Fontaines D.C. frontman Grian Chatten doesn’t know what to do with his hands. He walks out on stage grasping the air, sparring with it, pacing back and forth. It reminds you of a scene in a film where someone’s first slammed in a prison cell, full of nervous energy and fear. Eventually, he stuffs his hands in his pockets in the hope they might start behaving themselves.
And you can’t blame him for being nervous. This gig, at The Garage, feels like a moment: packed out, sweaty, dotted with familiar faces and industry cheeses and – if we’re honest – a huge contingent of 6 Music Dads, the sheer heat and proximity of bodies creating a tinderbox atmosphere that feels like it might ignite at any moment.
The Dublin band put their debut album, ‘Dogrel’, out last Friday, and it’s in the Top Five in the midweek charts. It’s no small achievement for a group that, just a few months ago, were rumbling around the bingo machine of ‘ones to watch’ tips for the year, and just weeks ago were being ‘discovered’ at SXSW. They’ve gone from could-be to already-nailing-it in the blink of an eye.
And watching them, it’s easy to see why. With ‘Hurricane Laughter’ and ‘Sha Sha Sha’ they begin in Joy Division mode, all pulsing basslines and monotone singing, minimalism and propulsion the pervading mood. As the set progresses, in come the hints of melody, the drip feed of textures building and pop songs creeping out of the gloom. And it builds and builds to a sucker punch of huge tunes, songs that are unreasonably anthemic for a band so new to have up their sleeves: ‘Too Real’ and ‘Boys In The Better Land’, two songs that bottle fury and frustration in joyful, shout-along packages.
After that, ‘Dublin City Sky’ – essentially an Irish saloon song – takes the pace right down before a fast and furious ‘Big’ delivers the vinegar stroke. It feels, if it’s not a reductive comparison, like seeing The Stone Roses in their early days, their gigs foreplay leading to a crescendo of ‘I Am The Resurrection’. Fontaines D.C. are a new band whose set packs more punch than artists who’ve been schlepping away for years. And their nerves – evidenced by Grian and that hand that he just doesn’t know what do with – show that none of this is delivering on a sense of entitlement.
After the show, I overheard the burly bloke in front of me telling his equally burly mate that he had his teenage daughter to thank for seeing “the gig of the year”, because she couldn’t be arsed to take to the ticket. To that girl, to all of you, steal this band back from your da’ – immediately.