All roads lead to Stradbally for the last of the summer festivals, so Naoise Wolsey packed her tent and went to join the masses at Electric Picnic 2008.


Most of us are feeling festival fatigue by now. Barely leaving the house this summer was enough to trip over a guy rope and pay over the odds for a pint of pissy American beer, and the last date in the festival diary was Electric Picnic.

Grumblings about the inferior line-up, hiked ticket prices, and the thoughts of building a Noah’s arc type structure out of tents and beer cans to escape the inevitable floods, all put a dampener on the Picnic buzz in the months preceding the festival.

But as everyone knows, we Irish folk love nothing better than a good moan about the weather, accompanied by an Eddie Hobbs-style rant about prices.

So we snaffled up all 35,000 tickets anyway, boarded buses, trains, cars, bicycles, and any other form of transport that could carry a four-man tent, and made our merry way to Laois.

Like a pack of stealthy welly-wearing ninjas we descended on the fields of Stradbally with tents, tipi’s and podpads popping up effortlessly across all four campsites.

At least that was how it was supposed to happen. Lifelong boy scouts aside, the rest of us camping plebs had an arduous battle with pegs, poles and diagrams with instructions that were more confusing than an episode of Lost.

Once our weekend residences had been constructed and everyone had met their new neighbours, it was time to see if there was any truth in the rumours that Electric Picnic is on the way out.

The short answer is no. If good times, great music and fun loving people were pieces of chocolate, then going to the Picnic is like being blindfolded and having Mr Rocher force feed you.

Music-lovers were lured by the many pied pipers who filled the seven stages for the weekend, but unlike other festivals who bamboozle you with the array of headlining acts, this year’s EP had a different appeal.

If you’re not a complete music guru, you’re likely to only recognise a handful of the bands on offer each day, forcing you to wander wherever your ear takes you, feeding like a zombie on the raw, fresh talent to be discovered at very turn.

On Friday there was the electro beats of Jape, Goldfrapp and Digitalism, along with the folk-stylings of Kíla and Christy Moore, topped off with a magical sprinkling of the ever ethereal Sigur Rós, leaving the crowds drooling like toothless toddlers in anticipation of how good this weekend was going to be.

Saturday saw Cathy Davey, Crystal Castles, Underworld and the funk vibe of George Clinton to name but a few.

On Sunday morning the 130 decibels of My Bloody Valentine’s sound check caused hungover campers to shoot bolt upright from their sleep, a subtle reminder to pack some earplugs for the amazing MBV set. On the same day CSS tore up the electro arena while Sex Pistols, well, they were interesting.

And that’s just the music. Adam Hills and Jason Byrne left everyone in the comedy tent crying with laughter, there were life size green elephants, the body and soul area, bingo, the silent disco, the wooden Temple of Truth, the rave in the woods, snowball fights, the circus and a whole myriad of other treats.

Facility wise, the food was great, where else could you have an Indian curry for breakfast (not advisable considering the state of the port-a-loos), pie and mash for lunch and paella for dinner? Campsites were just a few minutes walk from the main arena, and queues for the bar were quite reasonable.

Even the wasp invasion and the painful five-hour drive down the M7 couldn’t wipe the smiles off anyone’s face.

Electric Picnic, we think we love you.