Electric Picnic 2009 reviews

Tuck into all our opinions of the sets we saw at the Stradbally Estate, Co. Laois...

 

Electric Picnic 09 - 20 notable (non-music) moments

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ATL | 17:43 UK time, Tuesday, 8 September 2009

1. The EP crowd are older, supposedly bigger music fans and generally considered to be better behaved and more civil than your average festival gathering. But the big test was a load of mud, which usually brings ourt the worst in people. Thankfully, EP passed and everyone just carried on regardless with a smile on their face. No complaints, no mud fights, no madness.

2. Kiddies learning to rock out with their mums and dads at the fringes of tents in their wee headphones. Cue collective 'awwwwwwws' from our female colleagues. And a few from an increasingly broody Rigsy.

3. Quite a specific one, but indulge us - we loved the wee backstage black shaggy-haired dog behind the beer tent in a hi-vis vest

The ATL car, stuck4. The kindly guys who winched the ATL van out of the muck on day two just as we were about to record Sugarhill Gang - we (and hip-hop) thank you.

5. The tractor thing that invaded Bangor lads Two Door Cinema Club as they started their set, prompting an evacuation and several hairy men to shout at one another. The most bizarre of all stage invasions.

6. The kid right down the front at The Flaming Lips, hanging over the barrier, singing every single word of 'Yoshimi' and 'Do You Realize'. He couldn't have been older than ten.  

7. Pie, chips, gravy and mushy peas for the price of a pint (a pricey pint mind you).

8. Lisa Hannigan charming five thousand people on Saturday evening. Seriously, could this woman be any sweeter?

9. The mime artist body-popping to Major Lazer.

10. The Drag cabaret show. One of the most most random things ATL has ever saw at EP - and trust us, that's saying something.

rigsy_yeti.jpg11. Team ATL getting to dance with the Flaming Lips. Well, Amy and Rigsy anyway - Steven and Warren didn't grab a costume in time and almost missed out. Steven was practically on suicide watch, describing the moment he realized he wasn't getting on as "the most crushing thing that has ever happened to me". The look on his wee face when he triumphantly ran onstage half way through their set in a Yeti outfit that had been discarded by a tired dancer was absolutely priceless. He looked like he was going to literally burst with excitement. Bless.

12. The ability to go from seeing an angolan rap/house act to an americana bluegrass show in a mere 5 minutes.

13. Security guards who, rather than acting with open and unbridled hostility, actually enquire after your wellbeing without solicitation and wish you a safe trip home. Other festivals, take note.

14. The "esprit de (press) corps" in the media tent. Everyone is totally lovely and free of tragic lingo bingo. Susan and Dee, the lovable girls from the press association, the girl from Heineken Music, that English bloke with the floppy hair, the guy with the Weezer glasses who let you taste his chicken pie, the girl from Derry we kind of fancied a bit, the big photographer guy who always sorts us out with the photos we couldn't get and yer man we just called 'Q Magazine'. Magic. Again, other festivals, take note.

15. Northern Ireland taking the lead against Poland, our wee bit of the press area erupting with a sudden burst of celebratory noise and the rest of the place being utterly bemused, thinking the Republic must have scored against Cyprus. "Feckin' Nordies!!!"

16. ATL getting into the spirit of it all a little too much and making a total spectacle of themselves on Saturday night. We argue that a good 'work/play' ratio is important to keep morale and productivity high.

17. The sit down, authentic Japanese restaurant that was the location for a rather romantic half hour break for one particular member of team ATL. It was possible to disappear and feel like you weren't at a festival at all - sometimes a good thing.

18. Body & Soul in general. Just a beautiful place to get lost in. Four Tet played an extra gig there on Saturday night, you know.

19. All-night forest raves. ATL didn't quite make it, but all reports point to a lot of lost minds.

20. The announcement that EP is all set for its return in 2010. Please - never go away.

Electric Picnic 09 - Body and Soul Area

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ATL | 17:00 UK time, Tuesday, 8 September 2009

How do you teach an old punk new tricks? After years of listening to the likes of the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and The Minutemen, I kind of tune out to any mention of "chilling out", or "having good vibes", in favour of righteous punk rock fury. So it was with no small amount of confusion that your correspondent found himself in the much vaunted Body and Soul area of Electric Picnic.

One of the many things that distinguishes Electric Picnic from other major festivals is the unique atmosphere it creates. This is not just a weekend of big bands and partying, but a completely immersive experience, where one quickly leaves any notion of the 'real world' behind. Partly this is down to the selection of bands on display, which are carefully chosen to reflect Electric Picnic's reputation as a truly alternative festival, but partly it's because so much attention is focussed on atmosphere.

Alongside the usual stalls and food vendors, one can find all manner of information points, holistic healing booths, shops selling books of esoteric lore, or even a spiritual healing tunnel (shaped like a big dragon, or something). Smack in the middle of everything lies the Mindfield, which hosted a variety of spoken word appearances, and more left-field performances, including an Irish language tent. It says something for the quality of entertainment on display here that it always seemed to have a healthy number of people milling about, despite being right between the Electric Arene stage, the Crawdadddy Stage, and the Main Stage.

However, this is nothing in comparison to the huge Body and Soul area, situated some distance from the main stage. Amidst a grove of trees, there lies a different world, so much so that one can quickly become lost and forget that the rest of the festival is taking place. This is an area unlike anything witnessed at the likes of Oxegen, and it is crucial to the appeal of Electric Picnic.

