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Hard Working Class Heroes 2016: an introduction to editor Mary‘s coverage

By on Thursday, 13th October 2016 at 1:00 pm

For the first part of this month, I spent 8 glorious days on the Emerald Isle, first familiarising myself with some of the prettiest parts of the west side of this country. But as this is a music Web site, of course the remainder of my time was spent at my first Hard Working Class Heroes, held over the course of 3 days and six venues across the city centre of Dublin. You might not think the first half of my trip would have had as big of an effect on my time at the festival, but it did. I enjoyed “small-town” Irish people and their ‘craic’: as soon as I explained that I was attending a music festival in Dublin, they were quick to tell them which of their family members made music themselves and which bands they could personally recommend for me to catch at Hard Working Class Heroes…

…because, as you see, more so than people from any other country, music runs in the Irish blood. Everyone’s got a granny, granddad, mum or dad who played fiddle or guitar or some other instrument and would lead family singalongs after dinner. Just like camping festivals like Glastonbury are a rite of passage to the English, this is an idea as alien and foreign to most Americans. So it is no wonder that such a small country and one that was for so many years oppressed by outside forces were driven to make music. They are a people who hold what music means to them close to their hearts. We here at TGTF already knew this from the Irish and Northern Irish showcases put on at SXSW every year, but Hard Working Class Heroes is an Irish artist-specific event to show off the musical bounty from their proud little island.

Achill Island sheep
insert bad Irish sheep joke here

Following the conclusion of the event, feted Irish music journalist and Irish Times writer Jim Carroll wrote this piece Tuesday entitled “Keeping the home fires burning” as an overview of his impressions of this year’s event. Emceeing the various industry panels during the 3 days of Hard Working Class Heroes, he noted that “most of the seats were occupied by musicians rather than the people who seek to represent them.” This is important to point out for two reasons. One, musicians in Ireland are proactively trying to advance their careers and this ever vital, in as Carroll points out in his article that as although Ireland is a small country, it has one of the biggest music economies in the world. Two, there are less discovery-minded people – management willing to sign new acts, music journalists, music bloggers, etc. – attending this event, which means less acts are going to get their chance in the sun. I wonder if the same can be said about the convention portion of HWCH’s English counterpart, The Great Escape. This phenomenon worries me, and I agree with what Carroll says himself in the piece, “the acts who don’t have that [industry and management interest in them] in are effectively shut out of the process. This is something which needs to be changed, but it’s hard to see if the will or means to do so can actually be produced.”

I’m not talking about ensuring everyone gets one of those mega million label contracts of yore, all of which have pretty much disappeared from the industry landscape. I’m talking about even something as small as a mention in a newspaper, magazine or blog in another country that might open the door to further opportunities. During a panel at Hard Working Class Heroes Friday on breaking Irish bands into American media, three American journalists (curiously all women and from New York City: they couldn’t get one man or one person from outside New York?) said that it was virtually impossible for them to pitch a feature to their editor on an emerging band unless there was hype already behind them, because emerging band features don’t do well with Web site hits. As the owner of a music Web site, I understand too well that analytics are king. But what are newer, up-and-coming bands to do if the media leave them behind and are unwilling to feature them?

In America, you haven’t got a chance in hell of getting your band played on mainstream radio unless you have a major label contract or there have already been industry rumblings of your future potential. It has been a difficult, delicate balance for me as editor of TGTF to figure out how best to focus our attention on established artists versus up-and-comers and hyped bands. Hearing what I did and feeling that disappointment, there is no question in my mind that us covering bands as they come up, as they tickle our ears and pique our interest regardless of how big a team they have backing them (if at all), covering the less pedigreed and less hyped ones is a big part of what we’re meant to do and what we’ll keep doing.

Why is this important and especially in the context of Hard Working Class Heroes? This is clearly not a music festival like SXSW where it’s solely about the big acts, about chasing Kendrick Lamar’s secret show or pencilling in a SPIN party starring Santigold and Bloc Party. And that’s a very good thing! This is the kind of event where Irish musicians and bands who haven’t broken yet get their first shot (or at least one of the earliest opportunities) in the limelight, the hyperbole of hype is kept to a minimum and true music discovery is the key phrase here. For most of these acts, you won’t know a lot about them, so any bias you would have had at another festival isn’t at play. There is, pretty much, an even level playing field for all too, so things are optimistic for each and every artist. We all know what happens at Glasto and Reading/Leeds when the Main Stage gets the lion’s share of punters’ attention, don’t we? This is a unique event to showcase the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears, the sacrifices that musicians in Ireland make and give them the platform to show us why they think they should make it.

