A Quick Review of Hard Working Class Heroes 2011

Now in it’s ninth year, Hard Working Class Heroes hit venues across Dublin over the weekend (October 6th – 8th). As well as  many of Ireland’s best and brightest emerging talents playing there was a whole host of panels, talks and free shows but for me, it’s about the gigs.

On Thursday Sounds of System Breakdown kicked things off in The Button Factory with a solid set of genre hopping electro. Spies were next to take up the mantel. Even if the sound seemed a bit off to begin with, their was no holding them back. Epic is a much over used word these days but that is surely the best way to describe their brand of rock. Thursday’s high point was undoubtedly We Cut Corners. The Dublin duo are stunningly tight performers, what they lack numerically they make up with volume and excellence. It is indie-rock done right while flirting with post punk, hearing their new single ‘Leopard’ live is quite something. With an album due soon these guys are definitely ones to watch out for.

Friday began back at The Button Factory with Tenaka. Opening a perfectly tailored set of soft ambient beats and atmospheric sounds before taking things up a notch with bigger thumping beats from his stunning EPhemeral EPNext up was No Monster Club a short distance away in The Workman’s Club whose lively to the point speedy punk sound draws quite heavily from The Strokes and The Libertines, but if they were much cheerier. You can’t help but love this Dublin trio and hearing the likes of ‘The Last Bottle In The World’ and ‘Electric Picnic’ is always a treat.

Staying put in the Workman’s we awaited We Are Losers. They have steadily grown into one of the best live bands in Ireland since their debut live show at last years HWCH. While that was a nervy (but impressive nonetheless) this was an assured and impressive show, proving bands need time to grow. ‘Cheerleader’ and ‘Sunset Song’ went down particularly well with the packed crowd. What makes Losers different to most of their contemporaries is they can take things to another level, and they aren’t finished yet.

Saturday and it was back to the Workman’s to see The Depravations who were the new discovery of the weekend. The soothing sounds of their rootsy indie folk had me gripped, echoes of ’50s/’60s masters at play with a touch of more modern acts like The Coral. It was back to The Button Factory for Ghost Estates where the Dublin 5 piece’s tight indie sound took things up a notch with singles ‘Paris’ and ‘Forever or Never’ being notable high points. They have presence and a well honed sound, it is going to be interesting to see what direction they take over the next twelve months or so.

Saturday was turning out to be a ever improving feast of new music and House of Dolls were it’s (and possibly the weekend’s) pinnacle. Their’s is a mixture of dark, dirty and atmospheric psychedelic rock played with a confidence and maturity of a world conquering group. Their set was stunning and with a debut album promised soon, expect to hear much more from these guys. Next it was over to the Mercantile sharpish to see Ginola who didn’t disappoint. Short, sharp and to the point punk with a serious bite is what they do – it’s loud, feisty and shout-a-long punk at it’s very best. If you get the opportunity to see these guys, do your a massive favour and do! A scintillating performance to bring the curtain down on another glorious HWCH.

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Oxegen 2011 – Friday – Tame Impala, Shit Robot, The Strokes & Leftfield

 

What a weekend! On paper it was one of the most uninspiring Oxegen lineups for sometime yet it turned out to be a fantastic weekend with some stunning performances, helped in no small way by the sunshine on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday it seemed like a re-run of the usual script, rain and lots of it. Thankfully this wasn’t the case. One of the big talking points was the eerily small crowd on Friday which left many shows deserted making it difficult for bands and punters to build on.

Whatever the case people were there to enjoy themselves. It was hard to know what to expect from House of Pain to be honest. They entertained the crowd buoyed by the appearance of sunshine before inevitably finishing up with ‘Jump Around’, sending punters into a rapturous frenzy of flailing limps and ‘jumping around’.

Next up Aussie psychedelic rockers Tame Impala over at the 2FM Hotpress Academy. No gimmicks just a short but fine set of warm fuzzy psychedelia running through tracks from their stunning debut album, Innerspeaker. They are far more ‘spaced out’ live than on record, memorable renditions of  ‘Solitude Is Bliss’, ‘Desire Be Desire Go’ and ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind’ in particular. It is a shame they were on so early and would be better suited to a different setting, their own headline show would have the potential to be something really special.

Getting ready for Shit Robot in the Electric Ballroom was a bizarre, it was creepy, ghoulish even, to see the place so deserted. The dance arena is normally jammed not matter what. The real shame was more people should have witnessed Shit Robot’s set, the sound, set and show was amazing. He deserved better.

