Dire weather warnings proved premature at the opening day of Electric Picnic 2019, as revellers at the 57,000-capacity festival in Co Laois pitched their tents in balmy weather all Friday afternoon.
Campsites having opened for the festival on Thursday evening, the name on everyone’s lips on Friday was Billie Eilish. The precocious 17-year-old LA songstress, whose March debut album,made her the first ever artist born in the new millennium to have a number one album in the US album charts, has been catapulted to stardom and hailed as the voice of a new generation.
Wellies on but undaunted by the gathering evening rain clouds, punters flocked from the campsites in impressive numbers into the mainstage area at 7.30pm: possibly one of the biggest crowds the mainstage has ever drawn at such an early hour on Friday evening.
Eilish, who first sprang to prominence at just 15 with her Soundcloud-released track, immediately launched into darker and more danceable recent hits like and , to the delight of an audience that was notably comprised of her peers.
The singer’s stage presence, husky voice and hip-hop sensibility, along with her impressively mature ability to work a crowd, proved the highlight of Friday evening, with home-grown sultry hero Hozier closing the main stage.
Changes to the festival’s layout this year has meant an extended boundary for the stages. The reggae-themed Trenchtown area and the Salty Dog stage are both now incorporated into the main arena, while an extended festival site makes room for a new area called Freetown, no doubt hoping to mimic the UK’s Boomtown festival: a new 8,000-capacity dance tent called Terminus vies for punters’ attention with cabaret and burlesque, a stage called Spike Island hosting folk and blues offerings and the Latin-themed Providencia, complete with barber shop and tequila bar.
Previous warnings from festival CEO Melvin Benn that a “zero-tolerance approach” to drugs would follow a summer of revelry that brought fresh fears about new, high-strength ecstasy tablets, as well as a fatality at Cork’s Indiependence in July, was carried through: within hours of the festival’s campsite opening on Thursday afternoon, local Gardaí in Laois Offaly were reporting drugs seizures of Cocaine, Ketamine, LSD and MDMA via their Facebook page.
Eagerly anticipated headline acts for the rest of the weekend include The Strokes, Florence & The Machine and The 1975.