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By Mary Chang
on Monday, 12th September 2016 at 10:00 am
Just under a month to go now before Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 kicks off in Dublin. Ireland’s annual massive music showcase and industry conference will take place 6-8 October across venues in the city centre, both north and south of the River Liffey. Since its first year in 2003, the music showcase portion of the event has played host to rising stars who have since become household names, including the twice Mercury Prize-nominated and Choice Music Prize and Ivor Novello award winner Villagers, Hozier, Girl Band, Fight Like Apes, The Coronas and The Strypes.
This year’s line-up featuring amazing homegrown talent looks to be Hard Working Class Heroes’ strongest yet. There are several names on the over 100-act strong bill that will be familiar to regular TGTF readers. From Portadown, SXSW 2016 alum Jealous of the Birds will no doubt be playing her single ‘Goji Berry Sunset’, which became a playlist staple for BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne and Radio 2’s Jo Whiley following her appearance in Austin. Limerick’s Rusangano Family proved to be one of the most exciting draws at SXSW 2016, stopping (foot) traffic down 6th Street during their performance Friday at the full Irish breakfast. Other names that might ring a bell include CMW 2016 showcasing acts Comrade Hat (Derry), Elm (Dublin), Fangclub (Dublin) and Search Party Animal (formerly known as Bagels; Dublin). 2016 also sees the beginning of Hard Working Class Heroes’ 3-year project to build audiences between Ireland and Iceland. Wesen and aYia from the Nordic country will be showcasing as well.
For those of us who work in the industry, the convention will continue its long-running tradition of events and activities to help further our goals in supporting talent include mentor sessions, workshops and much more. The convention will be a fantastic opportunity for international delegates, Irish bands and domestic music industry professionals to meet face-to-face and make important contacts. 2016 will also be the inaugural year for the Conor Walsh Memorial Bursary in honour of an alumni and friend of the festival who died suddenly earlier this year. All 100 bands participating will be asked to vote for the act who most embodies Walsh’s talent and bravery. The winning act will be awarded €2,500 toward a recording or tour bill.
So what are you waiting for? Weekend tickets are currently on sale for €45, with nightly and individual venue tickets priced at €20 and €10, respectively. Weekend student tickets will be available for purchase for €25 upon proof of photo ID on Thursday 6th October from the box office at Film Base, Curved Street. To purchase your tickets, download the DICE app for your phone or visit this page on the official HWCH Web site. The stage splits for the 3-day music showcase have been announced, and you can view each day’s lineup in the video below.
As so we came to the final day of Reading Festival 2016. Where those who couldn’t quite cut it have left, and those that remain are ready to see the festival out as they started; with no inhibitions and a fantastic soundtrack.
Activities on the main stage Saturday gave a preview as to the heavy-fest that Sunday would be. Bar A$AP Rocky and The Vaccines, the lineup for the day could also have been found at the heavier British festival staple that is Download. The weather decided it didn’t feel like baring it’s sunnier disposition and instead graced us with its greyer, cloudier and wetter side. As pointed out yesterday though, this is where the British thrive, and thrive they did.
Albany, New York pop punkers State Champs opened up the main stage, bringing a brief respite from the dismal weather at Reading with their take on summer anthem genre. For a Sunday morning, the crowd were particularly excitable and offered back a sincere response. Following on from this spot of sunshine were The Virginmarys, a definite band to watch in the UK rock scene, with their brutal vocals, hard-hitting guitar lines and a savageness reminiscent of early punk. Though the crowd may have mildly dispersed post-State Champs, this didn’t stop the band from Macclesfield from delivering a completely brutal set worthy of a much higher billing.
Mancunians Spring King who have had quite the quick ascent to fame, which you can read about in our interview with drummer and singer Tarek Musa back here at LeeFest 2016 in late July, gave a performance to a completely packed out tent. Though the sudden downpour may have instigated this mass collective, the band made sure to capitalise upon it. The set brought fun and tunes in equal measure, with both band and fans having a Another band who had to deal with what the weather dealt them were Coheed and Cambria who were faultless, giving a ferocious performance all the while being on the main stage and open to the elements.
