With the festival blues kicking in on campus, pharmacy Ciaran Breslin takes a look at the highlights of this year’s Electric Picnic.
Musically Electric Picnic really did not disappoint. The variety on offer meant that not only was there something for everyone but perhaps more importantly, and there was something extremely significant on offer from everyone’s point of view. Everyone who went seemed to be particularly excited about one act or another, cheap often bands you generally wouldn’t have the opportunity to see. The Headliners, however, really stole the show.
The last time Oxegen was held, The Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay and Beyonce were among the headliners. Fantastic acts with a broad appeal though they are, they certainly don’t inspire individual devotion in the same way that those at EP do. While everyone who went to the Black Eyed Peas for example, might know four or five songs, the much smaller core support for The Cure knew the majority of a nearly forty song set that spanned thirty five years or so. Dry ice engulfed the stage as the lights dimmed following Explosions in the Sky’s closing crescendo. The lack of a pit area you have to queue up for meant it was reasonably easy to get to and from the front of various stages, and people were scrambling to be as close as possible. Eventually the crowd erupted as they began to pick out shadowy figures amidst the smoke stained blue with lights, before the ghostly pallor of Robert Smith revealed itself at the front of the stage, and launched into ‘Plainsong’. The first real singalong came five songs in with the 1989 single ‘Lovesong’, before a rapturously received double salvo of ‘Inbetween Days’ and ‘Just Like Heaven’. Soon after, the lad beside me burst into tears during the sprawling ‘Pictures of You’ as the crowd locked arms andmswayed to the familiar meandering melody. The highlight of the set however was sparked by the iconic strains of Robert’s guitar that opened ‘Friday I’m in Love’, which cued hectic scenes in the audience.
The casual nature of many people’s interest in the band, along with with the sheer longevity of the set meant that there was a lot of coming and going throughout. Their final encore, however, over three hours after they began, continued to delight with the inclusion of ‘The Lovecats,’ ‘Close to Me,’ and, producing the last big singalong of the night, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. As they finally left he stage, a worn out crowd contemplated their options, as yet more people began to arrive in preparation for Orbital.
The previous night on the main stage was a more emotional affair, as one would expect of a bill being topped by The XX and Sigur Ros. The XX in particular represented a somewhat controversial choice to play second from top at the main stage. Despite the widespread appreciation of their fantastic debut album and beautiful new single ‘Angels’ there was some suggestion that their unique brand of introspective minimalism might get lost in the exposure of a huge outdoor stage. However the crowd needn’t have worried. The infectiously simple tunes were lapped up by an adoring crowd, somehow losing none of their delicacy in the expanse of thousands of rapt faces. Fan favourites ‘Crystalized’ and ‘Reunion’ were greeted with glee in word perfect harmony. If The XX set a poignant tone for the evening then there was certainly no one better to expand upon it than Sigur Ros. Transient melancholic melodies were replaced by joyful soaring ones. ‘Hoppipola’ was undoubtedly a highlight, with the triumphant expansive sound rolling out from a stage bedecked with lights and projections which complemented the epic melodies, lending a cinematographic resonance to the whole experience. It felt at times more like performance art or certainly more orchestral than a traditional festival headliner. Either way it was joyfully received.
The final day was spent rushing from one headliner to another, in the form of James Murphy and The Killers. The former LCD Soundystem member is a perfect example of the acts Electric Picnic boasts. Fresh from winding up one of the most iconic indie/dance acts of our generation to a sell out crowd at Madison Square Garden, he has embarked on a new DJ tour. Those who were in attendance at the packed Little Big Tent hoping to hear ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’ will have been disappointed, with James leaving the accessible tunes behind. Those, like me, however who were there out of a blend of curiosity and a faith will have felt vindicated. This incarnation sees James with proper intense electro dance music, all bass and samples.
I made the difficult decision to extract myself from the Blue Tent throng half an hour early in order to return to the Main Stage for The Killers. Probably the most accessible of the headline acts, The Killers catchy brand of indie-pop attracted the biggest crowd of the weekend. The hit-heavy set list went down brilliantly, with me, like a lot of people, wondering how I still know all the words to these songs. They even included two covers, a surprising crack at Joy Division’s classic ‘Shadowplay’ before a rapturously received acoustic rendition of ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. Brandon Flowers was in jovial form throughout, asking everyone to sing along to which the crowd duly obliged. All of a sudden the familiar riff of ‘Mr Brightside,’ which was quickly followed by ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, sparked 10 minutes of deafening and dance-inducing carnage. They returned for an encore of other Hot Fuzz favourite ‘Jenny Was a Friend of Mine’ before closing with ‘When You Were Young’. With their triumphant set still ringing in our ears, we made our way from the main stage, satisfied to have finished the weekend on an undoubted high.