All The Pretty Horses…


The Last Hurrah! – The Electric Picnic
September 8, 2006, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Dancing, Listening, PROD

So, the last proper festival of the summer, and it was a beauty. The Electric Picnic is a 3yr old event just outside Portlaish (which in turn is about an hour from Dublin). 30,000 very very pissed people and one of the finest line-ups I’ve ever seen at a festival..

We were there, in the Pussy Parlure spiegeltent, in a Juke Joint capacity again – we managed about 3 Juke Joint / play what we want slots, a couple of ‘Lovely Morning’ slots and a pop quiz (which went really badly – the crowd were all a little young to know who the Crucial 3 were.. ) – and for a change, the Pussy Parlure wasn’t one of the main attractions because there was so much other stuff to do.

Having said that, some of our slots were pretty rocking (I think it was one in / one out on Friday night) and even our Saturday lunchtime slot was pretty rammed (see above)..

Electric Picnic does have quite a few problems – the provision of toilets and showers was pretty poor (especially outside the main arena where the majority of the tents and stalls were), and the running orders were a shambles, the worst I’ve ever encountered. Waiting 40 minutes or longer for a band to come on wasn’t unusual. A festival with line-ups as brilliant and busy as this simply can’t function this sloppily (we missed Richard Hawley because things were running so badly and we wanted to catch The Earlies, for example).

The biggest problem was the shambolic licensing arrangement, however. There was a pretty generous attitude towards people taking their own booze (I believe 48 cans per person was considered ‘reasonable’) but you weren’t allowed to take it into the main arena. However, all the bars shut at 10pm every night. Which meant that from 10pm till anywhere between 2-4am, depending where you were, you couldn’t get a legit drink. We were laden with hipflasks and waterbottles and the like (added to which, crew passes tend to get you frisked less) and most people seemed to be managing, but it’s a fairly dumb state of affairs. Perhaps it was to limit massive drunkeness, particularly after the horror stories about the recent Oxegen Festival (stories of tents being torched by drunken gangs and the like), but it was ultimately really frustrating and stupid. The mayhem at 2am each night when they closed the main arena (save for Lost Vagueness) could probably have been handled much better too…

But.. it’s only the festival’s 3rd  year (it was a one-dayer 2 years ago, a 2-dayer last year) and it’s a learning curve, I guess. Everything else – the site, the line-up, the atmosphere, the security – was absolutely spot-on. As ever, Lost Vagueness was the most fun to be had – it looked great, it was as debauched and fucked up and varied and crazy as ever. Lots of rockabilly and country and ska bands, dancing flappers, gorilla costumes and weirdness…

The DJ set by the Kleptones (absolutely insane, witty, imaginative mash-ups by a Brighton DJ Crew) and the 2nd set of the weekend by the inestimably brilliant Young Blood Brass Band were probably the entertainment highlights, but with LV it’s the vibe you go for..

Amongst all the drinking and shouting and rather low-key drug use (man, supplies were scarce.. ) we managed to see a lot of bands.. The aforementioned Young Bloods were as great as ever – a brilliant fusion of New Orleans second line brass band and a hip-hop sensibility… they were first on at the main stage, to an initially small crowd, but totally won everyone over in the end..

Friday night was an embarassment of riches  – Mogwai were blinding as ever, they got on stage late so weren’t on long, but it was magnificent. PJ Harvey’s first ever (i think) big solo slot was unbelievable – she was nervous as all hell but played out of her skin, egged on by a totally adoring audience. It was pretty dumb putting her in one of the smaller tents, and things got a little lairy at times – so much so that I beat a retreat to the back of the tent – but I guess the atmosphere was more electric for all that..

New Order were also in unbelievably good form – a huge crowd, the band in buoyant mood, a greatest hits set (including a couple of Joy Division tunes) and just a brilliant atmosphere.. The other two main stage highlights were The Skatalites, who brought the sun out on a Saturday afternoon and had the whole field moving, and Alabama 3, who somehow managed to be almost as brilliant as the other times I’ve seen them this summer, but not quite good enough to be the overall highlight for once. Dancing girls, twatting about, brilliant songs, incredible ideas – there isn’t a live act to touch them most of the time.

