The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Gig Reviews

27

Fight Like Apes (live in Whelans, Dublin)

Fight Like ApesReview Snapshot: I still haven't decided whether I enjoyed this gig or not. Fight Like Apes themselves were undeniably excellent as ever, but an over-excited crowd made the whole thing a manic affair.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:

I think I preferred Fight Like Apes when they were just starting out. While I always admired their ability to get an often-bemused crowd moving, they seemed to have honed this into an ability to induce spontaneous loss of limb control and often senses. Last night’s album launch gig in Whelans, was one of the most terrifying gig experiences of my life: after a heavy hour of being squashed, I left nursing an aching head from the impact with a metal dustbin and aching neck from the impact with someone’s elbow as I was crushed between two people reaching for a crowd-surfer, bruised arms and a dress that stank of spilled drink. And I narrowly missed being egged while walking home, although I can’t really hold the gig to blame for that one.

But yet it was inexplicably one of the best gig experiences. Nearly all of the problems of this gig were the result of the young and over-excited crowd, whereas Fight Like Apes themselves played a blinding set, with admirably few album plugs. There is very little of interest to say of their support band, whose name I couldn’t even catch, but that they need to learn that noise and screams are much more effective reserved for climactic peaks and dramatic effect, and that pushing your singers’ voices will make for an early retirement for them and loss of interest for everybody else. Evidentally thy have listened to too much At The Drive-In without learning any of their ingenuity or complexity. But, their bass-player knows how to hit a groove and lash out riffs, making a noise no three-piece should be capable of.

FLA were, as ever, funny and good natured, despite the violence of their songs, and they play the old songs with the same fervour and crazed energy they do the new. The band themselves have come a long, long way in the last few years – and have apparently concentrated most on developing their already-strong live performance and crowd-control techniques – mostly whipping them into a frenzy. They are more powerful, more wild, and just a little more controlled. However, with this has come a certain complacency: when you know that you will get a screaming reaction no matter what you do, you tend to hold back. MayKay, while putting so much more effort into her crowd interaction than in their early days, is nonetheless putting less into her own performance. The screaming aggression and sudden crying breaks from the slightly introverted – dare I say girlish? – norm is being lost, and slowly making the Fight Like Apes show more ordinary. Nevertheless, judging by last night’s show, Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion should prove to be one of the best Irish albums of this year.

Anna Murray


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15
So Cow, New Amusement and more at HWCH (night 3)
So Cow, New Amusement and more at HWCH (night 3) Review Snapshot: A rained soaked Dublin played host to the final night of this year’s HWCH. The night’s lineup was, to look at, the wea...

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15

One Day International, Mackerel the Cat and Others at HWCH (Sunday)soundsofsystembreakdown

Review Snapshot: Despite dreary drizzle, HWCH made it through the night with stunning, passionate performances by both established acts and newcomers to the scene. 

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
It was not an evening to leave the house. Horror movie rain beat down in all its forms - spitty rain, drizzly rain, monsoon rain, torrential rain, showery rain, Dublin-here-I-come rain. But I braved it. Left the house. Hopped on a 38. Having originally planned to see geek rockers 'We Are the Physics' at Meeting House Square, I instead opted for the warmth of The Button Factory and the sounds of Mackerel the Cat. Love of the name (which is taken from a Haruki Marukami novel) was enough to sway me towards their breed of indie ambience. They had so much potential, incorporating a multitude of fancy-schmancy instruments like the glockenspiel and the double bass, and even a guitarist using a bow instead of a plec. Potential wasn't enough though. Both singers' voices were flat, the range of notes within tracks was too narrow, the bass was far too loud (thundering through my ribcage), and most songs never progressed musically. Wrong, off-key, and disappointing.

