Dublin’s Hard Working Class Heroes festival, now in its sixth year, is one of the highlights of the nation’s musical calendar. Not only is it a country-wide Battle of the Bands competition to get on the bill in the first place, for the new generation of Irish -next big things’, it’s a possible springboard to next year’s international festivals and, therefore, a wider potential audience. Gigs aside, the industry panels and speed sessions give artists an audience with all sorts of important people (as well as music journalists) who could help them to launch or boost their careers.
As is usual, the roster of Irish bands was met with delight, surprise, bewilderment and despair; the successful candidates boasted their good fortune on copious MySpace bulletins, while the losers tried to work out where to go to showcase their wares to the nation next. The chosen bands ranged from ‘never heard of them’, through ‘oh, I wanted to see them’, to ‘I can’t believe they’re still going’ but it was a good, broad cross-section of our national musical output nonetheless. Add to that, a wonderfully diverse selection of acts from Scotland, as chosen by the supreme Sons And Daughters, and it was shaping up to be quite a festival.
Best of all, HWCH has returned to what it describes as its ‘spiritual home’ in Temple Bar; so, nourished by fizzy pop and a half-wheel of DiFontaine’s pizza, State readies itself for a fabulous weekend of speed-gigging.
By a cruel twist of scheduling, The Aftermath are on first in Eamonn Doran’s. They are one of the most energetic and entertaining live bands on the circuit and, ever the model professionals, showed extraordinary enthusiasm in front of an audience of literally ten people – including the soundman, barwoman and your hack. Joyfully, the grammatical liberty that is -Are You Not Wanting Me Yet?’ is performed like the precious pop nugget that it is. Over in The Button Factory, Limerick’s Supermodel Twins are giving Californian geek-chic an Irish twist, with elegantly clipped riffs, infectious, raucous choruses and nifty harmonies. If only we’d had more time to enjoy it, but we’re off again to Meeting House Square to see the ‘totally catchy-ass’ Fred, the Corkonian pop machine who sound as refreshingly oddball onstage as they do on record; quite the band who enjoy their act just as much as we do.
A healthy sprint over to Andrew’s Lane Theatre gives us a glimpse of Tiger Empire, the beautiful Aaron Smyth’s newest, most sophisticated indie-pop combo; a couple of tunes in, our impression is that the tunes could come alive at some point but right now, style is winning the battle over substance. Back at TBF, it’s gone all dingy American barroom as The Last Tycoons win deserved audience appreciation with their finely-tuned, mordantly sleazy pieces. Afterwards, the ever-earnest Lines Drawing Circles have some trouble translating their spin on Radiohead-love to the assembled heads in Meeting House Square. It’s not just the sound issues at fault here, nor the choice of venue, nor even the nuisance rainfall, it’s just that LDC need to go off for a while to write some better songs and learn to play them more entertainingly.
They could do worse that watch Glasgow’s brilliantly edgy, alt-rock foursome, DeSalvo. Fronted by a giant skinhead wearing a pig’s snout and a butcher’s apron who mainly hogs the floor, they terrify, thrill, almost kill and thoroughly entertain Doran’s cowering crowd. As in-your-face and healthy as a double deep-fried pizza supper, they’re just as oddly moreish too. ALT is all a flutter over Vodkopter’s terrific, innate pop smoothness and State just wants to hear more. But back in MHS, we are promised entertainment by another excellent Glasgow four-piece, We Were Promised Jetpacks, whose super-shtick is optimistic, rhythmical pop joy that just sounds’¦ very Scottish. Haste ye back.
Back in Doran’s, Belfast’s Cutaways display their catchy, wacky wares but, as their forthcoming EP will prove, they have more to offer in a studio setting than here tonight. Over in MHS, the bounciest kids on the block, Super Extra Bonus Party, are having a ball as usual, making the stage look a house party in progress while the parents are off on holiday. However, there’s something that doesn’t quite work about this venue and, as infectious as their energy is, it’s not their finest hour. A legger over to Academy 2 finds that it’s the ‘Revered’ Class Of 1984 who are making that rock racket in the basement. Thundering drums, unapologetically squealing guitars and bare-chested animal passion are very much in evidence – and it’s a winning combo too. Not so entertaining is the speeding mic-stand that State only just avoids being clobbered by but we’ll back to see this 3-piece again. But it’s a sedate end to our Friday in ALT with Tyrone’s Pocket Promise; as with their fine Waving At Strangers EP, the band’s live speciality is studious, impassioned, gently harmonic songs with a murmur of pulsing energy driving it all forward. Their meatier forthcoming single, -I Burnt The Roller Disco’ is our highlight but this highly-polished band excels onstage.
Time for our cocoa, then, see you tomorrow.
Photos by Loreana Rushe.