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Hard Working Class Heroes Festival 2017: Saturday Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 19th October 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Catch up on Rebecca’s Friday night coverage of Hard Working Class Heroes 2017 by following this link.

On Saturday evening, we were pretty excited to see some of the acts that we had lined up on our schedule, as well as to try out Dublin’s newest music venue, The Underground. But first, we hit The Grand Social, following what seemed like a rabbit warren of corridors before we reached the music venue at the rear of the pub. We first saw the peach-haired ROE (pictured above), the 18-year old from Derry, known to her mum as Roisin Donald. Two standouts were ‘Fake Ur Death’, the track she released at the start of the year, and another that she talked about writing a track about her grandfather’s dementia, which she sang passionately and emotionally. Multi-instrumentalist ROE created a range of sound with her guitar and by looping rhythms and is certainly a unique talent to watch out for.

The Underground was next on our list, where we caught the end of Cinema’s set. I was pleased to find we’d not missed out on Peter Fleming’s most well-known track, the ethereal ‘Floating’. I’d heard it what seemed like a hundred times before but had never known who sang it. Cinema is a great chilled out electropop act for fans of celestial, airy tunes.

Kilnamana were up next at The Underground, which despite being a seriously cramped venue had an incredible vibe. It was also the act’s first Irish show. The duo are clearly in love with performing their music, dancing along throughout the set. I’m pretty sure they were also using a theremin; I’d never seen that particular instrument used on stage before, especially not laced with hypnotic synth sounds. Highlights were Miguel Garcia Soler swaying to the music, and Enda Gallery playing his flute into a microphone, while distorting the sound.

We briefly caught ROCSTRONG at Tramline, the venue that we’d fallen in love with the night before. A confident and charismatic performer, he instructed the audience to split into two halves, and chant phrases back to him when he pointed the microphone in their direction, but did seem put out by the some members of the audience choosing to sit down for the set.

Finally, we headed back to Workman’s to check out Bitch Falcon. I must admit, we chose this band purely on name alone, and they definitely aren’t the type of act that I would usually see. We ended up really enjoying their heavy, autotuned, intense set, with lead singer Lizzie Fitzpatrick headbanging away like the coolest front woman in town. The crowd were also delighted to see the band, and we could barely move as we stood watching the performance, being jostled around by the bopping crowd. [Catch all our past coverage on Bitch Falcon through here. – Ed.]

Hard Working Class Heroes is one of those festivals that not only allows you to see some fantastic acts, but also enables you to check out some of the fantastic venues that the city has to offer. For a relative newcomer as myself, it was particularly enjoyable, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

 

Hard Working Class Heroes Festival 2017: Friday Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 18th October 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

This year, the Hard Working Class Heroes Festival based in Dublin turned 15 years old. After starting back in 2003, it has since grown from an event at a single venue to a highly anticipated and buzzing music event, including live performances from a wide range of artists and a music conference.

As we made our way to the Workman’s Club to collect our tickets on Friday, we seemed to come across a busker or musician on every street corner, particularly on the bustling Grafton Street and by the famous Molly Malone statue. It was a reminder that Dublin truly is a city alive with music.

With our passes and lanyards in hand, we headed to the first venue of the night, the brightly painted Tara Building, where we saw the first couple of tracks performed by the teenage troubadour Curtis Walsh. Singing about themes and experiences seemingly beyond his young age (he’s a mere 16 years old), Walsh stood on stage armed with just his guitar and belted out the tracks ‘Drunken Love’ and ‘Bury the Hatchet’. Jake Bugg or Ed Sheeran.

Next we made our way to Tramline, the cool new underground venue and bar on Hawkins Street. Here we saw Erica Cody (pictured at top) perform onstage with her band. With vocals reminiscent of Dua Lipa or Zara Larsson, Cody was a commanding and confident presence onstage. After performing a few of her own tracks, including the single released earlier this year ‘Addicted’, she talked about her how influenced she had been by ‘90s r&b, evidenced by her great cover of the iconic ‘Pony’ by Ginuwine. She was all in all a great performer and had a set filled with funky hooks and electric guitars aplenty.

