The Electric Picnic line-up makes a lot of sense, even if you don't get it
When did we get so precious about festivals?
Another day, another festival announcement and the all-too-predictable outcry that the line-up is crap/rubbish/carcinogenic/etc.
We saw it with Longitude last month and we're seeing it again this week following the unveiling of the bill for Electric Picnic 2018.
Though the Stradbally spectacular is officially sold out as of Friday morning, conversation continues to rage about how the bookers got it wrong and how Picnic isn't what it used to be and how it's out of touch and so on.
If anything, both Picnic and, in particular, Longitude understand their respective audiences quite well at this stage.
Festivals are curious beasts, given that many people go purely for the experience, while some can proudly go an entire weekend without seeing a single act (which is truly impressive in its own strange way) as determined others make detailed itineraries to try and catch everyone possible.
That's a lot of masters to serve. What's more, with the emergence of new festivals and only so many acts and bands to go around - it's worth pointing out that the average Irish gig-goer has never been so spoiled for choice - there's bound to be some disappointment involved, particularly if you're blind-buying a ticket ahead of time.
Granted, it was a surprise not to see Arctic Monkeys' name in big signature font atop the EP poster on Thursday morning, given that the Sheffield outfit are playing seemingly every other festival around this summer and an Irish date remains oddly vacant.
Similarly, you could have expected a stadium-sized proposition ala Coldplay or the much-elusive Lorde to make an impact. Not so.
In the end, we got Kendrick Lamar, Massive Attack and N.E.R.D. as the top three with a sizeable and wide-ranging undercard promising upper tier contemporary acts, established names and, er, The Kooks.
Clip via KendrickLamarVEVO
Cue the expected social media outrage.
It should be noted that the reaction to Picnic was generally more amiable than Longitude, but there's still quite a lot of people queueing up to boast about how many acts they don't know, as if that's some kind of badge of honour.
Where Longitude was concerned, not only did you have the odd sight of supposedly dedicated music journalists braying about how little they knew, but there was also an ugly undercurrent of mocking a predominantly R&B, grime and hip-hop offering. White guys with guitars don't get their due, I guess.
In some ways, it's your classic Simpsons situation where hey, you got old, and now there's a new generation of music fans who are listening to people that you've literally never heard of before.
And that's fair enough. There's arguably too much media and information in the world at the moment, so you need to prioritise. And there's nothing wrong with the classics, either.
However, where music and ignorance of an artist first encountered on a busy festival poster is concerned, it's really quite easy to brush up.
Streaming services like Spotify and Apple cost less than a couple of pints in your average Dublin boozer for a month's subscription, and Spotify is essentially a free service if you don't want to pay and can suffer through the mind-numbingly irritating ads that pop up every few songs.
Never heard of Wolf Alice or George Ezra or Post Malone or Cardi B? Cool, download one of the above platforms and give them a go. Hit up YouTube if that's too much of an ask. Just takes a few minutes.
It's easy to be overwhelmed by too much music/films/TV shows and so on. And it's just as easy to get lost in the pop culture shuffle. Hell, this writer has been covering music professionally for seven years now, and there's a good clutch of names on both the Longitude and Picnic bills that are relative unknowns.
Again, it's that 'getting older' thing, but there's really no need to believe that you're your parents just yet, if you're willing to put a little bit of homework in. Festival bills tend to reflect a wider conversation, and Ireland's biggest make perfect sense this year.
And hey, you don't want to be the guy who complains for no reason, right?
So, with all that in mind, let's go through the standout names on the Electric Picnic line-up...
A coup for the festival that will see K-Dot gracing Irish shores with his presence twice in one year, following on from a genuine 'I was there' performance in Dublin in February.
Kendrick is arguably the most interesting superstar in music, and a true crossover icon who speaks to both the mainstream and the hardcores. That's not easy, and it's a pleasure and a privilege to catch him at this pivotal stage of his journey.
Clip via MasssiveAttackVEVO
'Unfinished Sympathy' is worthy of headlining any festival, to be quite honest.
Still, you can see why some might not think Massive Attack are a strong enough headliner in 2018, not least because they've already taken top spot in 2006 and 2010.
Festival booker Melvin Benn spoke passionately about their set at Benicàssim in 2016, and they do have the requisite pedigree, but apathy aimed in their direction is understandable.
A.K.A. that band that Pharrell Williams is in. N.E.R.D. returned in December with a seriously middling and overcooked album, but they have enough sharp cuts in their back catalogue to ensure a strong closing on Sunday night, should they wind up in that position when all is said and done.
Clip via Dua Lipa
One of the biggest pop stars in the world at the moment - or at least with the long-term potential to be - Dua Lipa is a perfect representation of where pop music is at right now, and a smart choice as the top name on the second level of acts.
UK singer/songwriter who's going to get compared a whole lot more to Bon Iver than he'd like when he drops his new album later this year.
The new David Byrne/David Bowie/neither of those. Annie Clark is at the top of her art-pop game, even if last year's MASSEDUCTION album was major style over substance. Live, she's a class above, and her guitar skills have drawn comparisons to the late, great Prince. A quintessential Electric Picnic performer.
Here's where it admittedly gets ridiculous, and a band that were trash in their mid-2000s heyday enjoy an inexplicable second life that sees them ninth on the Electric Picnic bill in 2018. Look, the nostalgia thing has a lot to answer for, and this might be the most questionable thing yet.
Still, there's always that time Simon Amstell mercilessly ripped the piss out of them on Popworld:
Clip via Sl3vn
Party like it's 2008! 'Skeleton Boy' and 'Paris' hold up.
Ireland's next big thing. Not heard of him yet? You will. Kennedy trades in the wounded-man-with-a-guitar trade, only his tunes are significantly more authentic and nuanced than what Ed Sheeran cooks up. Best of all, he's just getting started.
Maybe the single most exciting and arresting new voice in all of music right now. Nobody really knows quite who or what The Blaze are, other than a pair of visual artists who make life-affirming and emotive house music that gets all the way into your soul.
'Territory' and its parent video were arguably the best audiovisual experience of 2017:
Clip via The Blaze
And that's just 10 of the names served up by the first wave of acts.
As noted, festivals are an odd 'choose your own adventure' type of thing, and a large aspect of that is discovering something completely alien to you and adopting it as your own unique thing.
Embrace the shock of the new, it really ain't so bad.
But seriously, go and see The Blaze.