Festival Review: Electric Picnic 2013

Festivals have seemingly become an integral part of most students’ summer holidays. Why not then combine a typical love of festivals with an even more typical student need for money? My festival of choice was on the Emerald Isle – Electric Picnic (EP from here on) and this was to be my second time working there.

EP has to be one of the most diverse festivals on the planet – woodland raves with crowds pulsing to trance music til the early hours, small stages of Irish folk music, massive headline names (this year saw the Arctic Monkeys, Bjork and Fatboy Slim take to the stage) a body and soul section, craft classes, world food and more.

Working a festival is great. There’s so much more added on to the usual festival fun as you see the festival springing from nothing and stages completed mere minutes before the gates open. Depending on the mood of other staff on site you can bypass queues, walk trader shortcuts, get cheap/free food and rides on the fairground. The whole being paid thing is grand and the fact that you’re working makes the time you have off even better – the lows make the highs even higher, and boy does EP provide some highs.

One of the great things about EP is that whilst it boasts world-famous headliners, it also gives stage time to plenty of up and coming bands, especially those you’ve maybe begun to hear about on the radio, but never got around to listening to. It seems the festival planners are constantly one step ahead of the game. Discovery of the weekend has to be Hozier. A mix of pop, soul and gospel, with a stunning voice too, Hozier and his band proved so uplifting that by the end of his slot, the crowd had become euphoric. A feeling of unity surrounded his set, and when he announced his debut EP was shortly to be released, the news was enough to send the crowd into a frenzy. (Top tip, you can actually download it now from his Bandcamp for the small price of your email address).

At last year’s EP, the show stealer came in the form of Lianne La Havas. This year, The Strypes were called in to kick some ass. I went to their set not expecting much, thinking I’d leave after a few songs to watch Noah and the Whale. How wrong I was. The tent (and second largest stage at EP) was packed to the back halfway through their first number. As far as their music goes, it was pretty much straight up blues rock, with nothing particularly new about it. However, what they do, they do very well and as a live performance they were a blistering ensemble that had the crowd in the palm of their hand.

One thing that stuck out from EP was the fact that all the big name bands provided humble ‘best-of’ sets providing the crowd with the songs they knew best and avoiding arrogant self-indulgence. Two Door Cinema Club did this to great aplomb, the crowd pogo-ing for the entire set. Franz Ferdinand provided a fantastic headline support slot, Alex Kapranos serving up a masterclass in how to be a great frontman. (The eight minute version of ‘This Fire’ seemed the highlight judging from the deafening screams around me). Arctic Monkeys closed the festival with a set that ensured anticipation about their new album, AM, was at breaking point, with frontman Turner providing memorable quips such as “Electric Picnic, I have given myself over to you. The question is, ‘R U Mine’” (cue crowd hysteria).

EP is more than worth the journey over the sea. The festival is all-encompassing, with something for everyone. In a climate of horrendously overpriced festivals, Electric Picnic is one that is not only a bit cheaper, but also totally worth the money, and even better if it’s free.

Alex Greig

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