One Day International were up next and blew me away. Their climactic performance was certainly the most polished and passionate of the entire festival. I've already put aside a couple of yo-yo's to buy their album, to be released in October. Each band member was immersed and focused, and seemed to be in the midst of what spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle describes as 'flow', a higher level of consciousness. It's been a long time since I've seen such a tight set. The music itself falls somewhere between Keane and Broken Social Scene in terms of influence, seeping with explosive build-ups and beautiful cello notes. Track of the evening had to be 'Sleeping on Trains,' delivered with vivacity by the lead singer's expressive Thom Yorke style voice. I'm still a bit dubious about the band name, but their music lifted me out of Dublin for a half hour with its beauty.

Hyper electro rocker, Sounds of System Breakdown, had a long-winded soundcheck at Eamonn Doran's, but it was worth it. Our other CLUAS reviewer didn't enjoy the performance but for me it was an electrotrip that gave me lots to smile about. Despite a few technical problems and false starts, our dude took it on the chin and jumped around, multitasking between laptop, guitar and singing. The audience loved it too and there was even a bit of mild dancing (the first I've seen at HWCH). At around the second song I developed a penchant for SOSB's main man who had plenty of stage charisma, especially when he sang a track that included the line 'Can I please take you home? It's dangerous out there for a girl on her own.' Yes, it's never professional to be attracted to a musician but it certainly makes the performance even more enjoyable. And SOSB's dirty bassy electro rock charmed me too, reminding me of Hot Chip, Metronomy and The Rapture.

My final trek to Autamata was well worth it, if only for the track 'I Spy' (which bizarrely features on my Top 25 Most Played in iTunes). The music was a savage pop-feast and the performance had a high energy that unfortunately the audience didn't catch wind of.

I'm so glad the temptations of a warm lit fire and hot whiskey at home didn't take hold, because the final night at HWCH was definitely the best.

Niamh Madden

In addition to Steven O'Rourke's Festival Diary for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of HWCH 2008, check out the following CLUAS reviews of bands who played the festival:


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15

Autamata, Sounds Of System Breakdown and Robotnik live at HWCH Day 3

RobotnikReview Snapshot: Despite the inclement weather, Sunday’s HWCH drew the best performances from the artists and the biggest crowds from their fans.

The Cluas Verdict? 7.5 out of 10

Full Review:

Going into the last night of the HWCH festival ’08, I calculated that out of the ten or so acts I had so far seen, there were only two that I would have no interest in checking out a second time. Thinking this a good statistic so far, I held a lot of hope for the final tally.

Unfortunately, the first hour began pushing up the score of the uninteresting, and “technical difficulties” seemed to haunt the night. My Brother Woody, who released the pleasant and summery It’s A Long Way From That Sort of Thing You Were Raised earlier this year, opened the night in The Academy 2 to an scant audience and presented a set that matched the album perfectly: tight, warm, bouncy, just a little throwaway and most of all safe. As a friend described it: “a perfect present for a niece you don’t know very well – safe, and they’re guaranteed at the very least not to hate it.” My Brother Woody were followed closely by Not Men But Giants, whose sloppiness, repetitiveness and stop-start rhythms left no real impression apart from a jerky buzzing like some sort of unsteady but persistent bee.

The Academy 2’s straits considerably improved with the crowds that accompanied Robotnik’s shambles of a gig. Losing ten minutes in getting his equipment organized – and more time one song in when it broke down again – his energetic antics lost a little of their impact. Yet, when Robotnik managed to carve his way through three high-density songs before time was called, the crowd cried out for more: Robotnik, despite his awkwardness and frustration, has exactly what both the previous bands lacked. The short set pounded with imagination, spontaneity and verve. It could be argued that his rolling on the floor with a SuperSoaker during Puddlestarter was a little much, but try telling that to Chris Morrin, a man to whom the divide between stage and audience means little. As Key Notes will attest, Robotnik's stood out as one of the best, if most cursed, performances of the weekend.

