Monday, November 14, 2011

Electric Picnic 2011 Review. September 4th (the final day of the festival)

On Friday November 25th next, the early bird tickets for The 2012 Electric Picnic Festival go on sale at the cheaper rate. Never failing to be nothing short of amazing, this festival is leading into it's ninth year. Its more than just a music festival, it encorporates all forms of Art and is in my opinion Ireland's finest show. Here is my review of the Sunday of this year's Picnic.....
Helicopter shot of The Electric Picnic 2011

Sunday September 4th 2011
Sunday morning and the final day of The Electric Picnic, again the sky was darkening and the rain was looming but another great array of music was forecast. Surviving the freezing cold night in a new sleeping bag that was somehow meant for a much smaller person than I and managing to get a few hours of sleep, the body was possibly revived and primed again.
Our first stop of the day was Kingstown located in the woods and designed to give a Jamaican chill out theme.
I am well sure that Jamaica would feel a lot warmer and drier than we did as we sat in a tented cafe, looking out at the pouring rain. However the nice tea and the reggae music blasting from the amps nearby made up for any disappointments. The rain would eventually ease and make it all that bit easier to be outdoors later.


The Dublin Gospel Choir were on the main stage at 1pm, regulars by now to the festival  they somehow bring a soothing spiritual feel to their Sunday performances. Perhaps for some this could even be the closest thing to attending Sunday Mass. It is possible that they may have sang the rain away during their one hour set because they do have such a positive energy. I do hope that they play every Sunday at the festival, it really is a perfect choice. Again, The Electric Picnic is so varied in its musical choices, it is hard not to commend everyone involved in putting the whole thing together with such an eclectic variety.

The Dublin Gospel Choir

The Electric Arena was our next stop to check out Irish band This Club, an energetic four piece that mix indie with dance not too unlike such bands as The Rapture or Friendly Fires.
I had never heard of This Club before and as someone who loves to hear new music, this band didn't leave me underwhelmed in the slightest, quite the contrary in fact .
Its hard not to guess that they could be inspired by some 80's  UK electro pop groups, like Pet Shop Boys or even Erasure. With a debut album on the way, This Club will be a band worthy of your time. I think we could hear a lot more from them in the forthcoming year..
This Club
Waterford indie favourites O Emperor were next up at 2pm at The Crawdaddy Stage.
This band have been turning heads across Ireland since the release of their first album called 'Hither Thither' last year, not to mention scoring a support slot with Mumford And Sons on their UK and Ireland tour.
This was my first time seeing O Emperor play live and my first impression was a lasting one, their songs flow solid amid driving guitars and fresh vocals.  Radiohead's earlier work springs to mind as a suitable comparison to some of their songs like 'Don Quixote'while 'Po' could sit comfortably alongside anything Midlake have recorded so far. 'Hither Thither' is a fine album worthy of its Choice Music nomination and is a steady collection by a 5 piece very serious about what they do. Its possible that their 10 year reign together so far was a major advantage to producing such a fine debut album.
Their stage performance is as satisfying as their album, in fact their 30 minute set left me wanting to see them play somewhere soon again...

O Emperor

The big surprise of the day was Oh Land who played The Electric Arena at 2.30pm. Little did I think that the Scandinavians would be the musical standouts at this years festival. Lykke Li the previous night went beyond any expectations while Oh Land provided a bit of magical surprise. Nanna Oland Fabricius is a 26 year old beauty from Copenhagen who performs under the title of Oh Land. Her vocal ability is sometimes on a par with Florence Welch as she sings her own brand of funky pop songs accompanied by percussion and keys.  This is a video for the song 'Wolf And I' from her 2nd and latest album so far which is eponymously titled.....

Oh Land was the unexpected highlight, the one that offers that exceptional stage magic, a certain  Je ne sais quoi so to speak. The live performance was a must see for the originality alone, with the band members wearing masks for the first few songs.

Tipperary singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes kicked off her gig at 3pm to a rather large crowd of followers.
Promoting her 4th album 'Let It Break'  released in May of this year Gemma has had a busy Irish tour schedule which thankfully included The Electric Picnic. Warm vocals, and fresh melodies were the order of the day and a very pleasing set was performed. I saw her briefly doing a show a few years ago and promised myself that I would go to see her again. I usually keep my promises, I was also happy with the photos, as getting close to the stage was a struggle. Gemma is currently doing a few more live dates this November before she heads off on an international tour.

Gemma Hayes
 U.K band Everything Everything were the next port of call at The Electric Arena. The first time I heard of this group was when they performed at T In The Park earlier this year. Currently based in Manchester, these boys have one album to date called 'Man Alive' and its on the Geffen Label. Their own brand of electro funk and indie is again not too far removed from the sound of bands like fellow U.K head turners Friendly Fires . I don't think I have made my mind up about Everything Everything yet, my brief visit upon their live set wasn't enough to grab me just yet but I will earmark them for the future. I was less impressed with their Picnic performance than previous T.V appearances I had seen them on. However every band doesn't always get it right live and I'm sure they have done better gigs.


Critically acclaimed  English folk siblings  Rachel and Becky Unthank were the next act we saw at the main stage that evening. By now the Irish, 4 seasons in one day weather delivered a beautiful sunny couple of hours. Lazy bodies stretched out on the grass and listened to the laid back sweet harmonies of The Unthanks  for their 60 minute set. Accompanied by an orchestra, they delivered a much softer sound than anything we had heard all weekend. The great Robert Wyatt once said of this duo “They are like the morning dew that hasn’t steamed off yet, they are fresh and new and I really don’t think they know how good they are”.

The Unthanks

Total contrast in sound then later into the evening at The Cosby Stage with  Belfast  hard rockers And So I Watch You From Afar. This was my second time this year seeing these guys, ( I also saw them at the Indiependence Festival in July). This band makes more noise than a fireworks display at New Years and make no apologies. 'If the apocalypse is televised, these guys will provide the soundtrack' is how they were once described on BBC radio. All of their music is instrumental, blending metal with hard rock and they deliver a live performance that is drenched in adrenalin. This year they released their second album called 'Gangs' and this is 'Beautiful Universe Master Champion' from that album.

The Cosby tent was a jam packed pit of energy for the 60 minute roller coaster set that ASIWYFA unleashed. My few minutes late arrival actually was to my detriment as I was forced to stay at the side entrance because the crowd was so big inside. I did have a great view of the stage though and felt all the energy of this explosive band. This was without doubt one of the real highlights of the festival, their sheer energy, rawness and determination was nothing short of overwhelming.

Beirut were playing at the main stage around the same time as ASIWYFA, so I got to watch a few minutes of their set afterwards. These Santa Fe natives brand of indie-folk mixed with electronica and brass instruments, no less added plenty to their pleasent stage presence. They also secured a very positive reaction from the huge crowd that had by now seeminly abandoned the campsites to enjoy the final few hours of music that was on offer. Here is Beirut performing 3 songs last September for NPR's Tiny Desk series..

Beirut would be the final band I would see at this years festival, of course there were hours of more music to see from the likes of Underworld, Mogwai, Big Audio Dynamite, Zola Jesus, but my weary body could not take any more, it was alas time to hit the road home and dream again of the next Electric Picnic. It is my favourite festival and I hope to get to be there for as long as it exists each year. Somehow the amazing music and atmosphere seems to outweigh any negative aspects every time, so here's to the next one because I'm not going to ever dislike this wonderful event.

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