Festival Review: Hard Working Class Heroes, October 7th – 9th 2010

Posted: 03/11/2010 in Uncategorized

THURSDAY OCTOBER 7th (As published on State.ie on October 13th 2010)

Autumn Owls @ The Button Factory:  The nature of the Hard Working Class Heroes festival means that there are always going to be bands who fall victim to an unfortunate scheduling slot. Dublin band Autumn Owls early-evening gig in The Button Factory may have failed to draw in the masses, but that didn’t stop them from putting on a fine show for those who did make it along. The first half of the set is a very sombre affair – all moody and atmospheric, with The Button Factory’s impressive smoke ‘n’ lights set-up working to the band’s full advantage. The opening tracks really highlight Autumn Owls’ musicality – an array of instruments are incorporated into their live performance, with members flitting between guitar, bass, and keys seamlessly. Following an intense performance of ‘Spider’, front man Gary McFarlane declares “less of the cardigan rock now, and more of the rock” – and the band up the ante for the remainder of their set, culminating with the fantastic ‘Love Is Just A Place’. A solid set from Autumn Owls – it’s just a pity there weren’t more people around to see it.

Kill Krinkle Club @ Twisted Pepper: Kill Krinkle Club provided the electronica fix for Thursday evening of HWCH in The Twisted Pepper – a jam-packed half hour display from the Dublin-based Swedish/Irish two piece. Working with electronic drums, guitar, and an array of synthesizers the duo give a high energy (albeit somewhat manic) performance. Interesting on-stage moves and attire make the set a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. The very catchy ‘Butterfly’ is an early highlight; and a brand new song, written only a few days beforehand, impresses greatly – with a thumping intro and synths reminiscent of an on-form Goldfrapp, the song is a strong indication that Kill Krinkle Club’s creativity is still in full flow following the recent release of debut album Abandon.

Miracle Bell @ The Button Factory: Kildare trio Miracle Bell take to the stage of the Button Factory armed with their own personal brand of electro-pop – and it certainly does not disappoint. The set kicks off with a tribal-like drum intro involving all three members – it’s a high energy affair from the offset. ‘Future Kings’ is a highlight; but penultimate song ‘Love Sounds’ steals the show – the most recent single from the band’s debut album is instantly likeable, an almost made-for-the-airwaves track, which works very well on the live stage. The band’s hardcore followers make their presence felt by dancing along right up front throughout; but to the contingent who have gathered in The Button Factory out of curiosity, the impossibly catchy melodies and tight vocal harmonies combined with the emphatic performance make for a thoroughly enjoyable set.

Heathers @ The Workman’s Club: Ellie and Louise Macnamara have been cast into the mainstream spotlight in recent months thanks to an almost meant-to-be placement of ‘Remember When’ on a Discover Ireland advertising campaign – but if ever a reminder was need that there is SO much more to Heathers than *that* song, it could be found in The Workman’s Club tonight. The tracks of 2008 debut album, Here, Not There, may be well versed on the Irish gigging scene by now – but the raw power of Heathers’ infectious melodies and impeccable harmonies mean the songs have stood the test of time and still hold their own on a live stage. The addition of “our friend Paddy” on cello adds a new dimension to some of the vintage Heathers tracks; and covers of both The Mountain Goats ‘Heretic Pride’ and Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’ add variety to their set list. Two new songs – one ‘Waiting’, the other untitled – garner a positive reception from The Workman’s Club crowd, and further fuel anticipation for Here, Not There’s forthcoming follow-up.

FRIDAY OCTOBER 8th

Yes Cadets @ The Button Factory: Belfast four-piece Yes Cadets were the headliners of choice for day 2 of HWCH at The Button Factory, and what a way to finish off the evening. Yes Cadets have gradually built up a strong reputation on the live circuit – seeing is believing when it comes to this band. There’s no time required to warm to them; they offer an instant likeability through the medium of a well-crafted and eclectic array of tunes. A synth-heavy cover of Corona’s 90s dance anthem ‘Rhythm of the Night’ catches the crowd off-guard in the best possible way – as exemplified by the mini rave which breaks out in front of the stage. The highlight of the set is unsurprisingly ‘Canada’, the standout track of the band’s 2009 self-titled EP. A very strong performance from a band who will only continue to go surge in popularity in the coming months.

