THE INDEPENDENT VOICE FOR MUSIC IN WALES
5th BIRTHDAY ISSUE SKINDRED
KIDS IN GLASS HOUSES
Born This Way
THE JOY FORMIDABLE
COWBOIS RHOS BOTWNNOG
Country: Welsh Style
NEIL STARR & GAVIN BUTLER Quiet Side Of Rock
PULLED APART BY HORSES Ripped To Shreds
Give Me Infinity
PLUGGED IN @ MERTHYR ROCK 2 Review & Interview Workshop Special
Reaper In Sicily, Don Broco, The Blackout, Ellie Goulding Helen Boulding, Young Guns, Gallows, Canterbury Rhondda Rocks, Ponty’s Big Weekend SWN, Africa Express, Blink 182, The Killers Live Reviews & CD Reviews VISIT US @ WWW.FACEBOOK.Com/PLUGGEDINMagazine
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ELCOME to the 5th Birthday Issue of PLUGGED IN Magazine! To celebrate we have put together a bumper 72page issue and, as usual, packed it full of interviews and reviews of the best in musical talent Wales has to offer. Yes, it’s five years since we first published Issue 1 which featured Darran Smith, the now former guitarist with Funeral For A Friend, as our cover star. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and the magazine has not only grown in size (that first issue was 28 pages) but has grown in readership alongside the number of people who have gained something positive by contributing to the magazine. It’s not been an easy journey, trying to source money to print the magazine has been hard, and working many evenings and weekends with no financial reward can take its toll, but the resulting magazines have been amazing. PLUGGED IN’s Gail & Darren want to thank every contributor, no matter how often they have submitted copy or pictures, for having a go, for saying to themselves ‘I want more from my life’, for having the faith in themselves to write an opinion about a gig or to show their photographs. In these times of austerity it’s your own actions that are really going to make a difference. The only person who is going to change the position you may find yourself in, is you — and PLUGGED IN is here to help you make that difference. By publishing your work we will give you a stepping stone to that ‘something more’.
Gail & Darren
We would like to thank FFRAMWAITH for their generous support of this issue
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PLUGGED IN @ NATIONAL LOTTERY AWARDS
Well after weeks of nervous waiting the National Lottery Awards were broadcast live on the telly in early December. The awards show was a glitzy affair hosted by John Barrowman with a live performance by Leona Lewis, which PLUGGED IN’s Gail and Darren were invited to attend. Sadly, we didn’t get the overall prize for Education, losing out to the RSPB’s Saltholme project, but at the star-studded awards do in London PLUGGED IN was presented with a trophy for the Most Rock & Roll Campaign! At the glamorous after-show party, Gail and Darren mixed with celebs that included James Bond actor and Strictly dancer Colin Salmon, Spice Girl Melanie C, master baker Paul Hollywood, actress Tamsin Outhwaite, and Ricky Norwood and Nina Wadia among a host of other Eastenders actors. Also at the do were dozens of Olympians and Paralympians, and on our table was silver medal canoeist Richard Hounslow and double gold medal winner Hannah Cockroft — who actually keeps her mega-sized medals safe in a pair of Union Flag socks! In between rubbing shoulders with the stars and dancing the night away, the PLUGGED IN posse posed for photos and chatted about our unique educational project. While sharing party canapes with OJ Borg, who presented the Rock & Roll Award to PLUGGED IN, he told us of his time working for Cardiff’s XFM radio and how much he enjoyed being part of the Welsh music scene. The brilliant film of PLUGGED IN that you saw on the Lottery website, and which was shown on the BBC Lottery programme in November, was made at The Factory in Porth just before the kick off of the Rhondda Rock festival — many thanks to John Davies for letting PLUGGED IN take over the venue for a few hours and also to Reaper In Sicily for turning up hours before the gig to be in the film. Also many thanks to members of the PLUGGED IN team who gave up their time to be featured in the film and for all your wonderful comments about the unique and amazing project that is PLUGGED IN. Filming took about eight hours in all, with the finished film lasting just two minutes and featuring Darren’s classic contribution of “Mmm” — hope you got to watch that! So a HUGE Thank You to everyone who voted for PLUGGED IN — we are extremely proud to be voted one of the Top Three Education Projects in the UK. Being chosen from over 500 nominees is a huge achievement and we really appreciate all your support...and are chuffed to bits to have been awarded that trophy for Most Rock & Roll Campaign! Photographs, clockwise from top: National Lottery TV show titles; Gail with our award; John Barrowman hosting the show; Gail & Darren all dressed up; PLUGGED IN star on wall of winners; talking bling with Paralmypian Hannah Cockcroft; swapping recipes with master baker Paul Hollywood; with Bond film star Colin Salmon; Fingers Crossed; Hot ’N’ Spicy pair of girls — Gail with Melanie C; with TV Presenter OJ Borg; making friends with fellow Finalist Drumatik; Leona Lewis; at the studio; blink and you’ll miss us in the background of this close-up TV shot!
A new project by Trac, Wales’ folk development agency, aims to change the way many of us think about traditional Welsh folk music. The idea, 10 In A Bus, involves reaching out to professional and semi-professional artists from varying backgrounds to reinvigorate the genre. As the name suggests, 10 In A Bus will set out to find 10 musicians who can reinterpret traditional Welsh folk music through varying musical styles, like rock, jazz and hip-hop, to make it something contemporary and tangible for a new audience of listeners. Once the 10 musicians have been found, they will look into the music’s roots to enable them to compose new works before recording an album and taking their music on tour around Wales. For further information and to apply to be one of the 10 In A Bus, contact Angharad Jenkins at email@example.com or visit Trac’s website www.trac-cymru.org
This special 5th Birthday Issue is dedicated to the memory of two friends and supporters of PLUGGED IN Magazine who died this year, JAMES MCLAREN & LINDSEY MORRIS. James, who was sadly killed in a car accident in August, was a founder of the magazine Sound Nation before becoming the music blogger for BBC Wales. A lover of Welsh music, he was a great supporter of PLUGGED IN and often praised the magazine for its strong educational stance and ethos while in a commercial setting. Lindsey, who lost her fight against cancer earlier in the year, was area head for the southern region of RCT Library Services. She opened the door to PLUGGED IN and helped us gain a distribution foothold throughout the whole of Wales via her connections in Library Services. She loved life and loved to help and we thank her for the help she gave us. PLUGGED IN will miss you both.
PLUGGED IN magazine is a not-for-profit social enterprise, produced by unpaid volunteers MANAGING EDITOR & PUBLISHER Gail Griffiths IWA Educator of the Year 2011 CREATIVE DIRECTOR & CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER Darren Warner GRAPHIC DESIGN & WEB DESIGN Stephen Lewis SOCIAL MEDIA & JOURNALIST Ritchie Samuel CONTRIBUTORS Adam Perkins, Amy Williams, Andrew Morrow, Becky Marshall, Benjamin Franks, Ben Gullick, Caitlin Locke, Celyn Thomas, Chloe Shaw, Craig McDonald, Craig Thomas, Cristina Shuker, Daniel Holley, Dexter Walkley, Ellie Trotman, Freddy Tamplin, Gary Bolsom, Gemma Davies, Hannah Williams, Hollie Wong, Jade Lewis, Jade Price, Jazmin Williams, Jess Davies, Jessica Risby, Joanne Crawford, Kern Bridges, Kevin McGrath, Kirsty Jones, Les Davies, Lisa Derrick, Mckenzy Renshaw-Vailquette, Mitchell Tennant, Menna Batista, Rebecca Jackson, Rebecca Meredith, Nicol Jones, Rhian James, Rob Jones, Ruth Jenkins, Sadye Baker, Sam Rees, Sj Williams, Steph Watkins, Stephanie McNicholas, Stephen Round, Thomas Dobbin, Tiegan Neary, Victoria Madden 04
Our congratulations go out to design agency Studio Tri, set up by PLUGGED IN’s very own Stephen Lewis and colleagues Matt Jones and Tim Orr. Studio Tri came out on top at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Pride In Wales Awards a few months ago, taking home two gold awards for their campaign “Luv Wales, Luv Peter’s” — a Gold Award for Best Integrated Campaign and the much-coveted overall prize of a Gold Award for Measurement & Evaluation. Matt, Studio Tri’s Media Director, told us, “We were delighted to be short-listed for what is, essentially, our first large project. To go on to scoop two gold awards was a real thrill…the icing on the cake of a hugely successful advertising campaign.” Stephen, Studio Tri’s Design Director, added, “Winning the overall award was a great achievement for us. Creative campaigns are all very well, but if objectives-based measurement is not in place, they become obsolete. Our aim with all clients is to provide successful, measurable campaigns that can be fine tuned at any stage during the campaign, thus providing the absolute biggest bang for the client’s buck.” In addition to this Studio Tri has also recently won one of the most coveted prizes in Wales for Advertising, The Institute Of Welsh Affairs Business Award for Creative Marketing. Well done boys — totally deserved! For further information about Studio Tri, log on to www.studiotri.co.uk
Congratulations also to Future Of The Left, this year’s winners of the Welsh Music Prize for their album The Plot Against Common Sense. FOTL saw off a shortlist of 12 albums that encompassed a wide range of genres from rock and indie, to folk and electro, as well as bilingual releases. Included in the list was established names such as Los Campesinos! and Cate Le Bon, alongside emerging acts like Islet and PLUGGED IN faves Exit International — your time will come boys!. Renowned as one of the UK’s finest live bands, FOTL feel proud that the album had resonated with people, and said the award finally signalled acceptance and recognition. “Live and recording are two separate entities,” said drummer Jack Egglestone. “Whatever people think of our live shows the recordings are completely different. We put a lot of ourselves into this, so it means a lot for it to be recognised.”
Merthyr Rock, the best Rock festival in Wales,has strong links to education in the local area via Head For Arts. So once again the festival organisers contacted PLUGGED IN to help facilitate a number of workshops for young people to gain an experience that most people in the Valleys could only dream of. With the help of the PLUGGED IN team these young people got to experience the whole three-day event while writing a live review in the process and having exclusive chats with both major headliners Skindred and Kids In Glass Houses, as well as talking to a number of other bands including Don Broco, Exit Ten, Pulled Apart By Horses and Canterbury. Although it sounds amazing, the young people did learn that it isn’t an easy job and by PLUGGED IN giving them the experience of working on the front line of journalism they can now decide if this is the way they want to go in the future.
Photographs from Left to Right: Top Row: Rhodri Jones, Festival Manager; interviewing Kids In Glass Houses; two of our Young Reviewers; Gareth ‘Snoz’ Lawrence of The Blackout. Second Row: Team Members with Lower Than Atlantis; two of our Young Reviewers with Sean Smith of The Blackout; Team Members with Deaf Havana; with Canterbury. Third Row: Interviewing Arya & Mikey from Skindred; Team Members with Kids In Glass Houses; with Arya & Mikey from Skindred; after interviewing Don Broco. Bottom Row: Team Members interviewing Pulled Apart By Horses; with Exit Ten; interviewing Gareth ‘Snoz’ Lawrence of The Blackout. Take a look at our Rising Talent section and you’ll see the results of a Studio Session Photo Shoot that five young people from the latest PLUGGED IN Performance Photography Workshop took part in, which once again is suported by the 14-19 Pathways via RCT Cultural Services. At the shoot these youngsters got an extra thrill when Evan Gardner treated us to some new songs he’d been working on in an impromptu performance! An accomplished singer/songwriter, Evan played about five numbers before the next band came knocking on the door for their photo session — and got himself some new fans after strumming the first few notes. There’s a short film of this on our Facebook page if you want to take a look!
After a year-long campaign, Cardiff has been selected as the city to host WOMEX, the leading world music expo, in 2013. Described by UNESCO as the most important international professional market of world music of every kind, WOMEX evening performances will be held at the Wales Millennium Centre, and the daytime showcases, trade fair, conference and film screenings will be held at the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff. The fully programmed, prestigious international showcase event is expected to include around 60 concerts featuring 300 plus artists, a trade fair exhibiting in the region of 650 companies from over 90 countries, as well as more than 400 national and international journalists, and will take place between 23-27 October 2013. Daniela Teuber, WOMEX Director of Production, said, “We’re very happy that Cardiff will be hosting WOMEX in 2013. The city offers a most favourable setting for our complex event and its 2,500 delegates and artists from all over the globe. The production partners in Wales are truly professional and highly motivated. The wonderful venues are in close proximity and match our multifaceted needs. Wales has outstanding cultural wealth, hospitality and scenic beauty.”
Words by Adam Perkins & Ritchie Samuel Studio Photographs by Caitlin Locke, Becky Marshall, Jess Davies & Sam Rees
In recent times, Caerphilly music has been dominated by one person and his various bands — watch out though Mr Starr, Among Others are about to challenge you for that crown. Alternative rock/pop-punk outfit with a punch bowl full of influences from the likes of modern Welsh success stories Kids In Glass Houses, LostProphets to American legends Linkin Park, the band first started taking themselves seriously back in 2010 when given the opportunity to open up at local festival Megaday. More recently they have had their songs spun regularly on influential South Wales radio station Nation Radio, featuring on the A list...and have been personally contacted by Noel Gallagher’s manager to play his after-show party, “Unfortunately there was no sign of Noel during the night, but a lot of lookalikes from the gig around though!” If you’re starting to wonder what the fuss is about, head over to YouTube and check out debut video There’s No Hope which is a glossy affair that amps up their professionalism from their early days. “Many people and bands wish for instant success, money and fame. We’re not in a band for any of those reasons. We’re in a band because we enjoy making music and we want to make music that people can relate to, but not something they have necessarily heard before.” I think this perfectly sums up why you should be casting an eye over these guys.
Dirty Green Stuff
Describing themselves as a straight up rock band but having a razor sharp edge and a vampire like bite to sink into, Bridges are a lot lighter on the ears than the durge of post-hardcore, metal and metalcore bands that form the basis of the Valleys scene. Early 2013 will hopefully see the band release the eagerly anticipated debut ep, and with tracks The Weapon and We’re Not The Enemies in the public domain they point towards the music being melody led, catchy and having punchy chorus hooks mixed together with some delicate and chugging riffs. The dream for the boys is to make a decent living out the band, doing something that they love. Plenty of hard work is put in, but 2013 will see the foundations laid for a band spearheading the Cynon Valley explosion.
This Porthcawl-born singer-songwriter has come onto PLUGGED IN’s radar recently. Following in the footsteps of the modern day acoustic sounds of Newton Faulkner, Paulo Nutini, Ed Sheeran and John Butler, he is a very welcome addition to the pack. Currently plying his trade from his University base of Aberystwyth, he possesses a crisp voice that pings the vital notes, yet keeps that raw emotion which clings to the back of his throat before being projected all out at once to give us a unique and daytime radio friendly voice. His take on Underdog by You Me At Six shows how rich in texture the sound of his voice actually is, and his song-writing craft is a little bit special too. With In The Morning he delivers an almost rap style vocal, hitting those higher notes at the end of the each verse. It’s a upbeat number with a catchy chorus, and more I hope the impending album will deliver. Thomas started off as word of mouth star in the making between us here at PLUGGED IN, and now we are finally letting the cat out of the bag. Miss him at your own peril.
On the sea front of Porthcawl, where the biggest musical attraction is the annual Elvis convention, Ryan Jenkin aka The Dirty Green Stuff is daring to be different. Combining sharp and humorous lyrics that are crafted into upbeat minimal hip-hop comedy, similar to the Newport clarts Goldie Lookin’ Chain. The Dirty Green Stuff came from late night boozing and general messing around, making up stupid lyrics to songs. Ryan crosses boundaries by being a musician and a comedian, but are there any differences? “I suppose not. They both start with an idea, need practice and testing. It’s all about playing as much as you can, and slowly crafting the ‘perfect joke’.” Live Ryan stands out from the crowd, I’ll let him explain why, “My act contains dancing gorillas and monkey costumes. Suppose it’s the part where I drag an old lady on stage and sing about STDs where things really get interesting. Yet, I’ve always told myself to keep things simple, not be the kind of person who takes their act seriously! It’s all about having fun...simples,” he squeaks, signing off with his Aleksandr Orlov impression. “In my eyes, having to work for your music is the best part of being a performer.” Having two feet firmly planted on the ground with the values of hard work firmly instilled in him, this boy will go far.
Hark! A Shark!
The enigmatic Jaws themed Hark! A Shark! are quite a catch! Catchy and punchy pop-punk tunes are melded with Natalie’s harmonious vocals to create fun-filled, fast and upbeat songs with a wonderful sense of humour (naming their songs from quotes from the Jaws films). What Are You, Some Kind Of Half-Assed Astronaut is full of charm and energy. Fast guitars, the bounce and swagger of drums and bass, and topped off with Nat’s voice which really makes you want to sing along. Chew On This is a cracking pop-punk tune with a great vibe and plenty of dynamics. The drums move forward with its rolls, and guitars throb and bend with cool swinging riffage. It’s a sweet, yet fast and raucous sound — just what pop-punk is all about! “We’re definitely influenced by American pop-punk bands like New Found Glory, Tsunami Bomb and AFI. Our sound has moved forward a lot and we are near the direction we want to be going in. Its poppunk at the end of the day, but it’s got an edge to it…it’s pop-punk with teeth!” Hark! A Shark! really bring a smile to your face, and are a real good, feel good band. It’s very listenable, easy on the ear, and gives a right party vibe — what else from a band egged on by too much adolescence and watching the Disney channel! New 4-track ep 908 Get Me Outta Here is well worth checking out, with the title track reeking of pop-punk brutality. It’s fast and heavy, with wonderfully layered guitars, and then What Lies Beneath will definitely get you up and clapping! Put this female fronted quintet on your radar — or start sinking! Not just for shark fans, all finned creatures are welcome!
This Rhondda based poppunk quintet will have any lazy journalist automatically branding them with the P word! However, PLUGGED IN sees The Missive as much more than another Paramore inspired band. “I think that every female fronted band is going to get compared to Paramore. It’s like an automatic reaction from people. You’ve just got to try and show them that we’re our own entity and not every female frontman is a Hayley Williams wannabe. We try to think of it as a compliment, being compared to a band as good as Paramore.” Latest ep High, Wide & Handsome (reviewed in PLUGGED IN Issue 15) saw them work with hot-Cardiff producer Romesh. “It was an amazing experience! Just working with the guy who’s produced so many of our favourite albums was awesome. We wanted people to take us seriously and for us to sound as good as we possibly could.” Debut video and newest single Sleeping With The Bad Guys sees them taking a story-line approach to a video and the results of the new ep are outstanding to say the least. Shows with the likes of Octane Ok, Don Broco, It Boys, Dopamine, Fearless Vampire Killers and The Dykeenies have helped establish credibility for them too. Definitely a band worth getting to see live!
All Them Witches
All Them Witches are an alternative/experimental synth rock quartet formed early 2012 and based in Bridgend, South Wales. Brought together through previous bands and a passion for energetic and interesting music the extreme range of influences from metal to jazz to punk to dub-step is what creates All Them Witches’s unique and pulsing and sometimes schizophrenic sound. The band’s debut tracks Crypt Head and V.I.C.T.O.R.Y. released June 2012 got positive responses from fans, bands and promoters from South Wales’s local music scenes and sees their following growing stronger and larger daily.
Ever since we saw him at the Young Promoters Network show back in June, we haven’t taken our eyes off Evan Gardner here at PLUGGED IN HQ. His rise is becoming meteoritic and it’s about time you met singer-songwriter’s hottest property. Starting out by posting homemade videos of himself singing on YouTube to get an honest reaction because he was scared his mum wouldn’t tell him if he was actually bad, Evan has garnered a massive global fan base with international fan pages springing up across social networking sites. “I remember when I first started it would take months to get a few hundred views, so I am very grateful to have such amazing fans, who continue to follow me as I grow.” Evan delivers his words uniquely with a style of rap and gruff vocals combined, “I decided to rap with the guitar as I could not portray the same emotion by simply singing.” This can be seen on his single Stronger, which tackles the issue of bullying. It’s through using these tough issues that his song writing really comes into a life of his own, especially on Girl From NYC (on his ep This Is My Friday) that tackles a fan’s suicide. Expect future tracks to be even stronger since he has been penning tracks with Amy Wadge, who has previously worked with Ed Sheeran. “Working with Amy is so much fun. She is an incredible songwriter, a great role model to many musicians such as myself and has been very supportive.” With support slots to the likes of Gavin Butler & Neil Starr in the bag and very big names chasing after him (although PLUGGED IN is sworn to secrecy), watch out for this guy in 2013 — the Treorchy busker will be everywhere!
Buried In Alaska
Despite an early spot at Merthyr Rock, Buried In Alaska pulled out one of the best sets of the festival. Full of pace, power, presence and intensity — the Merthyr progressivemetalcore quintet are one hell of a force! Featuring ex-members of I Call Shotgun and Athena, BIA have got brutally good tunes aplenty, as showcased on debut ep Alpha Omega. “We wanted to scream, get angry and aggressive, and frighten the kids. We wanted to step things up compared to what we were doing before — and we’d turned into angry old men… Our peers have all been really complimentary, which means the world to us.” Into The Fade is a bouncing fireball where Lloyd’s vocals growl and scream over a meat feast of pounding epileptic drums, driving bass and some exceptional guitar work that leaves you gasping for breath, even after the harmonious breakdown. Tyrant and Ruinition are bruising metal tracks with complicated guitars that snarl and lick with vigour and energy, providing tons of twists and turns. And Deception offers some epic guitar parts whilst pounding drums and bass cut and thrust and spit and spurt with astounding authority. Lloyd’s screaming vocals hit the mark — he’s got great energy and passion, and real presence. “We wanted to release an ep of the heaviest stuff we had written, but some of our newer stuff has a lot more melody, and slightly less of the growling, and we are really excited about them.” Having had support slots with Eyes Set To Kill, Shadows Chasing Ghosts, and Echoes, and with work on a debut album well underway, Buried In Alaska are a metal juggernaut hammering their way at you. Get in the way, get smashed in the face and get on board!
The word Fjords conjures up picturesque ice-scapes, epic tranquillity, space and natural beauty. So it’s apt then that the band Fjords produce exactly what it says on the tin within their rock fuelled expedition. The Cardiff based alt-electro quintet are, quite simply, stunning. Formed in 2010 by former members of Broken Sleep, The Days and Don’t Tread On The Spiders, Fjords have come together to create something rather special. Rock tones with driving guitars are sculpted and shaped with escapist vibes and soaring soundscapes, as shown on track Dead Diamonds which ebbs and flows with melody and harmony towards a fantastic guitar solo and wonderful crescendo of grungy bass and guitars, while the rockier affair of Say It As It Is has so much bounce a swagger. It’s a fantastically crafted song with so many well worked parts. Fjords’ sound offers so much, mixing rock vibes with synth soundscapes that are a vibrant force but not over-encompassing. They are — just right! “The sounds and workings of the guitars and synths drive the band sonically, and they work together. Maybe we are a bit more daring in our music, and we like to have a lot going on.” Russian Doll has so much going on — wonderfully dramatic instrumentation, the grind and bounce of the bass and drums, the ethereal sounds of the synths, creative guitars, and a great chorus that come together like some kind of carthic, out of body experience. It’s one of my favourite songs of 2012. Fjords — astounding imagery, astounding sounds.
Nanook Of The North
Cardiff’s indie scene in recent years has become saturated with bands that sound alike, finding it hard to unearth that diamond in the rough. Step forward Nanook Of The North, sharing the name from a 1922 silent documentary film about an Inuit in the Canadian Arctic. It’s an apt name for their eerie keyboard driven effortlessly cool and tender indie sound. “When we get together to write, our different styles all come together to create the Nanook sound. It’s like a musical trifle. It can exist without one of the ingredients but it just isn’t as tasty. We try to avoid getting bored while writing and performing, so we play around with dynamics, instrumentation and improvisation as much as possible while trying to evoke some kind of personal response in the listener.” The foursome met at University and formed out of complaining that they couldn’t find a band they liked, so united to form their own. Like most bands they write music which is aimed to be experienced live, but with an intelligent twist. “It’s not entirely a question of what works in terms of the song, but more a question of how certain parts of a song will make an audience feel and how they will fit into the set. This means that our music holds a lot of energy and directly addresses the listener, as it would live.” The band has an ep up for a free download over at facebook. com/WeAreNanook — go and discover Wales’s next big indie darlings before anyone else does.
Female fronted rockers The Shoots are a lovely bunch. They write, good, solid and unassuming rock tunes for people who love good, straight forward, listenable music. It’s that simple really! The quintet, who all met through ads on the internet after guitarist Gareth decided he wanted to start the band, have really started to click. This Is The Way effortlessly melds aspects of classic rock sounds with punk-tinged edges, creating something somewhere between the Foo’s, The Pixies and Republica. The cool, bouncing single Rhondda Two-Step will have you up on your toes. It’s got a punky edge to its indie-rock, a wonderful riff, and is very much a fan favourite. Rachel’s vocals are refreshingly down to earth, and help forge the band’s straight forward indie-rock sound. There is no dressing up, and no bull here, just stripped down genuine music, that’s fun and feel-good. “We just want to write fun stuff that people can dance to and we can enjoy playing on stage.” It all comes across so well, the record has a great live feel to it. As well as Rachel, Gareth also sings, adding more spice and variety to the songs, such as the uber-fast, punky and grungy Supersonic. “It allows us to go down different routes, write different types of songs, and do different things with our music, that helps us. And the more recent addition of Aled on lead guitar has brought more flare to what we are doing, and we feel like we are a much more fully rounded band.” Why not just turn up, have a beer, and watch a great band play some great fun tunes. It’s fair to say The Shoots are banging! Expect an ep sometime in the near future.
Seconds From Ruin
With dynamic and raucous alt-rock sounds, Blackwood starlets Seconds From Ruin really pack a punch. Just one year in, the quintet have found a refreshing sound that fuses fast and furious guitars with a pacy backline and sweeping synths that lightly ebb and swirl behind Chris ‘Chippy’ Clark’s strong and ranging vocals. Taking a tour of nearly every venue throughout South Wales throughout October and November shows their hard work and ambition, which is matched by their ability to produce some wonderful head bouncing tunes that sits somewhere between Jimmy Eat World and Enter Shikari. Distant Light is a fast, bouncing track with sweeping guitars and plenty of energy, and Changing is a delightfully vivacious rock song. The sounds of the guitars forge a meeting of minds with Chippy’s infectious vox, which give their sound an air of sincerity and makes you sing along. Recent single 442 has taken their sound up a notch, crafting some breathtaking rock vibes into an epic and energy fuelled three-and-a-half minutes of alt-rock pleasure that includes a synth solo that melds into a cracking guitar solo. It’s raw and powerful, with some wonderful parts, and really showcases what the band are about! “The newer stuff is more upbeat and guitar driven, with background synths rather than some of the electronics we started with. It’s definitely more aggressive”.Check out some cool music vids online, and catch them on a UK tour in spring 2013, with an ep to go with it! PLUGGED IN can’t wait — SFR are going to explode!
Some of the best things come after an ending — take The Yardbirds, the band spawned Led Zeplin, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton in its demise. Recently the Cardiff trio Inconsiderate Parking decided to call it a day, but from this comes Junior Bill. Inconsiderate Parking were a ukuele-melodica-acoustic trio that really were that little bit different, and JB continues to keep the spirit alive with the many songs he wrote still a staple of his set. Despite only being in his teens, he takes a bold look at his influences, “My favourite music is anything that aims to uplift and empower people. A large majority of music at the moment separates itself from real life and becomes too indulgent.” Also name checking Bob Marley and The Clash as influences as well as music from across the globe, “Eclectic, energetic and direct. I like to mix genres and I always try to sing about issues that need to be sung about.” The future looks bright for Bill, with ep Unlock The Alleys, Free Up The Scallies set to be a free download in early in 2013. In the meantime he’s busking the Cardiff streets in the city centre and playing ocassional mic nights whilst he completes a full live line up.