Next to Eamonn Doran’s and Sounds of System Breakdown, a man (plus friends) whose set showed how both man and machine can let you down in times of need. After an average first track, the aptly named guitarist suffered from a severe bout of programming flu; and then to exacerbate matters, once the sampled beats were back up and running, was forced to spend another few minutes educating his drummer, who appeared unable to find the downbeats. After this dubious and embarrassing start, Sounds Like System Breakdown proceeded to throw everything he had into what remained of his set, turning what could have been a fairly ordinary few songs into a tour de force of rhythmic experimentation and sonic adventure. Seeing Sweet Jane traipse in, lugging their gear from the rain-flooded Meeting House Square, caused both confusion and the warm glow of the knowledge that you were right after all to stay indoors. Whether Sweet Jane’s set was in fact cancelled has yet to be ascertained. 

Autamata, the sweet pop/electro-heads of the Irish scene, came as one of the biggest system shocks of the whole weekend. To any (including myself) who had until tonight only known the recorded Autamata sound, this Button Factory gig could have been nothing else. Pounding with a feral bass and sexy aggression, Autamata lose all their innocence when put on a stage, with producer and guiding force Ken McHugh jumping up and down, and one of the most unusual voices in the Irish circuit soaring and growling. Unfortunately, Autamata, possibly most good-natured band in Ireland, appeared to bring with them an entourage of posing scenesters, leaving me stuck behind a trio of extremely intoxicated dancers, who were totally feeling the beats, man.

So at the end of the final round the scores are Uninteresting: 4, Decent Enough: 15. While the Hard Working Class Heroes weekend had its faults, it certainly made its point.

Anna Murray

In addition to Steven O'Rourke's Festival Diary for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of HWCH 2008, check out the following CLUAS reviews of bands who played the festival:


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14

Foxface, Bats and Others at HWCH (Saturday)

Review Snapshot: Saturday nights in Temple Bar? Difficult to navigate for small-shouldered girls. Last night’s tough weave through the drunken masses proved a task in getting to gigs on time, but the quality of the acts more than made up for logistical difficulties.

The Cluas Verdict? 6.5 out of 10

Full Review:bats
There’s nothing more enjoyable than watching grown men scream their heads off. That’s just one of the reasons why Bats were one of the most entertaining acts so far at HWCH. Meeting House Square wasn’t as packed as it ought to have been, but faithful Bats fans headbanging at the front more than made up for a relatively empty gig. Lead singer Rupert looks cuddly but sings like an angry grizzly, with every outburst last night echoed with epileptic lighting. Savage screeching, heavy distortion, post-rock guitar riffs and uber energy: Bats have all the elements of a modern, albeit unique, rock band. How could you not like a band who finish the night with a track called ‘Bats Spelled Backwards is Stab’?

Elbowing our way to Andrew’s Lane Theatre, we arrived late and only caught about four tracks by Glasgow folksters Foxface.  Foxface masked individuals were scattered around the venue, as well as a couple of band members donning fox masks. Being an unabashed fan of cutesy novelty, that was enough to impress me for starters. The band’s tinkering blend of Celtic melodies with twee anti-folk lyrics really impressed the audience, a very responsive one at that. Reminiscent of Decemberists, Foxface manage to combine old folk tunes with a new sound and sweet likeable vocals.

After the final lilt of Foxface, there was no point in trying to make The Academy or MHS, judging by the amount of time it took us to scurry through the crowds earlier. We prepared ourselves for a bit of a dance when Crayonsmith took to the stage. It never happened though. Having listened to the band on MySpace for a few weeks, and having heard the hype, I expected excess energy, jumping around and fiery charisma. The music was solid, but the performance was lacklustre. Some of the tracks were a little repetitive and the lead vocalist’s voice just sounded monotone. The audience loved it though and the band got a huge response.

Frightened Rabbit wrapped up the gigs at ALT – an enjoyable enough set, but the band sounded far too much like a Biffy Clyro/Death Cab for Cutie lovechild. Being a fan of both bands, you’d imagine I’d be fully supportive of such a love child, but it didn’t do any more than mildly entertain me. If the festival had been more packed this evening, there might have been more of an atmosphere – which was lacking at times. However the bands were of very high quality this evening, and it was even difficult to choose who to see because of bands clashing with each other. 

