Electric Picnic - Day One - A Review In Pictures - Stradbally Estate County Laois

Electric Picnic takes place on the grounds of Stradbally Estate in County Laois, less than an hour from Dublin. The three day event offers music on a variety of stages plus theatre, comedy and spoken word performances. This was my first trip to the Picnic and I was basing myself in Portlaoise, about 15 minutes to the festival by shuttle bus. I was originally due to attend all three days of the event but last minute travelling arrangements meant I had to cut my trip down to just the Friday and Saturday sets.

Friday's events kicked off around 4pm and I arrived just in time to view electro poppers Chew Lips on the Electric Arena stage. I've seen the trio on numerous occasions this year as I'm a fan of their live sets and the band's album Unicorn is one of the year's best. The gang delivered a great show as always, with the usual suspects standing out, including singles "Salt Air" and "Solo" and album closer "Gold Key". It took me a little while to get into my gig going groove but I was having great fun by the time the performance ended.

I paid my first visit to the Main Stage after Chew Lips, stumbling over the closing moments of the The Jolly Boys set, with the veteran Jamaican band running through their version's of Iggy Pop's "The Passenger" and Amy Winehouse's "Rehab".

I had actually moved to the main arena to arrive in good time for my first set of the day from Miss Janelle Monae. I've championed the Atlanta singer since viewing a performance at Austin's SXSW in March last year as she's one of the most exciting live acts around. I'd been lucky enough to see a couple of intimate London sets since but this was my first opportunity to see her play on a larger stage and I was extremely curious to see how she'd go down with a festival crowd. Janelle's debut album the Archandroid has had great critical acclaim in the UK so there were plenty audience members waiting to see what all the fuss was about.

Normally photographers are granted the first three songs of a set in the photo pit but Janelle opened her performance with the first three tracks from her album, each song seguing into the next so we got a bit of a bonus as we were allowed to stay for Janelle's fourth song, a take on the standard "Smile" as security didn't know where one song ended and the other started!

Janelle put on a great show, with the crowd completely loving it, especially set closers "Cold War" and "Tightrope". A little bit of her magic was lost on the large stage due to monitor placement as her feet were hidden the majority of the time so we missed out on some killer dance moves but it was still an awesome gig.

I spent a brief moment at the Crawdaddy Stage watching one song from Hurts, with the synthpop duo declaring their love for the Irish crowds then legged it back to the Electric Arena to take in a bit of Marc Almond's show.

I hadn't actually seen the Soft Cell frontman live since about 1983 so it was about time I caught up with him again! Marc has recently released a new album Variete and has a "Hits and A sides" tour coming up in November and seemed in great form. I was delighted to hear 80's classic "Torch" before I had to leg it back to the Crawdaddy Stage to watch Laura Marling.

I'm a big fan of the new improved live Laura Marling! I've watched her play on several occasions over the years, attending some painfully introspective performances, where she's looked miserable! I noticed a change at SXSW last year when confronted with a slightly happier Miss Marling and she was practically gleaming on the Crawdaddy Stage!

It certainly makes a difference as she has far more of a connection with her audience these days, with plenty fans shouting out their admiration. Laura's quite an easy subject to shoot as she doesn't tend to move around so I was done picture taking by her second song, leaving me free to take in a stunning rendition of "Ghosts" from the photo pit.

It was back to the Main Stage to see what US Alt Rockers Modest Mouse were up to. I'm not a fan of the band and their lighting sucked so it was a very short visit! I was surprised to hear their biggest 'hit' "Float On" played extremely early mind you.

Sigur Ros's Jonsi was doing his thing over at the Electric Arena. I find his music a bit on the dull side and he was a pretty much a static performer so didn't stay long, winding my way through the crowd to get to the Body And Soul Main Stage.

I was taking in my second Janelle Monae set of the day in a far more intimate setting. The actual stage is on the bottom of a slope so a lot of people can view the gig from a higher vantage point but the stage itself is very low so delivers a real up close performance if in the front few rows. Stage hands had were erecting a small crowd barrier just before Janelle took to the stage and I grabbed a spot in the middle as I didn't think anyone would use the smallish pit. I noticed a couple of photographers hanging around at the side of the pit so decided to join them just before things kicked off.

Janelle had pulled in a huge crowd for her late evening set and several joined us in the pit when the music started making it a bit of a free for all! The atmosphere was electric, with Miss Monae delivering a full on performance that was a real cut above her earlier show. The crowd were basically going bananas as Janelle produced her trade mark dance moves and exquiste vocals while her two dancers ran through the crowd, whipping up an even bigger storm, producing the highlight of the weekend! If truth be told I would have liked to have heard a track or two from Janelle's previous EP Metropolis - The Chase Suite at some point in either set but Janelle's second Electric Picnic show was just simply stupendous!

As great as the performance was it did mean that I missed out on shooting Public Image due to staying for the set's duration. I did weigh it up and decided that I probably wouldn't get a chance again to see Miss Monae up close in the near future as I very much doubt she's going to be touring the UK's Barfly venues or various other shit holes so I'm more than sure I made the right choice!

Category Gig Review

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