To pick one hundred acts for any festival is an undertaking, to pull them from a single national scene might strike some as madness. Yet this is what HWCH sets out to do on an annual basis – as well as engaging the paying public in the process. Sometimes the size of the task becomes apparent but there’s always the chance that you might stumble across something astounding. We nearly get that right from the start, with both Voids in the Workman’s and Val Normal in the Mercantile impressing greatly, the former with their lush electronic sounds and the latter with their noisy, in your face rock. Former Faces of the Week Florence Olivier keep the good electro pop work going at the Workman’s, giving day one a solid start.
It’s not just about the new names, however. Planet Parade – back after a four year absence – impress and Leanne Harte offers yet another incarnation upstairs in Bad Bob’s. This time it’s as simple as can be, with only a backing vocalist and string player for company. Her quiet songs work their magic though, while a cover of Sheryl Crowe’s ‘Strong Enough’ sits perfectly amongst the original material.
As any regular State reader will know, Irish hip-hop is about to get a major shot in the arm and the 2014 edition goes some way in reflecting this. DVO Marvell finds himself on the outskirts of things at the Twisted Pepper – traditionally the home of all things electronic – but works a room that would have beaten many others. With a three piece live band behind him (increasingly a necessity) song such as ‘Muhammad Ali’ have enough brains and brawn to mark him out as a contender. God Knows + mynameisjOhn have already arrived on some people’s radar and as such find themselves in the more encouraging surroundings of the Buttion Factory. They’re worth it too, presenting their fantastic Family Tree album in invigorating style, God Knows and fellow MC Murli bouncing off each other in energetic fashion, even if the complexity of the backing tracks does get a little muddled sometimes.
Clusters of people pepper Meeting House Square when Conor Walsh (pictured) sets up behind his piano. His contempories in the neo-classical realm would be the likes of Nils Frahm and Dustin O’Halloran and he is soaring every bit as high as them, albeit without the back-catalogue. Electronic elements bring the heart-strung piano to a wider appeal but never overshadow it. Transporting. We are feverishly anticipating his forthcoming album.
The quiet motif of the outdoor stage continues with the arrival of Liza Flume, who manages to silence the chattering – and in some deeply annoying cases – loudly guffawing audience members as she subtly slides into action with ‘Sleepless Nights’. Like more than a few others this weekend, she’s still trying to make sense of performing as a solo electronic artist but, joined by a musical colleague, is certainly getting there. Her hand clap, finger snap sampling version of ‘Poison’ is a particular highlight, putting the pop fizz of the original in a bold new setting. Headliner Soak, despite the increasingly fuller nature of her recordings, is staying true to her roots and still tackling venues such as this alone with her guitar. The songs are great but it’s still a bit of battle for both artist and interested listener, with the gulf between the too proving just too large at times.
Back in The Workman’s we find Dear Desert existing in the late-night, smoky, suit-wearing, tie-loosened end of the synth pop world. They are not shy of the bells whistles (or indeed handclaps) of the genre but play it straight and come across very accomplished in their chosen mood, adding a fresh layer onto it. A dulcet baritone voice and shimmering guitars haven’t sounded so good since the once-upon-a-time Cousteau and Thursday night ends on a high.
Reviews: Simon Roche, Phil Udell.
HWCH 2014 photographed for State by Mark McGuinness