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THE MUSIC MAGAZINE FOR WALES

Issue 8

THE BLACKOUT

in Merthyr PLUGGED IN

ONLY MEN ALOUD Band Of Brothers

PATRICK JONES

Exclusive Interview

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS Hello Sunshine

RISING TALENT SPECIAL

live performance photography

PLUGGED IN IS TWO!

the story behind the magazine

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4th Street Traffic Flood Of Red James Williams The Leisure Society Shirley Bassey Cerys Matthews Stereophonics Katherine Jenkins Soundtrack Festival & SWN ’09

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PLUS


Contents editorial@pluggedinmagazine.co.uk www.pluggedinmagazine.co.uk

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ELCOME! Another year has gone by and PLUGGED IN is celebrating its second birthday! In this issue we’ve included some of the educational projects that we’ve been busy working on this year, as well as an in-depth interview with yours truly, so that you all understand what PLUGGED IN’s about. We’re not just a music magazine...so turn to page 14 to find out more! Also our centre pullout this issue is an 8-page special — Merthyr PLUGGED IN, all about the music scene in Merthyr Tydfil, written and photographed by people from Merthyr Tydfil. And you can’t write about Merthyr without mentioning the town’s famous sons The Blackout — so turn to the centre pages to read our exclusive interview with Sean and the boys. Enjoy the issue — happy reading!

Gail & Darren

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Music News

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Rising Talent

10 Only Men Aloud 12 Patrick Jones 14 PLUGGED IN 16 4th Street Traffic 18 Flood Of Red 20 Soundtrack Festival 22 Super Furry Animals 26 Live Reviews 34 SWN ’09 38 CD Reviews

MANAGING EDITOR & PUBLISHER Gail Griffiths

PLUS Merthyr PLUGGED IN our 8-page pullout

CREATIVE DIRECTOR & CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

Darren Warner

CONTRIBUTORS Abbie Evans, Adam Perkins, Andy Want, Annalese Maz, Bethan Rees, Corey-Leigh John, Gary Bolsom, Gethin Down, Jake Healy, James Bannister, Kadesha Drija, Liam Padfiled, Lisa Derrick, Lloyd George, Lucas W, Mark Tambini, Martha Reed, Martyn David, Rob Jones, Robyn Kennedy, Sam Williams, Siwan Davies, Stephanie McNicholas, Vickie Jones, Victoria Turner & Stephen Lewis

Advertising Rates by placing an advertisement in PLUGGED IN you will be reaching a captive audience of 5,000 readers over a period of three months Sponsorship of One Issue, including a Full Advert (if required) £3,000 — and a great sense of well-being!

PLUGGED IN magazine is a not-for-profit social enterprise, run by unpaid volunteers. Printed in Wales on recycled paper using vegetable inks.

Full Outside Back Page Full Inside Page Half Inside Page Quarter Inside Page Insertion of Flyers

£300 £250 £135 £75 £50 per 1,000

for further details, contact us at: advertising@pluggedinmagazine.co.uk

PLUGGED IN magazine is the creation of Haul Fryn Publishing & Mentoring Services (info@haul-fryn.co.uk). All rights reserved. All contributions to PLUGGED IN magazine must be original, not pre-published and not posted/printed anywhere until after publication in PLUGGED IN. Haul Fryn Publishing reserves the right to modify any material submitted for publication in PLUGGED IN magazine. Reproduction of any of the content of PLUGGED IN magazine, without prior permission, is strictly forbidden.

PLUGGED IN

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Fifth International Art Of Record Production Conference, 13th-15th November, ATRiuM, University of Glamorgan, Cardiff If you had said to me 20 years ago that I would become a fan of Pete Waterman OBE I would have told you where to go in no uncertain terms. For all you younger readers PW was part of the most commercially successful independent label in the UK (Stock, Aitken & Waterman). At the height of their powers in the mid- to late-Eighties they had 30 Top 20 hits with, on one occasion, five records in the Top 10. Back then records were physical things and the music industry was very different — no downloads, and piracy was mostly limited to countries round the other side of the world where there had never been an industry on the scale of the Western countries.

Look who’s been spotted reading a copy of PLUGGED IN — it’s only Boyd Clack, writer and star of High Hopes! Boyd also told us of his latest album Welsh Bitter which has a great opening track called Last Bus To Porthcawl. One to check out!

Pete Waterman Can you imagine a world of pop without Kylie? Well if it wasn’t for PW then there wouldn’t be Kylie the pop star. You see Kylie was a popular actress in Neighbours 20 years ago but her career in pop was far from a cert. Finding it hard to get an angle on Kylie as pop star Waterman turned to his protégé Simon Cowell. “Will you take Kylie off my hands Simon?” “How much,” responded Cowell. “£1200 signing fee,” said Waterman. “Nah, she’s a TV personality, she’ll never sell records.” Oh the irony and how the world of music production has changed — you don’t shift pop records without the aid of TV anymore. Every song has to have its video. With regard to Kylie’s first hit single I Should Be So Lucky, according to waterman: “I awoke on Christmas morning with a sick feeling in my stomach, I had 150,000 records pressed for which I wouldn’t see any money for two months and I’d just done the first television advertising deal between an independent record label and ITV ever. It cost me £50,000 for a 30-second spot ad on Christmas Day. Up to that point only Woollies, Boots or Smiths spent money directly on TV advertising of albums. This was a first. The ad aired in the afternoon somewhere between Christmas lunch, the Queen’s speech and the James Bond film. It was over in 30 seconds. At about 6 o’clock that evening I had a call from Woolworths’ chief buyer. “I want 300,000 copies right away,” he said. “I knew then we were on the way in the end we sold 15,000,000 (yes 15 million) copies of that single worldwide and it was Number One in 16 countries.” Gus Dudgeon The launching of the Gus Dudgeon Recording Foundation was a central part of the event. Gus produced all of Elton John’s great records, including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, on a desk that has been moved around the UK with Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin owning it at one time. Thanks to the University of Glamorgan the desk has been refurbished and is in working order in an ATRiuM studio. The honour of declaring the studio open fell to Joan Armatrading MBE, a name from the 70s originally but who rose to prominence in the 80s with her Top 10 hit Love & Affection. She’s a really nice person to boot, and made the perfect candidate as she had worked many times with Gus in the past. Also in attendance was Muff Winwood the less famous brother of Stevie Winwood but once one of the major players in the UK / global music industry as head of Columbia Records UK.

Well, well, well! You must like what we’re doing... Issue 7 of PLUGGED IN was out of stock within two weeks of its publication. But not to worry, all the issues can be downloaded for free from our website www.pluggedinmagazine.co.uk

Kids In Glass Houses On the other hand with record producers come egos and it was a shame that the producer who had been lined up to record some string parts with Kids In Glass Houses refused at the last as he perceived the session to be commercial. The organisers asked another record producer if he would mind taking the reigns but he declined on the basis that he was “higher up the pecking order than the other guy” who was ultimately responsible for the KIGH session. This was a shame as the session was set up to benefit our students and guests educationally. Hip-Hop — Hip-Op? It was late in the week before the conference when we heard from New York that legendary Hip-Hop producer Hank Stocklee [Public Enemy] had injured his hip and could not come to the conference. How do we spin this? Was it a drive-by shooting? Was it a basketball injury? A bizarre break dancing routine? Nope he slipped on some wet leaves outside his apartment allegedly. After three days of practical demos from the UK’s leading audio manufacturers plus recording sessions and talks with some of the most successful record producers, everyone was tired but satisfied to know that Cardiff is well and truly on the world map in terms of music production. I must say thank you to all the staff and students, in particular Andrew Gwilliam and Jim Barret for organising the conference. This was no strictly academic conference as it’s principally organised by the Music Producers Guild (MPG) and their education arm Joint Audio Media Education services (JAMES). The guests have sold millions of records between them with producers having names such as Iron Maiden, REM and Status Quo to their credit. I look forward to the next one. And for all you X Factor fans, remember Simon Cowell wasn’t the nasty guy when the programme started — it was Pete Waterman, but as the show has passed through successive changes to the judging panel it’s Simon who has become the nasty man, the bad cop. “That was my job for the first two series, Simon was like a pussy cat — but he did steal my act and that’s showbiz.” LLOYD GEORGE

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Following on in our tradition of asking talented musicians to contribute to PLUGGED IN, this issue sees our good friend Mark Tambini, one half of duo Jam With Robina, adding his comments to some CDs from page 39 onwards. Mark also tells us that his and Ro’s second album is near completion after spending many hours in the studio. It’s due for release next year and we at PLUGGED IN can’t wait!


James Williams With the current furore of X-Factor, including the loss of lovely Lucie Jones and cute Lloyd Daniels, we look back on one Welsh hopeful’s dream of winning the X-Factor title and how life has been since he got the singing bug. PI: When did you first realise the potential of your singing voice? JW: I’ve always enjoyed singing for fun. A few years ago I tagged along with Natalie (my wife) and her friends at The Spotlight Drama Group. I started getting positive comments and just started singing more and more! PI: You’ve been called the new Tom Jones and have style similarities with Michael Buble. Any opinion on these comments? JW: The new Tom Jones? That’s a great compliment! Tom is someone I admire...he has consistently — and is still — moving his music on. I loved performing at Ponty Park earlier this year and dedicated a ‘Tom’ song (I’ll Never Fall In Love Again) to my new baby girl, Imogen, born just a few days before. I found out recently it’s one of Tom’s favourite songs too! I’d love to perform with him, that would be cool... or even just have a pint with him as he seems really down to earth! As for style similarities to Michael Buble — he wears cool suits, has great stage presence and charisma, he’s professional and popular with the ladies... yes I can live with that comparison! PI: What made you go for X-Factor? JW: It wasn’t a conscious decision. My mother sent in the application forms and the next thing I knew I found myself going through the audition stages! PI: What was the X-Factor experience really like, as we only see the glamourous side of things shown on TV? JW: It was a great experience, but the audition stages were far from glamorous! Lots of waiting around, long days... no one really knows what’s happening. I was new to it all. Of course I now understand how it works and why it has to be the way it is, after all it makes great TV! PI: You criticized the show for not featuring you more, saying if you’d been suicidal you’d have had more airtime. On reflection, how do you feel about that now? JW: I didn’t mean it to sound like I felt sorry for myself. I was pleased to reach the judges houses stage considering the public hadn’t heard me sing longer than a few seconds! I only had positive comments from all four judges and it just would have been nice if my friends, family and supporters could have seen it all as they were so excited for me over the six months of living through it with me. On reflection, I think I’ve learned that an offthe-cuff remark said in a lighthearted way can sometimes look more serious when written down! PI: And what was it like to have your name all over the newspapers like The Sun? JW: Weird.

PI: Do you believe it helped your career? JW: Without a doubt getting my name in the papers helped — the stories could have been a lot worse! PI: So where does the career of James Williams the singer stand now? JW: I’m enjoying being busy and just love performing. I have regular vocal coaching and know how important it is to keep moving forward, but I hope I’m young enough to be able to take it step-by-step. I’ve enjoyed

performing at some great corporate and hospitality events this year, and have supported some great charities with Red Dragon and the George Thomas Hospice. Singing at Ponty’s Big Weekend has been one of my highlights, as well as performing at the RCT Mayor’s charity concert. I’m learning all the time and as each opportunity presents itself it leads to the next. I’m under no illusion, it’s a competitive industry with challenges and that keeps me fired up. It will be good to record some original stuff at some stage, but it has to feel right.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Words & Photographs by Darren Warner

Only Men Aloud Words & Photographs by Darren Warner

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nly Men Aloud seem to have reintroduced the Male Voice Choir back on an unsuspecting public after winning the TV show Last Choir Standing. That’s quite a statement to make and maybe we should say the producers of the TV programme are the real instigators of this resurgence, but OMA have popularised the choir beyond the show’s original vision. Why is this? I spoke to choir master Tim Rhys Evans about it. I explained to him I was one of those people who caught the choir before TV got hold of them at Ponty’s Big Anthem and The Brass Arts Festival, where they sang alongside world-famous Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, and although they gave a great performance something had changed by the time they returned to Ponty this year to sing at Ponty’s Big Weekend. The show was much slicker, while the choreography was second to none. So had Last Choir Standing pushed them to up their game? “Yes, definitely. Prior to Last Choir Standing we had spent one night a week for four hours practising. But the pressure of knowing that we were performing for a television audience of millions every week meant we had to practice more just to survive. We worked on the performances every night of the week which took both the choreography and our vocal performances to a completely new level.” So how long does it take to perfect the routines? “Well to give you an example, the routine for Men Of Harlech, which is on the new album, took over 40 hours to perfect. Of course during a live performance we do more than one song so I’ll let you do the maths.” OK, 40 multiplied by 30 equals...ummm... Anyway, talking about numbers, it’s been reported that OMA signed a multi-million pound recording deal which sounds a lot, but by the time it’s divided it up between all choir members I suppose it doesn’t mean you’re all millionaires. But could you give up your day jobs? “Unfortunately no. I’d love us to be the first professional choir in Wales, but that’s not