We next headed back to the Workman’s Club, where we saw perhaps the most captivating act of the weekend, BIMM Dublin graduates The Fontaines [not to be confused with Los Angeles sibling-led group of the same name – Ed.]. Musically Buzzcocks-esque while also reminiscent of The Vaccines and The Hives, it was difficult to keep your eyes off their frontman Grian Chatten, who was swaying about onstage and staring intensely out into the audience like he was the only person in the room. Opening with ‘Rocket to Russia’, an old-school rock ‘n’ roll-sounding number, other highlights were the two recently released tracks ‘Hurricane Laughter’, which the band closed their set with, and ‘Winter in the Sun’, with brilliant lyrics like “I want to feel it winter in the sun / I wanna feel my soul coming undone”. Definitely one of those bands that you’ll want to see live.

After The Fontaines, we stuck around for a short while to catch the start of Other Creatures’ set, which was a much more mellow affair than the riotous act that had come before. The Dublin trio opened with ‘Luxembourg’, which was released as a single earlier this year. Subdued and cool, the trio’s songs are somewhat haunting and edgy, emphasised even more by their lead singer’s unique vocals.

I’d seen Loah (Sallay Matu Garnett) before at the RTE Choice Music Prize show in March, so I knew her performance would be a good one. She features on Bantum’s excellent track ‘Take It’ and on Friday evening, she was on at Tramline. There is something about the underground venue and its hazy lighting that created a fantastic vibe, Loah’s smooth, deep vocals suiting the cool environment. She was clearly having a great time onstage and comfortable as she performed and danced. Garnett talked about how she was from Crumlin, as well as her Sierra Leonean roots, singing in a language from Sierra Leone on ‘Cortège’ (Sherbro and Mende according to her YouTube account page). EP title track ‘This Heart’ is gentle yet powerful, summed up Garnett’s self-described genre ‘ArtSoul’. She finished the set with final track ‘Nothing’, which she described as being about “total destruction of the ego”. [She also appeared at SXSW 2017; catch all our coverage on the Irish/Sierra Leonean soul singer here. –Ed.]

After Loah, we stuck around for the headliner of the night. Dublin-based singer, rapper and poet Jafaris performed before a packed-out audience, telling the crowd with a hopeful tone, “I hope you guys connect with me”. Standout tracks from his set were ‘Love Dies’ and ‘If You Love Me’, which sum up the young songwriter’s chilled-out hip hop/pop style. Jafaris is sure one for fans of Frank Ocean.

Stay tuned for Becky’s review of Saturday night’s showcasing artists at Hard Working Class Heroes 2017, posting here on TGTF tomorrow.

 

BIGSOUND 2017: Day 3 Roundup (Part 3)

 
By on Friday, 29th September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Tuesday at BIGSOUND 2017, I’d seen Evan Klar play at The Brightside outdoor stage in blinding sunshine. He told me to wait until the rest of his live band arrived in Brisbane for a better experience watching him. He wasn’t wrong. The addition of a string section to his nighttime appearances at BIGSOUND, including Thursday night at the Mane Stage of the Woolly Mammoth, made for a unique performance.

Evan Klar Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

Listening to Evan Klar live, you get the sense that when he’s writing songs, he really thinks about how his voice can be used as a rhythmic element and alongside whatever other sounds he’s going to put in. We’re in an era where doing that is becoming less unusual, as the lines between pop and r&b and soul get further blurred. While most music in this category tends to land on the r&b side in America, Evan Klar’s seems comfortably on the pop side, which suits my ears just fine.