Nashville Tennessee is the spiritual home of country music and a few thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of the Welsh country in Pontypridd lives country bumpkin Bethan Horton. A self-taught guitarist at the age of 13, she began song-writing at the age of 14. She cites Taylor Swift as a huge influence, it’s an obvious choice but why wouldn’t you want to emulate the biggest global country star? Bethan’s YouTube videos regularly gain thousands of views per video, emulating in a huge global fan base as she uploads her take on country-influenced music and covers. Bethan follows the country tradition of writing real stories about real people, always coming across as humble, well-mannered and most importantly a down-to-earth young girl. Take Get Over It which takes a story of someone leaving their hometown a nothing and coming back a something. Obviously I’ve simplified this for you, it would be rude not to mention the craft of her lyrics being gorgeous enough to be indulged by a mass audience. This is simply no easy feat for an 18 year old, but this one has a voice with a unique quality of being emotionally strung out and tender at the same time — it’s a voice perfect for country. Watch this space for the British answer to Taylor Swift.
Ryan March is Bridgend’s answer to Frank Turner, the punk rock troubadour that really is aiming for the big time. Infusing a concoction of indie, folk and punk to create his unique sound, but how does he do it? “To be honest, I don’t really know! I listen to a whole range of music, which I think gives me a vast array of different ideas that I can take and incorporate into my own songs to create a sound that’s my own. I guess my biggest influence has been 70s punk bands, like The Clash, The Undertones and The Jam which I was brought up listening to thanks to my dad and his mates. It sort of led me into finding my own music and bands like Green Day who have been pivotal in me becoming a musician and having the motivation to do it.” Ryan has come a long way from playing a bunch of covers to 20 mates in a pub to launching his own ep Tales Of A Teenage Rebellion at a packed out ep launch in his home town. Tales of A Teenage Rebellion is a concept idea, “I think being influenced hugely by Joe Strummer and his revolutionary, rebellious vision sort of gave me the idea of speaking out for yourself and standing up for what you believe in which, in my opinion, has been lost in so many young people who are happy to be content in mediocre lives and not strive for anything more and if they do are usually written off straight away. So it’s sort of a ‘call to arms’ for young people to stand up for themselves and to older generations to listen to us, because we do have a voice and it needs to be heard,” says Ryan totally embodying the punk ethics that he mentioned previously. This space is too small, to fully tell you about the brilliance of Ryan, so check out soundcloud where he’s steaming the entire ep for free and order yourself a copy. Ryan March is one essential listen — you heard it here first!
The Broadcasts are one of Wales’ new hot prospects, an upand-coming band who recently won a local Battle of the Bands competition. The boys, all from Llantrisant, bonded through their love of music whilst at school and have since developed their own brand of alternative electric/acoustic. When asked about their musical influences, they were all keen to express gratitude to the different artists who have had an impression on their personal development. James recognised Ben Howard, a folk rock musician from West London, whilst both Jacks and Ashley were keen to mention Newton Faulkner, Biffy Clyro and Foo Fighters as key influences. The Welsh music scene is particularly important to the band, who spoke about the benefits of learning from and watching major acts such as Kids In Glass Houses and Straight Lines emerging from the local area to become nationally recognised. Ashley said, “It’s great seeing bands from Wales make it big on the music scene, it gives us confidence to keep working together to improve our music and get it out there.” The boys spoke about the number of gigs they’d enjoyed being part of and have made a successful musical journey so far, recently working on debut album Impossible. They are now working to secure a record contract, so the future for The Broadcasts is undoubtedly promising! ANDREW MORROW
Photograph by Jason Cowley
Think Welsh rap and you conjure up images of grown men in shell suits (see Goldie Lookin’ Chain), well now things are getting a bit more intense in the Welsh urban scene. “I’m under no illusions when people mention UK hip-hop they probably don’t think of Wrexham or anywhere in North Wales. The problem is it’s extremely difficult to get a buzz and keep it, it’s very hard for a rapper to get taken seriously if he isn’t from London.” Tha Bozz’s debut music video sees a collaboration with Drey Adej, in which his smooth flow delivery is perfectly executed. He’s already played with Goldie Lookin’ Chain, Cher Lloyd and The Risk, and is making big waves up North. “I feel the days of Welsh rappers trying to sound like Londoners or Americans are firmly behind us.” What does the future hold for Mr Bozz? Well a forthcoming ep by the name Yes I Can which you can bet will continue to get him national airplay on Radio Wales. Although Tha Bozz isn’t the finished article yet, there’s something about him that makes me keep listening, and combined with a phenomenal work rate it won’t be long before he’ll be rapping to a much bigger audience.
Known at the start of the year as Moral Compass, a change in line up promoted a fresh start for the Talbot Green threesome. “We wanted to start afresh with a new sound, but we quite liked the original name. Our sound is quite different now, due to George and Rachel writing the music and lyrics — it’s got a heavier tone about it.” They certainly get their influences as a band from modern day poetic lyricists, citing Biffy Clyro and Lower Than Atlantis as bands they listen to and take inspiration from, alongside Warpaint, Joy Division and North Wales hardcore mob Bastions, John Mayer and And So I Watch You From Afar. So what do Compass actually create? It’s a gritty, dirty and snarling chunk of alternative rock that sounds sleazier than a Tulisa homemade video. And it’s all part to those fantastically heavy melodies balanced with Rachael’s delicate indie vocals combined with George’s raw gravel-encrusted voice. It’s pure alternative rock that just stares you right in the face; its just rough and ready hanging on to the edge by its fingertips.
Rich Kinsey & The Bar Room Heroes
The story reads like something out of a TV sitcom, the name fittingly formed from rehearsing in the back end of a Merthyr pub. It’s been a slow but steady rise for Rich, albeit an under the radar one. Since leaving former band The Oratorios a definite highlight has been performing back-to-back at the Merthyr Rock festivals. “If you had told me that bands such as Cast, Razorlight and Ocean Colour Scene were going to be playing in my hometown a few years ago I would have laughed at you! I live literally two minutes away from the park and to play there is an honour.” As well as being a solo performer, Rich is sometimes accompanied by a band of merry men calling themselves The Bar Room Heroes, and has had prestigious support slots with The Blackout. “It was a real gesture from the boys and something we really appreciate. I wasn’t sure how our music would stand up with their fans, who turned out to be awesome!” Inspired by the folky-blues of Bob Dylan, Rich Kinsey & The Bar Room Heroes have made a creation of their own unique style, with a wonderfully rich sound — no pun intended!
Photograph by John Haywood
Everyone needs to get some Houdini Dax in their lives. Their bouncy, toe-tapping psychedelic rock ’n’ roll will enthral you, exalt you and damn right electrify you. Cultivating a crossover between The Beatles and the Arctic Monkey’s, the Cardiff trio of Jack (guitar/vox), Dave (bass/vox) and Owen (drums/vox) are really something special, and building solidly on debut album You Belong To Dax Darling which was one of Welsh music’s highlights of 2011, with its captivating works of psyche-rock, bouncing bass, free-rolling drums, fuzzy guitars, interwoven with swagger, eccentricity and some flamboyant vocal harmonies. “Our sound wasn’t based around harmonies but the songs themselves, but as we started singing more together we realised it was one of our strengths so we built on it.” Moving forward 18 months with brand new single Heavy Tease, the band have created a truly great piece of art. The track captures a cool back-to-basics rock ’n’ roll. It’s got an invigorating swagger that’s fresh and exciting. The drums bounce with elegance, the bass pops and twirls, and the guitars are in a world of their own — finding a wonderful riff before pile-driving to a crescendo of ambience at the end. It’s a psychedelic Hendrix-esque escapade into rock ’n’ roll! Houdini Dax are unique and really stick out from the crowd, and their infectious, 60s inspired music will give you the shuffles! They’re labelled up with See Monkey Do Monkey Records, been out on the road with Charlotte Church and have an American tour with the Welsh songstress on the cards for the new year. With a new album scheduled for release in Spring 2013, Houdini Dax are without a doubt one of the best bands to come out of Wales in recent times!
Another delight on the North Wales urban scene fixture comes in the shape of Gavner P. Growing up on a diet of pop, dance, r’n’b, hip-hop and Northern soul, Gav has set out on his musical journey of being a fledging global rapstar. “I’ve got my name around by promoting myself independently through social network sites and organising independent gigs.” And doing so has seen a global reach online with fanbases in the USA, Australia, Singapore and Ireland. “To be honest it all just happened. I didn’t specifically post my music anywhere or target a certain audience, I just posted it and people found it. I have a fairly big following in the US as I have friends in New York and California, so they support me and have passed it onto their friends and word of mouth has helped me out.” It never shocks me for a second the power of the internet! So what does the future hold, well Gav tells us a planned ep is turning into an album and he’s just reached the MTV Unsigned 2013 competition final, taking place in January. Take a listen now guys at the Welsh urban scene’s next potential breakthrough.
Things in the Gallows camp have gone through dramatic change in the past year. If you didn’t know, lead vocalist Frank Carter departed the band and Canadian Wade McNeil (guitarist from Alexisonfire) replaced him — with this burst of new nationality changing what is quintessentially a British as tea band. “With Frank we just came to a standstill, it wasn’t going anywhere,” founding band member Laurent ‘Laggs’ Barnard tells us. “It’s worked out best for both of us. We’re both happy.” This gives a good indication that the Gallows creative juices are back flowing, while Frank carries on with new music outlet Pure Love. Late 2011, the Gallows returned with the aptly named Death Is Birth EP which took a swipe at any doubters. “The EP was very much to prove that we weren’t going soft, that we weren’t turning into Alexis. We wanted to set something vicious to silence the critics,” says Laggs. The ep and new self-titled album keeps the bite of the punk band of old but adds a huge aggressive growl. “The new album is tighter, the hooks are heavier. There’s nothing on the album I’d change,” Laggs says with immense satisfaction. With such a dramatic change all round how have the fans reacted? “It’s different, when you’re a kid you don’t you want favourite band to change. It’s a big deal for them. We were conscious of the decision, we could lose fans and gain, but the album has more scope.” Live performance reports so far have indicated Wade is just as a mad frontman as Frank. This is essential to a band that has a ‘must-see’ tag regarding their live performance. How do the band feel about it? “Wade is perfect, I saw him play in Black Lungs, he didn’t play guitar and I knew he could fit. We put more effort into the shows, we are tighter all over the place. We are a well oiled machine. A lot of kids were coming with Frank as vocalist and expecting a spectacle, but we as a band were all about the music. The music now backs up the show instead of waiting for the craziness to happen!” says Laggs, who seemed annoyed at how things were, but the changes you can tell in his voice have all been positive. The new set of dates see the band playing the small grotty venues again as opposed to the bigger venues they once headlined. Laggs tells us that this is down to the last new material coming out over three years ago and they feel like an up-and-coming band again. “We don’t have an ego to play big venues! We had a bigger venue tour booked for us, but we changed that because we wanted to start fresh and be fair to new fans.” In my short time with Laggs he always came across honest, warm, friendly but, more importantly, refreshed and excited with his band. RITCHIE SAMUEL
Just as Young Guns headed out on tour to America and embarked on their biggest UK tour to date, PLUGGED IN managed to squeeze in an exclusive interview with drummer Ben Jolliffe. How are the shows in America going? They’re going great. We’ve only been in the States for a week or so and most of it has consisted of press. The few shows we’ve already played have been great. The Seether tour started 14th September. Are you looking forward to playing your biggest headline date and tour? The Cardiff show has been upgraded to a larger venue too, what does it feel like when that happens? There’s no better feeling. It feels like yesterday we were playing shows to 10 people. We’ve been so fortunate to have such a great fan base who come to shows and buy our CDs. When you need to upgrade shows is such a great feeling, I can’t wait! Last time you played a headline show in Wales, it was in the Welsh Valleys’ town of Pontypridd. Any fond memories of that show? That show was amazing. We were lucky enough to have our great friends Save Your Breath playing that one show with us, which was great fun. It was a great venue and an even better vibe. There’s just something about playing Wales. Everyone’s always up for it. How did the shows earlier this year with Enter Shikari go? Was it a hard time, knowing that the guys with a ‘killer’ reputation for putting on a great live show were going to follow you? It wasn’t hard really. We just got up and did our own thing. We’re a different type of band to Shikari, so I hope and assume there wasn’t too many comparisons. Saying that, they are an incredible band and yes their live show is one of the best in the world at the moment. They have so much energy and their lighting show is mind blowing. We absolutely loved that tour and they’re such great dudes. How come your parents ended up chauffeuring you to Reading and Leeds festivals? Ha-ha. That was a nightmare! There’s something about important shows and Young Guns luck that keeps appearing. The wheels of the trailer carrying our gear had basically fallen off. We had to be at Reading to host live on Radio 1 within the hour so the only option we had was… “Mum!” Luckily, we don’t live too far away and she was free. We managed to arrive about 20 seconds before we were on air. So anyone listening probably would have heard some very unfit guys huffing and puffing. Any news on the follow up to Bones, can we expect anything? We’re already thinking about and can’t wait to write the third record. We’ve begun slowly writing, but with the States and touring it’s hard to find the time. We’ll be taking some time around Christmas to properly write. Hopefully Santa brings us a hit! RITCHIE SAMUEL
PLUGGED IN had a quick chat with the former Hot Water Music frontman when he hit Cardiff on his Revival Tour. What was the draw towards a more folk/roots type music after Hot Water Music originally disbanded? I’ve been playing acoustically longer than I’ve been playing amped and since some of the first tunes I’d learned were old folk or country tunes, it wasn’t a transition at all. To me it wasn’t anything different than what I’d done or known since I was a kid, it was just that the focus changed between the two. When HWM went on a hiatus in 2004, the rest of the guys began The Draft, I went back to my trade in carpentry and continued writing and eventually recording my own work more often than I did when HWM was our primary focus. My wife was the one who encouraged me the most at that point to get out and record some of the tunes I was playing around the kitchen. After that, the feedback and response from our supporters was nothing but positive and encouraging. Not that that is a reason to continue, but it does feel good when you believe in something wholeheartedly and your friends, fans and family back you up all the way. You seem to have released as many live albums as you have studio albums. What is it that you feel you capture with a live recording compared to the studio sessions? It’s a stamp in a moment in time. Documenting a live performance is always a unique way of capturing the way those songs are being played at that time. Once recorded and played a couple hundred times, songs change. Techniques, rhythms, tempos and even melodies or phrasings change. I love listening to an artist’s live rendition of a song I know from a studio album. You find a raw and true grit uninhibited or spontaneous performance that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. On your Revival Tour you collaborated with a number of different artists with their own unique identity and style of music. What pulled you to these musicians and how difficult is it to work with so many different styles and personalities? I’m a music lover and aside from that, I love people who play music with conviction, passion and substance. People who simply believe wholeheartedly in what they are doing and not just clocking in and going through the motions. You would think that it’d be difficult pulling together so many different people, but once we all get on the same page it’s like filling an engine with coal — takes some work to shovel it in but, that work will pay off and move you on down the tracks in a hurry. We’ve been blessed to have the majority of the people on Revival Tour really get it. They know what to expect when they make it to Day One and everyone is usually completely excited, respectful and open minded. After all there’s no room for anything else on a tour like this. You like collaborating with other musicians. Why collaborate and which do you prefer, collaboration or solo recording? I love both worlds and I think there’s a time and place for both. I won’t always be on The Revival Tour but the time that I am I will cherish. DARREN WARNER
PLUGGED IN IN PLUGGED
Words by Sj Williams, Amy Williams & Victoria Madden Photographs by Craig Thomas & Darren Warner
he door opened and the fresh breeze banished the essence of BO from the tent. Blinded by the sun we could only guess at who stood in the doorway. Our eyes hadn’t quite adjusted as they edged inside, but we knew it was them — the ones who we’d been waiting for. We were introduced to guitarist Mikey Fry and drummer Arya Goggin, and they graciously accepted our sweaty hands as we welcomed them to our table. Shoulders relaxed as we chatted like old friends about tattoos and put the world to rights. Feeling less tense now, we had completely forgotten our purpose — that we were part of a special PLUGGED IN crew who had been granted access to Merthyr Rock to interview these members of Skindred and grill them on past, present and future. We stared over at the guys, wondering if they felt the rising heat in the sweat box of a tent and if their palms were as clammy as ours. Beyond the tent, the festival carried on, oblivious to the pee-my-pants excitedness that oozed from our side of the table. Playing on the James McLaren stage at the time was Black & Red and all that we could think was: Please keep the noise down, I don’t want to miss any of their answers. It was time to pray, as our chit chat ended and the interview began… The first thing we wanted to know was what it was like being back at Merthyr Rock and headlining the Saturday night line-up this year. As ever, the conversation progressed around the weather! Arya and Mikey kept their friendly, chit chatty ways and told us how the sun seemed to be bringing more people to the festival and that fans seemed a bit more relaxed this year. “It’s so exciting to be back. We’re honoured to be headlining this year. It’s a bit like a hometown show for Benji really. Newport is only down the road, so he gets to show off in front of his mates.” They laughed, we nervously giggled. But once we got over the fact that they were kick-ass musicians we felt more relaxed and the conversation progressed like we’d known each other forever. It seems like yesterday the group gigged in Merthyr’s former rock club R&M’s and later at the Studio Bar. It was almost a decade ago but I’ll never forget the uncertain audience as they finished their first song of the night. The locals didn’t really know what to make of the nu-reggae style, so they congregated at the side of the stage booming out their tenor Oooo’s. Benji commented, “There’s no wonder the Zulu’s were f*****g scared of you lot.” From then on, I knew Benji and the crew were stars in the making. His theatrical stage presence continue to dominate his sets and he’s not afraid to interact with the crowd no matter how much they heckle. When we asked Arya and Mikey about their fans, they told us, “Not many people say they used to like Skindred. We’ve kept our older fans and had a slow climb with new fans.” One place that has seen an exponential rise in Skindred fans is in Germany. This year alone they have played in seven different German festivals. Mikey told us, “We’re still a baby band out there, but Germany has such a huge
fanbase. We signed our record deal for Union Flag in Germany so have been lucky with how the festivals have fallen. Germany is like a second home to us now.” If anything, Skindred are known for being a festival band. We wanted to know if they preferred playing festivals or gigs and which was their favourite. “Brixton Academy was like a dream come true. We had always wanted to headline there. We had played there before, but it was something else to be the main attraction. But we’re lucky to get anything. It’s always nice to have a mix of the two, but I think if you play too much of one, you become a bit desensitised to it. We basically just go where we’re told.” We wanted to know what they did to get people’s attention and what was the best thing about ‘making it’. “Learn your craft and have the tenacity to get to know everyone. Getting big has meant that we’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and meet all sorts of people along the way. There’s been a slow steady build for us, and it’s never really been all about the money for us, we’re just happy we get to play festivals and get to travel. The money is just a bonus.” Anyone who has seen Skindred live will know that Benji has real stage presence and has never let the fact that he is a black bloke living in Newport hold him back. If anything this has made him the success he is today. Benji is the heart and soul of the band and has used his upbringing to shape the star he has become. We asked Arya and Mikey if it was true that musicals have influenced their music. “Benji is the one who has the influence. He loves all that sort of stuff. He’s a storyteller. I think that comes across pretty much in his style and his lyrics. He’s literal. But we don’t really write music in that da dadada daa kind of way. But he likes to prance around, doing his bit. Who can you thank for our brilliance? I dunno, other bands, our parents, our fans, our manager, our agent…” I have to add that at this point I really had to push for a solid answer. This was getting like an MTV awards acceptance speech! “I dunno. We all have our own music influences. Queen… Police… The Clash… We like quite different things, but we always agree on the unifying and pioneering sort of music.” So what had inspired them to first pick up an instrument? Arya told us, “For me, it was Animal from the Muppets. I didn’t really want to get a real job and I wanted to get a chick.” Every fan will have a song that springs to mind when Skindred are brought up, but we wanted to know what their favourite crowd controller was. “I love Warning. I love playing the newer stuff, but then sometimes the older stuff just feels a bit like you’re on auto pilot. It’s still fun, but the newer stuff like Doom Riff is more exciting because it’s still fresh. But then we like to carve up the stuff that has been around for a while and turn it into another song.” We returned to talking about living in Newport and how that influenced their music. “Well, one of us is Welsh, three of us are English, but we’ve all lived in Wales, so it’s all cool, you know. But from Benji’s point of view, I know growing up in Newport definitely influenced him, as opposed to me growing
up in Devon, there wasn’t really much to be influenced by. Newport is pretty different to Devon.” Mikey added, “We all lived in the USA for a while so there was bags of influence there.” “Yeah. But I think if we were all still living in Newport we’d have killed ourselves by now. We’ve never really stayed long in one place and I think that’s really been an influence. It’s nice to go away, but when you leave, it’s always nice to come back. But coming across the bridge, it’s a rip off! It’s going up every year. It’s a scam!” The pee-my-pants excitedness is back. We’re nearing the end of the interview and I can’t believe that we’re talking crap about toll charges. We’re running out of time and there’s so much more to ask. This year, Merthyr Rock was Skindred’s only UK festival tour date. We wanted to know why. We wanted to demand an explanation. We wanted a promise of more! But the lads were just too charismatic… and those faces… how could you be angry at those faces? So instead, we muttered, “Are you planning on a Welsh tour to coincide with the release of your new album?” And with our noncommittal question came a noncommittal answer. “We’re definitely doing a full UK tour, yeah. The promoters decided what venues we tour. Normally it’s either Newport or Bristol, knowing that the fans from Bristol will travel to Newport and vice versa, but it doesn’t always work like that. They think about the money and that’s a shame.” Mikey added, “When TJ’s closed it put a big hole in our touring and now that it’s gone it’s like, well, where else do we play. We’d like to play Cardiff and the Newport Centre. And we know that we can get a few thousand in London, but can we get it in Cardiff?” Arya chopped in, “I think we can. But you always get those who say, you play Cardiff, why don’t you play Newport? and things like that. But we can’t play everywhere… I wanna play Swansea.” So we asked was there any chance we can expect to see the band back here next year? Mikey replied, “Bands don’t normally get invited back three years in a row. But I think it would be nice to do a secret gig like Greenday did in Reading festival this year. Or maybe, if we’re not doing any gigs next year, we could curate the stage.” Arya added, “Yeah, that would be good! We could have like 70 bands playing on the stage and just have like five minutes each!” To conclude, we had to put it to them, who had the worse reputation, Merthyr or Newport? There was no hesitation, as collectively they said, “..............” It was at this point PLUGGED IN’s Creative Director Darren, who had engineered the interview for us, butted in with, “Hey! I can’t publish questions like that. I’ll be killed!” as he reached over and clicked off the voice recorder. Our questions had run out anyway and we realised that Sonic Boom 6 were playing the main stage behind us. It was time to pack up the pen and paper and get pumped while we waited to see the inevitably epic performance that our new found friends had in store for us later that day.
itting in the signing tent we nervously awaited for Kids In Glass Houses to arrive. This was to be our first ever interview for PLUGGED IN, face to face with all five members of the band. Talk about thrown into the deep end — and with such a major successful Welsh group at that! Then they were here. Aled, Iain and Philip entering first closely followed by Andrew and Joel, the people responsible for creating the music we loved so much. We were ecstatic. Who’d of thought that when we signed up to the PLUGGED IN @ Merthyr Rock Interview Technique Workshops with Tutor & Creative Director Darren Warner that in a matter of days we would be in this position. At the workshop in his inimitable throwaway style that we’d become accustomed to, Darren had just calmly mentioned that we would be interviewing the guys — as if this was an everyday occurrence! And now as he made the initial introductions to the band, like an old friend who has a weight of respect amongst the people in the Welsh Music Scene, he pleasantly guided them to the table where we waited to shake their hands. Of course this was no ordinary situation, as in the far side of the tent We Are The Ocean were doing a signing while Future Of The Left played their amazing set on the main stage, their music careering over us as we switched on the recorder ready to capture every word. Outside young girls peered through the windows of the tent enviously and unbelieving that we had exclusive access to their favourite band, who sat down in such a chilled manner that they instantly made us feel more comfortable and relaxed. Like Darren had told us, these guys aren’t primadonnas, have done hundreds of interviews and want to talk to you because they know every piece of publicity helps them connect to their fans. Magazines like PLUGGED IN are their lifeblood to the people. Cardiff based Kids In Glass Houses have been playing the scene since their formation in 2003 with the name of the band being inspired by the Glasjaw song Tip Your Bartender. Comprising of Aled Phililps (lead vocals), Joel Fisher (lead guitar), Iain Mahanty (rhythm guitar), Andrew Shay (bass guitar) and Philip Jenkins (drums & percussion) they have supported many famous groups, including 30 Seconds To Mars, The Goo Goo Dolls, Paramore and Fall Out Boy, as well as Welsh giants Manic Street Preachers and LostProphets. PLUGGED IN’s first of many encounters with the band was back in 2007 when, as part of The Full Ponty festival, the band played an acoustic set in the tight confines of Clwb Y Bont supporting The Blackout. At that time Sean Smith had announced to the audienced, “How do we follow that? We’re rubbish compared to them.” Not true, but KIGH did make a massive impression which they followed up a few days later storming the stage of the main event within Ponty’s Ynysangharad Memorial Park. The write-up appeared in PLUGGED IN’s very first issue with an interview with Aled following soon after in Issue 2. Since that point they seem to have graced nearly every issue as they climbed the ladder to musical success. Their first single release Me Me Me was in June 2007 though the track was later re-recorded and re-titled Give Me What I Want, gaining them vast airplay and a chart position of number 62. Now, with three albums under their belt — Smart Casual in 2008, Dirt in 2010 which featured the single Undercover Lover that had guest vocals from Frankie Sandford of The Saturdays on it, and the Welsh Music Prize nominated In Gold Blood a year later in 2011 — they have become one of the most respected Welsh artists of recent times. And now they were within hair-touching distance away, and we had a bunch of questions that we were burning to ask.
How do you think your song writing has developed since those early days? Quite a lot. When you’re young you’re just excited that you’re even writing songs and you try to put everything into it. It’s only as you grow you understand more about how a song works. When we started writing our primary aim was just to make it catchy, and that usually meant that the song could become repetitive on our first album. Though there’s nothing wrong with that because some like The Beatles did that! As we’ve grown up we just tried to make the music more interesting, and we can’t be playing hell for leather all the time — so now we take a step back to emphasise a vocal or guitar line. It’s understanding the dynamics of song writing. How do you keep creating such high-quality music? Born this way I guess! No, I think we spend quite a lot of time on the songs and for our own pride we wouldn’t want to put anyold thing out into this world. Even if other people may criticise it, for our own piece of mind as long as it’s part of us and our own then we’re happy. How did the collaboration come about with Frankie Sandford? It was really simple. We had this song Undercover Lover and we thought it had this really big 80s pop vibe about it, a kind of Lionel Ritchie or Prince type thing, and we thought around that time lots of people did these male/female duets. So who did we know? Just so happens that Jason Perry who we were working with at that time on the album Dirt had also worked with McFly, and Frankie was dating Dougie Poynter the bass guitarist at the time. He contacted her, she liked our band and that was that. Frankie was great, you can’t say a bad word about her. How do you guys deal with the fact that some people always say the old stuff is better than your new tracks? Well everyone’s got their preference and their opinion which is not necessarily the same as ours, but each to their own. Loads of bands’ first albums are my favourite albums, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything else is bad. If that’s the album that turns you on to a band you’ll always be precious about it, having a soft spot towards it. Those people are wrong about our old stuff, but they’re entitled to be wrong. Looking back, how do you think your fan base has grown? We’ve been around for quite a long time and it’s good to see different people come and go. Every album tour we’ll see some new faces then they may disappear, but we still have this core of really dedicated fans. Which is really cool. You do a lot of tours and travelling around together. What stops you from killing each other? We party! We generally get on really well, but we also know the signs when someone needs space. Basically stay away from Joel! We never disagree that badly. If someone’s having a bad day you just know and give them space. We’ve been friends a long time, even before the band existed, so we knew what each other was like in the first place. If you could relive any day in your musical career, what day would that be? Playing Reading in 2010. It’s shows like that I’d like to go back to as I can’t really remember how it felt. I wasn’t that aware of it at the time but that was a massive event, something that you never dreamed would happen to your band but
do happen and it’s all overwhelming. I’d like to go back to that day just to savour it more than I did, as you’re just going through the motions. Saying that the day we landed in Japan was such a defining moment in time as we were only there because of the band and we were so far away from home. It was a new territory and we got to do what many people will never get to do. If Kids In Glass Houses didn’t exist, what do you think you’d be doing instead? Iain: I’d probably still be working in a shoe shop. Aled: Maybe be a graphic designer, doing illustrations. Phil: I’d probably have gone to University to do a degree I didn’t really care about and be suffering for it now. Shay: A superstar liar. Joel: I haven’t got a clue and don’t really think about it much. Do you have any advice or tips you would give to young bands hoping to make it? The most important thing is to make music that you are proud of. In order to play with conviction you must be proud of what you’re playing instead of playing music for other people. As long as you’re happy with what you’re doing. Play shows, enjoy being in the band as it’s the best fun you’ll ever have.
