Thursday, September 15, 2011

Electric Picnic 2011 Review. September 2nd,and 3rd (the first 2 days of the festival)

The withdrawl symptoms are still lingering even after several days since this years Electric Picnic wrapped up. It was again another showcase of fine music and arts that never fails to please each time. I wouldn't say that this particular festival had the best line up, however there were definate gems included, in the form of Lykke Li, P.j Harvey, I Am Kloot and Oh Land to drop a few names.
Friday 2nd of September.

As miserable as the weather turned on Friday night, it failed to quell the spirits of over 30,000 revellers who partied like it could be the last party in a long, long while.
My introduction to the festival after arriving late Friday evening and managing to put together 2 dodgy cheap tents was to catch the L.A. band Warpaint live at The Crawdaddy stage for 15 minutes or so. Better late than never, they put on a mighty set that certainly threw me into the festival spirit.
Further into that evening P.J Harvey was on the main stage doing her thing which later in the weekend reminded me of how many incredibly talented women were performing at this years Electric Picnic. The Uthanks,Warpaint, Gemma Hayes and Lykke Li to mention a few.
Harvey wore a very strange head dress which didn't look too unlike a giant feathered crow in the distance.
She has progressed in a few years into one of Britain's most important female rock artistes. Her second Mercury Music prize awarded to her just a few days ago for her latest album 'Let England Shake' is testament to her formidable career. This was also her second Electric Picnic appearance, 2006 being the other year that she performed there. The main stage belonged to P.J Harvey as no other capacity would have taken the multiples that swarmed to see her play on Friday night and she didn't disappoint. Obviously Interpol had their work cut out to equal or better her performance.

Interestingly New York post punkers Interpol were a band that didn't ever over excite me with anything after their 2004 'Antics' record so I was in two minds about watching their set. Particularly as D.J Shadow was clashing time wise with Interpol, I took the option of checking out half of each artistes sets. As it so often  happens at festivals its sometimes the least obvious bands that surprises you. Interpol could not be faulted in any sense of  the word and surprised the hell out of me for their energy and sheer live ability. I found myself wanting to stick around and watch their entire time onstage but probably wouldn't have forgiven myself  later for not checking out D.J Shadow's  show.   
Interpol's worthy instalments of their back catalogue along with new material warranted me to have a rethink about this band and look at them in a whole new light. I came away a with a brand new respect for this band and took a mental note to dig out the 'Antics' album when I got home.
On to the Electric Arena then to catch a bit of D. J Shadow's set who was on a return visit to this festival, (I also saw him when he last played there in 2006).
I would be hard pushed to list my 10 all time favourite albums but D.J Shadow's 1996 debut 'Endtroducing' would have to be in there somewhere. Constructed entirely of samples and loops it is an extraordinary piece of work that I never fail to get tired of. Its just one of those perfect albums that carries like a soundtrack to a very strange film. It brims with a collage of sounds sampled from recordings as diverse as Meredith Monk to Nirvana. Its cover artwork is even masterful with a wide screen shot of the inside of a record store with punters sourcing through the stock.
D.J Shadow is about to release his new album this month called 'The Less You Know The Better', so much of his Electric Picnic performance was heavy with new music. However this didn't encourage any despondency from the audience. In fact he even commented at how overwhelmed he was with the Irish response to his shows, even compared to back home in the U.S.
I would have been totally fulfilled if the 'Entroducing' album was to be performed in its entirety that night, but alas that was not to be. I honestly believe he will never make a record as good as that again. The live show these days is definitely a worth while venture whether you have a slight curiosity to his music or you are a die hard fan. Its very much as heavy on the visuals as much as the music is a bombastic adventure into a world of Trip Hop and mixes. Overall D.J Shadow was a very worthy headliner to the festival that will stand as one of the most memorable. That was my Friday evening adventure that went so well before the dark ominous clouds rolled in and reminded us of how you should never trust the Irish weather no matter what...

Saturday 3rd of September
Despite a pretty awful night to be sleeping out with only a thin layer of polyester over our heads in the form of a tent, the spirit wasn't dampened on Saturday morning. If fact the celebratory can of beer for all things festival after just a couple of hours sleep only heightened the enthusiasm for the day ahead.
Refuge from the elements was taken in the afternoon at The Crawdaddy stage to check out Manchester band I Am Kloot . The absence of the Southern Comfort bar at The Crawdaddy tent this year was a bit of a let down unfortunately, however the queues for beer outside were moving swiftly enough to quell any fears of  foreboding sobriety.
I Am Kloot were a welcome introduction to the days entertainment belting out plenty songs from their earlier years along with the latest.
 'Natural History' their first album from 2001 is my favourite from this band and in my opinion a much better album than 'Sky At Night,' which was last year one of the selections for the Mecury Music award. John Bramwell's cutting lyrics over drums and guitar is a feisty mix and after seeing them play several times over the years, I'm often wondering why didn't they ever become a huge band.
Still their live gigs are as pleasing as ever and it was a great addition to see them at the Picnic, I've always had a soft spot for this Manchester trio.

