Hard Working Class Heroes is back this year and sees the festival go bigger and better than years before. As the festival spans such a varied and interesting schedule, we sent our team to the streets, bobbing in and out of venues, to catch some of the great acts on show this year.
The New Theatre is an up close and personal space to catch one of the opening gigs of this year’s festival. Not generally a music venue, the rows slope just six deep to the back of the room, and in front of a blurred, wooded backdrop, Jethro Pickett and Ursula Woods begin their set. Woods backs Pickett on keys, adding harmonica to the chorus line of You Were My Queen. Her backing vocal is an added benefit in lieu of a full band, and the pair do indeed lament the missing backbeat but they seem to enjoy the set nonetheless.
She Likes To Dream makes most use of their dual harmonies; Pickett hangs back on guitar, gradually strumming more forcefully as things get louder towards the solo, shaking the set out of its mellow setting. The modestly populated room warmly respond throughout, and it’s a welcome way to ease into the night’s run of music. JMD
The Crayon Set
The Crayon Set have a high member count, but they certainly avail of all the instruments at their disposal; finding the perfect balance between the indie and folk elements in their music. On Wonderland the band seamlessly blend the acoustic and electric guitars, giving a strong presence to both. The fiddle adds a different dimension to their sound, and with the ability to interchange singers, the band have a broad range of singing styles at their fingertips. Their overall style is easy to listen to and is a gentle introduction to the evening. That is until the band have a massive guitar freak-out at the end of their set, blowing the crowd away with their raw power. JK
A glorious noise fills the air as the crowd scurried about, retrieving their tickets. The delightful racket was found at the thankfully covered Meeting House Square where Blades Club! were opening the night’s entertainment. The band have a wholesome indie sound, with a reassuringly tight rhythm section and a bright, sharp, spiky lead guitar. Out To Sea is a strong track, with catchy hooks on the lead guitar, and lead singer Hurley reaching all the high notes with apparent ease. JK
The Altered Hours
Cork’s The Altered Hours get down to the business at hand with a song “about the true nature of love” in Sex & Hunting. A high drone permeates the background as the pounding floor tom provides the backbeat; that drone gradually comes to the fore giving way to a chorus that’s marked by its clarity when it erupts. Dig Early is a collage of discordant noise, with the guitarist eliciting percussive scrapes and wails from his machine. The band sway into the gig more and more as it progresses and the dichotomous airy/intoning vocals intertwine, belying Smoke In Your Eyes’ sentiment of “wanting to kill somebody.”
An overt punk drumbeat heralds the beginning of the end of an all too brief set and the band throw themselves into Fuck The Police. Tambourine and shaker are clashed together, guitar necks are angled at the floor and a whining, grinding set of psychedelic noise is brought to an unruly end. JMD
The chilled out setting of The Mercantile’s live room is the location for Northern Ireland’s Joshua Burnside, accompanied by a band that includes fellow HWCH musical colleague Rachael Boyd on violin. The stage is bathed in a red glow, while out front the chairs almost infiltrate the standing space in an easy and ramshackle arrangement that suits the folky sounds from the stage. There’s an element of experimentalism to Burnside’s music that raises it above most exponents of this type of thing – a hint of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy crops up at times; some unexpected stop/start sections punctuate songs; fleeting glimpses of post rock guitar work pepper the set. He rounds off with new single Black Dog Sin and some country folk with a few startling instrumental excerpts. He certainly benefitted from the relaxed ambience in the room, but it’s still an impressive set from Burnside and co. JMD
Elastic Sleep are a relatively new band from Cork, with just a single track available online, so here was a chance to see what else the band have to offer. The answer is a lot; ethereal and dreamy but with an aggressive edge, Elastic Sleep performed a highly polished set. There’s more than a knowing nod to My Bloody Valentine in their sound, especially in the vocal department, but the band have enough uniqueness of their own to keep it interesting. Their most alluring trait though is their ability to move a song from the atmospheric to the chaotic in a blink of an eye. Tracks such as Anywhere and Leave You encompass everything from the wildest realms of noise-rock to the calmest territories of dream-pop. Elastic Sleep may wear their influences on their sleeves, but this was a powerful performance. JK
Princess performed a very well-constructed set, beginning with relaxed and melodic, before descending further and further into a wild noise fest with each tune. Molly was a tender and delicate performance, while Neverland began gentler, but with bursts of noise interspersed throughout, lending the tune a sense of energy and life. At times it felt as if the band were struggling to contain the songs, with a bit too much feedback spilling out. Princess finished up with Excuse The Voice, a powerful tune with an epic build-up that the band draw out as long as possible. Eventually the band unleash the torrent of pent-up, ferocious noise, and it is as fantastic a closer as anyone could want. JK
To say the Button Factory was packed for Hozier would be an understatement. After squeezing our way in we eventually got a decent vantage point for man of the month, Hozier. Backed by a six-piece band, Hozier cuts a looming figure on the small stage. We went in expecting a moody, bluesy affair but Hozier’s palette is far more varied than that. The clap along rhythms and female duo on backing vocals add a lot to the gospel feel of tonight.
