the madness arrives again.
FKA Twigs (Sunday, Electric Arena, 9pm)
Tahliah Debrett Barnett will have some fans to win over after her last-minute cancellation last year, although it never seemed to rankle as much as Azealia Banks’ no-show - probably a testament to her greater potential as an artist.
A keen yoga devotee, her stage shows take on a hypnotic quality as she twists and turns into every shape imaginable.
Strong visual art elements are all part of the show - don’t take your eyes off the stage for a second.
The ‘secret’ gigs (All over the place, various times)
Keep your ears to that muddy Stradbally ground - the last few years have seen the rise of the surprise gigs - I even found an entire hidden ‘house party’ area last year!
From Hozier at the Other Voices stage to the wonderfully ironic turn by Seasick Steve on the Salty Dog stage, small-scale show by big-time artists are all the rage now. So charm one of the sound guys or security personnel and get the lowdown!
Cue major bragging rights back at the campsite that night.
Neil Hannon (My Lovely Ranch stage, Time TBC)
Indeed, the My Lovely Ranch stage also promises “lots of other secrets”, and this one has certainly been kept quiet. Hidden away in the deep recesses of a press release I came across the name of Neil Hannon - yes, he of Divine Comedy and Duckworth Lewis Method fame.
It turns out he was actually there last year as well (drat!), and in full-on festival mood too, so we could well be treated to some more Father Ted themed revelry.
I couldn’t tell you what the stage looks like - just go to the (ever-improving) Trailer Park area and I’m sure someone will tell you. One thing’s for sure - it’ll be ridiculously/wonderfully small. Cathey Davey well worth a look here too.
Dublin improv genius Abandoman, Cork opera star Kim Sheehan, Underworld, Villagers, The War on Drugs, The Riptide Movement, Dublin Gospel Choir and the ever-reliable Le Galaxie.
Boomtown Rats (Sunday, Main Stage, 5.30pm)
The Electric Picnic bookers, in fairness to them, are a canny bunch, and I can credit them for discovering many bands I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Yet every year they seem to drop a single clanger - Jack L, Roxy Music and Blondie being some recent examples.
This year’s dud is looking likely to be The Boomtown Rats.
It’s not that they don’t have a few decent tunes in their repertoire - but was there really any appetite for this tour?
Bob will give it plenty of energy, sure, but given the festival’s increasingly younger demographic, he’s unlikely to get much back.
The Vengaboys / Mark McCabe / 2 Unlimited (Electric Ireland Tent, various times)
The Vengabus is coming, but there’s no blaming the EP organisers for this one.
In years past, Electric Ireland have been canny enough to see the ‘ironic’ nostalgic appeal of appealing acts like Mr Motivator and Bonnie Tyler for its own tent, making it one of the most appealing little distractions on the entire site.
This year though, they’ve taken irony too far. Way, way too far.
Look - I’m well aware that this is basically the festival equivalent of those review-proof movies like Transformers and the Scary Movie series - the people who like them will go and love it, while those who don’t will avoid them like the plague.
I know which camp I’ll be in.