by / October 11th, 2011 /

Top Story: The 20 best acts @ Hard Working Class Heroes 2011

100 bands played Hard Working Class Heroes 2011. Here are the 20 which made the biggest impression on the four State reviewers.

Photo by Martina McDonald. See all the photos in the HWCH gallery.

Bantum

State catches the latter half of the Dublin-based (Cork-born) producer’s set, and it’s more than enough to pencil him down as one of the highlights of the weekend. Bantum deals in pulsating, dayglo electronic tunes played at a frenzied tempo that you can’t help but be swept up by. New song ‘Lay Lay’ provides a nice taster from his forthcoming (fourth) EP, and if he’s this impressive in a showcase setting you can imagine him laying waste to a clubnight. (Daniel Harrison)

CFit

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. (Elaine Buckley)

Come On Live Long

Even though we’ve been tipped off to expect interesting things from them, Come On Live Long’s early Saturday evening set at The Grand Social still manages to stop us in our tracks. Mostly eschewing the dominant HWCH of overloaded electronics, the Dubliners pick and chose their weapons from a variety of instruments, including – we’re delighted to report – a ukulele amongst the ranks. Despite this, the experience is bang up to date and the songs roar and soar in a manner that recalls Beirut at their most effective. Just the kind of encounter that this festival was designed to encourage. (Phil Udell)

Daithi

We are already quite taken with the Galway-based musician’s Embrace EP – released earlier this year –but Daithi’s excellent set in The Grand Social shows that he’s pushed his already distinctive sound even further. The layered violin loops, math-rock-like syncopation and pulsing rhythms are still present and correct, but tonight there’s added variety. Fellow Galway talent Elaine Mai provides vocals on a couple of numbers, and the two complement each other well considering the differences in their respective solo output. Meanwhile, the new (or at least unfamiliar) material sounds even more inventive and rhythmically deft than what’s come before: his next record should be very interesting. (DH)

Funeral Suits

Every time a Funeral Suits gig rolls around it’s a completely different prospect from the last. When the band played a State versus gig last summer, the band showed all signs of the smarts they received from the Stephen Street production treatment. Over a year later and they’ve swapped that British-sounding rock sound for a more nuanced synth-led version with ambience and propulsive drums ringing throughout. It’s a more unique proposition from a band who have found their own sound and in songs like ‘Colour Fade’ and Florida, some potential big indie radio hits. (Niall Byrne)

Hush War Cry

This young Cork four-piece have a sound that’s wise beyond their college-going years. While they are clearly indebted to the art-rock stylings of the likes of Wild Beasts, rare is a talent that forms in such an unnurtured entity. The songs are delicate, artistic, creative and dramatic and they can do it all live too as they proved to a small crowd in The Mercantile on Saturday night. Look out for their Apparitions EP in December and fall in love now with ‘Lily’. (NB)

Hush War Cry – Lily

Last Days Of 1984

Only a few months into their live gigging careers and Darren Moloney and Brian Rice have given Ireland something it didn’t know it lacked, beat-led Balearic beach-house inspired by recent forays into psychedelic electronica by Animal Collective. Each gig sees the duo hone their songs a bit more towards mastering the control of the room and their set in The Workman’s Club on Saturday night was no different. A blissed-out one to watch. (NB)

Le Galaxie

There’s 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 – in the past few months alone they bathed The Workman’s 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 commands 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. (EB)

Little Xs For Eyes

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. (EB)

Moths

It might not be much to look at live but Jack Colleran has it where it counts – the tunes. The young Newbridge man uses a laptop and controller on stage but let’s his music do the talking. Big swirling electronic ones with atmospheric synth lines and melodies that sound sampled from the sound of the human heart. He’s already packing out venues in Dublin. The next year is going to be a big one for Moths. (NB)

Simon Bird

Taking in elements of drone, post-rock and electronica, the young producer’s set is one of the most viscerally striking of the weekend. Varying between sharp, fuzzy beats, flurries of noise and squall, and some gut-shaking low-end (at one point the foundations of the venue seem to be reverberating), this is hypnotic stuff. One ‘song’ in particular stands out, moving from gentle, tribalistic-sounding percussion to eerie drones. Definitely one to keep an eye on. (DH)

Spies

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. (EB)

Squarehead

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 Yeah Nothing tracks 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. (EB)

The Depravations

The Galway-based band received some deserved attention in recent months for their Mosey EP, but if their Workman’s Club set is anything to go by they’re just getting started. Their breezy, surf-pop tinged folk sound is still evident – indeed the quieter moments sound even more enchanting live, with the vocals a particular strong point. However, there’s an extra muscular quality to their sound: none more so than when they cut loose towards the end of final song ‘Not Forgotten’. It’s a thrilling moment that points to an increasing alt-country influence, also notable elsewhere in the set: one new number in particular has a sweepingly melodic quality with some great guitar work. Anticipation for their upcoming album grows. (DH)

The Dying Seconds

A band who’ve met with the approval of none other than The National’s Aaron Dessner, and it’s easy to see why. The Dying Seconds have developed a perfect sense of dynamics and drama: their dark, magnificently brooding set characterised by swelling song structures, addictive hooks and subtly emotive vocals. It all reaches a superb climax with ‘Mora Minn’, an eerie, ominous song that ends in a flurry of pounding percussion. (DH)

Tieranniesaur

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. (EB)

Toby Kaar

Across a weekend that sees plenty of young people prodding at laptops and samplers in the name of performance, Cork’s Toby Kaar is something of a revelation. He turns the fact that his gig comes at the festival’s largest venue the Button Factory to his advantage, with the crystal clear PA reflecting every nuance of his music and Kaar himself clearly not dwarfed by the occasion. Best of all, he looks as if he is actually doing something up there, his body convulsing in time to the beats. A cut above the competition, Ireland’s electronica scene may just have found another flag bearer. (PU)

We Are Losers

Friday night sees We Are Losers celebrate what is essentially their first birthday, as a live band at least, reinforcing just how much they’ve developed along the way. A summer spent honing their sound in front of UK festival audiences has clearly helped, but the truth is that the four piece had a spark right from the off. The songs are all top notch and their performance strikes just the right balance of ice cool (bassist Bronwyn) and the cute exuberance of lead loser Gavin. The guitar drenched noise of it leaves you in no doubt as to where their influences lie, but We Are Losers already have enough of their own personality to win through. Here’s looking forward to the terrible twos… (PU)

Cheerleader by wearelosers

We Cut Corners

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. (EB)

Yeh Deadlies

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. (EB)

  • Gavin Murphy

    We popped in the middle of the set of Time The Revolator at the Shebeen and thought they were really good. The place was packed with quite some wild atmosphere for their gig. Definitely one to look up live.