Knockengorroch 20th Birthday World Ceilidh

Review by Esme Jones | 03 Jun 2008

It might sound like "a cow sneezing", but Knockengorroch festival has been going strong since 1998, held each May and September: this year saw them celebrating their 20th Birthday in style. A small, intimate and friendly gathering located in a beautiful valley in Carsphairn, this year Knock glowed with sun for four days.

Knock covers a range of Scottish and world musical tastes. Lots of the acts play a range of days and times; of those putting in a stint on the opening day Wierdstrings entertained with their fusion of fiddles and disco: you've never quite experienced Don't You Want Me Baby until you've see it sung by a bearded dude playing the fiddle. Their portfolio of tunes hasn't expanded much over the years but blending and blurring the boundaries between electro and folk music makes them a lot of fun. Another band to watch out for are 3 Daft Monkeys who rocked an afternoon acoustic set free of any distinct genre; lead singer Athene Roberts dressed fabulously, showing everyone that festivals should be done in style.

Friday's headliners Dreadzone gave a belting performance, taking everyone to giddy heights with full-on beats and an explosive combination of sounds. On the Saturday evening Capercaillie's performance, whilst musically tight and perfectly produced, was slightly down tempo and didn't quite get hearts racing or feet dancing. But later, after a fire show including burning effigies (one in particular looking like a flaming nipple) the Peatbog Faeries came out to play...

Following numerous performances and years of support for Knockengorroch this talented piper and crew showed how it is done. The composition and harmony between all the instruments was crafted brilliantly and each song left you with a floating and uplifting sensation. Moving from wistful to foot stomping these Faeries had plenty of magic to offer. Happily it wasn't over yet as Zion Train had an hour and half in The Shieling tent pumping out some serious dub. While debates about white men putting on Rasta accents were rife, the tunes were of an undeniable quality. 'I say Zion, you say Train'... Oh yes, the crowd kept going and begged for more.

Mungo's... oh Mungo's, in later life these boys (full name Mungo's Hi Fi) will surely be blamed for half the deaf folk in Scotland, but once again they manage to get all the heaving bodies swaying together. Belly Ska is their best tune, a regular hit; but if heavy bass is not your thing then you can venture on to the Acoustic Tent and catch live music until the wee hours, where there are always musicians jamming away, collaborating and creating until their hearts content.

Knockengorroch is so much more than the music, though, and each day there are workshops: from the newly revived cool of hula hooping (it's not just for 10-year-olds you know) to capoiera and clowning. This festival is for all types and all ages and is just as much about learning new skills and making new friends as dancing all night long.

A comedy slot from Phil Kay was welcomed on Sunday afternoon and he had everyone giggling with his special brand of rambling thoughts, observation and group participation: great afternoon entertainment that had tears rolling down cheeks. "Why don't they just make tent bags that little bit bigger?"

Startling the crowds, beatboxer Shlomo literally blew the roof off with his mastery of the mouth. After gaining a following from his beatbox workshop, his ability to create the craziest sounds and produce a tune is still mind boggling and astounding. The most fun is watching the crowd staring in awe and forgetting to dance as the range of tunes just keeps coming.

The high point for me had to be dancing in the main stage area to a medley of musicians collaborating, with brass and string to the fore, as the sun started to peek out in the early morn and (Send him to) Outta Space was sung out by all present - if only the Prodigy could see this mix. No better way to start the day.

Passionate about music, passionate about people and with the sun showing it's glorious praise many believe that was the best Knock yet. Happy Birthday, and here's to the next 20 years.

We've also got a full gallery of shots from this year's World Ceilidh.

Knockengorroch's second annual festival, The Hairth, is on 19-21 September 2008.