Six years is a long time. Long enough, in fact, for a kernel of an idea to blossom into a far bigger movement. From a few mates at the back of a pub to a proper festival in every way: the 130 plus artists, thousands of eager attendees and expanded site meant this year’s KnockanStockan was undoubtedly the biggest yet. The concern with such progression however, is that it’s sometimes achieved to the detriment of the core values which got you there in the first place. Surely KnockanStockan, with it’s not-for-profit and community-centred ethos, wouldn’t succumb to such dangers?
The site – again based in Lacken, Co. Wicklow and overlooking the Blessington Lakes – is still as impressive as ever but having set up camp on Friday evening, the initial impressions were less so. Despite being able to clearly see and hear bands underway, everyone was denied entry until further notice, presumably because the site was still being finished off. An understandable blip or an ominous prelude for the entire weekend? The answer was thankfully and emphatically the former.
When normal service resumed soon after I did a lap of the site to get my bearings and found myself immersed in a cornucopia of interesting sights of sounds. Last year’s newly added Faerie Fields area was now significantly bolstered resulting in a site that was teeming with even more intriguing little nooks and crannies to explore. It had that exciting Body and Soul feel to it; one where a random potter about was likely to result in something magically unexpected. Thus, much of my Friday night (and indeed weekend…) was spent investigating these new additions which included Jimmie Lee’s Juke Joint – a deep south wooden shack with a proper sound system and proper soul food on offer, the trippy 4D Extravaganza hut and the aptly named Bog Cottage.
The addition of these smaller venues turned out to be the highlight of the weekend – each standing with its own unique character, built with admirable quality and delivering a constant churn of quality acts playing side-shows. When I did manage to drag myself back into the main arena it was Cold Comfort who first impressed, delivering a big folk-rock sound and epic flourishes, before John Blek and the Rats won over many with their rousing folk anthems that are a perfect fit for any festival. It was back to the Faerie Fields then as the electronic one-two of Spunje’s wobbly warped beats and Meljoann’s enticing R-n-B styled mixes became the perfect soundtrack to whittle the night away.