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Live Review: FONTAINES D.C. @ Leeds Brudenell Social Club, 12/04/19

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The Irish music scene seems to be having a bit of a musical renaissance at the moment. Dublin exists as the beating heart of this revival, with artists such as post-punk band The Murder Capital and hip-hop renegade Kojaque reimagining what Irish culture means in 2019.

Image courtesy of Sonic PR

FONTAINES D.C. are the poster-boys of the movement, and on Friday they unleashed Dogrel to the world; an album already a strong contender on end-of-year round ups. The band's live performance is no exception to studio greatness. Friday night's sold-out gig at Leeds Brudenell Social Club had the atmosphere of one of those "I was there" gigs.

Support came from fellow Irish band, Just Mustard, who released their debut album Wednesday last year. Lead singer Katie Ball has a stage presence akin to Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star; she looks like she’d rather be absolutely anywhere else, but in the most effortlessly cool manner. The playing is frenetic yet tight, working well with Ball’s smoky vocals. Just Mustard have a sound laden with textures drawing most heavily from the shoegaze genre, laden with heavy distortion and feedback.

Making the decision to head outside between performances is a foolish one. By the time I’d returned I can barely even make it into the venue. As I scamper at least halfway in, I realise the demographic of the crowd would be interesting to socially dissect. Tonight, the Brudenell houses everyone from the Radio 6 listening Dads, to the angry, disillusioned teenager in the IDLES t-shirt, all united by one band. As anticipation begins to build there’s the discussion of their album release gig earlier in the day, which clearly wasn’t one to miss.

Striding on stage, the band take a no-nonsense approach - they grab their respective instruments and crack straight on with it. Opening with 'Hurricane Laughter', the distorted guitars ring like sirens around the venue, as frontman Grian Chatten sullenly repeats, "There’s no connection available". Fittingly, the band chose a minimalist approach with the audience, abandoning lighthearted chat and stopping only once in the set to announce their final song. But where many bands are lazy with lyrical sincerity, FONTAINES D.C. dissects the social environment with the lyrical scepticism of the beat poets. For such a youthful band they have bravado and wisdom beyond their years, exploring social issues such as gentrification, through a keenly literary lens.

Chatten is a captivating frontman; he moves like Ian Curtis reincarnated and delivers with the deadpan drawl of Mark E. Smith. From the comments in the audience, many agree as they move into ‘Chequeless Reckless’ - probably their most cynical track. What’s clear is that the band has recruited a legion of fans; every word is recited back from the audience like a rousing mantra. Yet, putting the Dublin band under an umbrella of artists long gone is insulting to the band's very particular testimony.  

Moving into ‘Too Real’, Chatten’s shriek of "Ahhhh’"is a catalyst around the room, as the crowd seem to lose themselves in a state of rapture, only to be brought back around with the swirling, distorted guitars. Despite the onstage performance being pretty minimalist, all the energy seems to vibrate in the audience itself and throughout the night there is an endless sailing of bodies over the crowd.

A highlight of the evening is ‘Boys In The Better Land’ which sees one audience member take a pretty ruthless stage dive. This is a band that people connect with, and it’s refreshing to see guitar music actually having an impact on people, after years of what’s best (and most ruthlessly) described as wasteland indie.

Finishing with 'Big', the one minute and forty-five-second track of pure adrenaline, is a fitting end to the night. “My childhood was small / But I’m gonna be big” sings Chatten, and tonight the Irish five-piece show proved they are on the cusp of filling this. FONTAINES D.C. is a band teetering tentatively on the edge of big success, and these 45 minutes packed the punch capable of pushing them into it.

Dogrel, the debut album from FONTAINES D.C. is out now via Partisan Records.




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