Ireland's music showcase: Hard Working Class Heroes
Hard Working Class Heroes has become the go-to festival for anyone seeking to check the state of the Irish music nation. Jim Carroll previews the event and offers a guide to the bands to see
little xs for eyes
It’s nearly time to rumble with the Hard Working Class Heroes again. What began as a low-key, very underground showcase event with an unwieldy name in one venue in 2004 has now become an annual staple featuring more than 100 bands playing in up to a dozen venues. Eleven years on, the cumbersome name remains above the line, but the moniker has obviously not done the event any harm at all, judging by where it stands today. Lesson to all: a terrible name is not a barrier to anything.
Hard Working Class Heroes (HWCH) has become an event which provides a go-to guide for new and new-ish Irish bands. The festival has showcased many Irish acts who’ve gone on to have a bigger splash in terms of gigs, tours and releases home and away – Villagers, Jape, Delorentos, Le Galaxie, Cathy Davey, The Strypes, We Cut Corners and many others.
It also has begotten a conference offshoot (declaration of interest: this writer is involved in programming same) as well as a plethora of free gigs and exhibitions around the city.
Despite all the growth, it is still very much about the grassroots and a means to gauge the current state of the new Irish music nation. Be it meat-and-two-veg rock bands, indie dreamers, introverted singer-songwriters, bedroom electronica producers or the new mongrel electro-rock outfits, HWCH always catches the sound of the current crowd.
The event has never solely been about new acts either. Each year, you get bands who first played at the event as newbies returning to show how they’ve developed. Of course, as the law of averages dictates, a bigger number of acts who have appeared at HWCH in the past have simply stood still, regressed creatively or simply disappeared without trace.
Naturally too, there have been quibbles from the gallery about who gets to play at HWCH, the selection process, the event’s funding and what exactly it’s all about.
But those doing the quibbling over the years have rarely backed up their words with actions and the bellyaching has never led to fringe gigs or alternatives. You have to conclude then that those persistently whinging year in and year out do so because it’s easier to fume than actually do something, especially as the answers to these questions were provided a long time ago.
The bands who’ll play next weekend may have a whole range of ideas about what an appearance will mean for them. But anyone expecting fame and fortune from a 30-minute appearance at an autumnal Dublin festival really needs their head examined. There are no A&R men arriving in limos with bags of cash and drugs anymore – and, anyway, any band who considers such a scenario to be a successful outcome in this day and age is really clueless. HWCH is more about showing that fairy tales and overnight success stories need a lot of work and patience.
Here, then, are a selection of acts we think you should check out next weekend – 10 acts who are brand new to HWCH and 10 who’ve played at the event before. That also leaves some 80 acts who may well go on to become your favourite new band or, even, the next Kodaline. Time to hit the streets.
10 FIRST-TIMERS TO SEE AT HWCH
ANDERSON (Thurs, Button Factory, 9.20pm)
Best known to date for his work with The Rags, Daniel Anderson’s beautifully detailed, emotional and broody solo material is well worth getting to know.
BLADES CLUB! (Thurs , Meeting House Square, 8pm)
New-ish Dublin-based band playing giddy, sunnysideup surf rock with all the bells and whistles. From the band’s clutch of songs to date, Out to Sea is a keeper.
HOZIER (Thurs, Button Factory, 10pm)
Neat modern blues with a bit of an edge
from Andrew Hozier Byrne, the very busy Wicklow-born dude who has already had spells with the Trinity College Orchestra, Zaska Anuna, Nova Collective and a ton of other stuff.
I HAVE A TRIBE (Fri, Button Factory, 9.20pm)
Patrick O’Leary will be familiar to anyone who has seen Slow Skies live. On his tod, O’Leary is creating shimmering, sultry, soundtrack- friendly piano blues. Monsoon sounds like something a US TV music supervisor would grab with both hands to soundbed some moody scene from The Good Wife.
JOSHUA BURNSIDE (Thurs, Mercantile, 9.20pm)
Queens University student from Co Down, Burnside’s rumbling, brooding, powerful folk-pop comes with many different kinks in the fabric. He’s already recorded a handful of EPs, with the magnetic Black Dog Sin, from the latest If You’re Goin’ That Way, the one to check out if you’re in a hurry.
LIZA FLUME (Thurs, Meeting House Square, 10.40pm)
Dublin-based Australian winning friends with beautiful harmonies, robust songs and intriguing live shows.
MOSCOW METRO (Fri, Bad Bobs, 10.40pm)
Limerick Camus fans producing dark, menacing, haunting tunes such as Spirit of a City and Cosmos about everything from their home town to Carl Sagan.
MYLES MANLEY (Fri, New Theatre, 10pm)
Sligo-born, Dublin-based dandy with an eye and ear for the twisted pop nugget, Myles Manley has already released a rake of material, had some adventurous
live shows and displayed some audacious ambition when it comes to his work. Check out his very impressive set of heels on the Greatest Hits 2012-2013 compilation of his best work to date.
PRINCESS (Thurs, Workman’s Club, 10pm)
Dublin kraut-psych adventure-seekers whose debut EP Black Cat was full to the brim with prime raw cuts and fascinating trimmings.
THE VINCENT(S) (Thurs, Meeting House Square, 11.20pm)
Cork band offering grungy noise, colourful, compelling psych and raw, energised riffs on songs such as Asked Her to the Dance.
10 RETURN VISITORS TO CATCH
COME ON LIVE LONG (Sat, Meeting House Square, 11pm)
The band behind one of the Irish albums of the year in the shape of the bespokely baroque Everything Fall.
CONOR WALSH (Thurs, New Theatre, 9.30pm)
Superb expressive, evocative solo piano work from the west of Ireland minimalist who specialises in melancholic, moody ambient pieces.
DAITHÍ (Sat, Meeting House Square, 11.40pm)
One of the Irish acts to watch go absolutely supernova in 2014, Daithí has turned his violin-and-loops set-up into a banging
electronic roadshow and now has some
really strong tunes to back up that energy, dash and vigour.
LEANNE HARTE (Thurs, Mercantile, 10pm)
Dublin-based singer-songwriter who had previous flashes with the solo limelight as a teenager, but whose Restless Sleepers EP shows she now has the creative and songwriting wherewithal to have another go on her own terms.
LITTLE XS FOR EYES (Sat, Mercantile, 10pm)
A band with harmonies for everyone in the audience as debut album S.A.D. showed, little xs for eyes will hopefully have some new tunes to tease us with at HWCH 2013.
SEPTEMBER GIRLS (Fri, Workman’s Club, 10.40pm)
All-girl band who wowed many at last year’s festival with their reverby Sixties-tinged noise-pop. Now signed to Fortuna Pop and with a debut album to come in January, September Girls could well surprise many.
SLEEP THIEVES (Fri, Button Factory, 10pm)
One of the biggest hits at HWCH 2011, Sleep Thieves were then slowly reinventing themselves as a band. It will be fascinating to hear how the noir-disco and melancholic electropop which they’ve been producing sounds a year on.
SHIPS (Sat, Button Factory, 9.20pm)
The project from Synth Eastwood and Laser Tom and The Blast Crew’s Simon Cullen and Sorcha McGrath, with Cian Murphy onboard for live shows, is one full of synthy grooves and killer hooks.
SO COW (Fri, Workman’s Club, 11.20pm)
A case of an act probably better known elsewhere than at home, So Cow hit Hard Working Class Heroes with a new album The Long Con to show off. Now a trio rather than an one-Tuam-man band, So Cow may well be the most ripping act you get to see next weekend.
TIERANNIESAUR (Fri, Meeting House Square, 10pm)
Oodles of killer, well-turned out tunes from Annie Tierney and band’s two albums to date will make for a set high in wonky disco, funsome hooks and quirky funk.