Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Electric Picnic: Georges St Arcade Comes To Laois

I’ve warbled on about the the topic of boutique musical festivals before and I still see little point in pouring the sort of praise some have been dishing out about last weekend’s Electric Picnic. While you don't have the drunken laddish twattery that characterises Oxegen , another twattery goes uncommented upon such as the flouncing foppish types that passed our encampment shouting 'where are all the scumbags' on the Friday evening or the bongloid morons pounding out an arrhythmic beat until 9am after failing to reach transcendence in the Body and Soul arena.

In Century of the Self Adam Curtis outlines how corporations in the period after the 1960’s began to incorporate the recalcitrant identities being formed in the counter culture into their brand identities. Brands became bridges to lifestyles, if any CEO represented this cultural change towards the rebellious consumer it was Virgin’s Richard Branson. What a perfect image it was when walking past the mopey Bloc Party set, the Virgin balloon was lit in the distance, the crown on this great Georges St arcade come to Laois.

The Friday was slow and chilled out with Spankrock starting my weekend with a set that sounded like Curtis Mayfield being fucked by dancehall, in a partying hip hop set that veered well into areas explored by Diplo. Mogwai meanwhile failed to satisfy expectations built by friends over the years, perhaps they really are more of a closed room sort of band as their intensity failed to reach the back of the tent. Massive Attack were quite simply boring, with a lack of mid way speaker stacks in the main arena sound failed to carry. A crowd anxious to move to the front eliminated opportunities for sitting and chilling but their rendition of that last song was incredibly discordant and refreshing.

Saturday started well with Dancepig delivering a smooth set of electro on the Saturday morning, with Hystereo providing a complementary follow up. The delay to the Skatalites set disappointed many, but eventually provided a distractingly breezy set of summer ska to wile away an hour in a drunken sway meaning I missed Krafty Kut’s set in the Bodytonic arena. Shadow’s set was the most controversial of the weekend, with opinion predictably divided right down the middle. Tearing along all hyped up and bouncy his MC implored the dancefloor to move and shift its ass it did. Comments about it ranged from the ridiculous accusations of playing pop shite to accusing Shadow of not playing proper hip hop, music of a black origin is only acceptable apparently if it delivers lyrical rhetoric on ghetto life. This was pure and simple jump up, block rocking party music - if you expected different, tough!

The crowd for Numan looked disinterested in everything except 'Cars'. Walking in as Gang of Four battered a microwave to pieces with a mic stand was my own highlight and lowlight. A highlight because as they rampaged into ‘Damaged Goods’ and a low light because I’d missed most of their set, while bands half their age look pathetically over-blown and pantomimic on stage, Gang of Four owned the place having never played into the overblown hysterics of rock to begin with. Seeing Andy Weatherhall allowed me to collect both Loneswordsmen in a forthnight, but his set languished along miserably. It was all no surprises and I left half way through. 2ManyDjs equally failed to surprise and delivered on-cue street from their released mixes to an exuberant crowd.

Pendulum were an odd start for the Sunday morning, the early drunks or the late night manglers however were not the only ones to get into them as they piled on the drum n bass to a huge crowd with the introduction of Rage Against the Machine to their 'Voodoo' mix ripping the roof off. Respect goes to Coldcut for banging out the Killercoke message in their visuals despite Aiken banning any of the 'ethical' stands from selling any thing other than River Rock. Anyway I’ve yet to figure out what’s ethical about an organic burger without salad wrapped in a cheap bundy costing 7e. Other than that their set was poor, too unhinged and slightly more dependent on Let Us Play’s chilled atmosphere than hoped, 'Atomic Moog' stormed it though.

The Rapture held no interest for me, leaving their drunk student music three songs in I headed over to Saul Williams. There the crowd were electric despite the DJ being too high in the mix and his vocals only audible in a narrow corridor in front of the stage. The cancellation of his set at the Big Tree was as traumatic as having to wipe my arse with my socks the night before. One for the toilet rim, and one for the anal rim as the saying now goes.