Is there anything as a band you’d like to achieve that you haven’t already? I’d like us to headline at Brixton Academy and the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. That’ll be massive really. What was it like to be nominated for a Welsh Music Prize? It’s awesome, we didn’t really expect it with such a long list of great albums. It’s an honour to be part of such a strong list of contenders. We didn’t expect to win it so weren’t too disappointed — we had a great night! Our time was up and after a couple of quick photographs and some autographs they were gone to prepare for the evening’s headlining performance — and our nerves were given time to come back down to earth! The interview had gone really well, with Joel making us all laugh with his quips and humorous answers and Jade managing to keep her cool around Aled given her desire to marry him! Kids In Glass Houses played a storming set that night to an adoring crowd who appreciated every song they preformed, but then PLUGGED IN has never really seen a poor set from the band. They always give 110%.
Words by Ruth Jenkins, Jade Price, Steph Watkins, Ben Gullick & Ritchie Samuel
t’s a packed LG Arena with everyone around us waiting for Muse to take to the stage, but that wasn’t the main reason I was bouncing. Tonight, it was the support act that got my adrenaline running high. A band with a ferocious live reputation and one of my favourite albums of the last few years. The album, The Big Roar, the band The Joy Formidable. The lights dimmed, the band started playing and suddenly a phenomenal wall of noise spread over the arena — brilliant! It was time PLUGGED IN spoke to this trio, so we organised an interview to learn more about a band that has caught our eye... With only three members in the band, how do you achieve such a dynamic sound? It’s all down to a strict regime of origami, Yorkshire teabags and years of echo sounding research. PLUGGED IN recently saw you supporting Muse at the LG Arena in Birmingham. What was that experience like and how do you believe supporting acts like Muse & Foo Fighters benefits your own performance?
Whether we’re playing to a couple of hundred or several thousand people, the approach doesn’t change, we enjoy playing live and we believe in the songs that we’ve written. In that sense, a support show has no unique benefit to your performance that any of the 300 or so shows that you’ll do in a year. We had a good time and it opens the door to a different audience. Which do you prefer: playing live or recording new songs in a studio with all the overlays and added texture that you are able to create? And Why? I definitely need a regular dose of both. We write a lot on tour, so we’re constantly collecting ideas. During a long stint on the road, we’re itching to get some proper studio time to realise what we’ve written. Alternatively, when we’re in the studio, we’re looking forward to getting out and touring again. It’s great to have the variation and feel energised by both worlds. Formed in 2007 in Mold, North Wales the band currently comprise of Ritzy Bryan on
lead vocals and guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on bass guitar & backing vocals and Matt Thomas on Drums & Percussion who replaced their original drummer Justin Stahley in 2009 after the release of their extend ep A Ballon Called Moaning. The band signed to Canvasback Records in 2010 release their brilliant debut album The Big Roar in 2011. Nominated for a Welsh music prize, the album covered a massive range of emotions whether it be via the heavy guitars or the etheral voices, gaining it’s place amongst the best debut albums of all time. Fast forward to 2012 and news of the second album Wolf’s Law hits the internet and the speculation begins. How will this live up to it’s predessor. Best ask. The Big Roar was a highly acclaimed album. How do you believe Wolf’s Law builds from such a high standing? We’re creatively proud of both The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law. They are different albums, they both chronicle different chapters in our careers, but they both have the intent and passion that’s typical of a Joy Formidable record.
Words by Gemma Davies, Sam Rees & Darren Warner Photograph courtsey of Atlantic Records
Why the name Wolf’s Law? It comes from a scientific term describing how bone can heal and adapt to breakage and stress. It’s a strong motif throughout the album; the process of healing, of reconnecting with the world, with yourselves; spiritually and emotionally. How do you see your music developing from The Big Roar to Wolf’s Law? There’s a lot of breadth on the new record, we’ve expanded our individual sounds and introduced new instrumentation. It’s been a natural evolution, Rhydian playing more piano, Matt expanding on the percussive elements and compositionally being ambitious, scoring for orchestras and choirs. It’s felt very natural, we come from a classical background and we’re interested by all sorts of music, we’ve never felt restricted to writing in a particular way, or sticking to a formula. You wrote most of Wolf’s Law while on the road — did it influence the writing process? It brings a lot of variety, a lot of colour, some happy chaos.
Is there one place that inspires your songwriting the most, your locational muse so to speak? No. If your mind and eyes are open you can find inspiration in the strangest of places. Tendons was written in a Travelodge in Albany, you wouldn’t necessarily think that from listening to it. I think I’ll always gravitate to nature and to solitude when it comes to setting up our studio, but maybe that’s a symptom (at the moment) of needing something that’s totally different from life on the road.
It’s difficult to generalise, our audiences and the nights we have are impossible to predict. We have a very loyal, passionate fanbase on both sides of the Atlantic, they keep us on our toes and we make sure we do the same!
Why do you believe your track Endtapes was chosen to feature in the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn film? And how did that come about? Like so many of these things, you’re not always sure how they come about. I believe they heard us play at SXSW and delved into our back catalogue. We wrote Endtapes during the “A Balloon Called Moaning” sessions.
The Joy Formidable finish there powerful set on the LG Arena stage and as the light rise I take a look at the audience to gauge their reaction to the band. Many people seemed impressed, some were rushing to the toilet, others just wanted Muse. Some bloke behind us tells his bored looking partner that they were good but not a stadium band. That’s the thing about The Joy Formidable, they don’t fit into any one vision or genre, they are truely creating unique individual music. Muse hit the stage as part of their 2nd Law album tour and are supberb. I don’t think the The Joy Formidable would really care but I must say their music filled that stadium as much as Muse music did.
You seem very popular in the USA. How does the audience there compare and differ to the UK audience?
Wolf’s Law is released in January 2013. You can pre-order it now via www. thejoyformidable.com
Words by Lisa Derrick Photograph by Mission Photography
he Hughes trio, Iwan, Aled and Dafydd, from the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, are in a hard working band, having released three albums since their 2006 conception. With bandmates Llyr Pari, Euron Jones and Branwen Williams, their sound merges Welsh folk with Americana to create music that has attracted attention from the likes of BBC 6 Music, BBC Radio Cymru, S4C’s Bandit and Nodyn programmes, and Green Man and Swn festivals amongst others. Their latest record Draw Dros Y Mynydd was shortlisted for the 2012 Welsh Music Prize, and we caught up with Aled to chat about this, what five covers they’d choose in a rationing and sibling arguments. So, three brothers in a band. Are you the best of friends or are there sometimes sibling disagreements? Do you each have defined roles or do you all get involved in everything? Like any set of siblings that has to spend so much time together, there are often disagreements, though thankfully they usually fall short of full-blown fights. We’re all involved in all aspects of the band, though Iwan tends to take on most song-writing duties. When it comes to arrangements, individual parts and
the administrative side of things we all get involved, there is no set way of working. PLUGGED IN is intrigued to find out why you called your first album Dawns Y Trichfilod (The Dance Of The Insects). Is there a story behind that? The track Dawns Y Trychfilod appears twice on the album, partly as we couldn’t decide which version we preferred, and partly as we quite liked the idea. The decision to use it as the album title was a follow up from that really. The song itself is a story about lonely, hungry insects getting together to drown their sorrows. Paid A Deud is a single based on a re-working of a traditional Welsh folk song – what was that process like? Were you worried about offending Welsh traditionalists? We’ve never worried about that. Thankfully the people who believe that folk music is sacred and should be confined to age-old arrangements are few and far between, or at least we don’t come across them very often. The process was quite straightforward — we decided we’d like to record the song. It was a duet, and we thought Gwyneth Glyn would be perfect for it as she has similar country-folk
leanings. We recorded it in the local pub, Ty Newydd in Sarn Mellteyrn. We set up all the equipment in the kitchen and used the pub itself as the live room. It was all relaxed and good fun. It was also our first time working with Euron Jones on the pedal steel guitar — he had been playing with Gwyneth for a while, and has since appeared on all our albums. Do you think of yourself as a ‘Welsh band’ or do you see your nationality as something separate to your music? Nationality is not something we’re particularly conscious of when it comes to our work, although it’s very rare for a review or press mention to not mention the fact that we’re from Wales or sing in Welsh. I don’t think it has ever influenced our material, and I find that nothing gets boring quicker than Welsh artists singing about Wales. We sing mostly in Welsh, as that’s the most natural thing to do. Though some people argue that Welsh speakers should sing exclusively in Welsh to ensure a healthy Welsh-language scene, I believe that to be detrimental, confining and almost forcing something to happen. It has to happen naturally I think, and it does with us. Have you sent your version of Neil Young’s
Cortez The Killer to the man himself? No we haven’t! In fact, we only ever played it live a couple of times and never recorded it. Great song though, and his Crazy Horse’s style of slow tempo, repetitive stompers dragging on for over 10 minutes has been quite an influence on us at times. I think he pretty much perfected it on Weld and Live Rust. Imagine a strict musical rationing was put in place and in addition to their own new material, bands were only allowed to cover or re-work five existing tracks for their entire musical career. Which would you choose? Do folk songs come in to this? I’ll keep it to covers as it’ll probably more interesting! This is my selection for the band, though it’s more than likely the others would choose something else! Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Like A Hurricane Sugababes - About You Now Geraint Jarman - Ambiwlans Townes van Zandt - St John the Gambler Abba - When All Is Said And Done BBC Radio Wales DJ Adam Walton described you in a review on his blog as “Something special. Something transcendent. Something
that lifts my soul up into the night sky…” How do you feel when you receive that kind of feedback? Ha-ha! It’s always nice to hear that we’ve made an impression, especially after a live performance as you don’t really have time to think about it while you’re performing — you can only draw general conclusion about how it went based on the monitor mixes, how many notes you fluffed and if you noticed anyone crying in the audience! With a record it tends to be more a case of, ‘Right, we’re happy with it. We can only hope the reviewers like it’, and if they don’t like it, it’s not such a big deal as you’re already happy with it yourself. A good live review is something else I think, as it does in effect qualify what you’re doing week in week out, and reassures that you’re doing a decent job. Tell us your thoughts on your latest album Draw Dros Y Mynydd. Is it based on any particular theme? How long did it take you to put it together? Draw Dros Y Mynydd came about quite quickly. A lot of the songs were written around the same time as the ones for the previous album. There might have been a thematic distinction between the last album and the songs we kept
for this, but it’s hard to remember any actual decisions. I feel that this album is less personal in terms of content — it tends to cover more vague themes and is perhaps less direct than the last one. There are many similarities though, and it does feel a bit like a ‘part two’ rather than just a follow-up album due to the same line-up, same studio, and the same batch of songs to a certain extent. What’s next for Cowbois — are you a band with a plan? We always have half a dozen plans on the go, from collaborations to cover albums to a day out in Alton Towers, so really it’s just a matter of focusing on one of them! I find that to be one of the nicest and most liberating things about being a musician — you can dream a seemingly silly idea, a far-fetched idea and follow it. If it doesn’t work, nobody has to know! We have songs for the start of a new album though. We’re currently touring and it’s all a bit hectic, but when the New Year comes around we’ll hopefully have time to concentrate on new material. The PLUGGED IN team look forward to Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog’s new material and realisation of those far-fetched ideas!
t takes guts to put on a festival devoted to guitar-based rock and indie music by bands that are predominately Welsh-based unknowns, especially in a time when the whole of the UK is obsessed with glorified karaoke stardom via TV programmes such as X-Factor that regurgitate one-hit-wonder singers and groups who are not allowed to develop their musical agenda and sing cover versions already favoured by the population. The first Merthyr Rock, despite the apathy of this coach potato public, was an amazing success establishing a very high benchmark with over 30 bands performing live, including Ocean Colour Scene, Skindred, Future Of The Left, Funeral For A Friend and the homing-coming of Merthyr’s favourite rock sons, The Blackout. To say the festival was good would be an understatement, exceptional a much more appropriate word. Fast forward a year and the second Merthyr Rock was upon us with a lot to live up to after last year’s high — but with British indie icons Razorlight, Welsh pop-rocker upstarts Kids In Glass Houses and a triumphant return to a headlining spot of Newport Ragga-Rockers Skindred, the gauntlet had been thrown down. The second stage at this year’s event impressed as well and was dedicated to BBC Journalist, Blogger and friend of PLUGGED IN magazine, James McLaren, whose life was ended so tragically only weeks before in a motorway accident — he was to be honoured by bands like Exit International and Pulled Apart By Horses playing anarchic sets to his memory. The stage line-ups for the Saturday event had been chosen by LostProphets, while Sunday saw The Blackout’s choice of music take the stage — a modern day Aerosmith vs Run DMC so to speak. Unlike last year’s rain-drenched mud fest that continued relentlessly throughout the two days, this year’s three days of music was blessed with hot golden sun that blazed rays onto the crowd as they shuffled between stages and running headlong into debt as they bought the obligatory over-priced burgers and beer that seems a fixed element at every festival event throughout the UK. Those that had money could treat themselves to an over-priced shot of Jagermeister, the 35% proof German killer drink that hypocritically (and for legal purposes) displayed the web address for drinkaware.co.uk while aiming to get the public inebriated in the quickest time possible. Admittedly, they were also giving away bright orange woolly hats that had the crowds flocking to the stand — let’s be honest we all love a freebie! Thrown amongst this crowd of happy music fans the PLUGGED IN team listened, watched and reported on the days events while soaking up the sunshine, atmosphere and music to bring you the most comprehensive review of Merthyr Rock you’ll ever find.
FRIDAY To open up a weekend of live music can be quite daunting in itself, to be the first act opening up the Merthyr Rock 2 festival would have most acts quaking in their boots. Not the case for Abergavenny’s The Undivided — as soon as the band started playing a crowd formed around the James McLaren stage, ready to party as they kicked out their first rocky tune. The people poured through the gates, running to listen and enjoy the music thrusting at them while The Undivided showed careful control and a consistency from their first to the last song of their set, Don’t Panic which had a cool guitar solo. Shouting to the crowd, ‘Have an amazing weekend’, you knew that Merthyr Rock had just got off to a great start. And yes you knew this was Merthyr, especially with the characters that the event pulls in. There was your group of blokes dressed as if they were members of Motley Crew with colourful wigs and leather jackets, while another man who had broken his leg was driving round the soft earth on a mobility scooter wearing a crash helmet with Sean Smith of The Blackout giving him a helping hand every time he got stuck in a rut! Over on the main stage the rock ’n’ roll sounds of Tone Damage sparked up, with lead singer Adam Ovens holding court over the vast arena placed in front of him. Winners of the Merthyr Rock/Clic Online Battle of the Bands, these boys proved their winning status with competent musicianship keeping the same level of energy throughout the set, even when they brought the tone down a little for the softer numbers. Be prepared as an album is on its way from these guys in the near future. Next up was The Lash, a soulful cacophony of sound fronted by the perfectly packaged Erin McNamara, whose voice reigned supreme throughout the set, and a former member of classic indie act 60ft Dolls Carl Bevan bashing away on his drum kit. Hinting towards a slight diversity within the Merthyr Rock line up, The Lash produced listenable laid back numbers that followed a more funkier vibe than any other band presented over the weekend, with Erin ad-libing lyrics throughout some of the cover versions making them more of their own. As cool as ice, there was just a lack of stage presence from Erin that really disengaged you from the live performance, which was a shame, as it would have been the icing to an already delicious cake. The crowd especially enjoyed a suggested Michael Jackson type dance off, resulting in much hilarity. a
Words by Ritchie Samuel, Ruth Jenkins, Victoria Madden, Celyn Thomas, Ellie Trotman, Hannah Williams, Sj Williams, Tomas Dobbin, McKenzy Renshaw-Valiquette & Darren Warner Photographs by Craig Thomas, Les Davies, Tiegan Neary & Darren Warner
Futures took the weekend’s proceedings to another level when they crashed onto the main stage spewing out excellent song after excellent song. The lead singer’s strong vocal prevailed throughout, though was unfortunately met with little response as he asked the crowd to sing along with the number Say My Name — not the fault of the band, just the crowd didn’t know the song well enough. Still a band to recommend because, despite that little setback, they proved they were in the entertainment business with a strong performance. Futures who have had their fair share of troubles in recent years provided a blistering performance, that proved the hype that surrounds them can be justified in their dreamy, swirly and charming indie-rock pop nuggets. Back to the James McLaren stage and The People, The Poet performed material inspired by fans who were encouraged to share their darkest days. Having played the previous year under their former name Tiger Please! this year we saw a much more melodic, thoughtful set of beautifully crafted songs reminiscent, for want of a better point of reference, of Mumford & Sons. Leon, who hobbled carefully about the stage due to hurting his leg and being confined to crutches, has upped his game since the band’s beginnings. He now crafts the melody of the songs, making the crowd feel the emotion — even going so far as to personalise the connection of the songs to the fans, as the band included a song with lyrics that a fan had written and sent to them, proving how much they can relate to each other. This was a stellar performance from the Pontypridd band, with Leon’s amazing vocal range soaring into the night sky leaving hairs raised. Producing a form of urban/rock mash up were Stateside guys Saves The Day, who bounced around the stage as if their instruments were of no hindrance at all. Guided by the drums and base guitar lines the set powered alongside the throaty strong vocals of lead singer Chris Conley. This was party time and Saves The Day were the ones to pick those spirits up and have you bouncing round Cyfartha Castle parkland. Dirty Goods, the headliners on the second stage kicked off and entertained throughout their rock set. Getting you pumped up and ready for the main headliners that night, they didn’t hold back, bashing away on additional drums which created a force of percussion that was of whirlwind proportions and perfectly complemented the enthusiastically hand clapping audience. The Newport trio with their laddish swagger stomped right across their low-fi indie-dance sound and tore the sky apart with their razor sharp renditions! They also gave a big nod to event organiser Rhodri during their set, which was a nice touch from these brilliant entertainers. The main stage was set and lit up in a purpley glow in readiness for the hotly anticipated headline act of the night. The tent was steamy and sweaty, with bodies awash with perspiration when within an instant legendary indie rockers Razorlight were on the stage and banging out hit after hit, including their classics Golden Touch, In The Morning and set closer, America, which turned the crowd into a mess of excitement and bad singing wannabees. Formed in 2002 by the now-only-original member lead singer Johnny Borrell, the current four-piece line-up careered through tracks from all three albums, including the self titled second album and last offering Slipaway Fires. This was Merthyr’s answer to renewable energy as the electricity created was enough to power the whole of the valley with bodies bouncing around to every number played. If there was any suggestion that Merthyr Rock was a bit of a downer for the band who only a few years earlier had headlined the massive Reading rock festival, they didn’t show the difference. This was a Razorlight performance and you were going to get them full throttle, no matter what. That’s what Merthyr expected and that’s what Merthyr received, bringing a sense of joy to every listener’s face. Razorlight have plenty more to offer from this performance so expect news of a fourth album soon. The only tiny downside was Borrell failing to engage with his audience, but him not doing that did mean more playing time, so guess it was a trade-off. They played the big hitters which cemented their reputation and fame at indie nightclubs, to leave the generation that they soundtracked happy and merry into the night. In the morning, there must have been a few sore heads after the night’s time travel back to the Noughties. SATURDAY Day Two and the gates open nice and early at midday, with the first band the Moon Birds kicking off the music within 10 minutes. These boys gave off a bit of a funky vibe crossed with hints of Bob Dylan as their lead singer dressed in a smart shirt and bow tie played acoustic guitar and mouth organ. His voice was strong with defined arrangements making this a good opener for the second day of the festival. Pontypridd’s young anarchic rock outfit Falling With Style cracked up the noise level as they sprang into action over on the main stage, taking fall advantage of the position they had found themselves in (gaining a place on the stage due to another band dropping out the night before). These young guys, who come over like Glee meets Rock
due to their age and influences, milked the position that had befallen them — cavorting round the stage like they were demented and demon possessed, crashing through their set making everyone stand up and take notice. Yes, you could make comparisons to other bands but still they held a certain uniqueness of their own putting them on the list of bands to watch out for. The six member strong Dead Formats, from Essex, oozed out on to the James McLaren stage from a small gap at the back, with duo singers Darren Ditton and Francis Waller immediately taking up their positions. Admittedly, Waller looked more like the band’s manager than a lead vocalist with his smart black trousers and Daz-white shirt, with the way he dressed mimicking their style of singing Waller dished out tunes in a melodic voice while Ditton screamed in between. Oddly enough, the two with their mismatched styles complemented each other and the band’s Babyshambles style music which was rather enjoyable. The band had a clear punk attitude getting the crowd moving to tracks soon to be released on their first album At Sixes & Sevens. “It’s a little bit of a mover” they said and, judging by their energetic tracks, we agree. Neil Starr’s Dopamine from Caerphilly at one time was a mainstay of the Welsh music scene and beyond. Then his other guise Attack! Attack! appeared on the scene and steadily took precedence over Dopamine, which drifted into obscurity. Well, in a strange twist, he now returns with Dopamine while Attack! Attack! has disappeared to record that eagerly anticipated third album. Whatever the name, it doesn’t really matter because this band know how to produce great indie rock music and, as expected, they turned it on for the whole set that they dedicated to our friend James McLaren. To an outsider, some of the songs may have lacked the immediacy required at an event with so many bands playing so many songs, but listening to Call To Arms after such a long hiatus was nothing short of heaven while mixing in Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall was brilliant stuff. Neil did tell the crowd that their regular bassist ‘What’s his name again?’ had said he’d never play Merthyr Rock, so stand-in Lloyd was called up to fill in with talent and relish — and, as Neil put it, the band gave whatsisname ‘a big f**k you, nobody’s too good for fans like these.’ Needless to say he wasn’t missed! The lead singers of Cardiff outfit Astroid Boys are possible the only members of a band that should be given an ASBO at a festival, judging by the way they jump around the stage goading the crowd to respond to them in any way, good or bad. They don’t take themselves seriously but added a real party vibe to this early hour of the day’s proceedings with some truly wicked tunes, including a mickey take of Bump & Grind, the tune R Kelly hit the top spot with — though in this case would probably have him diving into the hot lava of a volcano if he’d been listening to it here at Merthyr Rock! Dangerously entertaining, a real guilty pleasure. Danni Monroe, the front woman of South Walian superstars The Dirty Youth immediately calls up references to Hayley Williams of Paramore with her brightly coloured red hair and tough attitude. But that’s where the similarity stops. Storming the main stage Danni and the band produced a non-stop whirlwind of metallic riff and punk attitude spat out with true gusto. Giving us the live taste of music from their superb 2011 debut album Red Light Fix, they ripped the large tented arena apart — especially with the audience’s reaction to songs like Requiem Of The Drunk and Fight, during which one of our young PLUGGED IN reporters belted out the words so loudly, she actually started scaring the crowds of people around her! Black & Reds took up residence next, with the duo pumping out a feast of music highly unexpected considering there were only two members on stage. Though drumming and singing lead vocals can sometimes cause problems with tone, Ashley Sheehan with his gypsy looks seemed to destroy this theory from the first note on songs like Started Something and the excellent Calling All The Soldiers. Clever boys, brilliant music. Sonic Boom Six made a big effort to get to the festival from their hometown of Manchester and the response was amazing. Delivering a style akin to ska mixed with dubstep mixed with punk mixed with metal they served up a melange of music from their four albums (The Ruff Guide To Genre-Terrorism, Arcade Perfect, City Of Thieves and the recent self-titled Sonic Boom Six) in a unique nod towards their Eighties influences, which even showed through the band’s clothing style. Lead vocalist Laila Khan sounded as if she had swallowed helium with her high falcetto voice producing an epic stage presence as she bounded around the platform playing up to the photographers, especially on their cover of Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’. Hardcore extreme hit the second stage next when North Walians Bastions stormed the walls with their take on the screamed-at-yer genre. With tracks taken from their Kingdom Of Dogs 7-track mini album, you understand why they’re putting up a battle to achieve dominance over the other nu-metal/punk bands playing today. With one member of the PLUGGED IN team being a self-confessed Exit Ten fan who had been lucky enough to interview the band before their performance, she was bouncing in anticipation of their soon-to-be
Words by Ritchie Samuel
arlier this year in the downtime of their bands, or their daytime jobs as you were, two of Wales’s finest musicians announced something rather special in the form of a split acoustic album. It’s the embodiment of DIY in the modern age, the two guys self-funded, selfreleased on no record label and with no PR Juggernaut, getting themselves talked about in nearly every magazine in existence. It’s a stripped back affair, a mile away from the usual rock sound thwy are known for, but still contains the witty and smart lyrics you’ve grown to love. And PLUGGED IN was lucky enough to interview the guys straight off the back of their successful headline outing at Ponty’s Big Weekend Festival. Let’s start at the origins of the album. “Neil heard I was doing some acoustic stuff and asked I wanted to meet up. I had nothing going on at the time so I thought I may as well,” starts Gavin. “Dopamine took Gavin out on tour with us and I got to hear his songs every night,” says Neil. “I thought they were great and suggested a split release with him as I had written some songs that I knew would never fit on any of my band albums.” Gavin remembers, “During the tour Neill asked if I was gonna release anything, at the time I had no plans, I think I was a bit too scared!” So the foundation was laid for the album very early on, how did they find the writing process? “No different really, sometimes you pick up a guitar and the song that comes out is what it is. I can tell pretty quickly if it’s a full band song or if it’s something else,” replies Neil regarding his part on Ghosts, whilst Gavin’s Echoes side was a little different. “The ‘day job’ is a very team oriented work place. We all bring ideas and work off each other. On this kind of stuff it’s initially all down to you. I was lucky in that when we went into the studio with Todd Campbell (Straight Lines) he heard the songs that were initially all going to be acoustic and brought some ideas in himself.” This brings us to the album’s recording, which sees the guys bringing in very close friends — Gavin roped in Dane Campbell (Straight Lines) and Neil got Attack! Attack! band mate Will Davies in for a couple of tracks. “It was great of the guys to come down and play, they made the album a lot more three-dimensional.” However it’s on Neil’s collaboration with his wife Jess Starr that the tender and extremely intimate side of the album really comes to the front. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, Jess has an amazing voice and is actually a Grade 8 vocalist. She gets to hear all my songs before everyone else and has always offered ideas to me that she hears when I play the songs. Summer Song seemed perfect for her to make her vocal duet with me.” The guys praise each other when asked to pick a highlight of each other’s half. “Hey Girl because I’m a big girl at heart,” Neil smiles. “Gavin is a fantastic song writer and hearing his five songs backs that up.” Gavin opts for Another Life. “It tells
the story of every touring musician/soldier/worker away from home for a long period of time. It’s beautiful.” It might come across as a bit of a bro-down on paper, but we interviewed the guys separately and there was no joking, just honesty. With the album completed, the guys went out on tour initially for a few dates with The People, The Poet. With such a drastic change from their normal ‘day jobs’ how did people perceive the material? “Both Gavin and I have been amazed and humbled by all the support and kind words that people have had to say about the songs, people have had nothing but positive things to say to us,” tells Neil. Gavin was just as honest, “I was surprised that anyone came. We did all the promotion through our myspace/facebook accounts and Neil organised the tour. We didn’t take out any press either. It was possibly the hardest part of the process for me. When you mess up in a studio you just start again. The live setting isn’t that forgiving and it took a few shows for me to get anywhere near comfortable.” With the album being able to be exposed to all corners of the globe simultaneously and social media allowing instant feedback, some from fans on the other side of the world such as Japan, did they find it at all strange? “Like I said earlier, it’s been a great response to something that was and still is a bit of fun to us. That’s what making music should be at the end of the day, fun. As soon as you start making it for any other reason you can become jaded very quickly. It was good to see that you can make a record, get it out there and do alright with it without needing a label. Would it have been a better ‘success’ if we were with a label? Maybe, but that’s not what we started the project for,” Gavin tells us, before Neil adds, “That’s the positive side to the internet, it allows you to reach a worldwide audience without being on a label. We were able to advertise to our fans through facebook and twitter and we ended up sending CDs to over 20 different countries across the world which was amazingI” So what does the future hold for the two icons in the current Welsh music scene? Another joint project perhaps? Well the guys both hold a never say never attitude, although there is nothing in the pipeline. “I’ve already written a few songs which I would consider for a solo release,” says Neil. And when Gavin has spare time on his hands? “It depends if I choose to pick up my guitar or Xbox pad. That said, I’ve really enjoyed this project and to say I’d never do it again would be a flat out lie.” Here’s hoping he finds equal time between the Xbox and guitar! And as for the ‘day jobs’? The Blackout will be starting the party by the time you read this, with pre-order packages for the new album available through their website www.theblackout.net. At the time of this interview Neil was in the studio recording the highly anticipated new Attack! Attack! album. It seems 2013 is set to be a triumphant year for Welsh rock music.
e’ve been crossing paths with Leeds band Pulled Apart By Horses for a number of years here at PLUGGED IN, seeing them play live a few times — and even once when lead singer Tom Hudson accidently vomited over our team member Lisa Derrick at a SWN show! She still gave the band a thumbs up and doesn’t hold a grudge against them. “Tell her I’m sorry, I think I had a bad toastie and get pretty adrenalised while playing,” Tom says. “It wasn’t a punk thing.” The guys had turned up to Merthyr Rock late, and were rushed into a signing tent then onto a table with us as soon as they got out of their van. “We got lost. We went past a house with some Jamiroquai patterned stained glass front door three times before we realised that we were going round in circles — we didn’t realise Jamiroquai lived here in Merthyr Tydfil!” Yeah, it’s a little known fact that it’s where he comes to get away from it all — not! Pulled Apart By Horses, described as a post hardcore grunge band, formed in late 2007 releasing their self-titled first album in June 2010. Having toured with the likes of Muse and Biffy Clyro, the band have an awesome live reputation and are one of the main attractions to this year’s Merthyr Rock festival, headlining the second stage. At the beginning of the year they released the more accomplished album Tough Love which helped capture the, albeit late, attention of BBC National Radio. The album, recorded in Wales at the Monnow Valley Studios was produced by Gil Norton, the talented British producer who has worked with artists like Foo Fighters, Pixies, Echo & The Bunnymen, as well as You Me At Six. So what was that experience like? “We were kind of nervous at first because we thought he was going to be a bit of a hard ass but he was a really nice guy. In fact he was a bit of a pussy. Though I’m sure he could take all four of us in one go. He’s like our adopted rock ’n’ roll uncle. A great bloke. The album’s been out quite a while now and it’s been going down really well. We play shows and people actually start singing back the words to us, which is the best feedback you can get. It’s weird recording an album of songs and you haven’t played on the road. You don’t know what sort of reaction you’re going to get or if anyone is going to be into it. Luckily for us, they are.” Your live sets are pretty ferocious with lots of thrashing around giving you a reputation for on-stage injuries. What’s the worst that’s happened to you? “My head fell off once! Not really. I had a guitar lead that got stuck into my knee which I didn’t worry about at first. Though after two weeks of not being able to wash while on tour we got to Wakefield and my leg was double the size. I couldn’t get my jeans off and I was in a load of pain so I had to go to the doctors. He said I had Cellutitis (inflamation of the subcutaneous layer of the skin) and that it had infected my leg from top to bottom. He said if I had left it a couple more days I would have had to have my leg amputated! On the last tour I burnt my hand on stage on our toasted sandwich maker.” On stage? “Yeah, we get kind of hungry during the performance cause of all the energy we expel. Toasties help us to keep going.” And in need of said toasties the band head off to prepare for the gig and we’re left deciphering what was true and what was slightly exaggerated! Whatever, the guys were great and their performance is thunderously amazing so hopefully we’ll see them on the main stage next year.
