by / October 9th, 2013 /

What State Saw: Hard Working Class Heroes 2013

Last weekend saw the annual celebration of homegrown musical talent that is Hard Working Class Heroes. As ever the State team where out and about, keeping an eye on new talent and some old favourites….

Affleck – Twisted Pepper, Thursday

Before you ask, yes, Affleck believe their namesake will make a serviceable Batman. Now that’s out the way, the Belfast trio can get back to their third gig “evz”. There are a few hiccups along the way, and it’s clear that Affleck are still getting used to their material, but that can be forgiven. There’s a lot to get used to for what was formerly 3/4 of Eatenbybears as they slide between heavier rock tracks, power indie-pop and bass music that sounds like it has been repurposed for a full band. Everything is thrown in the blender but the aim is always an energetic, euphoric climax. (George Morahan)

Biggles Flys Again – The Mercantile, Thursday

Biggles are one man down. “Where’s Ben?” cries one very earnest/wryly mocking fan as the “klassic” line-up soldier on. What is vaguely twee and Belle & Sebastian-indebted on record sounds more hardened at the Mercantile tonight – there’s a drudging, almost garage rock sense to everything. Jauntiness is still allowed, but there’s also room for a tinge of sadness amid the upbeat tempos and ostensible quirkiness. It goes down well, Biggles find a sweet spot between strength and sensitivity. (GM)

Cave Ghosts – The Workman’s Club, Thursday

A lengthy, arduous soundcheck featuring prominent use of a ukulele is hardly the way to entice an audience, but Cave Ghosts tune up regardless. When they get down to it, they prove to be quite a novelty – some kind of MPDG-fronted indie-rock band, complete with feminine harmonies and Spector-esque drums that are way too high in the mix. It’s a bit twee, nicely medlodic and could prove suitably charming to the right set of ears but not these ones. The guitar sound proves a good foil to the sweetness, sounding sardonic and arch by comparison, but it’s not enough.

“Can we get some more uke?!” asks the singer, and there’s State’s cue to leave. (GM)

The Dying Seconds – Meeting House Square, Saturday

There is a class of hipster who will crack a quietly thrilled smirk when they happen upon London-based Dubs the Dying Seconds. Think primary-coloured blouses and chinos but melancholic and difficult, as likely to design an amazing website as row with cousins at Christmas. Yes, the six-piece appear to be made up of all the right components – fractured vocals, sonic diversity, bass-y grooves – but they’re almost like some unfinished none-more-indie droid that has escaped from the laboratory it was being designed in. Thusly, State can’t quite shake the feeling that if The Dying Seconds were to muscle Foals, or even Radiohead, out of the way, they wouldn’t quite know what to do with themselves. (Hilary A White)

Fallen Rule – The Workman’s Club, Friday

The violin bow may be a bit on-the-nose, but Fallen Rule put a lot of effort into the well-worn sound of heatfelt indie. It’s a bit generic and ultimately unmemorable but sounds uplifting in the moment. But then they change up with a laddish swagger reminiscent of Fratellis and the other NME-backed also-rans of 2006. It’s clear that the band want to find a place in the people’s hearts but without the tools to do so at their disposal. Maybe they will come in time, but for now, they all sound too generic and eager too make a connection. (GM)

The Freakles – The Mercantile, Friday

The Freakles belong to the 1977. They’re as much Stiff Little Fingers as they are Fleetwood Mac, finding time for good time indie-punk and easy going soft rock in tonight’s set. There are some impressive guitar solos even if the tunes aren’t quite there. The hats – top and bowler – adorned with Christmas lights are an amusing touch and add to the sense of fun the band have, but not even they can distract from how ramshackle and confused it all feels at times. The band lack polish but also an identity beyond their jovial retro surface. Maybe they’re too in awe of the twin legacies of that great musical year. (GM)

Garret Moore – Bad Bobs, Saturday

There’s a funny layout going on at Bad Bobs, meaning acts have to play at an angle to the punters. This results in lath-thin frontman Garret Moore cocking a slightly arch eyebrow at the crowd after each of his songs, sometimes joined by one of those 90s “awesome” finger salutes. The tunes themselves – ramshackle alt-pop that might fall apart at any moment – are dished out with such gurning self-belief (as well as a whiff of irony) by him and the band that you end up giving in and rooting for Moore to topple whole cities. (HAW)

