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
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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.