Picnic treats of techno, debates and punk

THE CURTAIN came down on this year’s Electric Picnic early this morning after British trip hop legends Massive Attack were cheered off the stage after their 10.30pm gig.

Other late headliners included Fever Ray, Wolf Parade and the National.

After a balmy Friday at Stradbally, Co Laois, Electric Picnic revellers feared the worst when they woke to rain on Saturday morning. But the showers cleared by afternoon, and the weather held for the rest of the weekend.

There was the usual diverse range of acts – musical, literary and political – on the festival programme. In all, more than 200 performances were scheduled.

There were some unlikely high-points: London Irish punk icon brought his post-Sex Pistols’ band, Public Image Ltd (PiL), to the festival for the first time, and spoke of the event as “coming home”. Lydon and Co delivered a blistering set that included Rise, Death Disco and Religion, a track that was decades ahead of its time in its condemnation of clerical abuse.

While PiL’s appearance clashed with that of 1970s art rockers Roxy Music, fronted by Bryan Ferry, most were agreed that the latter’s performance was lacklustre at best.

Saturday’s Main Stage headliners were techno legends, Leftfield, who kicked off their set after midnight and performed until 2am. They were preceded by two Irish acts: Glen Hansard’s The Frames were making their first appearance in Ireland in more than two years, while Liberties rockabilly queen Imelda May cemented her reputation as one of the best live acts to come out of Dublin in years.

The most impressive Irish act of the day, however, was probably Villagers, the vehicle for songwriter Conor O’Brien. Villagers’ debut album, Becoming A Jackal, is nominated for the Mercury Prize, due to be announced in London tomorrow. Their performance at the Crawdaddy tent drew a massive crowd.

Other acts that impressed included Bad Lieutenant, the new outfit fronted by New Order’s Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris, at the Electric Arena; Radiohead drummer Philip Selway, showcasing material from his debut solo album, Familial, on the Cosby stage; and Sigur Ros stalwart, Jonsi, whose solo set was backed by what most were agreed were the best visuals of the weekend.

Elsewhere at the Picnic, stand-up economist David McWilliams hosted some lively debates in the Leviathan tent in the Mindfield area. His guests included former British MP George Galloway, who denounced former Prime Minister Tony Blair as a war criminal, whose achievements “have been blighted forever by a million dead in Iraq”.

Nearby, Dublin writer Dermot Bolger hosted readings by literary figures such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Northern Irish poet Paul Muldoon, novelist Carlo Gebler, and Waterboys frontman Mike Scott, who has recently completed penning his memoirs.

In the Body and Soul area, the performers included the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra, joined by Jerry Fish of the Mudbug Club; and the exotic dancers Lucent Dossier, making their fifth visit to the Electric Picnic.

Organiser John Reynolds said the feedback from fans at this year’s Electric Picnic was overwhelming positive, with many claiming this year was the best. “Planning is already underway for Picnic 2011 which will take place 2nd, 3rd and 4th September,” he said.

Among those rumoured to be wandering around Stradbally were the actors Sean Penn and Natalie Portman, and supermodel Christy Turlington.

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