And so we reach the end – day three of Hard Working Class Heroes, and one last venue-hopping expedition for all involved. Between the pop-up gigs around town during the afternoon and the evening’s musical miscellany there was a little something for every taste. Justin and Niall took a final trip around the city to catch the closing night’s acts, here’s what they heard…
Kicking the final night off at the Grand Social was the delightful indie-pop sound of Katie Laffan, winner of the Hotpress Big Break competition in 2013. One of the best aspects of HWCH is that it gives those artists on the verge of breaking through the chance to get over the game line(to rob a phrase we’ve heard far too often during the current Rugby World Cup). Sadly, the opportunity seems to have come too soon for Katie Laffan. That said, when things did actually click for Katie and her band on Saturday, it was quite pleasant.
Bubbly and I Don’t Mind are both excellent indie-pop tunes that encapsulate everything that Katie Laffan is about. Clever lyrics, a quirky persona and a killer vocal. A slowed down cover of Pussycat Dolls Don’t Cha is fun but later in the set an out of tune guitar saw the set nosedive suddenly. Katie swaps places with her drummer Nick who performs a rendition of Rapper’s Delight which is entertaining for all of about 30 seconds. He then follows it up with a considerably crude joke (this seems to be a running theme this weekend. See Bad Sea on Thursday for example) as Laffan desperately tries to tune her guitar. While it’s evident that Katie Laffan has an abundance of raw talent, it’s clear that her and her band need more time in the practice room. We look forward to hearing more. NS
It’s early doors, and as a result it’s a sparsely populated room, but that just makes Oh Boland seem all the louder. The three-piece fall somewhere between Titus Andronicus and The Libertines; trashy, high-octane tunes, squalling solos, kinetic camaraderie…an impromptu jam starts up while Niall Murphy tunes up, and they all wing it together. He and Eanna MacDonnacha pitch into one another, just about avoiding collision as they play. Murphy tosses out a few note of Big Star’s Out In The Street, before they re-launch into more distortion-heavy, cymbal clashing rock’n’roll – an instrumental stretch-out rounds off the set, with Murphy and MacDonnacha turned towards Simon McDonagh behind the kit, backs to the crowd. It’s like they’re playing this one for themselves, one final fling in a snappy, enjoyably rowdy set. JMD
A relatively sparse crowd at The Academy witnessed what will go down as one of the highlights of the weekend. On Friday night, we had seen Joni fail to take control of what is a vast stage, but Sinéad White, despite the absence of her band that she has been playing with recently, has no such issues. Using the venue’s new lighting rig to her full advantage, White cast a commanding presence on stage yet maintained that shy, quirky manner which endears her to so many people.
The return to a solo act was on the whole a welcome one as it gave those in attendance the chance to witness White’s talent at its rawest. None more so than the crowd pleasing Mouth Trumpet which does exactly what it says on the tin, as White imitates a trumpet at points, much to the amusement of those present. An elongated outro to Flat Battery showcases her incredible vocal range which makes it all the more baffling that White is as self-deprecating as she is. Performing solo again allows her the opportunity to perform some of her quieter tunes. Closing Doors is met with stunned silence from the ever-growing crowd before closing with the powerful The End. Having been witness to both full band and a solo show in recent weeks, it is clear that both work and work well. Here’s hoping Sinéad can find the right balance in her live shows to come because there’s something special waiting to happen if she does. NS
It had to happen sometime over the weekend, and as we turn up at The Mercantile to catch Not Monsters, one of the band is doing a dodgy John Lennon impression. It’s probably not the first, it probably wasn’t the last, but it kind of sets the tone for the set. Not Monsters are made up of members of Punch Face Champions, with Noël Duplaa aka Cfit on vocals, and they seem to be having a ball with the collaboration. Duplaa’s voice frequently brings to mind Paul Banks, and it’s all solid stuff, if a bit hard to pin down. Punch Fit is about people who are “fit for for a punch”, with the band’s vocal harmonies adding that extra element of colour, while Cleo begins as a ballad until the drums kick in and take it in another direction. There are a lot of directional shifts within Not Monsters’ songs – interesting to hear, but also a bit difficult to engage with. JMD
Some timetable malfunctioning leads us into The Grand Social when The Academy stage times run over, and as good fortune would have it, leads us to one of the finds of the festival. A distinctive vocal pierces the chatter of the room as New Pope begins a set of droll, personal songs on acoustic guitar. David Boland is accompanied by Stevie Cornetto on keys, although his organ tones are more of an ambient undercurrent than another instrument playing chords, and it provides a nice constant droning swell beneath the guitar. As song openers go “Amsterdam you humid bastard/ All my clothes are soaked” is up there with David Berman’s best comedic asides, with Boland going it alone, and things take a softer approach on We Were Young. It’s a low key gig, but the crowd’s attention never wavers – this is a chance encounter that pays off in spades. JMD
Kings of suspense, Discopunks’ social media campaign in the lead up to the launch of their debut single was one of the best we’ve ever seen, so when we finally got to see them live at Knockanstockan this year, we were expecting huge things but were ultimately disappointed. However, Saturday night’s performance at Hangar was much more in line with the brilliance of their campaign as they blasted through half an hour of catchy disco-pop tunes akin to their very successful counterparts Le Galaxie. While Discopunks aren’t at that level just yet, they poured everything they had into this show and it paid off. The Other Kids and John Coltrane in particular have everyone in attendance breaking out their best and worst dance moves. It’s fun and care-free but not yet perfect. NS
Talk about ending a festival on a high. Jennifer Evans has been one of the more challenging musicians around for the last few years, with her intricately arranged compositions that bring in elements of post rock and jazz alongside more traditional rock conventions. Backed by a bassist and drummer, Evans’ high vocal negotiates startlingly original melodic manoeuvres. Complex polyrhythms that recall tUnE-yArDs pepper the tracks, ad Evans shuffles and hops with the stuttering beats during the instrumental interludes when she’s not at the mic singing half lyrical/half rhythmic melodies.
You get the feeling she’s exposing her soul over these numbers, such is the intensity in the delivery – this is wholly intimate, but primal at the same time. The tension is palpable from her displeasure at the band’s set being cut short, but its brevity barely registers – the amount of ideas and directional twists over the course of five songs is captivating. This is a gig where you have no idea where a song is going to go, and a completely singular performance to go with it. JMD
One of the more unknown entities coming into the weekend, Pleasure Beach are likely to be on the lips of a lot of people in the coming months after a stunning performance of their signature ‘dreampop’ in the Academy’s main room. The venue is as busy as it has been all weekend as the relative newcomers were hotly tipped as one of the weekend’s must-see acts after the release of their infectiously catchy debut single Go. It’s every bit as entertaining live as the five-piece give creedence to those Arcade Fire comparisons that have been floating about in recent months. A cover of Awolnation’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire is the other distinct highlight in a set that will undoubtedly propel Pleasure Beach into the forefront of everyone’s minds in the months to come. Definitive proof that Ireland is producing some of the finest new musicians around at the moment. Long may it continue. NS