On Sunday, the heavens opened. Now, this may not be a muddy-fielded squelchfest but rain in the city brings its own hardships. Especially as it’s that relentless, miserable rain that attacks your jeans, your boots and turns crossing the road between venues into wading across small lakes. However, State is very happy for the Scottish bands, for whom torrential rain is a small reminder of ‘hame’.
A sodden, brolly-studded Meeting House Square hosts Armoured Bear, the sedate and danceable Corkonian folksters whose publicity photograph has them apparently sitting in Tellytubbyland. Well, there’s no babyfaced sun rising overhead but, even from under an umbrella, this foursome make a sweet and rather jolly sound. Sheltering momentarily in The Button Factory, we encounter the chilled-out, laid back music of Valerie Francis, with two minstrels accompanying her on trumpet and cello. So relaxed is everything onstage that Valerie’s guitar seems to detune at will, leaving lengthy, silent and uncomfortable gaps between songs. This singer-songwriter seems to have been around forever, so it’s good to hear she’s finally releasing an album in 2009.
Back in the MHS rain, New Amusement are living up to their name. They have a growing, growling confidence with each performance and 2009 looks like it could be a big year for them. Meanwhile, the amusingly-named Sideproject are giving it progressively experimental socks in ALT. The tracks we heard are, much like their fine recent EP, Not Waving But Drowning, gloom-laden with a heart. A splish and a splash over to Doran’s, where Daragh Dukes’s Headgear are in remarkably fine form. It may be our imagination but they’re sounding slightly harder and certainly more assured than ever, which can only augur well for the future.
X marks the spot for Angel Pier, who find themselves victims of the oppressive weather; although they’re performing with diligence and gusto, the gust o’wind has started to swirl under the audience’s brollies and is making the act of standing and admiring the band’s ever-tightening clutch of indie-pop growers tough. There are problems of a different sort over in the basement heat of Academy 2 for Robotnik; he’s trying to recreate Meeting House Square with costume rain macs, an umbrella and (naturally enough) a horse. But things aren’t working; first, Chris Morrin has forgotten where he’s put his capo (he runs off but discovers it’s been on his mic stand all along), then there’s a bizarre technical malfunction only two songs in which ends up shortening his set. It’s a shame such a riveting performer didn’t have a more glorious gig but we wonder if playing the brilliant -People Walk Away’ so early on in his set proved too prophetic.
There’s no messing about in Doran’s with Belfast’s The Beat Poets, though. They’ve improved immeasurably since we saw them two years ago; the batch of songs we saw tonight have intros that shout ‘listen’, riffs that sting with their ferocity and an energy that could buckle the venue’s floorboards. Their single -Staring Stars Down’ is a belter well worth checking out. Another soaking later, it’s back to answer the sirens’ call at Academy 2 where the magnificent Heathers await. The audience shows little reticence about getting close to this duo’s astute, acute and downright beautiful melodies and harmonies. The world is listening, and rightly so. Calling us back over the river to TBF is the wonderful Carly Sings. There’s more of a stage-front distance here but the shoeless chanteuse (she must love that word by now) is charming and beguiling with her sophisticated, anecdote-strewn songs.
News filters through (from those gossip-gathering photographers, of course) that the drenched Meeting House Square has been using the towel too much and has decided to throw it in for the night. The last two Scots bands have been relocated to ALT for the finale – hooray for us, and Hooray For Humans end up with a bigger crowd as a happy consequence. We adore this band, whose compelling performance includes drama, thrills and band-and-audience bonding over the understanding that this is showbusiness. Great songs, great shouting, great gig. After a 20-minute break, we are charmed beyond science by Glasgow geek-fest, We Are The Physics; we hope a few Irish bands were here to witness their theatrical, synchronised and damned entertaining approach to performance. They’ve built sharp-dressing, sharper observation and the sharpest of comic timing around a core of tightly-constructed, wonderfully spiked and perfectly peaked punk-pop tunes – the sort of songs that get miserablists’ goat, basically. Wonderful.
Finally, the Scottish Invasion’s curators themselves, Sons And Daughters end the evening, and the weekend, on a pitch-perfect note. Despite the absence of mummy-to-be bassist Ailidh Lennon, they are, as always, frighteningly brilliant. Adele Bethel and Scott Paterson sparkle with dark, scathing, sexy energy, dancing a hellish, gritty flamenco around the stage on rousing tunes like -Gilt Complex’, -Dance Me In’ and -Johnny Cash’. But the highlight was (only just) the terrifying mini-Taggart episode, -Rama Lama’, where every frozen drip of the tale’s Glasgow tenement bath slides down our collective spines. Wonderful and frightening.
So ends Hard Working Class Heroes 2008; despite the monsoon conditions, we are buoyed by the experience and assured that Ireland has a pool of talent with real potential. Once again, we finish with the hope that next year will bring even more inventive, imaginative, energetic, performance-based acts with something passionate, informed and original to say to us, rather than rehashes of what the UK or USA has already brought us. Songwriters, pick up your pens and instruments and start working on genuinely entertaining us all, right now.
Photo by Loreana Rushe