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the position at present. Only a couple of us, including myself, who work behind the scenes as well have made OMA our full-time job. Within our ranks we have 20 members.” It does appear that OMA have spearheaded the return of the Male Voice Choir into the mainstream. What have you guys done that keep you on top, while other Welsh male voice choirs are struggling with dwindling membership? “We give people more. Not only do you get high performance singing but a great show to watch as well. Of course, covering some more approachable, contemporary songs brings us to the attention of a different audience outside the classical world. People want to be in OMA.” It’s at this point I admit to Tim that I would love to be on stage singing in the choir. I don’t know what it was but while photographing the concert in Ponty Park, I had been captivated both with the power and the sense of enjoyment coming from the guys. “Well we have open auditions next week,” he told me. “You should come along.” I quickly interject that if they’re looking for an out-oftune croaky old punk style to add a different dimension to the group, then maybe I’m the man. But somehow I think not, despite my looking good in purple. “Of course, we have lots of contenders and advise them all that if they’re not successful with us then they should always check out their local choir.” And the song choice, is that mainly down to you? “On the whole, yes, but I’m always open to others’ suggestions. In fact it was my partner who suggested doing a version of Jim Steinman’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart made famous by Welsh legend Bonnie Tyler. It was really inspiring and nerve-wracking visiting her in her home to play her our arrangement of the song. She loved it and I’m so pleased she joined us on the recording.” So any plans to do similar projects with any other Welsh singers — maybe a version of Road Rage with Cerys Matthews? “We’ve already

worked with Cerys on a live performance and would love to work with her again, but I must admit I’d love to work with Sir Tom Jones and of course Dame Shirley Bassey. That’d be great!” You’ve recently released your second album Band Of Brothers. Tell us about it. “The title track is taken from the HBO series about American soldiers in the Second World War. As well as it being a beautiful song we regard ourselves as a band of brothers. Of course, we sing it as a tribute to all our boys out there fighting overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. No matter what your political belief or views on the war on terror, they are heroes on the front line. They deserve our respect.” Some of the tracks are quite complicated. What was the hardest track to lay down? “Men Of Harlech. It’s a very traditional song that we wanted to do something unique with. Hopefully that shows.” Now with a bunch of blokes on tour, things must get a bit...shall we say...blokey? “Yes of course, we have a whole range of characters in the choir, but one characteristic that is the same is the dedication of every single member of the choir. We have a strict two drink rule the night before a concert but to tell you the truth, most don’t even go that far.” Not the same as a rugby tour then! “Unlike rock stars who can hide behind a raspy voice, these men are highly trained musical instruments believing in themselves and each other that they want to be nothing but perfect.” Oh another reason why I shouldn’t join their ranks I suppose! Tim finishes and politely says his goodbyes. And maybe that’s the other thing Only Men Aloud have given us. A strong sense of what is good and pleasant about the world and a belief that working together we can get through anything. The unity of their performance is perfection in itself and it’s their pride in their perfection that we all need to understand at present, for our own lives.


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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Words by Lisa Derrick

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had lots of questions at the ready for Patrick Jones, described on his website as a poet, playwright, human rights activist and filmmaker. With such an assembly of titles my curiosity was not only roused, it was racing, but I must admit to a touch of trepidation. Known for confronting controversial issues in his work, I read that Patrick tenaciously tackled topics such as religious fundamentalism, violence against men, and the war in Iraq, and was forthright in doing so. Would this staunch campaigner be militant or mild in responses to my questions? I needn’t have worried; he was a friendly, open and more than helpful interviewee, putting any apprehension to rest early on. It seemed he kept his confrontational side for the stage and the page. As he later admitted: “I’m quite normal day to day but rebellious in my writing!” So why was I interviewing a poet for PLUGGED IN the music magazine you might ask? Well, Patrick’s latest project is a collection of his poetry set to music, an album entitled Tongues For A Stammering Time (reviewed in Issue 7). Some of the musicians featured include Billy Bragg, Nicky Wire, James Dean Bradfield, Martyn Joseph, Steve Balsamo, Lethargy and Henry Priestman. Despite the notable names involved in this project, its beginnings were humble, in the home studio based in his friend’s gran’s house no less. Les Davies of Valleys band Squeezebox recorded several tracks, composing music to accompany Patrick’s poetry readings. The resulting CD was sent to Rhys Mwyn of Anhrefin Records, his response was positive, and the rest, as they say, is history! Musicians were approached, and the track listing grew as they happily

agreed to become involved. Patrick describes the CD as having a “collective feel”; the musicians involved “interpreted the words of the poetry with their own music.” The correlation was such that Billy Bragg’s piece actually inspired Patrick to alter the reading of his poem to better fit, describing the music as “beautiful”. I wanted to know what inspired this performer, not only to create his latest collaboration, but also the poetry collections, previous CD, and plays to his name. “Poetry,” he said, “was the beginning, a way to express myself.” A quiet youngster, Patrick was bullied at school, and whilst he didn’t fight back at the time, he experienced a “rage in his head,” writing poetry was “revenge”. Influenced by Alan Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Albert Camus and John Paul Sartre, to name a few, poetry was his way to reach out, convey his experiences and feelings. Plays were his next platform, enjoyed by Patrick for their freedom, the possibility of re-invention. Films, more recently, as the technology has become more easily accessible. I asked about ideas, where do they originate from to allow Patrick to be so prolific? He described how they start as “seeds” sown from certain issues which germinate and develop over time. “I might start with five ideas, then distil to one or two which are most powerful...I really want to connect and not write anything half baked.” The desire to move his readers and audience is obviously key to Patrick Jones, which seems why then, he writes about things which truly move him personally, to convey that passion. What would Patrick’s advice be to potential

writers or performers? Maintaining what seems central in his thinking, he advocates trusting your sense of self, keeping your own voice, which, he says, “will ultimately win through.” He admits this can be difficult when faced with conventionality and elitism but ultimately remains his message. Upon discovering so much about Patrick’s work, I wanted to find out where I could hear and read more, for both my own benefit and that of PLUGGED IN readers. Luckily for me he would shortly be playing at the Glamorgan Gates Open Mic Night in Merthyr Tydfil, where the fusion of live music and a robust reading just several paces away from my seat proved captivating. Keep an eye on his website (www. patrick-jones.net) and go along to one of his gigs for a memorable and moving experience — plans include a new CD next year, a play and various poetry readings. It seems no coincidence to me that Patrick Jones was born and raised in the same Valley town as Aneurin Bevan, socialist and orator who is regarded as the architect of the NHS. Something in the Tredegar water perhaps? This is a link which I’m sure has been raised numerously; if so Patrick was too polite to say so, but then he does also quote Bevan in his poetry so it’s perhaps inevitable. He declared his admiration for the politician, for “getting things done,” and “having a powerful vision of society,” citing his main hero and inspiration however as Gwynall Williams, “a historian for the people, who made history come alive.” Inspired by others he may be, but Patrick is clearly on a solo undertaking in his diverse work, describing it as a “vocation”; the advice, “force on in your own journey.”

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Words & Photographs by Louise John

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LUGGED IN magazine has now reached its second birthday and as a way to mark this occasion I thought the story of how the magazine came about should be told through the words of Gail Griffiths and Darren Warner, the husband and wife partnership that created the project together. Now recognised as a force within the music industry, few people understand the ideals that lay behind the magazine — which is a unique educational project — since the emphasis of professionalism and highquality print has hidden its true agenda. An agenda that saw Gail and Darren receive a Red Dragon FM Welsh Award for Community Music in 2008 for their commitment to the magazine and what it stands for. PLUGGED IN initially started as a community project based in Pontypridd in association with SONIG (a youth arts section of Rhondda Cynon Taf council’s Cultural Services) that was to provide an opening for young people to gain experience in print media and have their work published. The magazine soon outgrew both the borders of its home borough and the initial age constraints to become a project open for all, establishing itself as the first national magazine devoted to the Welsh music scene. Darren: “We picked up interest from the recording industry straight away with our high-quality printing, major use of original photography and the down-toearth style of writing. This of course was helped by having legendary Welsh guitarist Darran Smith from Funeral For A Friend as our first cover star, quickly followed by Ponty rock legends LostProphets after giving Gail and one of her students an exclusive interview. The interview and photo shoot took place before the guys went on stage at the Full Ponty in 2007 — they had heard about the magazine and how myself and Gail were tutoring young people to get their work in a magazine about Welsh music and were very supportive of the project. As were — and still are — many other major players in the Welsh music scene. Gail and myself didn’t go into this project to make a photocopied student rag that would be dismissed by prospective employers or university interviewers for our talented team, no we went straight for the jugular and wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best, despite a strugglingly small budget. With our experience of being in the publishing industry for more than 20 years we tutored young people in the skills required to create something we knew would be taken seriously.” PLUGGED IN was propelled upwards beyond its original intentions, following an untrodden path between community education project and

a mainstream publication. Though because of its professional look Gail and Darren have been able to attract many famous Welsh artists into its pages — such as Kelly Jones from Stereophonics, legendary rock drummer Stuart Cable and his great new band Killing For Company, monster hit makers The Automatic, Goldie Lookin’ Chain, Funeral For A Friend, as well as the amazing Sir Tom Jones. Even within this issue you’ll find a second interview with soon-to-be top-of-the-world rockers The Blackout alongside the more gentle but nevertheless very exciting Only Men Aloud. Darren: “We are not and never intend to become competition to other publications like Rocksound, Kerrang! or even Buzz, the Cardiff-based listings magazine. We are the springboard for writers and photographers who may one day end up working for these other publications. What we’re about is vocational education and giving experience through the magazine to those people who have the passion to learn. Of course we run a tight ship and can be hard task masters, but compared to magazine editors and picture departments that we both worked for in London we are soft pushovers.” Of course the other element to PLUGGED IN is its tireless promotion of those up-and-coming unknown bands from within the Welsh borders. “This magazine is written by the people who really listen to the music. If someone believes that the screamo rock band that played the local pub the night before is worth talking about, we include it and give them equal billing and copy space alongside Oasis playing the Millennium Stadium. We like to talk about all genres of music at any level, as long as it fits our criteria of either being a Welsh-based act, have members who were born or live in Wales, or are playing a Welsh venue. I recently and begrudgingly turned down exclusive rights in Wales to an interview with the Pet Shop Boys purely as they didn’t fit this criteria. It was a very hard thing to do but basically guys, I’m sorry, get out of the 02 Arena and come to play in Wales!” So what about our Managing Editor and Creative Director/Chief Photographer. Both now at the age of 45 and married for over 19 years with two young daughters, what has been their route to this point and what makes them the right people to create such a magazine? Darren: “I come from Bletchley, a small town that became part of the city of Milton Keynes. I was born where my parents still live, a mere mile away from the National MK Bowl where in my teens I saw many famous acts play live. It was kind of weird going back last year when Gail and myself went to watch Projekt Revolution with Linkin Park and Jay-Z. I sung in punk bands — badly! — and was also what was regarded back then as an alternative DJ, mixing a set list that comprised of Bauhaus to Test Department. I went into further education in Swansea and it was there I met Gail. I knew she was the girl for me because there was more to her than a beautiful set of brown eyes. Even then, in our Swansea days, we talked of creating a magazine together — with her being the boss of course!” Gail: “My background is very different to Darren’s. I’m a Ponty girl born and bred, with roots in the Valleys where families are close and friends help out in a crisis. I’ve always loved music and remember singing away to my mother’s Elvis records when I was only knee-high to her petticoats. Going on holidays my dad always played Gladys Knight and The Walker Brothers tapes in the car — I knew all the

two years on words to MacArthur Park way before Donna Summer had a hit with her version! When I got to the age of deciding what to do for a living I just knew it had to be something with words and writing, so I did Media Studies at college in Swansea. Back then, and we’re talking over 20 years ago, the only way to get a job in journalism was to join the local paper or move to London. I didn’t see myself as some newspaper hack and really wanted to work on women’s magazines, so it was off to London...the rest, as they say, is history. But like Darren said, when we got together we talked about having our own magazine where people could learn on the job and get a portfolio of work to help them into a career — because we were those young people struggling to get into the media. There was no work experience before finishing school, you had to get a lucky break and work your way up, making mistakes and learning the hard way. If there had been a PLUGGED IN back then, we would have seized the opportunity to be part of it with both hands.” After finishing college they both moved to London, where Gail worked as a copy editor on women’s magazines (including Cosmopolitan, Company, New Woman, Marie Claire) while also writing articles in her free time for Woman’s Weekly, Woman & Home, Home & Garden, English Garden, among others, working her way up to being Features Editor of Garden Inspirations. Meanwhile Darren assisted numerous photographers as well as shooting for his own clients, travelling the world and spending many months working on advertising campaigns in Los Angeles — mainly beer and car ads! Darren: “Photographically I’ve always shot live performances, including U2, The Cure and Siouxsie & The Banshees for NME and Melody Maker. I started taking photos of bands at my local nightclub in MK before going to college, so music and photography have always been a part of my life. I like things a bit heavy while Gail’s tastes are a little more pop than rock, happily dancing around our kitchen to Something For The Weekend by Calvin Harris, James Morrison’s Broken Strings or the remix album by Shirley Bassey. What really gets us both though are good vocals. In college I introduced her to the Cocteau Twins and we’ve been passionate fans of Elizabeth Fraser’s vocals ever since. Recently, Gail made me sit and listen to Beyonce and now that’s regularly played in my car alongside Funeral and Red Hot Chilli Peppers — with Gail and the girls all singing along, of course!” So with their many years of experience, it was a natural step for Gail and Darren to create a magazine through which they could tutor people in the skills of live performance photography and creative writing — that magazine, of course, just had to be about music. But PLUGGED IN has a strong community side too, and in this issue Gail and Darren have included three projects that they’ve recently worked on. Merthyr PLUGGED IN, the pull-out supplement in the centre of the issue, was the result of a summer school that the couple ran in conjunction with Glamorgan Gates (a Communities First partnership with the University of Glamorgan). The aim was to help local people produce their own magazine so the concept of Merthyr PLUGGED IN was born. Darren: “It was brilliant. We started from scratch with an amazingly bizarre selection of students aged between 14 and 65, and within six weeks interviewed and photographed some of the most talented acts in the Merthyr Tydfil area. Adding to this we also promoted and put on a live event featuring some of


the talent we discovered, as well as drawing in one of Wales’ top pop/rock acts to be interviewed for the mini-mag: The Blackout. “What’s so good about the Merthyr PLUGGED IN project was that it gave an opportunity for anybody to have a go in a quick-hit period. If they just wanted a taste of life in the media then that was fine, while if they want to carry on writing or taking photographs then they can continue within the main magazine in future issues. It’s a concept we’d like to continue in other boroughs and are welcoming any community groups or organisations in Wales to get in contact if they feel that this is the type of project they’d like to run. We would love to see a different area featured in the centre of every PLUGGED IN in the future.” Another project that has been incorporated within the magazine is the Rising Talent Performance Photography Special. Rising Talent has already established itself as an integral part of the magazine, featuring lesser-known and unsigned acts that keep coming on to the magazine’s radar and is produced in association with Adam Perkins of GTFM’s Showcase Wales. The Performance Photography course highlights the work of four young people who, though competent in photography, needed guidance and mentoring in the skills of performance work with its difficult lighting situations and high speed action. Darren: “First three songs, no flash, is quite a terrifying ordeal as you never know what you’re going to get, whether its Jay-Z prowling around the stage to Matt from Funeral bouncing around playing merry hell with your shutter speeds. Add to that the joys of coloured lighting and limited time before security politely ask you to leave the pit after the allotted time is up and you find that you have to think and act very fast. The four students involved were given exclusive access to a number of gigs to perfect their art, finally having to come up with enough images to hold an exhibition and fill the live pages of this magazine. Of course with the tuition they received, the images printed in the magazine (and nearly lifesize for an exhibition) you just know that doors to further education and future careers will open more easily for them. Once again if they want to continue working with us they can submit photos to the magazine to bolster their portfolios. “The third project invited young people between the ages of 14-19 to attend a music journalism writing masterclass that Gail lectured at. During the session the students were taught about expressing their individuality but still creating an interesting, constructive review. Following the masterclass the group was taken to the Coal Exchange to see a live performance by the exceptional Super Furry Animals and had to submit their opinions on the event within 24 hours, the best results of which you can read on pages 22-25. Again all the students have been introduced to PLUGGED IN and I’m sure from the writing talent that you see on these pages will continue working with the magazine in future. Gail: “The idea behind the writing masterclass was to find new contributors for the magazine, but also to give the participants tuition and work experience. By coming along to a workshop and then going to a gig, it gave the youngsters an idea of what it’s like to have to write something by a deadline. The standard of their work was very high and I was really impressed. I’d like to think that some of them will continue to work with us, by letting us know what gigs they’re off to and sending in a review for publication. And just like Merthyr PLUGGED IN, both the writing masterclass and performance photography course can be run in different areas of Wales. We welcome any interested organisations who’d like to run something similar to get in touch.” So do Gail and Darren think that all the hard work they put into PLUGGED IN has been worth it? “Yes, definitely. We do all this in our spare time, and are unpaid for the hours we spend producing each issue. We’ve had some fantastic success stories, as by featuring bands in the magazine we have indirectly influenced a number of artists into recording contracts — the magazine is sent to a large number

of record companies and managers who pick up on these things. And as well as promoting a universal knowledge of the Welsh music scene, we’ve helped a number of people gain university places, start careers and even get the confidence they need to move forward in their lives. Successes can be small but they start a rollover effect that leads to great things. Within our pages we’ve published contributions from people who were in foster care, are single mums or have a masters degree. We’ve even had a bonafide rock star writing under a pseudonym! We don’t close our doors to anyone as long as they are prepared to fulfill the commitments that they’re given. This isn’t an opportunity to a free press pass to gigs to hobnob with the stars, we expect results if we send you somewhere. We get a photograph or a review, you get something published to put in your portfolio, the band gets some publicity — it’s a win-win situation, but only if everyone does what they say they’re going to do.” And so to the future, what’s next for PLUGGED IN? “The magazine has always been very fluid, we never know what gigs are coming up or where the money to print the next issue is coming from. Both

