While Friday night had only a subset of the stages open, Saturday at Knockanstockan saw all the stages including the spectacular Animal Spirit main stage. The deluge of rain that continued into Saturday noon thankfully came to a halt just in time for the music to really get going. The Saturday line up was especially strong and with so many acts to see, GoldenPlec decided to see the following

Elephant

Dundalk’s Elephant gave a highly accomplished performance in the Unfiltered tent on Saturday. With a new album out and seeing them go in a new direction it was curious to see how the new material would hold up live. Fronted by Shane Clarke, Elephant , are accomplished.

There’s a distinct 80′ feel to their new material, primarily led by the synth and guitar work. It’s not a nostalgia trip which would have been too kitsch. Instead, this is a picking of influences and moulding them into something that pays homage to that era without overstating that point.

The songs from new album ’88’ sound weightier live and this added further drama to the music. One of the set highlights was Happy which featured KT Ball from fellow Dundalk band Just Mustard. It was a shimmering and emotive rendition that encapsulated an impressive set.

Pillow Queens

When witnessing bands at Knockanstockan, while most are relatively unknown to the Irish public, some are clearly further down the road of progression than their contemporaries. Case in point, Pillow Queens. They are clearly at ease with their current standing and appear ready for the next rung up the ladder.

With vocal duties shared out among the various members of Pillow Queens, the spotlight shifts, but whether it was Pam Connolly or Sarah Corcoran on lead vocals their is an assurance to their delivery.

As a live experience, it keeps the viewpoint fresh and their respective personalities shine when the chance to chat to the crowd between songs presents itself.

Musically, their songs are faithfully represented with Favourite and especially Raging sounding sharp.

The Murder Capital

A simple gesture was all it took to set the tone for The Murder Capital’s gig at Knockanstockan. After surveying crowd, James McGovern, beckoned his hand for the crowd to move forward which they duly complied with. This non verbal communication was a statement of intent for how The Murder Capital set was to proceed.

The Murder Capital wield tension like a weapon. The guitars and bass line bringing mance that occasionally burst forth like during the chorus of More Is Less. It’s that element of danger and darkness that exists  in their music which makes them such a thrilling prospect. The rest of their set is similarly charged with conviction with the aforementioned McGovern holding sway over the crowd.

It was a storming set by a band who appear destined to go onto great things.

Third Smoke

When a set list does not contain a previous staple such as Dog Rough Dancing, you know that Third Smoke have reached a status where the are very confident of their current standing. Given that third Smoke have been around for donkey’s years it’s hard to believe this was their first Knockanstockan appearance.

It was a strong performance from the Dundalk lads. They exude a composure and exhibit a sure touch to every song. They can toss out a song like Ms Summer Breeze out early in the set confident that they many bangers left in their locker. It was a high bar to set, but one they comfortably surpassed. The brilliant Maya was a highlight with it’s dance rhythms and huge sing along chorus.

Singer Hugh Donnellan is an animated and theatrical focal point. His vocal range is very impressive and he holds the crowd on his every note. It may have taken a while for Third Smoke to get to Knockanstockan but they left their mark for sure.

The Scratch

This is not the trad music we know but instead played with the spirit of heavy metal. The Scratch are taking some old songs and re-imaging them with a metal slant. One thing that was evident from their hugely attended set was that they are already master of crowd manipulation. Even Derren Brown would struggle to get the crowd to comply as easily as The Scratch did.

This was a hugely fun gig with an impromptu rendition of Riverdance bringing a chaotically uncoordinated crowd of Knockanstockan revellers on stage doing the moves. How do you top that for some craic? Well how about two lads in wedding dresses having a wee dance on stage. Yeah that happened too.

After that The Scratch where like shepherds directing the crowd however the wanted. Hands down one of the most fun sets over the entire weekend.

Senu

Senu is the brainchild of Dublin producer, Sam Killeen who has made a name for himself collaborating with Loah, Day_z and Laoise. Rather than just bring out his laptop and have a light show as some of his peers would do, Senu went for a more ambitious live show with a razor sharp drummer and polished bass player to accentuate the beats, samples and moody waves of electronica.

Musically Senu is adapt at traversing expertly between different genres whilst keeping the entire set coherent. At times, Senu would go into M83-esque territory with huge swathes of synth sounds layered around looped guitar that formed epic crescendo’s.

Elsewhere sample based songs with hyper beats and drumming showed his versatility and  got the crowd dancing.

Senu is clearly a burgeoning talent and towards the end of the set provided a clue as to where his direction might be best served when Load appeared on stage for an absolutely stellar rendition of Suffocating.

This Fresh Hell

While Senu made the leap from an electronic artist/  producer with relative ease the same couldn’t be said of his peer, This Fresh Hell, the moniker of Des Garvey.

As a live spectacle, This Fresh Hell were clearly trying hard for a unique experience. An expanded included a sax player and vocalist Niamh McGoldrick. The preparation was made like all having  match outfits on stage (bar some differing t-shirt slogans) but when it came to the performance it was disjointed and unengaging.

McGoldrick is capable of vocal gymnastics and would accentuate this with antics like jogging on the spot. The issue was this out of kilter with the avant garde ambient electronica. It was a struggle for them to build momentum or a connection with the audience.

The tired old cliche of a band “killing it” is often bandied about for how well a band has done at a gig. That couldn’t be applied to This Fresh Hell. More like they flat-lined it.

The Eskies

The Eskies had a busy Saturday after wowing the crowd with their hilarious stories from Knockanstockan through the years with GoldenPlec on the Unfiltered Stage. The jesters of folk put on their best suits and brought their A-game to The Spirit Animal Stage. “We made it through the fallow year” announces lead singer Ian before leading the masses through a joyous set of swashbuckling tales from the road. An impressive light show and a swathe of dry Ice heightened the experience. Extensive touring has evidently fine-tuned the Eskies and this was without doubt their finest performance at Knockanstockan to date. Surely the mainstream will cotton-on to Ireland’s best kept secret soon.

Super Silly

On the Irish music scene, Super Silly stand out from the hordes of bands of various genres milling about. There are not that many trying to take on Soul, R’n’B sound with a full live band and for that along they have a uniqueness about them.

They have an effervescence and sunny disposition that’s hard not to warm too and never tire of interacting with the crowd, cajoling them to wave their arms and call and responses some songs. Individually each member is impressive. Solbas and Precious bring a lot of energy while Sheks and Grooves keep the Super Silly machine in perpetual motion.

While their set started strongly, by the middle the issue of little differentiation started to kick in. Some varied pacing and change in moods would accentuate the highs to a greater degree. Super Silly have a lot of the tools to succeed; stage presence, musically expertise and strong vocals but an expended song repertoire would help even more.

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