BarryGruff’s July 2015 playlist


A now regular monthly feature, whereby we round up all the blog action with a nice, neat and handy playlist of tracks featured during the month.

July was pretty ace! We had new tunes from The School, The Stammer and DRINKS ahead of their respective, forthcoming new albums, and the return of WE//ARE//ANIMAL. There were excellent new singles from Neon Wolf, Galants, Lethal Dialect, Manor, Kelly Lee Owens, The Expert, Glass Sines and Koloto.

Also featured on this month’s playlist are great tracks from Bedbugs, Effin, Gwenno, Trails and Ways, Open Window and Joan. So, July was pretty good. And that’s all before mentioning that Justin Beats gave Jamie xx’s new record In Colour, the once over, Johnny Feeney reported from Knockanstockan and we had a chat with Trails and Ways. And the small matter of my albums of the year so far list.

Listen to BarryGruff’s July 2015 playlist below.

Knockanstockan 2015 Review


Given that I’m over 9,000 miles away, there ain’t much chance of me making an appearance at any Irish festivals but in my absence, my mate and intrepid gig goer, Johnny Feeney was at this year’s Knockanstockan. As always, his makes for interesting and thoroughly enjoyable reading. Thanks as always to Johnny and I’ll leave you in his very capable hands. 

While many festivals continue to expand year on year, Knockanstockan have deliberately gone the other direction, scaling back the size of the main arena and removing the main stage for the second successive year. Live music is now concentrated into three main medium-size stages with a further dedicated dance tent, a performance stage displaying varied entertainment such as debate, spoken word and cabaret and a kids area.

The main arena’s compact but not overcrowded. The camp site is close by so everything is a short walk away – a very important fact considering it’s BYOB. However there are bars scattered around the place also. The crowd are boisterous and friendly and there was no sign or reports of any aggression or trouble over the course of the weekend. Due to work commitments, Friday was unfortunately missed but Saturday proved to be a treat. Helpfully, the weather was also kinder on the Saturday with the sun making the occasional, welcome appearance through the overcast sky. And so to the music.

Dublin four-piece rockers Pretty Beast were first up in the Dimestore Tent (it was marked down as the Circus Tent on the timetable). They played a high-octane set of pulsating rock that fizzed along noisily. As the show progressed the tunes became noticeably more danceable with their heavy riffs underpinned by grooving basslines and synths. The charismatic frontman Donie Keaveney owned the stage and worked up quite a sweat, culminating in him perilously climbing to the top of the scaffolding at the side of the stage towards the end.

Sinead White was next up in the intimate amphitheatre, the Faerie Field. It’s a beautiful setting for the Dublin-based singer-songwriter and a nice way to ease into the day. White plays acoustic guitar throughout but is ably accompanied by lead guitar, bass and drums to flesh out her sound. For her closing song, White hands out 50 plastic kazoos into the crowd in an attempt to get the crowd to join in on the chorus. By the time people have figured out how to play the kazoos White has left the stage so all that’s left is the sound of kazoos all over the place. A cue to exit if ever I’ve heard one.

Upon entering the Burrow, White Chalk have already kicked off their set and are in full flight. They’re a seven–piece band with a penchant for anthemic songs and big, singalong choruses –lots of woahs and doo-doos that you can pick up after a listen or two. Think a strange Arcade Fire/Maccabees/trad hybrid with guitars, percussion, cello, keyboards, mandolins and more. Main vocalist Conor Quinn’s country-tinged voice is unique and not what you’d expect and he’s backed by soaring harmonies. They’re armed with very catchy tunes and certainly get the crowd moving. It would be very interesting to see these guys under a roof in a dark room.

Having known nothing about them before Saturday, Hot Cops were easily the find of the day for me. The Belfast three-piece play brilliantly dark, melodic indie-rock reminiscent of Pavement or Surfer Blood. Vocalist and frontman Carl Eccles comes alive with guitar in hand but just as quickly becomes soft-spoken and mild-mannered with barely a hint of a Belfast accent – so much so in fact that while speaking between songs, when one of the crowd suggests he doesn’t sound like he’s from Belfast he apologises! Drummer Conor Ellison is an absolute powerhouse on the drums. Superb.

Fresh on the trails of Hot Cops, Tramore native Rebecca Collins delivers another stunning performance in the Dimestore Tent. You can see why she’s been compared to the likes of PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi – particularly the former. This is theatrical alternative-rock that’s slightly morbid but utterly mesmerising. Collins is a captivating presence throughout and it’s difficult to take your eyes off her.

Having been impressive the weekend before in Longitude, Otherkin produced another storming set on the Burrow stage on Saturday evening. This Dublin-based four-piece play infectious, upbeat grunge/indie-rock with fuzzy guitars and a real swagger. The band clearly look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage and it’s hard not to get carried away with their enthusiasm. Nothing ground-breaking but very enjoyable all the same.

Festival highlight Elastic Sleep are a bit special. The Cork five-piece specialise in dream-pop/shoegaze along the lines of the quieter side of My Bloody Valentine. Muireann Levis provides breathy, haunting vocals around which the rest of the band create bruising, meandering soundscapes. Music to get well and truly immersed in, these are one of the best live bands around today. The Dimestore Tent didn’t ease off in quality all day. No Spill Blood were next on and the Dublin band produced a scintillating, no-holds-barred barrage of heavy synth-rock. A pummeling, chaotic, high-intensity set has the crowd going absolutely mental, the energy in the tent is electric and a fair amount of sweat is shed. Quality.

As night falls on Knockanstockan, various other attractions come into their own. Apart from more heavy-hitting music on the main stages, the Caravan Club Extravaganza (the dance tent) comes alive and various campfires pop up throughout the main arena where one can engage in various levels of entertaining conversation depending on who you end up beside. A great day, a very fine little festival.

Knockanstockan 2013 Review

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.