Focus on Galway: Us vs Them & the city’s hardcore scene

For part three of my Focus on Galway series (which is an extension of my recent article on Galway for The Ticket in The Irish Times), I have a longer interview with Daniel Hielscher, the man behind Us vs Them. He has brought countless hardcore bands to the city as well as playing in Only Fumes and Corpses and Neifenbach.

It was great to find out more about the hardcore scene, which is very much focused on DIY – so much so that one of the city’s bands have bought a vinyl pressing machine so they can press their own records.

It was really interesting to hear about the changes that have been taking place in the hardcore scene in Galway. (And by extension punk and metal; though the scenes are not the same, they share common members and elements – for the sake of not confusing readers, I’ll use ‘hardcore’ in this piece).

With many of the original members of the hardcore scene from the past two decades now in their thirties and forties, people are moving on in life, and for a lot of people this includes moving away from being a regular part of that scene. With families, jobs and other commitments, it’s not always possible for people to play in bands or get to as many gigs.

But Daniel told me that as some people are moving away from the scene, a younger group is moving into it, including teens who are themselves forming bands and getting gigging. Every ‘scene’ will naturally evolve and this is a particularly crucial time for the hardcore folks in Galway, as the younger members will feed off the guidance and example shown by the older men and women who’ve done it all before them.

Galway needs people like Daniel and Us vs Them, along with the many hardcore bands of all descriptions that play in the city, and the other promoters and gig-goers who help keep the hardcore flames burning.

*****

Us Vs Them

If Galway’s sensitive side is shown through its nu-folk scene, this is balanced by its more full-on hardcore side, which shares a similarly determined DIY focus.

Us vs Them promotions, run by Daniel Hielscher, is the key to maintaining a strong hardcore presence in the city. Hielscher, a member of Only Fumes and Corpses and Neifenbach, moved from Loughrea to Galway in 1999, and has been putting on gigs almost since then.

He started with the New Noise collective, back in the days when international bands were booked for shows by letter and demo tapes from potential bookings took weeks to cross the world. After New Noise broke up, Hielscher went out on his own, before setting up Us vs Them around five years ago.

Us vs Them is all about bringing good music to the city’s venues – not necessarily well-known names, but bands who have a quality output.

“We’re still the only people giving bands gigs from all over the world who are not known at all,” he explains. “If the music is decent we’ll give them a go. We always had a thing that we would just put on bands that are on a similar wavelength but the people we were organising gigs for knew they were getting a certain quality band.”

A lot of the hardcore punk bands he puts on have a heavy, politicised feel, with some more used to playing in German squats than upstairs in traditional Irish bars. In Galway, people tend to wear their political beliefs on their sleeve – it’s not unusual to wander down Shop St and spot posters advocating veganism or asking people to join pro-Palestine groups – so people are very open to whomever Us vs Them bring.

There’s almost a familial feel to the hardcore scene. “It’s quite a small and tight scene alright, it would have been for a long time,” says Hielscher. “Everyone could be playing in two or three bands, then swap over bands, break up and start again.”

One of the big changes that has taken place is the level of acceptance that venues have towards Hielscher and his peers. Whereas once some venues baulked at the thought of inviting hardcore bands to play, Hielscher says the city has become more open. “Instead of using the same one or two venues we’ve been accepted into the other venues. I can book any of the bigger venues in town now,” he says. “They’re not the punk venues that only punks can go to.”

As for the music, he says the larger acts have spurred Galway bands to improve their output. “ People are really pushing themselves a lot more now that bands can tour all across the world. It’s not good enough to be a band from Galway or Ireland – you really have to push yourself.”

Here are some more Galway bands Dan recommends people check out:

Rites (featuring Nicola from Neifenbach)
Stick Around
Trenches
Gummidge
Bacchus

Some other long running bands from Galway

Them Martyrs
Class Destruction
Christians vs Lions

Newer hardcore bands

Swine
Vagrants
Violins Is Not The Answer

Venues

Sally Longs

Richardson’s

Kelly’s

Aras na Gael

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