Hard Working Class Heroes – Saturday

October 6, 2014 – Culture

Hard Working Class Heroes, Dublin’s annual all-you-can-eat buffet of unsigned and underground music came to a close on Saturday evening, with a series of head-spinningly brilliant sets from some of the country’s most exciting, innovative, and downright excellent independent artists. Hunt and Gather’s Cathal Kavanagh headed out to sample the action and report back on what one of the most exhilarating events on the calendar had to offer.

I was late. One of the coldest, chill-to-your-bone winds of the year was blowing down Grafton St, and I was resolutely running against it in an attempt to get to see something of the Black Sea Fleet. Such is the nature of HWCH that it’s nigh-well pointless to stay in the one place all night, and with this in mind I’d planned to attend at least one gig in every participating venue over the course of the 4 1⁄2 hours, beginning with the earliest set of the evening, the Black Sea Fleet in the Grand Social at 7:30. However, owing to the usual mixture of mis-understanding, forgetfulness and old-fashioned idiocy, I was running late. The thing with an event like HWCH is that the city itself becomes the festival site, which is marvellous for the atmosphere and sense of buzz around the place, but pretty shit when it comes to running like an idiot through slowly-dispersing throngs of shoppers and businesspeople.

No matter. I got to the Grand Social, and I’d hardly even broken a sweat.


The Black Sea Fleet, Grand Social, 7:30

To my shame, I was almost too late to catch any of the Black Sea Fleet’s set, despite running most of the way from Stephen’s Green in an effort to make it. I walked in just in time for them to say “thank you very much” and bid the small crowd adieu after what I can only imagine was a sterling performance. To their credit, the duo were wearing pretty striking matching gold tracksuit tops, which was definitely a point in their favour. In any case, their music features a hypnotising blend of chilled out ambiences and vocals lying somewhere on the blues-indie continuum, which you can listen to for free.




Imploded View, Twisted Pepper, 8:00

Imploded View are an electronic duo, one half of which supplies the music, the other the mesmerizingly trippy visuals. Their set lasted the promised half an hour, and no one could have any complaints on either the audio or visual front. The music is intriguing, somewhat experimental left-of-centre electro which deserves a wider degree of critical and popular recognition. The visuals, featuring everything from footage of an existential crisis being enacted in a forest, to a bastardised, metamorphosing pentagram, via what can only be described as a kaleidoscope-d CAT scan, were at once bewildering and utterly captivating. If there was anything wrong with this exposure to such a brain-frying strain of music and art, it was that it was probably still too early in the evening to truly appreciate something so totally alien to the sober mind. The crowd, for its part, was still small enough not to threaten filling the venue, but there was definitely a mounting sense of buzz around the place.



Back across the river (not to cross it again for the remainder of the evening), we made a bee-line through the groups of buskers and steadily drunkening tourists to the Button Factory in Temple Bar, where one-man act Deaf Joe was plying his wares to a crowd which was definitely the biggest of the night thus far, but which was nonetheless smaller in proportion to the size of the venue than either of the two smaller rooms we’d already visited.


Deaf Joe, Button Factory, 8:40

Clad in a shirt and a flatcap, Deaf Joe and his laptop provided a solid set of sparse, minimalist beats and atmospheres topped off by the soul-inflected intonations of the singer’s voice. The introspective nature of the music and the vocalist’s understated delivery meant that the Button Factory’s roof was never quite lifted off the building below, but this was nonetheless a remarkably strong performance from the solo artist. The songs at times exhibit flourishes of classical, almost cinematic strokes, only to be rendered askew by a marvellous managing of fuzz and effects. Of course, underpinning it all was Joe’s expressive voice, which carries the music to a higher plane altogether and made for an extremely memorable act in an admittedly empty-seeming venue. To be highly, highly recommended.




At this point in the evening, myself and Charlotte had 20 or 25 minutes to spare before we went on to our next gig in Meeting House Square, so we went to the nearest supermarket in search of the cheapest possible bottle of wine, which was promptly found and necked in an alleyway, away from the eyes tourists and suspicious locals. Meeting House Square, by the way, was looking exceptionally well last night and I imagine for the whole weekend, with the sheltered outdoor dynamic provided by the large artificial canopies providing an excellent setting for a gig. You’d have to say it was money well spent when it comes to the plaza’s redevelopment by the powers that be over the last couple of years.