As the rain continued to slowly drizzled over the Reading festival site, the crowds gave up hiding from it, revelling in the weather. Back on the Radio 1/NME Stage, Deaf Havana used their set wisely as a promotional opportunity, announcing the name and release date of their upcoming album. Appearing on stage with only a white sheet across the back of the stage, as the set went on the words “All These Countless Nights” were painted in black, followed by “21.1.17”. The set was a special moment, secured it as one for the band’s history.
What was The Pit for the past 2 days had now reverted back to its original name The Lock Up for the final day. Beach Slang, the American punk band who are bringing back the old school ethos to the genre, completely dominated the tent. Their set was summed up well in the immortal words of frontman James Alex: “We are Beach Slang, and we’re here to punch you right in the heart!” The Lock Up stage continued with its earnest punk environment with Modern Baseball. Having released their third album ‘Holy Ghost’ back in May, they’re finally on our UK shores, giving their diehard fanbase a run-through of these new offerings. Even though A$AP Rocky was ruling the main stage and causing a surge in crowd flow, The Lock Up was still over capacity for the American four-piece. The excited audience simply did not stop moving until the final chord finished, and the speed at which crowd surfers ran from the security to pit and back into the throng was astounding. Another standout set from this year’s festival.
The evening was an anticipated delight from co-headliners Fall Out Boy and Biffy Clyro. As eight pm swung around, the skies were still cloudy but the atmosphere was as electric as ever. A sea of Fall Out Boy merchandise seen around the festival over the course of the weekend was a concrete measurement in exactly how big a draw band were, and for good reason. A show that featured non-stop fireworks, pyrotechnics, choreographed fire dancers and visuals, Fall Out Boy knew they had a massive opportunity, and they ran with it. Running through a majority set that consisted of songs from the last two albums plus a few golden treats, especially finale ‘Saturday’ from 2003’s ‘Take This to Your Grave’, Fall Out Boy certainly ensured that the ravenous crowd were delivered the set they yearned for.
Finally, it was time for the final headliners of the entire weekend at Richfield Avenue. Biffy Clyro were given the honour and duty of closing out this year’s edition, giving everything they had and fully delivering. With a stage show that reflected the precision and grandeur we’ve come to expect from the Scottish trio, it was a set that will surely be remembered in the festival’s history. From opener ‘Wolves of Winter’ to closer ‘Stinging Bell’ that featured a fireworks display, they somehow managed to dwarf the explosive affair that Fall Out Boy had previously.
Using a popular Scottish battle cry, halfway through the set singer Simon Neil roared out, “Mon The Reading!”, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Biffy Clyro’s ascension through the ranks of musicdom has been made by leaps and strides, and this was the largest of them yet. A perfectly executed set that ran through a majority of newer material – plus the appearance of ’57’, a cut from 2002’s ‘Blackened Sky’ as a pleasant treat – the trio seized the moment and are now reaping the rewards. As the Reading crowd finally dispersed ar the end the festival for another year, the only question on everyone’s mind was, “how are they going to top this next year?” We’ll find out in 2017.
Following on from the complete success that was Friday at Reading 2016 – and with Foals‘ pinnacle career moment headlining the main stage – Saturday had a lot to live up to. Headlining solo today were the funk giants and great dividers of opinion, Red Hot Chili Peppers, but first we had a whole day to experience.
The weather had a go at trying to dampen the spirits by giving a mid-morning downpour, but as with all UK festivals, this only fuelled the festival-going crowd’s insatiable lust for a good time. First up were Scottish three-piece Fatherson. Clearly a milestone for the band, they delivered their emotive and euphoric set with complete expert execution. It shouldn’t be too long before they climb their way through the stages and find themselves front and centre.
The Beach, a London-based singer/songwriter recently on tour with Tom Odell, brought his band for a full ensemble run through of his thoughtful and encompassing tunes. This was an easy watch that the calm crowd relished in. Over on the main stage, American hard rockers Clutch may not have had the largest crowd for the location, but they certainly didn’t let this stop them from giving a set that was filled with solos, riffs and just about every other rock staple you need. Shout out to drummer Jean-Paul Gaster for his 9:30 Club t-shirt (Washington represent!)