Gail and myself have demanding jobs and produce the magazine as volunteers in our spare time, so it can be difficult to chase advertising and funding when you’re working on the mag at midnight! But we believe that PLUGGED IN offers a unique opportunity to everyone within Wales, whether you’re a doctor or an unemployed student with an interest in music, and will do our best to continue the project, especially within the current climate. If this magazine finishes tomorrow we can still be proud of what we’ve achieved for the people of Wales — not bad considering I’m one of those English interlopers!” And so, with two years and eight issues under their belts — and another possible interview with the LostProphets in Issue 9 — we can only hope that PLUGGED IN continues and goes from strength to strength. The magazine, through Gail and Darren’s commitment, has opened doors for me personally and helped in so many ways. The enthusiasm for what they do shines through and you can see that they love the project, despite the many late nights chasing and writing copy, but you can also see the love and support they have for each other. And it’s this support and belief in each other’s ability that makes them a formidable force. You wouldn’t want PLUGGED IN to be in the hands of anyone else.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Words by Adam Perkins Photograph by Alan Kibble

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very now and again a Valleys band comes along and takes the world by storm. With 4th Street Traffic (myspace.com/4thstreettraffic) we have a sleeping giant. Full of energy and swagger, a great sound and fantastic tunes, 4th Street are really something special. From Gelli Gaer and consisting of Alistair (vox/guitar), Dauncy (drums), Eddy (guitar) and Rhl (bass), the four-piece have been together for around seven years, and people are starting to wake up and pay attention of late. “Each year gets better and better, but in a small amount. We get one significant gig, or something else good happens that we’ve worked hard for. In some ways it’s nicer than having it all on a plate!” An attitude of “work hard, play hard, rock hard” has got them grabbing people’s attention, and now with the new mini-album Kick The Habit, 4th Street Traffic are a dangerous entity. It’s a record full of intensity and integrity, featuring seven great rock tracks, each as impressive as the next. The guitar driven Astray is a bruising track, offering a big chunk of riffage which leads and picks its way in front and between some beefy drumming. If You Go is a more serene and melodic-rock track which showcases fantastic song-writing ability through a change in energy and tempo without losing any of the steel, guts and glory that good rock songs have. It’s the type of song which will have you singing along on first listen. Essentially a melodic rock outfit, 4th Street are developing their sound as they grow with experience. This is reflected in the new album which has a bit of a mix of more traditional melodic-rock tunes with some catchy and edgy pop-rock tones, such as personal band favourite and opening track Second Thoughts. “We all love it. It didn’t take long to write as we were all into it quickly, and it’s got a good catchy chorus in it.” Kick The Habit is an album the boys are really proud of as it’s been a big step forward for them, both musically and personally. It’s about moving on and kicking the habit. “We landed a sponsorship which paid for the van and a big pa system, but we blew a lot on drink and partying. We’re more grown up now, and we’ve found our own sound. We used to sound a lot like the Phonics, but our new guitarist has a lot of classic rock influences. I used to mimic Kelly Jones down to a tee, I used to love to sing like him. But now you listen to a lot of the new bands out there, and listening to stuff like Kids In Glass Houses makes me want to write better tunes.” They go so far as disowning much of their early work. They laugh, “We were young and didn’t know what we were doing, and thought we were going to make it famous after selling 1,000 copies of utter s**t, to be honest. There are two or three good songs on the first album

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and all the rest is just Phonics wannabe stuff.” But it is this “growing up” which has helped bring them closer together as a band, as musicians and songwriters. Something seen in the positive group energy that comes through in each track of the new album, recorded at Longwave studios with Romesh. “I’m proud of this album, I’m really proud of it. Romesh did such a good job, it sounds so good, and it’s so us. You can hear all four of our influences in there, and it really feels like we are a group.” Something else that has worked to great advantage is the bonding and togetherness of the band formed through consistent gigging, although not as a lot of bands would have it! 4th Street Traffic are well known for being one of the top covers bands around. “We do a lot of covers gigs, and I recommend it to every band. It’s the easiest way to make the money to pay for an album, and the more covers you learn, the more you get inspired by them. A lot of people slate bands that do covers, but it’s also a good way of incorporating your own stuff at gigs. And we even sell albums at weddings and things we do. Doing it seems to have built our profile up really well. I like it.” 4th Street Traffic play covers gigs and weddings every weekend, fitting their own gigs in when they can. This consistency has helped them build a big fan base as they stick their own music in the mix. And they wouldn’t have it any other way. “We like playing at Cardiff Blues (rugby) games because everyone is watching you, they enjoy the covers, and they get into your own stuff. You are guaranteed an audience, and it always goes well. It’s a great feeling getting the crowd there singing Giving It Up back to you. And a lot of the things that are free are great for us, so things like the Blues games, and covers, and weddings, people are there because there’s a reason for them to be there.” Giving It Up is a real hit, where great melodic rock tones meets catchy lyrics, reminiscent of Stereophonics and Bon Jovi. It’s a cracking tune worthy of chart success. And perhaps a big part of their triumphs to

