Monday 26 September 2016

Don't knock(an) it until you've tried it

The KnockanStockan Music and Arts Festival at Blessington Lakes features 150 bands like August Wells, Lisa O'Neill and Meltybrains? is not to be missed

Published 18/07/2016 | 02:30

Spokeswoman Roisin O’Brien says there will be 'endless activities' for all festival-goers, including comedy shows, fire performers, circus acts, art and craft exhibitions, and gourmet cuisine stalls. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Spokeswoman Roisin O’Brien says there will be 'endless activities' for all festival-goers, including comedy shows, fire performers, circus acts, art and craft exhibitions, and gourmet cuisine stalls. Photo: Gerry Mooney

"The music business," wrote Hunter S Thompson, "is a cruel and shallow money trench - a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs."

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"There is also," he added, "a negative side."

The KnockanStockan Music and Arts Festival - on the trippy shores of the Blessington Lakes from July 22 to 24 - is perhaps the positive side of the music industry. There is a certain beautiful innocence to the festival, which marks its 10th anniversary this year; people of all ages and social backgrounds enjoying the diversity of everyone from Lisa O'Neill to August Wells to Meltybrains? (there are 150 acts playing on seven stages).

In Ireland we appear to hold a special place in our hearts for music festivals. Toby Young in The Spectator magazine in 2014 posed the question whether it is some sort of self-delusion that makes people go to music festivals. "Is it consumerism wrapped up as subversion?" he wrote. "Or just the declining liberal chattering classes huddled together for warmth?"

I'm going for huddled together for warmth in a damp, chilly field in Blessington. Be that as it may, you will get to hear the brilliant August Wells perform. The hirsute Ken Griffin told me: "We are bringing a full band to KnockanStockan. I have been hearing about this festival for a couple of years now. People tell me it still has its independence, it's not suffocated in sponsorship, and it's loose and spirited. Playing festivals sometimes an artist can feel like an after-thought. We, August Wells, have tried to stick to our own ideas, to have as few obstacles between us and someone who might want to hear us, a clear bridge. It seems this festival has that aim too, I hope it stays that way for many years."

This is a sentiment echoed by Claudio of Mongrel State: "What we love the most about KnockanStockan is that all the acts play real, passionate music in front of an audience that is there genuinely to enjoy it and support it; this helps all these incredible talents to grow and make the scene so exciting," Claudio said, adding that the bands they are looking forward to seeing are The Eskies, Mongoose, Tongue Bundle, Zaska, Overhead The Albatross and New Secret Weapon.

One of the bands I am looking forward to seeing perform is Meltybrains?. Tygaburn, aka Posh Brain of the band, told me: "We love playing KnockanStockan because we can truly feel the love from the festival-goers and the organisers. Without such a strong Irish music scene, KnockanStockan wouldn't be so special, and vice versa, because the festival does so much to promote that scene in Ireland. It proves that having no international headliners at a festival can definitely be a plus, and it can still draw the audiences too."

"The KnockanStockan Music and Arts Festival started with an ethos of support, encouragement and hard work," music programmer and director Graham Sharpe said. "I also think equality was key here, when we as a crew lost money and struggled, the bands played for free and when we finally were able to float the festival, the artists all get paid. Transparency and honesty is key here and we have always been for passion and not profit. I think people can really belong to that ethos."

"We are very excited to be celebrating a decade of the festival," says Bettine McMahon, one of the festival directors, "and will be doing so in spectacular style over three days, on seven stages and with over 150 acts, plus we'll have honorary, secret special guests to give a birthday surprise to our loyal fans. They won't know who they are until they hit the stage."

Don't knock(an) it until you've tried it.

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