Niamh Madden

In addition to Steven O'Rourke's Festival Diary for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of HWCH 2008, check the following CLUAS reviews of bands who played:

 


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14
Frightened Rabbit, The Vinny Club and Bats at HWCH (night 2)
Frightened Rabbit, The Vinny Club and Bats at HWCH (night 2) Review Snapshot: Night 2 of 2008's HWCH saw the cream of the festival's lineup all crowbarred into a single night. A nice compl...

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14

Crayonsmith, The Parks and A Lazarus Soul at HWCH Day 2

The ParksReview Snapshot: After a little timetable confusion, Day 2 of HWCH '08 proved a slight disappointment after yesterday, but with a few outstanding performances

The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10

Full Review:

Strange things have been happening at this festival: between some serious organisational miscommunications, poor sound and last night’s timetable mix-up. Having turned up at the supposed starting time of Hybrasil’s set in the Button Factory (7.45 according the HWCH schedule booklet) and waiting a twenty minutes before heading, a little let-down and confused, toward Andrew’s Lane and Grand Pocket Orchestra, I was more than a little annoyed this morning to double check the online schedule and discover that Hybrasil’s set was in fact timetabled to start at 8.15.

Although I missed out catching one excellent band, I was lucky to catch another. Earlier this year, GPO released their debut EP this year – an interesting but apparently misleading work, giving the impression of a quirky, poppy, jittery and melodic group having fun. Grand Pocket Orchestra live is a totally different beast: though still undeniably jittery and quirky, it is wild, aggressive, and loud. At its heart is a girl, obviously starved for attention but with an interesting collection of instruments, and a guy, a singer who throws shapes a little like Ian Curtis, or a little like a mime artist with a geometry obsession. Although the sound was at first muddy and indistinct, making it impossible to distinguish one instrument from another, a blinding set of songs emerged from the confusion and swept the crowd along with it.

Then the frenzied rush over to A Lazarus Soul in the Button Factory. And after the band started, an equally frenzied desire to rush back out again. Not familiar with the band before last night, I have been assured by Key Notes that when not bereft of their keyboard player as they were last night, A Lazarus Soul are quite a band to behold; yet I remain unconvinced. In a world where story-telling and sentimentality in lyrics are out of fashion and obscurity and allusion are in, A Lazarus Soul write impassioned songs that read sometimes like a Roddy Doyle novel with the humour stripped away, accompanied by dull crunching rock and some very 80s synth. With that deep and arresting voice their only redeeming feature, this was performance that was more dull than you can believe.

And so I was ready to be impressed by the Parks, Ireland’s favourite new wünderkinder. Having just finished their Leaving Cert, they are unseasoned and nervous, but all the more likeable for it. The Parks are a power trio with potential, but they have yet to shake the sound of a teenage garage band. Although still a little loose around the edges, each member of the band is an excellent musician with the air of a teenage heartthrob, while singer Ciaran has a voice that is as yet young but can easily become one of the most distinctive in the Irish circuit. The Parks are good at what they do, they’re just not quite there yet.

Crayonsmith proved to be the last gig I could make: the last 66 bus of the night leaves at 11.30, leaving me with less than five minutes of Le Galaxie. Much saddened by this state of affairs, I believe Crayonsmith must have been aware of my predicament, and gave one of the best shows of HWCH 08 so far to make me feel better. Songs from this year’s excellent White Wonder album were given a new injection of life and dirtied; far from the clean sounds of the album, a greater concentration on guitars and bass gave the band crunch and power, with no sacrifice in melody or sound. Not just that, but the Crayonsmith gig proved to be the busiest and most fun gig so far, with close to a full house of obvious fans.