Words by Amy Williams & Darren Warner 26
heard set while waiting for them to take to the stage. It was 4.10pm and having made their way to the front of the stage PLUGGED IN was rooted to the spot in front of lead singer Ryan Redman’s microphone. Our Exit Ten fan-atic had got her patch and nothing was going to move her from it. As soon as the band started playing they were almost drowned out by the appreciative noise coming from the crowd, including a tall geezer who belted out all the song lyrics over everyone else’s heads! In the ensuing commotion our Exit Ten fan-atic soon found herself uprooted, and not by anything other than her own enthusiasm of bouncing around in time with the music, as the band plunged into Resume Ignore. The band too were busy moving and jumping around the stage as they fed off the energy propelled at them from the audience in front of them. Redman’s mane swished around as the band went from song to song allowing very little respite, especially when playing Redman’s favourite track Lion from their 2011 album Give Me Infinity. As expected, one PLUGGED IN reviewer’s favourite band from the weekend! Riding on a high from their album Black Junk receiving a mass of rave reviews and being shortlisted for this year’s Welsh Music Prize, Exit International dominated the audience with their unique duel bass, drum pumping sound and strong aggressive vocals. Scott Anderson is no stranger to the music world and playing live sets that are as good as the last, he did front Merthyr punk legends Midasuno and has even had a best selling book written around him by Rachel Trezise, titled Dial M For Merthyr. Well when Exit International appeared on the scene after the great Midasuno’s demise (their last interview being in PLUGGED IN Issue 4) a new chapter was being created. In fact, now, they are writing a new novel through their music which has a sound that is totally different. The music of Exit International is tough and hard and PLUGGED IN believed them to be one of the best Welsh artists to grace the Merthyr Rock stage over this weekend. Stunning! To be born to a famous dad is bound to reflect on your life and upbringing. When you decide that the music business is for you and you find yourself following in the footsteps of your dad, the legendary Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, then comparisons are going to be made. The mannerisms that you have grown up with can be construed as mimicry of your father’s style and your birth-given voice will be compared to the great man. So how do you deal with this? Well, you front Rise To Remain, the heavy scream-led, guitar-fuelled, anarchic rock act that machine gunned their way through a strong set of songs taken from their destroyer of an album City Of Vultures (see our review in PLUGGED IN Issue 13). Saying that, this band isn’t all about the voice, the guitars rule supreme in this band with founders Ben Tovey and Will Homer ripping their strings apart as they jousted for your attention. PLUGGED IN interviewed Rise To Remain in Issue 13 around a performance at a smaller venue in Cardiff. This performance showed that the large stage was built for them and Austin Dickinson proved the legacy of his father’s efforts live on in spirit — but he is his own man with in his actions and should be allowed to shine. Knowing that you are about to play the most subdued acoustic set of songs at Saturday’s Merthyr Rock festival could be quite an overwhelming thought, especially when virtually every other band on the day’s bill has been throwing guitars and drums at you from every orifice. Add to that the knowledge that your mates and band members from both Dopamine and The Blackout are standing in the audience, laying claim to you and feeling that they can only be the one true critic of your performance, you may well feel apprehensive. So when Neil Starr & Gavin Butler graced the stage with only their acoustic guitars in tow they may well have felt a heavy weight of pressure upon them. Of course this doesn’t show and what we as an audience receive is a beautiful set of tone perfect songs taken from their album Ghost & Echoes, as well as a few re-styled additions like Honesty from the Attack! Attack! catalogue and Save Our Selves from The Blackout’s The Best In Town album, dedicating all to James McLaren. Listening to the music was like a beautiful respite from the noise of the past few hours, and the audience listened intently giving the two musicians the respect they deserved. Such soft music may not have gone down well at this point of the day if it had been played by any other group, but because of the local hero status these two men can lay claim to, this set was perfect. Fellow Celts, Scottish band Yashin brought the noise level back to the normal intensely high proportions as they leapt stagewards and smashed instruments on their poundingly raucous set. They showed love for their audience and constantly interacted making the performance personal to each and every person standing in front of them, as they stormed like a hurricane through songs from their latest offering We Created A Monster. Harry Radford’s clean vocals complemented the screams ejected from Kevin Miles lungs while much guitar thrashing abounded all around them causing the crowd to spontaneously start strutting around the mosh pit in a Madness-type style — very strange indeed but a happy crowd pleasing show! Newport City’s pop punksters Save Your Breath blasted onto the
second stage in a triumphant return to Merthyr Rock with songs from their latest album Vices and forthcoming new material on EP Recover. With hints of early Sum41 the band still deliver a set that is uniquely their own, screaming at the audience with growled vocals that have you losing your voice as you sing along. At the front of the stage a gathering of adoring drunken women fans danced in-and-out-of-time inebriated steps to the tunes blasted at them — very funny to watch!. Lower Than Atlantis, the Watford rockers whose new album Changing Tune is out now, show their influences quite plainly. In fact during this set at Merthyr Rock they covered Pretender by Foo Fighters like a bold statement of fact, seamlessly merging it from their own track Bug. This didn’t deter from their performance, it in fact heightened it because they covered the song so well, making it their own. Mike Duce’s vocals powered through the numbers pulling the audience in to sing along to crowd-pleaser track Deadliest Catch and latest single Love Someone Else, while the traditional lighters being waved in the air were replaced with the light from mobile phones during the softer songs. The next day was to be Mike’s birthday so in honour of that the crowd happily sang Happy Birthday to him, a true gesture by true fans. Prior to the next act on the James McLaren stage came a slight improvised performance from the soundman. The poor man had to set up the mics while a massive crowd gazed upon him. Every time he said ‘One, Two’, the crowd responded ‘Three, Four’ much to their amusement. Not deterred by this he decided to improvise saying ‘Asda, Morrision’s, Waitrose, Tesco’s’. When some wag shouted out ‘You forgot Sainsbury’s’, the crowd cheered loudly as the soundman thanked his heckler and added it to the list. Of course this just helped warm up the already steaming hot crowd who anticipated the arrival on stage by second headliners Pulled Apart By Horses. Like being punched in the face they delivered immediately and bomb blasted their music into everyone’s bleeding ears. Uniquely original, they do not compromise and have recently taken the world by storm since the release of their second album Tough Love and the single V.E.N.O.M, that was met with much furore by the assembled throng. No longer too drunk to play and throwing up over our PLUGGED IN reviewers (see Issue xxx), PABH delivered higher than expectation with the best set we’ve ever seen them play. After being stuck in a van for over five and a half hours on their journey from their hometown of Leeds, Tom Hudson saying ‘Give it up for Exit International. We came to see them, but missed their set’, then being thrust into the hands of PLUGGED IN’s eagerly waiting interview team, they still performed without fault and closed the night’s events on the James McLaren stage with an epic performance of nuclear proportions. It had been rumoured that Skindred had asked to headline this year’s Merthyr Rock stage after their destructively brilliant performance at last year’s event, so the waiting gathered throng knew they weren’t going to hold back with this performance. The crowd’s sweat had got to high proportions and the air was rather putrid when Benji Webbe & Co racked up the music and proceed to make grown men cry with their powerful performance. Wearing what could only be described as interesting attire — top hat, colourful jacket and clashing check trousers — Benji bounced around the stage pumping out more energy than an exploding star. The crowd was his now and he was in control. In their inevitable Ragga Rock style that mashes up rock, punk and reggae into a unique amalgam of distorted noise and chanted words, they raced through a set of faves like Pressure and Rat Race while complementing the set with more recent tracks from their last album Union Black. Politically confrontational, Skindred are a band in a white male dominated world whose singer uses the opportunity to bring harmony to people, albeit in the mosh pit of thrashing bodies that were writhing around in front of him. The music transcends the barriers and breaks through the doors that people can place in front of them, especially in the valleys of Wales. Nobody works harder on his performance and all who watch are always given 110% from the band. Of course, the set has its lighter moments and when they break into a rendition of Beyonce’s Single Ladies the crowd are in amused raptures, especially when Benji asks all the single ladies to raise their hands. When he then asks the single men to now raise their hands there seems some confusion until he shouts, ‘What! Go get them!’ Of course there comes a time when the Newport Helicopter appears. This means anyone who is brave enough, ladies included, takes their top off and spins it around their head to the music as if they are rotor blades. The body odour reaches sickening levels at this point as sweaty armpits are displayed in all their dripping glory while Skindred up the level of their performance to reach atmospheric heights and end their set. Skindred, the kings of the live scene, deliver once again at Merthyr. SUNDAY As if the noise level and high amount of shots of Jagermeister had left a massive hangover from the night before, the crowds slowly drift into the
Words by Sj Williams
ou could see the whole festival from where I sat on the banking. It was still early but there was a steady flow of people coming through the gates. The smell of burgers and beer hung in the air. The atmosphere was relaxed as bodies scattered the grass, hungover from the night before, but eager enough for more. I watched as people roamed the field, taking in the ambience and prepping themselves for the biggest line up of the weekend. I wondered if it was too early to have my first pint of the day as I stared green eyed at those ordering their refreshments at the bar. It was then I saw them. They stood grouped together, chatting absentmindedly and being bothered by no one. But was I sure? The dark lion’s mane bursting from his head suggested that I was right, but his back was to me, so I couldn’t see his chiselled features. But the person stood next to him facing my way looked a lot like Joe. So I decided. Yes, it was time for a beer, and on the way, I would catch a look at the others in the circle of love. I had been nagging PLUGGED IN to arrange an interview with Exit Ten, but nothing had been confirmed as yet and time was against us. I knew that it was now or never. If I didn’t take the bull by the horns, I would be left shattered. So I grew some balls and walked up to the lads. “You’re Exit Ten!” my words escaped like an excited four year old. I tried to catch them, but they slipped out. I waited, slightly embarrassed at my short outburst. But the guys in front of me smiled and confirmed. I told them about my struggle to secure an interview time and asked them if they could fit me in. Ryan Redman (vocals) looked over at Joe Ward (guitar) and said, “Yeah, why not. I’m sure we can fit you in.” They both grinned and the butterflies fluttered in my tummy. We walked over to the signing tent where I was about to gain an insight into Exit Ten. The band is from Reading and has been together since 2003, with 60% of the members being related. Three are brothers, twins Stuart and James Steele and older brother Chris. Joe Ward on guitars is now seen as a family member after being a close family friend since a very young age and Ryan Redman, vocals, has also been around so long he’s considered as part of the furniture. This, they said, has definitely been something which has kept them together and made sure that they have never given up. Less than a year after forming, they were chosen as an up-and-coming band to appear on Richard Branson’s Rebel Billionaire, and consequently played the V Festival the same year. I wanted to know what impact this had on their career. “We were really plucked out of obscurity to appear on the show. It was bigger in the States than it was over here, which meant that we had a lot of emails from America that took ages to pile through. It would have been better if the show aired now, especially with the internet being there as well. But as the performance goes, it was great to play V Festival, but once you have a taste of how it is to be there, you don’t want to lose it.” The journey from 2003 to now has been a long one for Exit Ten. So far, they have released two albums and three EPs. There is a clear change in style from their first album Remember The Day to their new album Give Me Infinity. What first drew me to Exit Ten was that they had a very bouncy, nu-metal vibe going on. Now, their style has evolved and is a little more mature. However, this change in style has been alleviated by the fact that they still have the unique voice of their gorgeous lead singer, as well as the quirky guitar riffs which makes the band what they are. One of the three tracks on the new EP is a cover of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun. It was one of those covers that had me hanging on every note. It’s the first time I’ve heard Redman growling any lyrics and you get the impression that it was a cover the boys couldn’t wait to do. I needed to know if I could expect to hear any more awesome covers like this. “Actually, a few people have said they didn’t like the cover because it was too similar to the original. There will definitely be more coming, but I think next time we can let go a bit and put our own stamp on it.” The band thanked influences like Tool, Killswitch Engage and Muse, to name but a few, for the style they have adopted, but I wanted to know if they’d copied any techniques these influences may have used to come up with new songs. “We like to think that we’re different, but we use the same routine as everyone else. We try to be ourselves at the same time as pleasing other people. We don’t quite have enough fans to be massive, but we’re enjoying it now more than ever. We spent a lot of time being bogged down, but we’ll have more freedom on the next album. We have experimented a bit like Tool — with our song Mountains we had a jamming session and then played the riff backwards, and that’s how it stayed.” Exit Ten are set to tour at the end of the year and will be supporting another of my favourite bands, Shinedown. There will be an intimate gig held in the Cardiff student union. It’s the perfect place to see Exit Ten for the first time and to fall in love with them from across the bar. There is such thing as love at first sound.
Merthyr Rock arena on the Sunday being gently met by the dulcet tones of Rich Kinsey who is performing almost immediately on the second stage. One-time member of Merthyr Indie rockers The Oritorios (who PLUGGED IN interviewed in Issue 8) he has been chosen by The Blackout as their first representative of their choice of music on the second stage today. The one-man band, with his guitar, mouth organ and drum/ tambourine combination that he played with his foot, supplied us with a collection of unique and original bluesy songs. Perfect for an easy Sunday morning listening. A man to look out for. Reaper In Sicily competently took to the main stage with their pretty boy looks which was incongruous with their sweary vocals, but still increased the crowd capacity in the tent by their energetic performance. This is a band that intends going places and the hard work they put into that drive is apparent with every note they play and every word they sing. With the energy they produce, and the fact that the following day they were going into Romesh’s Longwave Studios to record their first album, they showed that they were the best choice to open the main stage proceedings. The band looked nervous on stage at the start of their set, which included fan favourites from latest EP Chapters, but they grew into giants by the end of the set looking comfortable like your favourite pair of socks. Buried In Alaska added the first day’s take on nu metal screamo rock [Metalcore] with their pulsating beats an acrid raw vocals that sent the devil into hiding in any nearby church on the sunny Sunday morning. Easily the best act of its kind when compared with similar scream acts that were presented to us throughout the day, PLUGGED IN was unsure of why the band were so low on the play-list. Locals from Merthyr it was more than their mates from the nearby town who appreciated the music from this five piece. Their cheeky cover of the Backstreet Boys’ Larger Than Life during their stage time was brutal to say the least, loud and in your face definitely. Boys to check out at a venue near you. London lads Shadows Chasing Ghosts seemed to find it difficult to create enthusiasm for their music. Not that their screamo rock was disappointing, far from it, it was just the crowd didn’t respond. Maybe it was because of the hangovers and the early hour of the day, but they seemed to get little back which was unfortunate as the performance was strong positive and adrenaline fuelled with songs like Splinter and Now Or Never from their Lessons album and Sunlight & Home from The Golden Ratio showing the songwriting power behind the electric performance. Verses, who have blagged a support slot with Kids In Glass Houses on tour, played superior guitar-based indie music in a Manic Street Preachers-style. The strength in the vocalist’s voice held the whole set together with his mellow tones while the bassist kept singing the lyrics to members of the crowd who obviously were enamoured with the man. Ones for PLUGGED IN to check out, with their big time hooks, riffs and straight up no-nonsense beautifully constructed music The oddly named The James Cleaver Quintet appeared next on the main stage and, unlike a jazz set as the name kind of suggests, we get another big dose of scream. Delivering clean strong sounds with songs taken from their album That Was Then, This Is Now including Chicken Shit (For The Soul) and Think Or Swim this music was far removed from the Lucozade Advert they appeared in that had them rolling down a hill while performing a cover of Feeder’s Buck Rogers. Not that that has anything to do with the band playing today, as in this world governed by earning money needs must to get on in life. So as they played their Glassjaw-influenced music, they created a strong atmosphere within the assembled crowd in front of them. The energetic hardcore underground punk-inspired music brought the tent to life with their endless assault on the senses and it was certainly hard to keep your eye on any one member as they moved around the stage like maniacs You must feel sorry for the next person in line to use the microphone after the lead singer of Blowgoat used it to self-harm, bashing it into his forehead and wounding himself with blood everywhere. Maybe this was a regular occurrence, as none of the other members of the band rushed, in with their first aid kit, bandages in hand and plasters at the ready or maybe this was just a way of attracting the attention of the near to screamo-d out audience at Merthyr Rock. Saying that, it did the job with the crowd thriving on the energetic performance — especially when the lead singer jumped over the barrier into the crowd, the wire from his microphone knocking one less-aware photographer’s uncovered lenses into the mud, to finish the set amongst his newly acquired fans. Straight Lines never disappoint — that is a fact! And when they launched into their set on the main stage the audience seemed to double in an instant as they crashed through their indie rock songs with the stance of true professionalism. Giving us a selection from both their first album Persistence In This Game and the amazing follow up Freaks Like Us (that PLUGGED IN believe should have been on the list of nominated albums for the Welsh Music Prize 2012) they know what an audience really needs — an injection of pure adrenaline. The party
had started proven by the fact the crowd started a spontaneous conga line that weaved around the auditorium, the most unusual of audience participation that’s ever been witnessed at such an event, especially as attached to this line you found the aforementioned man on his motability scooter weaving his way round the auditorium alongside the rest of the audience. Only in Merthyr! Marmozets are... different. Very different. There was a decent sized crowd surrounding the James McLaren stage so we were very interested to see what this band was like. They were heavy, very heavy with frontwoman Rebecca crossing between raw deep unclean vocals to harmonious clean vocals. The intensity of Marmozets is a joy to behold as the young quartet acted like a bunch of delinquent youths caught up in a riot. Playing from their EP Vexed with its disjointed sound that feels like it’s barely threaded together, the music keeps you excited on the edge of your seat. Quite angry too, which we also liked. But the constant screaming vocals were a bit too much. In fact, it felt like a drill was being driven into your head with most of the songs sounding very similar. Don’t get us wrong, they put on a good show and obviously gave everything they got, even begging the photographers, leaving the pit after the obligatory first three songs, to stay. They demanded your attention, giving everyone an energetic and amazing show. However, throwing drumsticks full-force into the crowd and then throwing the actual drums around on stage was a bit OTT after using the stage as therapy to get every bit of anger out of their system. Don Broco came as a welcome relief with their charismatic stage presence and beautifully crafted songs. Riding a big high after the release of their greatly received mini-album Big Fat Smile last year and the recently released Priorities, the Bedford four-piece added a new level to the festival especially when they played their much admired single Dreamboy and latest offering Priorities. Creating a massive wall of death during song Thugworkout and a huge gym class session with push-ups from the crowd was certainly a bizarre sight. Their dream punk-pop sound on Beautiful Morning is a masterclass in upbeat perfect day starter songs, whilst Priorities sees the new dance sensation ‘The Walk’ on stage alongside their more mature edgy rock driven songs. The BBC said of Page 44 that they may become ‘tomorrow’s superstars’ and, having been recognized by Channel 4 and Alex Zane, the expectations were running high for this former support band to The Blackout. With their take on indie rock they powered through a set that included the much downloaded track We Know The Way. Strong and impressive, we understand why The Blackout devoted time on their stage to this rising talent. Whatever Future Of The Left do always stands out and defies convention. Having gone through a line-up change and the release of the exceptional The Plot Against Common Sense album this would be PLUGGED IN’s first chance to see their live performance since our interview in Issue 15. As if to prove a point that they are a main stage band, after headlining last year’s second stage, Falco and the crew ripped everyone present into a mass of blood-strewn flesh with their anarchic beats and baselines. Whilst one PLUGGED IN member was interviewing Aled Phillips (KIGH) in a nearby tent, their jaw dropped and eyes popped out at the noise coming from this band playing on stage in the background to the interview! This was a tour de force performance of uncompromising relentless power and disjointed adrenaline-fuelled songs that had you jumping around like a crazed maniac. Always disturbing, never straight forward and of course, not to everyone’s taste FOTL are plainly brilliant and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Yorkshire mob Proxies were taking to the James McLaren stage next, so as the crowd rushed over to catch their electronically led alternative rock music they were in for a treat. With moody, dark and heavy electronic beats they brought to Merthyr that anthemic club vibe that is much richer live than on their recordings. Although no guest appearance from Sean Smith on If I Had A Penny To My Name, but reworked live with a bundle of energy it’s a good type of different. Fantastic performance and a welcome pinch of diversity to the day. Essex boys We Are The Ocean seemed to have grown up since the early days PLUGGED IN reviewed them at a Cardiff Barfly gig, where though excellent they tended to be following the same course of many other bands (sing, scream, sing). With the release of the third long player Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow and the departure of scream vocalist Dan Brown their set seemed to be a much milder melodic affair and came close to being the best band of the festival. Not that losing your scream vocalist is a good thing, as proven by the effect Alex Pennie’s departure from The Automatic proves, but Liam Cromby’s strong clean vocals pierce through the rock guitars and power laden drums defining each track with a sense of individual style. They really got into the music they played and the crowd followed suit especially on Bleed. Very refined and providing indie pop music you could dance to, Canterbury graced the second stage playing tracks from their recent
Words by Cristina Shuker It’s not an easy thing to get the Reaper boys to actually answer a few questions, since the band has suddenly found themselves getting busier and busier — and also because they are a comical band and always up for a laugh. But PLUGGED IN managed to sit down with the guys and have a sensible (ish) chat with them about the past year and what’s coming up for the Valley’s based band — starting with how it was to be playing at Merthyr Rock for the second year running. “It was a fantastic festival, right on our doorstep and the people involved are absolutely amazing. It has been an honour for us playing there the first and the second year, it feels like we as a band are growing with the festival and to play main stage was something pretty special indeed.” PLUGGED IN knows the band has a busy 2013 lined up, and wanted to know if they fancied leaking some of those plans? “Without giving too much away, it will involve our debut album, some music videos, plenty of tours, hopefully some festivals and some big news!” Ah yes, the album — how did the recording go? “It was an amazing experience recording with Romesh, we had heard so much about him and finally getting to work with him at Longwave Studios was very special for us. Romesh and Rob have done a brilliant job on the album and we are really chuffed with the results so far. We can’t wait for our fans to hear it now, obviously patience is key and that’s something our manager has drilled into us recently — to not rush anything. But next year we should be making some impact and hopefully be attracting a wider fan base!” The guys may well have gotten a few new fans already from their appearance on TV with PLUGGED IN for the National Lottery Awards. The PLUGGED IN team was excited to see themselves being broadcast to thousands of people — how was it for you? “Well, we are starting to get a bit used to this now after the Paco Rabbanne adverts, ha-ha! But, no, the Lottery was a bit surreal, it was a proud moment to see a magazine like PLUGGED IN getting the credit and recognition it deserves, we were just proud to be a part of that.” Thanks guys — we wish you much luck in 2013!
THE BLACKOUT Words by Ritchie Samuel
With fourth album Start The Party imminent for release in January we caught up with sticksman Gareth Lawrence, known as Snoz, at Merthyr Rock to talk all things new, stage curation and why Welsh music always does it better! “This new album sounds a bit different from what we’ve done before, it’s more ‘ladish’, although I hate that word. It is still us though. It’s more upbeat as opposed to Hope which was more downbeat.” The guys chose their first video location as Ibiza. “We filmed it with Pritchard (Dirty Sanchez) who is also on the album cover. The first video is us having a party, Matthew is on a rubber dingy, Bob is on a banana boat, and we all go on one of Pritchard’s boat parties. The second video is the day-after, we are all lost in Ibiza and trying to find each other. Both videos were all of the band’s ideas.” Sounds cool, but was there a downside? “The boat was a bit of a sausage fest, hopefully it will come out great.” After triumphantly headlining the main stage at last year’s Merthry Rock, the guys have been around all weekend at this year’s festival and on the Sunday put together some of their favourite bands to curate the James McClaren stage. “I personally asked for Buried In Alaska, I’ve known them over the years. Overall we’ve worked with most of the bands on the bill.” Being a hometown boy done good, what does he think of Merthyr Rock? “There’s a lot of kids in Merthyr with nowhere to put shows on now, Studio Bar is closed down [where The Blackout/Kids in Glass Houses honed their craft]. So it’s really good to have this, for the local area and tourism. Some people came from Wednesday to sample the area and get a feel for the place.” Frequently being seen out and about on the Welsh music scene, what does he think of it as a whole? With ferocious passion he replies, “The Welsh music scene is excellent, it is the best in the UK! We do pop better, we do rock better, we do metal better, we do it better in any genre! You name a band and I can give you someone who is equally as good or better. That’s why the scene is the best.” Snoz name checks, Buried In Alaska, Falling With Style, Caesars Rome and Straight Lines as the next wave of bands to break through. The Blackout are simply pure ambassadors for Welsh music!
Words by McKenzy Renshaw-Valiquette After their amazing set at Merthyr Rock, PLUGGED IN got a chance to chat to Don Broco, an up-and-coming four piece from Bedford. So what brought this band together? “Well, me [Rob], Matt and Simon all went to school together and over the years we played in a few bands, y’know trying things out, but then at a certain point we decided to stop messing about and start recording music and touring. We toured with Tom’s band (the bassist and newest member of DB) for our first ever tour and then we just kept building up and releasing music and I guess the rest is history.” The guys have only had one member change, which seems consistent with most bands these days, so do they think that having Tom join has changed them as a band musically? “Yeah totally, we haven’t started writing music together yet, but it’s something we are really looking forward to. Tom has new skills to bring to the table, like when we play some of our old songs he has a hot new perspective. He pushes us to try new things and they almost always work — so having a different perspective on things has been really interesting so far!” So what’s their favourite part of being in the music industry — writing, recording or performing? “Writing is a boring means to get on stage and play,” from Simon, but Rob says, “I find that you get those moments in writing where everything just clicks, when you’ve been trying hard on something and then it finally just comes together and feels amazing! A lot of the time it’s when you’re not trying and it just clicks and you just go ‘wow’ — that is a really great feeling. But a lot of the time it is a hard slog, and you try different things and you could be doing stuff for hours and days and it’s full of pain and suffering and doesn’t seem to work, whereas pretty much all the time when you play live you get a good feeling.” How has the reception from you latest album Priorities been? “Great, everyone has been really generous with their feedback we feel very lucky that people have been so accepting.” Priorities was a change in direction from 2011’s Big Fat Smile, just tell us a little bit about the transition. “It was a gradual thing, we didn’t really think about it. We have always liked all different types of music and we never wanted to pigeon-hole ourselves and stick to just one genre of music, but it felt like it was quite a gradual and natural change.” The guys went from playing the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds to this year playing the Festival Republic Stage, how was that? “We felt really lucky to play Reading last year, we got the BBC Playlist and were selected to play, so it was a proper ‘Wow this is unbelievable’ moment y’know? But then this year, we had a bit more time to prepare for it and after having a great reaction last year it had a lot to live up to — and then it absolutely did! The fact that it was a tent and so only so many
people could get in, and then to see a full tent was just amazing — it was a ‘proper proper moment’. It was great timing as well, because the album came out two weeks before.” So where did the ‘Running Man’ dance move come from? “Before we had ever played Priorities live we were in a practice and we just started doing this move for a laugh, and then one day we were like ‘shall we try and do it at a show?’ and the reaction was crazy, everyone went mental, so since it just kinda caught on.” Crowd participation is a big aspect of the band’s performance, has anyone sustained any serious injuries while on stage? “It’s usually okay for us when we’re on stage, but it’s when rob gets in the crowd that the real damage is done — at Reading his in-ear monitors got ripped off him and he’s also hurt his back after falling over and getting the crowd piling on top of him!” What’s the favourite part of touring? “Playing. The build up to playing can be quite stressful and the travelling can be quite boring, but we have met some really amazing people on tour and it’s always nice getting to go out in a new city on a good night out and eat nice food and have a good laugh.” Well, PLUGGED IN looks forward to seeing DB in Wales again soon.
Words by Ritchie Samuel You’d be forgiven for thinking that Canterbury was a Welsh band, with all the connections they’ve had — touring with the likes of The Blackout, The Automatic, Viva Machine (the guys were visibly surprised when we mentioned this awesome Issue 4 blast from the past), Straight Lines — and being firm favourites on the Welsh music scene. “The Welsh bands have been the nicest bands to tour with,” James (bass) and Scott (drummer) tell us. “The Blackout have been the funniest we’ve toured with and Straight Lines on the last tour were great.” They’ve also toured with heavyweight names in rock such as Enter Shikari, You Me At Six, Twin Atlantic, Against Me and Billy Talent. “Billy Talent was the most awkward support slot because of the age gap, it was overwhelming though playing with them.” Whilst they built up a fan base through touring extensively, their ambition was to release their debut album on a ‘pay-as-much-as-you-thinkits-worth’ format — Thank You eventually released in 2009. In the first three days it achieved over 3,000 downloads. “Thank You now has between 41-42,000 issues, we will re-release it at some point.” In summer 2012, follow up Heavy In The Day was released to critical acclaim. “It’s pretty cool [that the reviews have been good], it’s satisfying after so many years’ hard work. It was a long gap after the first album, but a large part was already written. The only thing that was difficult was the track listing, we all had too many opinions on it!” The band did release singles and EPs in between albums though, including Gloria which is about two people being attracted but one of them is unsure of the other. “Gloria is a story that more people can relate too, not about one person. It came from the idea of being glorious.” A quirky merchandise idea PLUGGED IN noticed at a stall was a stick of rock. “Someone called our music sweet rock, so we thought it would be cool to have it literally done.” Very clever idea and unusual — Canterbury with their delicious melodies certainly deserve your time.
We caught up with Rhodri Jones, the man behind Merthyr Rock, to find out what it takes to organise an event on such a massive scale. What originally got you into Hay Festival Organisation? I was on the outskirts of the actual Hay Festival itself for a while. Working in the bookshop that supplied the event. I just plugged away at it for a couple of years, not knowing quite what I was aiming for, then as soon as an opportunity arose to get involved with the festival itself I jumped at the chance. How did your involvement in Merthyr Rock start? It all happened by accident really. The idea came around during a conversation we were having in the office. We just thought it was crazy that a region that produced so many great rock bands didn’t have an event to celebrate them. I was given the task of finding out whether we could raise the funds to get it all off the ground, along with a venue, seeing what bands we were able to get, and so on. Once the idea was out there it gained momentum pretty quickly. When does the process start for organising a festival? As soon as the last one finishes! Some tasks, like finding funding, developing sponsors and collaborators are constant year-round affairs. Booking the bands is also a slow process that starts about nine months before the festival. It can take a LONG time to secure the big names needed to draw the crowds. How do you go about selecting bands? The bill for a day at the festival will be shaped by its headliner to a certain extent. Once the main band has been secured it gives you an idea of the genre boundaries you’ll be working to. We do try to vary the lineups as much as possible to give the bill texture, but there is only so far you can push it. What is the trickiest part about organising a festival? Securing headliners can be a real battle. It can take months from the initial approach until the signing of contracts, which can really test your nerve. Especially when you’ve got masses of people asking you constantly who’s going to be playing this year! When you first started out organising these festivals, did you come across anything that really surprised you as being difficult? Can I say everything? What is the key to making an event a success? I think over-promotion is the key. I don’t think you can under-estimate how much people are bombarded with these days. I think there is a danger in assuming everyone knows about your event, or will hear about it from their friends. In reality you have to hammer the message with any medium available to you — flyers, posters and online. You can’t take any chances with ensuring the event and dates are firmly in people’s minds. What drives you in your role? The love of great music and fear of an empty tent! What advice would you give to aspiring festival/event organisers? Get as much experience as possible. Go to the organisers of events you like and offer your services. You may well have to work for free for a while, but if you work hard and show initiative, you’ll be first in their minds when a vacancy comes up. Which bands over the last two Merthyr Rock festivals were your personal favourites? There have been loads of highlights already in the last two years. You’ve got bands like Skindred, Goldie Lookin’ Chain and The Blackout who you know are going to kill it live and get an incredible live reaction, but for me the most exciting times are when you get the new bands up on the main stage. Seeing a band like Reaper In Sicily step up to the main stage is magical. You can see the excitement and hunger they have to play the festival is awesome, and it’s what the event is all about. Getting the next wave of bands to the next level, and giving new acts something to aspire to on their home turf. Who would you personally love to see headline Merthyr Rock in 2013? If Bullet For My Valentine or LostProphets fancied it, it would certainly save me a lot of earache online! Other bands that would be great would be Biffy Clyro or Mastodon. It’s nigh on impossible to get bands once they get to a certain size as they are bound by exclusive contracts for the bigger festivals. Doesn’t stop me trying though!
release Heavy In The Day. They looked polished, unlike the other bands that had appeared throughout the weekend, as if highlighting their public school upbringing — though that didn’t negate the exceptional music they play with earthy conviction, more a throwback to their early days when they opened for any band who would have them! Delivery of the songs was the key with their performance and each note was played to perfection, with massive crowd sing-alongs throughout with their infectious choruses highlighted on set closer Friend — all together now, “La, la, la, la, la, ohh, oh, ohh, ooooooo” Deaf Havana, a regular on the live scene and in the pages of PLUGGED IN had one of the team who had been waiting to see the band live for a good three years on tenter hooks. She literally couldn’t contain her excitement waiting for their performance at Merthyr Rock 2012, having inspired her a lot with their meaningful lyrics and strong personalities. The band bring a big crowd to the Main Stage tent, all waiting to see just how good they are live though many rumours abound stating that Deaf Havana are usually drunk and not very committed when performing. So we eagerly awaited to see if they could prove those stories to be false. And they didn’t disappointed, playing every song brilliantly and interacting with the crowd who were singing, dancing, jumping and even laughing when frontman James Veck-Gilodi made the odd joke. Originally from King’s Lynn and Hunstanton (the childhood holiday destination of our Creative Director) on the east coast, Deaf Havana have the ability to make their set slightly shambolic and not staged with James telling the whole audience that he is rubbish at tuning his own guitar. Though this doesn’t affect the performance and even adds to this unique presentation. Basically we can’t find any faults about the show that Deaf Havana put on, other that the fact that one certain team member didn’t want it to end with her passion for the band growing even stronger! A headlined the second stage and seemed somewhat out of place even with lead singer Jason Perry saying that they would only agreed to play Merthyr Rock as long as they were the oldest band on the bill. But when you realise that he is actually a successful producer listing both The Blackout and Kids In Glass Houses to his credit, then the mystery unfolds. Having had chart success with the single Nothing, for which tonight they were joined on stage by Sean Smith of The Blackout, and its follow up Starbucks, A seemed to have had a glorified past, with four albums and two live albums to boast about while playing their indierock-come-punk sound. Tonight they proved that they still could weld a punch as strong as Mike Tyson while biting the ears off every person standing in front of them. They drew the stage’s biggest crowd of the weekend and by the time Nothing was aired as the closer people were up on shoulders going absolutely berserk. The Essex lads included hot producer and frontman Jason Perry and Radio 1 DJ and guitarist Daniel P Carter could safely go back to their day jobs. Though one of the PLUGGED IN team did say they were a bit too retro for him, our Creative Director said he loved it (though he is quite retro himself — ha-ha!) but they were very, very good though, I was converted into the love! Kids In Glass Houses have been a main-stay for PLUGGED IN readers, especially in their early days before their first release, when they seemed to feature on a gig’s play-list somewhere and never failing to put on a great show. So to see them headlining the main stage at Merthyr Rock 2012 was to be a highlight for the assembled team. And did they deliver, culminating the weekend with an explosive set. Fans, old and new, filled up the Main Stage tent as the band strutted their stuff onto the stage, pleasing the already excited crowd, with some shouting, some cheering and some screaming. They started playing and interacted very well with everyone, especially frontman Aled Phillips who jumped around the stage and standing precariously on the speakers almost toppling into the mass of sweaty people in front of him. The energy and the mood is unreal seeing as this is the last band, on the last day of the festival, with the band playing such hits as Easy Tiger, Matters At All and Saturday alongside other tracks from Dirt, Smart Casual and the Welsh Music Prize-nominated In Gold Blood. It’s easy to see the difference in maturity as the bubblegum pop gloss on Smart Casual material such as Gimmie What I Want shines impeccably, the commercial favourites on Dirt such as Youngblood pack a big punchy chorus and In Gold Blood shows ambitious lyrics in Diamond Days and the roaring solo in Animals. As a tribute to the late James McLaren, the band instigated a minute of chaos, instead of the usual silence, during which the crowd went metal in honour of the late BBC journalist while at another point Aled asked everyone wearing the bright orange Jagermeister hats to come into the mosh pit. The result was a heaving mass of pulsating orange. The band have turned into a tightknit professional outfit, that takes what they are doing seriously now, more than they did before — album four should be a corker. The Welsh boys put on an amazing show and finished the second Merthyr Rock with another amazing performance to remember. What a weekend — same time next year please!
Words & Photograph Chuff Media
he incredible Ellie Goulding is one of British pop music’s most talented and versatile stars. The ethereal pop of debut album Lights was followed by a beautiful cover of Elton John’s Your Song last Christmas. But now the singer has surprised fans yet again with latest album Halcyon, which won rave reviews both here and in the US thanks to its darker, dancier feel — it even sees the star try her hand at dubstep and pull it off in style. With new single Figure 8 and a UK tour imminent, as well as a hand in the Twilight hysteria thanks to her song Bittersweet being chosen for the final film’s soundtrack, it’s a wonder Ellie had time to talk to us... but she did. So the album has gone down pretty well then. I am so pleased with the reaction to the album. Obviously I was nervous in the weeks running up to its release as it’s a huge deal releasing an album, especially the second, but I have had the most incredible reaction to the point where it makes me really emotional. I put a lot into this record, a lot of personal stuff, and it makes me so excited to share it with everyone, and it has had the most amazing reviews so I am really pleased. You surprised people yet again by going much deeper into dance music this time, with the dubstep experiment. That must have been fun? I have always had a real affinity with electronic music and dance music. It’s something I have never been able to shake off. I just love it so much. I knew this was going to have a certain feel — it wasn’t going to be a folk record! I wasn’t really thinking about whether I wanted or needed to do a certain kind of sound. People keep saying they don’t know where I will go next which is amazing. How do you go about physically writing music if you don’t plan direction and so on? I follow my instinct. I literally get into the studio, start something on piano or guitar and it gradually builds into a song over however many days or weeks. That for me is instinct and I go with that on everything. The tour is obviously the next big thing on the horizon, are you focussing fully on that now? We are gearing up for touring, we have rehearsals for a few weeks. But I am still promoting the album too, I still haven’t finished. I just got back from Australia and New Zealand, went straight to Europe and now am kind of everywhere really. It’s been busy. So much so that at half four in the afternoon I have just found time for my first food of the day! What’s on the horizon apart from touring? I never know what’s going to happen so I play everything by ear. Figure 8 has just come out and hopefully people like it. After that who knows? You landed a pretty big spot — Bittersweet is on the soundtrack for the final Twilight film. Did you go to the premiere? Twilight has gone huge for that song and I haven’t even released it yet! I keep getting calls and texts, people saying they have heard my song. I ask which one and they say the one from Twilight. I didn’t go to the premiere or anything but only because I was away — I probably would have gone along if I’d been here, to show my support for the film.
fter the rave review received by PLUGGED IN for her second album Calling All Angels, we thought it would be a good time to find out the in’s and out’s of being a brilliant singer/songwriter by having a quick chat with the lady herself. Helen’s talent was spotted early in her life with her vocals being developed under the guidance of the late great Welsh voice coach Glynn Williams, who had previously worked with Annie Lennox and Judy Garland, who mentored Helen throughout her early years. Her songwriting also developed over time, co-writing many different tracks including the 911 hit The Day We Found Love. In 2008 she released the critically acclaimed album New Red Dress on her own label Maid In Sheffield with a cover photo taken by rocker Bryan Adams. So how has Calling All Angels fared compared to her first release? “It’s been very positive. Having a good review is really great. If they get what I’m about then it’s like they really get it. After putting so much into making a record it’s so good that people understand where you are coming from and get what I’m trying to deliver.” The one thing PLUGGED IN liked about the album was that it didn’t sit in one particular place. It was like you wanted to shake things up a bit? “I see each song as a different kind of beast, developing and becoming its own thing. I write according to how I feel at that moment in time not seeing a direction for the song as such at that point of time. Production wise I’ve been listening to a lot of Goldfrapp’s slower numbers where they juxtapose these beautiful songs against an electronic feel. There isn’t a coldness about the songs, just warmth with raw emotion and excitement. I wanted to achieve something like that on this album.” A number of female singer/songwriters tend to sit in one little area. Not so with Helen Boulding, so what makes her music stand out? “My songwriting is quite me. I’d love to think that people fall in love with my songs the way I fall in love with other people’s work. They are a diary of my life being primarily emotional, which is the way I measure my work. How I respond. I have often left the studio in tears because of the emotion that the track brings out of me.” Do you not feel vulnerable? “Yes I do. Being vulnerable, close and intimate is the most scary thing on earth. But those are the elements that people relate to though they may not be able to express them themselves. You’re putting yourself on the line, but then you have to, so as to provoke a response from the person listening. Even writing a positive set of lyrics can make you sometimes feel more vulnerable when compared to a negative set. People expect me as a woman singer/ songwriter to write songs to slit your wrists to rather than a celebratory feel. Being vulnerable means whatever way the song goes it can be authentic.” It’s these emotional responses that sets a path through Helen’s Calling All Angels album, which is why the term “stand up and take notice” appeared on our radar. The album is beautifully structured and has many different textures with hints of Americana about it. Not really what you’d expect from a girl from Sheffield, home to The Human League and the Arctic Monkeys is it? “My dad’s influence. He listened to people like James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt alongside a lot of country music, so it was bound to rub off. I must admit the 1970s was great for that big type of songwriting music like Fleetwood Mac. Less harsh.” DARREN WARNER
The Newport Centre Ed Sheeran is one of the most famous singersongwriters in the country, known for his emotive songwriting and his ginger hair. During his latest sell-out European tour he came to Wales. On stage with only a small acoustic guitar, microphone and loop pedal, Sheeran performed many of the songs from his debut album +, such as The A Team, Give Me Love and You Need Me, I Don’t Need You. Even with ‘man flu,’ Sheeran performed to a high standard, entertaining the crowd for a full two hours. There was no difference in his voice listening to him singing and playing live compared to the album — it was pure perfection. Often singing a song for 10 minutes, with not a falter in his voice and combining the use of his loop pedal into the set, Sheeran layered vocals and beatboxing to create a wall of sound, adding to his performance. The crowd worshiped Sheeran, as he talked to us between songs, encouraged us to sing along and create a sea of lights at the end of the performance. In the small venue you were not that far away from him, the intimacy of the gig was something that Sheeran said he wanted to keep in as many of his shows as possible, and he even came out afterwards to meet his Welsh fans. His performance seemed effortless, and he left his many fans on a high after a great night! CHLOE SHAW
Africa Express Solus Bar, Cardiff
To say that the Blur frontman Damon Albarn had a quest to bring the UK the most interesting aspects of African music via his unique station to station Africa Express would be a massive understatement. To spend the night photographing act after act when the mass ensemble hit Cardiff’s Solus Bar proved that music can really inspire you to new heights. This was a gig that I never wanted to end as each performer came to the stage, performed one song, then moved over for someone else to play. Mixing African musicians with British musicians in a melange of excellence made this a non-stop variety performance that should be played in front of the Queen (move over Gary Barlow). Alongside members of great acts like Noisettes, Gulp, The Temper Trap, Bombay Bicycle Club, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Reverend & The Makers, we listened to legendary African artists like Baaba Maal, Amadou & Mariam, Kano and Fatoumata Diawara. With over 60 people making up the show, believe me when I say the list is endless. Some of the African musicians could find beautiful sounds out of instruments that we in this country would deem beyond perfect because they look wrong. When Boubacar Dembele moved to the front of the stage to perform a solo on the Djembe drum it was powerful, while Reeps demonstrating the best of human beatboxing was sublime. And it was this cross culture that made the gig so amazing. Everyone played together, everyone became centre stage, egos didn’t exist. Of course Damon himself had to make an appearance, but at no point did he play the boss. When he played Melancholy Hill on the piano, all eyes were on the stunning vocal talent of Rokia Traore. When he played guitar and sang vocals on Applecarts, all eyes were on the exceptional violin playing of Marques Toliver. And when he did a stripped back version of Blur’s amazing hit Tender, I was lost amongst the harmonised voices of the collective girl choir whose vocals lifted you beyond heaven. Easily the best version of Tender — EVER! You couldn’t keep Welsh eccentric Gruff Rhys away from such a unique night, so even he turned up to perform Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru with the backing of the African musicians who all seemed perplexed by his placard statements like ‘Applause’ that he held above his head throughout the track. I loved the cross-over and improvisation, the binding of cultures by music and dance, the true statement of one nation that this event created. And this was no more highlighted than when young MC Spoek Mathambo thrashed out a drum ’n’ bass version of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control that had me whizzing with pure bliss. Africa Express was more than just a brilliant event, Africa Express was a life affirming moment and one I will never forget. To see more photographs of the amazing musicians I captured performing that night, visit our facebook page and go to photos. DARREN WARNER
Rhondda Rocks Festival The Factory, Porth
FRIDAY Rhondda Rocks 2012 caused a rumble through the Valleys music scene. The two-day event roused much excitement, particularly amongst the younger generation of music lovers, as Friday night was curated by the Young Promoters Network — and boy did they deliver! Intimate yet lively, the night was brimming with tenacity from the first kick of the drum that started with young, under the radar band Still Waiting. Aged 15-16 the female fronted group exuded confidence, performing covers of Ga-Ga’s Poker Face and White Stripe’s Seven Nation Army that were edgy and displayed each of the five young members talent. Next up was Tobias Robertson, a 19-year-old acoustic artist from Newport. Although only a soft harmonious voice teemed with an acoustic guitar is not something you expect to see at a rock-fest, he certainly drew in and captivated the audience with his note perfect and beautifully executed set. Particularly emotive was the song Broken Stones which recollected a turbulent time, easily relatable to and catchy, I was hooked. Bringing a massive punch to the night were the next act, and undoubtedly my favourite, Bridges! The five-piece rock band spewed infectious melodies that slammed through the venue bringing rapturous applause. Their pace and tenacity was endearing, bringing together the audience into a huddled mass! Highlight of the set saw the boys welcoming friend Scott from Falling With Style to join them on stage and scream, uniting two very talented Welsh bands and really bringing home the spirit of the local music scene. These boys showed immense passion for what they do which only helped to stir the crowd who were entranced, most singing along word for word! Girl power struck the venue next when My Heroine took to the stage. Winners of Essex BOTB, their set was catchy and easy to listen to, although the electrifying set of Bridges did seem to overshadow their slightly lighter style. Headliners were local ‘powerpop’ band Reaper In Sicily — and it was easy to see why they had been chosen for this slot. As soon as they burst onto the stage, their attitude swarmed the room. Lively and rapturous their infectious melodies exploded into the rallied crowd! They seemed to have enormous fun and this radiated into the crowd, their crowd, that they captured and kept until their finale. If I were to be questioned whether Rhondda actually does Rock? Well, the answer could not be more obvious! SADYE BAKER SATURDAY Go Wild, Go Wild, Go Wild in...Porth. The second night of the festival was a more adult affair...that’s if you ignore the arguments, tantrums and near removal of the main act’s drummer from the venue by the security team — more on that later! But when I arrived Zephyr Reign were thumping out classic rock in a classic style. Though not unique, they still had a captivating confidence that made me say I should have left home earlier. John Mouse with full band attached were next up for the night. With his wry humour and testy lyrics the performance was spell-binding, especially as he danced about the stage, waving his hands about as if a snake had climbed up his trouser leg. Basically, on stage John throws any sense of self respect out of the window while throwing himself completely into his performance, acting out the words that he chants at the audience. Totally engaging and a totally original talent. WIBIDI, the side project of Super Furry Animals members Cian Ciaran and Dafydd Ieuan with the former Cardiff Radio DJ and MC the band is named after, were up next with their reggae, punk, funk fusion. Distorted, dark and dingy they added another dimension to the night as they ground their way through a set that felt hot, sweaty but distinctive — music for a darkened room. Despite being due on stage by 10.15pm it was 10.45pm and the Bow Wow Wow’s drummer David Barbarossa was still making a scene about something or other to do with a cymbal in front of a waiting public. Then surviving not being thrown out by security, the band hit the stage late with the instrumental Orangutang, a heavy bass-led number that saw Leigh Gorman’s amp catch fire and go up in flames. The stage crew jumped into action extinguishing the fire immediately before replacing the burnt out amp with another. Back on with the music and Annabella Lwin arrives on stage to deliver her trademark whops, screeches and high-low vocals, though looking much older than I remembered — the problem with being a child star! She kept pointing to the wedges and shouting to the side of stage ‘I can’t hear myself’, eventually stopping the gig again to tell the guys to get it sorted while having a go at a poor unsuspecting video operator, shouting ‘I don’t want this on YouTube! Who gave you permission to film?’ Eventually the gig continued but with half the audience gone the atmosphere was lost and excellent performances of I Want Candy and C-30, C-60, C-90 Go! went largely unwitnessed. Me, I loved it. DARREN WARNER
Elliots Bar, Aberdare At this gig, I was going to witness three live bands that I had never heard before, so was looking forward to hearing some new bands playing their own original material. The first band to play was a five-piece from Cardiff and Porthcawl called Riot City Saints. When they struck the first guitar chord, a roar of power came bellowing out, turning the heads of the eager live music fans that were seated in the room. I would describe their music as a heavier and dirty take on the southern rock ’n’ roll genre. I was particularly captivated with the lead singer’s take on his singing, setting a relaxed tone that also carried an aggressive and raw style of shouting. With a great stage presence that gave off a sense of danger and excitement, the band played a fantastic opening set to kick things off. After the dust settled from the rock ’n’ roll explosion, the crowd were then met by a three-piece band from Swansea, Heavy On The Ride. As soon as they took to the stage to set up the people in the audience were eerily getting quieter and quieter. They opened with their first song which delivered a punch that I could only describe as a grunge meltdown, fuelled by angst and guitar riffs that would force you to duck for cover. I was captivated by how they were able to hypnotise a room of people for an entire 40 minutes by playing their unique brand of experimental and almost psychedelic alternative rock. Headliners Fireroad, a four-piece group from Aberdare, looked very confident as they got ready to perform. With a very upbeat attitude and an arsenal of very catchy rock songs, Fireroad had the majority of Elliot’s Bar at their mercy for the rest of the night. I was blown away by how powerful and tuneful the lead singer’s voice was over the beautifully orchestrated guitar driven music that sat beneath. The band were enjoying themselves as much as the audience was enjoying their performance, which I think is vital for a performance as successful as this one. I predict big things to come for this band if they keep up this remarkable level of musicianship. MITCHELL TENNANT
The Computers Sin City, Swansea
I love it when bands I like come to my home town, so set off for a great night of music! The Swansea support act, The Hangmen, took to the stage and the first thing they did was tell the filling room about their new upcoming album — which is one way to get the point across. As the band began to play, something was different — there were no vocals. The Hangmen relied 100% on their instruments to entertain the crowd and their music was incredible. They reminded me a lot of Muse because they had that edge to them which made them stand out. While watching them play, it was nice to see that the band obviously enjoyed what they did by the constant smiles on their faces and the enthusiastic playing — to the point where the lead guitarist broke a string for rocking too hard! What a way to introduce the night! Now it was time for eccentric Computers to grace us with their presence. The band swaggered onto the stage in their white suits, to the roar of the small but excited crowd. All the microphone stands were taped together and we were soon to understand why — as Rhythm Avenue began to play, the lead singer swung the microphone stand across the stage like it was a rag doll, breaking one of the legs. It was one hell of an experience attempting to photograph the band while the lead singer jumped over my head to rock out in the middle of the crowd! The only way to describe a Computers performance is ‘a blinking mental bunch of people, flying around the stage while playing like they’ve never played before’ — they certainly are a band you have to see live to appreciate them! The crowd went wild as they launched into Teenage Tourettes Camp (any excuse to swear!) and then after an hour and a half of standing on drums, walking on the piano, tying the crowd up in microphone cables and rolling around the floor, they finally played their last song. It was a real shame to see them leave the stage as it was such an experience, and I would definitely see them again. My own little ‘Stina rating’ would give them 5 stars for effort and crowd pleasing! CRISTINA SHUKER
Big Cheese, Caerphilly Eric Unseen are a four-piece Indie band which consist of Daniel Hagerty (vocals/guitar), Rhys Edwards (guitar/vocals), Chris “Slim” Morgan (bass/vocals) and Scott Williams (drums). Caerphilly’s Big Cheese is an annual event and this year Eric Unseen were one of the bands who performed in the Great Hall in the Castle. The stage setting was basically some drums, guitars, amps and the castle wall as the background. The band took to the stage and warmed up before kicking off with Help by The Beatles. The audience, made up of a wide age range, really enjoyed the set which covered a range of songs by artists such as Nicki Minaj, Meatloaf and Johnny Cash. Of course, the band also did their own songs and my absolute favourite has to be Missing because it’s so catchy and the music had everyone moving — whether it was toe tapping or nodding their heads in time to the music. I’ve seen Eric Unseen many times now and they still remain to be one of my favourite bands of all time. Each member’s contribution is just as important as the other’s and the band would not be the same without all four of the lads. Overall, the performance was great and I really enjoyed it. I wish the lads all the luck with the future and I can hardly wait to see what’s in line for the band next. JAZMIN WILLIAMS