Heading downstairs to the Alehouse stage and after a brief set change, it was time for Mammals. Guy Brown is living the dream: formerly worked in doing music for advertising and film, one day he decided he was going to make music for himself. Like fellow BIGSOUND showcasing artist Willaris K., he’s impossible to class in a single genre. Electronic would be simplifying it way too much. There’s a sunny, summery feel to his and his live band’s performance, whether he’s wailing on his guitar or hitting drum pads.


Mammals Thursday night

You’d have to be a rock to not get swept up in Mammals’ bouncy beats and catchy melodies. ‘Chase Your Bliss’ sums up Mammals, as well as the BIGSOUND experience, perfectly: wrap your brain and ears around good music and moments are short-lived, so savour this moment.

@mammalsmusic's beautiful 'Chase Your Bliss' 😍 #mammals #BIGSOUND17

A post shared by Mary TGTF (@theprintedword) on

I contemplated leaving the Mammoth. Maybe I should have braved the claustrophobia of sleepmakeswaves at The Brightside outdoor stage to end my night. But having already landed at synthesiser cloud nine after Mammals’ set, my ears wanted to continue the electronic party in my head. Yoste and Mansionair appeared for a second night in a row, this time upstairs on the Mane stage. As I’d already photographed them in the night before, I took advantage of videotaping both acts, plus Mammals as seen above for good measure.

Sydney's @mansionair sounding huge on the final night of #BIGSOUND17. Jack's voice, OMG! #mansionair

A post shared by Mary TGTF (@theprintedword) on

I will leave you with this photo of Jack Froggatt of Mansionair, as it encapsulates my experience at BIGSOUND 2017 and how music discovery makes me feel. It’s an emotional thing, to feel a connection to music someone else has made that meant something to *them*. We’re living in an age where bad people seek to divide us for their purposes. Let’s keep music as a language and medium for love and understanding, and support musicians and bands so they can keep on making music. Open minds, open hearts. Over and out.

Mansionair Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

 

BIGSOUND 2017: Day 3 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 28th September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

My schedule for my last night at BIGSOUND 2017 ended up being mostly changed last minute. Deciding that I wanted to mix things up a bit, I started at the venue that was farthest north, The New Globe Theatre. The name of the place sounds more highbrow than the band from Melbourne I was there to see. Post-hardcore group Deadlights opened the venue for the night with ferocity. While electronic might be getting more attention on radio in these parts, it’s clear with fellow Melburnians Belle Haven who I saw Tuesday night and Sydneysiders Polaris that Australia that the hard rock scene is alive and well and worthy of attention too.

Deadlights Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

I got the sense that Brisbane girl duo OKBADLANDS had been riding on a wave of hype and wanted to see if the hype was deserved. Kate Gurren and Sally Latter and their live band were playing the upstairs Mane Stage at the Woolly Mammoth. Their combination of percussion with pop and r&b sensibility were a much easier listen than the onslaught on show at the Deadlights set just before. I like the fact that the sound of OKBADLANDS isn’t obvious for a two-girl act. That is, they don’t play the cloyingly too precious pop that seems to always show up on mainstream radio, yet it’s all too easy to get pulled in to their rhythmically engaging tunes.

https://flic.kr/p/YZFxti]OKBADLANDS Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

Having some time before my next act, I decided to duck into The Zoo and see who was playing. Do you remember a band called Kins? I sure do. I remember seeing their name on The Great Escape grid for a few years in a row, and now it all makes sense. Turns out they were originally from Australia. Their drummer, Alex Knight, now has his own solo career as singer/songwriter Brightness. He released his debut album in June. His gentle brand of indie rock reminiscent of Sweet Baboo seemed too small for a venue as big as this. Then again, if someone like Conor Oberst can play bigger venues, maybe Knight’s day for that just hasn’t come yet.