Continuing the heavy streak on the main stage, Skindred gave a thoroughly vicious performance with their blend of rock, reggae and metal. The crowd, after witnessing Clutch, were more than up for a good time with heavier influences. Which was good considering what was to come across the field.
The Pit was the place to be for most of the afternoon. Like most festivals, secret sets are always a guarantee, and Reading was no different. With a gap on the stage at 4 PM labelled as ‘TBC’, a spraypainted You Me At Six poster and a band photo backstage, the most subtle of secrets was suddenly revealed. But this was not before what could probably have been one of the best sets of the festival by Heck, a musical marvel who completely dominated the stage, the crowd and everything in between. Spending the majority of the set in various states in and on the crowd, including guitarist and singer Jonny Hall sat atop a flight case while playing guitar, it was an absolutely animalistic and wild sight to behold, Heck should not skip anyone’s radar, not they’d let that happen in any case. Back to the You Me At Six secret set, the closer the time came to 4 PM, the further the tent filled out. By the time the band took to the stage through a curtain of fog, the tent was a gravitational centre. With the band having just announced a large tour of the UK, it was a close and exciting glimpse into what was to hit our cities early next year.
On the main stage, Kent breakthrough punk duo Slaves, proved that they’d earned their way on to central billing by ferociously powering through their socially relevant songs. Another historic moment for a British band at a staple festival.
Back at The Pit and following on from Reading 2016’s worst kept secret came Milk Teeth. The Gloucestershire-based band showed exactly why they’re one of the UK’s brightest up-and-comers. With songs filled with personality and a ’90s rock feel, the crowd were as immersed in the music as the band playing them. It’s sets such as theirs that give Reading its best draw and atmosphere: small bands finding their audience, laying the groundwork for a return in the future to ever larger crowds.
One of the UK festival exclusives this year, Eagles of Death Metal have been present in the public eye for many reasons over the last year, both positive and negative. All of that didn’t matter today though as they joked, sang, laughed and rocked through a main stage set that will surely eclipse what has gone before. Leading man Jesse Hughes knows exactly how to engage and entertain his audience, be it dedicating ‘Zipper Down’ cut ‘Silverlake’ to a fan-made golden cape that he wore atop a Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt, or introducing us all to his father who was side of stage and beginning a chant of “dad! dad! dad!”, he’s an expert at his craft. Ending with ‘Save a Prayer’ who he dedicated to England because “when we needed you, you did not let us down”, likely a reference to the Bataclan terror attack in Paris last November.
While this riotous party was going down, newcomers VANT had the Festival Republic tent filled with young minds that they’re hoping to reach with their politically charged songs. Judging by the reception they were given during single ‘The Answer’ that references Afghanistan and UK/U.S. relations, their plan is working.
Mancunians The Courteeners burst onto the main stage taking over from where Eagles of Death Metal left off. Theirs was a rousing, anthemic set, perfect to carry the afternoon through to ready for the evening’s festivities. Imagine Dragons were the warm-up for Red Hot Chili Peppers, and by the term warm up, they certainly did. With crowd pleasers such as ‘Radioactive’ and ‘Demons’ and their larger than life sound, there was no way they could fail.
Finally, it was the turn of the big guns, Red Hot Chili Peppers. A band who simply need no introduction, over 3 decades of funk and rock, they proved at Reading they’re here to keep the reigning crown. Taking to the stage at 9:30, the incomparable Red Hot Chili Peppers were as welcomed as they would’ve been at any point in their career, with a hungry crowd and rapturous applause. Kicking straight in with ‘Can’t Stop’, it was clear they were here to only prove this point. Though the set could have felt a touch more exciting, it was a solid performance that certainly cemented Kiedis and co.’s place at top billing. Hits aplenty, from a full crowd sing along to ‘Under the Bridge’ to an encore ending with ‘Give It Away’. Saturday night closed out with the feeling of an impenetrable force proved by the enthusiastic crowd, who had grown to almost the entire festival capacity and sought any means possible to get a view. If Saturday was anything to go by, it proved Reading and Leeds is a festival that not only secures the legends but can also breed them.
