The complete line-up (M-Z)
From A to Z, Paul Nolan and Ronan Fitzgerald introduce all the runners and riders for Punchestown – throwing in a baker’s dozen of acts who are not to be missed* along the way
Paul Nolan & Ronan Fitzgerald, 07 Jul 2003
MANIC STREET PREACHERS
Every Manics set is a greatest hits set. And when you’re reaching the end of a promotional cycle devoted to an actual Greatest Hits album (Forever Delayed) gleaned from ten years of brilliantly raucous singles, you can confidently forecast a walkover.
He cut his teeth with NY glam-punks D-Generation, but Jesse Malin found his own voice as a sort of streetwise early Bruce/Tom Petty/Lou Reed singer-songwriter whose gritty tunes and dirty realist lyrics also recall The Replacements at their doomed-romantic, melancholy best.
THE MARS VOLTA
Rising from the ashes of the awesome At The Drive-In, Chili Peppers-endorsed guitarist and singer Omar and Cedric have fashioned an unbridled debut album to rival the polyglot metal of prime Jane’s Addiction. Word has it they’re a pretty bitchin’ live act too.
* TOM MCRAE
London-based Tom McRae’s self-titled debut album, released in 2000, announced the arrival of a rare and singular new talent. Since then, McRae has more than repaid the initial patronage of Scott Walker – who invited the singer to play at his Meltdown Festival before he’d even released a record – through a series of spellbinding live shows, a Mercury Music Prize nomination, and end-of-year critics’ poll placings for his album in the Top 10 lists of Q, The Observer, The Times and The Independent, amongst many others.
Medicine 8 knock out dirty smash house which will have the dance tent pogoing like hell. Their debut album Iron Stylings along with their extensive remix work last year marked them as one to watch. Dance fans who haven’t heard of Medicine8 would do well to check out their stomping sound; but be warned, it’s no disco.
Tom the Jedi Knight Middleton has been producing shimmering and memorable dance tunes for aeons now. Last year he took on the alias Cosmos to record one of the most popular house smashes of the year. Middleton plays house music in all its forms, he’s a born crowdpleaser, and another DJ with universal appeal.
Having just dropped the earth-shatteringly magnificent long-player, Happy Songs For Happy People, the ‘Gwai are currently riding a wave of massive critical acclaim and audience adulation. The stage is undoubtedly set for a jaw-dropping, space-age sonic odyssey – just be sure to prime your ears for a gale force blizzard, folks. This is one band who most definitely set the amps to 11.
MULL HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Quirk-rock practitioner Colin McIntyre brings his brilliantly off-kilter selection box of audio delights to Witnness on July 12. The band successfully avoided the sophomore jinx earlier this year with Us, the acclaimed follow-up album to their excellent 2002 debut, Loss.
With their invigorating mix of super-funky, Stone Roses-like grooves and howling, blues-tinged hard-rock riffs, it’s no wonder that Leeds quartet The Music have been so fulsomely praised by the notoriously fastidious UK music press. Furiously catchy stoner-rock treats such as ‘Take The Long Road And Walk It’ and ‘The Truth Is No Words’ are destined to find favour with festival crowds across Europe this summer.
Since forming in the East European town of Myslowice in 1994, this dream-pop purveyors have found favour throughout the continent with such majestic, glacial slices of Euro melancholy as 'Korova Milky Bar'. As Alex Droog himself might have enthused: "Horrorshow!" A word of warning, however – no matter where you stand at one of their shows, you're in front of a Pole.
NIGHTMARES ON WAX
Bring your Rizlas for this one. Nightmares on Wax are, by their own admission, all about staying true to the soul tradition, at their broody paranoid beats have gained them many followers over their long career. Not quite high brow, and not quite low brow, they remain gloriously stuck in the middle.
Since their formation in 1999, OK GO have earned a reputation as one of America’s most irresistible live acts alongside such artists as Elliot Smith, The Promise Rings and The Vines. Damien Kulash and co. bring the noise to Witnness on July 12.
The chill-out queen, the camper van Beethoven, Ms Orton’s ambient folk lullabies have always proved tailor made therapy for late night coming down trauma or early-rising blues. Possibly the only act of the weekend who can evoke Sandy Denny and Orbital in the same song.
The Pale are one of the grandaddys of the Dublin music scene, though their current incarnation is different to how you may remember them. Having toured all over the world they now have a variety of new influences and may surprise the dance tent with their altered sound.
Dr. Groove is knocking at the door - will someone puh-lease let him in before he brings the acid house crashing down? Expect a super-funky Phelan as the lord of the dance-floor dishes up some technicolour aural trancetasias.
The surprise hit of last year’s Witnness, the Spree’s set has to be seen to be believed: PT Barnum meets the Moonies meets the Flaming Lips at a gospel mass for the bewildered. And how the hell does a two dozen strong touring band keep those robes so Daz-white? Unmissable.
