11th April | Thekla
Photos: Jessica Bartolini
Dogrel, the debut album by Dublin five-piece Fontaines D.C., has been one of the most anticipated albums of 2019. The band, who met at university over a shared love of poetry, have garnered a reputation as one of the most exciting acts around, with a creative rock sound overlaid with clever, descriptive lyrics.
Tonight, on the eve of Dogrel’s release, Thekla gets a sneak peak of what the album is going to be. Maybe it is because of that pending release, or perhaps it is the tight surroundings and fired-up crowd, but we definitely see an intense version of Fontaines D.C. at this show. Right from the first bars of opener ‘Chequeless Reckless’, they have a focus about them, like they are really connected with this moment.
Fans sing along merrily to recent single ‘Big’, with its classic “my childhood was small, but I’m gonna be big” refrain. ‘The Lotts’ is tender but loud in delivery. Conversation between songs is minimal, with the band not wanting to break the spell of what they are weaving.
The audience respond in kind. Everything is rapturously received, even album-closer ‘Dublin City Sky’, which is basically an Irish folk song – probably not the genre of choice for most of tonight’s audience, but Fontaines D.C. just draw you into their world in a way that only the truly great bands can. The moshpit, lively throughout, really takes off for ‘Too Real’ and ‘Boys In The Better Land’. Possibly the highlight of the night, though, is that fantastic layering on ‘Hurricane Laughter’, which just sounds perfect in this setting.
Although generally labelled a post-punk band, the real beauty of Fontaines D.C. is the way in which their music switches between tempos and styles. Each fits the nature of the song in question. ‘Liberty Belle’, for example, a song about crazy nights out in Dublin, is fast and upbeat; others, like ‘The Lotts’, are more measured and thoughtful.
It feels like they don’t really consider genres at all, just letting the music be part of the narrative. Once you are listening, the brilliant storytelling takes you over. It’s easy to point to their Irishness as being what makes them unique, but there is much more to it than that.
One thing that really comes over about this band, above all, is that everything they do feels very natural indeed. They don’t dress or act like rock stars; rather, they come over as a group of guys just telling tales of their world. Tonight, vocalist Grian Chatten paces around the stage when he is not singing, often nervously biting his nails, but then he opens his mouth and he’s totally at ease.
When he punches the air during the chorus of ‘Sha Sha Sha’, it comes from genuine excitement, rather than a clichéd attempt at crowd-rousing. The slide guitar in ‘Too Real’ is played with a beer bottle, because, well, what else would you use? It’s the only proper tool for the job.
Sometimes, excessive hype can lead to disappointment, but that is definitely not the case with Fontaines D.C.. They return to Bristol on 30th November to play SWX. That show has just sold out, so prepare to feel the FOMO. This is a band not to be missed.
See Fontaines D.C. perform ‘Boys In The Better Land’ live on KEXP here: