This year, Electric Picnic becomes Ireland’s biggest music festival. No longer “boutique” as such, the little festival that could has provided a template for much of what has come in its wake over the past eight years. In that time it has grown from a one-day event to a three-day circus for 35,000 people and there’s nothing else quite like it on the bulging Irish festival calender.
First up: the Token Irish.
We see these people on every festival line-up, wheeled out every year as the high-ranking mainstays of the lauded Irish music industry. There are plenty of smaller Irish acts on the bill, many of them brilliant, but these are the banner names, for better or for worse, and we seemingly have to live with them. Do you feel represented?
Oh Glen. What would Dublin, nay, the Irish people, do without you? We need someone to keep us on the straight and narrow, someone to tell us it’s all gone wrong but it’ll all be ok. Lift our hearts with your chords and our spirits with your words. With that half-cut quiver in your voice, we’ll believe anything you say. So what if some heathens scoff and laugh at “The Irish Chris Martin”, who are they to dismiss the emotional power of one of our wee little nation’s great bearded exports? Sing for us all Glen, and we’ll sing along.
You have to wonder at what point Christy Moore made the transition from folk singer to national treasure. At what point did his live appearances change from normal gigs to yearly celebrations? Whenever it was, the man from Newbridge is now, officially, “Ireland’s Greatest Living Musician” and you can be guaranteed a good time at one of his shows. Nestled a little ways down the bill a few years ago, that set garnered such an astounding reaction that he’s been bumped up among the headliners this time around.
Never exactly the “Billy No-Mates” of Irish music, Gavin Friday’s long career in the shadows of his more successful associates has shown that the fine art of tail-coat riding is not yet lost to the world. He reappeared last year on the cover of his latest album, the unspeakably smug catholic, laying in a coffin, garbed in the tricolour and clutching rosary beads. If you bothered to listen to the album after that, fair play to you. While other Prunes have gone on to make important, challenging art by themselves (cc. Daniel Figgis), Friday’s basic, portentous and pretentious outlook has regularly failed to excite.
Dublin Gospel Choir
They’re back, again, and no doubt ready to lead the Sunday morning stragglers on another hangover-curing/deepening sing-a-long. Sit your arse on the grass in front of the main stage, grab yourself a fry or vegan-friendly yoghurt or something and let Fingal’s finest soul crooners’ versions of pop, R’n'B and religious classics wash over you. It’s like mass, you see? It’s good for the soul. All together now, “Aint no mountain high enough….”
Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn and Paddy Glackin
So, one member of Planxty at the top of the bill and the other three buried in the middle of it. Where’s the justice? Anyway, it’s unlikely you’ll find a better collection of traditional music royalty anywhere than these four men right here. Without a doubt some of the greatest musical talents of their, or indeed any, generation, these four will be an unmissable adrenaline rush of history, passion, intelligence and musical mastery.