Fresh off the release of their critically acclaimed debut album, support slots with the likes of Pixies, festival slots alongside Muse and Biffy Clyro, and a UK tour of their own; Dublin trio Fangclub are back on home soil. Tonight they bring their catchy blend of 21st century grunge rock to Cork’s Cyprus Avenue.
Wasting no time, opening track Better to Forget energizes an eager crowd with its blistering drums and polished vocal melodies. The stylishly crafted Dreamcatcher ushers lead vocalist/guitarist Steven offstage and into a crowd of spirited fans, mere minutes into the set. Before long there are even calls to play the track again, Steven poking fun at the idea of them having a hit song.
Underrated though bassists can be, the strength of Kevin Keane’s influence is undeniable throughout, an obvious backbone to tracks like old demo Psycho. Follow – currently the most streamed track of Fangclub’s discography, nearing half a million plays on Spotify – highlights perhaps their most valuable skill, one that no doubt appeals to their ever-growing fanbase. It is the ability to infuse their omnipresent grunge sound with a keen pop sensibility. Comparisons to Nirvana abound, but Fangclub aren’t afraid of hook-filled melodies and catchy singalong choruses. And singalong people do, the crowd in Cork singing back every lyric of Follow, excitedly jumping in near unison. Their enthusiasm doesn’t go unnoticed “it’s good to be back in Cork” smiles Steven.
Lead single Bad Words further proves the point, its undeniably ‘90s grunge sound complimented by catchy guitar riffs and vocal harmonies provided by drummer Dara, simultaneously offering up the tracks signature crashing cymbals. Combined it provides something for fans of all kinds; those in front of the stage open up a mosh pit and those in the back sing along in earnest.
Tracks like Coma Happy and Loner offer a well-timed change of pace. Coma Happy – lifted from the eponymous 2016 EP – is dark, brooding, dynamic, and showcases the variety of Steven’s vocal. A quiet build culminating in a propulsive guitar driven outro; this may be the highlight of the set. Steven thanks the crowd for giving 100%, encouraging them to push it even further, before launching into Fangclub staple Loner, a Weezer-inspired reluctant love song “you need to singalong because I don’t know the fucking lyrics!” he quips. The crowd are only too happy to comply.
Album openers Role Models and Bullet Head pick up the tempo, and when played in succession serve to further invigorate the crowd. “Does everybody know somebody they wanna say fuck you to? This is for them” Steven declares of the catchy and instrumentally polished Role Models, on the off-chance someone needed more motivation to get involved and sing along. Primal and raw, Bullet Head – what is essentially the first ever Fangclub track – seems like the perfect song to close on.
Or so we thought. The band seamlessly launch into an unfamiliar track we soon recognize to be Elvis’ iconic Suspicious Minds. Re-interpreted as a heavy rock ballad (that somehow, really works) the crowd erupts into its most riotous moshing of the night. Surreal and cathartic, afterwards I overhear one fan exclaims it’s the most he’s sweat in years. Earlier in the day drummer Dara explained that with gigs like this he “likes the idea of recreating whatever was there when grunge was at its height, where it was just smelly dirty rock shows and everyone is banging into each other and having a good time … those friendly mosh pits”. Suffice to say, with this show tonight Fangclub have certainly fulfilled that criteria.