River Liffey Friday HWCH
Surprisingly, during the entirety of this year’s HWCH, it never rained. Is that some kind of record?

Having been instrumental in their early support of Hozier, it’s not too hard to believe Hard Working Class Heroes will break other Irish bands before anyone else. I have my own list of acts that I think have much promise beyond Ireland, and you’ll read more about them in the coming days. Some of you may remember that the first Irish band I put my money on and tipped was Two Door Cinema Club back in 2009, and you all know what happened to them, so it’ll be interesting in the next 6 to 12 months to see how good my predictions are.


Hard Working Class Heroes 2016: editor Mary’s best band bets

By on Friday, 30th September 2016 at 11:00 am

Please note: as we recommend with all of our festival previews, the information we post here on TGTF on Hard Working Class Heroes 2016, including my past preview of the event, is current at the time of posting. But we encourage you to check in at the event’s official Web site closer to the start of the event to confirm venues and set times. Weekend tickets are still on sale for €45, with nightly and individual venue tickets priced at €20 and €10, respectively. Weekend student tickets will be available for purchase for €25 upon proof of photo ID on Thursday 6th October from the box office at Film Base, Curved Street. To purchase your tickets, visit this page on the official HWCH Web site.

2016 North American emerging music festival alums: We’d be missing a trick not to give a shoutout to the artists we’ve already covered and enjoyed at this year’s SXSW 2016 in Austin (March) and CMW 2016 in Toronto (May):
Comrade Hat (Derry; 10:10 PM Thursday, Tengu Upstairs)
Elm (Dublin; 9:40 PM Saturday, Workman’s Club)
Fangclub (Dublin; 9:30 PM Thursday, Hub)
Jealous of the Birds (Portadown; 9:00 PM Friday, Tengu Downstairs)
Rosie Carney (Downings via Portsmouth; 10:00 PM Saturday, City Hall)
Rusangano Family (Limerick; 9:30 PM Saturday, Chocolate Factory Stage 2)
Search Party Animal (Dublin; 8:30 PM Thursday, Workman’s Club)

Let me introduce you to a lucky seven acts that caught my eyes and ears upon my research of the 100+ strong bill for Hard Working Class Heroes this year:

Orchid Collective (folk / Dublin; 1:30 PM Thursday, Accents Café Lounge [free show]; 10:30 PM Thursday, Wigwam)

The incredible success of Fleet Foxes in the late Noughties opened the door for the march of the alt-folk genre, paving the way for artists like Bon Iver, Family of the Year and Of Monsters and Men to garner global popularity. From one of the traditional bosoms of folk music of the world, Ireland, and with new EP ‘Courage’ out in late October, Orchid Collective look to be the next stars of indie folk.

New Pope (folk / Galway; 3:30 PM Thursday, Gutter Bookshop [free show]; 9:40 PM Thursday, Tengu Downstairs)

It’s easy to suffer from electronic overload and overproduction. So let’s take a step back and strip back to the basics of folk. New Pope is West Country singer/songwriter David Boland, proving that as long as you keep things simple during a thoughtful writing process, it’s possible to write a compelling song. Close your eyes for a fuller sense of the power of ‘Love’ below.

Update 16/05/2020: ‘Love’ is no longer on New Pope’s Soundcloud.

Exiles (electronic / Carlow/Kilkenny; 10:50 PM Thursday, Tengu Upstairs)

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for synthpop, so Exiles are a no-brainer on my Hard Working Class Heroes schedule. This month, they released a new EP ‘Red Lights’, already receiving loads of attention from domestic radio. Given the current music climate for everything synthy, I can see this band going far beyond the ‘80s influences that have been so important to them.

Slow Riot (post-punk / Limerick; 8:10 PM Friday, Hub)

Naming themselves after a Godspeed You! Black Emperor EP, Slow Riot takes the best of those who have come before and puts a unique Irish stamp on it. Having already played a sold-out show in the Capital, they will return to gig in London on the 10th of November at the Sebright Arms after this appearance at Hard Working Class Heroes.

