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Fontaines DC @ Magic Stick (Concert Review by Lara T)

The ongoing floor saga at St. Andrews Hall was perhaps a blessing for Irish post-punk connoisseurs Fontaines D.C. and their almost-shoegaze-industrial-rock support act, Dundalk’s Just Mustard. The Fillimore’s attic younger sister, the Magic Stick provided the perfect amount of intimacy for a show reminiscent of the Dogrel days, a tour I was lucky enough to witness back across the pond. This time touring new release Skinty Fia, their first UK number one album, the Dublin natives did not disappoint.

 

Far from the punchy vocals and pointed guitars of the main act, the openers Just Mustard ooze noise. Bone-shaking-bass, cranked-to-the-max reverb and fuzz pedals and a wash of crash cymbal cocoons the audience in noise. Katie Bell’s soft vocals drift amongst the mix like tendrils of intoxicating smoke. Under the blue lights (themed for upcoming album ‘Heart Under’), she shakes a tambourine with regimented intent and a detached gaze. Opening with 2019 single ‘Seven,’ then Heart Under’s lead single ‘I Am You’, the crowd is captivated from the moment the first metallic chord resonates in the pits of their stomachs. 

 

Bell says very little, but the silence between songs - punctuated with a few whispers of ‘wow’ and ‘these guys are insane’ - says more than enough. The highlight is pulsating, existential and dreamily relatable ‘Frank’, the opening line ‘I watch TV to fall asleep’ extracting wry smiles from the audience and a loud cheer at the end. Multiple people ask me where I got my shirt (from their 2020 UK tour) as David Noonan and Mete Kalyon’s scorching distortion echoes off the walls. Success. 

 

Though tough to follow, Fontaines D.C. never disappoint.  Frontman Grian Chatten arrives on stage with signature slightly skittish yet ever-confident energy; pacing in circles, slamming the mic stand and frantically waving his middle finger in an attempt to stir up the crowd. They treat us to the live debut of Skinty Fia’s opener  in ár gcroíthe go deo, Gaellic for ‘in our hearts forever’. There is movement in the crowd, but it takes until their Mercury Prize winning debut album Dogrel’s clamorous Hurricane Laughter for Chatten’s incitement to come to fruition (I opened the pit). It doesn’t stop, and by the time I get up to crowd-surf in Chequeless Reckless (a tradition I started when I first saw them in 2019) the crowd was characteristically electric. 

 

As always seems to be the case at their shows, an Irish tricolour is thrust on stage, which they drape proudly over the drums as dreary masterpiece “You Said” provides a brief respite from the chaos of the mosh. Somehow, they say even less than Just Mustard - surprising for someone as dextrously poetic as Chatten, whose understatedly perceptive lyrics perfectly capture the glumness of the day-to-day on a rainy Dublin afternoon with the air of old masters like Heaney and Joyce. The set takes a Ullysean journey through their discography, wandering the track-lists of their three albums. 

 

The encore - title track Skinty Fia, boisterous Boys in the Better Land and hit Jackie Down the Line - blows my mind (and lungs). Grown men fight Ciaran for the setlist and half a drumstick after the band swaggers off stage, drummer Tom Coll finally allowing himself to crack a smile. Everyone is sweaty, panting, covered in a windmilled pint and grinning with exhilaration. I certainly feel the bruises.

 

This is how we do it on the other side of the Atlantic. Detroit, welcome to post-punk. Here’s to hoping they’re back soon - until then we’ll wait faithfully like Molly Bloom.

 

Skinty Fia is out now on Partisan Records

Heart Under will be released on May 22nd on Partisan Records (https://justmustard.bandcamp.com/album/heart-under)

Review and Photo by Lara T.

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