While I was otherwise engaged over the weekend, my frequent gig-going accomplice, the ever reliable Johnny Feeney was at Electric Picnic. Without further ado, here are his thoughts on Day 1.
This was my sixth time making the journey down to Electric Picnic in Stradbally. The crowd has changed somewhat over the years but it’s still one of the great weekends of the year with so much on offer and the first weekend in September is always kept free in my calendar. This year’s line-up really had me excited and the weekend certainly didn’t disappoint.
First up for me was recently reformed Grandaddy in the Electric Arena. Jason Lytle and co played a dazzling set of their distinctive, hazy electro-tinged rock, belting out classics such as ‘AM 180’, ‘Now It’s On’, ‘the Crystal Lake’ and ‘Hewlett’s Daughter’ to an increasingly appreciative crowd. The epic closer ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot’ was the set highlight for me – ten woozy minutes of jaw-dropping beauty. It was a real privilege to be here.
Grizzly Bear used their later slot in the Electric Arena to roadtest a lot of new songs that will be on their forthcoming album, Shields. As delighted as I am that they’re back with new material I was left wishing that they’d played more of their recognisable songs. The band themselves look like they’re only getting to grips with the new songs. They’re certainly more heavily layered and denser and it bodes well for the new album but this wasn’t really the time and place for them. Having said that, the closing pair of songs, ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘While You Wait For the Others’ (one of my all time favourite songs), provided redemption of sorts and this was as brilliant a ten minutes of music I experienced all weekend.
Metronomy played a barn-storming set to a packed Cosby Stage and really had the place bouncing. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, they drew more from their dancier second album, Nights Out, than from the recent Mercury Prize-nominated album, the English Riviera, but this was a terrific show. I got in just in time for the excellent ‘Love Underlined’ with the crowd going nuts and it didn’t let up for the next 45 minutes. Standout tracks included ‘Corinne’, ‘Heartbreaker’, ‘Everything Goes My Way and the Look’. A really impressive and accomplished set.
The XX took to the main stage and opened with the sublime ‘Angels’, a song of almost staggering beauty off their new album, Coexist. The sound was superb and the band were great live but I felt the main stage at 9 on the first evening wasn’t the best place for them to perform. The crowd at the main stage were up for a party and this is certainly not party music. You could feel the crowd getting excited every time Jamie XX started dropping the beats in but just as quickly it’s back quiet again. They did a really slowed down version of Crystallised which didn’t particularly work for me and I would have preferred the original. There were moments of real beauty though such as ‘Angels’, ‘Heart Skipped A Beat’ and ‘Shelter’ but nothing mind-blowing. For me, these are a band who need a roof over their heads.
I wasn’t really sure who to choose next between The Vaccines and Mark Lanegan so I made the hard decision and did half and half. With the Vaccines, you know what you’re going to get – short, sharp indie that’s lots of fun but without much depth. They fly through songs such as ‘Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ and ‘Wetsuit’, really getting the crowd going. Mark Lanegan is a much different proposition – gloomy, brooding blues rock with Lanegan’s incredibly deep, gravelly voice at the centre of everything. He’s a magnetic presence on stage and it’s very easy to get lost in this music.
With Azealia Banks sadly cancelling due to exhaustion a couple of days before the festival, there was nothing else I was absolutely adamant on seeing so I spent the rest of the evening exploring the site. The great Casa Bacardi area was packed and full of dancing revellers with DJs playing house music into the small hours. From there I went into the Body & Soul area, a real favourite of mine where there’s always a hundred and one things to do with its numerous stages and nooks and crannies which really gets going when the sun goes down. All in all, a very good start to the weekend with no major disappointments.