The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


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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Nuggets from our archive

2004 - The CLUAS Reviews of Erin McKeown's album 'Grand'. There was the positive review of the album (by Cormac Looney) and the entertainingly negative review (by Jules Jackson). These two reviews being the finest manifestations of what became affectionately known, around these parts at least, as the 'McKeown wars'.