As the second hangover of the weekend rages the humans of Knockanstockan pulled themselves together after an uncomfortable night of inclement weather, refuelled on coffee and other stimulants and headed back out for another day of Irish music.

Oscar Mild

It’s a tough gig to keep a crowd entertained in the midst of a deluge of rain and that was the task for Oscar Mild. Being so early in the day didn’t help either but they manfully tried to battle against this.

Oscar Mild’s whimsical melodrama is better suited to a breezy summer’s day. As a band they are highly competent musicians comprising members of Ka Tet and Race The Flux and tried their best between songs to alleviate the situation with some light-hearted banter.

Sure there is a lot of delicate prettiness in their set and Sit Right is a decent tune, but the issue with their alt-folk was there was a lack of an emotional pay-off in some of the songs. This was highlighted by an excellent cover of Radiohead’s Exit Music (For a Film) that showed what was missing from their own songs. That’s not an expectation for them to go of an write a classic like that, more of an indication of what they need and tweak. With the calibre of musician in the band, it’s well within their reach.

Shrug Life

Over the whole weekend, few artists had the audience in their thrall as much as Shrug Life’s Danny Carroll did. Truly the call centre industry’s loss, is Irish music’s gain.

It’s not the usual run of the mill “how are you all doing?” perfunctory chit chat. It’s Carroll’s whimsical tales of the origins of the songs such as Art for Sale. It’s the little details that matter and Carroll delivers it all with deprecating wit. Since they last played Knockanstockan, they have an entirely new set-list and this is clearly a band looking forward rather than backwards.

The new songs are more of the same; sharp as razors and liberally sprinkled with catchy hooks. 2009 in particular is a belter of a song. In a wildly entertaining set, the only apt conclusion was to chuck in a cover of Joe Dolan’s You’re Such a Good Looking Woman. Perfect for the set that preceded it.

Ger Fox Sailing

Ger Fox Sailing are a conundrum. They started of at a mighty pace with their brand of mid ’90s expansive rock a la Pearl Jam/My Morning Jacket. Grown up rock music, rich in texture and songs such as Killing Time are solid gold. But mid set things went astray with ponderous, slow tempo songs that didn’t yield the same satisfaction.

That was exasperated by the largely silent breaks between songs where they continually took too much time to tune their instruments. All bands have to do this, but that’s why stagecraft is so important. A little bit of engaging chat can go a long way towards making the difference between a mundane show and a great show.

The ponderous mid set pacing was corrected by a return to more rowdy songs towards the end of their set. There’s a lot of potential here go forwards if they can correct these presentation issues.

Post Punk Podge and The Technohippies

Post Punk Podge and The Technohippies will draw comparisons to The Rubberbandits because A) They are from Limerick B) They cover their faces with masks and C) They offer hilarious social commentary. But this Limerick trio have plenty of their own steam under them too. The Rasher Factory was treated to the finest distorted fiddle solos Ireland has ever seen as the lads kicked, viscously against the pricks with reckless abandon, save for their preoccupation with the score in the Limerick match. Post Punk Podge will leave you wondering if your drink has been spiked whilst simultaneously watering the seeds of rebellion in your soul.

TPM

TPM are much more than a comedy duo. True, the Louth rappers will have you in stitches with their elaborate yarns about having sex with Guards and buying weed, but they tackle much bigger issues too. Leo Varadkar gets a roasting as TPM go to bat for people living with pay as you go electricity meters and the dastardly poor people in the country who are responsible for the banking crisis. RTE get a roasting too in Fuck RTE a true story about the national broadcaster wasting the band’s time. TPM don’t hold back and they had The Rasher Factory bouncing with hilarious truth bombs.

Shithätt

Shithätt were like a hand grenade chucked into a fireworks factory. There really is no time for arsing around with Shithätt as they absolutely blitzed through their set. Their brand of punk/hardcore is delivered with absolute intent.

Drummer John Henry sets a furious pace with Pin The Tail as if he was setting a challenge for his bandmates to keep up with him. In frontman JF Donnelly, they have a focal point who performs with every sinew of his being. He’s highly charged throughout and delivered with absolute conviction.  This is a bloke who could start a riot by himself.

There was hardly room for pause in Shithätt’s set and on this showing they are one of the most exciting live bands in Ireland at the moment.

Thumper

Following Shithätt, the ante had well and truly been upped in The Dimestore Tent for the next band up. Good job it was Thumper otherwise it would have been an anti climax. Two years previously Thumper announced themselves with a barnstorming performance on the same stage. Could lightning strike twice though?

There are noticeable changes – as a band they are a lot tighter, but that element of mayhem has never deserted them. For this festival showing they brought out the full squad with a second drummer and backing vocals. It’s a riot of sound on stage and Dan The Man and The Loser, Lonesome Freak! sounded carnivorous and raucous.  

As guitarist Alan Dooley said, “They were going to leave nothing behind”, except for a smashed guitar on stage. It was that kind of gig. Outstanding again from the Thumper lads.

FCKWLVS

The beauty of knockanstockan is just taking a chance to go to a stage to see a band you’ve never heard of. FCKWLVS don’t even have a social media presence so expectations were non-existent. As it turned out it’s another project from Spudgun vocalist Sam Burton and if you are familiar with Spudgun then you are aware that this had the potential to be a wild ride.

What unfolded was dissonant electro punk with license to give anything a go. Their drummer was chopping and changing styles as much as a kid changes youtube channels, add in with some pounding electro beats and it was a discombobulating racket.  

A little bit of added sax from Careless Whisper prompted one brave (or foolhardy) audience member to halt proceedings to sing a few bars before forgetting the words. That prompted Burton to leap off stage and roll around the ground for a while. All in all, it was another batshit crazy performance where you walk away wondering what the hell you just witnessed.

The Hot Sprockets

At Knockanstockan some bands are indelibly linked to the festival as their growth coincided with the rise of the festival. The whole point of Knockanstockan was to give a platform to bands like the Sprockets to be heard and grow from there. And grow they have spreading their wings into the European festival circuit in recent years.

Their 2018 show was big on production reflecting exactly how much both the festival  and the band have grown since their humble beginnings. And The Hot Sprockets did not disappoint in their spiritual home delivering an assured and polished performance.

Songs from the latest album ‘Dream Mover’ such as Right Spots showed that they are evolving in the right direction. Whilst old favourites such as Soul Brother banged as if they were only released yesterday.

Ireland’s most criminally underrated band continually deliver live and this was no exception

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