As the Festival season gets under way this weekend at Slane Castle I think it’s a fitting time to compare and contrast the experiences one can expect from Ireland’s two biggest Music Festivals, Oxegen and Electric Picnic. Though falling under the same general category of music festival, there is a sharp contrast between the two events and both target different audiences. So if the highlight of your summer is destined to be a camp-out with some tunes and friends you’d want to be very careful about making your selection.
The music aspect is just one of the festival experiences, be that as it may, the line up is paramount in choosing which to attend. Oxegen, being the hugely commercial event that it is, has a predictably mundane line up. In pattering to the masses, Oxegen has coughed up headliners in the form of the Killers, Kings of Leon and Snow Patrol. However Blur’s main stage appearance on the Friday night promises to be a truly memorable spectacle, lead by eccentric frontman Damen Albarn.
As always popular “talent” dominates the main stage, the kind likely to be heard on Irish radio so the sunburnt lads in the Kerry jerseys will be able to sing along. Lily Allen, Coronas, The Blizzards, Razorlight appear across the weekend. Saturday looks like being the best in terms of main stage performances with Bloc Party and Yeah Yeah Yeahs making appearances. Unsurprisingly one has to look further afield to find the more intriguing acts worth a watch. Stage 2 boasts a few exciting performances over the weekend such as Pendulum, The Mars Volta, The Gaslight Anthem and White Lies but these are spread out over the three days.
As was the case in 2005 and 2007, the years I braced the elements in Punchestown, the Green Spheres stage is the pick of the bunch. Friday’s line up is particularly impressive featuring 2 many DJ’s, Fight Like Apes, Mogwai and God is an Astronaut. In terms of dance acts Oxegen has pulled some big names but again they’re evenly spread out so one-day ticket holders could be disappointed. Saturday is the highlight with Tiga, Boys Noize, Digitalism and Dr. Lektroluv all taking the stage.
Targeting music lovers who don’t use Tony Fenton as their man source of new music, Electric Picnic provides a much more diverse line-up with far more interesting acts. You know what you’re going to get from the Killers and Kings of Leon, but the the Dublin Gospel Choir, not so much. Electric Picnic mixes well- known artists such as Bell X1, Damien Dempsey, Lisa Hannigan and the Klaxons with less renowned acts like Billy Bragg, Efterklang and Magnolia Electric Co. Dance giants, Basemant Jaxx, Orbital, Simian Mobile Disco will play alongside the likes of MGMT and post-rock legends Explosions in the Sky.
The ambiance of both festivals couldn’t be more different. Oxegen, after appearing on Mtv is seen by thousands of 16-20 year-olds as a “piss-up with 80,000 people”. The lack of genuine interest in music at Oxegen is astounding. Countless stories have been told of people passing out in their tents(provided it hasn’t been slashed and destroyed by a friendly festival-goer) and missing the only bands they actually wanted to see. Anarchy and belligerence appear to be high on the to-do list of the average punter at Oxegen.
Electric picnic on the other hand caters for a slightly older crowd who tend to see the benefits of not passing out in a pool of their own vomit. The whole event is delivered in a more mature, relaxed way. The facilities are much cleaner and the food is better. The relaxed nature of the weekend is summed up by a tent filled with been-bags and couches to help you unwind, such furniture would be seen as good fuel for the fire over in camp A at Oxegen.
So if you’re caught between two minds as to which festival you’d rather attend just ask yourself if you’d rather be showered in Dutch Gold as “da lads” give it socks for Mr. Brightside and Sex on Fire or would you prefer kicking back on a hammock listening to the melodic voice of Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan. I know what I’d pick.