This summer I’ve managed to make it to the sum total of zero festivals and not for the want of trying. Knockanstockan was one of the festivals I hadn’t been to before and had hoped to get along to. Frustratingly, like so many other festivals this year, other commitments conspired to prevent me from attending. Thankfully Johnny Feeney was on hand to take my place, his thoughts on the weekend are below. A big thanks to Johnny for the review & the photo is via The Daily Shift.
Knockanstockan had been recommended to me by various different parties over the years but it’s been a festival I’ve always contrived to miss for one reason or another. Thankfully I managed to make it down this year and, boy, was I impressed. It was a true pleasure from start to finish.
A relaxed, chilled out vibe was prevalent throughout the weekend with no trouble or aggro at all. There were plenty of hippies in attendance so peace and love was the order of the weekend. Security (volunteers mostly) were easy going and friendly without a power trip in sight. The setting was easily the most spectacular I’ve seen at a festival – standing at the main stage you have the Blessington lakes in front of you, turn around and you have the Wicklow mountains looming large over you. Quite breath-taking.
A truly non-commercial festival, revellers were free to bring in cans from the campsite into the main arena all weekend. If you were properly prepared and brought food as well, you could realistically spend the whole weekend down there without having to take out your wallet once. As it was, there were a few bars scattered around the place selling pints of beer and cider and a decent variety of moderately-priced food stalls. Various workshops, holistic treatments and hot tubs were available and there seemed to be plenty to do for kids.
Musicwise, I didn’t know a large proportion of the bands so it was basically pot luck for me as I wandered from stage to stage for parts of it. The Barley Mob on the main stage in the sunshine on Saturday afternoon had the place skanking with their infectious reggae tunes. Mikey and the Scallywags followed with some stomping, country-tinged rock’n’roll (Joke of the weekend came from Mikey: “How many hippies does it take to screw in a light bulb?” “None. They screw in a dirty sleeping bag!”)
Limerick band The Hip-Neck Blues Collective playing in the Faerie Field were the first nice surprise of the weekend. As their name suggests, their sound mashes hip-hop, folk, country and blues together into a wonderfully, weird sound. They did a rendition of a highly profane Tupac song – possibly ‘Hit ‘Em Up’ – where they were talking about fucking bitches and wives while there were young kids in attendance throughout the crowd. Hilarious, and none of the parents seemed at all concerned or even batted an eyelid.
Dublin/Poland/Lithuania/Ukraine band, Mutefish, surely have to be labelled the legends of the weekend. Having been visibly partying hard all weekend in the campsite and the main arena, they managed to pull themselves together to deliver a rousing set of trad-rock fusion to a raucous main stage. Easily the highlight of the Saturday.
Punch Face Champions were next up on the Faerie Field stage. With a band name like that you’d hardly expect gentle folk music and these guys certainly didn’t disappoint – blaring out excellent, instrumental post-rock in the same vein as And So I Watch You From Afar. Later on, Sound of System Breakdown impressed with their highly danceable, pulsating synth-rock and should be worth checking out in the future.
Sunday certainly felt like a tamer day with noticeably smaller crowds and intermittent rain, with a lot of people seemingly burnt out after partying hard into the wee hours of the previous two days/nights. Zaska on the main stage were great, playing some really groovy funk-rock. Newbridge/Kildare band King Modo played the Dimestore stage, delivering a bewildering performance of their understated, psychedelic indie. Singer/songwriter Cat Dowling performed to a rather pitifully small crowd at the Faerie Field, drawing mainly from her recently released new album, The Believer. Her set was tender but beautiful.
Limerick rockers Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters really caught my eye on the main stage on Sunday evening. Theirs is a full-on rock sound while their lead singer has a captivating, booming voice. They reminded me somewhat of Interpol and I enjoyed these guys a lot. Electronic whizz kid Daithí graced the Electrolyte stage with his usual array of looping fiddles and house beats and always gives one hell of a live show, here included.
Act of the weekend for me were Attention Bébé on the Faerie Field stage, who I stumbled into completely by accident. The 16-piece band blasted out jazzed up versions of classic 90s tunes such as dance tracks Zombie Nation, Free From Desire and 2 Unlimited’s No Limits. The place was packed and the crowd and band were giving it their all, as everyone began to get in party mood again. There were also some fantastic mass singalongs for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air opening credit music and Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise. Super fun and a perfect way to finish off a superb weekend.