Sin City, Swansea
Photographs by Cristina Shuker
After waiting outside the venue in the cold and the rain, the doors finally opened 20 minutes late so it didn’t take long for the room to fill up with young girls and guys, all anxious to see the bands. Hadouken! is a band I’ve been following since I was a young teenager and I was so excited when I found out I would be reviewing the gig. But before I could see them, I had to endure the support act Astroid Boys. The minute they came on stage, swear words were flying around like nobody’s business. They were one of the most active rap bands I have ever seen, and had some serious bass going on all the way through the set which kept the party pumping for three quarters of an hour. They were energetic and knew how to play but not particularly my cup of tea — and not because they broke some of my camera equipment by stepping on it! Soon the lights dimmed and the crowd went wild, me included, as Haduuken! took to the stage. What was unusual was though they are known to be a synth-based band, when they play live they have a very rocky feel to their music. From the first song, Rebirth, the crowd was constantly singing along, and when my favourite song That Boy started up it was clear that I wasn’t the only one who loved it. The band has an edge to them that is impressive to the ear and an incredible connection with the crowd, even to the point where they almost convinced us that they invented the ‘Gangnam Style’! They finished off an impressive set by playing Parasite and the crowd went insane. Mosh pits began all over the place, crowd surfers were flying over the barriers and people screamed for the band’s attention. The band left the stage on a high and the crowd slowly started streaming out of the building. I would definitely recommend you go and see them live, if you can handle being squashed by their adoring fans. CRISTINA SHUKER
Miss May I
Great Hall, Cardiff Uni
Moon Club, Cardiff PLUGGED IN favourites, Kyshera released their brand new album Made In China recently so what better way to celebrate than with an album launch show. Teaming up with Landslides and Spyglass, Kyshera took over The Moon Club in Cardiff to put on one manic performance, kicking off a new revolution in rock. So let’s start with Landslides. They had a very quirky style and that was down to their leading lady Bex. She had an edginess to her performance mixed with a laid back attitude which made the music they produced really interesting. Their song Pinch Kick was the epitome of this style. Bex described their music as being ‘pro drug and pro lesbian’. I’m not gonna comment on that… They were followed by the intense Spyglass. The intro to their set was excellent, building up powerful beats which resulted in an explosion of sound. I would love to include some of their song names, but due to the banter between band members when a song name was announced, an instrument was played so I couldn’t tell you what they were. Ah well, banter banter banter and all that. Just know that their last song was the best in my opinion. It carried the same power as all their songs had along with a manic style in the intro. This was perfect to close their set as it got the audience pumped for the manic stylings of our headline act. Following up the mad style from the ending of the last set, Kyshera started with their own. Building on the atmosphere started by the supporting bands is what a great band needs to do and there’s no doubt that Kyshera did this. The Servant was the first song they played and this suited me and most people fine. Singing along to the powerful lyrics and a lot of jumping meant that the opening started with ferocity. It was also great to see James Kennedy give shout-outs to PLUGGED IN’s very own Darren Warner, lovely guy. The set continued with Made In China which is a fantastic song. I love the fairground aspect that the vocal effects and guitar gave the song. Really fascinating. The passionate playing continued with Shelf Life and Lust, both of which were excellent. I especially like Lust as it is extremely energising just chanting ‘Trust’ and ‘Lust’ over and over. After the intense rocking out, the chanting from the ‘We Love Phil The Drummer’ fan club, and the excellent new tracks that the album has to offer (out now by the way…), the set soon came to a close with Coalition, which I have described as my favourite literal song. Still is, nothing will change that. The combination of bold statements, an excellent rhythm, and statements like ‘Watch Out David Cameron’ made this a fantastic final song. This would’ve been a great place to stop, but with one more memorable song left as well as a music video to promote, Kyshera treated us to Mannequins. I loved this because James plugged the video which ‘stars this gentleman in the front here’, meaning…ME! (go check it out, Youtube, Kyshera, Mannequins). But anyway, this was a powerful ending, taking all of the passion from the entire set and causing an explosion of energy which got the audience to go into one final frenzy of jumping and head banging. I have since listened to the album over and over, and the passion from that gig can be found in each and every track. If you love powerful rock and enthusiastic people, make sure to give it a listen. CRAIG McDONALD
It was a dark room with the smell of sweat and the cold feel of anticipation, an all too common feeling as my feet stick to the ground from remnants of the spilt drinks and I trudge my way through the crowd. You know that the masses are preparing for the headliner when a few hundred people suddenly turn into a handful, climbing over bars and rushing to the bathrooms. There was a rumble of bass signifying the band’s approach to the stage, and then the performance began. The atmosphere of the gig was very wild, as the crowd cheered. Miss May I is a well known screamo band from America and are currently touring their new album At Heart. They played a good live set, very professional and interacting well with the crowd — although the vocals were often quite difficult to understand. However, they went down well with their fans in Cardiff and maybe even made a few new ones. BECKY MARSHALL
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff When defining The Killers, many can never seem to find the words to describe them or another band with which to compare them — with their combination of electro pop and alternative rock, the Las Vegas group simply resonate in individuality. Upon arrival at the Motorpoint Arena, the age gap of the spectators was remarkable: children, adults and teenagers all populated the audience, simply representing the diverse audience the group address with their music. The support, Canadian band Tegan & Sara were very grateful for the opportunity to support such a successful band and it was a pleasure to hear them. With an alternative tone, their catchy and almost folkish songs pumped the audience ready for the headline act. Even with a poor view of the stage, you could tell when The Killers had burst on to the stage due to the cries of the audience. Kicking off with their massive Top 10 hit Mr Brightside, the dedication of the audience echoed in their exact repetition of every lyric. This enthusiasm continued throughout the concert, most notably on hits such as Smile Like You Mean It, Spaceman and Somebody Told Me. With the release of their sixth studio album, Battle Born, the majority of the songs played were from their latest release. Their first single from the album, Runaways, was performed near the end of the concert and the reception was that of one of their biggest hits. However, it was From Here On Out that really excited the audience. Due to its melodic and classic American tone, lead singer Brandon Flowers encouraged everyone to ‘have a little dance’, and no one denied him this. The quality of their performance was remarkable, not stopping to talk to the crowd but constantly entertaining as the music itself was enough. The audience, including myself, simply screamed every word. The final songs of the night came in the form of an epic encore where the group performed some of the most impressive and anthemic songs they have ever written. Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine, All These Things That I’ve Done and Battle Born completed the concert and were perhaps the best of the night. After their short-lived breakup in 2010, many feared they would never again make music, however Battle Born and their latest tour have made many realise that The Killers are back with a bang. HOLLIE WONG
Wanda Jackson The Factory, Porth
“Are you ready to rock ’n’ roll?” asked the charming 75-year-old lady in red on stage. When that lady happened to be Queen of Rockabilly Wanda Jackson, yes siree, we were ready! There was a genuinely warm welcome in the Factory for this veteran star who started out in music aged just 17, toured with Elvis and had hits all over the world. Wanda has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and recently recorded with Jack White of the White Stripes. That’s some career, and tonight the gal from Oklahoma took us on a musical journey through some of her highlights. Ms Jackson warned us she’d had some trouble with her voice — but that didn’t stop her belting out hits like Fujiyama Mama and Rock Your Baby. She slowed things down for her Country smash Right Or Wrong and showcased some of the songs recorded for The Party Ain’t Over album with Mr White, including Rip It Up and Shakin All Over. Wanda told us about her time spent with Elvis, who first encouraged her to sing rock ’n’ roll, and in homage to him she performed Heartbreak Hotel and Like A Baby. The marvellous Mean Mean Man was for ‘all you hairy-legged men’, while Let’s Have A Party was dedicated to South Wales’s own Rockabilly King, John Lewis, who along with singer/songwriter Christopher Rees played fine support earlier. So the party was over, but on this cold, damp Monday night, Wanda truly rocked the Rhondda — and it was mighty fine. STEPHANIE McNICOLAS
Jesus Christ Superstar Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Following Superstar — yet another television series where Andrew Lloyd Webber looks for a new star for one of his hit musicals — the Jesus Christ Superstar tour started their shows. And of course, the tour came to Cardiff. This will be my first musical review and I am looking forward to doing it — because I loved the show! I thought it was a fascinating adaptation, focusing on a more modern approach rather than the traditional setting. This allowed for interesting uses of modern society, such as social networking spreading the words of Jesus in the song What’s The Buzz. Another aspect that I found excellent was the staging. All the stage contained was a large set of stairs, but each scene adapts these stairs with the use of lighting and small props to create a completely different environment. Also, sections of the stairs could create doorways and this allowed for some more vivid entrances. It was wonderful to watch and think how the stairs would be used next. There is one thing that I do need to discuss with regards to the modernisation and that is Chris Moyles as King Herod (in this version, a chat show host). I wondered for ages before seeing the show how they would use him and I did not expect this approach. For the version of the play that they had created, it worked fantastically. I found myself laughing with delight at the performance Chris gave and the atmosphere of the entire scene was just wonderful. Encompassing a voting style within Herod’s song (Try It And See) was great also. So that’s it for the production changes I liked, what about the songs themselves? What I find with musicals in general is that I love the chorus numbers more than solo performances and Jesus Christ Superstar was no exception. The chorus numbers were great. They added a lot of tension to already tense scenes with the ominous nature to their singing. This came out most in Trail Before Pilate where the chanting of ‘Crucify Him!’ made Pilate’s performance more frantic and confused. Another fascinating moment with the chorus was the choir that sang about Judas. After Judas agrees to sell out Jesus, they sing in a Latin Church choir style ‘Well Done Judas’ and other phrases that build up guilt for Judas. This was used to close the first half. I loved this as a twist in the musical genre, as instead of going for a traditional big show number,it decided to build up the ominous nature for the next half. This was a brilliant thing to do! It’s unique, it’s different, and it’s suspenseful. Wonderful thing to do. The majority of the music was very rocky which I definitely appreciated. The casting was pretty good all round. Ben Forster played Jesus well, playing towards personality traits I never would have expected Jesus to have — anger at society for his fate. This made the musical work as it built up the love/hate relationship him and Judas had. Mel C was a good Mary Magdalene, her voice and look suited the style of production this tour was going for. However, the best aspect of the casting and this show on the whole goes to Tim Minchin. Judas Iscariot was a perfect role for him. On second thought, scrap that. This entire show was perfect for him. Minchin’s look, voice and general performance nature was superb. His performance matched the ominous aspect that I keep talking about and he was just fantastic. I love Tim Minchin’s voice anyway, and it was surprising to see the show’s music match the tone a lot of Tim’s recent songs have had, so I loved it! His entrance during Superstar was one of the most unexpected ones I have ever seen. If you have a chance to see this production with this cast, go and see it — it is a spectacle of a show. So while you’re doing that, I will be waiting for the next show with Tim Minchin, as he must do more musical theatre. It would be a crime for him not to do so. CRAIG McDONALD
Ponty’s Big Weekend Saturday 21st July was a big day for the humble town of Pontypridd as former X-Factor finalist, and now X-tra Factor presenter, Olly Murs hit the stage at Ponty’s Big Weekend. Fans gathered by the thousands to see the Dance With Me Tonight singer perform right in front of their eyes. The support acts consisted of John Adams, Ladies Love A Superhero, Lucie Jones, Alecks Josh, Lilygreen & McGuire, Angel, Diana Vickers and Cover Drive. I didn’t see all of John Adams’ performance as I had to queue to enter the field, but I think he has a great voice and I hope he makes it big. Next up was Ponty’s own Ladies Love A Superhero who I have seen a few times now and they have never once failed to entertain me. My favourite part of their performance was a cover of Wheatus’s Teenage Dirtbag which had me singing along and giggling when the lead singer asked the audience to do their best Justin Bieber impressions for the female vocals. I really hope this band goes far. Following LLAS was fellow Welsh singer Lucie Jones, who had to cope with technical issues that caused the music to stop. However, she continued on without the music and still entertained everyone. It proved that not only is she a fantastic singer, but she is a true performer. Then came Lilygreen & McGuire, a duo I really enjoyed as their acoustic performance was very entertaining and showed they were talented. Alecks Josh was the next act on stage, he was a great performer with strong vocals and the crowd seemed to fall in love with him. Shortly after Alecks departed, Angel took to the stage. I enjoyed his performance and how he interacted with the crowd. I have so much respect for the fact that he started producing his own music at the age of 10 and is now writing and producing songs for the likes of Cheryl Cole and JLS, not to mention his own! Diana Vickers was up next and she rocked the stage with her set that included a cover of Sweet Child Of Mine. The final support act was Cover Drive, a band from Barbados that brought a very summery mood to the event and got the whole audience moving to the beat and singing along. Finally, after a short wait, the crowd began to get rowdy as everyone anticipated the act they had all been waiting for. Mr Olly Murs bounced onto the stage singing his hit song Dance With Me Tonight. The crowd went wild and absolutely adored him. During his performance Olly made jokes, was screamed at, danced around the stage and blasted through songs that included Heart Skips A Beat, Troublemaker, In Case You Didn’t Know and lots lots more! I think it’s safe to say that I am now a bigger Olly fan than I was before this performance. I loved every song and he is such a fantastic performer. Not only can he sing, but he can certainly bust some moves and he’s pretty funny too. He was hugely entertaining to watch and got the whole crowd involved. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event and am looking forward to hearing who’s playing next year! JAZMIN WILLIAMS
Ponty’s Fringe Festival Clwb Y Bont
A summer without sunshine and great live music is a summer not worth experiencing. Therefore, the music community of Pontypridd came together to hold the first (of what should be many) Pontypridd Fringe Festival. This festival made people travel across Ponty throughout the night as there were two main stages with performers at the YMCA and Clwb Y Bont. I stayed at Clwb Y Bont for most of the night, with the stage compered by MC Richard. To open, we had Breakdown Face. These guys are just a load of fun to watch. They are unpredictable and zany which make for an unforgettable experience. They opened their set with a powerful drum beat leading into the song Schoolboy Error — with the only error being that front man Colin MacFarlane tried playing a guitar with a string that broke. Technical difficulty sorted, they gave it their all and kicked off an amazing night. Next up was Evan Gardner who had a real originality. He did a cover of The A-Team which I really liked, as it brought a distinct edge to the song which the original lacked in my opinion. He quickly followed that up with his very own song Fire & Ice, which was the best song in his set with its incredible lyrics and soft chords contrasting against harsh and fast beats — a technical masterpiece. From that point on he got the crowd mesmerised by his beautiful singing voice and left them wanting more. Luckily they got it, as during one of the longer breaks of the night Evan continued playing requests outside! Next on to the stage came my personal favourites, Falling With Style. Opening their set with the song which got them 10,000 YouTube hits, Contingency, they began the anarchy and chaos which makes me love these boys. Slowing down the evening, they played White Flags before unleashing madness again. To end their set, they played my favourite song of theirs Reckless. This song is the embodiment of pure anarchy. The heavy drums along with the immense guitar playing and powerful lyrics made this one performance the highlight of my night. After a long break which included the aforementioned Evan Gardner covers, we had the main act of the Clwb Y Bont stage — Neil Starr (Attack! Attack!/Dopamine) and Gavin Butler (The Blackout) playing as an acoustic duo. I had no idea what to expect from these guys but what we got was very moving. Their music was soulful, playing mostly their own stuff along with the occasional Attack! Attack! cover. They opened their set with Another Life which started this movement of gentle yet powerful music. The reception these guys received was magnificent, showing that the audience loved their style. Then came a cover of Honesty and, after hearing the original a few days later, I think they managed to hit the spirit of the song in their own style. Everyday and Into The Sea soon followed and these songs gave both Neil and Gavin the chance to show the strength of their voices individually and together. The melodies these two created together were lovely and I could listen to them all day. They continued their set with the song Hey Girl (or as they soon stated ‘Hey Boy’, depending on orientation). This song again was a passionate little ballad and went down great with the audience. They then treated us to one last Attack! Attack! cover, which managed to satisfy the audience enough to allow the end of their set in time for the crowd to get to see Fringe Festival headliners Straight Lines at the YMCA. This Fringe event was great with enough diverse music to satisfy many tastes. Whether you wanted to rock out fully, listen to soulful music, or be there for a laugh, there was something to make this event special for so many people. All I can say is bring on next year! CRAIG McDONALD
Ponty’s Big Weekend The Sunday of Ponty’s Big Weekend sees the previous night’s pop-tastic fest transformed to something more like Proms In The Park with deckchairs littering the ground and the ice-cream van queue snaking around the field. Rhondda based Beth Bullock strapped on an acoustic guitar to start the afternoon off. Her soft, gentle voice, delicately woven lyrics and smooth guitar riffs gave us a great performance, especially on track What You’ve Done To Me. Next on was Pontypridd girl Rebecca (formerly known as Rebecca James), strutting elegantly onstage with her trademark platform heels that would give anyone else vertigo! She played a short and sweet set that included her stripped back cover of Earthquake and her own charity single Feel The Rain which showcased her fantastic and commanding vocal range to the audience. Cardiff-based performer Julia Coles, taking a break from being a session vocalist and funk and soul band front woman of Brother Ray, did a sterling job of entertaining the audience with a mixture of covers and originals — showcasing exactly why her voice is so adaptable that artists of all genres want to work with her. Next on were RCT Collective, featuring Matthew Frederick and Ponty’s very own Jessie J — the J being for Jenkins in this case! The finest singer-songwriters in RCT perform and write together and the results were astonishing, and a great showcase of what could be hitting the pages of PLUGGED IN’s Rising Talent section in the future. Then came another Ponty talent, Tom Richards who had a slick interaction with the crowd between songs — and announcing that he’s going from pop into musical theatre. After a brief interval, it was business as usual as Welsh 1940s close harmony group The Siren Sisters took to the stage. Looking the part, all dolled up as 1940s pin-ups and vocally tighter than a pair of speedos, the girls delighted the audience with their renditions of war and pop classics like Candyman. It was a notch up in quality as classical group Amore came on next, comprising of the best British youth classic talent from Sopranos, Mezzo Sopranos, Tenors and Baritones so you would expect a performance worthy of a dream team singing opera scores and contemporary classics. The penultimate act was Laura White, who performed last year as part of classical group All Angels, she returned to the Big Weekend as an accomplished solo soprano singer. Having previously sung the English national anthem at this year’s FA Cup Final in Wembley Stadium and a debut album that has sold over 2.5million copies, she rode in on a huge wave of success. Performing songs that are traditionally folk-based with her unique voice is something that separates her from the crowd, and she was given a standing ovation. It was evident that tonight’s headliner, the super Alfie Boe was the main attraction for the huge crowd that had gathered as deckchairs and blankets were abandoned to get closer to the man himself. Taking to the stage and performing with the swagger and vigour of a rock star, his personality shone through as he gleamed between every word. Preforming his well-known hits such as Bring Him Home from Les Miserables (which was received by the crowd going wild) and O Sole Mio, he merged opera with rock and pop breaking into Elivis’s It’s Now Or Never and Somewhere, the song he performed whilst gate-grashing Buckingham Palace at the Diamond Jubilee concert this year. Alfie Boe was simply sensational, let the West End/ Broadway rock star continue to entertain for many years to come. RITCHIE SAMUEL
Ponty’s Fringe Festival YMCA
I arrived at the YMCA to find the stage being compered by PLUGGED IN’s very own Darren Warner — so knew this would be a good night! First up was a band called Astroid Boys, a five-piece pop punk dub-step group from the Cardiff area. They were really energetic, with all the elements to bring together a mixture of dub-steppers, rappers and pop punksters in one crowd. Just great! On next was the Welsh five-piece metal hardcore Continents. I’d recently seen them in Newport and they were great, but in Ponty’s Fringe they blew the Newport gig away! They totally smashed it, the crowd were insane for them, there were mosh pits, crowd surfers, it was so good — definitely not missing another gig of theirs! Following that came Attack! Attack! singer Neil Starr’s other band Dopamine, a four-piece from Caerphilly. Everyone loved them! A brilliant pop punk band, they make you want to jump up and down and just let your hair loose and have a good time! Then the band that everyone had been waiting for, Straight Lines took to the stage! By this time the crowds were squished in the hall, all so excited to see the hometown heroes Straight Lines nail it. They were the best I’ve seen them yet, they gave their all and the reception and atmosphere was great, even the girls at the merch tables were dancing and singing along! Playing in Ponty’s Fringe in their hometown was a great band to end a great night! KERN BRIDGES
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff The most eagerly anticipated gig in Cardiff’s recent memory, being announced back in 2010 and being delayed by a year until 2011. It was a warm Tuesday night in July that Blink-182 returned to the capital which had sold out years ago. Opening tonight’s show were support maestros hailing from Merthyr Tydfil The Blackout, facing quite a different challenge to what they normally do. Appearing on stage to the tune of It’s Not Unusual by Tom Jones, Sean (vocals) kept trying to fool the crowd into thinking that Tom was his father. The on stage banter was still at a high standard and they kept the short and sweet set list to fan-pleasing tunes from all three albums. Next up were The All-American Rejects, and with a reputation preceding them for writing pop-rock gems anticipation by the crowd was high. Starting off with the slow and eerie Affection, the spark of magic was in the air which then got instantly lit by huge anthem Dirty Little Secret. Classics such as Swing Swing, Move Along and Gives You Hell all added to their set. This should have been a bar-raiser of a set, instead it disappointed. Frontman Tyson regularly playing his guitar and singing with back to the crowd was disconnecting and failed to make his gems sparkle tonight, leaving many fans feeling anti-climactic after the set was over. Whilst the support bands were hit and miss, it didn’t matter as the crowd was here for three guys from California (admittedly one of them has moved permanently to London now). Coming on stage to a deafening roar from the crowd, it was clear that even after postponing the tour by a year that didn’t dampen the excitement of this response. With a visual backdrop that enhanced the songs immensely, it was the maturity from them as musicians that shone through, breathing life into the pop-punk classics that established their legendary status amongst their fans. Oldies such as The Rock Show, What’s My Age Again and Dumpweed all sound timeless and as if they were written yesterday. Whilst Mark tries to impress the crowd with his new-found local knowledge of the UK and Tom cracks the same teenageAmerican humour, it is the drummer Travis Barker who is the serious musician of the trio. Amply demonstrated on his drum solo of Can A Drummer Get Some, you are simply amazed at the technicality and rhythm he performs with. Blink-182 are still the force they once were, and now they have their ‘grown up’ side projects, I can only see this band being the nostalgia and fun that everyone loves and the songs getting much much better. RITCHIE SAMUEL
St Davids Hall, Cardiff Outside the St David’s Hall, the haste of everyday Cardiff life continues its existence. Speed, noise, laughter, anger, alongside the frantic hustle that a major city is built upon. To step from this to the calming interior of the legendary venue seemed like a short journey to another world, with its air conditioning and grey concert block facade. It was lunchtime and an unusual hour for a dirty stop out like myself to be listening to music, but today this break from the norm was welcome. For today Dan Phelps was going to be performing as part of the Welsh Proms and this hour-long lunchtime piano concert was going to take you on a journey away from this place. Polite and slightly unassuming, Dan’s character comes alive once his fingers flow over the keys of the finely tuned instrument, caressing every beautiful note as it floats around the room into your waiting heart. He refers to it as mood music, but what we hear is more akin to the great impressionistic composers that I adore: Ravel and Debussy whose work appeared in France in the late 19th century focussed on an atmosphere or a suggestion creating short-form pieces such as nocturnes and preludes. Though the composers rejected the impressionism label, it is still the best way to describe them and Dan Phelps’s dreamlike qualities that he plays here. With many pieces taken from his excellent Reflections album, like the evocative Dawn, Tranquillity and Lakeside, you are drawn into this one man sitting at the solitary piano and become hypnotised by his actions. The beauty of The Spring is unsurpassable while Blessing, a piece created for his son Joshua Luke’s christening, shows the range and diversity within the etude structures. An hour isn’t long enough to showcase such talent, but is a great taster. When the recital is over you have to step back into the street outside, but you feel enlightened and that noise around you transforms into music, a selection of random notes that need a great composer like Dan Phelps to make sense of it all. DARREN WARNER
Replaced By Robots The Factory, Porth
We originally picked up on Replaced By Robots for our Rising Talent section in Issue 13 of PLUGGED IN. At that time they were just experimenting as a three-piece, creating an electronic Eighties vibe to their grunged up sound. Move forward a year and we see the release of their first album Transmission From A Digital Heart with tonight’s performance being the launch. Now boasting seven members all vying for a position on the stage, Replaced By Robots are ready to give you a full-on blast of anarchic pop. With cardboard boxes made up as robot heads and constant posing to give effect, you may be lead up a garden path to believe that this is no more than a novelty act where a bunch of mates are out for a laugh. But the underlying presence of some excellent songs bound together by brilliant musicianship, including playing lead guitar with a violin bow, reminds me more of bands like Madness or Electric Light Orchestra where the behaviour is part of the show. With tracks like Wake Up World, Girl With X-Ray Eyes and Get Me Out Of This Hospital the band dominated your attention, while lead singer Dorian Holmes controls the stage like a demented king adding a captivating presence to the whole show. The audience loved it, especially when during the last song of the night, the epic album title track Transmissions From A Digital Heart, they were invited on to the stage to join the party. In the end I was one of the few in the auditorium not on stage which was great as I could see the flooring bending to near breaking point and was poised with my camera to capture the possible disaster. It didn’t happen, but believe me when I say Replaced By Robots did. I didn’t expect it to be so much fun and so good. But then, I love experiencing the unexpected. DARREN WARNER
The Gate, Cardiff On a wet Friday night in Cardiff, whilst most of the locals were concerning themselves with a rather disappointing display from the Welsh rugby team, in a smaller setting on the outskirts of the town the relatively unknown Lucy Rose, who recently released her first album, provided an exceptional display of poison ivy pop that rocked all those in attendance. Peter Roe, the undercard for Rose’s performance, kicked off the evening with an acoustic guitar set where his abundance of talent was simply undeniable. Many fans who made the trip, remained seated during Roe’s performance, and the mood within the venue, combined with a cool blue lighting, was one that resembled a school assembly, where the students observed an individual with quiet respect. As Rose entered the stage shortly after, excitement gripped the Gate and the class of 2012 stood up to pack out the floor, with several fans shouting offers of marriage to the young Lucy! From the first track, reactions to Rose’s music were entirely positive, and although Rose intimated that she had been worried that the crowd would be sitting down throughout, it was obvious that she was overwhelmed by the way in which those watching interacted with her music. With only a slight ‘capo complication’, Rose’s set was near perfect and her talent was displayed in abundance. Of particular note was Shiver, a track for which Rose demanded silence from the audience, which was perfectly observed throughout. The emotional connections which Rose has with her music, resonated throughout the audience and the end of the track was greeted by tremendous applause. As Rose’s set continued, the audience became more and more involved with the music, clapping and singing along to the songs. When Rose finished the night with Be All Right it was with great regret that most within the venue left for home. Rose, who provokes comparisons with Californian band The Like, is certainly a talent worth watching out for in the future. Whilst she continues to invoke emotion in her songs like those sung in Cardiff on that grey night, the future is surely bright for this young lady. ANDREW MORROW
The Wooden Sky/Evening Hymns Buffalo Bar, Cardiff
I knew this gig was going to be a good one as those organised by Gathered In Song promoter Steve Honeywill always are. A man with a penchant for all things Americana, his musical ear and band choices are second to none, but this gig exceeded even my sky-reaching expectations. The two bands hail from Toronto, Canada, so I jumped at the opportunity to see them live in Cardiff, particularly in the intimate venue that is Buffalo Bar. First on stage, The Wooden Sky played most of their set from the newest record of a three-album and two-EP discography, Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun. The all-male five-piece are fronted by possibly the tallest man in alternative country, Gavin Gardiner, whose voice is both gravelly and heart-string-pulling, ideal qualities to underpin an Americana band. Their performance entranced the small crowd in attendance, with tracks moving between folky dance inducing, and breathy beautiful. Evening Hymns delivered a set no less gorgeous. Huge, heavenly harmonies, mixed with skin tingling string and horn bursts is their signature, which became amplified with instrumental backing from The Wooden Sky on this night, creating a sound more multi-layered than the recorded version. Softly spoken lead singer Jonas Bonetta regaled the audience with stories of album recordings by a lake-side cabin in Ontario, revealing that if listened to closely, the sound of ice cubes clinking against a whiskeyfilled glass is audible on one of their tracks — I’m not sure how a record can get more authentically country than that. As if the night hadn’t provided us with enough beautiful sigh-making moments, the two bands joined together for an unplugged gig finale, the musicians moving off stage within literal reach of the gig goers. The lovely vocals of both groups joined to sound truly astounding, particularly in this pared down acoustic style. It felt a real shame not many people turned up to watch as it was the sort of experience I hope for each and every time I see a band, truly magical and life affirming, confirmation that mid-week gigs are well worth the effort to attend. Then again, on a selfish note, perhaps there wouldn’t have been space for such a climax with extra people in attendance. Either way, the crowd might have been lightweight in size but our spending on the merch stand was certainly heavy. As my friends and I departed with arms full of CDs, T-shirts and vinyl, I hoped these bands would return to Wales and, as always, I look forward to the next Gathered In Song gig. LISA DERRICK