Anna Murray

In addition to Steven O'Rourke's Festival Diary for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of HWCH 2008, check out the following CLUAS reviews of bands who played the festival:


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13

Chequerboard, Alphamono and Fiach live at HWCH

superextrabonusparty

Review Snapshot: The Becks Vier flowed, hairy check-shirted types floated around the side-streets of Temple Bar and the type of music was as varied as a pick'n'mix bag. Though an enjoyable evening, there was something a little disjointed about HWCH 2008.

The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10

Full Review:
This year's Hard Working Class Heroes was my first. With no previous experiences to compare it to (the disenchanted "last-year's-Picnic-was-so-much-better" syndrome), my untainted, innocent eyes were ready to be initiated into the world of the Irish up-and-coming. The first act on my list was Alphamono, who played in the cosy wooden attic of 4 Dame Lane. Alphamono's biog reveals that he hails 'from a small mining village on Neptune' and is currently embarking on an intergalactic journey through the universe. If a biog could ever perfectly encapsulate a sound, Alphamono's would be it. 'Laynod' began with a brief piano intro giving way to full wavy kaleidoscopic sounds, industrial space tones and vocoder vocals. Shadowy silhouettes on the curtains behind the stage looked almost alien-like, shrouded by the green lights that bathed the stage. The most well-developed and polished track was 'Arise,' something that sounded like an alternative soundtrack to Twin Peaks.
 
After the unique Alphamono set, I was left puzzled at the choice to put 26-year-old singer-songwriter Fiach onstage next. The one-man-and-his-guitar genre has been so saturated over the years that I found it difficult to give Fiach a chance. Trying to open my mind a little, I listened, but felt nothing – regardless of how passionately he played and the energy he put into singing, it just didn't stir me. It's clear that Fiach's voice has taken on the tones of Paddy Casey, perhaps without him realizing it. The Damien Dempsey brigade is exhausted. Instead of being upset and singing about said depression, I'd recommend a trip to the south of France for any aspiring singer-songwriter.

The highlight of the evening was certainly one man with a guitar, but what he did with it was astounding. Visual artist and guitarist Chequerboard shone under a single light at the corner of an empty stage in Andrew's Lane Theatre. An odd location for such a gig (Dame Lane may have better echoed the atmosphere of the tracks), the audience clearly understood that standing and nodding heads wasn't the way to go. Everyone sat down on the floor at ALT and listened. Though the bar remained noisy, the intricate harmonics, complex loops and almost effortless playing hushed most of us up.

Bringing the tempo back up again at Meeting House Square was Super Extra Bonus Party, superlative by name and by nature. It's great to see bands performing with high energy, sweating it out, throwing themselves down on the floor to really entertain. Super Extra and Fighting With Wire gave the audience loads to work with, but sadly the sound in the square was not up to scratch. Despite a thin crowd, the festival atmosphere was the best in the square– weeing in a dark portaloo, the smell of dodgy kebab-in-a-baguette combos, and tap after tap of Becks Vier. Friday night's line-up was a promising, if disconnected, beginning to the weekend.

Niamh Madden

In addition to Steven O'Rourke's Festival Diary for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of HWCH 2008, check out the following CLUAS reviews of bands who played the festival:


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13

Nakatomi Plaza, Half Cousin, Lines Drawing Circles (live at HWCH Day 1)

Half CousinReview Snapshot:

The first night of Hard Working Class Heroes 2008 seemed a little quiet, whether because of the poor timing of the festival the increased price of tickets, or just because of the intermittent rain. Reports so far have been mixed, but this reviewer found Day 1 to be a brilliant night.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:

Most of the talk surrounding this year’s HWCH event has centred on the change of venues after last year’s concentration around the POD complex. While this brought its fair share of difficulties for the festival, I did not encounter quite so many organisational problems as another Cluas reviewer; in fact, Day 1 proved to be a great night out, where running from venue to venue added to a (probably misplaced) sense of adventure and discovery and where Meeting House Square hosted one of the most entertaining, if not necessarily best, acts of the night.

