HWCH 2015 Friday
Day two out of three, and Hard Working Class Heroes was getting into the big stuff. We dug into the city-wide pandora’s box of new and upcoming music again to see what the festival had to offer this time. Featuring a knock-out set from bona fide buzz merchants Bitch Falcon and the well-wrought understatement of sometime door to door-man Anderson, it was another successful night among the festival’s long list of musical excellence.
New Valley Wolves (Hangar)
True to form from the previous night, Hangar on Friday is decidedly the preserve of the heavy and the shouted. New Valley Wolves make no bones about who they are and what they do. This is by-the-manual riff-centric, blues based guitar rock that pays reverential homage to the cult of the guitar hero. ‘This is Baz Joyce, and he plays the fuck out of the drums’, we hear to applause from the sparsely scattered crowd. Indeed, there’s little on stage that doesn’t have the fuck played out of it. A guitar/drum two piece in the mould of Royal Blood or the Black Keys, they give it their absolute all, regardless of the size or enthusiasm of the crowd. Minor tech issues blight Hangar all weekend, and the vocals are again often unclear, as will often happen over the course of the three nights. They aren’t going to be accused of being trailblazers at any point in the near future, but you suspect that they haven’t got a massive problem with that. Massive, juggernaut-heavy dollops of rock and/or roll. Not a bad way to start the night.
Staring At Lakes (Mercantile)
Our first gig at the Mercantile of the weekend features ambient pop newcomers Staring At Lakes. Featuring the regular drum-bass-guitar-vocals line up with the presence of a keyboard on the venue’s crowded stage, they attract a reasonably sized crowd of punters relative to the size of the room. They certainly aren’t disappointed. The band have attracted some approving nods of late (their latest video was featured on Noisey), and right too. Laura Sheary has a brilliant voice and the music remains always on the good side of formulaic. Piano and vocal strains are overlaid with pentatonic guitar noodling and driving bass as the music veers from the powerful to the atmospheric and back again. A laptop breaks somewhere on stage and it seems that this is to blame for the set being cut tragically short. No matter, the band could impress with a single song if they had to.
EXPLODING EYES (Hangar)
What did we say about Hangar? Rock ‘n Roll, man. We stroll back into the venue to see the majority of EXPLODING EYES’ set, and whether due to the sense of anticipation regarding the next behemoths to take to the stage or due to something about the music itself, it feels like a perfunctory support slot rather than something worth paying attention to for its own sake. Not that there’s anything wrong with the set, but there isn’t anything wildly right about it either. Where New Valley Wolves got the blues-rock thing down so well that it really clicked, and where Bitch Falcon later on seem intent on blazing their own trail in whatever direction they fancy, EXPLODING EYES offer little in the way of anything to cling onto or get enthusiastic about. A three-piece in the mould of many before them, you leave with a sense that there are only so many guitar histrionics you can take before the whole thing segues into the generic. Not bad, but if the crowd seem to sigh a collective ‘meh’ once they leave the stage and move right up close to it to wait for the next act, well, there’s a reason for that. And what a reason.
Bitch Falcon (Hangar)
Bitch Falcon don’t look like rock stars. Lizzie Fitzpatrick, singer and the closest thing the Dublin scene has to a guitar hero at present, comes across as nearly bizarrely friendly and enthusiastic between bouts of condensed, manically aggressive neo-grunge. Naomi McLeod and Nigel Kenny seem similarly ‘normal’, leather jackets and the volume of the music notwithstanding. Nonetheless, their presence on the cover of every magazine in Dublin and the reaction of the crowd tonight would suggest they’re being transformed into rock stars regardless of whether they fit the stereotype. Indeed, while it isn’t on the scale of Fight Like Apes on the main stage last year, there is even a sense that Bitch Falcon might already be too big for the weekend’s festivities. If many of the gigs at HWCH often come across as respectful yet anodyne industry showcases, this one is pure mental. There’s no empty semicircle of light around the stage, as the crowd moves right up to the barrier once the previous set is over. Bitch Falcon rip right into it with the propulsive, bass-heavy madness of ‘Breed’ and there’s little respite from there. Any number of quasi-spiritualistic music journo clichés could be spouted at this juncture to describe what went down for the following half an hour, but suffice to say that the set was among the best of the weekend, and the band among the best in the country. Yes, Fitzpatrick’s voice is a little isolated in the mix on occasion, and there are delays as Kenny looks for something to stop his bass drum sliding away from him, so heavily is he battering it through the group’s Armageddon-invoking riffs. Nonetheless, this is how it’s done. The band end with the popular ‘TMJ’, and become the only band we witness over the course of the three days to provoke choruses of ‘One more tune! One more tune!’ as they leave, an achievement in itself at a festival like this. Where Bitch Falcon will end up from here is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear from tonight that they’re well on the way to getting there.
Anderson (Grand Social)
If Bitch Falcon are getting most of their traction through feverish live performances and the gushings of the local music media, Anderson has been doing it slightly differently. If not unknown, he certainly wasn’t a part of the national zeitgeist until a few weeks ago when a video he made of himself going door-to-door in the Dublin suburbs hawking his new album achieved the viral status so craved by all and sundry in the contemporary media climate. And well deserved, for Anderson has talent in spades and enough quality material to take his career up a couple of notches. Back again in the confines of the Grand Social, we have a slight variation on the old man-with-guitar formula, as Anderson has brought half an orchestra onstage with him in various guises. A string quartet sits waiting to his left. Mandolin and trombone feature prominently in the background on several of his tracks. His songs, full of evocative imagery, narrative threads and well-worn but well-handled themes feature elements from throughout the history of popular music, but manage to feel like they belong exclusively to him. Towards the end of the gig he gets a little frustrated at the fact the crowd seem so reluctant to move towards the stage, and he tells us that he decided ‘on the way over here’ that this would be his last HWCH; a manifestation perhaps of the mutterings as to issues with the management and set-up of the festival. Hopefully his decision will pale into irrelevance, because this time next year, there’s a good chance he won’t even need to play.
Words: Cathal Kavanagh
Images: Breaking Tunes profiles, Anderson’s website.