Electric Picnic 2015 Review

Tiernan Cannon immersed himself in the stunning Electric Picnic festival deep in the Irish countryside. Relive his experiences here.

Mike Warburton

Date published: 9th Sep 2015

Photo: Electric Picnic

There is something peculiarly sweet in finding yourself in the middle of an old, tall forest, surrounded by brightly dressed strangers gyrating in unison to the sounds of thumping hard techno. Equally fulfilling is the prospect of finally gaining a sense of clarity whilst discussing the merits of love and kindness with a person you’ve only known for five minutes.

These are, of course, unusual occurrences within any normal, functioning society, yet at Electric Picnic normality is suspended for three days and nights leaving forty thousand people with the freedom to partake in such intense, life-changing rituals.

Resting snugly within the Irish midlands, Electric Picnic is littered with endless distractions and secret hideaways, so the relatively sparse opening night line-up allowed the attendees to get to grips with the vast maze that is the festival site.

Photo: Electric Picnic

Every aspect of Electric Picnic encourages its inhabitants to go exploring, so when Friday headliners Grace Jones and Underworld had finished up their respective sets, the crowds were free to blindly tumble through the wonderful mess that defines the festival.

The various arenas littered around the site are worlds of their own, each with their own specific theme and sound. Trenchtown, for example, is an area dedicated to reggae, dancehall and dub, where festival goers can go to kick back and relax during the day and party at night. Found in the festival’s vast woods, Trenchtown consistently shook with deep, heavy bass lines and provided the festival with a most perfect slice of Jamaican music and culture.

Take a stroll past Trenchtown and you end up at the Salty Dog stage, which is a sight to behold. No amount of words or pictures can fully capture the absurdity of finding yourself at the Salty Dog. The stage is an enormous wrecked pirate ship, run by an MC dressed as a pirate - a man seemingly intoxicated for the entirety of the weekend.

Bizarrely though, the Salty Dog was a place of respite amongst the madness of the rest of the festival, as some of the other areas had the potential to absolutely overwhelm the mind and senses.

Photo: Body and Soul Arena Credit: Electric Picnic

The Body and Soul arena for instance, simply swarmed with sweet, delicious lunacy at every turn. It was a corner of the festival which bled colour and light; a world of its own that functioned in the strangest and most beautiful of ways imaginable.

With music of all types, Zen Gardens, hot tubs, tepees and the most bizarre and beautiful array of installations imaginable, Body and Soul was one of the most interesting, surprising and wonderful experiences to be found in the whole of Electric Picnic.  

Each night tended to end at the Red Bull Music Academy, which, put simply, was a massive rave in the middle of the woods. It was the heart of Electric Picnic, allowing everyone present to party long into the night. Towering trees and fantastic laser and light shows ensured an ever-so-slightly overwhelming affair as headliners including Todd Terry and Krystal Klear filled the woods to the brim, making for the most intense aspect of the entire festival. 

The main draws of the festivals also did not disappoint. On Saturday night, Jon Hopkins played the Rankins Wood tent, setting an incredibly dark, almost sinister tone for the gig with opening track 'We Disappear' (above).

Immediately after Hopkins’ set was Roisin Murphy’s slot in the Electric Arena. With songs from her new album Hairless Toys, as well as classics from her old electronic duo Moloko, Murphy’s set was one of the highlights of the weekend.

With a wardrobe that can only be described as eclectic, the Irish native performed with a swagger and class utterly unmatched by anyone, at one stage purring to the crowd that “You can never get too much pleasure” in life. The mob of people erupted at that one, the sentiment of what she was saying being particularly poignant at that moment of time.

A packed Sunday was kicked into life by a perfectly choreographed main stage performance by Jurassic 5. The L.A. hip hop group drew in the masses with a set that spewed positive vibes. Audience and performers alike danced with big smiles on their faces, everyone singing along to classics including 'Concrete Schoolyard'.

The crowd interaction was a particular highlight of the show, with thousands of people all obeying the group’s order to hop on an imaginary motorcycle and ride onto the stage. It was a perfectly fun and happy gig which set up the happy mood for the final day.

One of the more beautiful moments of the festival occurred during Villagers’ stripped down Electric Arena set. Frontman Conor O’Brien at one stage melted the audience’s hearts by coyly asking the massive crowd to sit down on the ground and embrace the person next to them. Couples, friends and strangers were all left cuddling on the ground, united by a particularly quiet and emotional set by the band currently touring new album Darling Arithmetic

Sunday night main stage headliners Florence + the Machine provided a typically energetic set which included tracks spanning the group’s three wonderful albums. Particularly moving was the crowd’s response to a stripped back performance of 'Cosmic Love' (below), with everyone present singing the words and swaying together. It was a fittingly beautiful performance which perfectly rounded off the weekend for all present. 

In spite of the festival’s countless arenas and stellar acts however, the force that truly provided the pulse for the occasion was undoubtedly the people that were immersed within it. Electric Picnic is defined by those tiny little occurrences that spawn from the energies of humans united in such a bizarre, intense and wonderful shared experience.

It is not an experience you can consciously create, nor is it something that occurs all that often, which is what makes Electric Picnic such a unique and wonderful festival. It is all the joy of human experience all mixed up and thrown into one long weekend in Ireland.

More like this? Read our Glastonbury 2015 review.