Electric Picnic preview: Hunting high and Arklow

The pressure’s on for Roisin Murphy. She’s no longer shielded from public scrutiny as a member of Moloko and Electric Picnic is her first outing as a solo star in her native Ireland.

“I’m always nervous playing Ireland,” the Arklow-born singer admits. “My family come along and you hope that in your homeland you might be accepted. But the Irish audiences don’t make special dispensations!”

Thankfully, the acclaim heaped on her solo debut, Ruby Blue, has ensured she’s had plenty of practice at playing outdoors.

“Festival audiences on the whole are pretty cool,” she says. “But we fit into lots of different genres, so we’d play an electronic festival one night, we’ll play a jazz festival another, and big rock festival the next and they’re all extremely different.”

Some performers are sniffy about the festival grind. Murphy isn’t one of them.

“The best this year was the North Sea Jazz Festival (held in The Hague). My band are essentially jazz musicians so they were really excited by the bill.”

And they went down well?

“Oh yes. but it was definitely an aficionado’s festival. There were quite a lot of middle-aged people there appreciating it rather than losing it. Nodding their head from side to side rather than the rock way – forward.”

However, the decorum of the event didn’t stop her enjoying herself – perhaps a little too much. She laughs as she recalls how she went to see Maceo Parker – who’s played with both Prince and James Brown among others – once she’d finished.

“It was so hot and I was dancing so crazy that I fainted. I had to get dragged out of there by the medics,” she says. “I think people thought I was a punter out of my mind on ecstasy or something.”

Her music-fan cap – which suits her well – is brought out again when she talks of a Swiss festival she recently played called Blue Balls (stop sniggering at the back).

Playing alongside the likes of Van Morrison, Iggy Pop and KT Tunstall, it was an Australian band by the name of Cat Machine that caught her eye.

“They were absolutely brilliant,” she enthuses. “The best party band you’ve ever heard in your life. Every song was total hands-in-the-air, lose-the-plot stuff. It’s great when you chance upon a band like that.”

For a music lover, however, Murphy admits she rarely goes to festivals as a punter. But it’s not because she can’t slum it (“I go on camping holidays all the time”) or because of the dreaded festival toilets (“They’re normally okay backstage, except for at Glastonbury. But I’ve never played the main stage - maybe they have velvet curtains and red carpets there”). It’s simply because she’s pushed to find the time.

“I’ve been playing festivals every summer since I was 19 so I haven’t really had the chance to go to many, although I did see the Pixies last year, just as a day trip” she says.

Who will she be trying to catch at the Electric Picnic, then?

“Nick Cave,” she replies without hesitation. “I was really into him as a teenager, and although I used to go to gigs every week, I never managed to see him. Oh, and I want to see the Arcade Fire and Kraftwerk.”

The bad news is that she’ll miss both, as she’s playing elsewhere on the Saturday.

“Well on the Sunday then, I’d love to see Lemon Jelly and Mercury Rev for sure. The line-up’s really good, isn’t it?” she exclaims. “In terms of the bill itself, it’s one of the best festivals we’re playing this year.”

I suggest that such an eclectic line-up – with James Blunt sharing the same bill as 2 Many DJs and Bob Mould – might be a little much for one audience to contend with.

“Ah no,” she says. “I should imagine it will work fine. We’re not narrow-minded people, are we, the Irish?”

The lady has a point – and the breadth of her album is proof of that.


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