Thursday, September 03, 2009

One Man's Electric Picnic is Another Man's Electric Chair

An Spailpín Fánach is a left hand thread in a right hand world.

All across Ireland tonight, An Spailpín Fánach’s generation will be getting themselves ready for the Electric Picnic, a boutique pop music event that is taking place outside Stradbally, County Laois, this weekend. In a field outside Stradbally, County Laois.

Tonight, ladies will hang up their kitten heels and root under the stairs for their Wellingtons. Wellingtons that cost sixty lids and are painted in tropes more psychedelic than is common back at the mart, but wellies nonetheless. Gentlemen, knights gallant of the practical sex, will take the tent out of its bag and count pegs, check groundsheets and make sure the mallet is packed and ready for violence against the pegs and the earth.

And on the northside of Dublin, in the House of Books and Spiders that is his lair and refuge, An Spailpín Fánach will reflect, once again, that these people are shelling out serious wedge in a recession to spend two or three nights outdoors, in a field. In the rain. What in damnation is the matter with them?

Some people say it’s the music. Music that makes staying in a field in Ireland in September worthwhile hasn’t been written, baby. And if it has, it hasn’t been written by the bagels who will strum a moody Rickenbacker at the Electric Picnic.

An Spailpín Fánach rather liked the Fleet Foxes album but, being both old and musically literate enough to be familiar with all four of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, it was hard indeed to listen to the Fleet Foxes album and not get an overpowering sense of Déjà Vu. And that was while domiciled in one’s own property. As opposed to sleeping in a field. In September. In Ireland.

An Spailpín Fánach can understand the appeal of the Electric Picnic, or Oxegen before it, for young people. It’s worth sleeping in a field if you’re a young person because Mammy and Daddy won’t be there, which means everything else is gravy after that fine start.

The problem for An Spailpin’s Fánach’s generation is that An Spailpín Fánach’s generation are Mammy and Daddy. They have no damn business sleeping in fields. There is nothing left to prove. You can afford gigs where you can retire to a bed at night, and enjoy hot water and flush toilets in the morning.

But An Spailpín Fánach is out of step. The culture now views grown adults cavorting in fields in the rain as some sort of – God, I don’t know, Green Party voters' sabbat I suppose. Have you seen that ad for tea on the television, where Grandmamma remarks to a young lady that one’s clothes didn’t get dirty at the rock concert in Grandmamma’s day because, darling, one simply didn’t wear any.

Are An Spailpín Fánach’s judgemental lips the only ones that cry “you dirty old slapper!” at Granny when that ad is on the telly?


There used to be a notion of the march of progress. Man evolves from the apes, makes tools, use the tools to make shelter, lives in shelter, learns how to eat sushi, pretends to like the absurdist theatre of Samuel Beckett, and so on. There are very few things that make reversing that evolutionary stream worthwhile, and sleeping outside of shelter, in a field, in Ireland, in September, in the rain is not one of those few things. And, God love him, neither is Damien Dempsey.

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