It’ll take a bit of clever plan­ning to keep the pep in the Pic­nic

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY - Jim Car­roll on mu­sic For more see ir­ish­times.com/blogs/ on­there­cord

Melvin Benn said a very in­ter­est­ing thing at the Ban­ter dis­cus­sion about fes­ti­vals at the Elec­tric Pic­nic at the week­end. Asked where he thought the fes­ti­val would be in five years’ time, the Fes­ti­val Repub­lic boss, who now con­trols the Co Laois event after a le­gal bat­tle over own­er­ship with Pic­nic founder John Reynolds, talked about rel­e­vance. The im­por­tant thing for a fes­ti­val like the Pic­nic, he said, was to re­main rel­e­vant.

It’s a strik­ing ob­ser­va­tion in a year when the event ef­fort­lessly in­creased its ca­pac­ity to 41,000. By push­ing back the fences and stages on those 600 acres of well-drained land in the mid­dle of Strad­bally (and mak­ing sure there were more than 1,090 por­taloos on site), Benn and his team ac­co­mo­dated the ex­tra num­bers with­out any bother.

This meant there was room for both old favourites and new ar­rivals such as Other Voices. It en­sured that the Pic­nic mix of old timers, fam­i­lies, beardy hip­sters, fer­vent mu­sic fans with pages of bands to see and new­bies tak­ing the air for the first time had plenty of room to roam. Com­plaints were few to non-ex­is­tent. A has­sle-free week­end for all.

But when Benn talks about rel­e­vance, he knows that main­tain­ing the Pic­nic’s cur­rent tra­jec­tory will re­quire care­ful plan­ning. There’s cer­tainly scope to add another few thou­sand to the ca­pac­ity and bring in a mil­lion in rev­enue, but what ef­fect will this have on the Pic­nic’s vibe?

After all, a fes­ti­val called Ox­e­gen sold 80,000 tick­ets in 2009 and five years on, it’s not just ir­rel­e­vant but non-ex­is­tent. You can go from hero to zero that quickly. Pun­ters are fickle and what works in 2014 might not wash in 2016. It will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see how the Pic­nic pro­gresses in its teenage years and where it will be five years from now.

Hozier helped keep things peppy in Strad­bally this year

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