Namely, to showcase hard-working, under-exposed and sometimes soon-to-be-massive bands slogging their guts out in the back bars and function rooms of Dublin City. Celebrating its eleventh year in 2013, HWCH has featured a few acts who went on to, if not mega-stardom, some pretty awesome feats of coolness.
We’ve rounded up the big hitters
2003: Nina Hynes
Dublin-born but Berlin-based, Nina Hynes is the very real and credible definition of that over-used idea, the ‘underground success’, touring the hardest routes around the US and Eastern Europe off her own bat, building a loyal cult of followers the honest way. Not likely to show up as a judge on The Voice then, but very likely to become a legend in her own right.
2004: The Chalets
This now sadly defunct five-piece specialized in hooky electro-rock that later proved a perfect fit for the screen: the Dublin outfit’s songs featured in Grey’s Anatomy and (bizarrely) in the trailer for animated movie Madagascar. A Chalets reunion, when it comes, will be greeted like a second coming – but HWCH ’04 is where it started.
These days, no self-respecting Irish festival is complete without a raucous turn by Richie Egan’s band – but this show, on the heels of his 2004 album The Monkeys In The Zoo Have More Fun Than Me, was something of an arrival for the Dubliners as they cranked out an historic version of the now-essential Floating. Want street cred? Pretend you were there.
Not even the most cynical observer of Irish music can deny Delorentos props for their tenacity, and that’s without mentioning their skill with turning out radio-friendly rock. Their 2006 HWCH show was something of a test-launch for material their debut album In Love With Detail, which followed to much fanfare six months later. Since then they’ve played support to the likes of Arctic Monkeys, become a staple of Irish rock radio and established a neat foothold in the UK. Talk about hard working.
2007: Fight Like Apes
There’s a simple formula for a legendary gig: all you need is the right band, in the right place, at the perfect moment. FLA, then a fledgling but absurdly inventive demo band, already had the taste makers’ ears when they wowed the crowd at 2007’s showcase. Since then they’ve become Glastonbury regulars, grown a dedicated following in Japan and toured with the likes of The Prodigy and Kasabian – and they’ve never compromised on being as mad as a bag of rubber duckies.
2008: So Cow
You’d be forgiven if you hadn’t yet heard of So Cow, but they don’t mind: this threesome have cast their net incredibly wide since their 2008 HWCH set. Making tours of the US and UK their priority over the old domestic venues so many Irish bands live in, this new wave / prog / whatever-it-is band have won the favour of mavens like Deerhoof and The Wedding Present, as well as those hard-to-please chin-strokers over at Pitchfork. Intrigued? Now’s the time to get listening: their second LP The Long Con drops in October.
2009: Adebisi Shank
This set by the always-startling Wexford band came between their two critically beloved albums (both of which boast titles so long we won’t risk repeating them here for fear of premature ageing) but not before they’d toured Japan and secured worldwide distribution with some of the most respected indie labels in the biz.
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It turns out math-rock from Kilcoole, Wicklow is exactly the kind of thing Japanese people love. Enemies have had a long and enviable association with the country since their 2008 Alpha Waves EP was picked up by Japanese label Macchu Picchu Industrias. They’re touring there right now, for the second time, in support of their second album Embark, Embrace. Check it out – they’re onto something, the Japanese.
From his astounding debut on The All Ireland Talent Show (who’da thunk?), Daithi O’Dronai’s brave meld of trad violin skills and moody electronica has set him on a steep trajectory to international recognition, with props from The XX, DJ Shadow and Santigold. This is usually the point where you’d mention how young he is for such a formidable talent, but forget that: he’s too good for stereotypes.
2012: Young Wonder
The story of Cork duo Rachel Koeman and Ian Ring’s rise seems to be just beginning: they’re already favourites of The Guardian and BBC Radio 1, as renowned for their own powerful electro as for their deft remixes of artists like The Kanyu Tree. One to watch? Well, more like two to watch.
2014: Who knows?
With the dust still settling on 2013's HWCH, the stars from this year have yet to emerge. There are 100 bands vying for attention across dozens of Dublin’s best venues. The talent I seemingly endless, which is a good thing, because it means us music fans can skip happily between venues at HWCH for years to come.