Friday marks the beginning of the Oxegen festival at Puchestown racecourse, the first time the festival will be a three-day event, taking a nod from the mother of all festivals, last weekend's Glastonbury bash in Pilton, Somerset. And while the Electric Picnic is more modelled on Glasto in terms of its socially conscious, charity-centred ethos, Oxegen, by virtue of timing if nothing else, has much more in common with the British festival musically than the late-August shindig in Stradbally.
In fact, of the six Oxegen headliners (on the two biggest stages each night) three headlined the biggest stages in Glastonbury: Kings of Leon (who play the Oxegen main stage on Friday), The Verve (the main stage on Saturday) and The National (the Pet Sounds stage on Saturday).
Kings of Leon were an unlikely choice for Glasto, given their lack of recognisable hits, but in Ireland this seems to be no impediment to popularity. Radio stations simply don't play the music people listen to; they play the music they think people should be listening to. Most UK reviewers who saw the Kings' show didn't really understand it and considered it a bit dull. But the point is that Kings of Leon play their songs, play them really well and leave the stage. No fireworks, no bullshit. Musically, they're on the money. Ditto The National, who have already brought their understated brilliance to Dublin a bunch of times this year. If you want to go see "a show", go to The Killers in Marlay Park.
The decision to put The Verve as headliners on Saturday night is mildly odd, but then the demographic at Oxegen is such that Richard Ashcroft and Co are slightly less old and decrepit than REM, which is itself somewhat bizarre, when you consider that The Verve's last hit was 11 years ago and the band have been 'on hiatus' since then.
How and ever, the wow factor in their reunion and the anticipation of their August comeback album is enough to see them head the bill.
Personally, I'd rather clean my toilet with a toothbrush than watch The Verve, but there you go.
Another interesting choice at Oxegen is the addition of Amy Winehouse, fourth on the bill on the main stage on Saturday night. Much has been written about Winehouse and her troubles, but the bizarre thing about her performance in Glastonbury was how so many people seemed to miss the point. TV cameras didn't do justice to the car crash that Winehouse has become.
Feted for simply making it to the stage, there was nothing in her performance to suggest that she was finding even the merest respite from her troubles in her music. Afraid, paranoid, disconnected, she ambled about the stage firing suspicious looks at her backing band (who included members of The Specials). And when she went into the crowd, memories of the antipathy Kurt Cobain had for his fans were brought to mind as she threw a few digs at some of the dumbasses who thought they were at a great show.
Hearing assorted commentators excitedly describe her as the Janis Joplin of her generation just makes her inevitable demise even more pathetic.
Contrast this with Leonard Cohen, who at 73 is almost 50 years her senior and displayed more life, passion and sexiness than poor Amy. It's a shame the Oxegen bill doesn't include a greater quotient of older artists. But Cohen would be truly wasted among the GAA shirt-wearing drunken youths.
Groove Armada, who headlined the Other stage at Glastonbury, are an interesting choice to headline the O2 stage on Friday, in that I can't find one interesting thing to say about them.
One of this year's biggest breakthrough acts, MGMT, will be eagerly anticipated at Punchestown, despite the fact that they're comparatively low on the bill, coming on at 6.30pm on the Pet Sounds stage on Sunday.
The Sunday Tribune got to see one of their two Glastonbury shows last weekend, and after getting lost in Grateful Dead guitar noodles for the first part of their set, they finally gave the baying masses what they wanted to hear: 'Time to Pretend' and 'Kids'.
Elsewhere, the bill at Oxegen is a who's who of the brightest indie bands and dance acts, the vast majority of whom have played here at least once over the past year (and sometimes a lot more). Let's face it, we're spoiled and the live market is saturated at the moment due to the collapse in CD sales.
We've never had it so good.
It's a state of mind, man
What makes Glastonbury so special? That's what I wanted to know, and it's why I headed off on my first ever Glasto experience this year, dreading rain and mud, but beyond excited about what is essentially Mecca for festival fans.
'Vibe' is something that can't be bought, manufactured or transplanted. 'Vibe' is what makes Electric Picnic a more enjoyable festival than Oxegen, despite the latter having a far better line-up. Glasto is all about 'vibe'. People invest emotionally in the festival, and therefore make much more of an effort to participate. Which is why you'll find groups of guys walking around in tuxedos and horse-head masks, or the person who frightened the life out of the Sunday Tribune at 3am last Sunday morning, with a body suit made entirely out of lights transforming his head into a giant smiley face, and at the flick of a switch, a grimacing devil.
Instead of people falling around the place drunk, with guys starting fights or puking, and girls overly emotional come nightfall, the majority of people are off their heads on ecstasy or acid, which creates a surreal atmosphere of goodwill and general craziness.
And the attention to detail is phenomenal. Some areas are like going back in time to a hippy commune, others, massive film sets filled with other-worldly creations. The sense of exploration away from the main stages provides endless opportunities to stumble across things that seem direct from a crazed imagination. Something is thought up – giant mechanical animal robot chariot races at Trash City, for example – and then made reality.
Electric Picnic has attempted to recreate this, from nicking ideas like Lost Vagueness, gourmet food stalls, flags, teepees and other alternative accommodation. To an extent, it has worked. The Picnic does feel like a mini Glasto, if not as adventurous. Oxegen is this year focusing heavily on green issues, tapping into a popular topic and trying to earn some hippy credentials. Yet because of the age profile of the festival and the big-name acts, it's far more in the vein of English festivals like V or Reading.
Irish festivals have a long way to go, and at the moment are just weekend escapes, instead of Glasto's parallel universe, where social norms, constraints and the concept of order are postponed for a week. It's not really a festival, it's a state of mind, man.