Callum Stewart (pop / Belfast; 12:30 PM Friday, Nine Crows [free show]; 8:40 PM Friday, City Hall) – as of 2020, Callum Stewart now goes by the name JC Stewart

You know that feeling you get when you listen to a new artist and the chills run down your spine? Like I felt with Liverpool’s BANNERS in my SXSW 2016 research, I got that same kind of moment upon hearing Callum Stewart’s pop single ‘Parachute’. Despite being only 19, Stewart has already managed to achieve a poignancy in his songs that much older songwriters have difficulty with. Expect a major label snap-up in the coming months.

Hiva Oa (electronic/rock / Belfast; 8:20 PM Saturday, Tengu Downstairs)

Stephen Houlihan and Christine Tubridy have returned to Ireland after a spell in Edinburgh, and they’ve just released a new EP. ‘mk2 (part 1)’ illustrates well their sound described on a press release as “marrying primal, dizzying electronica and a swelling bass hum, with minimal guitar patterns to create a tightly wound, suffocating and intense atmosphere”. Intrigued? Check them out on Saturday night.

Kid Karate (punk / Dublin; 8:30 PM Saturday, Chocolate Factory Stage 2; our past coverage on them on TGTF here)

Kid Karate are veterans of past SXSW events and this year, the noiseniks really have something to shout about. Their newest and also self-titled album was released in April. Single ‘Louder’, with its unrelenting, thudding backbeat and punky swagger, should give you a good clue what you’re in for if you pop into the Chocolate Factory’s Stage 2 Saturday night.


Preview: Hard Working Class Heroes 2016

By on Monday, 12th September 2016 at 10:00 am

Just under a month to go now before Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 kicks off in Dublin. Ireland’s annual massive music showcase and industry conference will take place 6-8 October across venues in the city centre, both north and south of the River Liffey. Since its first year in 2003, the music showcase portion of the event has played host to rising stars who have since become household names, including the twice Mercury Prize-nominated and Choice Music Prize and Ivor Novello award winner Villagers, Hozier, Girl Band, Fight Like Apes, The Coronas and The Strypes.

This year’s line-up featuring amazing homegrown talent looks to be Hard Working Class Heroes’ strongest yet. There are several names on the over 100-act strong bill that will be familiar to regular TGTF readers. From Portadown, SXSW 2016 alum Jealous of the Birds will no doubt be playing her single ‘Goji Berry Sunset’, which became a playlist staple for BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne and Radio 2’s Jo Whiley following her appearance in Austin. Limerick’s Rusangano Family proved to be one of the most exciting draws at SXSW 2016, stopping (foot) traffic down 6th Street during their performance Friday at the full Irish breakfast. Other names that might ring a bell include CMW 2016 showcasing acts Comrade Hat (Derry), Elm (Dublin), Fangclub (Dublin) and Search Party Animal (formerly known as Bagels; Dublin). 2016 also sees the beginning of Hard Working Class Heroes’ 3-year project to build audiences between Ireland and Iceland. Wesen and aYia from the Nordic country will be showcasing as well.

For those of us who work in the industry, the convention will continue its long-running tradition of events and activities to help further our goals in supporting talent include mentor sessions, workshops and much more. The convention will be a fantastic opportunity for international delegates, Irish bands and domestic music industry professionals to meet face-to-face and make important contacts. 2016 will also be the inaugural year for the Conor Walsh Memorial Bursary in honour of an alumni and friend of the festival who died suddenly earlier this year. All 100 bands participating will be asked to vote for the act who most embodies Walsh’s talent and bravery. The winning act will be awarded €2,500 toward a recording or tour bill.

So what are you waiting for? Weekend tickets are currently on sale for €45, with nightly and individual venue tickets priced at €20 and €10, respectively. Weekend student tickets will be available for purchase for €25 upon proof of photo ID on Thursday 6th October from the box office at Film Base, Curved Street. To purchase your tickets, download the DICE app for your phone or visit this page on the official HWCH Web site. The stage splits for the 3-day music showcase have been announced, and you can view each day’s lineup in the video below.


About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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