HWCH 2015 Saturday
All things must come to a close, even windswept, manic and intermittently wonderful things, and so it came to pass that we headed out on Saturday 3rd to soak up the multifarious happenings and occurrences that go by the name of the Hard Working Class Heroes festival. The final day of the festival could be seen from certain angles as a bit of an anti-climax, insofar as there was no certified Next Big Thing in the mould of Bitch Falcon or Saint Sister playing anywhere, although groups like Rusangano Family and Pleasure Beach were certainly aiming in the same direction. We floated back out among the city lights and streets to see what the final round of festivities could offer.
Maija Sofia (Grand Social)
As it has been for the remainder of the weekend, the Grand Social’s charmingly decorated upstairs is home to softly rendered tunes from the acoustic side of the track. Maija Sofia is already a firm favourite of H&G. In fact, she recorded a session with us at Rialto’s Grow Dome a couple of weeks ago, so you could even say we’re becoming close friends. Her set tonight is a quiet revelation for anyone who hadn’t head Sofia’s music before. Based in London at the moment but back in Dublin for the festival, she takes to the stage with the obligatory acoustic guitar, backed by an electric guitar which is slightly busier than normal for this type of performance. Sofia’s vocals, harmonies and the noodling of that guitar add what a cliché-monger might call a ‘continental’ flavour to proceedings, all husky tones and melodic minor scales. Introducing tracks with stories about the love lives of Pre-Raphaelite artists in 19th century London, her every move is confident and assured. And the music is an absolute treat.
Slow Place Like Home (Academy, Main Room)
If you had to pick a single criticism of the festival from the potential list of them regarding organisation and logistics, Slow Place Like Home’s set would be illustrative. The place is almost empty. Whether it’s because there’s too much on at the same time or because the festival is too sprawling to give prominence to any single act, the net effect is that the main room of the Academy is deserted. The main performance area has an average of 9 people. Back at the bar and upstairs is only slightly less sparsely populated. A shame, because SlowPlaceLikeHome’s short set is mightily impressive. Easily mistaken for an instrumental outfit, for long periods Keith Mannion’s repertoire could be described merely as pure music. All manner of electronic squeaks and groans, ferocious drumming and a carefully realised sense of heady, layered atmospherics combine to make the set a thing to be experienced rather than merely listened to. Decked out in luminescent boiler suits like a bunch of Breaking Bad enthusiasts or dystopian beekeepers, their music is hard to pin down but no less hard to turn away from. If only there was a crowd to turn towards it in the first place.
Pleasure Beach (Academy, Main Room)
One of the definite ‘buzz’ bands on the Irish circuit at the moment, Pleasure Beach are a Northern outfit who seem to have sprung up fully formed over the course of the last number of months. Sometimes in danger of drowning in a tide of Arcade Fire comparisons, the Academy is nonetheless a good deal busier than it was for SlowPlace only an hour previously. Running through their own tracks, including the excellent ‘Go’, lead single from their upcoming debut EP, Dreamer to the Dawn, Pleasure Beach seem adept at carving out their own space while not scared to offer listeners a veritable dollop of their forbears’ influence, without coming off as a pastiche. The comparisons with Arcade Fire and Springsteen are merited, but the Belfast group show they are able to transcend them. Keep an eye out, the forthcoming EP could be the start of something rather big.
Third Smoke (Mercantile)
Another band to grace the cramped stage area of the Mercantile’s venue, nestled at the back of a largely oblivious pub, Third Smoke are giving it their best. You wonder how they intend to fit at times, but the 5-piece bungle through with limited fuss. Their music is efficient and well delivered, close enough to the indie-pop-rock mainstream to imagine on the stages of bigger festivals, differentiated enough to prevent them from being passed over. Piano is given more of a starring role at times than usual. Vocals are spit out with greater speed than anybody who has ever listened to an indie band may have come to expect. Otherwise it’s fairly par for the course men-with-guitars-and-drums fare. But you can’t fault them.
Jennifer Evans (Workman’s Club)
Final gig of the weekend is the angular, abrasive stylings of Jennifer Evans in the main room of the Workman’s Club. Maybe it’s the fact of it being the last gig of the evening or the more acceptably hedonistic shenanigans of a Saturday night slowly becoming more acceptable, but despite the music she has trouble keeping the crowd onside. Talking from the bar outside drowns out any sense of the gig being a space unto itself, and indeed the crowd in the room are content with occasionally nattering away in spite of the performance. For what it’s worth above the chatter, Evans is never less than an enthralling performer, although there are moments when it seems as if the crowd’s attention deficit mightn’t be entirely unfounded. Not a million miles from say, the heavier side of St. Vincent’s shtick, Evans melds lengthy passages of emotive introspection with full-on barrages of the staccato avant-garde. Rock music in the way that bananas are actually herbs. It is, but really it isn’t. You imagine the manic intensity of even the quietest moments work brilliantly when the crowd have all paid to be there, and only there. Such is the nature of this weekend that that isn’t really the case. Evans is clearly an adept performer and writer, but there are some nights when it becomes hard to separate the performance from the gig. Under ideal conditions, you feel that she’d want them to be totally the same thing.
Words: Cathal Kavanagh