Avant-garde art instillations, cookery and poetry tents, and a bill that ran from pop stars Sam Smith and Florence and the Machine to alternative favourites Belle and Sebastian and Interpol were among the highlights awaiting the 47,000 descending on Stradbally, Co Laois.
As ever, though, the true magic of Electric Picnic had less to do with the music than a hard to define but instantly recognisable ambiance. Where else might a festival-goer enjoy a contemplative moment seated beside a grand piano that doubled as a waterfall? This was one of the many kooky features at the Body and Soul Arena, a proudly hippyish festival within a festival that spoke to Electric Picnic’s off-beat perspectives.
Mirroring the open armed philosophy was the musical programme, which ran from the sublime to the ridiculous and all the way back again. On Saturday, for example, the now popular “veteran” slot saw DJ Mark McCabe reprise his vintage hit ‘Maniac 2000’. Over at the Jerry Fish Sideshow, meanwhile, treasured Cork ragamuffins Sultans Of Ping pulled a respectable crowd despite clashing with headliners Blur.
Even with so much music vying for attention, it was possible to spend the weekend untroubled by the Picnic’s sonic delights. A circus, fairground rides, and comedy tent were among the alternatives for those wishing to bask in the atmosphere without having their eardrums bothered. You could even park yourself at an open-air massage parlour.
A stress on family has long been part of Electric Picnic’s tradition. This year, parents and kids were here in force, taking advantage of a children-go-free admission policy and a special “quiet” camping zone. Indeed, there was a distinct emphasis on luxury, with attendees splashing out extra for sumptuous yurts, standalone “festi-huts” and custom designed “bespoke pods”.
Electric Picnic has also become celebrated for the quality of its dining options. Once again, it did not disappoint and those with rumbling tummies could chose between Mexican, vegan, Thai, hipster pies — or any of a dozen varieties of burger. Standing by a food stall, basking in the glow of a huge ferris wheel as Blur romped through their hit ‘Parklife’ it was hard not to feel a little bit of festival heaven had come to the Midlands.