I Am Kloot
A short trip to the main stage afterwards was worthwhile to catch a bit of Donal Dineen's Parish. This is a whole new outing for the ever adventurous radio D.J.
 Presuming  Dineen had this sights set on a musical project such as this for a long time, he will unfortunately be departing from Today F.M. soon . The sound of Parish was all new to me but if you like the artistes  Tricky or Massive Attack for instance, you could love this collaboration. Here is a clip of Parish, the track is called 'High -Five O.
Hi-Five 0 by parishrecords

Donal Dineen
The ever idiosyncratic Texas based troubador Micah P. Hinson was next on my list of must sees for the day. Performing for this gig Micah P with arm in sling, due to some unrevealed accident sometime previous was accompanied by a string quartet. 'Im going to play another song now, I hope you like it, if you don't you can suck it'...Hinson doesn't grovel to an audience, to get appreciation, that just comes naturally when you hear him sing. Still in his twenties, this guy has already 6 fine studio albums to his credit, his greatest yet has to be the 2008 released 'Micah P. Hinson and The Red Empire Orchestra'. This is a guy who can write songs that will floor you with their beauty. An old head on young shoulders so to speak, a Hank Williams for the 21st century perhaps, Hinson's genius overflows in places.

Micah P. Hinson
Irish singer songwriter Mundy provided some pleasing minutes later in the evening opting thankfully not to perform the over played  radio hit 'Galway Girl'.
Although I only caught a few minutes of  British artiste James Blake's set,  I think he would have had more potential atmospherically if he wasn't timetabled to play at the main stage. The weirded out bass lines that run through his Anthony And The Johnsons type songs just didn't fit with the presence of  daylight and big space. I would however love to see him play at a small venue in the future though. On the plus side I was very happy with this photo, that I captured.

James Blake

It must be mentioned Swedish songstress Lykke Li was the undoubted show stealer of the day in my opinion on Saturday. Her hour long set kicked off at 8.15pm, unfortunately clashing time wise with Midlake's appearance at The Crawdaddy Stage. Plans to catch a bit of both shows were aborted however due to Lykee Li just being so damned good. Its clear this lady has come a long way in just a very short time with her stage presence. The first time I heard of her was when Jooles Holland had her on his show singing a stripped down version of 'A little Bit' before the release of her first album. I was instantly impressed but never imagined to see such a progression in a short time. Her latest album 'Wounded Rhymes' is a definite grower and I would highly recommend it, however the songs are much better live.
This is why I go to music festivals, you sometimes don't know whats around the corner, the hyped up acts can often be a let down, the less obvious can be mind blowing. Lykee Li happened to be the latter and every bit as great as Bjork's appearance at the festival 3 years previous. I feel very lucky to have seen her as the current tour goes on to Australia next and who knows when she will play in Ireland again.

Lykke Li
Dublin punk psyche rockers Retarded Cop later provided an extremely energetic set later into the evening despite a small turnout. I had never heard of these guys previously but was impressed with their onstage gusto. This 5 piece even have a song called 'Charlie Sheen', their tongue in cheek antics and lyrics make them a very likable union, the kind of band that would liven up the most dour audience. Next time they play a gig in a town close to me, I will be going.

Retarded Cop
I have vowed that some day I will see Canadian group Arcade Fire in a place where I won't get almost crushed to death. This band  seemed to have at least 90% of the festival crowd flocking to see them play at the main stage at 10pm. Arriving down a little late was a bad mistake, I heard more than I could see but still I couldn't complain. These guys deserve all the adoration they get, they are humble, hard working and brilliantly original. Here is a clip of an interview they did before they performed at the Picnic...
   The Salty Dog Stage  provided the perfect setting to chill out that night after a very satisfying day. Located in the woods, between campsites this low key outdoor venue has an old boat as a stage area and a little cafe serving light refreshments. The benches around the stage front were a heaven sent just to rest and drink several cups of tea. Dublin band The Cajun Kings provided some extremely pleasant rootsy sounds. This group have just recently reformed after 10 years of a break much to the joy of many. Their version of  The Balfa Brothers, 'La Dance Des Mardi Gras' was just the perfect sound for the joyous night.
 Prison Love also a Dublin based bluegrass 5 piece reminiscent of U.S Southern band Hayseed Dixie, put on a rousing set until the early hours of Sunday morning.
That need for sleep eventually dragged us back to the campsite where this time the rain was replaced with frost. The things we do for Rock n Roll and how hypothermia didn't get me that night, I will never know. It must have been the warm tea. My meanderings about Sunday, the third day of the Electric Picnic will follow later....

The Salty Dog


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