Elaine Mai, Meeting House Square, 9:40

Another one-person-and-laptop performance for the most part, Elaine Mai’s gig on the main stage in the Square was a good deal more up-tempo than anything we’d seen so far. The crowd were loving it, this being the first time all night we had any actual work to do to try and get nearer to the stage. As with Deaf Joe a little earlier on, it was Mai’s voice which stole the show, but this isn’t to suggest for a second that anything else was lacking. As I alluded to in my preview of Saturday’s shows, she is supremely talented as both an arranger and a producer, and the crowd were treated to the full force of her musical wizardry. Mai was joined by the equally heavenly-voiced Leanne Harte for the former’s remix of Harte’s “Not Another Love Song”, which went down a storm. Mai finished off with her own mix of Destiny Child’s “Jumpin’”, which was a fitting end to the first show of the night we’d seen to be truly electrifying to witness.




Up the hill and across the road to the back of the Mercantile, we left Mai’s set the moment it finished in order to catch the last half of The Vincent(s)’ set in that fine establishment. Walking in, it was clear that this was to be the most exhilarating gig of the night so far – hardly room to breathe your own air, we squished our way up the front to feel the full force of the band’s sonic assault.


The Vincent(s), Mercantile, 22:00

As mentioned, we only arrived about halfway through the band’s set, but this didn’t detract from our enjoyment in the least. This was immense. Heavy as sin and at least two times as fun, the Vincent(s) played an absolute blinder which left ears ringing and bass-driven, grunge-influenced, stoner-metal “death pop” (as the band calls it) racing around people’s heads with the speed of a caffeinated hummingbird. Sounding something like American pioneers Kyuss, if Kyuss got so energetically angry that they bought a saxophone and turned the distortion up even higher, the lads raced through a set of explosive tunes from their various EPs and singles with the power of a uranium-powered freight train. With highlights including their small hit “Asked her to the Dance”, and the brilliant, bombastic “Valley of the Sun”, the band are an automated machine gun of pure rock n’ roll magnificence. A rock gig. That ended with a gut-busting sax solo. These guys are going places.




That piece of unbridled magnificence out of the way, we trotted through Temple Bar once again in the direction of the Workman’s Club, where our last act of the night, the madcap Meltybrains? were playing at 10:40. This would mean eschewing Fight Like Apes’ closing set on the main stage, but we figured that with half a decade of mainstream or nearly-mainstream success behind them, they were less in need of our attention and comment than the group we were going to see. Workman’s had somehow collected a half-hour delay on its journey through the night, which meant we caught the end of Carried By Wave’s impressive set of energetic electro before Melybrains? took to the stage, proving me wrong when I thought that the Vincent(s) were going to be my favourite live band of the night.


Meltybrains?, Workman’s, 10:40

What even is a Meltybrains? show? Giving such a fantastic piece of performance that it’s almost unworthy of monikers like “concert” and “gig”, the experimental (with a very large E) quintet threw out doses of what felt like actual cranial liquification with charismatic aplomb for the best 40 minutes of everyone in attendance’s day. Displaying a shed-full of influences from contemporary classical (some brilliant shredding on the electronic violin) to hip hop (although it seems like the band’s biggest influence of all is pure unhinged insanity), Meltybrains? whirred their way through their best-known tracks in a manner that was, as per normal, completely, enthrallingly awe-inspiring. When a band can have a repeated refrain of “would you like a scone?” in one of its songs, as happens in the wonderful “Soup or Synth”, and pull it off with something approaching gravitas and sincerity, you know you’re onto something special. To repeat the cliché wheeled out every single time they play, Meltybrains? truly sound like nothing else you’re likely to hear anywhere else on the contemporary music scene. People less impressive than these have had religions based around them, and if ever a band deserved the cultish adoration of its followers, Meltybrains? most certainly do.




Absolutely bloody brilliant. A fitting end to a fantastic festival.

Words: Cathal Kavanagh (also hosted on his own site)

Metlybrains? photos by Brian Fallon

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