Live Preview: Kilkenny Roots Festival 2015

So for those of us of a certain persuasion, the annual pilgrimage begins on Friday to Kilkenny. The Roots festival has been, for a number of years and still remains the most premier festival if you are a lover of americana, alt-country and folk in Ireland. The organisers have a knack of getting artists just as they are about to cross-over to major recognition (c.f. Sturgill Simpson, Alabama Shakes). This year will be no exception and the line-up is just as exciting as previous years. Can you read how excited I am? So let’s get down to my recommends for artists for you to catch over the weekend.

As well as the major gigs where there is a charge, there is also the roots trail which covers most of the city and where you will find some great (mainly Irish) artists playing. So for the best experience, I suggest pick one or two gigs you want to go to and after that, just walk the city and see where your ears take you.


The whole event kicks off on Friday night with the only appearance from John Murry (Ryans, Sold Out). John seems to like this country a fair bit and it’s hard not to like him back. “The Graceless Age” was a brilliant album and his follow-up EP “Califorlornia” was just as infectious. Elsewhere The Eskies (Left Bank,10pm, Free) make an appearance with their high tempo foot tapin’ gyspyesque folk. They are only a few weeks away from their album launch so I’m sure you might get a preview of the new album.There are also a few bands playing Friday that I know nothing about but am very intrigued by including Kingston, Strange Brew and Loudest Whisper.



The festivals really kicks off the next day with the Rockabilly of Dublin City Rounders (Brethnachs, 4pm, free). Then there is Pete Cummins at the same time (Biddy Early’s) followed by Joe Fury & The Hayride (Billy Byrnes, 10pm, Free). Joe has just released a new album and it’s great so definitely check that one out. The “imports” on Saturday consist of Sons of Bill (Kytelers, 10pm, €15), The Barr Brothers (Cleeres,10pm, Sold Out) and one I am looking forward to: Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires (Set Theatre,€15). This is perfect Saturday night rock n’ roll. It’s that simple. Lee Bains used to be in one of my favourite bands (The Dexateens) and he has brought the same energy to his new outfit. “Deconstructed” is a mighty collection of songs and worth checking out. This one will be loud, aggressive and sweaty. I’m excited for it.



Sunday at the Roots always feels like the beginning of the comedown for me. There are still great artists but the energy is more on tuneful americana than heavy rock. Still if your after your rock fix, you can do no worse that the Neil Young tribute Psychadelic Pill (5pm, Breathnachs, free). There is also the lovely soulful voices of John Blek & Anna Mitchell to enjoy (Cleeres, 4pm). I Draw Slow (Billy Byrnes, 5pm, €15) are one of the only Iris head-liners at the festival. Their roots fusion is worth catching and would make a great double shot of roots along with I’m With Her (Watergate Theatre,7:30pm, €20), the super-group consisting of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jaeosz and Aoife O’Donovan who’s soft voices will surely easy any hangover!

One of the biggest acts to play the festival in a while, Calexico will be making one appearance at Kilkenny (Set Theatre, 10pm, Sold Out) on Sunday night. The band have just released a new album so expect some new songs. Hopefully these juggernauts of the tex-mex genre might play a few classics too.

Monday The final day of the Festival (if you’re still standing) sees some fine americana on display. Apart from The Rails (Cleeres, 4pm, €12), I recommend seeing the Midnight Union Band (Rafter Dempseys, 3pm, Free), a local band with lots and losts of talent. A perfect way to end the weekend.

So that’s my pick of the bunch. Check out the official website for more information and the full gig schedule. Don’t just rely on my thoughts, get out there an explore the city and see what you find. Most importantly enjoy your weekend.

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