Festival Review: Hard Working Class Heroes 2011

Posted: 23/10/2011 in Uncategorized

Sounds of System Breakdown, The Button Factory

Walking into the Button Factory at 8PM on HWCH Thursday, one could be forgiven for thinking they’d walked into a dance-club in the wee hours. Sounds of System Breakdown are on stage amidst a flurry of smoke n’ lights doing what they do best – filling the room with killer electro-rock beats. Mixing tracks from their eponymous debut album with new songs including the brilliant title track ‘Colour’ from their recent EP, there’s a constant element of surprise with the genre-hopping tendencies of Sounds of System Breakdown – they’re intriguing to watch, and continue to honour their mission statement to ‘take live electronic music out from behind the laptop and truly engage with the audience’. ‘The Band Played’ remains their trump card, reserved to close out the set in style.

 

Spies, The Button Factory

There’s quite a bit of buzz around Spies at the moment, and from the moment the five-piece take to the Button Factory stage it’s apparent why. A relatively new band, Spies have not been together that long – but already have an air of confidence and a stage presence which could lead one to believe them to be a lot more established than they actually are. Spies sound seems heavily influenced by bands of the indie-giant ilk of The National and Interpol; lead singer Michael Broderick’s resonant baritone voice is complimented perfectly by the driving drum-lines and layered guitar riffs which surround it. They may look incredibly young, but the sound they provide is mature. Interesting to watch, and armed with a number of engaging songs – in particular the brilliant ‘Barricades’ – Spies are definitely an exciting prospect.

We Cut Corners, The Button Factory

We Cut Corners are one of the most intriguing acts on the live Irish music scene at the moment. On paper – short songs played on just guitar and drums. On stage – SO much more. There may only be two of them, but We Cut Corners make music which is evocative and mesmerising – their energy and passion for what they do is glaringly evident, both put their absolute all into the performance. They’re a versatile live act, moving comfortably and seamlessly between the frantic delivery of recent single ‘The Leopard’ to the stripped-back raw refrains of ‘Dumb Blonde’. The juxtaposition of the duo’s vocal harmony abilities is so very interesting – showcased at its best with the formidable ‘Go Easy’, unsurprisingly reserved to close out their set. The band’s debut album Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards is set for release on November 11th – bring it on.

 

Daithí, The Grand Social

To try to pigeonhole Daithí’s style is to take away from everything he stands for – he is, quite simply, indefinable. The man with the reality TV past has transformed into the man with the impossibly bright future off the back of well received EP release The Embrace. Daithí is best appreciated in a live setting – he’s fascinating to watch as he commands over loop-stations, synthesisers, drum machines and kaoss pads with the driving force of his fiddle. He completely captivates The Grand Social crowd tonight – and even gets them dancing along when Elaine Mai joins him onstage to lend her vocal talents to a cover of Calvin Harris & Kelis’ ‘, which is just so crazy it’s works… brilliantly. A true innovator in Irish music.

Cfit, The Mercantile

A year on from playing their first ever gig together as a band at last year’s Hard Working Class Heroes, Cfit take to the stage in The Mercantile with an impressive debut album in the form of Triage to their credit. The band themselves describe their songs as “woozy, bruised, melancholy anthems” – and really, they provide exactly what they promise to. The band’s live setup allows for a multi-layered performance, with incredibly tight execution – and it’s always a treat to have the presence of strings onstage. The dulcet tones of lead singer Noel Duplaa impress throughout, from the laid back refrains of the simultaneously twinkly and pulsing ‘Don’t Sweat The Small Shit’ to the gradual build of the fantastic ‘Base Isolation’. Ones to watch for sure.

Little Xs For Eyes, The Mercantile

The beauty of the Hard Working Class Heroes festival is that with SO many acts on the bill, you’re bound to stumble across acts you’ve never seen before – and if you’re lucky, happen upon something truly special. Little Xs For Eyes are a half boys, half girls, all harmonising pop powerhouse – instantly charming, but thankfully with the goods to back up the quirky image. The impressive range of instruments at their disposal further adds to the appeal – the band producing violins, ukuleles and mandolins throughout the set to compliment their core guitar and drums pop-rock ethos. ‘In The Light’, the lead single from their forthcoming debut LP S.A.D is an absolute delight – particularly the pitch-perfect hand-clap backed harmonising breakdown mid-song. A real highlight of HWCH Thursday.

Bats, The Button Factory

Night #2 of Hard Working Class Heroes 2011, and any notions of festival fatigue following a busy opening night are instantly blown away from the moment Bats step onstage in the Button Factory and strike their first eardrum-shattering chord. Bats have been one of the pioneering acts of the new breed of bands who indulge in heavy but hypnotic riff laden guitar music, and have honed their craft to a fine art happily at home on The Richter Collective. Showcasing some new tracks alongside the hard-hitting tunes from debut album Red In tooth & Claw, it’s a raucous performance from the five-piece powerhouse which sets the tone nicely for the night ahead.

