This year was a very important year for Knockanstockan; it marked 10 years of supporting Irish musicians and entertainers and to celebrate the festival was bigger than ever with more stages and acts than ever before. From the get go there were so many acts to catch, so here’s a roundup of some of the standout performers over the weekend.
The first day got off to a bit of a slow to start, though there were bands like Mongrel State kicking things off in the Faerie Field with some good old fashioned rock n’ roll with a serving of blues. Later on in the day, Oh Boland would hit up The Dimestore Tent with a very boppy and energetic set. For those looking for something a bit more mellowed out, A Cult Called Man brought their unique alternative indie rock sounds to The Burrow, where they were particularly well received.
Long after the sun had set, ETC arrived to play one of their most energetic sets yet. The Dublin quintet seemed a little more focused than usual, with less tomfoolery than they usually include in their live shows. Maybe it was because of this that they had an added sense of focus and put on one of their tightest shows yet. The bands alt rock with pop sensibilities was perfect for a festival setting.
After ETC, Vernon Jane took to the stage. The large ensemble brought something really unique, with a sound that hovers somewhere in between rock, jazz, funk and psychedelia and the power they managed to put behind their performance would put bands with twice as much experience to shame. Credit has to go to frontwoman and lead vocalist Emily Jane who spent the bands entire set belting it out ferociously.
Closing the first night over at The Burrow, Bitch Falcon played a secret set. The trio seemed really excited to be at Knockanstockan and conveyed that excitement playing a high-octane set. Playing all of their material which has been released so far as well as a few other cuts it was definitely a set that left the crowd wanting more. Hopefully, these guys have a lengthier release in the works because it’d be great to hear more from them.
Day two of Knockanstockan had an earlier start with much more bands on throughout the day. Of the bands on in the earlier part of the day, Spines were by far the standout act. Their noisy, garage influenced sound did well to wake up festivalgoers who were feeling the after effects of Friday night. Fangclub also gave the (unfortunately, rather empty) Dimestore Tent some garage and punk-inspired sounds with an attitude that gave little regard to the size of the crowd.
Crow Black Chicken gave an awesome performance over in The Burrow, with frontman and guitarist Christy O’Hanlon taking time in between the bands southern blues tunes to talk about the stories behind their music, which was a great way to engage with the audience, most of whom were lying down on the hill in a state of semi-consciousness.
As the sun began popping out from behind gray clouds periodically, Max Zaska and his band came onstage. Consisting of guitar, bass, keyboards, horns, backing vocals and drums, the bands catchy and poppy tunes got a huge amount of people moving and dancing in front of the stage. Zaska proved himself as a competent guitarist and singer as well as an extremely charismatic frontman. Some credit is also definitely due to the seriously talented band he had behind him.
By 9:30pm it had started to get dark, adding a bit of atmosphere to New Secret Weapon’s set. As always the band put on a cracking show. Not letting a few issues with the sound get in the way of their performance, the band drew a mammoth crowd and they gave it everything they had. Playing cuts off their debut album as well as some non-album tracks they wasted very little time between tunes, focusing more on keeping the music coming. Yet another Irish band who need to get another release out as soon as possible.
Almost directly after New Secret Weapons set ended, Megacone about to unleash themselves upon Knockanstockan yet again. The instrumental quintet have an extremely unique take on music, they have down-tuned riffs, odd time signatures and three guitarists intricately working together but they also don’t take themselves too seriously (they even brought their mascot “Crocodile Dundalk” onstage during their set). Once again they managed to be one of the highlights of the weekend.
TongueBundle gave an insane performance in the animal barn that featured auxiliary members swinging from the ceiling, which the crowd loved. Musically the band were totally off the wall, maybe sometimes even going a bit too crazy, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen a live show quite like theirs.
Closing the night was Overhead, The Albatross, a band who have really made a name for themselves over the past year or so with the release of their debut album. Despite being moved from The Burrow to the Dimestore Tent at the last minute, the band drew a large crowd. They put on an incredibly tight performance but I couldn’t help but feel musically they needed a bit more to differentiate themselves from other bands playing instrumental post-rock.
This year, the glorious Knockanstockan overlords gave us an extra day to celebrate its tenth year. This meant that there was plenty more bands left to see, starting with Mongoose. The all-female quartet featured cello, guitar, bass, drums, and keys, with members swapping instruments between songs. The groups music delves into a variety of different styles; sometimes it’s dark and brooding other times it’s bouncy and poppy, with great vocal work being a constant feature.
A bit later on, No Monster Club hit the stage with their catchy indie rock tunes. Their sound and energy reminded me a little bit of Cage The Elephant in their early days, though they definitely have a bit of an 80’s pop influence in there too.
The Viper himself performed his first ever standup set in the Animal Barn, attracting a mammoth crowd. His set was focused on current events but he made sure he was “too vague to be racist”. There were definitely a lot of laughs, even at the more outrageous of jokes but there were definitely a few misses too, one example being the abrupt ending. Despite this, it was great to see him entering a new medium, even if there were some growing pains.
Directly after The Viper, Free Sunshine Acid rocked the Animal Barn without mercy. Their massive shoegazey and spacey sounds were perfect for the sunny evening. There were plenty of festival goers totally enthralled by the bands performance.
In The Faerie Field, Booka Brass Band were up to their usual tricks, putting on a fun loving show that they’ve come to be known for at this point. The group blasted through a lively set that contained plenty of contemporary songs rearranged for their instruments. Playing to what was one of the biggest and most energetic crowd of the entire festival, they had no problem putting on a really professional show in front of a large audience.
Closing the festival at The Burrow were the ever so strange Meltybrains?. These guys take all of your preconceived notions of what a band should sound like and rip them up, preferring to play by their own rules. The groups warped electronic sound and unique vocals commanded the attention of the crowd that had formed, who were not one bit phased by the rainfall. Throughout the set, the group continuously pushed boundaries with their music and stage show, with all the members giving an incredibly animated performance and even being joined by a large crowd at one point. These guys really managed to put on a powerful performance that was the perfect way to finish off the festivities.
After the end of their set, I headed back to the campsite with a twinge of sadness knowing that this was the end of Knockanstockan 2016. Once again they had managed to put on a great festival that showed off the huge amount of talent in the Irish music scene. Unfortunately, Knockanstockan is taking a year off next year, but we’re already counting down the days until its return.