Rebels, raving, and regret: Confessions of an Electric Picnic attendee
"If I hear one more story about people sh***ing in tents, I'm going to pierce my eardrums."
Are you writing another article? This is the only question I got from friends, family, and strangers when I told them I was going to Electric Picnic again this year. Since last year's festival and accompanying tell-all piece, my story of drugs, dancing and drenchings has become something of a calling card for me. Hell, I even got a birthday card themed after it.
Well, guess what? We're back, baby. The electric boogaloo is well and truly here.
Friday, 1 September
We've upgraded from last year, as I score a lift from one of my mates to the festival. You couldn't ask for more than door-to-field service. We dodge the traffic into Stradbally, and pull into the production side of the arena. I'm working and performing this time around, which means by the end of the weekend, I'll have more wristbands than brain cells.
I've left my bags in the car, and gone to the main entrance to collect my performer's pass, when a woman in double denim steps in front of me at security.
Ladies and gentleman, may I present to you; A Conversation With An Undercover Garda.
"Hello there, how are you getting on?", she says, before flashing the badge down at her waist.
"I'm all grand, thank you."
"Listen, where's all your stuff? Why are you coming in with nothing with ya?"
"Oh, I've left them all in the production parking, I'm working here this weekend."
"Do you know it's illegal to have drugs with you?"
"Y'know, there's a white tent there, and people there can check everywhere. In your socks and jocks, everywhere."
"That sounds good. I have nothing on me though."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes? I'm working."
(I do realise that that makes it sound that I would be taking them if I wasn't working.)
"If you're caught with anything, you'll be kicked out and not allowed back in."
"That's all grand, I definitely don't have anything anyway."
"Are you sure?"
"*sigh* Yes, I'm sure."
"Carry on, so."
I've broken free, and so, it's time to work. I run around like a madman, grabbing interviews where I can. I'm finished around 9.30pm, and that's when the fun begins. I head straight over to see Steve Lacy, and this was the first point where I felt incredibly old. Bad Habits was a huge track on TikTok, and so it's post-smoking ban babies as far as the eye can see in the tent. A few hours later, a friend of mine sends me a video of an alleged Kanye West spotting in a tent backstage after visiting Lacy. I don't believe him for a second.
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Billie Eilish is next, and powers through a pretty rough dose to perform her set. The only noticeable lack of vulnerability comes when she begins to laugh at the absurdity of her situation during the crescendo of Happier Than Ever. Fingers crossed she got a flat 7-Up and a bottle of Nurofen afterwards.
I go to the legendary Rave in the Woods, and once again, it's not my buzz. I've tried every single time I've been at EP, but I just can't bring myself to have a good time under the trees and feeling the beats. The forest looks like the medical camp in a rural WWI base, with bodies strewn all over the dirt. I go to sleep around 4am, and get excited for a peaceful morning.
Saturday, 2 September
How wrong was I.
You might have seen already the video of a full barbershop group singing outside people's tents early on Saturday morning. Well, I have the distinct pleasure of knowing some of the Ramparts, and I was camping next door to the most harmonious alarm clock. When you go to a festival, there's an implicit understanding that you're probably going to have to listen to someone butcher Don't Look Back in Anger on an out of tune guitar at 6am, so waking up to an impressive rendition of Coney Island Baby was borderline offensive. This was not on the cards.
a fuckin barbershop quartet is camped next to us pic.twitter.com/s2Fx3sG2Z2
— skank williams (@rosaslutzemburg) September 2, 2023
I'm gigging twice on Saturday, with one man doing the most incredible impression of an Irish Rail announcement during Na Seansálaithe's podcast, and me writing a stand-up set in about an hour for GaelGÁIRÍ's comedy slot in the Puball Gaeilge. Never let anyone tell you the Irish language can't get you anywhere.
Back to work again, and I'm talking to the general public today. If I hear one more story about people shitting in tents, I'm going to pierce my eardrums. I might as well have done it, though, as rock is all I'm hearing for the next few hours. Inhaler tear the place down, followed by an incredible set from Idles. I've been waiting to see this band for around 5 years, and they did not disappoint. I managed to only get punched in the face once, and saw an old Gaeltacht student of mine grinning ear to ear with a bloody tissue shoved up his nose. A roaring success, if you ask me.
I'm getting weaker in my old age, and only make it to 3am this time around after I caught myself nearly falling asleep on my feet while dancing. I go to bed wondering why my neck feels so much warmer than the rest of my body.
Sunday, 3 September
Oh shit, suncream.
Between melting inside the tent and the red raw skin across my neck, I wake up in agony. I immediately search for my ginger cousin, knowing they would have suncream. It might feel a bit offensive, but they had factor 50 with them, so my instincts were right on the money.
This is my only totally free day of the festival, and I milk it for every last second that it's worth. A reputable source tells me that Rick Astley is performing a secret set at the Salty Dog, which gives me time to go to the Mary Wallopers.
Last year, Sunday was a big night for indie darlings and alternative acts for me. This year, it's nothing but trad and folk, as a triple-whammy of the Wallopers, the Wolfe Tones, and the Saw Doctors play back to back to huge crowds. I hadn't seen this many Celtic jerseys in one place since I got dragged to the World Irish Dancing Championships in Glasgow when I was 9.
— The Wolfe Tones 🇮🇪 (@wolfetones) September 3, 2023
My source was right; Astley is playing a secret set at the Salty Dog, and it might just be my highlight of the weekend. The singer lets us know that him and the band are "a bit pissed" and that he's had two pints of wine, and they're gonna play nothing but covers. I'm not going to admit here just how excited I was to hear a 57-year-old sing Everlong.
Myself and my mate make our way over to the main stage, where we watch The Killers close out the festival from the ferris wheel. We share it with a couple, and realise that it's someone from Donegal as well, who's attending the weekend with my cousin. I'd say I was one question off finding out he was my cousin too, but we had to disembark before I broke out the family tree.
Late nights mean cold weather, and I'm wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt. I end up going to shows where I can dance around just to stay warm. The Eskies, Scustin, Selló, and Acid Granny are all responsible for keeping me alive until the early hours of the morning. After a quick boogie in the Trad Rave, I make my way back once more, for an easy trip home.
Monday, 4 September
I'm back in the car with my mate from Friday, along with two others who worked backstage at the festival. We spend the ride up home, sharing unrepeatable stories about artists and performers, when we come to a screeching halt on the M7.
There's been a crash ahead of us, and traffic has stopped for miles. It's 27 degrees outside, with people walking up and own the motorway searching for some sort of answer or relief. I spend my day off collecting stories and craic from drivers. I've truly replaced my mindset with a grindset.
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5 hours after walking out of the campsite, I crash onto my bed for the final time after the first weekend in September. I've a pair of arms on me like Squashies, a head on me that can't sit up for more than 20 minutes, and a neck the same colour as a Ferrari, but it's all worth it in the end.
IDLES image via Debbie Hickey/Getty Images
The Killers image via Taylor Hill/Getty Images
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