One of the most prestigious Americana/Roots festivals is back after being missed by so many for so long! as like other years people have travelled long and far to be in Kilkenny again for the weekend, many arriving on the Thursday and not leaving till the Tuesday.
The city comes a live with the buzz of music fans making their way from venue too venue for show after show.
Boasting over 80 shows and the vast majority of them free, over 60 if anyone’s counting, with everything from Americana/Roots/Blues/Rockabilly/Bluegrass/Cajun/Folk & Swing there is something for everyone and a little more.
Some of the shows are ticketed and this year is not different to any other with many of them sold out.
This year opening the proceedings fell on The Remedy Club with their show at 7.30pm in Billy Byrnes Bar & Venue.
Right on time the band took to the stage to play their blend of folk and country with a hint of the blues, complimented beautifully with KJ McEvoy and Aileen Mythen harmonies, accompanying the couple on pedal steel guitar is David Murphy (someone who is playing in 3 acts at this years festival)
There was hardly a word heard from the packed room as you could here a needle drop as the band played through their set of old / new (some not yet even released) & the odd cover of their favourites.
Second show of the day (well night now) its 10.30pm that I got to was the fabulous Joana Serrat hailing from the the Catalonia region of Spain.
I was excited to catch Joana and she did not disappoint with her very atmospheric sometimes slightly psychedelic sound, think Mazzy Star / Slowdrive / Cocteau Twins. This show was sold out and unfortunately a few choose to talk a little to loudly for the size of the room, there’s always one! this time more.
With Joana are her sister on keyboards / backing vocal and David Murphy on pedal steel guitar for a few of the songs, as at times both leaving the stage separately and also together leaving Joana to do three songs solo.
So that was day one over and as it happens first show of the second day is going to be Joana again. She’s just that good I have to take in her two shows of the weekend.
It was day two of the festival and I headed off too Cleere’s Bar and Theatre for a 1pm start and it was as I had finished the night before Joana Serrat playing her second show of the festival again another full room and again another fantastic set from Joanna and co! and less talking from the crowd.
It was then a quick dash to Rollercoaster Records a shop here in Kilkenny that is the hub of Kilkenny music fans and a meeting place all year round and this weekend. Reason for the quick dash was another great aspect of this festival is the surprise in-store’s by some of the pay for shows acts. The first of two today was The Hanging Stars at 2pm and then it was the turn of Joana Serrat at 4pm.
After my visit to RC I was off to Ryan’s Bar for some Blues- Punk from two Austrians that go by the name of Dead Beatz (one of the free trail shows) having seen these guys a few time before I know what to expect and wasn’t disappointed. If you like you Blues/Punk/Psychobilly these guys are for you. Two guys no guitars! only drums/ harmonica/double bass and great sounds.
It was then off to Billy Byrnes for The Hanging Stars first full show of the festival, as their wed-site says a London Cosmic Country Folk band blending folk pastoralism with swampy 60s Americana, for me they had an Ocean Colour Scene vibe about them also.
Photos in order of mention.
After The Hanging Stars it was back to Ryan’s Bar and into the backroom venue for Jake Xerxes Fussell, sat on chair is a single guitar and on entering I spoke with the sound guy who said this guy is going to be loud and that he was. The venue is small packed to the rafters and its not long before it hot and sweaty as Jake runs through his folk/blues set .
Its getting close to 9pm now and its off to another venue, this time its Kylelers Inn (check out the history behind this bar and venue) I’m here to see self-dubbed psychedelic doom boogie band TK & The Holy Know-Nothings. Think a little Honky-tonk and a lot of Cow-punk all members wearing Stetson hats and sorry but a keyboard player that anyone could be mistaking for thinking its Jack Black sitting there 9yep I know nothing he hasn’t heard before lol), personally I had to take a double take.
Its the last show of the day and its in Set Theatre with His Lordship and opening for them its Pete Holidai/ Tony St Ledger (The Trouble Pilgrims/The Radiators from Space/ Light A Big Fire) playing their blend of Dublin punk.
Slight break and His Lordship hit the stage like a whirlwind with James Walbourne (The Pretenders, The Pogues, The Rails) high energy and fast paced rock and roll. The three guys all dressed out in suits don’t let up for one minute and that’s a wrap on day two for me. Its home to bed and out of the rain as it had started raining during the evening.
Day three and its like day two started the same as the night before finished! only this time its the rain. Still raining but that’s not going to dampen anyone’s sprits today as its another day full of music around Kilkenny city.
First stop and its Cleere’s Bar and its number one of two shows today from Margo Cilker, like many its sold out and the room wait patiently for Margo to take to the stage with her Not Country, not Western, just West sound. Margo is here many to promote her new album Pohorylle but we do get some older songs as-well.
After Margo I just had to catch the second show of the festival by His Lordship they are just that good and they guys played a belter of high energy rock and roll with a heavy helping of Rockabilly,
at one point drummer Kris Sonne switching places with bassist Dave Page and taking over vocal duties.
I had hope to catch the Danny George Wilson in-store but unfortunately it was cancelled due to Danny and crew getting held up and not arriving into Kilkenny early enough. These things are bound to happen with so much logistics involved in such a festival.
So instead it was off to Ryan’s Bar for some more Dublin punk for Pete Holidai + Tony St Ledger thinking great I can at least get some photos of Tony not hiding in the shadows as I have photographed these guys many times and Tony has always seemed to be shadowed, but not this time.
After getting my fill of good old fashioned punk it was off to Set Theatre for The Delines, it was the first show of the festival to sell-out. The venue filled up and the band took the stage to everyone’s delight and played a fantastic set of their retro country. As the Set Theatre is the biggest of the venues being used for the festival they have got the biggest crowd of the festival.
On the move again this time to Kytelers Inn for the American musician, actor and record producer all the way from Austin Texas for some more country/rockabilly from Jesse Dayton. The three piece band sure do make some noise and the room is hopping. Some might also know Jesse from his connection with Rob Zombie and being commissioned to do some soundtracks to Robs films.
Last of the day/night is back to Set Theatre for Danny George Willson & Band who started a little later than billed, but like all good bands they were worth waiting for and its also something that can happen at this festival were one show might just start a little later than billed to give people a chance to get from one show to the next which is always a good thing.
There was even one show moved a few hours this year to accommodate such things. One thing that can be said about this festival is its all about keeping the people happy and the organiser’s will try do their upmost to do so and do!
So that was the end of day Three and my feet were happy.
Monday has came around fast and we hit day four the final day, things slow down on the Monday with only two paid shows and a handful of free gig. some have left town some have called it an end, but the diehards are still on the go and some start with A Conversation with Rónán Hession & Willy Vlautin in Cleere’s Bar at 2.30pm and hosted by the festivals director John Cleere, during which there are questions and answers about music / touring / song writing and novels. It was a seat affair and again like so many its a full room.
The second of the paid shows is a mix of gig / party (even more than the whole weekend) as its the last show everyone lets rip and has a really good time because the pacing ones self can stop lol.
The act that had the honour of closing this years festival was Jesse Dayton in Kyetlers Inn and he closed it out not only with style but rock and roll! also by playing another fantastic rockabilly set.
So to conclude on the weekend, if your a music fan and want a good weekend break on the May bank holiday (Irish one) in a great medieval city with not only lots of music, but lots to see also, do yourself a favour and come next year!