Yeh Deadlies, The Workman’s Club

It may be cold outside for music fans stomping the ground between the HWCH venues, but walking into the back room of The Workman’s Club there’s a certain warmth coming from the stage in the form of the breezy indie-pop stylings of Yeh Deadlies. Founding members of the Popical Island, Yeh Deadlies epitomise everything the collective is about – lo-fi production, smart songwriting, and killer hooks. The charming boy/girl harmonies between Annie Tierney and Padraig O’Reilly sound delectable, and the tracks of debut album The First Book Of Lessons sound great played out in a live setting. There may not have been many there to witness it – but those who were there were treated to a half hour of charismatic and engaging pop goodness.

 

Squarehead, The Button Factory

Fresh from the release of acclaimed debut album Yeah Nothing, Dublin three-piece Squarehead have unsurprisingly drawn a big crowd to The Button Factory. It’s been a slow and steady climb for these purveyors of fine garage-pop, and it’s been a delight to watch as they’ve gradually evolved into one of the most consistently entertaining live acts in Ireland, moving from early empty-room slots towards main attraction territory. The trio keep it simple with guitar, drum and bass – but they do so very well. The tracks of Yeah Nothing can verge on becoming stale upon repeat listens of the album – but performed live, they’re rejuvenated and given an extra edge and flourish, and it’s practically impossible not to get involved with the laid-back rhythms and sway along. Squarehead looked very comfortable on that big stage – long may it continue.

 

We Are Losers, The Workman’s Club

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, We Are Losers shuffled onstage in The Workman’s Club for what was not only their first HWCH gig, but their first gig ever. They return to the venue for this year’s instalment with confidence gained, and having built up an impressive arsenal of catchy low-fi pop tunes. Three quarters Super Extra Bonus Party one quarter Grand Pocket Orchestra, We Are Losers are no strangers to pleasing a crowd and make the kind music that makes you want to dance and “whoa-oh-oh” right along with them. One of their earliest offerings – set opener ‘We Vampires’ – in particular is a fantastic piece of lo-fi pop, and new song ‘Sonic Boom’ is a positive indicator of the direction that Losers are taking. The duo of songs from their summertime single release on Leeds label Dance To The Radio, ‘Cheerleader’ and ‘Sunset Song’, continue to lead the charm offensive for this exciting band – and the future certainly looks bright.

Le Galaxie, The Workman’s Club

No better band than Le Galaxie to take you into the wee hours of HWCH Friday. The band’s live sets have quickly become the stuff of legend on the Irish music scene – in the past few months alone they bathed this very venue in neon to launch their debut album towards cosmic critical acclaim, completely stole the show at Castlepalooza, and put in one of the performances of the weekend at Electric Picnic. So it’s no surprise that The Workman’s Club is at capacity to accommodate those eager to sample the delights of Laserdisc Nights II in its live form. ‘Beyond Transworld’ and ‘Powers of Miami’ are early highlights, and the more vintage ‘You Feel The Fire’ too commanding mass participation. An emphatic rendition of ‘Orion’ threatens to steal the show, but it’s the all-conquering ‘Midnight Midnight’ which inspires the peak of the madness. Le Galaxie brought the noise and left in their wake an elated (albeit very sweaty) crowd. Departing the stage to the Jurassic Park theme tune was a brilliant last hurrah – to say that Le Galaxie are unique is an understatement because really, there’s no other act out there like them.  And I, for one, welcome our new glowstick-brandishing electro overlords.

Tieranniesaur, The Workman’s Club

Tieranniesaur encapsulate everything that is unique and exciting about the Popical Island Collective on one stage and are one of the most talked about bands in the run-up HWCH weekend. There’s a real air of anticipation for this one, as exemplified by the fact there really isn’t much room to move – a problem for those who know what’s in store and will be inevitably feeling the need to dance. Annie Tierney & co. take to the stage and there’s no time to waste as they launch into their completely infectious brand of funky disco-inspired breezy pop. The band’s eponymously titled debut album received praise from critics, fans, and fellow musicians alike, but to witness the songs played live is to love it even more – it’s impossible not to get carried away with it all. ‘Rockblocker’, ‘Sketch’ and ‘Here Be Monsters’ stand out as the ultimate crowd pleasers – but really, the energy throughout the set was unwavering. The gig proved perfect way to close out Hard Working Class Heroes 2011 – there ain’t no party like a Tieranniesaur party.

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