Stevie G: Electric Picnic generates a buzz

While the forecast may be poor, it won’t deter the thousands of music fans making the trip to Stradbally, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: Electric Picnic generates a buzz

Little Simz is one of the must-see acts in Stradbally at the weekend.

Electric Picnic returns to Stradbally for the first time since 2019 this weekend, and while the forecast is poor, it won’t deter the thousands of music fans making the trip. Many of the festival goers will be from Cork, and there’s a healthy bunch of Cork acts on the bill too, at one of Europes biggest musical festivals. It’s far from the greatest line-up ever, but it has long been sold out, and as always, the deeper you dig the more interesting it becomes. Even the most casual music fan will find plenty of interest here, and there really is a lot on offer for everyone across numerous stages on this vast site all weekend.

First let’s look at the headliners. Tame Impala are a good festival bet and will draw fans from all music tastes, while Arctic Monkeys are one of the best rock groups in the game, and have just released a new single this week. These two are good choices and are pretty current too; I’m glad it’s not just dinosaur acts we’ve seen a million times. Dermot Kennedy, Picture This and Snow Patrol are Irish acts that are pretty popular and commercial, and are indicative of the more mainstream direction the festival has taken over the last 10 years.

It was basically nearly on it’s knees at one stage, and was attracting far less numbers at the start of the last recession, so I can understand the logic behind this from a financial point of view. But none of these headliners really have a huge wow appeal, although it’s great to see Irish acts so high up the bill. There’s a severe lack of woman in the top tier of headliners, which means that the final one, Megan Thee Stallion, is even more welcome. She’s not for everyone, but for me she’s one of the finest rappers of our times, and she’s deserving of a place high up on the bill. Unfortunately, she’s clashing with one of the very few must-see acts on the whole line-up, the incredible Little Simz, so there shall be big choices to make tomorrow night!

What else have we got? It depends entirely on your taste. For fans of this column, let me recommend London Grammar, Joy Crookes, Aby Coulibaly, Belters Only, Mall Grab, Denise Chaila, Narolane, Efé, Obskur, Rejjie Snow, but that’s just a few, and that’s only the bigger stages. Big names like the Pixies, Fontaines DC, Wolf Alice and many more are on the bill, but there’s many more on the other stages. Heineken, Red Bull, Bacardi, Coke and loads of big brands do their own stages, and there’s usually lot’s of decent shows on here too. I’ll be playing the Heineken Stage at 4pm on Saturday with Minnie Marley, while Rea Brizy joins me in the woods at Trenchtown for a late night session between 2 and 4am on Sunday!

I’ll also be hosting a chat on Consent and safe gigs with Mary and Dola of the Sexual violence Centre with Molly Sterling and the team at Creativity and Change in the Global green area on Sunday around lunchtime. Helen and Clare and the crew from Creativity and Change have a great line-up over the weekend, and it’s worth noting that music is only one part of the festival really. When Electric Picnic started in 2004, it was one of the first festivals here to really highlight other artistic and social elements, and while it has changed into a big commercial beast since, the original ethos remains intact in some areas at least.

Nonetheless, this is a very different festival. There were people jumping over the walls at that first one day event, and it was ultimately a relaxed affair. It quickly grew into an essential weekend away for music fans, but it was probably in trouble until Live Nation and others stepped in to take over more control in recent years. Ever since, it’s been huge, but at what cost? The commerciality of the festival makes sense, and many brands have invested in youth culture and funded DJ and live events in some cases. But there’s no doubt that at the Picnic, it’s almost got too much at times. Every bit of real estate is sponsored, and the sound leaks from venue to venue, particularly in the middle of the site. That said, it’s still a great end of summer weekend and rain or shine, it’s a wonderful way to spend a few days. I can’t wait!

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