Fontaines D.C. at EartH

The Fontaines first album. ‘Dogrel’ was our 2019 album of the year. They had burst on to the scene earlier in the year after supporting Idles, a strong SXSW and support from Steve Lamacq. By the end of 2019 they were already playing big venues and the future was bright. Then 2020 happened. Their second album, ‘A Hero’s Death’ came and went. While reviewed strongly, I didn’t feel it had the impact of the first album, largely due to the fact that they didn’t have much chance to play the songs live, unable to tour until the second half of 2021.

Tonight’s gig at EartH was to support the release of their new album, ‘Skiny Fia’ at the end of April. But in part, it was also the album release show for their last album and tonight’s set list had strong representation from their first two albums. 

What I loved about Fontaines DC was the nervous energy to their singer, Grian combined with moments of pure poeticism. That was still on show tonight. With Grian constantly pacing around the stage regularly waving his hand at the crowd to get a reaction, and a reaction he got, with a constant stream of crowd surfers and this was in some ways a sign of what I was fearing might happen as they grew.

Hear me out.

It is great the bands get a reaction from the crowd. But there is a certain audience that comes with all-male rock groups whether they want them or not. The queue outside pre-gig was heavily weighted towards a younger female audience. But by the time the gig started, the audience was younger male audience. There is always a fine line between exuberance and aggressiveness in these younger audiences that I don’t believe was there when I was their age. Moshes become combat zones and female audience members stop feeling comfortable in the mosh. I have seen this with Idles as they have got bigger. A small but significant number of the male audience members have too much testosterone. Based on the evidence of tonight. I think the Fontaines are close to crossing the line with football chants breaking out at times and the central area becoming predominantly male only.

While having a reaction must be brilliant for bands, especially bands like Fontaines who are injecting large amounts of energy into their set. They will have to think carefully about the type of band they want to be and the audience they want, otherwise they risk becoming just another guitar band. There were signs. Hope they pull back from it.

Despite this being this being an album release show. Tonight wasn’t a ’20 minutes and we are out of here’ event. Rough Trade upgraded this to EartH in Hackney and Fontaines reacted by treating this as a full show, with a 17 song set list. Pretty good value for money. For many of their audience this will have been an intimate show, but it shows how far they have come since they played Record Store Day outside Rough Trade West.

Musically, they were great. Starting the set with ‘A Hero’s Death’. The songs from the second album worked really well live and it was good to see them get an airing, mixing well with the higher energy songs from the first album. But the set list also featured several new songs, some of which have already had airings. But there was a new one, Nabokov, played as part of the encore, which featured a dark, heavy grungy baseline that was new to me. I really liked it and bodes well for the direction of the new album. The audience in the packed EartH seemed to agree. It looks like the blip of 2020 hasn’t altered their momentum and they could be on for their first Number 1, and if that happens, it is well deserved. They’ve worked for it. 

Set List

  • A Hero’s Death
  • Sha Sha Sha
  • Jackie Down the Line
  • I Don’t Belong
  • You Said
  • Television Screens
  • Chequeless Reckless
  • Televised Mind
  • I Love You
  • Too Real
  • Roy’s Tune
  • Skinty Fia
  • Big
  • Boys in the Better Land
  • A Lucid Dream
  • Hurricane Laughter
  • Nabokov