I found myself making the journey to the Body and Soul area on Saturday evening, after finding myself with a gap in my schedule. Initially reluctant to go in, I was pressured into taking that great step by two friends who told me that I would love the place. Every fibre of me being was resistant to what I expected to find there, and it was with no small amount of concern that I crossed the threshold into this hippie paradise.

The first thing one should do upon entering the Body and Soul area is to leave all preconceptions behind. If the thought of dreadlocked hippies being spiritual together, be warned: this is their turf, and you are merely an interloper. Immediately upon going through the wooden entrance, I found myself surrounded by people in tie-dye beating drums, and trying to buy the cab fare to nirvana. My first reaction was one of complete and absolute horror.

A quick scout around the main area did nothing to weaken my fears as I found all manner of people being groovy to each other, and doing their best to recreate the sixties. Trance music blared out of the speakers, mingling with dancehall reggae and - strangely enough - Leonard Cohen, creating an unholy mixture of chilled out hippy vibes and misery. I wanted to run around wearing my Husker Du t-shirt, throwing over tables of beads and trinkets, but managed to remain in control for the time being.

The layout of the Body and Soul area actively encourages people to get stuck in and have a rake about. As well as stalls and shops, there are "wishing areas", "paths of mystery", and "enchanted walkways" (My descriptions, not theirs... I think). Sunken into the ground is the main stage, with the natural contours of the earth creating a kind of arena, where bands and djs seemed to be perpetually doing something, whilst a pretty impressive laser display created tiny red, green and blue dots over everything. Further round the main walkway lay a more relaxed area, with a pool lit by oil lanterns, chairs made out of turf, and a huge winged serpent, where people were encouraged to walk through and have a spiritual re-birth...or something.

Eventually settling on an area made out of a tree resembling a hobbit hole, I sat down on a wooden bench to catch my thoughts. My solitude was immediately destroyed by a liquid splashing on my head, and I looked up to see two hippies in the tree who'd accidentally spilt a drink on me. Despite the fact that they had unbalanced my chi, they were very apologetic, so I was quick to forgive them. Also my attention was disturbed by a drumming group nearby, who were just starting out, pounding out some tribal rhythms, whilst decked in fairy lights.

I ventured over to investigate, and discovered it to be Beat 'N' Drum, from Belfast. This drumming group is becoming quite a fixture at festivals and outdoor events, and a large crowd quickly developed around them. Almost immediately, people started dancing and getting into the spirit of things, whilst the group kept things tight and exciting. They're very well rehearsed, and this allowed some of the more over exuberant amongst us to show off some of their more amazing dance moves, with two small children easily winning the prize for the best dancing on display all weekend. Indeed, even your humble correspondent found himself busting a few moves, using muscles he never knew he had.

After this, I was drawn towards a stage made entirely of wooden pallets (dubbed the "12th of July Stage" by my companion), where fire dancers were juggling and performing to an enraptured crowd. Despite the fact that the Saturday night line-up included 2 Many DJs, Chic, and Madness, it seemed that there was no shortage of people who felt that this part of the festival was where it's at, and I found myself very surprised to be agreeing with them.

The more one stays in the Body and Soul area, the easier it is to get sucked into it's charm. In the end, I opted to remain there and just soak it up, attaining levels of relaxation I didn't think were possible. Sitting in my little grove, with cup of organic coffee in my hand, I realised that I had found my own little corner of nirvana.

In order to redress the karmic balance, I suppose I'll have to form a hardcore band or something, but it's been worth the cost.

Electric Picnic 09 - Golden Animals

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ATL | 10:53 UK time, Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Body and Soul area, Sunday 6th, 7.00pm

Looking like a mixture of Captain Caveman and Francois Hardy, Golden Animals are an unusual proposition. Pounding out primal garage rock, they shatter the serenity of the normally blissed out Body and Soul area, and more than likely melt a few heads.

Howling from beyond hell, jagged guitars pummel the audience into submission, whilst the rhythm just keeps on marching on. It's dark, and at times recalls Jim Morrison at his self-mythologizing best, and it's utterly perfect for this time of day. The Body and Soul area perhaps draws the biggest number of festival casualties, the sick and the damned, and those who can party no more, and a band like Golden Animals serve as a wake up call to remind us that we are at a music festival, after all. Heads are turned, eyes are rubbed, and people start to come back to life. It's not a massive crowd, to be fair, but we all seemed to be paying attention.

The music itself is clearly '60s influenced (as is the look of the band) but it doesn't come across as derivative. Neither is it in thrall to the garage rock revival of the early part of this decade, as spearheaded by the White Stripes. This boy/girl duo may be thrashing through the sixties, but they sure ain't Jack and Meg White, making the White Stripes look positively cuddly in comparison. This is the apocalyptic, 'Altamont' kind of sixties, and your correspondent is lapping it up.

More of this kind of thing, please.

Describe in a tweet: Wake up... time to die!

Good Vibrations: The sound was rough and raw, and seemed to be scorching through my brain-hole. Which is a good thing.

Life's a Beach: The massively "over-refreshed" fellow who was wandering around, "interacting" with the audience. I didn't envy him when it was his turn to wake up the next day...

EP Rating: 7/10

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