It’s that time of year again that we all look forward to, no, we’re not talking about the let down that is the Irish summer, we’re on about Knockanstockan.
It’s the tenth anniversary for arguably the star the of Irish festival scene. The KS crew pulled out all the stops this year for the biggest edition ever. There was as usual a huge range of Irish talent in store and GoldenPlec were in attendance to suss what was going on.
Slow Place Like Home
Slow Place Like Home are deeply enjoyable but generally difficult to pin down. Their songs have a distinct 80s influence, drawing upon the kind of upbeat electric rolls and optimistic, triumphant air so typical of the era. However, producer Keith Mannion and co and use their superior skill and the modern technology newly available to them to reinvigorate an already familiar sound.
The Faerie Field was an ideal setting for recent releases such as Friday and Tiger Lilly (though the natural amphitheatre has incredible acoustics irrespective of who you are), and this reviewer personally appreciated their commitment to the red boiler-suit aesthetic despite that the outfit choice wasn’t suited to the weather at the time.
Chinese Newspaper were the first act of the weekend in The Dimestore Tent. It was a dishevelled rowdy set of surf rock from the Meath trio. They wasted little time in getting the audience to know what they were about, jumping into early crowd pleasers like Liquid which is the soundtrack to a thousand and one extreme sport montages.
It’s not an isolated belter either which is backed up by songs as catchy as Spotless Mind. Where it comes unstuck is around far too safe choice of covers like Fell In Love With a Girl where they could have turned a more risky choice of song into something truly wild. They eventually ran out of steam over the course of their set but Chinese Newspaper are still in their infancy and have an ear for a fine song. Their relative lack of showmanship can be worked on in the future. And that’s what Knockanstockan is all about, introducing the public to up and coming Irish acts and giving the acts themselves a stage to grow, nurture and develop their sound.
You couldn’t level a lack of showmanship against Thumper’s Oisin Furlong. It was his birthday and playing at Knockanstockan was just the icing on the cake. So what better way to celebrate than a spot of crowd surfing. This set was unhinged, and at times, looked like it was about to veer out of control but that was what made it so engrossing.
It had that element of unpredictability that made Thumper such an engaging live act. Songs like Dan The Man which are lo-fi on record were more vibrant and bursting with energy when played live. Enthusiasm like what Thumper displayed can’t be faked. If Knockanstockan is a platform for bands to announce themselves to a wider audience, then they grasped it with a barnstorming performance.
The increasing profile of rap music in the Irish music scene is a healthy sign of how high the standards are rising. Knockanstockan has witnessed an emergence of talented rap groups over the past few years. Deliverance from Rush (Dublin) take a more party line in their music, opposed to the en vogue rap groups of the moment such as Rusangano Family.
There is always a place for good time rap but too much of Deliverance’s set was completed with mediocre and by-the-numbers cover versions such as Rage Against The Machines’ Killing In The Name Of. When it came to their own original music, they aimed for humour but missed the mark especially on a song about the BBC and paedophilia where it felt crass rather than making you laugh out loud. Lyrics like “I’m going to unbuckabke my belt, unleash the demon. Gonna leave you in the corner, with your asshole bleeding” sum up the type of offering on show. Not to mention their uninspired and lazy rhymes like “Come here on the double, Deliverance in the house and you in deep deep trouble.”.
Deliverance then tried to encourage the crowd by offering bongs and pre-rolled joints to the audience, but it just felt too forced to really click – not to mention the crass, rude and lazy lyrics on offer.
The Eskies are probably one of the best live bands in Dublin right now. Their incredible ability to rouse a crowd means that one can enjoy their sets whether or not one is naturally attracted to their brand of gypsy folk music or not. If anything, songs such as ‘Jesus Don’t Save Me’ seem relatively flat when heard outside of a live performance. The throngs of people sprinting to the stage as ‘Fever’ began evinced the extent to which their performing acumen is legendary, with the field filled enough that dancers were spilling into the outer O’Hara’s Bar and portaloo areas.
It was interesting to note the level of confusion going around over the band’s catchphrase “Up the Parish!”, which they yelled intermittently to raucous applause. One attendees asked her friend with confusion “Are they some sort of Christian rock band?”. For the record, they are not, and the phrase stems from a joke from Knockans of years gone by, demonstrating the extent of their long history with the Wicklow festival. If you didn’t manage to see the Eskies this time, it is advised that you do everything in your power to catch their next show.
In the days leading into Knockanstockan, rumours had been circulating furiously as to the identity of the five special guests. The clues had been pointing that Northern Irish rockers Ash could be one of them. It turned out to be true and it was quite a coup to gain a band of such stature for Knockanstockan.
Ash have a solid gold back catalogue of tunes to cherry pick from and they hurled out classics like Goldfinger, Girl From Mars and A Life Less Ordinary. There’s zero wrong with songs like those but on this occasion while Tim Wheeler and bandmates said all the right things and threw the necessary shapes, it felt like they were going through the motions.
It was perhaps that Knockanstockan was just another festival or one too many this year. It’s only on songs like Let’s Ride and Machinery from last year’s superb comeback album Kablammo! that Ash appeared fully engaged and energised. It’s a performance that tantalised moments of genuine excitement mixed with periods of feeling underwhelmed. As someone in the crowd said during Girl From Mars “they sound just like Ash!”.
Cork based DJ Toby Kaar brought his brand of Eastern-influenced electronic music to the Dimestone Tent on Friday night. His music was filled with an eclectic range of samples from windchimes to Asian supermarkets.
Despite it being close to 2AM, the tent heaved with the energy. The already sweaty and mud-caked bodies swaying gently to Kaar’s tunes, which were a pleasant mix of ecstatic and ambient. The trills in Like Sapphire bounced off the walls, the sound loud and alive as if they were fingers gingerly running down the back of everyone dancing as their eyes almost smarted from the unrelentingly colourful lights.
It was a perfect way to round off evening number one of Knockanstockan, otherwise known as “the Christmas of summer” – lively enough to keep you going, but laid back enough that one could feasibly nod off in their tent shortly after (mitigating factors aside).