Punk music in the UK and Ireland has seen somewhat of a resurgence over the past year. With the likes of IDLES, Heavy Lungs, The Murder Capital and YOWL all garnering attention and buzz amongst the British music press, it’s clear to see there is a blossoming scene for these artists, growing by the day. Though in my eyes one band stands out head and shoulders above the rest… five-piece Fontaines D.C. from Dublin, Ireland, write thrilling and frantic post-punk tracks wrapped up in frontman, Grian Chatten’s poetic notions of his hometown’s character and charm. They’re a band that above all else, shine through with real authenticity and pride over where they come from, offering up endearing depictions of their beloved city and its stories.
In the run-up to the final decisions over Britain’s Brexit future, many feel disillusioned and isolated at the thought of independence away from the EU and British Unionism. More than ever I have felt proud to be Welsh, not British and these thoughts ring true amongst Fontaines’ rhetoric and lyrics. Lines such as “He spits out, Brits out, only smokes Carroll’s” gave me a sense of ‘Celtic unionism’ if you will, and a growing realisation of England’s historic oppression of the UK’s Celtic nations.
Try as I might, It’s hard not to fly off the handle down a political tangent, as ultimately Fontaines D.C. do have that inherent sense of unease in their music, a feeling that soon, something has to change. Their songs act as a reflection of the unrest and intolerance in Britain and Ireland in 2018, hearing single ‘Liberty Belle’ early this year, I was left obsessed and itching to find out more about the band. Luckily enough I was able to see them twice in a matter of weeks, first in Bristol supporting South-Londoners’ Shame, and then again headlining local Cardiff favourite, The Moon Club.
The Moon Club is amongst my favourite venues in the city; low ceiling, tiny stage, cheap beer… a sure fire recipe for a gig to remember, and it was no surprise that the evening was completely sold out. Joining Fontaines D.C. on the bill were Portsmouth up-and-comers, Hotel Lux. After taking to the stage and bursting into their first track, ‘The Last Hangman’, I was immediately sold. The room was filled with harrowing post-punk, evoking Wire’s ‘Pink Flag’ and The Fall’s early (and best) records. The band’s set only grew more intense with disturbed single ‘Daddy’ and my personal favourite of the night ‘Envoi’; a sleazy and drunken groove with lyrics such as “He’d rather be dead than homeless and lonely, he’d rather be nothing than damned and alone” highlighting the harsh realities of isolation that people can face.
It was clear to see that anyone like myself, who were yet to really give Hotel Lux a listen, were surely won over. The sooner this band drop an LP, the better.
As the night went on I was starting to get the feeling that Fontaines’ set was going to be something special, The Moon was as busy as I’d ever seen it, the atmosphere in the air was intense and drinks were well and truly flowing. Grian and Co. took to the stage and charged into a blistering forty five minute that was undoubtedly one of the best performances I’d ever witnessed.
I often consider myself to be a cynic towards many artists, not that they’re necessarily a bad band, or unenjoyable in any way, but more so that they lack anything which sets them apart from the rest. Perhaps this is an unfair attitude, but when a group comes along that really has that ‘edge’, that really gives you the sense of witnessing something important, it’s a rare occurrence. In the decade or so I’ve been attending shows, this was one of those rare nights.
Frontman Grian Chatten paced the stage back and forth, like a caged animal reaching his tipping point, occasionally stopping to lurch forward into the crowd, one hand clutching his mic, the other punching the ceiling, all the while crying out cryptic tales penned over his band mates’ wall of sound. Sing-along singles ‘Boys in the Better Land’ and ‘Liberty Belle’ contrast massively with tireless and anxious numbers such as ‘Hurricane Laughter’ yet all of the above are unmistakably the signature sound of this unique band.
The guitars were absolutely pummelling, obscenely loud, walking the line between noise rock and huge, anthemic chords, it seems to be a strange marriage yet works perfectly. Much like seeing Fontaines’ in Bristol, the height of the gig was undoubtedly their latest single, ‘Too Real’. The intensity and power behind Grian’s scream in the tracks introduction raised the bar for the rest of the performance.
It’s not often that I’ve been able to catch a band live, whilst they’re still hungry, overtly emotional and powerful in their performance, just before they catch their well-deserved break and find success. To sum it up, Fontaines D.C. are incredible. They’re the first band to emerge in a long time that I feel I relate to on some level, a band that have the traditional fundamentals of punk but are still managing to innovate and push the sound further.
It’s no surprise their April tour next year has completely sold out, whichever lucky readers managed to nab a ticket are in for a wild night, ones to watch would be the understatement of the year…
-Words by Gavin Owen