Nine years on Knockanstockan is still a beacon for promoting Irish music. It’s a testament to its longevity and excellence that it is sold out yet again. The vibes over the weekend are relaxed with the weather more or less being on its best behaviour. As per usual, the GoldenPlec team were there in force to snap, report and hand out 2,000 odd festival timetables.

It wouldn’t be like Knockanstockan to opt for a slow start when it could blast into action instead. Friday’s opening act the Witch Trials sent the festival into an immediate psychedelic overdrive. Featuring saxophone nestled alongside the traditional guitar/bass/drums formation; the Witch Trials swept the Faerie Field into a vortex of mellow, spacey jams. While the sax kept a smooth jazz feel to things, the rest of the band cut loose into gusts of proggy intensity, laced with droning vocals and chugging guitars. The result was equal parts hypnotic and highly danceable, and served as a fine starter to the weekend’s musical menu. (BO’R)

It’s a tough ask to play disco-fuelled electro-pop to an audience that’s more interested in lying on the grass and drinking a few beers than dancing, but even in a club full of folks who’d dance to literally anything, Discopunks would struggle to make a lasting impression. That’s not to say that the recent arrivals on the Dublin music scene aren’t capable at what they do. The instrumentals are a solid LCD Soundsystem soundalike, and lead vocalist Keith certainly doesn’t lack energy as he throws himself around the stage and drops a barrage of free flowing lyrics. The problem is that it’s all a little bland. After such a memorable promo campaign in the lead up to their arrival, in real life, Discopunks sound pretty same-y and forgettable, delivering a set of beige songs that fail to stand apart from each other. (BO’R)

Kicking Bird are the Swiss army knife of Irish folk music, able to tackle a whole spectrum of genres from alt-folk to Americana with the odd spot of yodelling for good measure. That might appear as disconcerting as spinning around a stick before trying to take a penalty kick but Kicking Bird are slick enough to marry them all together seamlessly. They drop in some ukulele and harmonica where required but what really makes them stand out are Shannen Byrne’s and Michael Smith’s vocal harmonies. They feature prominently throughout the set particularly on Nowhere To Die. (FH)

The Wishbone Stage at KnockanStockan is intimate enough as it is but on Friday, it hosted the most intimate show of the weekend. There’s a reason that Conor Linnie is known as the gentleman of the Irish music scene. As the heavens opened minutes into his set, Linnie took himself and his band to the back of the stage and invited the crowd on to the stage under its roof. It made an already enjoyable show an even more special one with Crash Bandicoot Blues being the highpoint as the stage creaked and shuddered under the incessant toe tapping. (NS)

The obligatory festival downpour ensured promising upstarts Bagels pulled a large crowd into The Dimestore Circus Tent. A lengthy sound-check had the expectant crowd waiting for fireworks but unfortunately, it turned out to be a damp squib. Bagels were hampered by sound issues during the first four songs with Adam Redmond’s vocals were barely audible. Though Bagels youthful exuberance insured they played with sufficient recklessness, they were playing catch up trying to compensate for the lack of a key component in their music. With such a large crowd in attendance, it felt like a missed opportunity for Bagels to really impress, though the sound issues did them no favours. (FH)

Overhead, The Albatross are old hands on the live scene in Ireland despite only being on the cusp of releasing their long-awaited debut album. The Burrow stage was running slightly behind schedule yet the crowd had turned up at the allotted stage time ready and waiting. The delay only heightened the sense of anticipation. Overhead, The Albatross were on confident form, even playing old crowd favourite Pignometry early on whereas they used to rely on keeping it until the end of their set. The newer material is suitably epic, reaching for the cosmos and yet rooted in emotion with stirring strings and keys. (FH)

At the opposite end of the post rock scale to Overhead, The Albatross are Megacone. They’re no stranger to GoldenPlec having recently played a GoldenBeck gig in The Workman’s Club. Megacone’s songs are much more succinct than their more experienced post rock peers. The tone also differs, with Megacone embracing an altogether snappier approach that places the emphasis on having fun. It’s typified by songs like Ouncy Castle and new tune Crocodile Dundalk, which explode and crackle like popping candy. (FH)

Just when you think all the good band names have been taken, along come an act with a moniker so fierce it’s pretty much impossible to ignore on a festival timetable. Or maybe it was Bitch Falcon’s growing reputation as a blisteringly good live act that drew such a big crowd to the Burrow Stage to see the alternative/grunge trio. Said reputation should only be increased after this set, which pummelled its audience with the super-heavy yet deftly executed Bitch Falcon sound. Guitarist/vocalist Lizzie Fitzpatrick roared her way through the distortion-soaked Syncope and Wolfstooth, elevating the Knockanstockan noise levels way beyond the point where you’d expect the neighbours to start complaining. New single TMJ, which sets the sludgy power of previous songs aside in order to explore new, more diverse alt-rock territory than before, closed the show with aplomb. (BO’R)

To cap Friday night off GoldenPlec wandered over to the impressive Burrow main stage to see O Emperor. The Waterford natives are hugely underrated songwriters with recent ‘Lizard’ EP a highly impressive release. Songs like Trash Club, Switchblade and Contact distil all that is good about ’70s rock. They also include a smooth as cover of The Delfonics La La I Love You. Watching O Emperor play live, they are consummate musicians making it all appear so easy yet it nags in the back in the mind that with a little bit more showmanship they could become a more complete specimen. (FH)