If you happen to see a sheep wandering lonely next weekend in a distant, yonder field at the Electric Picnic, please spare a thought for the fact that one of the best acts at the festival in Stradbally once described himself as sounding like just such a woolly ruminant mammal…

“I was crap when I was 17,” Gavin James told me in 2015. “I used to sound like a sheep.”

Asked to elaborate, Gavin, who grew up in Stoneybatter in Dublin, where presumably sheep were not in abundance, answered with a laugh: “I had a weird quivery thing. A really ridiculous vibrato thing!

“For years, I would do that – then the next day when I‘d wake up, I wouldn‘t be able to talk,” he said. Gavin then added: “My dad‘s a postman – and he used to come home every day with a different mix-tape for me. Random stuff – James Taylor with Jimi Hendrix or Van Halen. Then one day he brought home a Sam Cooke tape – amazing stuff.”

This possibly paled in comparison with Gavin – who was in and out of hospital in Dublin as a kid with asthma – when aged six using his nebulizer to sing a sublime, if particularly surreal, rendition of Michael Jackson‘s Man In The Mirror.

Hearing Gavin, who has a touch of Van Morrison to his natural un-nebulizer voice, you can immediately understand why no less a pop star than Ed Sheeran made this proclamation a few years ago: “If you ignore Gavin James, you are missing out on a lot.”

The Electric Picnic promises to be a vintage year for Irish acts performing at the fab festival in County Laois. Allow me to tell you why.

For starters, Wyvern Lingo: the Holy Trinity of Karen Cowley, Caoimhe Barry and Saoirse Duane who gave the nation and – possibly the world – their debut album release this year.

Then there is HamsandwicH: Niamh and Podge et al are as good a live band as any on their night.

You could say the same for Delorentos: True Surrender is a wonderful album made by lines like “I see stormy weather coming at me across the great water, it‘s a true surrender like I‘ve been longing for… I went missing when it mattered…”) And The Coronas, where do you begin? Trust The Wire was one of the albums of last year with Danny O‘Reilly at his most self-seeking – or possibly even self-obliterating – with lines like “Is there a wrong time to be alive?” and “When will I know how that feels?”

Kerry‘s Walking On Cars are all about feelings in their music. Indeed, I recall a few years ago asking them about their music‘s general lyrical concerns, to which Patrick Sheehy said: “I tend to write about things that bother me.”

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And what‘s that? “Being broke,” he answered. “There‘s a few songs about being broke. Social anxiety. That kind of stuff.”

I asked Sorcha Durham what bothered her. “I‘m a total stress-head,” laughed Sorcha. “Sometimes I bother you!” joked Patrick.

In any event, Walking On Cars will doubtless continue on a path that, as The Irish Times said in 2016, will see the “Dingle band avoiding the pedestrian route”.

Whatever their route, Picture This has taken over the world this year and will be a joy to see at the Picnic next weekend.

And I haven‘t even mentioned Other Voices (The Lost Brothers, David Kitt, David Keenan, Booka Brass, etc), or The Jerry Fish Sideshow that will feature Le Galaxie, The Frank and Walters, Mick Flannery, C.C. Brez, The Minutes, Loah, Murder Capital, Pontious Pilot and The Naildrivers, Ceili All Stars, Everything Shook Silverbacks and many more.

There are sufficient sublime musicians performing to have you whistling top tunes for the rest of the year.

It would be worth making the trek to Stradbally alone just for the Irish acts, and that‘s before you factor in the likes of Prodigy, Kendrick Lamar, St Vincent and Massive Attack.

Sunday Indo Living