Lemon Jelly - Electric Picnic, Stradbally, Ireland
Electric guitar power chords? Checks the running order. Moody blue lighting? It definitely doesn't say 'Deep Purple'! Electric cellos??! It doesn't say 'Yes’ either. Nope, festival-goers, this is Lemon Jelly: all surface-to-air guitar riffs and Smoke on the Water atmospherics. Conjuring up their very own variety of Heavy Metal Magick on the opening Come Down On Me, their spell is cast, and the blue touch paper of this crowd is lit.
Normal service is soon resumed with Lemon Jelly, and the guitars are abandoned (temporarily) as they giddily race through glorious versions of In the Bath and Page One. Live both are light years away from their now pedestrian recorded counterparts; more intense and removing all the fluffiness with the efficiency of a Remmington Fuzzaway. Nick and Fred grin away, dementedly hunched over the mixing desk, the two over-sized Oompa Loompas sprinkling their musical confectionery over a marquee of golden ticket holders.
Thunder cracks out inside the tent, puzzled looks are fired between friends, “Why did we camp near the toilets?”, “I should’ve bought the inflatable Ark, not the Spongebob Squarepants lilo!!” Suddenly, the penny drops, quizzical glances turn to euphoria, and within seconds the crowd punches the air as one to the mass karaoke of Nice Weather For Ducks.
Everyone is still beaming in the aftermath before realising that the dark mood of the opening track is being resurrected. A submerged guitar riff lies dormant, gradually rousing as the crowd’s attention is redirected to the animations behind the band. There we see Itchy & Scratchy re-imagined by Ozzy Ozbourne projected for our amusement as the riff from The Shouty Track untangles itself and ignites a pogo-frenzy. Nick - all arched eyebrow and beard of Beelzebub - layers live guitar over the sample, adding to the punk disco anarchy.
This, Fred informs us, is the last night of their tour and judging by both our - and their - reactions, it’s probably one of the best. The difference with Lemon Jelly and other electronic artists is that there is no academic posturing behind a barrier of technology: they ham it up, share jokes, use pantomime-esque introductions to songs (“I think Nick needs a guitar lesson, don’t you?” Fred says on the introduction to The Staunton Lick prompting an “Oh, no he doesn’t”, “Oh yes he does!” response) and it works. The crowd is having too much fun to care about the aesthetic or any studied cool. Heck, the place goes ballistic when they drop the perpetually naff If You Leave Me Now by Chicago. Forget “it was so bad it was good” clichés; we don’t care, we just wanna dance and have a good time. And we do, right up until the last notes of Ramblin' Man are squeezed, leaving us all exhausted and elated. Nick and Fred leave the stage, with a knowing twinkle in their eyes, the arch alchemists and playtime hypnotists have done their job, and with a click of their fingers, we’re all back in the room, and back down to earth.
Photos by Mark Thompson