State begins Saturday by doing its bit at the morning’s Mentor Speed-Sessions; we’re all chatting, suggesting, emoting, whingeing and enthusing about this beautiful music business we all, to one extent or another, adore. These sessions are a great idea for bands and their managers – and not just those showcasing at HWCH either. Every discussion with every industry representative present (there were event organisers, arts council reps, labels, managers, radio presenters and, of course, us journos) could spark an idea that may, in some way, propel the artist towards whatever stage of success they’re hoping to achieve. It was pointed out more than once that bands from all over Ireland had came along in their relative droves (we spoke to enthusiastic young things from Cork, Limerick, Galway and Belfast, many of whom were not on the weekend’s HWCH bill, as well as some of the Scottish contingent) but that it was very short on interested parties from Dublin. Perhaps that means they were partying too late on Friday, or maybe they just feel they know enough already. Which is a shame, because chances like these, to talk directly to movers and shakers, don’t come along every day. Perhaps the more vocally disappointed amongst those who weren’t selected for the festival could have benefited from some friendly-but-frank advice and opinion; certainly, the feedback we got from the bands who came was very positive indeed.
On with show then, and an indulgent Saturday night it proved to be.
We began at ALT, where Carlow duo The Holy Roman Army fill the room with their ethereal electronica. Siblings Chris and Laura Coffey produce a swoonsome sound too, even if some of their more laid-back, late-night pieces threatened to send us off to an early night. It’s still interesting to see what can be achieved, musically, as a bedroom band, but if State was a bedroom band, we’d want to make music like Grand Pocket Orchestra. Utilising toy instruments, manic but tight drum-thumping, crazy riffs and an adorable passion for ending every song as soon as possible while still stuffing it to bursting point with ideas, they’re growing into the most original, magnificent and frankly cute band in the country. Paddy is an utterly skew-whiff frontman, whose unconventional voice (spoken or singing), dance moves and general giddy performance are entirely at odds with his mummy-tousled hair and Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves t-shirt. Their set is spectacular, -Odd Socks’ and -Chongo Pop’ are almost too good to be true, and they held us spellbound until the very end.
It was then a bit of a trek to Academy 2 to catch as much as possible of The Dagger Lees. The former Stagger Lee have survived a name and line-up change (drumming duties now fall to the excellent Terry Cullen, frontman of Dae Kim) and have become tighter and sexier than ever in the process. The slower, harder and grimier version of -Bad Shoes’ is a real revelation tonight and the newer material growls with fresh, seedy confidence. Expect bigger, better and possibly dirtier things to come from them in the very near future. There’s another treat in store back at The Button Factory as the much under-valued A Lazarus Soul make an all-too-rare appearance. Brian Brannigan is just quite possibly the finest songwriter Dublin possesses and, complemented by an excellent band, songs like -Only Say The Word’ and -The Day I Disappeared’ are nothing short of stunning.
New kids on the local indie-pop block, The Parks have -big things predicted’ displayed in scarlet neon above their little, post-leaving cert heads. Their set at Doran’s is a thriller, packed with burgeoning class and pregnant with the hope they can hone it all, by degrees, into something very special before greatness is simply thrust upon them. We will be watching with interest. At a busy, gently swaying Meeting House Square, Halves are haunting everyone until they’re drowsy. We love this band as much as anyone but having them on here, at this time, when there’s still so much to rock us out of it elsewhere, is a little too soporific. Perhaps not the best time, then, to drop into TBF for Little Xs For Eyes. Three lads, three lasses and a set of pretty songs with hearts of darkness, they are, as yet, a little lighter than the considerable sum of their parts. At times the trio of females reminded some more senior (mentioning no names) audience members of The Marine Girls; rest assured, that is no bad thing.
No time to waste, though, it’s a jog over to ALT for the outrageously great Frightened Rabbit. State caught them at SXSW earlier this year and remarked upon their effortless and constant improvement. To put it mildly, it’s no wonder that their more affectionate fans buy them presents and bake them cakes. Despite some sound problems tonight, their songs are still laced and driven with that characteristic folky fluidity, rock energy and indie sparkle that you’d be only too happy to take home to your mum. Who’d no doubt knit these lads a jumper each. Well, it’s chilly back home in Selkirk.
Which brings us neatly to tonight’s headliners, Fight Like Apes. Last year, HWCH was, the band said said, a turning point for them, as Crawdaddy was crammed to bursting point with bouncing, sweaty people, all of whom knew -Lend Me Your Face’ backwards. This year, it’s a little different as the open-air audience are a trifle reticent about going quite so bonkers. Still, none of this stops FLApes from pulling off a set that rocks the dinner plates off Eden’s tables (it’s still incredible that they make all this noise without guitars) and reminds everyone just what a gem the local scene has produced. Strangely enough, FLApes didn’t need to come to the mentoring sessions this morning to ask for advice – but others will certainly benefit from some of theirs in future years.
Photos by Loreana Rushe.