Hope is Noise Album Launch Festival @ Fredz
“…by the time they hit stage, the only way your writer can think of showing the proper respect is by simply dropping his pen and paper and getting into it…”
There’s no point in assigning scores out of ten to any of the bands either of these nights. Number one, the line-up top to bottom is ridiculous; number two, this weekend isn’t about that. This weekend, we celebrate Hope is Noise.
Marking sixteen years of gigging and recording, from their embryonic forms to the four-headed beast that reigns over rock ‘n’ roll in Cork City today, as well as launching new album This Used to be a Laugh, Hope is Noise and a selection of bands close to them are putting on a weekender in aid of Ataxia Ireland. The first night is the lads themselves as well as the pop/punk acts, the second night is hardcore/grind headlined by [r]evolution of a sun. Enough said, really.
Stanton’s Grave open the first night of proceedings, and their rowdy, SLF-inflected punk riles up the crowd excellently, and barring some technical probs, their set goes down well, their pop tendencies giving way to a few new tunes that show hints of a heavier new direction, entrenched in alt-rock in some spots, in others a bit more technical. Intriguing and a perfect beginning to proceedings.
Dott‘s debut gig in Cork meets with curiosity, and not without more tech hitches in the beginning threatening to stultify their set. Once things get going, they’re off to a bang and those out of the know are met with a surprise – (mostly) all-girl feelgood pop with a hint of 50s innocence and doo-wop that serves as a left turn from the band members’ other exploits (members of Rites and Blasterbra included). With their warm and resonant rock ‘n’ roll, the band’s Spectoresque charm shines, even past some mucky sound throughout. Sufficiently retro to grab the attention, yet with enough knowing and modernity underneath it all to keep it, the set finishes with single Leave Tonight, and as its cooing chorus rings around the room, it’s plain to see they’re on to a winner.
Agitate the Gravel are the kind of band that just get better every single gig. You can see it, hear it, sense it in their stage presence and feel it in your bones. It has sent chills down your writer’s spine to see them advance as they have, at the pace they have, and tonight is another step up from the quartet, as they debut new material alongside the pop winners that have endeared them to so many. The new stuff is a tad less frivolous, in fact, a bit darker and more serious, and it’s very tempting to say “Stoogesy”, but their knack for a tune comes through in power-pop nugget See It Through, very much tapping into Ash circa-2001. Singles Wilderness Years and Wait get an airing and despite vocalist/guitarist Chris Somers‘ battle with illness, the jams are kicked out in spirited fashion. Another great set from a band likely spurred on by tonight’s headliners.
As mentioned, Hope is Noise are here tonight to launch a new record. Everyone else is here to pay homage to a band worthy of the respect and admiration they’ve accrued, and celebrate the new release, as well as the attention and new sets of ears it’s earned them since signing to FIFA. There’s nothing like seeing a band like Hope is Noise get its due after so very long, and it’s created a buzz for tonight that hasn’t been had around here for a while. A great many familiar faces are in the audience, and by the time they hit stage, the only way your writer can think of showing the proper respect is by simply dropping his pen and paper and getting into it.
It’s a set that has the assembled crowd eating out of their palm, with new album opener Das Ich drawing none other than Ray Wingnut from the crowd and up to the front, giving it some amount of welly for the rest of the show. He’s not alone, of course: members of Slugbait, Fingersmith, Days of Night, IEYF and Fat Actress, as well as promoter Darragh McGrath of GoodCop BadCop are all here to bear witness. A medley of Peace and Quiet, Altitude Sickness and All Love and Nothing is met with wild applause, and of course No Stretchmarks results in a venue-wide singsong. Subtitles sends the front into madness before a final salvo of Dancing With Johnny Five by audience demand sees the room come unglued. A reaction fully befitting a locomotive performance by a band who, for all the platitudes and reverence they receive, can and do put it all aside and focus on making us move, dance and shout from places we usually daren’t look, every single time. Astounding.
Night two opens with Bisect, a groovy/d-beat crust venture fronted by [r]oas’ Christophe Erpaulding. It’s tempting to call it all an [r]oas lite, actually, but for fans of the aforementioned genres, there’s more than enough riffage to ensure they stand alone, the crushing atmosphere of the vocalist’s other band eschewed for good-time moshing, Erpaulding catapulting into the audience like a human pinball. Great fun, and better with each live excursion.
I’ll Eat Your Face‘s crowd-pleasing, beer-sodden, supergrinding mayhem is in full effect as the gruesome twosome from the sick and slick side of Powerland dig into tunes from new album Hot Brains Terror, soon to be released on one of those pesky CD things at long last in May. Tuxedo-tanktopped guitarist The Boy is on form, bantering away with the crowd and taking the time to interact (“HEY MAN!”) with adoring moshers. As technically brilliant and as irreverent as ever they are, with the new album’s focus rubbing off on their live performances, it’s another knockout performance from the two-man grind administration department.
Them Martyrs are shockingly good tonight. From their roots as Les Christpunchers in the mid-2000s, the Galway hardcore collective has seen a few line-up changes and members go travelling for months on end. For all of these absences, though, not so much as a step is ever lost and here is no different, with songs from French Extremity and upcoming vinyl Wretched ruling the roost. The band is on form here, tight, focused and tearing sound from their instruments as vocalist Greym shows us serious mic-stand moves and an unparalleled showmanship for the genre. Backmasking destroys, while Sleep Away Days and Temple see the band transcend themselves. A spectacle better taken in with the eyes than summarised in mere words.
The honours of closing up the weekend, then, are left to [r]evolution of a sun, making a rare appearance and in the form of a six-piece, with bassist Noel Lynch as ever authoritatively taking stage above floor-level vocalists Christophe and Eoin. Fredz’ sound unfortunately lacks the lower-end to give a lot of these songs the impact they undeniably possess, but it doesn’t stop proceedings from getting another level of wild, with the band playing the majority of album Hell to a massive reception and unreasonable amounts of moshing. Sacrifice/Hell drags your writer from his perch and into the thick of the jostling, the band’s dissonant, punishing hardcore rendered raw and feral in the live setting, while Conspire sends bodies catapulting and crowdsurfing around the tiny room. Utterly, guturally moving stuff that, like their headlining counterparts, have a hold on things within us all so inherent, so instinctive, that you can’t stop yourself from getting immersed.
Whoever said Cork music is in a downturn? They’re not looking hard enough. Here, in these two days, is enough talent for a city’s fucking lifetime, and proof positive that between Cork and Galway, loud music is as unrepentant and innovative, and as scintillating live, as it is vital and alive.