Well, it's all over bar the packing of tents and the trudge home; Electric Picnic 2016 is officially done and dusted.
The best thing about the weekend was undoubtedly the fact that it WASN'T A WASHOUT. Sure, we had a bit of a downpour on Saturday morning and the odd shower here and there, but reports of an anticipated hurricane had been greatly exaggerated and the main arena emained solid underfoot all weekend. (Sorry, jealous non-ticket holders looking to indulge in a bit of schadenfreude. It didn't happen.)
One noticeable feature of this year's festival, however, was the expanded capacity. With 50,000 people traipsing through the fields – up on last year's numbers by another 8,000 – the place felt busier, the walks between stages felt longer and we were surprised to see that the campsites were absolutely heaving by the time we arrived down at lunchtime on Friday. (Let's not talk about how they looked by lunchtime yesterday). It also felt like there was a more prominent corporate feel to proceedings in the main arena this year, with heavily-branded 3, Heineken, Orchard Thieves, Logic and other brands making their presence known; that said, ithey all offered entertainment and/or a place to sit and chill, so they did serve a purpose and there was still plenty of unique little touches and a smorgasbord of sights and sounds that continue to make Electric Picnic Ireland's best festival. It's just a different festival these days. Whether that's a good or a bad thing? That's up to you.
So without further ado, let's get cracking on the best things we saw, heard, ate and did over the weekend, shall we?*
*Circumstances conspired against us on Sunday which meant that we had to leave a little earlier than anticipated – hence the absence of acts like New Order, Nathaniel Rateliff, Lana Del Rey and Wild Beasts from this list, all of whom were great, by all accounts.
1. THE SUN
It goes without saying that a wet festival is a fairly miserable one, no matter who's on the bill. Therefore, it was a nice surprise that not only was the weekend a mostly dry one, but the sun even appeared for a few stretches on Friday and Saturday. Cheers for that, weather gods.
2. THE TRAILER PARK
The Trailer Park took on a life of its own this year and was one of the most heaving spots of the weekend. Every year, it gets a little bit quirkier with everything from 'Caravanoke' to a Christmas caravan to the My Lovely Ranch stage to a stall selling escargots.
3. PADDY HANNA @ MY LOVELY RANCH
Speaking of My Lovely Ranch, it was undoubtedly one of nicest places on the site to come, chill out on a bale of hay, pet some beautiful dogs, look at a donkey in a hat (unfortunately we were too amazed by this sight to remember to take a photo) and watch some really good music and comedy. One of the first acts we saw on Friday evening was the criminally underrated Paddy Hanna, whose offbeat indie-rock set the tone for the weekend nicely.
4. THESE CHARMING MEN @ THE SALTY DOG
I know, I know. It seems wrong to include a tribute band on this list, and we're all for the argument that EP is about discovering new music and why would you go to see a tribute band, etc. etc. etc.... HOWEVER.... Smiths & Morrissey tribute These Charming Men are one of the best in the business and drew a big crowd to The Salty Dog on Friday evening. And sometimes – well, you just want to hear the hits, as the crowds at other tribute acts (Daft as Punk, Attention Bébé, Smash Hits!) attested to. Ain't nothing wrong with that. (We were too busy singing along to take a picture).
5. AINE CAHILL
We overheard more than a few people discussing this young musician from Cavan over the weekend. She played several times, but we saw her at the Salty Dog stage on Sunday evening, when her incredible voice, her songwriting ability and her amusing stage banter won her several hundred new fans. Considering she made her EP debut last year after winning a 2FM competition, you can bet your bottom dollar that she'll be back and playing a bigger stage this time next year.
6. ELECTRIC IRELAND THROWBACK PARTY
Another bit of fluffy fun to dip in and out of on your way somewhere else – we just happened to be passing as Dr. Alban was singing 'Sing Hallelujah' on Friday night to a load of baffled youngsters, which was amusing to say the least. We even saw a bit of '80s popsters Banarama on Saturday night. Good, clean, harmless fun. Only an eye-rolling too-cool-for-school hipster would claim otherwise.
7. CATHY DAVEY @ THE HAZEL WOOD
The Hazel Wood was a new addition to the festival site this year, situated not too far from The Salty Dog – and it proved a beautiful, intimate little space to catch some really lovely sets. One of them was Cathy Davey at midnight on Friday, as she played her new album 'New Forest' live in full for the first time. The lighting and vibe were perfect – and the songs sounded really good, too.
8. ELEPHANT @ BODY & SOUL
Needless to say, there were a few sore heads knocking around the site on Saturday morning and early afternoon. The best way to get yourself going was to grab a cup of chai in the Body & Soul area and mosey on down to the Main Stage, where Dundalk band Elephant were playing some laidback indie tunes based around piano and acoustic guitar, but with the kick of a full band behind them.
Another band to keep an eye on – and one of the loudest we saw all weekend. This Dublin trio unabashedly model themselves on Nirvana's brand of rip-roaring grunge, but they've got a clutch of decent songs, like the pummeling 'Loner', to back up their hero-worshipping.
