posted on September 13, 2008 08:39
Chequerboard, Alphamono and Fiach live at HWCH
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
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.
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: