They could be he­roes

Hard Work­ing Class He­roes – Dublin’s pre­mier bands’ fes­ti­val – re­mains pop­u­lar with lo­cal fans, but the or­gan­is­ers will have to take a long hard look at them­selves if they’re to reach an in­ter­na­tional in­dus­try au­di­ence, writes Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

WHEN the Hard Work­ing Class He­roes fes­ti­val be­gan four years ago, it was driven, as th­ese things usu­ally are, by an in­tox­i­cat­ing kind of en­ergy. Those be­hind the trip sim­ply wanted to put on a lot of new bands over a cou­ple of nights and have a bit of fun. This they did very suc­cess­fully and sent ev­ery­one home sweat­ing, mak­ing Hard Work­ing Class He­roes one of the best dis­cov­er­ies of 2003.

The fifth HWCH, tak­ing place next week­end in Dublin, now re­ceives fund­ing from Bud­weiser, the Arts Coun­cil and Cul­ture Ire­land. More than 100 bands are sched­uled to play, and the fes­ti­val is on a much more pro­fes­sional foot­ing than that first spir­ited out­ing. Noth­ing wrong with any of this, be­cause fes­ti­vals and projects have to change, progress and form new al­liances if they are to sur­vive and thrive.

What’s also changed is the fes­ti­val’s con­text. Ac­cord­ing to the mis­sion state­ment on the HWCH web­site, this bash is now about “show­cas­ing the best of Ir­ish mu­sic to an in­ter­na­tional in­dus­try au­di­ence and dis­cern­ing lo­cal au­di­ences”.

In 2003, there was lit­tle men­tion of an in­dus­try di­men­sion, so it seems that the fes­ti­val now has a dif­fer­ent agenda.

Th­ese days, the or­gan­is­ers like to po­si­tion their fes­ti­val along­side such global new-band bashes as South By South­west and Eurosonic. In­deed, the term “the Ir­ish SXSW” has been aired a few times in in­ter­views and fea­tures.

How­ever, any­one who has ac­tu­ally made the trip to Austin, Texas will know this com­par­i­son to be fan­ci­ful at best and non­sense at worst. At this stage, I’ve lost count of the num­ber of mini-me SXSW fests around the world.

Even when SXSW was start­ing out in 1987 with 142 acts, its or­gan­is­ers were al­ready think­ing far be­yond a lo­cal re­mit. They knew the event they had in mind couldn’t sur­vive on lo­cal bands alone. HWCH’s fo­cus – apart from the ad­di­tion of a cou­ple of bands from Scan­di­navia (and Canada in a pre­vi­ous year) – re­mains on the much smaller and lower-yield­ing Ir­ish mar­ket.

Yes, I hear you – we pro­duce big hit­ters here. We can all point to the same suc­cess sto­ries that are al­ways pointed to on oc­ca­sions like this, but it’s ques­tion­able if many in the “in­ter­na­tional in­dus­try au­di­ence” re­ally need to hang around for an an­nual three-day primer in new Ir­ish bands to make their minds up about the health of our tal­ent bank.

Given how the mu­sic in­dus­try has al­ways op­er­ated when it comes to R&D, with teams of lo­cal tal­ent scouts and tip­sters keep­ing tabs on lo­cal scenes, any band with a modicum of tal­ent or po­ten­tial will al­ready have been sized-up and rated long be­fore they think about ap­ply­ing for a HWCH slot.

There’s also the ques­tion over just what sec­tor of the in­dus­try a fes­ti­val such as HWCH should be tar­get­ing. With the record in­dus­try chang­ing on a weekly ba­sis, any new bands and their han­dlers look­ing for ma­jor-la­bel in­ter­est from a show­case ap­pear­ance at HWCH are ob­vi­ously ei­ther a lit­tle brave or ex­tremely stupid. Just ask the last batch of Ir­ish acts who jumped through the ma­jor-la­bel hoops for their opin­ion – the ones not al­ready in a home for the be­wil­dered.

Live pro­mot­ers and agents? Most of them favour the an­nual Eurosonic fes­ti­val in the Nether­lands. The bands who get to play there are put through some tough, ex­pe­ri­enced fil­ters be­fore they ever get a sound­check.

While there’s cer­tainly a con­sumer de­mand for a new-band event such as HWCH, it needs ex­tra di­men­sions to pull in the tar­get in­dus­try au­di­ence.

The men­tor­ing ses­sions, for in­stance, seem to be lit­tle more than bolt-ons at present, but adding such el­e­ments as de­bates, panel dis­cus­sions, key­note speeches, net­work­ing and trade op­por­tu­ni­ties to the event could pay div­i­dends.

It’s all of th­ese, plus the new mu­sic show­cases, which would re­ally make an event more ap­peal­ing to an in­ter­na­tional in­dus­try au­di­ence. It will take time, ef­fort and pa­tience, but th­ese steps must be taken if Hard Work­ing Class He­roes in­tends to be around – and rel­e­vant – in five years. www.hwch.net Hard Work­ing Class He­roes takes place from Fri­day, Septem­ber 28th to Sun­day 30th in The Pod Com­plex, Harcourt Street, Dublin 2

From top: Su­per Ex­tra Bonus Party, One Day, Oh No Ono, Leanbh

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