Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Hard Working Class Heroes 2011: the pointyheaded overview

Now, that’s what we call a weekend. The ninth Hard Working Class Heroes’ shebang hit the capital’s streets with a plethora of gigs, panels, conversations and gossip between bands, fans and those who make a living connecting one with the …

Mon, Oct 10, 2011, 09:36


Now, that’s what we call a weekend. The ninth Hard Working Class Heroes’ shebang hit the capital’s streets with a plethora of gigs, panels, conversations and gossip between bands, fans and those who make a living connecting one with the other. To our eyes, there was a hell of a lot more people binge-gigging every night (yes, including a school night like Thursday), which is a very good thing. It’s all very well to talk about some sort of boom in Irish music but it’s nothing without people standing out front checking out the bands and roaming in a pack from venue to venue. After the jump, the news, views and pointyheaded opinions from #hwch11.

There were a couple of words which were not heard at all during the HWCH Convention series of panels and workshops (DOI: I was involved in putting together and moderating the Convention events). One of them was “piracy”. Two more of them were “illegal downloads”. Another was “IRMA”. Another one was “Eircom”. Whisper it: we may really have moved on.

Instead of people whinging about their lot in a new era, you instead had signposts to new directions and realities. The traditional model may be borked, but you didn’t need to come to the Convention to realise that. Instead, the panels were about talking about new opportunities. Whether it was the tech geeks who talked about what comes after streaming services like Spotify (Nathaniel Gravely from MTV Digital and I Guess I’m Floating predicts that live streaming of gigs is the next hot button, for instance) or the biogdiversity panel where multi-taskers discussed why those who want to work in the industry need to think about doing more than one thing, there was oodles of food for thought.

It’s worth remarking that the vast majority of the acts who participated in various offstage stuff already have realised this. One of the things I always ask the international industry delegates who do the HWCH speed sessions is how they assess the participants’ smarts. Two years ago, many delegates would sigh at just how unrealistic the bands were about what to do and how to do it. This year, delegate after delegate remarked that the bands they met were sussed, smart and already putting together decent, do-able strategies. Some elements of the industry here may still have hang-ups about stuff which no longer matters, but the bands are already abandoned those shibboleths.

But if the bands are wise, the fact remains that the Irish industry is still a small one and a part-time one at that. We may talk about how well we punch above our weight and the Irish acts who go on to bigger things abroad (a fact which no-one is denying), but the actual infrastructures and networks are non-league rather than premier league. That many who work in this business, or aspire to do so, don’t avail of an opportunity like HWCH to meet and hear international festival bookers, pluggers, labels, geeks, publishers and media is something which never fails to baffle me. I don’t know if it’s apathy, laziness or arrogance but the number of people I know who should turn up to avail of HWCH’s free brain food and who don’t is quite strange.

Perhaps they know it all and don’t need to meet, hear or engage with the dozens of people from organisations like Soundcloud, We7, SXSW, Eurosonic, The Great Escape, CMJ, MTV, Hype Machine, PIAS, American Recordings (Slayer’s A&R man, metal fans) etc who are in town or the experienced Irish-based delegates who also appear on the panels. These are people who are involved in innovative stuff right now rather than people who did stuff 20 years ago, as is often the case at these conferences.

Luckily, there is a second chance as all the panels and workshops were recorded and will be available for download on the HWCH site within the next week or two. Last year, there were around 25,000 post-event downloads of HWCH panels so the audience for these panels are not just the people who take the time to be in the room (I’ll link to the panels once they have been uploaded).

You also never know what you get to hear at these panels or at the various sporadic meetings which an event like HWCH generates. Speaking on the biogdiversity panel, Camden Crawl organiser Lisa Paulon revealed that the festival will be heading to Dublin next May. We also heard a lot of chatter about a proposed Irish Sound of 2012 poll which RTE’s Arena show are involved in. And we hear that there’s news coming down the track this week about the Choice Music Prize.

But the main focus of HWCH – quite rightly – is on the 100 acts who play the showcase gigs. They’re the ones we’re really here to see and cheer or, for the international visitors, run the rule over with a view to foreign bookings.

What was interesting to observe over the weekend was proof of the fact that bands need time to develop and, in some cases, it’s time worth taking. Two years ago at HWCH 2009, I really enjoyed performances from We Cut Corners and The Dying Seconds (who played that year’s OTR night). Two years on, there was a huge reaction for both bands because they’ve come on so much in the intervening time. Both acts needed those two years to get their shit together, to cut some rough edges (or corners), to write better songs, to finetune the songs they had already written. Unlike technology which often changes in monthly cycles, bands need much longer time spans to develop and grow, a fact we often forget.

Acts who impressed me over the weekend included Toby Kaar (rocking and raving the room like a man possessed with supple, mighty shards of wobbly electronica), Conor Walsh (fantastic minimal solo piano from the Mayoman with hints of Keith Jarrett, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka to the warm, subtle, evocative tones), Simon Bird (magnificent shadow bleeps from the Dublin-based producer), Land Lovers (classic gruff-as-a-goat Dublin pop with brilliantly smart-arse lyrics, radio-friendly tunes and some of that old-time A House shimmy to their shake), Lorem Ipsum (big ol’ beats with weird angles and bootylicious U-turns from Totally Dublin editor Daniel Gray), Futures Apart (the Wexford band have found a new way of distilling their electro-pop since I saw them at HWCH 12 months ago), We Are Losers (fuzzy, scuzzy, itchy-as-hell indie buzz pop with a couple of great songs in the middle) and Amidships (the big music as seen by a Northern Irish act who reminded me a lot of Hey Rosetta).

I didn’t get to do much running around on Saturday night because of the OTR vs Nialler9 night at the Workman’s Club. No bad thing mind, with fine peformances from Moths (the Newbridge lad’s woozy electronica is turning out better and better with every passing gig), Cloud Castle Lake (a band who are heading for some rarely spotted higher ground with art-rock panache which oozes mesmerising songs, hooks and ideas), The Depravations (sunny surf’s up indie-folk from Galway), The Danger Is (radio-ready pop/rock from Niamh Danger and her brilliant band), Last Days of 1984 (the big surprise of the night for me, the duo bringing the bounce with great style) and Tieranniesaur (there’s no dance party like a Tieranniesaur dance party to bring a night and a weekend to a close).

So there you have it. Next year will be HWCH’s 10th birthday, which is quite an achievement for an event which started out as a showcase for Dublin bands in the Project Arts Centre. It’s grown up, proven its worth and kept on trucking. Yes, some people still get stumped and take umbrage at the name, but most of us got over that one years ago. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and HWCH provides much norishment and sustenance every year. Here’s to many more years.