Everyone has their own “things”. Things they like to do such as reading, singing, blogging.. Even festivals like Oxygen, Body & Soul and Electric Picnic. I’m no different you see but going to festivals was something I never took an interest in. Through out my life I’ve found myself suffering from very bad spells of social anxiety. I’ve gone from loving surrounding myself with people to hating it. I’ve thrived in groups and had almost complete break-downs and panic attacks when surrounded by those I’m unfamiliar with. It can be terrifying and utterly unpredictable but I manage! I’m more of a face your fears kind of gal so when I won two Electric Picnic tickets in work it was no exception.
There were very clear stages of processing winning the tickets, approaching the date and actually being there. The first of course was pure shock and excitement! I couldn’t believe I had won anything, let alone tickets for EP. I never win anything and entered the competition when bored on my break! Coming closer to the dates the fear really started to set in. I was going to be surrounded by people at all times. People I had never met before and people who were going to be completely out of their minds on who knows what. It really started to become visible on my face the days just before. I was really stressed out. I worked a full week before we left so I was already exhausted and hiding emotions was not easy. I was upset with myself for not just selling the tickets and making a mint but being a coward in the process. Pride always seems to win.
I worked until 21:00 the Thursday before. I had brought all of my EP gear with me to work, looking like a fool in the process because I wore my welly boots to work. I left my uniform in the store, walked to the bus stop with my boyfriend and we stayed in my parents house in Dublin to be sure to get an early bus down to Laois. With three hours sleep under our belts we got the 08:30 coach to EP. We arrived at 10:00 and were set-up in Hendrix camp site by 10:30. We held spaces for our friends (turned out not enough when they arrived, four hours later) while it took me a good hour to adjust to my surrounding. I spent that hour in the tent. Firstly not even looking outside, then slowly bringing myself to look out at my brief neighbours and then eventually standing out of the tent to take selfies with himself.
When everyone else arrived, we went for a wander. The sun was shining but we weren’t in the best of moods. Getting there and saving spots was one hell of an ordeal and we were simply fed up and tired. Eventually, we went to meet our housemate who was working at the festival for the weekend. He kindly brought all our heavy luggage i.e. our cans. We easily slipped into the security car park and the traders campsite for a few cans before heading into the arena feeling a lot more positive about the weekend. My mother had received special House Guest bands for Casa Bacardi (thank God, the only place with REAL toilets) so we spent some time there to get our free drink and the five or six proceeding drinks.
At around 21:00 we went to see The 1975 who I’ve had phases of listening to repeatedly so I was over the moon to finally get to see them live. They were awesome. 10/10 would see again. For the first twenty minutes I was completely lost in the music and forgot all about the people around me with no bother. We did move back from the centre of things after a while though because I became more and more aware of the people around me and how lost they were in their heads and it definitely wasn’t the same kind of lost.
We stuck around to see the Chemical Brothers and were briefly split up. I feel like as someone who was feeling very anxious around so many people, I actually handled the situation very well. I quickly walked towards where my housemate was working but found Calvin before I managed to get there. Before having time to process the split we made a dash for the woods to find one of my all time favourite Irish artists Cathy Davey. She was launching her new album “New Forest” and there was no way I was going to miss it. We literally ran through the woods looking for Hazel Wood.
It was almost magical to follow her voice through the mass of trees and half humans. She sounded more beautiful live than I had ever imagined. I felt instantly at ease listening to her. I stood next to a fire and defrosted inside and out. I can’t deny it, there was sadness at the back of my mind. Someone very close to my heart introduced me to Cathy Davey and at the moment we’re not on speaking terms. I miss her on a daily basis and not a moment passes without me thinking of her but it was a lot stronger listening to Cathy because I knew how much she would have loved it. An experience for discussion in a different post perhaps. I focused on the good memories rather than bad. It had already been a long and tough day. On the bright side, Cathy was the perfect bed time preparation. So we made our way back to our crowded tent space and tried to sleep.
Sleep was difficult. Mainly because it was non-existent. The music carried on until the wee hours of the morning and people continued the party around us. I think I fell asleep around 06:00. At 09:00 on Saturday morning, we “moved house” in the pouring rain as many on-lookers claimed. They say to choose your campsite wisely and we clearly did not. We made our way back to the Joplin campsite where my friends had ended up after the disastrous camp set up the previous day. There was so much space. I could finally breathe. It was close enough to hear music but not so close that the carnival rides weren’t blaring their music in your ears. There were plenty of places to pick up coffee, tea, food, extra bits and piece close by. CLEAN PORTALOOS! Perfect.
My favourite memories made at this festival were walking around in the mornings to check out bits and pieces here and there, walking through the woods and popping in to the smaller acts and spending time at the tents with a few girls (and Calvin) with a few cans, having a bit of craic. I felt zero need to get drunk or fucked up in any way because the people around me were going hard enough for the both of us. It proved the better option though. I made new friends who I look forward to see again soon hopefully!
Despite all the horrors of the first day, I had an absolute blast. We got to see the likes of James Bay, Animal Collective, New Order and Lana Del Rey. We even found some smaller acts we really liked such as Daft As Punk, a tribute band blaring only the best of Daft Punk who no longer play gigs themselves (saw them in 2006, are you jealous?), and Fangclub who were on a different level altogether with very Nirvana-esque music style. There seemed to be a lot of DJs present which disappointed me a little because as a first-time goer I was actually hoping for more bands to be present.
We were sure to check out some of the “extra curricular” activities too. For example, being the nerds we are, we couldn’t stay away from the Science Gallery in Mindfield. Many interesting things and a few familiar faces! We were taught about the science of coffee, we made buttons and a record clock and we got to try on a new jacket developed to protect children and celebrities in sensitive court cases from the press. There was so much to offer and so little time.
The advice given is to go with no plan and go with the flow. I didn’t follow this and had an amazing time. I got to see the things I wanted and some new fresh things that I may never have thought to attend. I suppose the best way to do it is keep in mind the acts you want to see but don’t stress if you can’t make it in time because you never really know what you’ll find! Having said that it’s important to keep in mind that I’m a complete control freak and love having structure and order in my life. I can barely sleep at the moment because my room is messy!
With every new experience you learn something new about yourself and during my time at EP I learnt that for one I definitely don’t have a drinking problem after only drinking five cans and maybe four or five drinks from the Casa Bacardi bar for the whole weekend! I can’t judge those who completely indulged by having too much to drink or taking something more but I can say I’m glad I wasn’t one of them. I also learnt that I’m a lot stronger than I feel sometimes. There were times where I really panicked and by removing myself from the situation and taking a breather I managed to thoroughly enjoy my weekend without having to get completely wasted to try avoid my issues or leaving the festival altogether.
If I had to, I would give the whole experience a 7/10 simply because the first day was so shabby and tiring. I was also exhausted the whole weekend and was left feeling uncomfortable because not only was I around hundreds of people but they were people who were out of their minds on one drug or another. You really can’t predict what someone like that could do. I don’t have anything against those who have done or do drugs but I can’t say I feel safe around strangers who are on something. Had I been more rested and if you’re someone who doesn’t have anxiety around large groups there is potential for a 10/10 but due to unfortunate circumstances I can’t justify it!
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