Oxegen and Electric Picnic are all very well if you're into that kind of thing (by which I mean standing around shivering in the mud to catch a few minutes of the same old bands from across a field of equally muddy people), but there are few music festivals, if any, quite like Hard Working Class Heroes. Instead of serving itself or the monster we deride and rally against as the "industy", it serves Irish musicians: providing a platform and an audience (and of course media attention) to the country's most promising upcoming bands, making it probably the world's only festival where you don't need to be a success before you play at it, but most likely will be afterwards. What's more it does so economically - you don't even need a tent, just a LUAS ticket, and you get to spend most of your time indoors. You get a lot of bands for your money, and from an observer's point of view, shows which way the wind is blowing in Irish music (cf. the proliferation of electronic-based bands over the last few years). And it's always so lovably modest about it all.
Last week the Hard Working Class Heroes crew announced the Irish bands who will be joining the Scottish ambassadors of this year's invasion. However, this year - it's sixth year running - HWCH is facing a number of problems. After the opposition it faced last year at having all gigs take place in the POD complex, HWCH has returned to Temple Bar. Whether this is a good decision remains to be seen, as while the POD complex had the advantage of having a number of stages in one area, Temple Bar trumps it for variety and informality. Logistically similar, preference will likely be a matter of taste rather than logic. The second problem facing this year's festival is the Dublin Fringe Festival, taking place 6th - 21st of September (and interestingly being handled by the same PR company, Friction), which is posing a challenge to the HWCH by hosting some interesting Irish-band gigs of their own across the same weekend in the famed Spiegeltent. This year's Hard Working Class Heroes will have to work hard to get their audience, but half newbies, half usual suspects, it's one not to be missed.
Bands to watch: HWCH '08
- Hybrasil: been around a while, but getting better all the time
- Crayonsmith - released one of the best albums of the year so far.
- Le Galaxie - arisen from the ashes of the beautiful and brilliant 66e, they're doing their best to shake the association by pressing buttons and twiddling knobs. But they do it well.
- Not Men But Giants - more strange electronica
- Grand Pocket Orchestra - not quite an orchestra, but cute and lovable, and probably the only band that can pull off a song about odd socks
- Super Extra Bonus Party - winners of this year's Choice Award and the missing link between club and rock. A live sensation of the kind rarely seen anymore.
- The Kinetiks - apparently the cutting edge in Irish indie, about to take over the world any minute now (and they know it too)
- Autamata - so innocently likeable, and on their third album, hardly new to this. Brilliantly unpredictable.
- Halves - beautifully and expansively filling the gap left by Butterfly Explosion and 66e. Otherwise know as the Irish Sigur Ros.
- The Dagger Lees - used to be Stagger Lee. Enough said.
- The Ambience Affair - a loop-based two piece that though in early days, could develop into something truly interesting.
- Exit: Pursued By A Bear - the winners in the best name category, though it's not as if they need the extra attention: more floaty electronic/rock mixes, but utterly absorbing.
- The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock - the obligatory trad mix, this time a really unusual trad-meets-16 Horsepower-meets-heavy rock.
- The Cades - swinging rock that's impossible to resist.
- Robotnik - a one-man lo-fi/pop powerhouse that deserves to rub shoulders with his extensive list of influences.