After the success of its first year, Home Gathering is set to return with one of Tyneside’s most celebrated bands, The Unthanks. As last year, the band will oversee and curate the festival across two of Newcastle’s most historic sites on Friday the 16th and Saturday the 17th of September. The Unthanks have long held ambitions of running their own festival one day, and after the triumph of their first Gathering last year, the festival has continued to grow and is set to be even bigger in 2016.
The Mercury Prize-nominated Tyneside band were thrilled to have some Newcastle’s finest acts such as Hyde & Beast and Richard Dawson on their first bill. Describing Home Gathering as a festival of everything they like, Adrian McNally of The Unthanks says this event is “Not just music, our favourite local beers and food artisans, stalls with local artists and makers. We’ll have a hand in every detail to ensure that despite our own largely miserable music, it will be a party from start to finish!” The magnificent Richard Hawley will headline the Friday night, supported by The Young’uns, winners of Best Band at the BBC Folk awards for the last 2 years running. Richard Hawley’s eighth studio album released last year, ‘Hollow Meadows’, has received national acclaim.
Saturday will see London three-piece Kitty, Daisy & Lewis take to the stage. The sibling-led band, renowned for their love of everything vintage, are signed to Radio 1 presenter Rob da Banks’ label Sunday Best, have opened for massive acts such as Coldplay and Jools Holland. Finally taking centre stage themselves, The Unthanks will headline the Saturday night with their award-winning brand of English folk firmly celebrating their North East roots. In the decade between Rachel Unthank and the acclaimed debut Winterset’s ‘Cruel Sister’ and The Unthanks’ eighth record and BBC Folk Award-winning ‘Mount the Air’, the band have achieved a lot. After touring Africa with Damon Albarn and being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank have always done things their own way. Bringing their own unique blend of award- winning jazz and folk to the stage will ensure a show the audience will not forget.
Improving on from last year, the atmospheric post-industrial Boiler Shop, which will be used as the main venue, has been expanded vastly. Adding a lot of indoor toilets, a bigger bar and relocating the artisan food sellers outside, in a bid to reduce the background noise suffered by quieter artists last time. Furthermore, for more intimate shows, there will also be performances at the beautiful Mining Institute just around the corner. The festival will also play host to spoken word poet Liz Berry, folk royalty in the form of Marry Waterson and fearless musical maidens The Moulettes. There will also be an exceptional airing of Steve Reich’s Different Trains, which will be performed by the Liverpool String Quartet.
McNally says further of the festival: “The line-up not only reflects our tastes but our influences too. We don’t think music fans will find a more varied bill and we hope, most of all, you’ll like something you weren’t expecting to. Having covered a lot of musical ground ourselves as The Unthanks, we know we are very lucky to have an open-minded and venturesome audience, ready to trust and join us on our journeys. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it’ll be like the weather – if you don’t like it, just wait a few minutes.”
To purchase day or weekend tickets to Home Gathering Festival 2016, go here.
It’s that time of year again, when British youths have their GCSE results and they all descend upon either the city of Reading, or its Northern counterpart for this weekend, Leeds. Reading and Leeds festivals are a coming of age experience for the UK’s youth, and they use this opportunity to let go. Luckily for them, Reading and Leeds always have a lineup that fits this criteria, and this year is no different.
The Friday at Reading was opened by Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls on the main stage, which is the perfect way to kick off any festival. No-one encapsulates what a festival atmosphere should sound like more so than Turner, with his acoustic blend of heartfelt tales and punk rock ethos. The shining sun only cemented this feeling and for the rest of the day.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes once again proved that festivals really are their thing. Being the first time he’d come to play the main stage at Reading, Carter made sure to make the most of this opportunity by making his way into the crowd, then leading around over 100 members of the audience on a chase around the sound desk and back again. Carter is never one to disappoint, and he did more than deliver this time.
