Electric Picnic 2013, Stradbally
WU TANG CLAN - MAIN STAGE, Friday 7.15pm
It wouldn't be Electric Picnic without a little rain and, in true Irish festival form, the heaven's briefly opened for a rainshower just prior to the Wu Tang Clan's (late) arrival on the main stage. The New York hip hop ensemble seem to have brought their B team to Stradbally, with some famous names missing from their collective but those who made the trip - particularly Inspectah Deck - gave the largest crowd at Electric Picnic '13 the best show of the day so far.
Wu Tang's DJ, who goes by the suitably precise moniker of Mathematics, is suitably precise behind his decks while the several assembled Wu Tang members goad the audience to 'jump', 'scream' and occasionally shout expletives into the Stradbally twilight. Purveyors of true east coast hip-hop, Wu Tang Clan's set was the highlight of Friday's Electric Picnic (so far, anyway), being the most raucously fun hour of the day so far.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE - MAIN STAGE, Friday 9.00pm
My Bloody Valentine, making their first appearance in the fields of Electric Picnic since the Electric Arena in 2008, are pounding out the last furious chords of their set as we write this. Kevin Shields and his band, perhaps the originators of the shoegaze brand of music, are the undisputed masters of controlled noise. 'Only Shallow', from the band's seminal 1991 release Loveless, was our favourite track of the evening but what was particularly interesting was listening to the seamless blend between the tracks from the album and this year's offering MBV, especially given the 22 year gap between them.
FATBOY SLIM - MAIN STAGE, Friday 10.30pm
The new that this year's Electric Picnic sold out well in advance of the start of the festival took many of us by surprise, not to mention disappointing many a prospective Picnicker, but last night's headline show from Fatboy Slim succinctly showed just how many people are at the Picnic this year. It seemed that practically every one of the 35,000 attendees were crammed in front of the main stage for the Brighton DJ's set.
Said set was perfect fodder for a late night boogie, with Cook ever-so adept at working the crowd by teasing in snippets from his hits along in his house-based DJ set. He even found time for the now obligatory 'Get Lucky' remix.
With the possible exception of last year's set from The Killers, we've never witnessed so many people at a single show at Electric Picnic and all of 'em were unified in their appreciation of Norman Cook's performance. Friday night's revellers weren't given many options once the sun went down due to the festivals other stages (Electric Arena, Little Big Tent et al) not yet being open, so once 10pm hit it was either Fatboy Slim or a wander through the delights of Body & Soul. In the end, entertainment.ie did both.
R.S.A.G. - BODY & SOUL STAGE, Friday 11.45pm
Among all of the musical treats we witnessed yesterday, we saved the best for last. Kilkenny's R.S.A.G. (or Jeremy Hickey to his mother) played an absolute blinder to a packed Body & Soul crowd. R.S.A.G. (Rarely Seen Above Ground), for the unaware, is a drummer/vocalist who sits solo on the stage and plays along with a musical backing track - and dear lord, was it ever amazing. Simply put, Hickey is one of the best drummers we've ever seen, perfectly blending awe-inspiring power and delicate, intricate touches behind his kit. Magic.
THE DUCKWORTH LEWIS METHOD - MAIN STAGE, Saturday 4.00pm
A couple of hours prior to Robert Plant's set, the Duckworth Lewis Method held court on the main stage and Neil Hannon and his cohort Thomas Walsh seemed to be having as good a time as anyone in the audience. The main stage might seem like an auspicious venue for a band whose entire catalogue is songs about cricket but it worked a charm.
ROBERT PLANT AND THE SENSTATIONAL SPACE SHIFTERS - MAIN STAGE, Saturday 7.00pm
Picnickers who weren't at the main stage just after 7pm missed out on one of Electric Picnic's best shows in recent years where Robert Plant, at 65-years-young (his on stage assertion that he was in his forties proved to be false), played a show for the ages. Roughly half of his set were Led Zeppelin classics, with 'Four Sticks', 'What Is and Can Never Be', 'Whole Lotta Love', 'Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You', 'Rock N' Roll' and 'Black Dog' all making an appearance, mingling with some of his more recent material, including 'The Enchanter' and 'Another Tribe' from his 2005 release Mighty ReArranger.
Age can sometimes be the a singer's worst enemy - just ask Bob Dylan, for example - but the years have done nothing to water down Plant's honeyed vocals. Throughout the course of the hour plus set, Plant never failed to hit a note and, seeing as the band keep shooting down persistent rumours of a reformation, you feel that this might be as close to a Led Zeppelin show that we'll ever see at Electric Picnic.
Plant even found time for a subtle dig at himself, as a "baby boomer" who "borrowed" music from the Mississippi Delta throughout his career.
Sinead O'Connor and Plant's old pal BP Fallon, who watched Plant's set from the side of the stage, would presumably agree with us when we say that we just witnessed something pretty special.
BJORK - MAIN STAGE, Saturday 9.00pm
Bjork is one of those artists who completely defy description, which makes my job particularly difficult on occasions like this. You know the old adage that a picture paints a thousand words? Well so visual is her set, with so many different images to catch the eye, that you'd need to pound out a tome of several hundred thousand words to accurately attempt to describe her performance.