Arriving at 7.30pm on a cold October night, this gig was kicked off by local rock band Compass. With a strong drum beat and an intense guitar rhythm, the three-piece was certainly an exciting start to the night, reminiscent of 30 Seconds To Mars. Songs such as Weight Of The World and Times Past were both original and fairly catchy. The second act was most definitely the surprise of the night. A single standing DJ going by the name of Ookami brought a dub-step tone to the event, with the change of sound highlighting the wide variety of local acts across Wales. With one turn table, Ookami created innovative hits that could compete with the likes of Calvin Harris and David Guetta in the Top 40. The highlight of the act was the mash-up of his original beats with local band Peasant’s King’s hit single, Promised Land — the mix was both refreshing and innovative. Headliners The Missive was of a similar genre to the first act, but brought a definite metal tinge owing to their trio of guitarists and weighty tempo. Due to their female lead singer, comparisons with Paramore are instinctive but the blend of female vocals with screamo in their song Shipwrecked brought something we hadn’t heard all night. Their cover of The Wanted’s hit Glad You Came also pumped up the crowd who thrived on the inventive metal style brought to a pop record. The whole night was an exciting presentation of unsigned talent and just shows how the standard of local bands simply keeps getting higher. HOLLIE WONG
In 1995 Nora Guthrie, the daughter of legendary American folk-singer Woody Guthrie, summoned our very own national treasure, Billy Bragg, to view the manuscripts of hundreds of Woody’s unrecorded lyrics, held for safe keeping in the Guthrie family archives. Bragg, in turn, enlisted the help of hotshot country rockers Wilco and together they brought Woody’s songs to life. The result was 1998’s Grammy nominated album Mermaid Avenue. Bragg was a truly inspired choice for the role of Guthrie’s torch bearer; as well as being an accomplished wordsmith in his own right, he shared with Guthrie a hard-won reputation as a steadfast campaigner on behalf of the labour movement. Indeed, Bragg drew sustained applause mid-way through the gig when he declared, “Woody is a hero of mine not because he wrote This Land Is Made For You And Me, but because he painted This Machine Kills Fascists on his guitar.” Tonight’s show, however, despite being billed as a celebration of the legacy of Woody Guthrie, featured songs culled almost entirely from the Mermaid Avenue sessions, and as such fell someway short of expectations. Whilst the gig was never less than entertaining, with Bragg managing to squeeze in a humorously told potted history of Guthrie’s life as well some fascinating behind the scenes details of his collaboration with Wilco, the decision to emphasise the Mermaid Avenue material meant that many great Guthrie songs were left unsung. There was still plenty to enjoy though, in the shape of spirited versions of All You Fascists, which Bragg sang with his usual relish, Black Wind Blowing and the joyous celebration of Trade Unionism, I Guess I Planted. The more idiosyncratic songs from the sessions such as Ingrid Bergman, Flying Saucer and the children’s song Dry Bed, although chosen presumably to show the broad range of Guthrie’s talents simply appeared lightweight by comparison. The high point of the gig was the only ‘proper’ Guthrie song played all night, the haunting Slipknot. His chilling account of the ritual lynching of black men in the American South, “Did you ever lose your father on a hang knot. They hung him from a pole and they shot him full of holes. Left him there to rot on that hang knot”, was movingly sung by Bragg. If only we’d had Vigilante Man, I Ain’t Got A Home, Jesus Christ or 1913 Massacre to go with it. For the last song of the set, the unbearably poignant Deportees, Bragg was joined on stage by Welsh singer- songwriter Martyn Joseph, who’d earlier delivered an excellent set of well crafted and bighearted songs, including Lonely Like America, Proud Valley Boy and Cardiff Bay. Bragg encored with two of his own songs. Never Buy The Sun was played in acknowledgement of the victory won earlier that day by the Hillsborough families, the very mention of which led to a burst of spontaneous applause and cheering, and his self-deprecating anthem of revolutionary optimism, Waiting For The Great Leap Forward, re-written to include references to Clegg and Cameron, The X Factor and even Roy Hodgson, ensuring that the evening ended on a high. Billy Bragg’s track record as a political activist and protest singer is second to none and he’s certainly earned the right to sing any Woody Guthrie song he likes, when he likes. However, with Western economies in permanent, self-inflicted recession, and our children, the sick and the disabled being driven into poverty through the ruthless dismantling of the welfare state, I can’t help feeling tonight was a wasted opportunity. Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads are amongst the most politically powerful and emotionally charged folk songs ever recorded; surely, these songs cry out from history to be sung again and again, not least of all in the heart of the Rhondda Valleys. KEVIN McGRATH
The Green Rooms, Treforest
Simon & Oscar
The Muni, Pontypridd Sixteen years on from the release of Moseley Shoals, the album which brought Ocean Colour Scene into the headlines, band members Simon and Oscar were back, proving to their faithful that neither their musical talent nor their ability to command an audience has wavered. Simon and Oscar looked every bit as comfortable on stage as you might expect from men with five Top 10 albums and six Top 10 singles as well as an abundance of performing experience. Simon ‘Foxy’ Fowler was lively throughout the night on guitar and harmonica and was always eager to drink with the crowd who were, in turn, more than happy to join him in doing so! Oscar, too, looked cool and collected in sunglasses — every bit still the star from the Nineties. The duo on stage still looked like the act of old, with the same emotions still resonating through every song, So Low the obvious example. With the likely age of most in attendance between 40 and 50, it appeared likely that many of the crowd were seasoned fans and, although some of Simon and Oscar’s renditions of the newer Ocean Colour Scene tracks were less well known by many within the crowd, showstoppers including Better Day and The Riverboat Song had a partially-intoxicated Pontypridd participating at the top of their voices. The boys finished off the night’s entertainment with the much anticipated Day We Caught the Train, a classic anthem from the band’s heyday. The crowd’s involvement was so passionate that for a large portion of the song, Simon was merely an onlooker drinking a beer, observing the crowd singing a song that clearly can be defined as a ‘classic’. Although it’s many years since the band burst onto the music scene, the commanding performance showed a professional duo who have navigated their way through their wild, younger years to reach an impressive maturity. Whilst Simon still has a showstopping voice, and the faithful keep clamouring for more, Ocean Colour Scene will remain a musical force to be reckoned with. ANDREW MORROW
Parc & Dare, Treorchy
The People, The Poet
John Mouse/Sweet Baboo
This gig was a special one. Instead of being held in the interest of the band, it was set up to raise money for Cancer Research, making it one that I definitely could not miss. After all, not only is supporting Cancer Research a good thing, but I also got to see a band I’ve wanted to see for years. I’ve known about these guys since their early years of being Tiger Please and yet I hadn’t been able to see them once. Well now was my chance. Supporting them were the driven Moral Compass and the fairly new Peasant Kings. Moral Compass is a band that means business. They played song after song with great energy and stage presence (in spite of the front man spending half of his time off the stage) and ended their set with a firm ‘tara’. No messing about. Peasant Kings also gave passion towards their performance. They even unveiled their new song dedicated to Cancer Research: Antidote. This went down well with the audience and got the entire crowd motivated for the headliners. That anticipation, as well as my desire to see them after several years, made the performance that The People The Poet gave simply fantastic. Their style of rock music blended with country tones was great to hear. They opened the set with Strawberry Moon which is the perfect definition of their style. The audience gathered nearer and nearer (mostly under the band’s instructions) to listen to great song after great song. TPTP had the crowd loving the music these guys produced and with witty and personal speaking intervals it made the experience a fun one. Although some of the members were dressed like old people (with Tyla Campbell coated in grey hair spray), it didn’t affect their performance or their image. They unveiled their new song (which currently has no name so it shall be known as New Song) which proved to be a success to everyone. Their climax was one of the most passionate and spontaneous ones I have seen to date. They played Not For Now to finish which involved a very particular clap beat and the audience to sing ‘Whoa’ over and over in different ways. Was this an effective way to finish off? Definitely. It made a performance that no-one wanted to end go on as long as we dictated. The band had to ask us to stop singing so they could complete the song. This was funny, but brilliant too. These guys were just fantastic, no better way to put it. If you haven’t heard these guys already, check them out. They are a musical experience that you won’t regret. CRAIG McDONALD
I always like to check out and support new music venues when they appear on the scene as it’s such a fickle business we’re in, and I celebrate the fact that people want to see live music. Tonight is no exception as I make my way to the Pot Cafe in Cardiff to watch Sweet Baboo and John Mouse. The small venue is packed to the hilt and I feel very conspicuous with my camera and the clicking sound it makes when Sweet Baboo starts his set. Throughout his set there is a bizarre juxtaposition of sounds and imagery going on as Stephen plays through his beautifully personalised songs, like Let’s Go Wild Swimming, while people walking past the window look in as if they are on a movie screen behind the performer. At one stage a bus halts at the nearby traffic lights, the rumble of its engine adding a bass beat to SB’s music and giving the gig a real busker feel. Sweet Baboo has a slightly awkward approach to his performance, as if he is out of his comfort zone he keeps his head down, occasionally looking up as if to prove to himself that the audience is still listening. But this is part of his act, placing himself for all to see with his polite prose and wry humour that has the audience seated in front of him laughing along. With a new album on the way and the former Welsh Music Prize nominated I’m A Dancer/Songs About Sleepin’ still available you need to get to iTunes now. When John Mouse aka John Davies hits the first note of his guitar and starts singing I Just Want To Have Sex With You it’s like he is challenging the outside world to disturb his audience’s attention, something they are very unlikely to do. His humour is unsurpassable, whether it be lyrics of the songs or the conversation in between, though it is of a very Welsh nature with songs about Treco Bay and the f**ked up ghost train, so maybe a little over the heads of those who don’t quite get it. Though what we do get is excellence with songs like The Last Great Rhondda Romance and Shinobi Vs My Little Pony and an energetic performance that keeps you on your toes throughout. Admittedly, only John could get away with an encore that consists of him showing a video on his laptop from YouTube of some young lady, who hopes to aspire to higher things, destroying one of John’s own songs. “I believe she’s trying out for Britain’s Got Talent this coming weekend,” he tells us. “What, singing your song?” a member of the audience replies. “It’ll be the only time I ever make main stream television!” John laughs back. Great fun. DARREN WARNER
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
The Pot Cafe, Cardiff
A round-up by Lisa Derrick
feel that Swn Festival requires no introduction or explanation these days, particularly not to anyone who pays a semi-blink worth of attention to the Cardiff music scene. It is big. It takes over most of the city’s venues that are worth taking over. It invites involvement of musicians from the school of ones-to-watch, proven by Alt J and Wild Beasts playing there pre-fame. How can you be unaware of this annual pledging of a long weekend to the cause of amazing music? If you are then shame on you! So 2012 brought with it my fourth Swn-Fest shaped experience, and for the second year running I have sifted the stacks of musical treats witnessed for compilation into a favourite eight.
PORTASOUND The top spot has to go to this London based five-piece on the Blood & Biscuits label, who combine to form a truly epic instrumental electropop band. Their intros trick you into expectations of a straight up dance track before layers of guitar, drums and synth kick in, the concoction of fast pace and hammering rhythms filling every inch of your body with energy. New sounds constantly snake through their music, making complacency or dance resistance impossible. There was a lot of strut on show from the front man, but he was forgiven for his contribution to the edgily beautiful and all absorbing tracks — and if a front man can’t have front, well who can? The gents are this good with just an EP under their skinny jean cinching belts, so their future looks bright.
FIST OF THE FIRST MAN Shrouded by a sheet, I thought the band had constructed a cover purely for sound check privacy, but as the set began this remained to become a live art installation, and the gig a whole experience. Skittish projections flickered over shadows of the band members, the murky visions suiting the midnight black, iridium heavy music. Throaty reverberating guitars mixed with spiralling electronica mixed with drums that in turn mixed with dense dance beats to create stratums of sound that built up and slipped away in intervals. The music of this Cardiff based trio was gritty, perfect, astounding, their performance one of thought and intrigue.
BO NINGEN The most silken haired, pretty dress wearing all-male Japanese rock band I know. Eccentric? Yes. Amazing? Also yes. Their reputation is such that a queue of Swn-sters hoping to catch a glimpse stretched right the way down Womanby Street. Luckily our gang had secured early front row positions on Dempseys’ upper floor, and these efforts weren’t wasted as the band were the most captivating I’ve seen them to date. Our proximity was incredible, their volume extra loud, guitar swinging and hair tossing on form. The psych-rockers engrossed the packed out venue, the floor of which bounced ominously underfoot in time with the crowd’s moshing movements, whilst all sorts of side show shenanigans were inspired by the craziness. Uber fans wrapped themselves in toilet paper and a too drunk and too close individual received a swift boot from one of the band members as he managed to unplug their instrument. Edgy, sweaty, ear splitting, a gig not easily forgotten.
GALLOPS Label brothers to Portasound, the Wrexham foursome named after a metal drum beat are another astonishing instrumental ensemble whose musical weaving of guitar, drums, keys and electronica is as complex as it gets. So technical in fact that constant communication with the sound tech was necessary during this ‘big O’Neills’ based gig, but slight distraction aside, these boys were fantastic. Their sound is big and storming, a hypnotic hurricane which whirls around the epicentre of drum wizardry that is Dave Morait. The crowd managed to persuade a single track encore to squeeze some more out of the sensational Saturday night finisher, and I’m sure would have remained rapt until the Sunday sun rose if given the option.
DAD ROCKS! Layers of trumpet, delicate strings, piano and gently delivered vocals could lull you into believing this Icelandic indie pop band are about musical beauty alone. Listen closer and you’ll hear lyrics of pathos and acerbity, sardonically recounting their take on aspects of society. The dreamiest tracks hold titles such as Battle Hymn Of The Fox Father, Pants and Weapons. Theirs was an amazing performance at Swn, filled with enrapturing, exquisite tunes and laughter provoking lines.
UDVC It’s not every day you see a 15-deep young person’s collective performing gospel, soul and hip-hop mash-ups, with a few 90s covers thrown in for good measure. Urban Development’s Vocal Collective sits within the organisation Urban Development, which is based in the London Borough of Newham and develops the area’s new urban music talent. Counteracting early Saturday hangovers, the collective’s talent shone brightly, bringing harmonies and glowing smiles all round, led by effervescent conductor Amede Unuabonah. We were lucky enough to witness a bonus impromptu Queen Street performance shortly after the Buffalo Bar set, treating us to a top up of warm glow and melodies.
THE PHYSICS HOUSE BAND Imagine the musical version of my perception of a physics equation. To help you with that, I’ll say I’m not good at sums. This hardworking band’s particular amalgam of synth, drum’n’bass beats and guitar didn’t make sense to me at first, I couldn’t find a way in — but I realised that isn’t the point. Their flair is for zig-zagging incongruous sounds and meticulously making them work. It isn’t nod-your-head stuff, instead my head spun with their unsettling psychedelic multi-rhythmic math rock but this was an eventual enjoyable dizziness. Titan is the apt name of one record, a fitting label for a product of musicians with giant talent.
CUT RIBBONS White Horses is the Cut Ribbons record that best encapsulates this Llanelli band’s strain of dreamy indie rock. Gorgeous front lady Anna’s soaring vocals belied her tiny stature, harmonising beautifully with those of guitarist Aled against a backdrop of energetic instrumentals. Applied with buckets of enthusiasm, the group have mastered a cut and dried winning sound.
Macmillan Coffee Morning The Library, Treorchy
Every year the Macmillan cancer charity encourages people to hold a coffee morning, to not only raise much-needed funds but also awareness of this terrible disease. This year, I decided to add a bit of a twist to the coffee morning I organised by inviting along some wonderful local talent to entertain the generous supporters who came along to donate some of their hard-earned cash. Demi Powell was the opening act of the day. A newbie to the performing world who at first seemed shy but soon found her new home on stage comfortable. Her soft voice brought the room to almost silence as we were entertained by Demi’s performance. Sixteen-year-old Gareth Chidzey was another new young performer. The lead singer of college band, To Be Continued, pleased the crowd with five different cover songs, the most popular being Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars. The performance brought chills to some listeners’ spines and he really connected with the audience. Next up was duo 12 Strings who show true talent in their calm, concise but professional performance, delivering to a hushed audience the beauty of their harmonised vocals — just what was needed at 10am on a Saturday morning when most musicians wouldn’t be out of bed, let alone singing this good! Dai Williams brought a bit of a difference to the Coffee Morning by performing two different songs on the harmonica, the first being a blues tune which was made up on the spot and another being a cover of an old blues band, both of which got the audience clapping in time to the music. Andrew Davey was a last-minute performer who had volunteered to come along and sing two songs, Lego House by Ed Sheeran and an interesting mash-up he’d created with different songs. Despite seeming slightly shy, everyone seemed to highly enjoy the Harry Styles look-a-like’s performance and his quirky charm. Evan Gardner was the highlight of the Coffee Morning, gaining a variety of new fans from the gathered throng. From young to old in age, old school music lovers to chart music addicts, Evan pleased all and was encouraged to perform an encore. The most popular song in his set was Stronger, an song he’d written about his time being bullied in school, to which a lot of young people attending the event could relate to. All in all it was a great way to raise money for such a good cause — thank you to everyone who came along. JAZMIN WILLIAMS
The Deadheads Rugby Club, Treorchy
The Green Rooms, Treforest After watching the debut music video by these guys, I felt the absolute necessity to check them out live. Support came from a great and varied line-up, kicked off by Clear The Auditorium. I had never seen them before so I didn’t know what to expect, which was great as it made their style much more original for me. When you go to a lot of local gigs and hear rock band after rock band, it’s a breath of fresh air when a techno style band comes your way. Their cover of Earthquake combined the synth style of the original as well as rock elements which made all of their songs very enjoyable. The second band up was Bridges. I had heard a lot about them so it was good to finally see them live, and they didn’t disappoint. Their set seemed packed with quality music. One of my favourites was their re-write of their own track Try Something New — after I recovered from the irony, I found it to be a really moving song. Their closing song choice, The Weapon, was a great way to end what was an excellent set. The third band was King And Country who again were excellent. The guitar work involved in Cherish was fantastic and I was drawn more and more into their style with each clever technique they performed. One For The Weekend had an abrupt ending which worked quite well with the style that these guys were going for. Finally, it was time for Among Others. I really liked their set, it felt like every song was intensely emotional, performing their own soulful songs mixed with excellent covers. — Life’s A Party and DJ’s Got Us Falling In Love Again showed this. The power in their performance was intensified when they began to play Dakota which really livened up the audience. The boys were also able to showcase some of their newer songs such as Games Of Mine which added a new atmosphere to the night. However, I must say that my favourite part of the set was when front man, Sam Wright, swapped around with keyboard player, Liam Atwood to perform Gay Bar — the entire song was packed with so much energy that the audience had no choice but to insanely rock alongside these guys. To finish off their performance, the boys played There’s No Hope which was a fine end to the evening. The melodic nature and yet powerful aspect the song had was the right way to end off a fantastic performance. Living up to the ideals of an Indie band, they are certainly ones to keep an eye on in the future. CRAIG McDONALD
It’s fast and furious! It’s loud and lethal! It’s angry and anarchic! Ladies and gentlemen… it’s The Deadheads! These sonic soldiers first surfaced in the 1980s and in recent years these Rhondda rebels have returned to action. The Deadheads go for the jugular via reference points such as the 60s US stomp of The Stooges and the 70s UK nihilism of The Sex Pistols. Just like The Fall and Public Image Limited many members have passed through the doors of The Deadheads. However, there has always been one constant factor with these bands and that is an omnipresent lead singer. As regards attitude and ad-libs Deadheads dynamo Johnny Death is not unlike another vocalist who has gone by the surname of Rotten. Johnny Death leads from the front with fire in his abdomen and fury in his address. The lead man is ably supported by a no-frills, pure old-school, firing an all cylinders guitar, bass and drums overdrive. Original material carries no excess flesh and it could smash through kryptonite walls, and if you don’t like it you can leave! Johnny bellows that those not immersed in the punk spirit need to leave the premises and find pleasure elsewhere — or far stronger words to that effect! The Deadheads will not change and their machine gun etiquette is always a pleasure to witness. The Birthday Party stated that ‘Pleasure Heads Must Burn’, but we declare that ‘Deadheads Must Return’! ROB JONES
Fearless Vampire Killers Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
Monday has always struck us as a rather strange night to hold a gig, as opposed to a Saturday or Friday night where the early risers wouldn’t have to go home early if they have work, school or college the next day. Although I suppose the people at Clwb Ifor Bach had no choice due to Fearless Vampire Killers’ frantic touring schedule before they play the big Kerrang! Tour in support of the cultural institution that is the Black Veil Brides. The night began with the teenage roar of Ladies Love A Super Hero, which filled the growing crowd with a surge of anticipation. The lengthy interval between Ladies and The Missive built the tension in the atmosphere before the band took to the stage and rocked their way through a good set. As The Dead Lay Waiting approached the stage two figures approached the crowd wearing grim reaper masks. After lurking among the crowd, they climbed on to the stage and began setting up the equipment. Suddenly one turned around and after a few seconds of glaring at the crowd, ripped of their mask to reveal the Dead Lay Waiting’s lead singer. This spectacular entrance and playful interval chat, really stole the show, making them by far the most impressive warm up act of the night! As the headliners made their way to stage, we knew this was going to be a completely different act. The Fearless Vampires Killers persona was vastly different to the loud, dark atmosphere leading up to their arrival on stage. They took their act to a whole other level at this gig, vastly exceeding previous gigs we’d seen as they were starting out. With the sheer volume, anarchistic musical style and pure stage presence of the band, I would definitely keep an eye out for these guys in the near future, they could all too easily be the next big thing! SAM REES & DEXTER WALKLEY
The Road To Warped Tour Great Hall, Cardiff University
The Story So Far was already playing as I got inside the venue, but what I saw and heard I really enjoyed it. I’ve been wanting to see them for a while so it was worth the wait, they were a great crowd warmer, great atmosphere for them and they seemed to love the warm welcome they were receiving. Next to the stage was Man Overboard, a great pop punk band from New Jersey, I really liked these guys, and so did a lot of the crowd, rattling through a set that included Dead End Dreams, Montrose and Love Your Friends, Die Laughing. They were so much fun to sing and dance along to, I can’t wait until they come back to Cardiff! Finally, the band I’ve always wanted to photograph, New Found Glory took to the stage. The crowd screamed loudly as they gave it their all, preforming most of the album Sticks And Stones. They preformed amazingly as usual, playing songs such as My Friends Over You, Kiss Me, Hit Or Miss and All Downhill From Here. The crowd loved every single minute of it and didn’t want the band to leave the stage — they never fail to perform a good gig in Cardiff. Then last but not least, Less Than Jake headed to the stage. I’ve heard of the band but I had never listened to their music so I was looking forward to this set, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I loved how they had a trumpet and a saxophone in the band, it give their music a jazzy twist and made it very enjoyable. They were also so much fun to photograph, as they liked to pose a lot which was awesome. The crowd loved them, and I liked them more than I expected — they were really groovy and made me want to listen to them when I got home. All in all it was a great evening, so much energy and chilled out vibes coming out of the Great Hall that evening, a night to never forget. KERN BRIDGES
Photographs by Kern Bridges
Clwb Y Bont, Pontypridd After a lengthy wait, the doors finally opened and Clwb Y Bont was soon teeming with an eager crowd awaiting a scream filled night. Virtue In Vain were the first to satisfy this hungry crowd, swiftly followed by Darkness Overwhelms upon where the chaos of the night really began. When We Were Wolves were really the big surprise of the night, the lead singer (Mitch Bock) wildly entering the crowd and literally climbing the walls while screaming his lyrics at the slightly startled crowd. After an already thrilling night Blowgoat finally took the stage, filling Clwb Y Bont with an epic, almost tribal sound from the bassist that you could literally feel surging throughout your entire body. The vocalist of Blowgoat continued the theme of leaving the stage and wildly conveying their lyrics directly in the faces of the crowd. As the crowd and myself left the venue almost completely deaf, due to sitting on the speakers to feel the music for most of the night, it’s needless to say that the crowd’s goat had officially been blown. SAM REES
Photograph by Sam Rees
The Factory, Porth
YPN 2nd Birthday Pontypridd YMCA
Back in late October, the Young Promoters Network celebrated their second birthday in style at the YMCA in Pontypridd. Opening the proceedings dressed as the village people to perform a cover of their aptly named song were Bridges. With the fun and games over, they launched into their clean cut, straight up, hard rock. Their live performance is certainly energetic; bouncing back and forth and playing the set with an almighty bang. Next up were the slick and stylish King & Country from Bridgend, who impressed everyone with the quality of their welloiled machine. Frontman Ashley Taylor is a star in the making who has all the right attributes to lead his band to success. A set stuffed full of absolute corkers played live to perfection, it won’t be long until these guys are hitting the big time. The Missive kicked things off with latest single Sleeping With The Bad Guys and their pop-punk turned heads as they all dressed up as Waldo. With a set laced full of intelligent and edgy songs they were a rousing success. All attention turned to Falling With Style who have stormed their way to wider audiences since they played last year’s bash. Live they have sharpened up, tightening their sound and really honing their craft on the relentless gigging they have done in 2012. Live favourites Contingency and Reckless really whip the crowd up into a frenzy and got everyone singing along. On this highly enjoyable performance it’s not hard to see why they are such favourites of the South Wales scene. RITCHIE SAMUEL
The night broke out with the ironically youthful blare of Ancestors, with the raw guitar, bass rhythms and savage simplicity of the lead vocals they really fulfilled their role of tantalizing the crowd before the arrival of the headliners onto the stage. After a notably long interval containing playful chat with the friendly crowd, Breaking Elevation took the stage and erupted into song. The comparable experience and polished performing skills of this band was apparent from the off, and the modern classics they covered truly made this band a cut above the rest. After Breaking Elevation claimed to have finished their cover filled show, the charismatic persona of their lead guitarist and uplifting song choices of the band encouraged the crowd to cheer for an encore. After refusing the encore repeatedly claiming his voice was already feeling the strain of the night, the lead singer finally yielded to the swarm of demanding chants. After the band started playing their encore, the iconic moment of the night occurred, when an immensely excited fan jumped onto the stage, shortly followed by an army of other inspired crowd members, making this a truly exciting night for the crowd. SAM REES As I stood there in the dark but lively atmosphere of the venue waiting for Breaking Elevation I was already expecting good things. The crowd were at the barrier eagerly awaiting their appearance, they had been talking about how good the band was all night so my expectations were high. I had even run into a couple of the band members outside the venue before the gig started, they seemed like really nice guys and they even took the time to help me look for a ring I had lost before they went on stage. But now was the time to see if all my expectations were going to be met or disappointed, and to say the least they definitely didn’t disappoint. After getting the crowd pumped with well-known favourites such as Crush Crush Crush by Paramore and What I’ve Done by Linkin Park they started obeying the song requests from their girlfriends, issuing commands from the front row. Breaking Elevation are an excellent benchmark for what a good local band should be. Chilling with their friends before they were due on, cheering and booing the other acts with the crowd, getting up on stage and giving everybody exactly what they wanted to hear, then going home satisfied in a job well done and a gig well played. Good job Breaking Elevation. DEXTER WALKLEY
Reviews by Andrew Morrow, Celyn Thomas, Dexter Walkley, Ellie Trotman, Freddy Tamplin, Gary Bolsom, Gemma Davies, Hannah Williams, Jade Lewis, Jess Thomas, Jessica Risby, Joanne Crawford, Kevin McGrath, Kirsty Jones, Lisa Derrick, Menna Batista, Nicol Jones, Rebecca Jackson, Rebecca Meredith, Rhian James, Ritchie Samuel, Ruth Jenkins, Sam Rees, Sj Williams, Stephen Round, Tomas Dobbins, Victoria Madden & Darren Warner
The Coal Exchange, Cardiff The Coal Exchange trading floor was bustling like in its hey day, full of anxious fans awaiting the first ever appearance of this iconic band in Cardiff, Swedish Rock gods Europe. The hairy 80s metal rock band, who initially formed in 1979 under the guise of Force, rose to international fame after changing their name and releasing the classic track The Final Countdown in 1986. Tonight, supporting the release of their ninth Studio album Bag Of Bones, the first to hit the UK charts since 1991’s Prisoners In Paradise, they blew the audience away with their iconic style and presence topped by Joey Tempest’s powerhouse vocals. This was like a trip back in time, with all the lighting and spandex in tow, playing all of their greatest hits, including Rock The Night, Carrie and Open Your Heart. As Europe left the stage everyone knew something was amiss, they hadn’t yet played their greatest hit of all. As the crowd chanted the band members appeared back on stage and the first notes of The Final Countdown were heard. A truly outstanding performance, a band no one should miss! JESSICA RISBY
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat and it’s that time of year that all those greatest hits packages and Now That’s What I Call an easy way to make money type albums appear on the scene. So we’ve decided to give you an alternative selection of music to mull over while eating your mince pies...
