With 100 acts spread across six venues over three nights, the institution that is Hard Working Class Heroes is always a treat. Specialising in the best homegrown talent, the weekend provides a welcome opportunity to discover your new favourite band. Team GoldenPlec ran, skipped and scurried around town over the weekend trying to cover as much of the action as possible. Here is our top Plec Picks:
Justin McDaid Picks
A Dark Horse (The Grand Social – Friday)
A Dark Horse have the honour of kicking off the festival proper at The Grand Social on Thursday night, their debut gig and a high setting of the bar for the rest to follow. They open with Take Me Home, a powerful slow builder bolstered by some fine accordion work and follow up with The Heart Won’t Lie, two cuts from their recent self-titled EP. Not one but two drummers are the dual engine behind the band, a pounding, driving presence that elevates these songs to a level beyond their recorded form. A couple of new tracks are played, one with a bit of a rebel beat but not rebel beat according to the singer as a raucous intro gives way to a softer section before beginning to pound once again. A banjo is strapped on for final number Silence On The River Of The Moon and the band create a wall of organic noise around it, a soaring finish to an assured and flowing set. As first gigs go it’s a belter. Some of the songs are given a stripped back outing the following day at one of the many pop-up gigs that were happening around town. Two guitars and an accordion, three headless dummies and a gaggle of punters combined to provide a nice and relaxed buzz amidst the racks in Oxfam, a lovely coda to the previous night’s full-on performance.
Girl Band (Workmans – Saturday)
The Workman’s is bustling before Girl Band start their show, and the immediate reaction from all around is a wince at how loud the guitar is when they kick off. That lo-fi sound that we expected from their earlier recorded output is nowhere to be found in what turns out to be as grungy and heavy a set as Goldenplec witnesses all weekend. Right from the off the guitar effects are an abrasive assault, almost overpowering the rest of the band. As the gig progresses the performance is characterised by powerhouse drumming, serrated guitars and short, sharp bursts of punky At The Drive-In style rockers. The frontman gives as good as the band, no mean feat when this mayhem is going on around him. A Chemical Brothers cover begins with a distorted wailing alarm tone fuzz before the band barrels in, slotting this one easily alongside their own collection of grimy noise. Girl Band turned out one of the more unexpected performances of the festival – harsh, heavy and loud.
Inni-K (Mercantile – Saturday)
We walked into this one with no preconceptions and no idea what to expect. What we got was Inni-K, playing her violin like a guitar as she begins with a folky Gentle Stars. Switching to keys for Precipitate, these first couple of numbers are marred by sound issues but Hold Tight turns out to be a game-changer after this faltering start to the gig. She loops keys then percussion, singing on top and finding her feet as the large crowd in The Mercantile begin to take more notice. The ukulele makes its first appearance for DNA and stays out for the following number. Building a song from a foundation of the ukulele and a percussive music box with her loop pedal, she provides beatbox vocals in a folk song with a twist. It’s fascinating to watch and its good stuff, quite unlike anything else that’s going on around the festival. From The Beat rounds off the set, a many-layered concoction that gets everyone involved. The audience are roped in with handclaps and fingersnaps, and by this point everyone is more than willing to lend a hand. After a shaky start Inni-K had us won over with her singular take on folk music – it was quite a unique show.
Cocophone (Mercantile – Saturday)
Goldenplec manages to catch two sets from Dublin band Cocophone over the course of the festival. Urban Picnic café in the George’s St. Arcade is the first encounter where they play an acoustic set with the guitarist pulling all sorts of percussive tricks on the back of his guitar. A cover of The Jam’s That’s Entertainment is a nice touch, sounding well with the dual vocals. They seem unsure of how Rivers would pan out in this acoustic setting but really, they needn’t have worried. The Mercantile is the venue for the full band show on Friday night and punter and band alike seem to be in fine fettle. The echoing squall of guitar elevates Borrowed Walk while Pull The Screw with its nice tripping groove seems to take hold of everyone. The band gets into it and kicks it up a notch, the violin comes in, and it sounds fantastic. The set features a selection of songs from their just released ‘Reservoir’ album with Special Offers II and Feeling Daydreams polishing off the set as the drummer gets the last word. Both acoustically and with full embellishment the songs and vocals shone…fine stuff.
