We wait months and months for the line-up announcement. Then we spend more months weighing up if it is worth the €240 asking price. We sway and sway for more weeks as the further additions to the line-up are added. Once the mind is set and the ticket is bought we wait weeks and weeks for the timetable to be released and finally arrives and vanishes in such a blur that there are thousands of us wondering if we were actually there at all. (My body is one hundred percent aware that it has been at a festival for the past four days.) Maybe my day-by day review below will trigger off some happy (or unwanted) memories...
My group arrived nice and early and made our way straight to the campsite. Once we were all parked up the trip through security was nice and painless and we arrived in the Jimi Hendrix site pretty quickly. Tents up. Gazebo up. All I needed was a fold-out chair."Festival chairs for a tenner?". Excellent. My own personal travelling shop. Next up on the preparation agenda was the inflation of the air-mattress, a luxury I now never attend a festival without. Pump at the ready one of the lads informed me I could get it inflated at one of the shops just across the way. Genius! How could I not of thought of this before?! Ten minutes later the answer hit me square between the eyes as I attempted to squeeze my fully-inflated double-mattress into my tent. Last up was the collection of my chilled beer. Second in the queue as the collection point/off-license opened, the last tick on my "To-Do list" did Nike proud.
The burning sun was playing a blinder as the atmosphere built and campers flocked to Stradbally in their thousands. Most importantly the music was about to begin.
The Jolly Boys - Main Stage at 4.45pm
First up for me was a trip to the Main Stage and nothing goes better with the sun than old-school Jamaica. Basically the Boys performed a covers set with varied tunes from Iggy Pop to Amy Winehouse to Lou Reed. Still full of life and still full of energy the band that in another time were Errol Flynn's houseband at his legendary parties set about infecting anyone who briefly passed the Main Stage with at least a grin.
Janelle Monae - Main Stage at 6pm
Hype can be a dangerous weapon if not used correctly or in the right places. No other artist arrived at Stradbally last weekend laden with as much expectation as Ms. Monae. The numbers had noticeably increased since The Jolly Boys had departed (not due to The Jolly Boys of course!) with a sense of curiousity rippling through the crowd. The backing band appeared and kicked into a groove. Three hooded figures followed. Obviously the centrally placed figure was the artist in question who launched, shouldered and shadowed by two look-a-likes, into what I have a feeling are soon to be very recognizable tunes. Popstars are few and far between on Picnic line-ups so it was fascinating so see the trio furiously rush through their choreography routines. The vocal sound was a little too low for my liking but I did get to hear the 24-year-old from Kansas' incredible voice at its optimum during a quieter, more soulful tune accompanied by just an electric guitar.
MNDR - Cosby Stage at 6.30pm, The Waterboys - Main Stage at 7.15pm & Laura Marling - Crawdaddy at 7.45pm
Festival-going can be very lonesome for myself as I spend so much time running around the stages so friends know better than to ask me to wait for them these days! A quick run around saw me take in an explosive set from MNDR attended by possibly only twenty people. A mindset of "Fuck it" was apparent as Amanda Warner a.k.a. MNDR gave it everything she had. I caught one song of Mercury Prize nominated Laura Marling but once again serious problems with sound and, as a friend hit nail on head, "If you cannot what a folk-singer is saying there isn't much point is there?". Laura I will catch you again at one of your shows.
Apologies for lumping in legends such as The Waterboys into a summary segment but I have been lucky enough to see them a number of times now. The tracks I did catch were as energetic and brilliant as ever with "Be My Enemy" one of the highlights of the day.
Here We Go Magic - Cosby Stage at 7.30pm
The eponymous debut album was good and the follow-up Pigeons was even better so I made it my duty to catch these five Brooklynites on The Cosby Stage. Admittedly the day was not long at that stage but HWGM leapfrogged their way to the top of the "Show of the Day" ladder. Highlights included "Fangela" and "Surprise"
Jonsi - Electric Arena at 9pm
When members of a very popular band tour their solo albums most usually have the safety-net of cracking out a classic number from the past as a way of appeasing the crowd. This comes in especially handy at a festival. Jonsi, however, both does not have this luxury (as Sigur Ros' catalogue does not exactly contain many singalong tunes) and did not even have to consider for a second doing so. "Grow Till Tall" ended the show on whatever comes above a high. The show of the weekend hands down.
Eels - Crawdaddy at 10.50pm
I somehow managed to catch "This Is Not a Love Song" as I wandered by the Electric Arena en route to the Crawdaddy so that was a nice stroke of luck in what was turning out to be a clash nightmare. Eels rocked it up big style. I had not had the chance to hear the new album (the third released this year) so I didn't know a good few of the songs but still I really enjoyed it and they/he seemed to too! Good show to end the musical section of my night. How I managed to only make my way to my tent at 7am is beyond me!!!