Glastonbury Review: Kneecap

June 29, 2024

With one eye cocked to history and the other to the news, Kneecap’s urgent musical manifesto could easily be imagined scrawled on a neglected underpass in a forgotten town. They speak directly to the streets and a pride in their homeland. And they talk of drug fuelled escapades too. Lots of them. I mean, the lyrics make no secret of that, but it would be churlish to strip them down to the narcotics working through this trio’s system. There’s much more to them than.

Their debut record, Fine Art, has is a fiery affair that’s bottled rave-rap lightning. They spout lyrical dynamite to a series of rocking bass rhythms and throbbing beats, making for music that gets pulses racing and the head thinking. “What are you all doing up at this time? Get back to bed”, they declared to a packed Saturday morning Woodsies tent. A chorus of cheers greeted every onstage motion.

‘Better Way to Live’ had Fontaines DC’s Grian Chatten guest vocal appearing by video screen only (perhaps he is still sleeping off any post-set shenanigans following his band’s emphatic headline Park Stage turn the night before), while the likes of ‘I’m Flush’ and ‘Sick in the Head’ got limbs moving. All the while, the louche and lairy wordsmiths stalked the stage. Behind them, more Red Stripes than the Kentish Town Forum’s downstairs bar as they delivered tracks from their blistering debut Fine Art to a heaving tent (“This is a headliner size crowd,” the compere declares as the exit music plays).

Truth be told, these pro-Republican rabble rousers lost a lot of their nuance in the live setting, but there’s no doubting that there’s a riot goin’ on with the Irish youth, and Kneecap are leading the charge. Breakthrough 2019 anthem ‘Get Your Brits Out’ invoked pandemonium, and it was accompanied by a Palestinian flag held aloft briefly on the stage – the intent being to show solidarity with those facing division and fighting elsewhere over the land they lay on. Something that these Belfast boys can relate to somewhat.

Inspiring swathes of their compatriots to learn their native Irish tongue, these scruffily clad lads are what “influencers” really should be, and what they once were, before the word was corrupted, bastardised and transformed into equating to rictus grins, chiselled cheekbones and honed abs on the Gram. Can we get that version back, please? Kneecap are just one bright hope for that future.

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