Festival Review: KnockanStockan 2013

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The Hot Sprockets headline slot. Photo courtesy of Darren Farrell

Another year, another KnockanStockan and another high point in the festival’s life-span. As I described in detail at the time, KnockanStockan 2012 was one of the most enjoyable festival experiences I’ve ever had and for its follow-up, I couldn’t really see how the organisers could top it. Thankfully, they proved me wrong.

Here’s the lowdown…

The site:

The most significant changes this year came with the site itself where the ever-present Moon Stage was replaced with the smaller, more inclusive confines of the Shack of Diamonds. This beautiful wooden structure – and its adjoining bar – made for a super chill-out spot, as evidenced by its popularity across the weekend. It was a definite improvement on previous years, where the Moon stage tended to be somewhat barren during the day.

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The view upon arrival: overlooking the Blessington Lakes

This change also freed up some space in the main arena, which was filled with some interesting new arrangements and a much-welcomed canopied seating area. The site was again set-up in a loop and though this may seem like a small point, it aided exploration to no end. At Indiependence, and to a lesser degree Body&Soul, the disjointed layout meant extra walking time and a minor reluctance to venture too far when legs were weary.  Small changes indeed, but ones with a big impact on enjoyment levels. Needless to say, the site itself was again a treasure trove of hand-woven, custom built pieces and installations – gigantic hanging spiders and all.

The music:

This year I spent less time hovering over the timetable with a highlighter than I did just exploring, chilling out and taking it all in.  Work commitments meant Saturday was my only full festival day and it began in beautiful fashion with the acoustic one-two of Liza Flume and Sorcha Richardson. Over on the green banks of the Faerie Fields, both were nursing sore heads and impressing in their own way – Sorcha with soothing, acoustic yearns and Liza through innovative looping and arrangements. Later on, Raglans did nothing to dampen their growing acclaim; bashing out catchy, harmony-laden indie hits with aplomb and even throwing in a cover of Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine’ for good measure.

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Sorcha Richardson

This weekend was all about The Hot Sprockets however, who returned to Lacken on the back of recent single ‘Sole Brother’. That funky piece slab of wax has seen the Dubliners’ profile sky-rocket and they lived up to their headline billing with a storming set; notwithstanding a couple of slower moments that threatened to derail the party atmosphere. Regardless, it was mightily impressive stuff and enough to give the impression that audiences much bigger than this will be revelling in it very soon. A very special mention must also go to the GoldenPlec team and all involved in their Tea &Toast initiative, which featured some lovely acoustic performances in Jimmie Lee’s Juke Joint, some cheap tea and toast for punters and some much needed funds for Pieta House – top work.

The surprises:

The weather. Approaching Friday, talk of thunderstorms and washouts abounded but up until Sunday’s lashings it was sunburn inducing stuff.

Replacing last year’s white dome of trance-core hell, the 4theeye stage was a wonderful treat; with a diverse programme of weird and wonderful audio-visual treats. The pick of these was DJ Jeff Jeff Jeff and his Zelda inspired mash ups which were strangely brilliant and captivating. Just as well given the 300 hours of hard work that went into them…

The grub: 

The pulled pork sambos from Jimmie Lee’s Juke Joint were top notch, and the Pasta To Go van offered something a little bit different for a fiver. Most pleasing of all however, were the prices – which were noticeably cheaper than most festivals across the board. It’s a small touch but it’s nice to know you’re not being fleeced over the weekend.

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The drink:

Like it or not, how we get our mitts on alcohol is a massive factor in the enjoyment of an Irish festival – remember the outrage at Forbidden Fruit’s inaugural year? The BYOB element of KnockanStockan is an undoubted selling point, allowing people to just grab a bag of cans/some spirits and float in to any gig. Crucially, it also means bigger crowds as people are less inclined to sit around their tent all day for fear of spending a wad of cash on pints.

The toilets:

Plentiful and in all the right spots. It’s something that nearly every festival gets wrong so it’s worth noting when it’s done right.

Cons:

The car park situation – couple of miles away, accessible via shuttle bus – remains annoying but in fairness, the buses ran smoothly and it’s a small price to pay for that incredible view upon arrival.

Verdict:

Another stellar year and an improvement on what was, for me, the best year in the festival’s history. At this stage I’m running out of superlatives to describe KnockanStockan’s magic but when you consider the location, the relaxed atmosphere and the BYOB stance –  there’s no doubting it’s position as the most enjoyable weekend to be had on the Irish festival circuit. Here’s to 2014.

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