Over on the Festival Republic stage, The Sherlocks and their soon-to-be tour mates Blaenavon both delivered fantastic sets that were met with great reception by the packed out tent, both revelling in the afternoon crowds’ welcome. At the same time, grime supergroup Boy Better Know were on the main stage proving why grime is currently one of the UK’s most promising and domineering genres. Flames included.
CHVRCHES took to the main stage as the sun began to set, and their performance could not have gone on at a more apt moment. Being the third time the band had played the festival, yet the first time on the “big boy/girl stage” as singer Lauren Mayberry put it, it was a moment that was enjoyed and surely to be remembered by both fans and band. The crowd by this point were fully into their weekend fun, so the reception CHVRCHES got was joyous and enthralled. Their early single ‘The Mother We Share’ ended the set on a particularly highest of highs.
Continuing the main stage festivities, Disclosure absolutely dominated the capacity crowd, drawing the largest crowd of the day so far. With a set filled with floor fillers and anthems, they were the perfect warm-up for what was to come from co-headliners Foals. At the same time, at The Pit tent, American rockers Thrice gave a performance that was heartfelt and connected with the modest audience like no other did during all Friday.
Being the Reading leg of the twin festivals, Foals were the final headliner on the first night. Even before they took to the stage, this was bound to be a momentous occasion for the Oxfordians, surely an act you should simply not miss out on when given the chance. It’s worth noting that Sunday’s co-headliners at Reading were Biffy Clyro, who first made their way to the upper echelons of the lineup back in 2013, proving that it’s not a feat that happens just once. Foals debut Reading headline slot not only delivered, but completely proved they’ve rightly earned their place as top billing at one of the countries most sought after slots.
From their early position as indie newcomers with their debut ‘Antidotes’ back in 2008 to now headlining Reading festival, Foals have been on a continuous meteoric rise. A set that included ‘Cassius’, a rare treat in their UK headline set after being removed from constant rotation back in 2010, along with fan favourites ‘Inhaler’ and ‘What Went Down’, it was a moment in history for the Foals timeline, and they made sure that it was remembered that way. Ending with ‘Two Steps, Twice’, for which co-headliners Disclosure also made an appearance, along with pyrotechnics, crowd surfing and fans’ complete devotion, this was Foals’ moment. They seized it, ran with it, and now the future is theirs. In the now immortalised words of frontman Yannis Phillippakis, it was “pretty fucking magic”.
In the process of researching for this review (by which I mean spending lots of time in various sunny fields listening to a lot of excellent music and chatting to a lot of talented people), I found myself face-to-face with Andy Smith, a founder of and head honcho at Kendal Calling. Considering the number of priceless moments his event has provided me with over the years – countless superb bands seen; friends, belongings, and marbles found, lost, and then found again; memorable impromptu jams and karaoke sessions – one would hope to do better in summing the whole deal up with a blokey “Cool festival, man.”
So, here is my homage to Kendal Calling, and considering I have more time to prepare it, I shall attempt to be more fulsome than the above. 2016 was the safest, most grown up version of Kendal Calling yet, and though there is plenty I miss about what was subtly different to previous years, all things considered this was the best installment yet. Apart from a shower early on the Thursday, the sun shone consistently throughout the weekend, which makes an enormous difference to one’s perception and enjoyment of a festival. Speaking of Thursday, I can remember when the evening’s entertainment for those hardy souls who volunteered for a pre-festival night’s camping was a bonfire and vintage clothing stall. Not so of late, and it fell to The Charlatans to close the main stage on Thursday. Surely one of the most well-known bands in Britain, the survivors of the baggy scene do make a delightful, funky racket, and if familiarity has dampened their ability to seem truly special, their sheer exuberance, not to mention liberal applications of Hammond organ, always makes them a compelling watch.
There’s more to Thursday night than the main stage anyway. After hours, the Chai Wallahs tent takes the strain of thousands of people looking to start their weekend with a bang. I’d managed to misplace the new campsite friends I’d only known a few hours, leaving them to buy beer only to realise that it’s impossible to find anyone again at Kendal if you’re actually looking for them. Best to go with the flow, meet people who fate wants you to meet, and take it from there. I remember speaking to a couple of guys who’d come up from Brighton, pretty much the farthest distance it’s possible to travel from on the mainland, and proof of Kendal’s nationwide reach. In true get-it-out-of-your-system style, late Thursday evening was spent mooching around various camps, joining in impromptu singalongs, mostly of songs written by a certain Mr Gallagher…
None of which shenanigans prevents a large crowd gathering first thing in the afternoon for the lively flow of Too Many T’s. I’m personally not sure where these guys have sprung from all of a sudden, but they seem to be all over the place, with a brand of witty hip-pop that’s perfect for an afternoon at a festival. They’ve got a lot of decent tunes that don’t seem to have appeared on record yet. Come on lads, you could have some hits on your hands!
One of the enormous pleasures of Kendal Calling is the undercard in the Calling Out tent, or what should actually be called the New Favourite Bands tent. The Big Moon are four girls from London who make a brilliant racket, perfectly poised between sweetly innocent melodies and flip-the-bird punkiness. There’s such hooks here that even on the first listen to something like ‘Cupid’, it’s impossible not to sing along in raucous joy. Brilliant stuff. And so to our first band of the day that have actually released an album. Hooton Tennis Club betray their Merseyside origins with lazy yet rock-steady beats, some lovely discordant guitar work and jaunty lyrics. Like early Blur crossed with the Lemonheads. And they’ve got an amazingly enthusiastic bass player. Who doesn’t want that?
Manchester’s Gideon Conn was a highlight of my festival last year, and he’s back this with a longer set, except he doesn’t seem to know he’s actually got a full hour to showcase his delicately funky looped observational pieces, so his set climaxes about 15 minutes too early. No matter, because all the ingredients are still present and correct. His wordplay is second to none, and despite the sparse arrangements (keyboard, guitar, occasionally at the same time) he really can get a crowd going. Particularly when he ventures over the barrier and sings amongst the crowd. This year he ended up on someone’s shoulders in a particularly wobbly-looking shoulder lift. At least some random out of the crowd didn’t get hold of the microphone again. Despite the confusion there’s still nothing quite like a Gideon Conn set. Or Gideon Conn, for that matter – one is quite enough for this world.
Catfish and the Bottlemen are astonishingly popular. I was told countless times by people that they’d bought tickets simply on the strength of their appearance. Van McCann’s words from my chat with him at Kendal a couple of years ago were still ringing in my ears: “I want to be bigger than Oasis.” Well, second on the bill here when Noel himself is headlining (a different day, but still) means that he’s still on the perfect trajectory to achieve his dream. It is difficult to objectively understand exactly what it is that Catfish do that countless bands that have gone before haven’t managed. Perhaps it simply comes down to the charisma of the frontman, because despite how well the songs work on a stage and with a crowd as big as they were blessed with here, what they’re peddling really isn’t anything new. But fair play to them – what next? Breaking America? [Something Oasis never did, did they? – Ed.]
Rudimental put on a good show. They’re a big dance band, totally professional, and remind me of Basement Jaxx‘s set on the Friday a couple of years ago. It’s really what the first night of a festival needs: big beats, big tunes, more of which you recognise than you might think, and a really good show. So you wouldn’t think it’s possible for an act to follow that? Step forward the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, led by violinist Joe Broughton. Who, if they haven’t got the prize for the most number of folk musicians on a single stage, really do deserve an honourable mention. A performance of the most remarkable power, primarily down to the sober dedication of the players – faced with a midnight crowd of hyped-up revellers, no mean feat. Their repertoire is varied, but it’s when they really let rip that their true power is unveiled. Bows fly unhinged across strings, a cajon is thwacked within an inch of its life, even the harp player throws a few shapes. There are even a couple of electric guitarists hidden in the middle somewhere, completely disguised by the swarm of instruments around them. This is traditional folk given an enormous shot in the arm. Exactly what it needs. A truly remarkable experience.
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