I see the Electric Picnic will be on the telly this weekend. This isn’t a first for the Stradbally three-day music festival, as RTÉ TWO were there in 2006 with Tom Dunne and Jenny Huston.

This time round the same channel are giving four hours over on Saturday night to the less-boutique-than-it-used-be three-day gathering in Co Laois, hosted by Eoghan McDermott and Jenny Greene.

It’s not quite the BBC’s multi-channel near-saturation annual coverage of Glastonbury but hey, it’s better than nothing.

To be honest, though, I was quite surprised when I heard that even that small chunk was going to shown. Because today music on television generally doesn’t rate; at least not well enough to normally interest those in charge of commissioning programmes.

If I had a penny for every time I’ve been told this over the last 10 years as I optimistically pitched yet another TV music idea I’d have, well, a small bag of pennies.

You’d think I’d have learned from the very first television idea I ever pitched – a music series, natch, which never made it past the proposal stage – some twenty five years ago

It wasn’t always like this, of course…though this may well be just the nostalgia talking.

But the likes of Top Of The Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Test, The Tube, Megamix…even MT-USA, they were all of a different era when competition for eyeballs from all directions, not just other TV channels, was immeasurably smaller.

Then in the early ‘90s as MTV began to discover there was mileage in reality telly – who remembers the original of the species, The Real World? – signalling their rapid move away from their non-stop music television video origins, Channel 4’s TFI Friday and The Word put their own particular anarchic stamps on the age old chat-show format, in the process throwing live music a small TV lifeline.

Closer to home No Disco’s 10 year no-budget hipster-heaven run from 1993 tucked away in RTÉ TWO’s late-night graveyard shift showed how much it was valued by Montrose’s powers-that-be.

Meanwhile that Other Voices had more recently to find its own funding after RTÉ pulled theirs after a few series shows if anyone still doubts it that if we don’t watch live music on TV in enough numbers networks won’t want it…unless of course they get it for next to nada.

But what about the long-running BBC television music fest, Later…with Jools Holland, I hear you ask? (I don’t, obviously, but I’m guessing a few of you are at least thinking it.)

Yup, Later’s the exception that proves the rule; there mostly because it’s become an immovable institution since its 1992 debut just because it’s been around so long. Sure, it’s regularly had its moments over the years, but ask yourself, would it get commissioned today? I seriously doubt it.

It’s not all bad news. Two of my favourite ever television jobs were on music programmes, albeit a pair of very brief one-offs.

Feile TV 2

In 1995, after five years rocking out in Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary, the three-day Feile festival hightailed it to Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork. And we eventually persuaded RTÉ TWO that they really needed to be there as well. Feile TV was born and myself, Ray D’Arcy and Dustin (a once famous turkey puppet for those you not old enough) fronted their extensive live coverage that hot and sweaty August weekend.

And we had a blast. I’ll maybe come back to its many highlights another day. Remind me to tell you about the goodies Black Grape offered me *just* as I was about to interview them on camera. Eejits.

We never got to do it again unfortunately as the planning laws at the time – sorry, Garth, these fiascos are nothing new – scuppered any further outdoor Feiles, an awful indoor version the following year in Dublin’s Point Theatre (now the O2) signalling its sad demise.

Five years later I came back from London to co-present with Darragh Purcell the inaugural (and only, unhappily) Witnness TV weekend on a nascent TV3. Once again fun and games were had.

Witnness 4Though we must have done some work because I remember I only got to actually see fifteen minutes of one act – the wonderful Beck – all weekend…and that only because someone spotted REM’s Michael Stipe side-stage and we got dragged over from our backstage set-up in the hope that we might grab a quick interview with him. For some reason he declined our kind offer.

Witnness (the double-n was because of Uncle Arthur’s sponsorship) became the die-hard Oxegen a few years later but it never returned to our television screens, TV3, I imagine, quickly realising that mucky, smelly music festivals weren’t for them. Xposé it wasn’t.

So Electric Picnic’s back on our screens, even if only for a few short hours. Enjoy. I’m sure I’ll flick over to it occasionally. And not feel even remotely jealous they never asked me to work on it.


