The Mighty Stef
Hard Working Class Heroes - The Hub, 26 August 2005
You know, John Meagher wrote a piece in the Irish Independent the other day, scorning the death of the Irish music scene, those legions of talentless bums, and wannabe hipsters? "so much music, so little talent". Well, Johnny dear, you could have done a lot worse than The Mighty Stef in the Hub at HWCH 2005. Even if the Mighty Stef was the only man with a guitar in Dublin, the music scene would be vital, fresh and a more than a little bit manic.
The CLUAS Verdict? 8.5 out of 10
This was my second time seeing The Mighty Stef play; the last was a gonzo night in Eamon Doran's, when I was blown away by some hairy lunatic with an acoustic guitar whipping the ether into a frenzy with disconnected strumming, and lungs that can only be compared to aural bellows. Phil Spector's 'wall of sound' scaled these heights long ago with the help of a full blown "wrecking crew," In Eamon Doran's that night The Mighty Stef was one man, a mic and a fistful of chords.
Tonight was different.
In an already sweaty Hub, Stef took to the stage and plugged in. Backed by a pretty damn tight three piece, (a new band apparently - but I never saw the last one so who knows) this was something special. The Mighty Stef is a hard man to categorise, you could call him punk, poetry, urban, new-wave-hairy-sweat, the list goes on? but who cares, music is a wide and varied thing, and whatever space you choose to pigeonhole Stef into, he inhabits it fully. He is uniquely Irish, his voice screams it in every song, but his is not the Ireland of forlorn romanticism, over blown stadium filling religious egotism, or Blarney Stone rhetoric. This Ireland is something modern, something new, urban, pissed off and loud. This is something to connect to. An Irish Kerouac? Or a fully clothed Ginsberg? only time will tell. You're best off asking Jimmy Rabbite, he'll be able to describe it better.
A great thing about tonight's gig, from a purely live perspective, was the closeness of the show. The Hub is a great live venue, small, sweaty, and the sound is usually pretty damn good. The only pain in the ass is that huge pillar beside the dance floor, which pretty much kills the show off from the seats at the back, but tonight that only kept the energy in. There was no separation between crowd and stage, this was an event, a happening, it wasn't a show. There were no cardigans sitting back to stroke their chin and offer advice on different tuning techniques (thank Christ). The Hub was one swirling, reverberating mess of sweat, energy and just plain good times. I didn't see one person there who wasn't grooving on it at least a little, and there were plenty of people getting down a lot more than that. The Guns'n'Jesus brigade would have loved it here tonight. They could have whipped themselves up into a whirlwind of righteous indignation, appalled by the abandon bubbling just beneath the surface, a field day of excommunications, papal decrees, and oh so much penance. F**k 'em, they need to get laid, and this would be damn good music to do it to.
I don't know many of the Mighty Stef's tunes outside of hearing them live, but the one song that has stuck with me is "The Whistle Song." Its lyric is perfect, direct, and tapped straight into the mainline. Its performance is loud, frenetic, and contagious. The Mighty Stef is good, very good, but he could be f**king great. I would love to see him with a full-on original band behind him: throw in a Theremin, a mute fiddler, a deviant organist, a blind harpoonist, who knows. Anything is then possible.
Hard Working Class Heroes is billed as an industry showcase; a chance for the labels to spot new talent, sign them. In short: to give them a chance. After this weekend The Mighty Stef may not have a record deal, but he should. Someone let this man loose. Please.