SATURDAY OCTOBER 9th (As published on State.ie on October 14th 2010)

We Are Losers @ The Workman’s Club: Day three of HWCH, and We Are Losers kick off proceedings for the OTR -vs- Nialler9 night in The Workman’s Club. We Are Losers is the brainchild of Super Extra Bonus Party guitarist Gavin Elsted, who put together a few tracks and released a free-to-download EP on Bandcamp back in August. Since then the EP has garnered quite a bit of buzz, and tonight marks the first airing of We Are Losers tunes on stage. The We Are Losers live setup is three parts Bonus Party (Elsted, along with Steve Conlan on guitar and Gary Clarke on drums) mixed with one part Grand Pocket Orchestra (Bronwyn Murphy-White on bass) – and what a winning formula it proves to be. Instantly likeable EP tracks ‘The Narcissist’ and ‘Empty Head’ stand out; but overall it’s a solid set from We Are Losers – the kind of debut gig that most new bands might aspire to, but rarely achieve.

Squarehead @ The Workman’s Club: Three piece Dublin ‘garage-pop’ band Squarehead have draw quite a large crowd into the back room of The Workman’s Club in spite of their early set time – and thankfully their performance lives up to the hype which surrounds them. Squarehead have to their credit some incredibly catchy tunes – ‘Fake Blood’, ‘Mother Nurture’, and ‘Cathy’s Clown’ are a treat to listen to live, it’s practically impossible not to get involved with the laid-back rhythms and sway along. The band take advantage of the opportunity to try out some new material, and by the sounds of it a forthcoming Squarehead release is something to very much look forward to indeed.

Grand Pocket Orchestra @ The Mercantile: The fact that Grand Pocket Orchestra’s recently released debut album, The Ice Cream, offers no less than 18 tracks in the space of just over 35 minutes should offer a good indication as to what their live performances might hold. The five-piece Grand Pocket Orchestra make party music, and the crowd who have gathered in The Mercantile this evening are more than willing to embrace it with tracks such as ‘Basketballs’ and ‘Crave The Flesh’ inspiring a mass dance-along. Songs may seem like they’re over before they’ve even begun, but therein lies the magic of this band – every single minute on stage is utilised. Grand Pocket Orchestra are as fun to watch performing as they are to listen to – to see them live is to feel instantly happier. Overall, an energetic and manically giddy performance, and a visual lesson in musical multi-tasking. A festival highlight.

Sounds of System Breakdown @ The Grand Social: It’s impossible to pin a specific musical label onto Sounds of System Breakdown – and this is what makes them so interesting as a band. They have gigged long and hard to build up their profile, and their live set-up continues to honour the intention to ‘take live electronic music out from behind the laptop and truly engage with the audience’. The Dublin trio offer an intriguing quirkiness – there’s a constant element of surprise during their genre-hopping live performances, and it’s this variety which makes Sounds of System Breakdown so unique. ‘Devil’s Son’ and ‘Underneath the Floorboards’ are standout tracks in a set which held its momentum from beginning to end. And with free copies of their debut album snapped up by The Grand Social crowd after the gig, no doubt there are more than a few new Sounds of System Breakdown fans in the wake of Hard Working Class Heroes 2010.

Bitches With Wolves @ The Grand Social: It’s approaching midnight, and the large crowd who have gathered in The Grand Social to see Bitches With Wolves are ready to dance. The ever-flamboyant James O’Neill is greeted by huge applause as he appears onstage – and if tonight’s performance is going to be even half as interesting as the jacket he’s sporting, then it’s gonna be a good one. It’s straight into party mode with the frantic ‘Burnin’ Up’, followed by a cover of ‘Toca’s Miracle’ to take the crowd on a journey back to their teenage disco days. O’Neill was born to be on stage – his audience adore him. Credit must be given to the Bitches With Wolves astute approach to building up their fan-base – to date none of their music has been made available to purchase; they have garnered popularity based on a combination of online hits and acclaimed performances… and with killer dance-pop tunes like ‘Broken Hearts’ and ‘Good As Gold’ in their arsenal, whenever Bitches With Wolves DO release a single or EP you can guarantee it’ll be a success. In the meantime, their live shows are there to be enjoyed and that is exactly what the crowd did tonight. A ridiculously fun (albeit very sweaty) end to the HWCH proceedings at The Grand Social.

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