Brightness Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

I had somehow avoided Oh Hello! and the triple j showcases there all week. I wasn’t doing it on purpose, it just so happened the acts I wanted to see weren’t playing there. As I had hoped to hit every BIGSOUND venue, I stopped in to get a feel for the place and to snap some photos of the talent. Or at least that was the idea. Young singer/songwriter Ruby Fields, whose popularity has blown up just this year, no doubt on the back of triple j’s support, was on stage and in front of a packed club. See the photo below, that was the closest I could get to the front. Don’t doubt the power of triple j’s reach: the Australian radio station most popular with the young’uns, equivalent to BBC Radio 1, brought in hordes simply because they curated this showcase. Here’s to hoping that she’ll appear at SXSW 2018 and I can see her in a venue where I’m not gasping for air and having a panic attack. We shared this adorable exchange on Twitter; I appreciate her appreciation for me trying to get in there and do my job.


Ruby Fields crowd shot at BIGSOUND 2017

Time for a much more relaxed environment, The Empire Hotel. Thomas Calder, who I had seen in Sydney 5 years ago previous as the frontman of The Trouble with Templeton, a band we’ve written a fair bit on. He now performs under the moniker Daggy Man. As one might expect from a singer/songwriter performing alone, his songs are stories from his life or observations on life. While he didn’t have anywhere near the same size of audience as Ruby Fields, he’s got very vocal, devoted fans, some of whom sat cross-legged on the floor to listen to their god dexterously play his guitar and emote through his softly sung vocals. Maybe the Conor Oberst comparison I used earlier applies better here?

Daggy Man Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

 

BIGSOUND 2017: Day 3 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 27th September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

The conference portion of BIGSOUND 2017 had an admirable, multiprong approach to addressing the gender divide in the global music business. On a general level, they made a concerted effort to include plenty of female panelists in their sessions. Specifically, they offered a session on Thursday (repeated on Friday) called No More Manels! Public Speaking for Women in the Music Industry, led by Alison Wenham, CEO of Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) and advocate for women to be confident in this male-dominated business. (On Tuesday, to open BIGSOUND, a Women in Music mixer at Eleven rooftop bar as a nice networking event. Another session I attended on Wednesday, Hook-Ups: Gender and Music, had less focus than Wenham’s session and I found it less useful.)

Wenham gave a kind of toolkit to provide encouragement to women asked to speak on their expertise, whether as standalone speakers or as part of a panel, and underscored the difference between men and women when asked to speak in these capacities. While I didn’t agree with all the negative generalisations she made about men in the business and those overwhelming positive towards women given my own experiences, I could see her talk as being a good starting point, as if a therapy session, for women who have felt particularly downtrodden and marginalised in this industry and simply for the fact of being a woman.

I also attended the What Brexit Means for Your Band session. I think it suffered from lack of attendance due to the concurrent sessions on syncs, the technology of live music and the role of labels. I was attending because I was curious whether Northern Irish duo exmagician’s threat of not touring in America if Trump was elected would occur, not because of what has happened in America but because of the prohibitive cost of British artists touring Europe once hard Brexit takes hold. Of the three panelists, two were from England (one a gig booker and another booking festivals) and the third was Clémence Bizien from Paris, a representative of a promoter from the Continent. Clémence pointed a positive of Brexit that I couldn’t have predicted, because I wouldn’t have thought about it this way: the Brits have been lording over those on the Continent for years, looking down on them, that Brexit might mean the Brits will have to swallow their pride, be nice and not demand as much from their Continental cousins. If you think about this on a wider scale, especially given that BIGSOUND takes place in Australia, a former British colony traditionally looked upon as subordinate to Britain, maybe it would do the British music industry some good to be humbled.

At the Data and the Independent Artist session, I was eager to pick up tips and nuggets of advice that I could pass along to artists we champion here on TGTF. It was interesting to hear that the reach of Facebook Messenger is predicted to be bigger and to replace email as the medium of choice to reach punters before and during festivals and other events. The take home message I got from the session was that there’s plenty of data being collected by labels, streaming services and loads of other entities, but many of these collectors don’t really know what they have or how to use it. The same can be said about artists themselves, and like most things in this business, there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula of collecting and then using data as part of an implemented promotional campaign. Sobering, but the truth.