Running a little late and not wanting to face the epic journey across the river to the Academy, I opted to catch a disappointing Heartbreak Cartel at Andrew’s Lane Theatre. Playing to a mere thirty-odd people, their almost-famed stage antics – replete with in-jokes, wigs and cheap costumes – seemed nothing more than a cover-up for an as-yet underdeveloped live performance. While respect for their attempts to provide that extra entertainment factor must be given, it is obvious that it may be a while yet before their show will really involve their audience, until that germ of an idea will develop into something worth catching. Unfortunately, peel away the showmanship and you’re left with nothing memorable: each song washes past you leaving you with no definite recollections of it, only a sense of something rhythmic and bouncy and vaguely Modest Mouse-ish.

Next to Meeting House Square and Fred: a Cork quintet who had never before played in Dublin and who proved to be the biggest surprise of the night. After a few minutes of slightly awkward chatter with that slightly quirky Cork humour the band launched headlong into a set that rocked and bounced and jerked its way along, with a sound that was so remarkably tight and together it came as a shock. Suffering from few of the sound problems which apparently afflicted other acts at the Square (and having unfortunately to contend with an alarm going off throughout their set) Fred were entertaining, funny, extroverted and talented and are without a doubt a band to watch for the future. If nothing else they prove that the Irish Times occasionally get things wrong: “like Sly & The Family Stone in a swordfight with the Flaming Lips, refereed by Brian Wilson” is in fact almost entirely inaccurate, and any review which fails to mention the influence U2 have had over singer Joseph is an inaccurate one.

Lines Drawing Circles, also in Meeting House Square, proved to be one of the biggest disappointments. Every track appeared to have a similar structure and sound, as if they had one idea and stuck to it, but were unable to develop it properly. But what was most disappointing was that on listening to the tracks of the debut EP release in March this year, Lines Drawing Circles songs are in fact really, really good. Unfortunately their multi-layered sound seems only to suit records and possibly smaller, louder and more intimate venues.

Half Cousin, in Dame Lane, came as another surprise. Part of the Scottish invasion, Kevin Cormack has two albums and a number of EPs/singles to his name: releases which this reviewer has already ordered since seeing his awkward fumbling set. After a long soundcheck, Half Cousin began as if he didn’t want anybody to notice, and looked throughout as if he was frustrated and confused that he was unable to control his drum machine and synth, play guitar and sing at the same time. While most songs appeared to have little or no structure apart from the underlying glitchy homemade beats so that it was sometimes difficult to tell when one track ended and another began, each contained enough ingenuity and originality for an album by a lesser artist. A set in the Sugar Club can only be hoped for.

Last was Nakatomi Plaza at the Button Factory. Anthony, an ex-66e, who together with Le Galaxie (playing the same venue on Day 2) is looking to get over the giant name of that lost band…although this doesn’t stop them mentioning 66e in all their descriptions and press releases. The force behind 66e’s characteristic guitar/electronic sound, Nakatomi Plaza has turned to the heavy beats of house, but with all the dense layerings expected of an ex-66e: this set had the feel of a club, but one where you stand still and try to sift through the ear-bleedingly loud and crowded sounds. Manning a single synth and laptop, and with Predator projected onto the back of the stage behind him, Anthony’s constant smile made Nakatomi Plaza a slightly off-kilter show.

Anna Murray

In addition to Steven O'Rourke's Festival Diary for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of HWCH 2008, check out the following CLUAS reviews of bands who played the festival:


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13
Super Extra Bonus Party, Groom and The Dublin Duck Dispensery live at HWCH
Super Extra Bonus Party, Groom and The Dublin Duck Dispensery live at HWCH Review Snapshot: The opening night of 2008’s HWCH festival saw bands faced with joke shop organistional problems an...

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2008 - A comprehensive guide to recording an album, written by Andy Knightly (the guide is spread over 4 parts).