New Order stuck me as just another shambolic stadium rock band while I was middling impressed with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who’s performance was yards ahead of what I had seen at ATP. Convinced to stay for Groove Armada by friends I had a compulsive moment that led me over to stand between Cut Chemist and Mdslktr. Hovering between the two I was eventually drawn to the Foggy Notions tent where this Berlin outfit Mdslktr were truly rocking the shop in a full on banging rave up that took hold of a clearly mashed crowd.

Later Garnier took the piss for twenty minutes, building up records to drag the crowd along before winding them back down again. If this hadn’t been the last set of the festival and therefore compulsive to dance to most people would have been straight out of there. His mid set break was a classic moment of inspired DJ-ing, brilliantly judging the crowd he allowed a moments respite before slowly introducing some drum and bass and taking it skywards in an overall mediocre gig.

Entering into the festival site you pass this set of trees with photographed flowers pinned on to trees, in a way that’s emblematic of the festival. The organisers take a fairly typical set of woodland fields and temporarily erect these monuments to alternative ethical lifestyles within them, its all caring and sharing, good buzzes all round. Cynical as ever, lets face it - the water situation was appalling, there were no signs marking it anywhere and thats not to mention the toilets. After Garnier two us were refused entry to the main arena at 1.50 am to get water. Told to go down to the camps to get it we spend twenty minutes with no luck.

Eventually we asked a guy from Tir na gCasta who forewarned us that the only water available was mank. Right he was, what we eventually found came from these stainless steel wash basins being used as urinals by every drunk punter in the place and only dispensing this disgusting chlorine packed water. I know of three people who were turned away from the welfare tent when looking for water. One at about 5am on the first night, eventually he was given a bottle of the staffs water on the level of courteous disobedience towards policy and could only mutter about the bad old days of the early rave scene.

An equally obvious effort to embed Electric Picnic into the repertoires of alternative Ireland was the use of Tir na gCasta after their return from the summer teknival circuit as a chill out area tucked away in the woods. Forbidden to play any of their usual speedy free techno rubbish instead they churned out chilled reggae with the occasional glimpses of fifties pop till the wee hours. This was an almost perfectly co-ordinated artificial rave to add that further deepening of the picnic’s atmosphere. The area was a perfect zone to relax all weekend, far better than the conceited tripe of the main Body and Soul arena.

Until the last night of course, when word had spread too far and every party animal in the site had came down, leading to an all round cramped paranoia the highlight of which was the holding of knive to someone’s chest beside the decks before security arrived. DS were heavily factored into most people's weekends, with nearly every circle of friends I came across having a tale of a bust. One was busted by a guy in an 'enjoy cocaine' tshirt while another group had their grass confiscated by an officer feigning blindness! The DS prescence is higher than ever on the gig circuit, the lessons are to never deal or accept offers from anyone you don't know, keep your stash hidden in the tent and smoke the gange out of sight as one whiff can get a gang of mates done for possesion

The Tir na gCasta crew added a lot to the weekend, another sound system that returned from the continent also set up in the car park on the saturday night for a rave. Some more of their associates were responsible for erecting the psychotic merry go round that blazed flames near the Bodytonic and woke me up with its didgeridoo calling of the tribes everyday at noon. All it needed was Spiral Tribe kick drum and we were in crusty raver hell. The permanently K-holed mo-hawked guy involved with them was thrown out of the Bodytonic arena at the same time on two different days, collapsing at the feet of security on the second day he danced in a cross legged position with a soother in his mouth before the cops escorted him off.

A high police prescence did much to eliminate the need for heavy security numbers like at Oxegen but when they did emerge they were fierce prickish on Monday morning. Waiting for our driver to collect us I heard one fat peroxide cow shout ahead to the rest of her team who were concentrating ther effort on moving one particular guy to 'fucking bash him and get him out.' I kept my head down and continued to scavenge the ruins of the weekend, eventually coming home with 30 cans and much new camping equipment.

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