Braille Face Thursday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

I have to admit that I was losing steam by this point and the thought of returning to my flat to take a nap was very enticing. I somehow soldiered on to see Braille Face for a second time, at an unofficial showcase at Bloodhound Bar. I was rewarded for showing up by getting to see Jordan White perform not only with a violinist as at his Tuesday performance in the basement of The Judith Wright Centre with his drummer and horn-playing friends. For sure, the Bloodhound Bar receives my top marks for best unconventional indoor venue during BIGSOUND where alcohol was also available, ha.

Willaris K. Thursday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

I was next on to the best unconventional outdoor venue of the festival, the pop-up stage on Brunswick Street Mall. Well, maybe pop-up stage is the wrong terminology to use. Electronic producer Willaris K., who wowed a crowd of sweaty bodies Wednesday night at Heya Bar, held court from within a tiki-themed caravan. Never in a million years would I imagine I’d see a DJ spinning from such a vehicle, and I probably will never see one like it again. It may sound strange, but the fact that you could sit down, rest your legs and enjoy his detailed soundscapes after 2 days of running after bands was pure bliss. You’re going to have to trust me on this.

 

BIGSOUND 2017: Day 2 Roundup (Part 3)

 
By on Tuesday, 26th September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

From The Empire Hotel where Mama Kin Spender brought the house down and finished to raucous applause, my Wednesday night BIGSOUND 2017 rolled on to the TBC Club. I get it that it’s designed to be a space for DJs and their dance-inclined fans (more on that in a future BIGSOUND 2017-related feature), but I felt the next artist on the bill there didn’t quite fit right for the venue. Maybe I had already become jaded by the festival, but the smooth, honeyed vocals of Adelaide’s Lonelyspeck (real name Sione Teumohenga) made me wonder why, like they do for conventional singer/songwriters, they hadn’t given him a stool to sit on.

Lonelyspeck Wednesday night at BIGSOUND 2017

Given the melding of pop, r&b and electronic we’re seeing in the States and the UK and in ways we wouldn’t have imagined a generation ago, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to me how much r&b inflection there is Teumohenga’s vocals and the overall vibe of his music. I guess if you’re reading this and you don’t fancy electronic but you love smooth r&b, then you should definitely embrace Lonelyspeck.

From r&b and Lonelyspeck, the rest of my evening was populated with dance and electronic acts from Sydney, Brisbane, and even a place found between them. Like all good electronic producer acts appearing at a music festival, Polographia were at BIGSOUND not to risk pretension but with one single goal, to throw a dance party to end all dance parties. Upstairs at the Mane Stage of The Woolly Mammoth, which had quickly become my favourite festival venue on par with Latitude 30 at SXSW, Sydney producers Moktar Youngblood and Daniel Finn were achieving that goal.

I arrived mid-set to squeeze myself between and past sweaty, dancing punters who were getting a workout to their take on chill wave and dance. To make things more lively in the live setting, Youngblood and Finn played guitars and drums live to previously recorded parts, much to the delight of the crowd who whupped it up every time there was an obvious instrumental flourish they’d thrown in as an ad lib. I think I would have been quite happy staying there, had they played a full gig at the Mammoth. Alas, I had a date with another artist…

What a difference 2 hours make. Earlier, Resin Moon’s set at Heya Bar was dreamily sleepy, and I didn’t mind it, as it’s nice to be able to sway to your fave electronic music without having the umpteenth person invade your personal space. No such luck upon my return to the club. I guess if you’re an extremely extroverted person who enjoys being squished up in a crowd while you’re dancing, this would have been your idea of heaven? Yes, I am a funny one when it comes to dance parties.

