Electric Picnic review: Friday
Alabama Shakes, The Maccabees and The Vaccines did their thing...
Craig Fitzpatrick, 10 Sep 2012
We’ve waited all summer long for the return of Electric Picnic so it seems right that its eventual arrival should be signaled in grand fashion with the sound of horns. Kormac’s Big Band are a perfectly selected opening act for Friday, bringing together big beats, plenty of brass and a rake of party songs custom-built to get limbs shaking . As clouds hover overhead, the hopeful sunny-side-up strains of the 11-strong outfit seem to magically usher in an extended summer. We’re not suggesting Kormac has dominion over the elements, but from this point on, the sun will beat down for the majority of the weekend. Coincidence? Ok, probably, yes. As we mull that one over, one of the hottest acts on the planet usher in a little soul.
Alabama Shakes play an infectiously energetic set, with Brittany Howard in powerful voice as they groove through their now-familiar Boys & Girls debut. Though there is the slight sense that an early, open air, Main Stage slot isn’t the greatest environment to fully experience the Athens band in, there’s no doubting the strength of their material.
Rumours abound that a certain Mr. Hewson has just arrived by helicopter (as you do) and sure enough, the U2 singer is in attendance for his mate Gavin Friday’s show. As surprise festival visits go, it certainly beats Amanda Brunker. A sharply dressed Friday continues his recent stunning live form, drawing on 2011’s superb catholic and finding time for a few old numbers too. Of those, ‘Angel’ is dedicated to Bono and Ali, its fragile, floating beauty still intoxicating after all these years.
A move to the Electric Arena brings straight ahead indie rock with back-to-back sets from two of Britain’s leading guitar lights. Earlier on, Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear are beset by technical difficulties (the presence of plenty of new material also their undoing) but the issues are resolved in time for The Maccabees, a band that have made a real step-up in the past year with the confident, finely constructed Given To The Wild. The Londoners prompt the weekend’s first real singalong and there’s little let-up with the arrival of The Vaccines, the bullet-proof, giddy rush of ‘Wrecking Bar’ bludgeoning the crowd into blissful submission early doors. From there, they throw out tunes from their first record as well as new offerings from Come Of Age, which pulls off the trick of retaining their care-free, charged garage aesthetic and simultaneously expanding their palette.
Having just appeared in a packed Hot Press Chatroom, Ed Sheeran pitches up to close the Arena in front of one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Undeniably drawing the younger attendees in droves, the likes of ‘Drunk’ elicit teenage screams before I check out the opposition. Christy Moore is occupying the Crawdaddy stage, and the full tent says move along to the Main Stage, where The xx and Sigur Rós are ready to make things ethereal. There’s certainly nothing approaching a ‘Ride On’ here and zero attempts to ‘work’ the audience.