More about: Fontaines D.c.
Amongst the post-punk landfill of 2019 and 2020, Fontaines D.C. easily stood out amongst their peers. Their music rings with poetic language, fierce textures and a deep sense of conviction; since the release of their debut album Dogrel, their fanbase has exploded and they have been a guaranteed fixture on year-end album rankings with every new record they put out.
Skinty Fia, their latest release, is their best yet; a collection of songs steeped in romanticism, literary references and their most dynamic musical experimentation yet, with string sections, accordions and even Madchester beats. Their recent tour feels like a victory lap, celebrating their monumental achievements and unparalleled discography; to put it simply, I could not be more excited for tonight’s show. What could possibly go wrong?
The District line is not on my side tonight, so I unfortunately miss the first ten minutes of openers Wunderhorse. I like what I hear: the band clearly have the 90s running through their veins, echoing Bends era Radiohead in spades. There is a song with a shoegaze breakdown, and another that sounds like if 'Sweet Home Alabama' was written by Nirvana- there’s a lot of promise in Wunderhorse that, if properly nurtured, could manifest itself into something special. There’s only so much you can really see if you’re sat where I am though. Naturally, I am someone who, when going to a gig, wants to be as close to the front as possible; you feel closer to the artist, you can see the emotions across their face, and you feel less of a spectator and more of an active participant in the show.
Tonight, I am up in the gods, not down amongst the fans, but amongst the casual listeners constantly going to the bar if there’s a song they don’t immediately recognise. Particularly for an artist such as Fontaines D.C., that connection is paramount to your enjoyment of the gig, it adds to the intensity of the music. I feel quite distant sat up here, and wonder if my enjoyment will be affected, but as I see the swathes of fans enter the room, to look down upon them is quite monumental; I start to wonder whether tonight’s seating arrangement might give me a fresh perspective on gig-going, can you really enjoy yourself from the seats?
Short answer: yes. Long answer? That familiar sense of fervent anticipation I get whenever the music on the PA gets louder, the lights are about to dim and a band are about to walk on stage reignites itself as a gargantuan neon logo lights up on stage: Fontaines D.C. They mean business tonight. The Irish heroes bound on stage and a violent snare introduces set opener 'A Lucid Dream'; from the word ‘go’, frontman Grian Chatten has the audience in the palm of his hands. He paces manically across the stage, performing each song with the passion and theatrics they need. 'In ár gCroíthe go deo', the poignant and polemic Skinty Fia opener, is performed with orchestral accompaniment, giving a haunting weight to the “gone is the day, gone is the night” refrain. From the distance I was at, I could fully appreciate the seismic light show, which may be one of the best for any band I’ve seen in recent memory. On an aesthetic level, each song was drenched in the perfect colour; a translucent orange for the scrappy 'Sha Sha Sha', a blue for the pensive 'Television Screens', and flaming red for the confrontational 'Skinty Fia'. And the strobes, oh my the strobes. Stunning.
"The crowd aren’t just singing every word back to the band, but the riffs and vocal fillers as well.."
On this Thursday night in Hammersmith, the people of London are up for a party. 'Chequeless Reckless' gets the pits forming, and they even continue into the Cure-esque melancholia of 'I Don’t Belong'. Beers are flung across the room, and the crowd reciprocate Chatten’s yell of “I did you a favour!” during 'Nabokov', and even after 'Too Real', the frontman, who famously says nothing in between songs, has to check in with them to see if everybody’s OK. The crowd aren’t just singing every word back to the band, but the riffs and vocal fillers as well. The “ba ba ba”s during 'A Hero’s Death' travel by osmosis from the pits up to the balcony, and it feels euphoric. The new songs have established themselves in a short time as having established themselves amongst the classics, none more worthy of this claim than 'Jackie Down The Line'; a song that reads like an anti-'Never Gonna Give You Up', this self-loathing ballad has everybody jumping and singing along, and the singalongs continue long after the show stops.
The flashing blue and red strobes of 'Televised Mind' bring the main set to a climactic finish, before they are inevitably brought back on stage by the loving masses. By now, everybody in the circles has abandoned their seats to give the band the standing ovation they deserve, and we all stay stood for the one-two hit of 'Big' and 'Boys in the Better Land'. We are all dancing and singing to all the words, albeit in a less impassioned manner than those in the pits, but still with all the love in our hearts. They close on 'I Love You', the thematic centrepiece of Skinty Fia and arguably their best song to date; Chatten’s lush delivery in the verses gives way to a ferocious battle-cry in the breakdown, and the screams of “and the bastard walks by” whilst confetti rains down upon the band is a beautiful sight.
Tonight’s performance has proved that Fontaines D.C. have a show that is capable of filling the largest of rooms; if they aren’t being courted to headline any festivals next year, the bookers are clearly doing something wrong. As well as this, tonight proved that yes, sometimes you can have fun in the seats, sometimes you don’t need to be drenched in sweat and beer in a moshpit to get the most out of a gig. Although, sometimes it does help. As I leave the venue, and the crowd are still chanting “I don’t think we’d rhyme, I will wear you down in time”, tonight proved a fresh alternative perspective to my years of gig-going, and was most welcome.
See the view from the pit, captured by Tom Pallant:
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More about: Fontaines D.c.