Knockanstockan will knock yer socks off

Few Irish festivals are as intimate, welcoming and as packed with talent as Knockanstockan. Here are five acts not to be missed at this year’s Blessington blowout

The Hot Sprockets: One of the founding fathers of Knockanstockan

The Hot Sprockets: One of the founding fathers of Knockanstockan

Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 00:00

If there was a competition for the prettiest festival site in Ireland, Knockanstockan would take some beating. Sat snug in a field on the edge of the Blessington lakes, in the shade of the Wicklow mountains, the DIY festival continues to grow and grow. On the go since 2007, the scope of the event has widened from some bands and friends camping around the Ballyknockan Inn to a festival that takes in art, performance and almost 200 bands.

The festival is entirely non-profit and run by a gang of some 250 volunteers. As a result, the atmosphere is as relaxed as it comes, with the focus always on a good time for everyone on site, rather than any clamour to see big-name acts. It’s true that the Irish countryside is peppered with small festivals throughout the summer, but few are as intimate, welcoming and talent-packed as Knockanstockan.

Where better to start than the band who have been at the heart of the Knockanstockan experience since the very beginning? The Hot Sprockets are a five-piece band born and raised in Dublin with a shared love for the bluesy rock and roll sounds – as well as the patterned shirts and denim – of the 1960s. They’re among the founding fathers of Knockanstockan, booking bands as well as organising throughout the weekend, and their performances have been central to the festivities every year. Their brand of loved-up and unbiased musical appreciation, open-minded and open-eared, is also key to the festival’s catholic vibe. With a new album, Brother Nature, out now and an appearance on The Late Late behind them, the Sprockets look set to conjure up the good old days for a much wider audience.

If the Hot Sprockets are in love with the 1960s, then Tandem Felix’s affections lie a few decades later, in the lush guitar washes of the 1990s. Bends-era Radiohead is the obvious and somewhat inescapable comparison but there’s more to the Dublin-based quartet than that, with the dense work of Ride brushing up against the luxuriance of Grandaddy, and the latter’s hint of Y2K paranoia updated for a new generation.Lead singer and songwriter David Tapley has a lovely way with laid-back, barely there melody and each song is peppered with moments of feather-light intricacy. Ryan Hoguet and How Strange, The Weather, two songs from the seven-inch they released late last year, are the best examples of their sound to date, two songs which would have made many a despondent late-1990s college student quite happy, in a weird, slightly depressing but still kind of romantic way.

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