10. BRIAN DEADY
When you hear Brian Deady saying 'How are ye getting on?' to his audience, you certainly don't expect his singing voice to match his speaking one – but prepare to be blown away. We're big fans of this Corkman's album 'Non Fiction', but have been waiting a while to see him live. He didn't disappoint at the Rankin's Wood Stage on Saturday afternoon, with a band and a backing singer that complemented his heartfelt, finger-snapping soul tunes perfectly. This guy deserves to be huge.
11. CURRY WEDGES FROM SABA
We ate some nice things at Electric Picnic, and we ate some disappointing things (hello, bland bowl of chilli from the Mexican stand). The food from Saba, however, was anything but disappointing – particularly the thick, fluffy, crispy wedges coated in Thai yellow curry sauce, which were so lip-smackingly good that they'd sold out of them by Sunday afternoon, when we went back for second helpings.
12. THE LIGHTNING SEEDS
As The Lightning Seeds took to the Main Stage on Saturday afternoon, the clouds parted for one of those aforementioned sunny spells, so we threw our jackets on the ground with reckless abandon (and then sat on them, we're getting old and our feet hurt). Even if you thought you didn't know any of the songs, you'd recognise the likes of 'Change', 'Lucky You' and 'Sugar Coated Iceberg'. Ian Broudie's son Riley – who inspired their biggest hit, 'The Life of Riley' – is now playing guitar in his dad's band, which is like, so meta.
13. BELL X1
They may have experience a 'few gremlins' when getting set up, as Paul Noonan put it, but Bell X1's Main Stage set showed no problematic signs and in fact, proved perfect in easing the crowd into Saturday night. Singalong faves 'Flame' and 'Rocky Took a Lover' even made it into the set.
14. THE FIRE
Although it (mercifully) wasn't a particularly cold festival this year, the fire in Body & Soul proved, for the second year running, one of our favourite places to chill out in-between sets. Who doesn't like sitting around a cosy open fire? There were even kids toasting marshallows on it at one stage, for goodness' sake.
15. THE SHINS
The Shins are one of our favourite bands and were our most anticipated act of the weekend – so needless to say, they could have never lived up to the hype. (See also: the overrated, blah LCD Soundsystem on Main Stage, Saturday night). While it wasn't quite 'gig of the year', James Mercer and co. did, however, turn in a very enjoyable set filled with plenty of material from 'Chutes Too Narrow' and 'Wincing the Night Away', while the crowd singing along to the 'oooooohweeeoooooh' bits of 'New Slang' was goosebump-raising stuff. Hopefully, the reception they got from the audience will entice them back to a bricks-and-mortar venue next year, when their new album finally comes out.
16. FATHER TED DAY @ MY LOVELY RANCH
OK, it wasn't quite billed as 'Father Ted Day' on the programme, but that's essentially what Sunday was at My Lovely Ranch – with a host of comedians including Joe Rooney (Fr. Damo), Patrick McDonnell (Eoin McLove) and more on the bill, a Father Ted Quiz, a Lovely Girls competition and the 'Rubbish Song for Europe' contest, which saw some truly rubbish songs being aired. It was even MCed by Pauline McLynn (Mrs. Doyle), while Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy gave us a few bars of 'My Lovely Horse'. The whole My Lovely Ranch is a product of My Lovely Horse Rescue, the animal charity run by Hannon and Cathy Davey - so it was all good fun for a good cause.
17. THIS PIE FROM PIEMAN
The meal deal from Pieman was one of the best value-for-money offers on food that we saw all weekend: a pie, mash, mushy peas, gravy and a drink for €10. This feta and sweet potato pie was very tasty, and they even had vegetarian gravy for us veggies, too. Nicely played.
18. THESE BEATBOXING LADS
One of the best things about Electric Picnic is always stumbling across the unexpected. There were some jaw-dropping beatboxing going on at the Comedy Caravan Club Extravaganza on Sunday afternoon, with the assembled crowd muttering 'But... how... but... like... how' etc. at these lads making songs with their mouths.
19. IAN COPPINGER AT THE COMEDY TENT
We didn't get over to the comedy tent as much as we would have liked over the weekend, meaning that we missed the likes of David O'Doherty, Dylan Moran and Rubberbandits - but we wandered in on Sunday afternoon to catch a bit of Ian Coppinger, whose occasionally eyebrow-raising musings on being Irish, paying for plastic bags and other funny things put a smile on our tired faces.
20. THE ART
As always, the folks behind how the Electric Picnic site looked really knocked it out of the park this year. From the installations in the main arena to the artwork lining the walls of Body & Soul, it made the site seem more like a cultural endeavour and less like a boozy weekend with a bit of music thrown in. It does make a difference. Art folk: we applaud you.
BONUS PICTURES FROM THE WEEKEND:
Music-loving former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr with Conor Adams of All Tvvins
Blindboy Boat Club from Rubberbandits
Danny O'Reilly (The Coronas) and Brian O'Driscoll
Actor Aidan Gillen @ Mindfield
Check out our full photo galleries from the weekend here.