A look back at Smithwick’s Kilkenny Roots Festival

You learn something new every year at the Smithwick’s Kilkenny Roots Festival.

You learn something new every year at the Smithwick’s Kilkenny Roots Festival.

Did you know, for example, what is one of the most popular attractions at the New Orleans Zoo? It’s a hill!

The land is so flat that an artificial hill was created to show school children what a hill looks like!

I was given this information on the car journey from Dublin Airport with Dan Cutler, a member of New Orleans band, Hurray For The Riff Raff, last Thursday.

The band fell in love with Kilkenny, and Kilkenny fell in love with the band during the weekend, when they played three sold out shows at the festival.

Four days, 85 shows, thousands of people enjoying the music and the unique atmosphere at the event.

Could anything go wrong? Of course it could, but problems were handled and solved without any fuss by the festival team.

The John Grant show at The Watergate Theatre on Sunday proved the most problematic.

His performance at the 2011 festival was rated as among the best ever and his return with a full band was eagerly anticipated.

The man himself is a gentleman and very easy to deal with, but one Icelandic member of his band came very close to having the show cancelled.

The technical crew, lead by Rory Broderick, solved all the issues and the show eventually got underway an hour and a half late.

Reminder to myself not to book bands with techno “musicians”. We will stick to the roots in future.

The attitude of Canadian band, The Deep Dark Woods was a complete contrast to the Icelandic prima donna.

The band played a show in England on Saturday night and then headed for the Holyhead ferry.

Disaster struck when their van broke down.

I got a call at 3.30am to tell me about the problems, but the tour manager assured me they would do all they could to get to Kilkenny.

They ended up having to be towed by the AA from Birmingham to the ferry and then from Dublin to Kilkenny.

They made it on time for a packed show at Kytelers Inn and spent an extra couple of days in Kilkenny while Michael Lyng Motors sorted out their mechanical problems.

What were the highlights?

Everyone will have their own favourites.

Was it the wonderful story songs of Ed Romanoff, the enchanting voice of Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray For The Riff Raff, the raw energy of Ha Ha Tonka?

And that was only Friday’s offerings.

On Saturday you could decide between the extraordinary voice of Angel Olsen, Irish flag bearers The Lost Brothers and then round off the night at the best rock’n’roll show you will see in Kilkenny this year: Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express.

And yes, I’m including Mr Springsteen in that. In the words of musician Clive Barnes: “Chuck Prophet ...... Thank reminded me how incredible music can be, faith restored....amazing gig.”

Sunday gave us the aforementioned John Grant, the magnificent Phosphorescent and the absolute craziness of Larry and His Flask, who gave a jaw dropping performance at The Set Theatre.

The John Murry show (no, not the radio presenter) at Cleeres is contender for greatest show ever out of the hundreds that have taken place at the venue.

Monday is generally a day for winding down, but Swiss trio, Mama Rosin were having none of it.

Their shows at The Pumphouse and Kytelers were among the most exciting of the weekend, with crowds unwilling to let the show and the festival end.

All good things do come to an end. Roll on 2014.

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