COLM QUEARNEY AND THE HALLUCINATIONS
The axeman cometh! Since the release of his 2001 debut album, The World’s Not Round, acclaimed Irish guitarist Quearney has been invited to play alongside such esteemed performers as Badly Drawn Boy, Santana and UB40, whilst he has also collaborated with artists of the stature of Rory Gallagher, Holly Johnson and Reba McEntire. Expect the assembled six-string aficionados in the crowd to be furiously taking notes.
Most recently heard soundtracking one of the abundant hedonistic party sequences in Roger Avary’s Rules Of Attraction with the day-glo, punk-funk genius of ‘Out Of The Races And Onto The Tracks’, these highly touted New Yorkers come baring impeccable credentials; graduates of the Radio 4-curated NY club scene, their production team consists of a criminally hip combination of Mo’Wax entrepreneur Tim Goldsworthy and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy. HP scribes Paul Nolan and Ronan Fitzgerald advise that seeing the ‘Ture now is compulsory before they become a hip name to drop.
An unholy amalgam of retro-50s iconography, Suicide-al tendencies, Jesus & Mary Chain alienation and Cramps twang, The Raveonettes’ live shows are a throw-back to the deviant rock ‘n’ roll thrills peddled by ’70s shock-rock icons, Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper. Imbued with a skewed pop sensibility and a refreshing dollop of punk attitude, The Ravonettes’ tales from the crypt should decisively blow away the (black) mass congregation.
Now resident in Brighton, Bray native Fionn Regan is a recent inductee onto the singer-songwriter circuit, citing the holy trinity of Neil, Waits and Lennon as his primary influences, whilst glowing reviews have mentioned him in the same breath as contemporary dream-weavers, Silver Jews, Sparklehorse and The Bees.
Come and see what the Papenfus is about as brothers Ken and Carl take off on another one of their dizzying detours into soul, gospel, blues and jazz. Mindful of their musical roots but perennially keen to break new ground, the Relish live experience is always an exhilarating voyage into fresh sonic territory.
THE REDNECK MANIFESTO
One of the best live acts in the country, The Rednecks draw on the heavier end of the post rock spectrum (Slint, Mogwai etc) to create their own distinctive brand of sonic chaos. Expect a loud, aggressive and cathartic rock ‘n’ roll experience.
The Donegal punk-pop trio boast an army of die-hards and a live set honed over an apprenticeship spent in every pub, club and hole in the wall on the Irish touring circuit. The Revs truly understand Prof. Adams’ Fundamental Festival Principle: Everywhere you go, the kids wanna rock.
Last year was Mr Rice’s debs’ ball. This year, with the O album firmly entrenched in the national consciousness, plus an international licensing deal tucked away in his back pocket, he should be buzzing with the confidence of an artist who knows his time has come.
Justin Robertson is one of the more fun DJs on the Witnness bill. He plays all manner of booty-shaking house and techno. Justin’s also on something of a roll with the success of his recent Revtone project.
Comprised of MCs Black Thought and Malik B, bass player Hub and drummer Guestlove, Philadelphia-based outfit The Roots specialise in a jazz-tinged brand of old-school hip-hop. Veterans of the alt.culture festival circuit in the US, The Roots will undoubtedly prove a surprise treat for rap aficionados in attendance at Witnness this year.
Norwegian dance duo Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland have quietly emerged as perhaps the great white hopes of ambient dance music. Their innovative blend of ethereal synth washes, funky house rhythms and hypnotic vocals are tailor made for that transcendent late-night
Corkonian five-piece Rubyhorse have made huge inroads into the American music scene since basing themselves in Boston in 1997, building up a devoted live following, making prestigious appearances on the David Letterman and Conan O’Brien shows, and even collaborating with the late George Harrison on a track for their 2002 debut, Rise. The group’s imaginative take on the rudiments of the pop-rock genre is sure to find an equally welcoming reception in their native land.
THE SAW DOCTORS
The veteran Galwegian outfit return armed with their distinctively Irish brand of uproarious folk anthems. Expect the Tuam faithful to party like it’s 1989 when the group unleash ‘I Useta Love Her’.
As indebted to Hank Shocklee as Hank Williams, Sexsmith’s most recent album, Cobblestone Runway, added synths and dance beats to his typically intense acoustic craftsmanship. Result: fire in the disco!
Acclaimed singer-songwriter Colin McFeely deals in the sort of bittersweet acoustic laments that have made an alt.country superstar out of Bonnie Prince Billy. Prepare yourselves for a cool-as-folk blend of spellbinding blues fretwork and bitingly intelligent lyrical wit.
Gary Lightbody and co. return to Witness primed for some serious rock action. And when you’ve got such bona-fide indie-disco classics as ‘Starfighter Pilot’ lurking in your repertoire, a landslide result is all but inevitable.
A mere 18 months in existence, Liverpool quartet The Stands, fronted by one Howie Payne, ply a mélange of Cali-harmonies and rambling guitars that belies their youthful years, not to mention a weakness for such old masters as Hank Williams, The Grateful Dead, and Miles Davis. Their Witnness appearance coincides with the release of the debut single ‘When This River Runs Over You’ on the Echo label, a taster for their forthcoming debut album, due to drop in September.
