For all the hundreds of live acts that played Electric Picnic over the weekend, it was the spectre a man who died earlier this year that was omnipresent across Stradbally.
David Bowie was everywhere — as Friday night came to a close, a collective of musicians played a tribute set of his greatest hits, only for Saturday’s schedule to kick off hours later with the Trinity Orchestra, aided by Hozier, playing their own take on the Thin White Duke’s back catalogue.
The tributes weren’t limited to the stage, as many of the 55,000 attendees donned T-shirts bearing Bowie’s image, and others wore Aladdin Sane lightning-bolt facepaint.
Nearly as ubiquitous were the ‘Repeal’ jumpers which this year replaced ‘Yes Equality’ T-shirts as the sartorial statement du jour in the campsites.
Many artists made reference to the Repeal The Eighth Amendment campaign over the weekend, including a brilliantly on-form Dylan Moran who used his soapbox in the Comedy Tent to encourage the younger generation to fix the mishaps he perceives his own age group has inflicted on the world.
The comedian didn’t dwell too long on politics or social issues — the nearby Mindfield provided plenty of that, and once again it hosted plenty of talks on culture, history, current affairs, and more to feed the mind and rest the feet.
But for all the protest pullovers and counter-cultural chats, the influence of corporate marketing hasn’t so much snuck up on the Picnic as it has overwhelmed it, with brands lining up to slap their logos on anything standing on the Stradbally Hall site.
There’s the arena styled after an Amsterdam neighbourhood (brought to you by the official lager of the Electric Picnic), a Cuban mansion style nightclub (rum brand), the bar fashioned to resemble a US motel (cider company), and the ‘throwback’ stage featuring 1980s bands like Bananarama, which is sponsored by a utility company boasting that it is “the official energy partner of Electric Picnic”.
The branding takeover is only really noticed by those who attended the earlier editions of Electric Picnic, and wouldn’t have bothered the Snapchat generation who took to the festival lifestyle with gusto.
Thankfully Saturday’s downpour had the decency to arrive in the earlier hours of the day while most were still in their tents.
Bar the odd drizzle, there was little rain to bother those who danced to the returning LCD Soundsystem, who topped a bill packed with Irish acts who held their own — such as Girls Names, Altered Hours, RSAG, and Walking on Cars, who had queues of people outside the Electric Arena tent straining their necks to catch a glimpse of the chart-toppers.
Lana Del Rey and New Order closed the festival last night, and this morning tired bodies will haul their camps back to reality.
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