- 07 Sep 15
The Irish shine during a jam-packed finale in Stradbally...
Electric Picnic 2015 provided a handy three-day living graph of the Stradbally event's rise to the summit of the Irish, and indeed European, festival circuit. If Friday had that slightly quiet, quirky and communal feel of its early years, by Sunday it had taken on a monstrous scope, as huge numbers of revellers appeared as if from nowhere to catch some truly superstar names and experience Glastonbury-esque levels of craziness. While there have been complaints in some quarters about how "mainstream" EP has become, the site has an almost feng shui layout that makes it pretty easy to locate your own corner of tranquility. The MindField is usually just the place, but it was buzzing this Sabbath, thanks chiefly to the stacked line-up in the Hot Press Chatroom.
Gavin James and Richie Egan flew the flag for Irish songwriters and recent cover stars The Strypes were in fine form in front of adoring fans, while Tame Impala were faced with some Beatlemania-style scenes and Bob Geldof did his usual dry, gregarious and engaging thing.
Meanwhile, New York duo MS MR publicly promised this writer a helluva good time ahead of their set, and they duly delivered.
Festivals are the most enjoyable type of endurance test, but by Sunday afternoon, exhaustion and thoughts of that Monday morning existential crisis can be creeping in. As such, some sunny Americans are just what you need. With Jurassic 5 rousing enthusiasm of the Main Stage massive with some hip-hop positivity, MS MR were getting the party properly started in the Rankin's Wood tent.
An act that genuinely put their all into their live performances, their big choruses and bigger synths are matched by a sense of glamour Grace Jones would approve of (though she's a tough woman to please). Singer Lizzy Plapinger is in her element, a kinetic, flame-haired presence. She might have big love for Florence, but she's more up this reviewer's street.
From that feel-good pop, the guitars dominate the Main Stage.
There was a time when Interpol could underwhelm in an open sky, festival setting, aloof and pining for a bit of darkness and intensity, but they're a looser-limbed prospect these days. Parting company with notoriously difficult bassist Carlos D seems to have lifted a weight off the other players' shoulders. After a typically enigmatic, cooler-than-thou start, they grow into a performance that delivers a number of gothic singalongs and are (understatedly) enjoying it as much as the crowd.
Still, they've a long way to go to match Manic Street Preachers' on-stage attack.
With Nicky Wire scissor-kicking and James Dean Bradfield as powerful vocally as ever, in between the spine-tingling bookends of 'Motorcycle Emptiness' and 'A Design For Life', the Welsh boys ripped through their back catalogue with ferocity.
Tame Impala mix their hazy modern psychedelia with the popper, electronically-minded newels from this year's fantastic Currents, but really the day ultimately belongs to the Irish.
The Boomtown Rats have earlier proved that many of the old hits haven't lost their vibrancy, but when Bob Geldof unleashes 'Bobby Boomtown' he loses some of the crowd with his overly boastful patter. He might claim that they're "the greatest rock 'n' roll band to ever come out of Ireland!" but you don't even need to look any farther than Jerry Fish's Electric Sideshow in the afternoon to find one young band who outstrip them on the day.
Dublin's own Kid Karate were already a formidable proposition as a two-piece, and bassist Ian McFarlane has proved to be a terrific addition. He lends soulful layers to their previous 'kick-out-the-jams' setting, as their no-nonsense rock is transformed into something approaching Nile Rodgers' funk. Armed with bullet-proof tunes, they deliver a splendidly groove-laden performance that is without a doubt the most enjoyable of the weekend.
To play us out, Girl Band. Clad in his Sunday best, Dara Kiely cuts quite the prim and proper figure. Their set, naturally enough, is anything but. Kicking off with recent single 'Paul', it's a maelstrom of an hour that champions uneasy listening from the moment the first distorted bass drop quite literally lowers the tone. Kiely surfs this wall of noise throughout, bending his ill-at-ease vocals around increasingly aggressive stabs like a cult leader who really doesn't give a fuck if you're on board or not. 'Pears for Lunch', arguably the standout song from the forthcoming Holding Hands With Jamie, is a vicious punch to the face while the more introspective outings from that record manage to capture and create Picnic's most unique mood. 'Lawman' comes late in the game, almost inciting a riot before the popular cover of Blawan's 'Why They Hide The Bodies Under My Garage' whips up a full-blown frenzy. There really is nobody else like them around at the moment, and the moment is theirs.