The ‘Hard Working Class Heroes’ festival (HWCH) has become an important fixture on the Irish music calendar in recent years, showcasing the talents of over 100 emerging bands and artists from across Ireland. This year’s festival took place October 7th – 9th across a variety of venues in Dublin City; The Button Factory, The Mercantile, The Grand Social, The Sweeney, Twisted Pepper and The Workmans Club.
Interestingly this year saw the inclusion of ‘HWCH and the City’, a selection of free gigs in locations across Dublin bringing the music out from its comfort zone to the people of the city. There was also the ‘HWCH Industry Conference 2010’ aimed at challenging and engaging with people about the future of music in Ireland. These were just little added bonuses; it was all about the evening shows.
Thursday’s proceedings kicked off with a hotly anticipated show in Twisted Pepper from Irish/Swedish duo Kill Krinkle Club but unfortunately something was awry. The show failed to transfer the nuances of their excellent debut record to a live setting. The underwhelming performance wasn’t helped by the subdued crowd and disjointed stop start nature of their set. There’s certainly talent here, the album is testament too this, if they can iron out those live show wrinkles they may be a force to be reckoned with.
There was a major shift in tact following a short walk to the Grand Social where Enemies blasted out their smashing post-rock, jumping from melodic meandering to climactic rocking crescendo’s. It was much the same for Richter label mates Jogging who’s blisteringly set of raw punk rock was hugely impressive, it’s easy to how they’ve steadily garnered a fan base around Ireland based on word of mouth. The evening was brought to a close by Nouveaunoise who’s slick, lush and infectious electro beats had the place the place dancing.
Friday and it was back to Twisted Pepper for Derry native Conor Mason, armed only his guitar, harmonica and distinctive vocals a lucky crowd was treated to some beautifully, harmonic and uplifting songs. Hopefully the next time he travels from the maiden city to Dublin more people can be treated to his music.
The Lost Brothers, Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech with added assistance of a double bass player endeared themselves to a hushed and respectful crowd. It was an intimate set of meticulously crafted, plucky acoustic songs with gorgeous vocal harmonies – they aren’t going to break new musical bounds but they’ve perfected what is a timeless sound.
One of the largest crowd of the festival was congregated in the Button Factory for Multi-instrumentalist R.S.A.G (AKA Jeremy Hickey). The Kilkenny man is one of the most unique and compelling live performers in the country. Nestled safely behind his drum kit and silhouetted on a stage engulfed in smoke he pounded out rhythmic and funky beats, a one man band somewhere between Talking Heads and Joy Division. The frenetic set went down a treat and was helped in no small by some of the most impressive visual your likely to see.
Saturday and it was straight to the recently opened Workman’s Club for We Are Losers, the latest side project from Super Extra Bonus Party guitarist Gavin Elsted. As the gig progressed it was hard to believe this was actually their first gig together as they grew in confidence with each passing moment bashing out warm, scuzzy lo-fi. On this evidence the future is bright, watch this space.
With just enough time to grab your breathe and it was over to the Mercantile for Kid Karate. These guys make one hell of a racket for a guitar/drums duo, their rather special blend of Rapture-esque disco-punk meets the gruffness of Arctic Monkeys and The White Stripes went down a storm. It was a performance full of energy, intensity and conviction which finished up with the frontman in the crowd while two happy punters recruited to aid drumming duties, audience participation how are you? One of the most exciting prospects to emerge from this year’s HWCH.
The line-up was a formidable mix of emerging talents from across Ireland. Certainly on the weekend’s offerings the Irish music is alive and well and probably hasn’t ever seen such an eclectic mix of styles, genres and tastes. While economic prospects on this Island may look bleak, the future of Irish music looks decidedly brighter.