Preview – Kilkenny Roots Festival 2017

As the days pass and spring glides into proto-spring (also known as summer in some places), the reassurance of things associated with this time of year start to appear; the starlings make their presence known, the turf is cut and the Kilkenny Roots festival returns. Like the starlings and swallows, the Kilkenny Roots Festival has almost become an accepted part of this time of year. It’s like April comes and I am starting to think about my annual pilgrimage to Kilkenny. So in another time-honoured tradition, as I have done for the past couple of years, I will share some suggested bands and artists to catch at Kilkenny Roots Festival 2017. So with out further ado…


The first day of the Festival is a usually an easing of sorts, into the weekend. It kicks off nicely with Western Centuries (Billy Byrne’s, €15), a band that could be described as more of a collective than anything else. Their debut albums features the talents of three songwriters and vocalists. Their take on country is both reassuring and somewhat novel.

Elsewhere on Friday, the Smithwick’s Music trail kicks off across the city. This is nearly always my favourite part of the Festival. In any of these free gigs in different pubs around the city, you can find some real gems. On Friday night you’ll find Tomcat & the Zodiacs in Langtons, (10pm). If you like your rockabilly or sample the lovely sounds of Pete Bruntnell, (Ryans Bar, 10:30pm).



Saturday see the festival get into full swing. Kicking it off early on Saturday are The Americans, (Cleere’s Bar, €15, 1pm) an outfit with an original take on the Rock n’ Roll sound. Then just after that you might want to catch one of the Irish headliners at the Festival. John Blek has appeared before with full band (The Rats) last year at the festival. This year he is performing a solo gig (Ryan’s Bar, 3pm) after the recent release of his second full length solo album “Cut The Light”.

Later in the say on the music trail, my old favourite Psychedelic Pill (The Left Bank, 4pm) makes an appearance. If you have a hankering for some Neil Young…well worth catching. Mothers Little Helper (Langton’s 5pm) sound like they are worth checking out tooLater sees the Kilkenny debut of Holly Macve (Billy Byrnes, 6pm €15). Recently signed to Bella Union records, Holly is a young artist rooted in tradition. Her voice and sounds could not be more Nashville. As a English lady though she offers a unique take on this genre.

After that you might ant to check out an artist I have featured on the blog beforeOne Horse Pony (Christy’s, 6pm) mix blues, country and more. I have not seen them live but they sound like they were built to be seen in the flesh.

Saturday evening you should try catch Irish artist Aborist live (Cleere’s Bar, 9pm, €15). His debut album “Home Burial” has been receiving some very high praise and from listening to tracks on it, it sounds both haunting and contemplative, full of melody’s to savour live.

The night isnt over yet. You should try see my favourites Mongrel State (Rafter Dempsey’s,10pm) or sample some Austrian americana from Prinz Grizzley (Paris Texas, 10pm).


What a way to start your Sunday. Andrew Combs (Cleere’s Bar, 1pm, €15) is probably one of the best singer-songwriters in the americana genre at the moment. I have been a fan since the 2014 release All These Dreams. He sees the world in different way.  His music might not put a pep in your step but it is beautiful That’s why you should see him live.

Contuine your Sunday afternoon with The Needables (Breathnachs, 4pm). Just after Paul Cauthern (Billy Byrnes, 5pm €15) will be worth the short walk. His gospel inspired country has real soul.

At the same time Ben Reel (Lanigans, 5pm) is playing. It’s a tough choice but the good news is that he is playing later that evening (Ryan’s, 11pm). The man has been going for a number of years and his most recent album is right up there as one of his best. Well worth catching him live.

The Handsome Family make their only appearance at the Roots Festival on Sunday evening (Watergate Theatre, 7pm, €25). I’m sure they need no introduction if you are reading this blog. You’ll know what to expect. I think they are only getting better with each release.

YYola Carterola Carter (Kyteler’s Inn, €15) makes her second and final performance at the Roots festival. Her influences are Roots and Country and that shines through in her music too. Make sure to catch the country/roots sound of Joe Fury (Billy Byrnes’s, 10pm).




The final day of the festival still sees some excellent acts for those of you lasting it out. Paul Cauthen (The Pumphouse, €15) will be on stage again. David Kitt (Cleere’s Bar, 4pm, €15) makes his only performance at the festival. Probably not the first artist you would think of when thinking of a Roots festival but still, something different.

The festival winds up with Andrew Combs (Kyteler’s Inn, €15) and Bobbie Carey Trio (Marble City, 10pm) and if you have lasted to this stage, fair play to you.


Find the full Kilkenny Roots including Music Trail line-up here. Visit the official website for more. I’ll hopefully see you there over some part of the weekend. Enjoy the music.


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