All photos by Brid O’Donovan

Last weekend, September 15-18, saw the 11th edition of the Clonakilty International Guitar Festival take over the West Cork town. I’ve seen some great shows down the years as part of the festival, Girl Band on Saturday night two years ago was probably the best show I’ve seen from them. Redneck Manifesto were the main headliners, closing De Barra’s on Sunday night with a sellout show. They played a couple new songs, ‘Sip, Don’t Gulp’ and ‘Kobo’ (working title) were two that were named, but it was old favourites like ‘I Am Brazil’, ‘Rubber Up’ and ‘Black Apple’ that showcased everything that’s brilliant about this band. They are old friends and they love making music – if there wasn’t a crowd to play to, the crowd is told, they’d be playing to each other. Richie Egan (Jape) is the nominal frontman, at one point admitting that the mic should probably be taken off him. Matty Bolger is his able sidekick, a guitarist who always looks like he’s in the zone, that the song has taken him over. He trades solos with Niall Byrne while Glenn Keating and Neil O’Connor pull the strings (well, play the keys and various other contraptions), while Mervyn Craig is the drums. It’s a stellar show, the Rednecks’ first in years. They promise a new album next year, but this standalone show, their only one of the year, will sate the appetite for now.

Redneck Manifesto:
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Brid and I arrived off the bus on Saturday afternoon, so we missed Wyvern Lingo, Marc O’Reilly and the Membranes over the previous couple days but All Our Exes Live In Texas, playing to a packed De Barra’s at 1.30pm (the afternoon!), quickly helped us forget about that. They’re a four-piece folk band from Sydney and their between-song banter is just fantastic. They won everyone over instantly. You could barely move, like. IN THE AFTERNOON. TO A BAND WHO ALMOST NOBODY IN THE ROOM (bar their parents, obviously) HAD HEARD BEFORE. It’s that sort of festival.

All Our Exes Live In Texas:
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That ideal continues over the weekend – father and son duo Les and Sam Clague showcase their guitar virtuosity in Con and Maura’s to a crowd that extends well outside the door. It’s a class little pub, real old-school vibe – bar the massive TV above the band. Vinegar Creek Constituency, from the US, play their rock n roll in first a butcher’s shop, then in Scannell’s, and on Sunday afternoon in De Barra’s.

Vinegar Creek Constituency, and Sam and Les Clague:
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On Sunday, Kilgariffe church is our first port of call for a 16-piece guitar orchestra. Spook of the Thirteenth Lock haven’t done many shows with the full orchestra for their ode to the 1913 lockout and the 1916 Rising, so it always feels special when you see them on a bill. The place, again, was packed – no mean feat when you consider the All-Ireland football final was starting at the exact same time as the Spooks. I thought it was brilliant. The setting really suited the show, which was emotional, rousing, and educational. The guitar orchestra didn’t miss a note and sounded simply immense. I think they said there’s an album in the works. Another Aussie, Dan Kelly, was just finishing tuning up in Scannell’s when we arrived and like All Our Exes, had the crowd in stitches. He prefaces his song ‘Everything’s Amazing’, by claiming that he had the idea first, that a certain ‘Everything is Awesome’ had usurped his idea. He has everyone singing along (and making amazing dolphin noises – it’s that type of festival).

Dan Kelly:
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The good vibes are everywhere you look in Clonakilty – most of the events are free, whether rain (Sunday) or shine (Saturday), there seems to be a crowd ready and waiting for every act before they take the stage. It’s the same case with Oose on Sunday evening. A trio of local lads, including Josh Sampson who was fresh off the plane from New York where he was drumming with Talos at a showcase, once they start there’s no break for 45 minutes. Sam Clague, that guitar virtuoso I mentioned, has a couple trackpads in front of him, alongside some keys, and is also pulling at his guitar while sometimes droning into the mic. Edan Ray, on bass, doesn’t relent from the groove for a second. All the while it seems like Josh, who is one of the most relaxed drummers I’ve seems, acts as the conduit between the players. They ply a krautrock, dance-funk sound and are just phenomenal. They only have one EP to their name but oh man, the sky is the limit. And then it was time for Redneck Manifesto…

Oose:
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