Early highlight comes from the unexpected Whole Lotta Love cover. It’s a slow-burning take on a classic that the seven musicians make seem effortless. Unsurprisingly the loudest cheer of the night comes at Take Me to Church. Hozier’s voice soars as it does on the record but unfortunately the band have a hard time reaching the same heights and sound flat in comparison. It’s a stellar performance that has us highly recommending you nab tickets for December’s Pepper Canister Church show. DD
We’re not entirely sure what transpired at the beginning of Liza Flume’s set but it’s certainly one of the more bizarre things we’ve seen at a gig. As Flume ends a song, alone with her acoustic, the steel shuttering that covers the main stage just to her right begins to open to reveal lines of costumed people holding ‘Artists For Justice’ Placards. They stand in silence, turn their backs to the crowd, and the shutter descends once more. Heads are scratched, and the gig simply continues as if nothing has happened.
Back to business – Flume layers finger snaps and vocal parts on a loop pedal for Poison, before cutting them out to take it home acapella. Similarly, on Bones she cuts the layers out to finger pick the final sections before finishing with What We Called Love. A sparse chord sequence is repeated with the pedal; she suddenly stops it and decides to do it acoustically and it works for the best. The crowd claps time – the most rhythm-less all-over-the-shop clapalong ever, but it’s the thought that counts – and it’s a testament to how well her set has gone down. Fantastic stuff. JMD
“We are The Vincents. Ye are the people” announces the Cork band’s singer, and you can’t really argue with that. Immediately the ensconced surroundings of Meeting House Square are filled with the Celtic vocal stylings of the band’s frontman. While he ranges from guttural howls to deep intonations the saxophone wails away throughout, sometimes up front of the band’s sound, at others laying back.
Summer Tune stands apart from the dark leanings of the rest of the set with its ringing guitar riff, and it has to be said, the band’s distinctive blast of cohesive noise is well served by the commendable sound in the venue. The drum patterns add subtle yet powerful momentum to Asked Her To The Dance, before the tribal intro to Who’s That Boy provides one last throat shredding moment of chaos from the sextet. It’s dark and distinctive stuff all the way. JMD
The joy of Hard Working Class Heroes is being able to ramble about town with a vague plan of action with the hopes of finding an unknown gem. For us, The Clameens were that gem. The Derry based quartet treated us to spiky, punchy pop guitars that are laid on top of carefree melodies. That’s all held together by the tightest rhythm section we’ve seen since the Chili Peppers rolled into town.
The Clameens take the occasional detour into something a little heavier which breaks the set up, but overall they’re cut from the same cloth as The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, with the poppy playfulness of Two Door Cinema Club thrown on top. If we were to fault them it would be that some of the crowd interaction that comes across felt very forced; but for such a young band we can let this go as they find their feet. An exciting young band we’re eager to catch again. DD