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24 Comments. Leave new

  • Paul Bushnell
    August 28, 2014 7:42 pm

    ST VINCENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • How much does a TV show actually cost a TV network Pat? How expensive can a TV music show actually be anyway?

    • Depends. Is it shot in studio or on location? Live or as a pre-record? All in Ireland or abroad too? Then it depends on what resources you throw at it; you could make one for very little or pump a decent amount of cash into it like the BBC do with Later. The trouble is, enough folk generally don’t watch them either way to make it worth a channel’s investment. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how the new Imelda May show on RTÉ ONE does.

  • Really really enjoyed reading this. It’s sad that we don’t get more gig and festival exposure over here on TV anymore. I remember Féile TV and Uncle Arthur’s Sponsored offering. And enjoyed both and the same. No, we’ll probably never have the luxury of the multiscreen Glasto offering they’re fed in the UK. But how long will EP continue? As much as I love the festival what’s it’s longevity factor? Sadly my championship football schedule now tears me from it but I hope to revisit it at some point before my being decides I can’t cope with the elements.

    I digress. Great read Pat.

  • Niamh Mc Donald
    August 30, 2014 12:08 am

    There’s around 8,000 more people at this year’s EP, I’d be curious to hear if it makes much of a difference- boutiquey that ain’t!
    As for TV, ah, I’m getting old but that doesn’t alter the fact that MTV is unwatchable- what does the ‘M’ stand for now?
    I’d watch boxsets of MT USA though! 😀
    And hey, Michael Stipe’s loss!

    • I missed all the early EPs cos I wuz in Lahndan, innit? So I’ll take their word that it was once boutiquey (good word, missus).

      And who’s Michael Stipe again? 😛

  • pat – a great read…you never lost it…let’s hope you never do either…at a minimum, you’re the voice of wisdom…….

  • If RTE won’t do it that’s ok with me because the quality of programming on the station I, along with most of the nation, funds is dreadful. I’m not willing to wade through it. Other Voice is “ok” but too precious and worthy for it’s own good. Almost like going to mass.

    Lowest common denominator TV3 , to use a technical term, can go an’ shite with it’s lousy bottom feeder attracting muck.

    Even Saint Jools has become stale and predictable. Every other show there’ll be something truly good interspersed by noseflute players from Nepal and average blues wailers.

    In the last couple of years I have found so much music online in HD and often in 5.1 also. Well produced shows and one offs from around the world. Usenet and YouTube feeds my habit. Playlists of exactly what I like and a chance to explore without executive producer censorship.

  • You forgot about the Val Doonican show…..maybe you were in London when that was on too!!!!!

  • The real shame of the lack of an “edgy” Irish music show is that there is no visual record of the likes of Light A Big Fire, The Bone Shakers, The Baby Snakes, A House, Dump The Dummy, Rex and Dino, Giant etc etc etc

  • great read Pat… I’m tempted to interrupt the flow here… and couldn’t agree more… however… I urge the powers that be to bring back the Nighthawks format… it had it all… comedy… music… poetry… storytelling and room for lots more (like fest feeds)… and not just because I worked on the show… but more than ever, I can see how RTE TWO and 2FM could make a simulcast killing….(aka the beep only better) They have ALL the resources. Looking forward to tonight’s offering on TWO. You make a great argument mate… respect as always edskii x

  • Enjoyed the read Pat. As Noel put it – No, we’ll probably never have the luxury of the multiscreen Glasto offering they’re fed in the UK- as Ireland is miniscule in comparison to the Uk market I’d imagine. I think its great that there will be coverage full stop. Poor Pat, I am sure you would have rocked it. Bring back Nighthawks. Great Irish storytelling, music and more art I say, more ART! Food for thought eh 🙂

  • Hey Pat,

    Myself and a few headbangers made a low-budget series called The Parlour this year.(With a little help from the BAI).


    We featured the likes of Sleaford Mods, The Handsome Family, Rusangano and lots more.

    You would dig it, I’d say.

    Oh and I think that puppets should present more music shows. But thats just me…


    • You also featured the bould Ian Wilson, so respect.

      Mind, minus marks for not featuring me. Yiz feckers.

      And here’s to more puppet masters.


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