Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Electric Picnic 2012 - A Review

What a weekend. The hangover has only just begun so with a sore head, bruised body and a severe case of post festival blues, the only thing I can do is look back on one of the best weekends of my life and without a doubt the greatest festival I've ever been to by reviewing my top acts and moments of Electric Picnic 2012.

Friday 5.00 Electric Arena
The Californian five piece have only played together a handful of times since the announcement of their reunion in March of this year, but you could never tell as they stomped through a series of pyschedelic indie rock tunes that warmed the crowd up perfectly for the night ahead. Frontman Jason Lyttle's brief interaction's with the crowd kept the set flowing smoothly and listening the band's finely tuned, positive performance was absolute confirmation that this was a band reunited for all the right reasons. Rumours of a new album have surfaced of late and anyone who was witness to this will be hoping they prove to be true.

Grizzly Bear
Friday 6.30 Electric Arena

Another act who were currently in the process of a return to live performance but while Grandaddy sounded like they'd never been away, it was plain to see Grizzly Bear were currently fine tuning their return to stage. It wasn't a problem for the most part; the band debuted a number of new singles from upcoming album Shields that sounded excellent, and classics such as Knife and Two Weeks kept the crowd pleased, but the rust was showing in certain areas for a band that hadn't played live since 2010 up until a couple of  weeks ago. Ed Droste's charming persona came across well however and he addressed the issue himself, thanking fans for being witness to their warming up and suggesting a future concert in Dublin where the band could ''get more intimate'' with the audience. Sounds great to me.

The xx
Friday 9.00 Main Stage

One of the main reasons I bought a ticket was to see Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith, but I must admit to being one of many concerned with the idea of xx on the Main Stage out in the open to a huge audience such as this; the ultra mellow sound of the band could have been wasted on a crowd so large, but the set up of the stage and an excellent light show ensured that their inclusion among the headline acts was justified.
Ultimately, the result was somewhat inbetween predictions good and bad as the band played a mix of crowd pleasers from debut album xx such as VCR and Islands, while also introducing tunes from the upcoming Coexist which half the audience seemed to know already. Remixes of Crystalised and Shelter were bold yet refreshing and for the most part, the setlist had been chosen well. However, lack of interaction with the audience gave off a cold sense of detatchment, and while there wasn't a note missed throughout the entire perfromance, something felt off as the audience failed to really connect with the band. While it would be unfair to call this a disappointment, there was definite potential for greatness that went unrealised and the next time the band come to Ireland, I'll be hoping it's within the confines of a club or arena where we can truly experience the intimate nature of The xx.

Sigur Ros
Friday 10.30 Main Stage

You could feel the crowd beginning to grow restless as Sigur Ros delayed their entrance onstage for roughly 15 minutes, but as soon as they walked out everything was forgotten as the epic ambient sound of the Icelandic group overtook the audience in a way no band I've seen has before or since. Frontman Jonsi's voice is somehow even more incredible live than on record and his otherwordly falsetto silenced a stunned crowd from first word till last. Highlights of the set included the soaring Hoppipolla and dreamy Sven-g-Englar, but there was never a dull moment as a transfixed audience hung on to every moment the band were onstage. A truly unique and memorable live performance that will stay with me personally for a long time.

Crystal Castles
Saturday 6.00 Main Stage

Alice Glass is a character. She stumbles onstage, a smoke in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other, to a crowd of worshipping fans. Her reputation for on stage antics is justified; as soon as Baptism kicks in she leaps offstage and onto the crowd barrier as a number of security guards (who were terrorized by her actions throughout) follow after her in an attempt to stop her adoring fans from swallowing her right into the crowd. Glass is a controverisal figure no doubt and for many she is either to be loved or hated (a particularly scathing review in the Irish Times on Sunday confirms this) but it cannot be denied that she gets the crowd moving to Ethan Kath's electronic beats like no one else. After 40 minutes of ecstatic dancing to the likes of Crimewave, Celestica and Not In Love, the band storm off stage 20 mins early. There'd have been cause for complaint if it hadn't been such a pleasure.

Explosions In The Sky
Saturday 7.30 Main Stage

The instrumental Texan quartet blasted through a 5 song set with more emotion in their guitars than the words of most acts over the weekend. A humble bunch of lads (they described themselves as 'merely a warm up to The Cure'), they didn't speak two words to the crowd until it was all over, but they didn't need to either. Much like their music, they couldn't have said anything to add to the epic beauty we were witnessing first hand. A particular highlight of the set and festival overall was the aching, emotive sound of signature song Your Hand In Mine.

The Cure
Saturday 9.00 Main Stage

Three hours sounded way too long to many of the festival goers discussing the Cure's upcoming concert on Saturday night, but if you were there to hear Robert Smith and co's performance you surely would have conceded that it was just the right amount of time for a legendary act to create something Irish fans will still be talking about in 10 years time.
Everything you could think of was played as the band's 39 song set consisted of classics such as Inbetween Days, Just Like Heaven and Friday I'm In Love. And just when we thought it was all over, there was still time for an encore consisting of Lovecats, Close To Me and Boys Don't Cry. Smith's voice hasn't changed one bit since the 80's and his passion and energy for the music to this day is astounding. The standout performance of the weekend, and that is really saying something for a festival packed with exceptional performances day and night.

Bombay Bicycle Club
Sunday 6.15 Main Stage

The sounds of BBC were perfectly set to the Sunday evening sun and kicked off a final night packed with singalong performances led by Jack Steadman as tracks such as Always Like This, How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep and Shuffle got fans moving fast. The normally socially awkward group were lapping it up and the feel good atomsphere of the night resulted in easily one of the most enjoyable performances of the weekend. A real crowd pleaser.

Sunday 8.00 Main Stage

Guy Garvey's usual showmanship and enigmatic stage persona came across wonderfully and had fans singing to their hearts content as Elbow belted out a set of favourites including Grounds for Divorce which Garvey introduced with a Freddie Mercury like audience response singalong,
and Lippy Kids which included a backing performance from the Irish Youth Gospel Choir.
However the highlight of the set, and the standout track of the entire festival was yet to come. Everyone who had been waiting on One Day Like This couldn't have prepared for the setting that complimented it so very well; as the sun began to set, strings began to rise and the band produced something so special and emotive that it would have been impossible not to feel the incredible power travelling through the audience at that moment in time as the audience drowned out even Garvey, singing together in unison ''Throw those curtains wide/ One day like this a year will see me right''.
We all knew Elbow were good live, but this exceeded even the highest expectations and served as a fitting closer to an amazing weekend in the sun. I saw audience members with tears in their eyes following it's conclusion, and it was easy to understand why; we had all experienced something truly special.

Top Five Acts

1. The Cure

2. Sigur Ros

3. Elbow

4. Crystal Castles

5. The xx

Top Ten Songs

1. One Day Like This - Elbow

2. Sven-g-Englar - Sigur Ros

3. Your Hand In Mine - Explosions In The Sky

4. Infinity - The xx

5. Baptism - Crystal Castles

6. Just Like Heaven - The Cure

7. Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear

8. Evening/Morning - Bombay Bicycle Club

9. Witness (1 Hope) - Roots Manuva

10. Heart - MMOTHS

So, that was my festival. You all probably have different ideas about what was best but from the acts I saw, there's my own personal feelings and highlights about it all. The one thing I'm sure no one will disagree about is the fact that we all had a great weekend and would love to be back. Bring on next year.

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