* THE STREETS
In the 12 months since Mike Skinner dropped one of the most monumental debut albums in living memory – the superlative Original Pirate Material – powerhouse singles such as ‘Weak Become Heroes’ and ‘Let’s Push Things Forward’ have penetrated pop culture so deeply as to become lore. Noted for their incendiary live-shows, The Streets are widely tipped to be one of the highlights of Witnness 2003.
Bound to be a blissful antidote to scuzzy geezers in cut-off trousers and army boots, the Babes bring to the party not a little glamour, pop suss and an array of the finest chart singles, including the awesome ‘Overload’ and ‘Freak Like Me’.
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS
Festival faves the Super Furries can be relied upon to deliver their usual bewitching sonic brew: melancholy acoustic laments, pounding techno rhythms and mindblowing psych-rock freak-outs, all topped off by a smattering of maddeningly compulsive quirk-rock curios.
Supergrass are one of the few Britpop acts who not only managed to stay afloat following the demise of that particular movement, but actually flourished in its wake. Expect Gaz and co. to demonstrate precisely why they’ve survived and thrived through the usual blistering renditions of their arsenal of pop gems, including such dazzling three-minute wonders as ‘Grace’, ‘Sun Hits The Sky’ and, of course, ‘Alright’.
TEN SPEED RACER
The Irish punk-pop outfit can be expected to sail comfortably through the opening heats, before embarking on the inevitable triumphant lap of honour.
* THE THRILLS
The D4 heavyweight contenders are in a win/win situation. If it pours rain, those heavenly Byrds-meets-Bacharach melodies will provide the perfect consolatory soundtrack for the saturated hordes. If it doesn’t, Van Dyke Parks-like pocket symphonies such as ‘One Horse Town’ and ‘Big Sur’ could well prove the feelgood hits of the weekend.
You may not know where the hell he’s at these days, but it’s hard to take your eyes off the guy. Tricky’s tales of urban paranoia, fear and loathing throw a black shadow across the sunshine. With promises of collaborations with native MCs in the offing, though, this should be a rather brilliant summer bummer.
Hit the booze a little too hard? Hearing still partially impaired from Mogwai’s set on the Rising stage? Then step right this way, because Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian’s brand of soulful acoustic melancholia is the perfect panacea for your ills. Non-believers can expect to be instantly converted within seconds of setting ears on such hobo-blues delights as ‘Emergency 72’ and ‘Painkiller’.
Dublin-based noise-niks and festival faves Turn have built up a formidable reputation on the live circuit thanks to an energetic stage show, oodles of attitude and – lest we forget – hooks you could hang the proverbial coat on.
Undisputed kings of the UK techno scene for nigh-on a decade now, Underworld are the festival dream-team made flesh; ‘Born Slippy’, ‘King Of Snake’ and last year’s pulsating comeback single, ‘Two Months Off’, come complete with a no-clauses guarantee to render any audience a sweaty, euphoric, danced-out mass.
Ever the men in the long black coats lurking on the fringes of things, The Wall brothers graduated from their Stunning days to perfect a rather sublime mix of Beck-like post-pop. They played Slane too, y’know.
Search out that dog-eared copy of Less Than Zero – these gaunt LA acid rockers are heirs to a debased rock ‘n’ roll legacy that begins with The Rolling Stones and The Velvet Underground, pierces the dark hearts of The Jesus And Mary Chain and Spacemen 3, and reaches its (un)natural conclusion in the narcotised hipster blues of ‘Shake The Dope Out’. Dr. Feelgood, make the bad men stop!
THE WHITE STRIPES
Currently the hippest thing on four legs, the Stripes have risen to their current unassailable position on the pop-cultural landscape courtesy of an unimpeachable four album back catalogue, the kind of dirty blues routines that alchemise base musical elements into 24-carat sonic gold, and a live rep approaching mythical proportions.
WHITE TRASH GIRLS
This group of sonic experimentalists are beyond The Pale – literally. Members of the veteran Dublin outfit have teamed up with a troupe of willing collaborators to bring you a techno-coloured audio dreamscape. Sheer bliss awaits for the trance contingent.
Boasting a sparkling debut album produced by Stephen Street and a songbook full of melodic tricks gleaned from Neil Young, Mercury Rev, and the Tindersticks, Woodstar are amongst the most musical of this year’s models, equally skilled in scintillating pop treats and virtuoso, old-school rock ’n’ roll song-craft.
Zongamin is the brain child of Susumu Mukai, a 29-year-old Japanese music obsessive who moved to England in 1985. After school he studied at the Royal College of Art where he met Mike Silver aka Midnight Mike, the warped musical genius behind the Sonovac and Soft Verge albums on Trevor Jackson’s Output label. Their first single ‘Serious Trouble’ was championed by Soulwax and Andrew Weatherall and the first Zongamin album was released last March on XL Recordings (The White Stripes etc.). This eponymous record is a dazzling house/funk/electronic/ guitar rock odyssey and is perhaps the most original debut album of 2003 to date.