The piece de resistance for the evening was The Strokes. The new album Angles may have received a mixed reception but it proved they are still relevant musical force today. Testament to this was the growing throng assembling at the Vodafone Stage even as the dark clouds descended. We were repaid quickly as The Strokes, in no mood to mess around, launched headlong into a set full of their biggest hits, along with material from their latest album.

Casablancas struts his stuff in a leather jacket and sunglasses (resembling a young Joey Ramone), then it finally dawns on you how great a band The Strokes are as they launch into hit after hit. ‘New York City Cops’, ‘Someday’, ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Reptilia’ are all stunning and when ‘Last Nite’ kicks in and all hell breaks loose. As they leave the stage it seems as though only minutes have passed since they had begun, which tells its own story. The Strokes return was a massive triumph eclipsing their disastrous show in 2004 and it will take something special to top that.

Amazingly there was more to come, still time to catch Leftfield in Heineken Green Energy tent. Straight from the off it is obvious this was the setting for them (inside, unlike Electric Picnic last year). The bass was simply outrageous, you could feel it rattling and reverberating throughout your whole body. It is no wonder they were once proclaimed ‘loudest live act in the world’. Extraordinary renditions of ‘Afro-Lelt’, ‘Song of Life’ and ‘Storm 3000′ blow the cobwebs off the old Leftism tunes.

Unfortunately that was it, I begrudgingly had to leave before the finish. One day down, Saturday and Sunday had a lot to live up to.

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Primavera Sound ’11 – Day 3

Photo by Alan Moore & taken from State.ie

Before we get started I’d like to thank Johnny Feeney for taking the time to share his Primavera Sound ’11 musings with us. I for one have really enjoyed reading them and it’s made me wanna go to next years festival. Day three, take it away.

Primavera Sound ’11 – Day 3

Saturday and Champions League Final day in Barcelona and the place was buzzing. The site was awash with the colours of the Blaugrana and the odd, brave Man U fan and there was an undercurrent of anticipation in the air you couldn’t escape. But the show must go on.

Yuck opened the ATP stage in fine style in the sun and drew in a large crowd for such an early slot. Their catchy, hook-laden music harks back to the days of early ‘90s grunge with a splash of distortion thrown into the mix. Theirs was a rather short but super-tight set and I would expect bigger and better things from them in the future.

The all-girl group Warpaint (pictured above) weaved their mesmeric, psychedelic indie to dazzling effect. Tunes like ‘Undertow’ and ‘Composure’ sounded fantastic out in the open air of the Llevant stage with the Mediterranean breeze on your back and a beer in your hand. They’re a very good looking band too and held something of a spell over me as I watched. I wasn’t the only one.

tUnE-yArDs gave one of the performances of the festival for me. Utterly unique, tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus) came onstage armed primarily with a ukulele whilst providing loops of percussion and tribal backing vocals for herself. Along with her booming voice and ably assisted by a bass player and 2-piece horn section, the results were devastating. Highlights here were ‘Gangsta’ and ‘Bizness’, my two favourite tracks off the excellent new album W H O K I L L. The music varied wildly between lo-fi folk and tribal African beats but was always captivating. She plays Whelan’s on June 17th and is well worth a visit.

With Fleet Foxes, you always know exactly what you’re going to get. Their pastoral folk and beautiful, soaring harmonies went down well on the main stage without setting the world alight. Main stages at festivals are a hard place to grab the attention of a large crowd and with the Champions League final about to take place, a lot of people’s minds were elsewhere.

After watching the mighty Barcelona crush Man Utd, I ran swiftly over to PJ Harvey who had the unenviable task of following the CL Final but she very quickly had the crowd at the main stage rapt. Playing for over an hour and a half, the setlist included almost everything off this year’s exceptional album ‘Let England Shake’ alongside classics such as ‘C’mon Billy’, ‘Down by the Water’ and the brilliant ‘Big Exit’. A remarkable performance by Harvey and a must-see for me at the Electric Picnic in September.

Swans are a new enough discovery for me so I plumped for them over Mogwai and I was not disappointed with my choice. They played intense, dark, multi-layered rock that sounded like music for the apocalypse. Alongside the guitars and drums were lots of rage, haunting bells and sinister strings. I liked this more than I thought I would. Will be digging deeper with these guys.

Putting my last choices into the hands of others, I went to see Darkstar who I didn’t care for much. Dub-heavy electronica, I just found it drone-y and dull. Animal Collective are a band I’ve never “got” on record but I decided to see if there was something live that might shed some new light for me. I now don’t “get” them live either. Not for me, thank you.

And so another successful edition of Primavera Sound ends for me. It’s been a lot of fun and I hope to return next year for what’s turned into something of an annual pilgrimage for me.

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