Fontaines D.C. are the hype band of 2019: a run of eclectic, well received singles and fearsome live performances on the likes of KEXP and 6 Music have seen them win a level of press attention equalled by touring buddies IDLES and Shame in recent years.
Rocking up to Gorilla on Saturday just a day after their debut album Dogrel was released to five-star reviews from The Guardian and NME, the excitement of the sold-out crowd became tinged with nerves as show-time neared. Could they really live up to expectations?
Warming things up for the Dubliners were their Irish cohorts, Just Mustard. One of the leading figures in the Irish DIY scene, they brought their moody, shoegaze-indebted sound to an appreciative Mancunian audience. Frontwoman Katie Ball’s siren-esque vocals and understated cool will no doubt draw comparisons to Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell, and fans of their early work will have found much to enjoy from the Dundalk band. Drawing tracks from last year’s debut Wednesday, the highlight was the haunting ‘Frank’, recently confirmed as their latest single.
Fontaines took to the stage, pounding the mesmerising post-punk whirl of ‘Hurricane Laughter’ — a track that pulls together many of the band’s influences: the gothic, stabbing guitar of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the nightmarish soundscapes of fellow Dubliners Girl Band. However, as frontman Grian Chatten sung-spoke the song’s repetitive lyrics, it felt he was summoning the spirit of Mancunian frontmen Ian Curtis and, in particular, Mark E Smith. Chatten is truly a frontman of their league: their next song, ‘Sha Sha Sha’ is their weakest yet, a cumbersome garage riff and not much else. In concert though, Chatten sold it to the crowd, pumping his fist along to the chorus and ensuring an enthusiastic singalong from the crowd.
The crowd was in a frenzy now. Fans started to crowd surf and mosh as the band tore through the furious ‘Chequeless Reckless’ and ‘Television Screens’, but the crowd was suitably hushed for the heart-breaking ‘Roy’s Tune’. As Chatten sang the song’s chorus, “Hey love, are you hanging on?”, the crowd asked him back, and they meant it.
As they tore into ‘Liberty Belle’, which inspired a sing-along despite only being a day old, it became apparent what makes Fontaines stand out from their post-punk peers: they don’t just write strong, punky jams. They write fully-fledged anthems, with an eye for minute detail and a street-smart spirit. Another anthem, ‘Boys In The Better Land’, recalled early Oasis, not just with its roaring guitars, but in the groups of young men whom it inspired to spray the floor in Red Stripe.
Things fell quiet again for ‘Dublin City Sky’. The traditional-style Irish Ballad wears its influences on its sleeve (it is, effectively, a mash-up of The Pogues’, ‘Sally McLennane’, and ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’), and before leaving the stage to a bruising no-nonsense, no-encore finish, the band treated a gleeful audience to one final shout-along in the form of album opener ‘Big’.
“My childhood was small, but I’m gonna be big!” roared Chatten
Too right they are.