EleventyFour (Mercantile – Saturday)
This is the third HWCH festival that EleventyFour –Dorothy Cotter – has played and this reviewer’s first encounter with the singer. Taking the stage alone with an acoustic guitar Cotter proceeds to charm the pants of everyone in attendance with her folky, funny songs and easy rapport with the crowd. Small Wonders is a song about being small. Forklift is a song about a forklift. The Friend Song is a song about friends. And so it goes. It would take a hard heart not to be swept along with these witty tales. “Who’s got a friend called Michael? Everyone, it’s Ireland!”. Little Joy’s Don’t Watch Me Dancing is the token cover version early in the set while Super Cool comes with some sage advice about fancying someone – “Tell her! Or him!”. She rounds off what was one of the most pleasurable and smile inducing sets of the weekend with Jeff Nelson, a song about – yes – a guy called Jeff Nelson who has achieved hero status via this song. And with that and a mini-Pete Townsend jump and stomp on the stage, she’s off. Stole our cynical hearts she did.
David Dooley Picks
Dogs (Workmans – Friday)
Dogs kicked off this reviewers HWCH with one of their first ever gigs and immediately set a very high standard for the rest of the weekend. Fragile falsetto vocal lines were tenderly resting on top of club beats as non-descript time lapse video footage of Dublin played behind the band on a projector. The songwriting overall is quite ambitious but at times it feels restricted making Dogs sound like a rough, less grandiose M83 (perhaps a harsh comparison given that M83 have been active for over ten years). Drift, with its urgent vocal line, delayed piano and beat breaks make it the set standout. All in all though, Dogs are a must see for anyone who liked their electro paired with melodic vocals.
Carried by Waves (The Button Factory – Saturday)
Until this festival Carried by Waves were a mystery to this reviewer. All I knew was that their album ‘Softly Held Together’ was up there amongst my top played albums of the year but little else. Walking into the Button Factory for the first act of day three I wondered how songs from such a layered album would come across live. It turns out that Carried by Waves is just one man. A man who’s name resides nowhere online which only adds to the allure. Surrounded by his own equipment and that from other bands it looks like a scene from the Toy Show if it was mixed with Later with Jools Holland. Musically it’s a blur of layered drum beats, live guitar playing, a lot of fiddling on devices and some very lush vocals. The vocal duties are split between Carried by Waves and an unintroduced female vocalist. A good call as a large portion of the set requires her sublime vocal talents. It seems almost a waste however to have such a danceable tracks like Stranger Talk booming out of the Button Factory’s PA to a sober 8pm crowd but alas you’re onto something good if the stage time is the worst complaint of a set.
Hudson Taylor (Meeting House Square – Saturday)
Going by the overwhelmingly positive reaction they received as they walked out on stage it would be safe to say that I was the only one in Meeting House Square on Saturday who had never heard of Hudson Taylor. A band fronted by two brothers their lineup is completed with three supporting members. Their set consisted mainly of rousing folk-pop that cheekily nods to what’s come before it but never feels like it’s stepping on the toes of other acts. Surprise cover of the weekend pops up halfway through when Hudson Taylor tear through an inventive medley of Eminem’s Lose Yourself, Bon Iver’s Flume and Sting & the Police Walking on the Moon. The entire thirty minutes or so spent on stage is filled with such optimism and endless passion that you would be hard pushed to find someone present who didn’t warm to Hudson Taylor by the end of it.