date is the fact that they do have this inspiring ability to write awesome melodic rock songs that appeal to a much larger audience than your average band. Friend Of Mine is a thrilling and thumping track with great bounce and energy. It builds and builds, and has you singing along to the emotional lyrics. And it is this ability to write good-quality rock songs that get you going, which puts 4th Street Traffic ahead of much of the competition. The track is featured on the BBC series The Calzaghe Clan, which is a good example of how far they have come, and how far they can go. “It’s only in the last year or so that we’ve had the tidy material to go out there and do our own stuff. We’ve got a new attitude and we’re starting to believe in it a bit more.” 4th Street Traffic should start buttering themselves up for more of this success, which starts by them making it onto the Mike Tyson UK tour, and a support slot with The Alarm. Popularity is already building, the boys reveal their shock of selling out their album release night in Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach in June. “We did the album launch in Clwb Ifor, and we were shocked that it sold out because we’d never played there before and we just thought we’d give it a go. I think the covers gigs helped us pick up loads of fans that we didn’t know about, and they’re all tidy guys.” And this has given the awesome foursome new vigour to drive forward: “We’re going to do another album in Longwave Studios, and want it to be better than this last one. We would love to get signed, but we want to get signed off the back of someone seeing us and liking us and not asking for favours. We enjoy playing, and we want to continue enjoying to play. We want to get out there and go mad with it. Even if we’ve got to spend a lot of money so that people know us as 4th Street Traffic, not as that good covers band from Gelli Gaer. That would be nice.” 4th Street Traffic are a special band. They’ve got fantastic songs with a big stadium sound. More importantly they can back it up in the live arena. 4th Street Traffic…on a one way road to stardom!

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U2

Millennium Stadium, Cardiff I had managed to see U2 a few days prior to this gig up in Wembley Stadium so I kind of knew the sort of show I was expecting. Big, Bold and Original. The stage design otherwise known as ‘The Claw’ was immense and will now set the bar for the other stadium filler rock bands out there. The revolving stage gives everyone a clear view of what is going on and as weird as it sounds gives an intimacy to the gig (albeit in one giant stadium packed to the rafters). Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton were constantly doing the rounds running around the uniquely structured stage enticing the crowd as they went, even Larry Mullen took a wander with his ‘portable’ drum. The setlist was of a top quality standard and felt a bit like a greatest hits collection even though it was to tour their latest album. I can go on for pages recalling the tracks they performed such as Beautiful Day, Where The Streets Have No Names, Bad and Pride (In The Name Of Love) but the standout track for me was One, which opened with an inspiring message from Bishop Desmond Tutu on the big screen that brought an altogether feeling of peace and tranquillity throughout the stadium and Bono’s voice belted out that feeling to us and it just gave me shivers. Stunning. Stay (Faraway, So Close!) brought the audience in the stadium to a collective silence as we listened intently to Bono and all took our own meaning from the song — something that U2 do best in that their songs can be related to many circumstances that occur in people’s everyday lives. I do however have to mention a downnpoint and it just wasn’t this gig, I think it may have been the whole tour, this was the performance of With Or Without You. One of my favourite tracks of all time, and the performance of it disappointed me...a lot. Bono sounded as if he was drunk and rushing through the lyrics. He also did this at the Wembley gig which leads me to believe that this song really has a deeper meaning to him and maybe he doesn’t want to put too much emotion into it because it just means too much. That being said though, halfway through the song kicked in and Bono once again delivered. The Edge (real name David Evans) came to Wales with some Welsh heritage as both his parents are Welsh — and there he stood in the Millennium Stadium with a Welsh dragon on his T-shirt and loved the attention he got. With a name like David Evans it’s hard not to consider him one of our own! This was without doubt one of the best live performances I have seen in a long time and shows that these “old timers” still have a lot of gas in their tanks and I would advise anyone who may only like a few songs by them to book up straight away when they announce their next tour to take in Cardiff. The Millennium Stadium, 22nd August 2009, certainly was a Beautiful Day for me. GARY BOLSOM

Elvis Festival Porthcawl

The Valleys must have been deserted when, for one weekend only, Porthcawl was transformed into Elvis Heaven. The South Wales seaside town was packed with thousands of Elvis fans of all ages who had come to pay homage to the King of Rock ’n’ Roll. The Festival claims to be the largest of its kind in the world and here’s the deal — you get to see non-stop ETAs (Elvis Tribute Acts) across three days for free, or if you’re really posh, you book and pay to see the cream of the crop at venues like the Grand Pavilion. We headed straight for the Hi Tide Inn to check out the good, the bad (you know who you are) and the downright ugly. We got to see Scottish Elvis (fantastic, but he’s gotta work on that Glasgow accent), Swedish Elvis, various GI Elvises and a first-class Elvis who had fulfilled his dream to make it to Porthcawl — from Chicago. If you don’t get all shook up by the songs, the hip-swivelling and the jumpsuits, then maybe it’s best to avoid Porthcawl on the last weekend in September. But if The King is your thing, you’ve got to make the pilgrimage next year. Go to www.elvies.co.uk for more info. STEPH McNICHOLAS

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Words & Photograph by Darren Warner

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t’s a Sunday night and the streets of Cardiff are subdued and quiet, most people deciding to stay at home and watch the telly. Not me though, I’d opted for the confines of the Barfly where tonight Flood Of Red were due to perform, a band that had intrigued me when I received a copy of their self-released album Leaving Everything Behind. Described as the Scottish Funeral For A Friend I had to find out what the fuss was about and whether these young upstarts deserve the monicker they’d been given. So, sitting in their tour bus, I spoke to drummer Graham Griffith and bass player Jamie McGowan who were struggling to stave off flu, lead singer Calum Doris having to rest his vocal chords after being the worst member to be affected by the dreaded lurgy. My first question had to be the references to Funeral, one of Wales’ top rock acts. What was their opinion on this association? At this point I was expecting a furore of abuse telling me how the band was individual and shouldn’t be compared with anyone — but, no, these boys were much too polite to vent their spleens and the answer I got shocked me even more. “Ryan Richards, the drummer from Funeral was the reason I started playing the drums. To be honest he was my biggest inspiration at the time and was a massive influence on all of us, especially as we watched them grow from what they were to what they have now become. To us this is a massive compliment and we are humbled that people would think that.” Flood Of Red come from the central Glasgow area and their Scottish accents play tunes around the words they speak to me as they talk about the formation of the band. They make reference to Trailer Dead whose album Madonna contained the track Flood Of Red from which they took their name, and another band that has influence the six guys’ progression. So back to those beginnings. “It started with Calum and myself forming a band at school. It wasn’t that we wanted to be massive at that time, we just enjoyed being in