Willaris K., who described at an interview on Friday that he was from a tiny town on the border between Queensland and New South Wales, was up on the decks. When I finally was able to squeeze my body into the main room, I could barely make him out from his pedestal in the corner of the club. This didn’t matter much since I could hear everything he was doing. It was obvious from the gyrating clubgoers around me that were simultaneously in ecstasy over the beats, while simultaneously trying to secure their patch of real estate on the floor.

Unlike the big names in EDM that tend to make electronic music cold to a lot of people, Willaris K. is one of several rising stars coming up keen in doing something different, making interesting and unexpected sounds and turning what used to be pretty predictable electro on its head. In my interview with Willaris K. coming soon to TGTF, he’ll explain more on his songcraft and how important it was to him to hone this craft. At this point, all you really need to know – and what I hope will encourage you to investigate his music further – is that he’s intelligent about how to write and put an electronic song together, taking ambient music to another level with mood and texture. It’s impossible to put his music into words further, so check out his debut track ‘Alchemy’ below.

Back to the Woolly Mammoth’s downstairs Alehouse stage, this time for local young wonder Yoste, which supposedly rhymes with ‘lost’ according to his Twitter. Unlike Dave Bayley of Glass Animals who never managed to complete his medical degree, Kurt Sines just completed his law degree 2 months before this BIGSOUND, and I guess he can actually practise law once he passes the bar. However, just like Bayley, he’d much rather do music and hopes his current musical project will lead to a sustainable career.

Yoste Wednesday night at BIGSOUND 2017

And who’s to stop him, when he can put out some truly stunning pieces of electronic with emotion, cool as a spare finger snap, and at such a young age? The guy’s got serious talent on guitar and synth, as he proves through the rework below of a beloved Vera Blue track that the Yoste touch is golden. As a general rule, I don’t like falsetto, though I suspect Sines will be up there with Hayden Thorpe (Wild Beasts) and Jonathan Higgs (Everything Everything) soon enough if he keeps the quality of his tunes up. Despite an issue with a laptop acting up (who knew that laptops had to be fixed at a certain height to work properly onstage? Is this an Aussie thing?) and some difficulty with some annoying feedback crunches that shouldn’t be there, Sines got through it like a seasoned performer.

If you’ve done any research over the last few years for indie synthpop bands from Australia, Mansionair were sure to have come up at the top of your search. I know they did for me when they first came out to SXSW in 2015, the year after they released their ‘Hold Me Down’ EP. Earlier this year, they guested on Seattle duo and fellow synthpop act ODESZA, and there’s an air of anticipation hearing that they’ve finished an album and we won’t have long to wait to hear it. Well, that’s me being hopeful!


Mansionair Wednesday night at BIGSOUND 2017

While I was heartbroken I wasn’t able to fit them in on their return visit to Austin this year, I felt like I had a lucky star shining down on me so I could see them at BIGSOUND instead. It’s very special to cover a band in their home country, and so was seeing Mansionair in front of their local and very devoted fans. Many acts performing at this year’s festival were still in their early days of being an artist or group, only now just starting to find their feet. With all their gigging experience up to this point under their belts, Mansionair showed everyone how it’s done.

Their single ‘Easier’, released last year, is a prime example of this. Lead singer Jack Froggatt’s heart-wrenching lyrics on the sense of frustration that you’re going nowhere fast, with nowhere to go, is such a universal feeling, one of isolation and failure. They wrote it to be inspirational, to give hope that things do get better. Having been through some pretty dark days myself, a song like this is like an anchor for those days when you feel afloat with no mooring. The fact that Mansionair can convey such feelings, using such a beguiling combination of beats, synths and guitars to heighten the emotion, it’s like magic.

[url=https://flic.kr/p/2hBqsVk][img]https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/48971251437_81e511d6a8_o.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/2hBqsVk]MANSIO~3[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/185212915@N04/]Couplet Angel[/url], on Flickr

 
 
 

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