Heritage Centre (Meeting House Square – Saturday)
Taking to the stage in Meeting House Square after the endlessly charismatic Hudson Taylor must be no easy task but Dublin/Dundalk five piece Heritage Centre do so the only way they know how; by being themselves. They take a refrained, no frills approach to their set that lets the music do all the talking. Thankfully for them the songs are strong enough to support this approach. Singer Conal McIntyre’s monotone delivery is at a jarring contrast to the more upbeat music. It shouldn’t work at all but it does. Despite the somewhat deadpan vocal delivery it’s still done with great drive and enthusiasm. Heritage Centre’s contrasts don’t end just there. Visually they go from subtle rocking out to having a drummer who spends a large portion of the set standing up whilst playing (I’m convinced he thinks he’s in the Foo Fighters every time he does this). Still buzzing off the momentum from their recent album launch in the Grand Social, you hope that Heritage Centre use this stellar performance to springboard themselves to bigger things.
Delorentos (Meeting House Square – Saturday)
Delorentos Saturday night headline slot can definitely be called a homecoming of sorts. The band played one of the first Hard Working Class Heroes festivals many years ago and seemed more than happy to back whilst we were more than happy to have them. After the lull left by The Mighty Stef an hour of Delorentos was just the thing to bring Meeting House Square back to life. No band got such an enthusiastic reaction from the crowd all weekend. Any energy the eager audience were throwing toward the back was being fired right back at them. The stars aligned when Delorentos played the set of their career at Indiependence so it would be unfair to compare the two but with such a polished collection of songs and buckets of on-stage confidence from relentless touring it’s easy to see how Delorentos are back at Hard Working Class Heroes once again.
Niall Swan Picks
Slow Skies (Workmans – Saturday)
The musical project of singer/songwriter Karen Sheridan, Slow Skies were one of the most hotly anticipated performances of the weekend. Previous to Saturday night, I’d only had a brief taster of the band when they supported Sorcha Richardson in Whelan’s back in August. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties this gig was even more brief. However, a quick-fire 4-track set was more than enough to leave me and the rest of those in attendance begging for more. Sheridan’s incredibly soothing vocals, especially in immaculate track Ice Cream, demand complete silence and that’s exactly what she got as the ever growing crowd at The Workman’s Club hung on her every word.
Spies (The Grand Social – Thursday)
On Thursday night, we caught Dublin based 5-piece, Spies, in The Grand Social. It was specifically the voice of lead singer Michael Broderick which was recommended to me and it most definitely didn’t disappoint. Reminiscent of Tom Smith or Matt Berninger, Broderick’s vocals are as professional as you’re going to hear from any upcoming band in the country. The only downside to the set was a lack of variety in the songs, luckily this was overshadowed by the brilliant Thrones which showcased the talents of each individual member of the band. Do yourself a favour and see these lads soon, stardom awaits.
Ginnels (The Grand Social – Thursday)
Ginnels were the surprise package of the weekend. Having gone to The Grand Social with the expectation of seeing Benny Smiles and arriving slightly late, it wasn’t until the second or third song that I was in fact seeing a different band entirely. A dodgy beginning with yet more technical difficulties meant lead singer Mark Chester showed some signs of nerves but they soon disappeared as Ginnels played a rip roaring set which at stages was reminiscent of the Strokes and of The Libertines. It’s a shame that the members of Ginnels have their fingers in so many pies as if they channelled all of their talents into just one band, they could be on to something.
Daithí (Meeting House Square – Thursday)
Daithí Ó Drónaí made his name on the All-Ireland Talent Show in 2009 and has never looked back since then. His unique style, which he dubs “Indie traditional electro math rock looped with a twist” is endlessly entertaining as he mixes traditional dance beats with the somewhat less traditional sounds of a synthesised fiddle. Daithí was unlucky to be occupying the 10pm slot at Meeting House Square on Thursday night, as he played to a relatively small crowd but he managed to impress nonetheless. It is nigh on impossible to put Ó Drónaí’s live set into words, but based purely on the reaction he received on Saturday night, he’s certainly doing something right.
Hard Working Class Heroes Photo Gallery
Photos: Yan Bourke and Kieran Frost