Of all the music festivals and live events that were wiped out by the COVID pandemic and sorely missed, the annual Kilkenny Roots Festival is top of my list.
It’s been a long stretch since 2019’s outing – 1,086 days according to organisers.
Waiting to get in to the first gig of this year’s festival – a sold out show from The Remedy Club (nee B & The Honey Boys) – I was able to flick back through Google Photos to the May Bank Holiday for 2019.
The normal routine includes lunchtime gigs on the Saturday and Sunday, regardless of who the acts are, evening gigs on the Saturday and Sunday (ticketed, again regardless) with plenty of toe-dipping along the Roots trail in pubs and spaces about town.
The photos told me I was definitely in Kyteler’s Inn for a 5pm gig on the Saturday, the place packed. Either side of that, the whole weekend, nothing.
And it’s not that it was the only gig I was at, but for the most-part, it’s the kind of festival where your phone stays in your pocket, you hold your tongue for chats until after the gigs and lose yourself in the music.
Just because the photos aren’t there doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. You’re shoulder to shoulder with a packed crowd in a back room or bar, pint in hand and taking it all in.
Midway through the third song of The Remedy Club’s set last night and the audience are already singing along and clapping where prompted. Starved of live music, audience participation and that sense of community and belong for so long, everybody is on a musical high and ready to let song take them on some kind of mystical journey.
That all might sound a bit Clannad, but looking around the room in Billy Byrne’s at a quarter to eight on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend and there’s nothing but smiles on show.
You share a nod with faces you might only see at festival time, trade pleasantries with a visitor from Cork curious about Smithwick’s, you compare programme notes with others about their plan for the weekend’s lineup, then you go home and do it all over again tomorrow.
Oh how I’ve missed this.
Check out this years lineup and previous festival programmes online at kilkennyroots.com.
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