(This didn’t turn out that concise in the end, but it’s bullet-pointed so you can skim with relative ease. Longer, prose-form review coming on the Trinity News site on Monday, with more pictures.)
- Not Squares (Academy 2) – Abstract, slightly surreal danceable post-punk electronics with shouting. Richter Collective fast becoming a seal of guaranteed quality.
- Villagers (Andrew’s Lane) – There is a serious whiff of the pros off Villagers’ live set, something you could send to a foreign festival and be proud of. Dynamic stuff, and Conor’s personally crazily talented… one new song was a bit Counting Crows though.
- Villagers (Road Records) – The ultra-quiet, elegant side on show on the hallowed counter of Road. Again, Conor is an amazingly talented dude, but without the arrangements some of the songs are a TINY bit underwritten lyrically for my taste. Still a beautiful way to spend an early afternoon.
- Gran Casino (Andrew’s Lane) – I’ve been familiar with Gran Casino since the Analogue compilation and the proto-Analogue TV gig doc they did, but this was my first time seeing them. Good, undeniable at times, but my feeling is that they’re ultimately stuck in a time-zone (Montreal, a couple of years ago) style-wise.
- Adebisi Shank (Andrew’s Lane) – ADEBISI FUCKING SHANK. My face was hanging onto my skull by a few quivering sinews by the end of this. Un-be-lievable live band.
- The Dying Seconds (Twisted Pepper) – I did pretty well at avoiding bands that were always going to be underwhelming (/crap, but underwhelming is softer and sounds less prescriptive than a straight denunciation), but I ended up sitting through the Dying Seconds. Uninspired, with delusions of something greater than their sub-Gibbardian wash with tacked-on “multi-instrumentalist” bits could ever deliver.
- Hunter-Gatherer (Twisted Pepper) – The Hunter-Gatherer gig, starting at close to 2.30am on Saturday night, was a weird one. On one hand, it was great, the sleepy, ambient brilliance of his stuff coming through those clown-car speakers, and accompanied by some glow-stick dancing on the part of the artist himself. On the other hand, it wasn’t the triumphant wee hours set it could have been, because the crowd in large part didn’t stay around. Which is unfortunate, and not H-G’s fault, but these things all factor in.
- Tiny Magnetic Pets (Twisted Pepper) – Not a good band. Just a woman and a man doing an impression of a major label sort of Goldfrapp-type thing. Too sincere in its own lack of originality, and not for me, at all.
- Only Fumes and Corpses (Andrew’s Lane) – Galway straight-up hardcore. Little to fault, really, with functional hardcore, apart from the fact that it is hardcore in the first place. As enjoyable as it could have been without the crowd that’s needed to receive the shoutings of their/any hardcore band’s singer.
- Funeral Suits (Andrew’s Lane) – Now here’s the surprise of the weekend. Having mentally lumped the Funeral Suits into a Venn diagram based around the Brit definition of “indie”, I was taken aback by how much there is going on with them. It’s not Brit indie at all, not derivative of anything, it’s full to the brim with ideas and enthusiasm, and EVERY song is its own self-contained thing, worth following and listening to. When they do an album, it’s going to be really, really good. Potential buzz band. Mark it down.
- 202s (Andrew’s Lane) – In the wake of the Funeral Suits, 202s came off a bit dishwatery. Some of their stuff has been interesting enough, but the overall impression I got was a little middle-of-the-road, or maybe just not as filled with new ideas as you might think on paper. There’s jangle-pop, there’s live electronics, but the synthesis doesn’t come off as well as could be hoped.
- Super Extra Bonus Party (Andrew’s Lane) – I closed my HWCH review of Super Extra Bonus Party last year by saying I’d like to go see them again in a better venue than Meeting House Square. Well, I did. Bedded down as a five-piece at 1.30am in the only venue left open in the festival, they played a stormer. Songs off the second album, devoid of Cadence Weapon (who is from Canada, obviously) and Heathers (who actually played the festival), were infused with the energy of SEBP’s internal reactor, and really came to life. Mushie Shake has long been my favourite of their songs, and it was particularly effective, about 10 stone heavier and delivered with aplomb. Hard to think of a better way to end the festival.
- So many photographers. Jesus Christ, like. Credit to Cormac SEBP for being the only person over the whole weekend to encourage normal punters to come up to the stage in spite of the Photographer’s Liberty that seemed to be in place in the front 5 feet of every venue.
- Credit to Cormac SEBP also for closing proceedings with one of my favourite quotes of Irish music history: “This is what Hard Working Class Heroes is all about, getting FUCKED up on a Sunday night!”
- Angela Dorgan, organiser, who I previously complained about on a podcast for asking me if I was 18 when handing out beer tokens at the festival launch (I’m 21), seemed lovely. Resentment over.
- The photo exhibition remains a really good idea, but it’s not doing high-end photography justice projecting it onto a brick wall in Andrew’s Lane. Print the pictures, guys, and put them around the place.
As I have probably said multiple times in tangential, self-mythologising intros to live reviews, I set this blog up as a direct response to Hard Working Class Heroes 2007, and wanting to set down thoughts about all the different bands I was seeing for the first time. HWCH is still great for that. Maybe, now that I’ve been knee-deep in Irish music for a couple of straight years, it’s more of an opportunity to tick off bands I’ve been curious about (like Not Squares) or keep missing calamitously for a year (Adebisi Shank) than a true place of wide-eyed discovery. But that’s great too.
And it’s cool that someone like Hunter-Gatherer, entrenched in the true Dublin underground (it’s on the South Circular Road), can play the same festival as Only Fumes and Corpses, career hardcore dudes, or Villagers, who are basically major label-ready if they hadn’t signed to Domino already. It does what I’ve been vaguely trying to do with the Interview Project, with a little less selectiveness – it sets out everything relatively good going on this country, and lets you come to your own conclusion about trends, themes, or what it all means.
3 years down, and hopefully loads more to come.