Hozier – Button Factory, Thursday

State elbows its way into a room crammed with indie kids, soul sisters and UK A&R types who have parachuted in for a gawk at man-of-the-moment Hozier. Between his apologetic, slightly shipwrecked disposition and a voice that disarms man, woman and child, the Wicklow streak of wee does exactly what everyone expected of him tonight – round off HWCH’s opening night in swoonsome fashion. The band aren’t quite the full package just yet, as if unsure if this is Bill Withers soul in indie garb or something more broody and Buckley-esque. Either way, the man himself has an intangible quality that is hard shake long after he’s walked off stage. (HAW)

I’m Your Vinyl – Meeting House Square, Thursday

Is that Claudia Winkleman State sees on the Meeting House Square stage, gyrating expertly in sparkly leggings to libidinous electro-pop? We can’t tell, but we do know that the fringetastic Film 2013 presenter is an excellent live showman and possessed of the kind of star quality that heralded Alison Goldfrapp to the world. Closer inspection reveals it to be I’m Your Vinyl siren Dana Donnelly, who along with sidekick Ken McHugh is pulling off the first serious highlight of the festival weekend. (HAW)

Maria Somerville – The New Theatre, Friday

Of the venue additions to this year’s festival, the real find is the New Theatre. Allowing weary gig goers a chance for a sit down (and a cup of tea), it also enables some acts to play to a more hushed audience rather than battling to be heard above the normal chit chat. Maria Sommerville certainly benefits, with her fragile take on alternative soul music given room to breathe. Almost dwarfed by her giant red guitar, Sommerville is a quiet yet powerful presence – leaving all who see her play her first ever gig with her current musical collaborator rapt. (Phil Udell)

Rachael Boyd – New Theatre, Friday

We’ve got used to seeing Irish artists offer their take on instrumental music, yet Rachael Boyd still manages to give it a twist. Sat behind her piano and triggering all sorts of loops and sounds, it’s the double helping of violin that really makes the difference – adding a stylish, classical element that only enhances the dramatic sound. (PU)

Ships – Button Factory, Saturday

It’s hard to pin down what I love so much about Ships. It could be that their hooky, dark-to-light disco reminds me at once of Fleetwood Mac, Chic and DFA. It could be how closely the trio like to huddle on stage, as if wiring is connecting not only their instrumentation but their bodies too. Despite tonight’s sluggish audience, they get on with it and do what they always do; slick, tidy and hummable electro-pop that wants to get your derriere doing its thing. Actually, that’s what does it for me. (HAW)

Spies – Meeting House Square, Saturday

Spies appear well versed in the art of subversion. It is with somewhat cold, calculated efficiency that they storm the open-air confines of Meeting House square in the dying hours of HWCH, looking like pimply nobodies but performing like a hard-nosed arena act who have stumbled on to the bill by accident. The babyfaced Dubs are surely familiar with a band called the National, but their highly lyrical post-punk is fresh, flab-free and killing audience chit-chat. Keep an eye on them. (HAW)

Tvvins (pictured) – Bad Bobs, Saturday

Despite some hit or miss crowds over the three days, Tvvins take to the stage in a packed upstairs section of Bad Bob’s. It’s perhaps no surprise – Conor Adams and Lar Kaye both have impressive form. Although tonight is their debut live gig as Tvvins, you wouldn’t know it from watching them. They are confident, precise and energetic. So energetic, that vocalist Adams knocks his own full pint of Guinness onto the floor early in their set, much to his own disgust. He takes a moment to explain to the audience that their band name is pronounced “Twins”, and is spelled with a double-v because the name “Twins” was already taken by a Japanese band. Maybe a different name would require less explanation than a misspelled one?

Their un-credited drummer, proudly sporting a Munster jersey, provides the steady, rocking beat which forms the foundation upon which Adams and Kaye layer their keyboards, guitars and vocals. Despite the promising percussion, the music is still a little poppy and clichéd, and the lyrics are laden with an abundance of “woah’s” and “oh’s”. The audience seem to be really enjoying the poppy sound however, and are dancing as much as feasible in the crowded confined space in front of the stage. Maybe it’s more to do with it being late on a drunken Saturday night than any overwhelming appreciation of the material as there’s still work to be done here. (Alan Daly)

Windings – Mercantile, Friday

Windings are shoo-ins for a number of awards on the back of their rollicking Mercantile set. “Hairiest” is an obvious one, and “portliest” perhaps too (although you’d never catch us saying it to the Out on a Limb bruisers). But more importantly, Windings prove to perhaps be the “most thrilling” act on show this weekend. Their rock din has a zooming, swerving quality about it that is full of little jinks and surprises in the time signatures that blindside you. It makes the quintet hugely compelling. But as for their frontman’s between-song banter, less is more. Sir. (HAW)

Photo: Olga Kuzmenko