However, most of the time they’re not up against Sparks. Who were just astonishing. Wasn’t sure I’d ever get to see them again after a breathtaking Royal Festival Hall Meltdown show a few years back, and I dragged some of my posse along under a bit of duress, but the risk paid off. They didn’t have the room for the full video-assisted showbiz sets they’ve been doing of late, but they were phenomenal nonetheless. The new stuff is as insane and exciting as you’re likely to hear (especially ‘Can I Invade Your Country’) and we got the hits too.. They looked genuinely freaked out by the reaction they got – which was pretty rabid – and even Ron managed a slightly moved, slightly creepy half-smile.

They’re also not usually up against The Pet Shop Boys, who were an absolute revelation. I think a lot of the crowd were there for some kind of kitsch / novelty kicks, and they certainly were that, but they were so much more as well. Just exemplary pop music, with real style and bite. The stage show was hysterical – lots of faux-serious theatrical twatting about (“chavs” stepping to each other during Suburbia, lots of cowboy costumes and look-a-likes and vogueing around by the backing singers and dancers) and we got all the hits. By the time they finished with Go West, everyone was hugging everyone else, singing along and dancing like twats.

What else was good? The Earlies were very good, although I missed most of their set to go and play.. wasn’t sure they could pull off their pretty intricate sound live, but they managed by having about 40 people on stage (OK, 10, but they all played about 5 bloody instruments)… I was surprisingly impressed by Saul Williams – I’d always written him off as a piss poor cross between Gil Scott Heron and DJ Spooky, and I wasn’t that wrong. The poetry was pretty poor, the beats (kind of Fisher Price breakcore) were whack, the DJ looked like an extra from a terrible 80s dystopian sci-fi movie. And yet, the whole was significantly greater than the sum of its underwhelming parts and I thoroughly enjoyed it – I guess Williams has a helluva lot of charisma and that goes a long way (having said that, i downloaded a few tunes when I got home and my initial impressions about his recorded output were bang on.. )

The amount of stages around the site, and interesting little bars and boltholes, that was good, even if a little too much had been lifted from all the UK festivals and perhaps they need to get their own thing going (as a feisty Irish woman I chatted to pointed out, the carpark was full of London plates). A lot of thought had been put into things – having tents like the ever-brilliant Laundrettas, and lots of ‘areas’ – even if one was called the Body & Soul arena and was full of unforgiveable hippy filth. The foodstalls and facilities were good, and the fact that there stages I never even made it to was good – genuinely something for everyone. Even the bastard Bacardi B-Bar had the kind of line-up most festivals would have been happy to have as their main dance stage running order.

What was bad? The weather was occasionally very bad (Eire in autumn, it’s a no-brainer really). Elbow were pretty bad (but accompanied a visit to the mighty Pieminister stall and a 3litre flagon of scrumpy, so it wasn’t TOO bad). People pissing everywhere – even on food tents – was bad, as was me nearly getting punched for trying to stop some lairy fucker pissing on the Pussy Parlure catering tent. Cutting a big hole in my finger trying to slice a bagel and making the tent look like Mai Lai, that was pretty bad.

But nothing, nothing was as bad as Amp Fiddler.

This awful, awful cunt has a following. He’s heralded as being at the front of some kind of nu-soul boom, like his accursed cohort John Legend. My kidney has more funk than this goon. A stiffer, less joyful, less enjoyable experience I can’t even begin to imagine. We got stuck with him because of crazy running times, and I wanted to kill him in the face within minutes. What a fucking clown…

i reckon next year will be even more blinding. See you there..

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

“My kidney has more funk…” LOL!

Comment by kek

you’ve got rage issues man, he’s just a musician! I do agree though, just not quite as forcefully!

Comment by Weasel

I could truthfully read about this all day!!
Hopefully you own an RSS feed I’m able to register for. I’ve truly
been really exploring on the internet just for posts on the
topic of mac cosmetics haul.

Comment by Nigel




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