Electric Picnic began as a one-day event in 2004, before growing to a weekend-long festival within a year, and becoming a three day affair in 2006. It is rapidly gaining ground on Oxegen as the most popular Irish music festival with the 2006 festival selling out faster than any other year. Oxegen, which sold out in record time for the 2007 festival, was low to sell tickets for its 2008 festival. The festival also incorporates other attractions such as the 24-hour cinema tent, the Body and Soul arena (offering an ambient lounge with beanbags, massages and tarot card readings), the International Comedy Tent (curated by Des Bishop) and a silent disco. In 2008, Amnesty International attended the festival to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whilst renowned American Burning Man artist, David Best constructed a Temple of Truth on site.
Electric Picnic 2009 will take place at Stradbally from September 4-6. On Friday October 10 2008, a limited number of ‘Early Bird’ tickets go on sale at the 2008 price of €199, which includes camping.
Electric Picnic 2008 took place at Stradbally from 29 - 31 August, attended by 35,000 people. Presale tickets went on sale on November 9 2007 and full price tickets went on sale on Friday March 28 at 9 p.m., costing €240 including camping, with the various sites opening at 9 a.m. on Friday August 29. Tickets had sold out by June 17.
Sigur Rós, George Clinton and Sex Pistols headlined. Other musicians appearing included Franz Ferdinand, My Bloody Valentine, German rockers Faust , Tindersticks, The Breeders, Grinderman, Goldfrapp, Gossip, CSS, Duffy, Foals, Hadouken!, Wilco, The Roots, Turin Brakes, Carbon/Silicon, Conor Oberst and New Young Pony Club. Irish acts to appear included Kíla, The Stunning, Sinéad O'Connor, Christy Moore, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Boss Volenti, The Waterboys, The Flaws, Ham Sandwich, Fred, Super Extra Bonus Party, Jape, Lisa Hannigan, Le Galaxie Cathy Davey, Gemma Hayes and Mark Geary. Also attending were Amnesty International, which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a singalong of "Happy Birthday" on the Sunday night.
The 2008 festival was thrown into jeopardy in June of that year when the Irish Music Rights Organisation said Pod Concerts had no right to run the festival again. IMRO sought more than €432,000 from the promoter because of royalties allegedly not paid from a series of music festivals, including Lovebox and Garden Party, over the past four years. The organisers had to make reassurances that the festival was in no doubt or jeopardy.
Electric Picnic 2007 was once again a three day event and ran from 31 August until 2 September. The festival maintained its current size of 32,500 festival goers and kept all the same elements plus some new additions. "Early-bird" tickets for the 2007 festival went on sale between Monday 11 December 2006, and Saturday 24 February 2007, costing €199, taking into account the VAT that must now be paid on all outdoor events. Full price tickets went on sale on Tuesday April 3 at a price of €220. The first acts were officially announced on Monday April 2.
Besides the music other attractions included an inflatable church offering mock weddings, luxury tents, massage chambers, a fairground and silent disco. Acii Disco DJs began the festival on the Friday at 12 p.m. in the Bodytonic Tent. Amongst others to take to the stage on Friday were Björk, Hot Chip, Scott Matthews, Manic Street Preachers and Oppenheimer whilst the unnamed band responsible for The Good, the Bad and the Queen headlined the Electric Arena tent. The Sunday night was brought to a close by Primal Scream.
The festival was however marred by the death of a 23-year-old fan. The incident occurred as The Chemical Brothers came to a climax at 2 a.m. early on the Sunday morning. Organiser John Reynolds extended his sympathies and said: "A young man took ill at the festival, was treated at the medical centre, removed to Port Laoise Hospital and was later pronounced dead." Gardaí said they were not treating the death as suspicious.
In 2006 the festival gained momentum, with all 30,000 tickets (each costing €175 including camping) selling out more than seven weeks in advance. Presale tickets went on sale on Monday November 28 2005. The event took place on the weekend of September 1 – September 3 2006, with the line-up being revealed on Friday March 24. Artists who performed across the seven stages included Sparks, New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Basement Jaxx, Rufus Wainwright, Bloc Party, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gary Numan, François Kevorkian, Groove Armada, Damien Rice and The Frames. The Blue Nile's appearance was their only live performance of the year. The festival's biggest casualty was Gnarls Barkley who had to cancel their appearance after rapper/singer Cee-Lo strained his vocal cords. David McWilliams made an appearance as a celebrity. RTÉ Two televised the festival, with a special RTÉ Two Green Room being set up at Stradbally Hall Estate for presenters Tom Dunne and Jenny Huston.
The 2005 festival took place on Saturday September 3 and Sunday September 4. It is best be remembered for Arcade Fire's performance which came before their subsequent mainstream success. Headlining acts included Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Kraftwerk, The Flaming Lips, Röyksopp, Mercury Rev and The Human League.
The premiere of "Electric Picnic: The Documentary" took place at the Irish Film Institute on Tuesday July 4 2006 at 7pm. The documentary was filmed by a small camera crew who recorded the events of Electric Picnic 2005. Narrated by musician Nick Seymour and economist David McWilliams, the documentary includes footage from Kraftwerk's first recorded live performance in twelve years plus interviews with the performing bands and comedians, with a few festival-goers and with the locals of Stradbally Village, who claimed: "We get more trouble at the Vintage Steam Rally".