ANOTHER YEAR over, and 2010 was one of my favourite Electric Picnics yet. The line up was as good as it looked on paper, working for the Daily Ticket was an absolute pleasure (especially the hotel room at the end of each night – don’t think I can return to the horrors of camping ever again), and we even got at least one glorious day of sunshine.
One of the biggest thrills of the weekend was walking past Mark E. Smith in the queue for the (punters’) bar at the main stage. Yes, he is that ugly close-up.
My highlights seem pretty similar to most other peoples’, although I did bump into someone who cast doubt over my love of Hurts. What can I say? I feel absolutely no guilt about loving their brand of nu-new romantic/gay eighties disco anthem, and they’ve been superb all three times I’ve seen them.
Despite my loosely enforced rule about not going to see Irish acts, I inadvertently ended up at several, and thoroughly enjoyed most of them, too. Irish music is in rude health, no doubt about it.
YAY: Hurts. Roxy Music. Janelle Monáe. Mountain Man. Hot Chip finally delivering live. Robyn (holy crap, that girl sure can dance). Fight Like Apes. Cathy Davey playing Clean & Neat. Villagers getting a kings’ homecoming. Adrian Crowley rocking out. Fever Ray‘s amazing misty laser show. The general friendliness, good vibes and common courtesy of people, something that’s sorely lacking at other festivals. The beautifully-decorated site, especially those big tulips (see pic) and the amazingly ornate Love Letter Stage in the Body & Soul area. The attention to detail does count.
NAY: Laura Marling (love her, but she was hugely disappointing). Missing Jónsi. The toilets smelling like a hundred horses had shat in them, then vomited a bottle of Domestos on top. The rain pelting down for Massive Attack. These New Puritans being a bit flat (FYI: keyboardist Sophie Sleigh-Johnson has left the band). Not being able to see a thing on stage at Martin Hayes & Denis Cahill (performers sitting down on an already very low stage = bad idea). Missing John Cooper Clarke and Omar Souleyman due to wimpishness, sogginess and more importantly, lack of alcohol. The ridiculous and constant queues for Pieminister. Five Electric Picnics, and I still haven’t sampled one because of the damned queues. Maybe next year.
And in case you’re interested, here are my reviews from The Daily Ticket:
You know you’re in for something special when a pop band adds an opera singer to their entourage. Theo Hutchcraft may be a poseur of epic proportions, but boy, are his vocals pitch-perfect live. The Mancunians delivered a soaring set packed with moody anthems like Wonderful Life and the propulsive Better Than Love, that was sleeker than the singer’s slicked-back hair and sharper than his tailored suit. Their eighties revivalist schtick may have a shelf life, but who cares? We’re sold.
The last time Laura Marling played Electric Picnic, ‘technical difficulties’ scuppered her set on the Body & Soul stage. Two years on, her problems are of a different nature – primarily a rowdy Friday night crowd interested only in her more rambunctious songs, and a headcold that subdued her powerful vocals. The consequences? A set that failed to do justice to her hugely compelling and understated songs. She left the stage 15 minutes early, but frankly, we don’t blame her.
It’s hard to tell whether Roxy Music are the world’s coolest or naffest band. On one hand, they’ve got a saxophonist, a leather catsuit-clad keyboardist (female, thankfully), and Bryan Ferry is dressed for a day at the office. On the other, this is what main stage festival sets are all about: hit-laden, experienced, and teaching most of the young buckos we’ve seen today a thing or two about crowd-pleasing. If this is Dadrock, can Bryan Ferry please be my Dad?
Three young women and a guitar, one stark main stage, a haze of early afternoon grey drizzle and a smattering of dazed, confused and hungover punters: it shouldn’t work. But although Mountain Man’s between-song chat was met with a bemused silence, their music filled the gaping spaces with a snug warmth. Like a refreshing swig of crystalline spring water, the Vermont trio’s superb harmonies washed away Friday’s night excesses and set us up nicely for Day Two of Picnicking. If only the sun had shone.
THESE NEW PURITANS
In a way, Jack and George Barnett are the anti-Jedward: identical twins with actual musical talent. The Southend band plunder various genres (dubstep, indie, classical) to make an original compound, but live, they’re somewhat lacking in the charisma that makes their records so unusual. Beats and bass so heavy they turn your intestines to jelly is all well and good, but a deftness of touch wouldn’t go amiss, either.
She bounded on stage dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, but there was nothing nervy about Cathy Davey’s set. Flanked by an impressive band, a string quartet and even her beau Neil Hannon on one song, the Wicklow woman delivered an assured set that spanned her three albums (‘Clean & Neat’ a particular highlight) that got the sweaty post-Hot Chip crowd swinging and swaying along to her quirky pop radiance. My, Cathy, what big, bold, brilliant songs you have.
(Thanks to Ciara for the pic)