Hard Working Class Heroes Day Two – Photos & Review
Featuring the very best new and emerging Irish music all set in the heart of Dublin City, HWCH continues to shine a light on the finest talent the national scene has to offer. Since its inception in 2003, the festival has helped set acts such as Hozier, The Strypes and Villagers on the road to stardom. Now in its 13th year, the annual showcase continues to grow and with over 100 acts booked this year throughout a selection of venues, ticket holders were spoiled for choice.
In the shabby-chic surroundings of The Chocolate Factory on Parnell Street, Peppy, an emerging artist from Mayo, stakes an early claim for best discovery of the weekend with a short but sweet set that hints at bigger things to come. Fronting a 3-piece setup with drums and cello, the singer-songwriter took just one song to silence the chattering crowd with his stunning voice. Placed somewhere between Jeff Buckley and Conor Mason, Peppy’s haunting vocals are as good as anything to be heard over the course of the entire weekend. With a range of soulful piano ballads, his set commands the attention of the entire room, and debut single ‘The Day After’ already sounds primed for the sad scenes of U.S hospital dramas. While not quite the finished article yet, Peppy is definitely one to watch and those in attendance tonight may well have seen the beginning of something special.
A brisk walk over to Dame Street’s City Hall sees Belfast singer-songwriter Callum Stewart put on a stripped-down piano and vocal masterclass in the opulent surroundings, complete with high ceiling and church-like seating arrangements. A perfect combination of artist and venue sees Stewart’s gorgeous voice boosted by the stunning natural reverb which fills every pocket of space in the cavernous hall. Given the choice, every singer-songwriter act on this year’s bill would most likely have opted for City Hall as their preferred performance location. Having witnessed some of Stewart’s early support slots, the young musician is improving with every performance and tonight feels confident enough to air some brand new material, with ‘I’ll Come Running’ another worthy addition to an already impressive repertoire. Although the polished male singer-songwriter market is already overcrowded, there will always be room made if the songs are strong, and current single ‘Parachute’ certainly fits the bill. Written alongside Jimbo Barry (the man behind The Scripts Hall Of Fame), it sounds even better stripped of its glossy studio production. Still aged only 19, Callum Stewart looks a safe bet for future success.
Next up, Wexford folk act The Ocelots’ harmonies raise goosebumps with just an unplugged acoustic guitar and harmonies effortlessly knotted together. Also benefitting from the reverb-heavy setup, the brothers show traces of Mumford & Sons and Paolo Nutini, melding strong pop melodies with rustic folk guitar and vocal arrangements.
Returning to The Chocolate Factory in time to catch the closing numbers of Rocstrong‘s set, The Congo-born Dubliner brings the good-time vibes to HWCH. After a plethora of introspective singer-songwriters, Rocstrong channels James Brown in an energetic uptempo set which provides an excellent change of pace. With a tight and versatile backing band, the set veers from funk rock to electro pop, and helps lend a party atmosphere to the Friday night.
Next up on the small stage at the opposite end of the same room, Dublin’s Tara Lee premieres some brand new material to a rapidly filling room. Last year’s stripped back piano & vocal Soundtrack EP hinted at a very exciting songwriting talent which resulted in a publishing deal with Sony BMG. Tonight sees the unveiling of a new electronic-tinged sound, which melds surprisingly well with previous material. ‘Burn This Down’ embraces Lorde-style minimalism with a terrific falsetto chorus line, while the title track of last year’s EP is now augmented by electronic beats and brassy synth chords yet still retains its strong emotional weight. The atmospheric ‘Drive’ melds pop hooks with dark synth lines to compelling effect. Tara Lee’s sound is both versatile and modern, and with genuine pop star stage presence combined with songs this strong, don’t be surprised to see her featuring in many ‘Hot For 2017’ lists worldwide.
Closing the night, Cork’s Talos play out some richly textured alt-electro pop in a 6-piece live setup. Led by Cork native Eoin French, Talos have been steadily gathering momentum over the past year with well-received videos for ‘Bloom’ and ‘Your Love Is An Island’. Tonight’s set consolidates the hype, aided by an excellent sound mix which gives clarity to each individual instrument, not least French’s stunning vocal which brings to mind Mercury Rev at their ethereal best.
It serves as the perfect way to wind down a fantastic night of live music all over the city. Richly varied and crammed with natural talent, the line-up of HWCH is curated to perfection, many of the acts showcased this weekend will undoubtedly grow in stature, destined to fill larger venues in the future. Irish music has produced some world-conquering stars in recent years, and with several record labels, festival bookers, and managers in town over the weekend, the HWCH festival provides that crucial boost for many. Long may it continue.