5 things I learnt at the Electric Picnic festival in Ireland

Posted by Jenna Van Schoor on 12 September 2012

One of my best friends is Irish, and in the six years that I’ve known her we’ve somehow managed to spend time together in an unusual variety of places, from traumatic encounters at the Taj Mahal to excessive bucket drinking and neon-face painting at the Full Moon Party in Thailand. Like any long distance relationship, I believe the success of our friendship lies in the fact that we make an effort to see each other regularly. So this year, on a whim at work, I decided that it would be a great idea to visit her in Dublin, to coincide with seeing The Black Keys at the O2 and an excess of famous bands at Ireland’s annual outdoor music festival, Electric Picnic, which took place last weekend at Stradbally Hall, Co. Laois, pronounced “leesh (read more: the top 20 summer festivals in Europe and America).

However, I was mistakenly convinced that I had festival etiquette down, after racking up several embarrassing/shameful/forgotten experiences at Oppikoppi, Rocking the Daisies, Ramfest and Synergy Live over the last four years. But unlike our comparatively relaxed, police-free festival vibes, nothing could have really prepared me for the three nights of excess that comes with a European music festival, where everything is multiplied, from the variety of food stalls to the cost of booze, and the overwhelming number of headlining acts playing at over five different stages that all become impossible to manage realistically after several Heineken draughts, eight Euro Bacardi cocktails and snuck-into-the-main-area vodka shots.

Some things I’ll remember for next time:

1. Don’t go out the night before

For me, Dublin is definitely one of the best cities for a night out, given the population’s predisposition to drinking, a lot, and (mostly) walking distance to pubs and clubs downtown. So I had a great time on the Thursday night before the festival drinking Guinness and Carlsberg pints, pouring Weiss beer incorrectly (on myself) and noticing the disturbing prevalence of purple hoodies at The Grand Social. But only getting an hour of sleep the night before a weekend festival is not a good idea. You’ll realize this when you have to sit down on the wet grass at 22h00 just to make it through Sigur Rós on the first night, and when you have to unwillingly leave your friends at the Silent Disco tent at 03h00 because you just can’t physically stand anymore.

They’ll go on to drink hard, ride the ferris wheel and stumble into the tent at 05h00, with stories.

Silent Disco

2. Be prepared for an early closing bar

A flipside effect of the popularity of drinking in Ireland is that bars close early, seemingly for some kind of preventative effect, which in my opinion is counterintuitive, and annoying. At Electric Picnic the bars closed at 22h00, which for me, being vaguely coherent during the absolute drunken anarchy that goes down at the bars in the early hours of the morning at festivals like Oppikoppi, was disappointing. To be honest, I felt like this decision definitely killed the cumulative party mood, but this is something you’ll get past after going back to your tent and stuffing as many oversized cans of beer as you can into your clothing, and drinking these at the other festival areas until pass-out time instead.

Trailer park stage, around 2am

3. Accept that you can’t possibly see everyone you want to see

One of the most common responses to my being at Electric Picnic from the few people I was sober enough to be in contact with was “I’m so jealous!”. I appreciate that, it’s the same way I’ve always felt when people I know go to international festivals and brag about all the live acts they saw that I will never see. But here’s the truth, even with your friend’s printed out, laminated and highlighted spreadsheets and timetables you won’t see even a percentage of the bands playing, and even when you do, you’ll become a spoilt asshole and completely take the experience for granted or you’ll be too tired/wasted to fully appreciate them. Or they’ll disappoint you and play a really short set (Crystal Castles), or take too long to play any songs you actually recognize (The Cure).

Rave in the forest

4. Take your camera along, even if you’re scared it will get damaged/broken/wet

Given Ireland’s predisposition to incessant rain, it seemed responsible not to take my Canon G12 with me on my drunken festival missions. But here’s the thing, it didn’t pour like I thought it would, and now all the photos I have to share are some bizarre, blurry fish-eye and “nostalgic” shots of late night wanderings on the last night, and a number of pathetic Instagrams, most of them indistinguishable stage shots of lights and raised-hand crowd silhouettes.

iPhone crowd photography of Hot Chip. I think.

5. Appreciate that this experience is a one-time thing

Although you’ll be secretly proud to be sufficiently socialized at this point, and able to understand terms like “craic“, “banter” and “grand” in normal conversation, the unfortunate reality is that this experience is not likely to be repeated, at least not anytime soon. Even though you’ll joke, in a haze, to campsite “friends” that you intend to be the weird tag-along foreigner at every Electric Picnic from now on, deep down you’ll know that due to mainly financial and bureaucratic reasons, this isn’t going to happen. The truth is you’ll still be that weird, accented foreigner, whose name no one really remembers, but who hopefully left some kind of ridiculous legacy of attempted Ace Ventura impersonations, drink stealing and insistence on late night bollemakiesies in the hilarious and incriminating Facebook photos only a limited number of people are able to see.

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