Nonetheless, the Icelander played a set which was suitably typical (at least to us) to the sort of performance we expected. Delightfully irreverent, yet beautifully creative, she is one hell or a performer on stage. Her character has always been an incredibly intriguing one and that sense uniqueness bleeds through to her music. Backed by a 14 piece choir, her set often verged on the bizarre but never did it lose the interest of the crowd, who ate up Bjork's every performance whim. A triumph.
TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB - MAIN STAGE, Saturday 10.45pm
It's been one hell of a ride for Two Door Cinema Club. Since the release of their award-winning debut Tourist History, the trio have been slowly climbing the rock n' roll ladder and last night's (unofficial) Saturday night headline slot confirmed their ascendency to music's elite. Incredibly at home on the cavernous main stage, it looks as though the Co. Down band will take the world by storm over the next few years and we'd happily wager that every one of the 10,000+ watching them last night would agree with us.
BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB - RANKIN'S WOOD STAGE, Saturday 11.00pm
After Two Door, entertainment.ie caught the end of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's set at the Rankin's Wood Stage, which was absolutely packed to the rafters. The Californian band seemed genuinely appreciate of their time spent in Stradbally, their reception from the crowd and poured this positive sentiment into their performance. The results? A particularly explosive version of their hit 'Spread Your Love' at the business end of their set. Not a bad way to end the evening, let us tell you...
THE STRYPES - ELECTRIC ARENA, Sunday 4.15pm
Twelve months on from what might be seen as their coming out party as Electric Picnic '12, The Strypes returned this year a much more refined and assured outfit. Having been on the receiving end of all manner of hype and expectation, perhaps the result of praise from the likes of Elton John, Dave Grohl, Roger Daltrey and Paul Weller, the four Cavan teenagers are growing into their roles as burgeoning rock n' roll demigods with ease.
It took a little over an hour for them to whip through their set at an absolute breakneck pace, ticking numerous rhythm and blues boxes along the way. It's all there; the obscenely talented musicianship, the assured swagger verging on cockiness and now, it seems, they're really beginning to cultivate a fanbase. Having played an inauspicious gig to a handful of people on last year's Body & Soul stage to this year playing to a completely packed tent on Electric Picnic's second biggest stage, your mind begins to wander when considering just where they might be this time next year. Their debut album 'Snapshot' is released next Friday, so let's take it from there and see where it all ends up. For the moment, though, it's very much so far so good.
JOHNNY MARR - ELECTRIC ARENA, Sunday 5.30pm
Johnny Marr, next up in the Electric Arena, is perhaps known by more people as 'the guitarist from The Smiths' than for his recently released solo album and, with that in mind, you can understand his decision to throw that section of the crowd an early bone by running through renditions of Smiths' oldies like 'Bigmouth Strikes Again' and 'Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before' and yes, Johnny, we have...and we preferred when the other guy sang it. Despite being a member of one of the most important bands of the past 30 years, Marr's solo material is almost indiscernible from some of the other less-than-great bands we've heard this weekend. We expected more.
ARCTIC MONKEYS - MAIN STAGE, Sunday 10.15pm
The influx of Sunday ticket holders meant that by the time Arctic Monkeys arrived on stage shortly after 10.15pm they would be playing to the largest assembly of music fans at Electric Picnic this year and the thousands in attendance were treated to a band at the absolute height of their musical powers. Alex Turner has come a long way since bursting on to the scene in the middle of the last decade as a precocious teen with a knack for catchy hooks and witty lyrics. It's been interesting to watch Turner's chameleon-like character arc during the course of the Arctic Monkeys' discography; from the aforementioned northern cheeky chappy of their debut album, to the long-haired 'Humbug' rock n' roller, finally arriving at the 50's style pompadoured greaser that he is today, Turner has always been an engaging stage presence - and now he's a massive rock star to boot.
Opening with the slow-burning 'Do I Wanna Know?' from the upcoming new album AM, the Monkeys traversed their discography over the course of the 90 minute set. The new material, including pensive rocker 'Why Do You Only Call Me When You're High?' and the raucous 'R U Mine?' shows the band in a broodier mood than they have in recent years, perhaps the result of the influence of Turner's new best mate, QOTSA's Josh Homme, who was on production detail for the new album.
Somewhat predictably, it was older material like 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' and 'When The Sun Goes Down' that united all four corners of the crowd into the evening's biggest frenzy but you suspect that, when AM hits the shelves next week, music fans will have a whole new set of anthems to sing along to when the Arctic Monkeys next roll into town. Absolutely outstanding.
LE GALAXIE - BODY & SOUL STAGE, Sunday 12.00am
As soon as the Arctic Monkeys finished we hightailed it over to the Body & Soul for once last show as there's really no better way to finish an Electric Picnic than with a Le Galaxie show. The Body & Soul stage was about as jam-packed as we have ever seen it, with hundreds of people defying their weary limbs and eeking out whatever dance moves they could muster to the sounds of one of Ireland's finest live acts. The band were, as is always the case, on fine form. Any energy the crowd expended was returned with more from the band as they pounded through a furious hour long set, throwing glowsticks and balloons (which somehow had lights in them) into the delighted crowd. 'Beyond Transworld' and 'Midnight Midnight', two of our favourite songs, well, ever were our particular highlights.
Story by John Balfe | 16:44 | Sunday 1st September 2013 | Live Reviews