Photographs by Stephen Round & Daniel Holley
The Muni, Pontypridd It’s been over 40 years since Magnum first got together as the house band for the famous Rum Runner club in Birmingham (later home to Duran Duran) with vocalist Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin still holding the fort as they tour their 17th studio album On The 13th Day. Supported at The Muni by the excellent Trillium, the crowd were ecstatic screaming ‘Magnum, Magnum, Magnum.’ by the time the progressive rock band hit the stage. Forty years of performing meant that this wasn’t going to be an amateur performance and they blew the audience away with track after track, including songs from the new album as well as the classic On A Storyteller’s Night. This was a night of great rock and a band I’d love to see down this way again soon. DANIEL HOLLEY
Clwb Y Bont, Pontypridd Another classic gig was recently put on by the astoundingly cheerful and enthusiastic fellas of KCC records, a not-for-profit underground collective just doing it for the love of it. The night was a mixture of high energy punk kicked off with Not Since The Accident warming things up the treat — some fantastic jibes all round, especially from Boris on the bass. They seemed to be running on divine intervention as Rhys on vocals was glancing upwards, a bit of Dave Vanian from The Damned about him, both in looks with the slicked black hair and the fantastic stage presence. Groblar were wild, , fuelled by energy from the piper at the gates of dawn, with a synth on drugs screaming over the early Pink Floyd-esque musings of the band. Heavy as a two-ton elephant Culver attracted the biggest crowd of the evening, the music was so slamming and heavy it was hard not to get down the front and be lost in the moment — music to proper mosh to. Thorun never fail to disappoint and they too blew the spiders out from their webs. If you like your music low, heavy, sludgy and with a distinct lack of vocals then these are for you — only the words, cheers, we have CDs and T-shirts for sale, you don’t have to buy them, up to you, were uttered! Mike on the drums perfectly complements the riffs form Neal (doom on a jazz bass), Keeran and Jonny (lyrical sg and pointy sg) with his solid style and smashing fills. Not a lot of virtuoso guitar solos, but then Steve Vai is pirates’ pants compared to these smooth operators. BENJAMIN FRANKS
Stereophonics make a slightly awkward return after the below standard 2009 album Keep Calm & Carry On with the single In A Moment prior to the release of the new long player Graffiti On A Train early next year. This isn’t the classic Stereophonics from the first four albums, but it is a beautifully haunting soundtrack to these times of austerity and savage disregard for human suffering. Kelly Jones writes about real life and whether you understand the meaning behind the lyrics or not, it’s the hypnotic melody that carries you along. This is a massive positive step from their last release, and may not be a commercial success but still rates as one of the best tracks the Stereophonics have released, ever!.. Maybe not The Blackout that we used to know with this near dancable disco romp, but the boys are on top form with Start The Party as they continue their climb to world domination via Merthyr Tydfil. It’s the sort of music you play loud at a frat party when the police are hammering at the door, you know the one in those American Pie type films where there is always a close up of a topless girl for no reason! Sean Smith said he wanted to be a pop star, well if this is the route they are taking then, the only way is up my friend. Truly exceptional... Bouncing Chris Summerhill & The Hurricanes return with second album Everybody Knows. If you know Chris you’ll know the guy is full of effervescent life and this album reflects that to the hilt. With the full band his songs have developed from the one man and a guitar to a full-on party, a bit like Bob Dylan going electric. Some hints of Bruce Springsteen as the American feel drifts through, especially on Light Of Day but that’s no criticism. Brilliant stuff matey... Funeral For A Friend returns with their album Conduit. OK, it’s fair to say FFAF aren’t the same FFAF these days, especially when compared to Casually
New Releases, CDs, EPs, Demos & Downloads Dressed And Deep In Conversation and Tales Don’t Tell Themselves. In fact only two of those members are still in the band, so what we’re listening to is almost a different group altogether. And that shows, with very little melody and Matt’s vocals being little more than shouts and screams rather than any tuneful song — we’re hearing a harder rock outfit that’s playing for the converted rather than engaging a wider audience. Of course it’s good, FFAF rarely let you down, and this album is built for those important live performances, but — and it’s difficult for me to say this — there is no forward motion. With Conduit FFAF are stuck in a grove that they seem happy to circle round in... Take two of Wales’s leading frontmen, Gavin Butler & Neil Starr, let them write some songs and strap on their acoustic guitars and you end up with this beautiful, hair raising and haunting album Ghosts & Echoes. Neil’s half Ghosts unleashes his tender and very personal collections about his wife, yet balancing the lyrics to keep everyone interested. It’s a very chilled out and intimate half, as opposed to Gavin Butler who amps up the tempo on Echoes. This album is combined by the song-writing talents and, frankly, brilliant poetic lyrics that the duo possess. An under the radar album that will slip by if you don’t take time out to listen to it... Houdini Dax create the illusion of a 60s road trip on single Heavy Tease with their dreamy sounding vocals that contrast with the angry lyrics. Sounding like a cross between Oasis and The Monkees they push out psychedelic tinged music laced with a sinister backbone creeping up on you. Pretty damn good stuff... On the Apparitions ep Colours Of One have given us varying flavours of what they want to be. It’s upbeat to kick off with, before dipping then rising again to the eventual chillout track. Good tunes with great singing, would just like a bit more of an injection by the time first album comes around... ‘Dwi di tynnu chi mewn/I have pulled you in’ is a resonating lyric in Gwenno’s Ymbelydredd (Radiation). The music is hypnotising, easing the listener into an alternative reality full of daisy fields, tye-dye and confused colours — these tracks will give you the imagination to float into creativity... Cate Le Bon, a mainstay of the Cardiff music scene, seems to have drifted under our radar without us actually catching her — until now that is, as we have our hands on Cyrk II. Her vocals are reminiscent of Nico’s singing with the Velvet Underground, giving these tracks a uniqueness of style that sounds like commercial fame wasn’t ever on the agenda. Drifting vocals that stand against a wave of minimalist music with a 60s feel, the five tracks on this mini sequel to her acclaimed album Cyrk, released earlier in the year, are pretty damn fine... Sounding like a battery operated toy on hypermode Replaced By Robots’ first album Transmissions From A Digital Heart is a culmination of loads of ideas stuffed into one pot marked excellent. Winning hearts with originality this is a breath of fresh air that could be going places,
especially with the album’s title track that should never be allowed to end... Cut from a different cloth Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog take influences from more natural sources with their wonderful Draw Dros Y Mynydd. Country
& Western influences with the beauty of Welsh language poetry sung in perfect harmony, this exceptional album is sublime with slide guitar and subtlety throughout... You might have heard us raving recently over young Ryan March, well listen to his new ep Tales Of A Teenage Rebellion and you’ll get the reason why. Tales is an exceptional release, bringing the concept of a modern teenager to the table. Opening track Teenage Rebellion leans heavy into his punk influences with a gigantic sing out loud chorus. The next two tracks see Ryan’s punchy vocal delivery take the forefront, but it’s ep closer We Are Alive that combines everything great about the first three tracks into one razor sharp performance with cutting edge lyrics that will make you want to shout about it from the rooftops! It absorbs you, takes you on a heartfelt rollercoaster ride — it’s simply an essential listen and purchase... An Estimation is the debut album for accordion playing, singer songwriter Anja McCloskey. The album is a collection of intriguing and musically energetic tracks, busied by the additions of violin, viola, guitar and clarinet. Adopting a clear folk style, McCloskey strives to give her own flare to the album and through her vocals gives a mysterious air to the collection. She is the Morticia of the folk world... One of the greatest musicians alive Neil Young & Crazy Horse returns with Psychedelic Pill, a double dose of his wisdom and typical uncompromising style. Remember this is the guy who didn’t just bring us beautiful melodies like Heart Of Gold but also the 34.57 second feedback noise feast Arc. So with an opener of 27.37 seconds called Driftin’ Back expect everything to be explored. This is an album that would sit happy in the 70s under the influence of the pill of the album title. Slightly dated Neil Young gives us what he does best, brilliant music... Sebastopol’s Hello All Stations, This Is Zero is an immediate sing-along album. With its catchy lyrics and simple melodies, it’s something which easily becomes familiar after the first time of listening. Send The Boats is a great opening track with its energetic and bop-about chorus. With hints of Feeder and The Police, Hello All Stations, This Is Ground Zero is one for the collection... A Plastic Rose delivers a collection of both instrumental and vocal brilliance. Camera, Shutter, Life, the debut album from the four piece alternative rock
band, offers a range of tracks each as pleasing to the ear as the next. A Plastic Rose offer a style similar to such legends as Biffy Clyro and Aiden. The anthemic nature of the album manipulates you into singing along and leaves you exhausted and satisfied afterwards... Future/Perfect take a different stance altogether with the 80s electronic influenced album Escape which takes me back to my youth wandering round the clubs of underground London. Yazoo, The Other Two, Six Sed Red all show possible influences here. This is pop music, pretty damn good pop music... No.1, the ep from Cardiff’s Freeman Street, gives us the funkier side of the city with the falcetto voice and bongo style drums. Righteous is a brilliant opener and the other three tracks follow suit. Fab man... Now Fell On Black Days’ album Talion ain’t so funky, more ripping your heart out screamo rock. Very talented though within its defined genre this will have Santa running for cover. Heavy with a capital H... The beauty of the harmonies from Cheviot Hills on the excellent Out Of Nowhere album adds a different contrast to previous albums. Like a story-telling piece of Americana, tracks like The Mexican and Through Your Eyes take you on a journey that defies you not to listen. And I could listen to this all day. Wonderful... Rob Marr’s Anatomy proves the man has talent. It’s one of those albums that is written, produced and performed by just the one man, with the odd exception of the drums. What this leads to could be classed as slightly self indulgent in places, but is OK in my books. Quirky, different but fun... My Jerusalem give you a sense of pervading darkness with the deep vocals on their latest album Preachers. With great songs and fantastic musicianship, especially the bass guitars rhythms, this is addictive music of a high calibre... How Could We Be Wrong? Not a statement but the album from James J Turner whose Irish folk/bluegrass music is immediately uplifting. The album cover which shows the man looking like a psycho killer from a blood filled movie is a total contrast to the happiness that spills out from his music. OK the lyrics have strength and potency in the way Bruce Springsteen can write but this man carries his own baton. Well good stuff... Rodina And The Wolf the album by Rodina is more of an ambient electronic dance affair with its overlays and wispy hushed vocals creating a sense of a dreamscape. Laid back to the point of sleep you can’t do anything but drift along with the music into a place of bliss. Some of these tracks will appear on one of those mood compilations before long... The first time I heard Lau’s Race The Loser album, I heard an uncool folk album. The second time I listened to it, I found that although it was still a folk album, it was quite a relaxing sort of folk album. The tracks are predominantly instrumental but singer Kris Drever makes his occasional splash across the music sheets with his typical Scottish folk singer voice, complementing the strumming of Martin Green and the fiddling of Aidan
O’Rourke. The band has been nominated for Best Group and Best Album for Race The Loser for BBC Radio 2’s Folk Awards 2013... For a debut album, You Are Now Leaving The Future by The Processions seemed mellow and somewhat reserved, yet unexplainably captivating. The Procession have managed to create an album much of their own with subtle hints of Soundgarden and whispers of The Bravery. Not a must buy, but a nice debut album that you can stick on the iPod and listen to while walking the dog... Think Bigger is the third album to be released by Cosmo Jarvis and one on which you get the sense that he’s giving the middle finger to society and challenging norms of mundane everyday life. However, he does so in a toe-tapping and catchy way. Lacie is a track about his external hard drive, even though you feel that it’s a love story! Cosmo Jarvis obviously has a sense of humour and a straight forward way of thinking, and this is communicated through his unique collection of strange, sometimes depressing, yet upbeat tracks...Offering vocals like U2’s Bono, and undertones of the Killers and Coldplay, The Chevin give all they have to offer on Borderland with catchy lyrics and toe-tapping riffs. The tracks offer the same level of mystery and techno vibes as David Bowie adopted in the making of Labyrinth. Although The Chevin are not pioneers in their style of music, they are not afraid to incorporate a nuance of country and folk. Blue Eyes does this, and does it well, and is one of the better tracks on the album. But if indie-rock is what you love, this is a must buy... Paul Liddell & Delphians Live was an album that was boxed up more impressively than the contents could deliver. I was left wanting more from this collection. That isn’t to say that the tracks were lacking. On the contrary, the style of music was much of its own. It offered quaint melodies and scene setting lyrics, but didn’t deliver on the much needed energy that fuels a live album... Bad Powers is a self-titled album where the female vocalist doesn’t give the impression that she is someone you would want to take home to meet the parents, but is definitely someone you would want to be rocking out to in a muddy field in some random rock festival. It’s like listening to a girly Mastodon. With her oestrogen enraged shouty lyrics she complements the offbeat riffs and time signature changes. If you’re a lover of heavy metal and women who look scarier than they sound, this is definitely one for your collection... Maria Doyle Kennedy’s Sing cover hints at a dreamy and romantic compilation from this obviously Irish gal. Her hypnotic tracks are something you would easily find lurking in some popular rom-com, and with its acoustic melodies is an easy Sunday album that can be enjoyed by Mums and Grans all over... Aiden Grimshaw breaks the X-Factor mould on Misty Eye with some alternative pop mixed with freshly squeezed soul. Despite finishing a lowly eighth in the show, Cowell snapped him up due to his devout fanbase. Bringing it back to the music, this album has its brilliance and flashes of pure magic, especially in lead single Is This Love, but sadly that’s where it ends. The majority of the album is highly repetitive and
a bit of a snooze, what it lacks is direction. Thumbs up though for trying to be a different X-factor alumnus... The hugely successful alt-rock Grammy award winning Canadian Alanis Morrisette, who produced the iconic song Ironic, is back with her latest offering Havoc & Bright Lights. Delivering a postgrunge entwined effort, as part of the package is her signature angst-scowl that shines through. It’s not covering any new ground as to what’s been done before, but it’s a great album with Alanis’s witty songwriting and power vocals shining through... Aedificatoria is an interesting approach from the space-rock outfit Fira Firm from sunny Barcelona. As a whole the album is a very experimental affair. It has all the elements ranging from hypnotic pyschedelic trips to being upbeat to keeping the vocals minimum and letting the cosmic indie-rock instrumentals take a firm hold. Unlike some experimental albums which in nature can bore you to death as the concept gets lost, this is an enjoyable affair that’s not too submersive but can allow you to be taken in if you want to... A band which writes its name with the Caps lock button on should drop you a hint that they produce in-your-face music. And with Better Living, FLATS deliver snarling punk on opener Foxtrot. Its heavily strung out opening has that slight touch of sleeze about it. With a tip of the hat to Sham 69 and classic punk, there are gnarly vocals and sloppy guitar riffs, though the record experiments into a drone when it goes a bit grunge and indulges itself upon metal riffs. It certainly has an early Gallows feel to it, so if you’re into punk you should check it out... New Gallows vocalist Wade McNeil belts out “In us we trust” as the opening line of the first track on new album Gallows — and it stings in your ears as the re-birth of Gallows could not be more true. As the interview with the band (page 11) suggests they are much tighter than before and this offering fully backs that up. It’s full of meaty hooks, neat riffs and some tight drumming that really gels well together with its North American punk/ hardcore influences. It still retains the classic British punk Gallows sound which just completely blows you away. This record left me speechless and gagging to see a live show... Kathryn Williams presents The Pond, forward thinking folk that doesn’t go down
the Mumford & Sons route. Kathryn’s voice is very soothing and mellow throughout, sucking you in like a vacuum cleaner on dirt. Bepop (available as a free download on her website) which mixes up some contemporary folk with hip-hop is just an example of the diverseness of the record and explores how far you can push the folk sound. Evening Star sees folk cross over into chillout and dance territory. This was a very surprising listen, which is sharp, cutting and most of all very exciting... Manchester band Milk Maid (with ex-Nine
Black Alps Martin Cohen) are the latest addition to the city’s ever musical production line. Album Mostly No has a jangly retro indie sound, that sees vocal influences from 60s rock and roll spread all over it, notably The
Beach Boys. It’s a very stripped back affair musically, not over complicating it with the unnecessary need for effects, distortion and the use of modern day gizmos, it’s designed to let the melody flow through like a river. A very simple and pure affair... Thieves & Liars isn’t the usual solo project you’d expect from ex-Trash Metal frontman Peter Dolving of Sweden’s The Haunted. This highly experimental affair sees influences flow from electronica, indie and a hybrid of gunge-indie that can be heard on a My Bloody Valentine record. Unfortunately, I found myself getting bored listening to this record, it all feels too randomly constructed whilst the ideas are just over-thought through. Really sorry Peter, but without a concept these ideas really fall flat... The album Pseudonippon from Colorama feels like a bunch of London artstudents have got together for an ideas jam. But as you’d expect it’s not a straight forward affair, as it ventures into the downright bizarre — with lyrics sung in faux-Japanese and tracks creating a psychedelic noise that feels completely random. The doubledrumming throughout the album is a complete joy, providing a real rich texture to the sound. If you’re looking for something different this month, look no further than this weird bundle of joy... Mountains is a slick effort from Bridgend band King & Country. Filled with the fire that burns within the deepest depths of a dragon’s belly, hooks that will catch your jaw constantly, a dirty deep bass line running throughout and vocals only meant to sooth the soul, this is one of the hidden gems of the year. Musically it sits inbetween LostProphets and Young Guns of being pure rock, but it has enough originality to stick out from the crowd. A solid, slick and bold effort which is only to be ignored at your own peril... Rich Kinsey, the Merthyr bluesrock one man band, brings in his fellow mates from the boozer onto ep Rich Kinsey & The Bar-Room Heroes to great intimate effect. Rock and roll soaked in blues, with a selfloathing feel throughout. Opener Hanging Around could easily be found opening up a modern-day rom-com movie and closer Yeah I Know feels like you’re in a Western movie riding off frantically into the sunset. Overall it’s an effort jam-packed full of character, fun and enjoyment... Go Forth Bright Scenic is one of four albums by British singer songwriter Stuart O’Connor, with each album representing a different musical form which can be appreciated individually or as part of the overall project. Forth is an album which immediately commands attention from the opening instrumental, transferring into the highlight of the album Squeaky Doors. This track combining bass, harmonica and a dash of Latin America keenly displays the abundance of O’Connor’s talent, and although no other track quite reaches its heights, Varit gets closest with its deeply emotional melodies... Noineen, Noiny, Noin is as
outrageous in sound as the album title suggests. The latest release by Steven Poltz keeps the listener on their toes from start to finish, with its abstract style and continuously evolving musical form. Stand out tracks include the beautiful folk-style I Pray It Never Comes To This and Ordinary Dude, where from the opening bars of violin the listener is encapsulated by the track’s scintillating energy. The variation within the musical forms on this album is its selling point — Poltz will surprise you... Red Light Means Go from A Band Called Quinn is an album which grows stronger as every track passes. The band has a generic pop style which is anything but ordinary. Sayonara is the stand out track, giving Louise Quinn a perfect opportunity to display a little more of her vocal range than you were aware she had whilst perfectly accompanied by the electric guitar. Also of note is a track which demands attention for contrasting so brilliantly with the rest of the album – Ghosts From The War will have you encapsulated and haunted with its truly beautiful electronic melodies... The highly recommended Independence is the latest from Kosheen, a band that are never afraid to reinvent themselves or break the mould of their musical style. From the opening bars of the first and standout track Addict, a sensational baseline captures the listener’s attention only to melt away leaving a beautiful display of vocals — there is only excitement for what is to come. Kosheen have certainly not lost any of their electronic talent, and for this album the band deserve great credit. Congratulations and welcome back... Crisis! is the first track or ‘first comic book’ in a series of 10 from The Red The White & The Blue — made up of Paul Cronin and Ed Loades joined by Rick McMurray and Taka Hirose from Ash and Feeder respectively. This is the beginning of a story which is set to be told throughout the collection to come and if the first track is anything to go by we are in for a cracker! The music and comic combine to give the listener a truly vivid experience. Where this love triangle will take the band can only be guessed at — expectations are high... Evan Andree’s latest ep Invisible Sap captures American teenage summers in snapshots.Opening track American Dream has a guitar-line akin to Tom Petty in its crystallised build-up and a solid, safe drumbeat. Andree’s melodic vocals add a touch of smoothness and class to the track and the slow processes make for very easy listening. Your Song has a bit more oomph about it, but Andree’s vocals remain firmly rooted in melancholy and sweet-toothed charm. The final track, Mr Teleportation, is a mixture of indie-pop-punk and really gets you in the mood for a drive to the beach with a few beers and a few friends. A must for fans of Brand New, Beach House, Passion Pit and Ryan Adams... Twenty seven years after their last studio album, the disastrously received Don’t Stand Me Down, soul impresario Kevin Rowland and a reformed and re-christened Dexy’s have returned from the wilderness with a wonderfully innovative record, One Day I’m Going To Soar. There are beautiful laments, tragi-comic show tunes (with the scene-stealing Maddy Hyland), anguished ballads and hand on heart monologues, all equally memorable in their own right. Quite simply, there’s no one else out there capable of writing songs in the uniquely stylised manner of the album’s tour-de-force, It’s OK John Joe. This is a triumphant return for the
old soul rebel... South Wales Clarinet Choir play classical pieces that sound amazing on clarinet — commanding yet delicate, all very beautiful, diverting between pretty and winding melodies and intense, authoritative sections. It is idyllic music for relaxation and escapism. I listened to Rondeau by Henry Purcell, Devil’s Gallop by Charles Williams and Clari’s Day Out by Luke Whitlock. There are almost 30 regular playing members in the choir, which includes a mix of ex-professional players, music teachers, students and keen amateurs, who perform between six and eight concerts a year. I imagine a live performance would be fantastic, so shall be keeping an eye out for one of their upcoming events... With Epicloud the Devin Townsend Project seem to have created a unique sound with a piece of everything in there. I wasn’t sure if I should be shaking my head or pretending I was an opera singer. Overall this was a rock album, just not that heavy... With their track Gloria, Canterbury have almost taken it so far to keep it clean and perfectly accessible that they seem to have lost any uniqueness. A bit like the innocent child in a class who the teacher never has a problem with but always gets overlooked. It’s good, but doesn’t stand out as if they lack that less forgiving hunger... A different story from Fireroads’ I Got Sound. Sounding like they were born out of a shack in the American deep south this Welsh group kick out some classic rock in the style of Black Stone Cherry. Old school rock with upto-date texture applied and a boost of adrenaline, this album never runs out of steam. Check it out... Take a classic song, strip it down to its bare bones, then rebuild it in your own style and you’ll get the beauty of the original shining through. That’s exactly what June Tabor & Oysterband have done to Joy Division’s brilliant Love Will Tear Us Apart, a song that has the sign ‘Never Play With’ in our book — just listen to the rubbish version Paul Young did in the 80s: I’ve never forgiven him! But this track is sublime, it’s beautiful, bringing Ian Curtis’s lyrics back to life. It’s simply the best cover version ever because comparing it to the original it gives you a whole new perspective on the song and how a cover should be done... Sounding like an illegitimate love child of The Who and The Jam, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead’s album Lost Songs storms out of Texas after being bred and raised on angry punk. Old-school mod-style vocals above frustrated erratically paced sound is a combination that shows this little known band could be on to something brilliant. Dedicated to the persecuted Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot and inspired by the Syrian Civil War this is definitely worth a long hard listen... The latest offering served up by Cradle Of Filth is called The Manticore And Other Horrors and is sure not to disappoint. Heavy and dark head-banging songs that’ll send you into a mosh to put you in A & E, it opens in a gothic opera-style before erupting into the extreme metal-style that we have come to know and love from the band. Another great album from the Suffolk boys.. Heavens Basement’s Fire Fire is a monster of a song with its loud bass and clean guitars rhythms. Given form it would be like a freight train highballing through the centre of town, though listening from the wrong side of the tracks. This is a real set the world on fire song. Great... Sounding like a confused mellow dub-step song bouncing around a deserted dance floor this remix of Islet’s This Fortune reminds us of what Crystal Castles
aspire to without any chemical influences. This Cardiff band are unusual, not your everyday listen as if you’re floating around crowd surfing while a mad mosh goes on beneath you. Pure excellence... Imagine the sun is beating down and you’re in a car on the way to the perfect summer festival, you’re excited but relaxed — then Alt-J’s (∆) Something Good would be the song you would be listening to. Uplifting if you upset its music from a band that carries a buzz about them. They may be playing the smaller stage but everyone wants to get a glimpse...Like a flashback to the 80s with its single note keyboard in A Flock Of Seagulls-style, this simplistic tune MTV Generation from Centre Excuse still retains a modern twist. We’re 13 again because of its Indie vibe and the reassuring lyrics that tell me ‘It’s OK’... Reminiscent of a Romany caravan full of hippies listening to Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, Cheek Mountain Thief’s Showdown takes you on a journey through the hills and mountains. Modern folk for those who don’t possess an Arran jumper, it’s light, minimalist while still being very jaunty. Nice track to be woken up to... Listening to The Doublecross album Things Will Never Change is a pure treat. Texture, sound and a layering of music that make a great rock record, but this is more because these are excellently written songs that take you on a journey through main man Jonathan Greenwood’s world. Another Welsh Talent to watch out for... Swansea’s Heavy On The Ride’s ep Delaying The Inevitable is a dark piece of grinding guitar rock that pulsates through you like a liquified mud slide. The opener On Course is a vocal-less tour de force that controls the vibe of the whole ep, while Red Walls introduces you to a voice that plays along with the guitars, not on top of them. Guitars are king here... Amongst Carrion’s Shadow Over Me is a massive screamo assault on your system. It’s good but definitely of a genre that you’ll either love or hate. Very heavy... With Enter Shikari’s latest single Pack Of Thieves you get a catchy song that’ll have the fans ecstatic, but it’s not up to their winning formula and not breaking any boundaries, but then this is the fifth single from the excellent A Flash Flood Of Colour... Ghost Carriage Phantoms, the pen name for Merthyr born Michael James Hall, has
produced a form of concept album with The Boy Lives. With multi-layering techniques alongside acoustic guitar tracks, this seems like a series of leftovers put together — but there are moments of genius against some not so, and what this music shows is someone challenging the world to be different and we commend GCP for that... Jet’s To Zurich don’t leave you any doubt about where they are coming from with their excellent ep Burning Sky. After an initial simple guitar intro this ep shows the range and vitality that the band have with this indie drenched piece of pure enjoyment. Pretty damn fab... The song Gently by Terry Emm is pure Christmas Eve, especially as it’s got sleigh bells aplenty. Gently has a soft beauty about its tender touching music which settles on you like snow... Merry Christmas Everyone!
The Independent Voice For Music In Wales