a band and writing music together. Members came and left, but by the time Jamie joined it was just as we were leaving high school so we decided to tour as this seemed to us the best way to travel and play music. That’s really when we started to take things seriously.” So looking at the title of your album, what is it you’re leaving behind? “Our former lives I guess. When we started to take our music seriously we were at that point when decisions had to be made. Do we go into further education, try to find an apprenticeship and start maturing, growing up as people say. We decided to take the risky move of pushing forward with what we love. You know that trying to break a band is very difficult in these modern times but we left behind what we were expected to do.” The lyrics throughout the album are dark with many of the themes being about loss and desperation that are very emotive. So what’s it like to see an audience’s reaction to these very personal songs? “You need to be upfront and passionate about yourself, opening up to people. The only way the audience is going to react is if you give them something to react to. Honesty like that is a big part of the band and the lyrics throughout are based on real life situations that have happened to us.” To show the commitment these guys have to their music they took the brave move of releasing the first album on their on label Dark City. Why take that step at such an early stage? “When we decided to take music seriously we knew we wanted to do this for as long as we can. It’s not all about the fame and fortune, though that would help of course, but we see this as a career. A couple of years ago we were on a label who wanted to push us in a different direction, jumping on the back of Enter Shikari’s fame who we are great friends with and have performed over 50 shows as their support. But that wasn’t what we wanted to do. We wanted to be our own band in our own light, while the label wanted to milk the cash cow with us. So we decided to step back

and come up with the idea of doing it our own way ourselves using the networking sites like myspace. Everything became home grown and organic leaving us in total creative control of our album and not being told to write a threeminute pop song so we would be favoured by a major label and locked into a deal that told you what you must do.” A brave move for a band so new to the scene but nevertheless validated by the results on their album, which includes all forms of influences with hints toward ambient music in places. So was this planned? “I don’t think anything was really planned, we just threw in parts and let it develop naturally. The ambient thing is part of our music and becomes a good balance against the heavier parts. Because there are six of us we have varying tastes in music from club electro to VERY heavy metal. It’s when you bring all that together you end up with what we do with a wide range of dynamics. In our life we hope to reach more people in more interesting ways than you can conceive imaginable and tour the world.” So what makes a great band that can survive to live this dream? “Co-operation between everyone and, of course, good song writing. Everyone needs to be able to give input but also take hits of criticism. But never let that criticism hold you back.” And it’s co-operation the band need tonight. Suffering heavily from the flu that’s been passed around in the confines of the van, the guys know their place is on stage and nothing will hold them back. With support from our local heroes and friends Dead Against The Rest and the brilliantly professional Circle Of One, Flood Of Red have to step up a gear and break through into that zone that takes them beyond the virus that has been inflicted upon them. Their performance is strong and energetic from the start to the massive drum attack finale, where every member of the band joins Graham bashing out rhythm and power. Believe me, Flood Of Red found a natural cure for flu this evening, pure adrenalin.

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Soundtrack

International Film & Music Festival

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ovember saw the second annual Soundtrack International Film & Music Festival returning to Cardiff for five nights, throwing up an eclectic mix of what we love best. After kicking off at Cineworld with the magical Red Shoes, one of Martin Scorsese’s favourite films restored to its brightly coloured former glory, the festival shot us a few curved balls. The first came in the form of Separado (a film by and featuring SFA’s Gruff Rhys) and secondly with the amazing John Cale performing his album Paris 1919 in its entirety. The Gruff Rhys/Dyl ‘Goch’ Jones collaboration Separado! is a weird mix of Who Do You Think You Are? combined with Head, the Monkees hippy trippy drug-influenced movie of the late 60s. The film involved his journey around South America, playing solo and collaborative performances along the way, while searching for the mythical Rene Griffiths, his long-lost relative who appeared on Welsh TV back in the early 70s as the Welsh language singing caballero. After the event an uncomfortable Gruff gave an interview in front of the assembled throng, in his usual long-winded style that makes most people’s pregnant pauses feel like an emergency c-section, in which we discovered a few home truths about the movie and not much else. Still, with the Super Furry Animals playing the Coal Exchange the following evening we got a better performance from the man on the main stage he much prefers and so we can forgive

him for his idiosyncrasies. John Cale the slightly moody but legendary Welsh son who was one of the founder members of the Velvet Underground, the influential New York hip band of the late 60s that mixed performance with art and included Lou Reed amongst its ranks, gave us an hourlong “In Conversation” piece before the showing of American Psycho, the violently dark satire of 80s America that stars Christian Bale with a musical score by Cale. Elsewhere was Recreation, a night celebrating 25 years of Creation Records — showing the trailer of Upside Down, a film documenting the label’s life, complemented by a live performance of the Super Furry Animals with support by former front man of Ride, Mark Gardener (see Rising Talent Writing Special on pages 22-25). On the Saturday, and as a contrast to the wonderfully chaotic performance by the amazing SFA the night before, the Coal Exchange was turned into a seated venue for a performance by John Cale. Backed by a 19piece orchestra, he sedately walked onto the stage to polite applause wearing a smile on his face showing how comfortable and ready

to enjoy the performance we were about to witness. During the first part of the night’s performance he played live for the first time ever, in chronological order from start to finish, a complete reworking of Paris 1919 his fourth and most acclaimed solo album after leaving VU. The latter part of the concert and good ole John ‘rocked out’ giving the crowd something to shout about. This performance was a moment for total respect as this was unique and a brilliant moment for Welsh music. The Soundtrack festival is one of those occasions where all the genres of visual media gel together for the greater good, from the films to the live performances alongside the workshops for film literacy, sound and film and, of course, PLUGGED IN’s very own editor Gail Griffiths running her review writing workshop — the results of which span the next four pages. This is a coming together of like minds for an industry that is underfunded within Wales, giving opportunities for education, knowledge and entertainment alike. We look forward to next year’s festival with relish, as a high benchmark has been set — which of course means things can only get better! DW

Sam ams Willi PLUGGED IN

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The Coal Exchange, Cardiff Photographs by Darren Warner

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ere at PLUGGED IN we’re always on the lookout for new contributors to the magazine. So after running two successful Live Performance Photography courses, which has given us some new photographers (the work from this year’s participants can be seen in this issue on pages 26-33), it seemed appropriate to organise a Writer’s Workshop in which we could discover a few new writers to join the reviewing team. So, together with RCT’s Arts Development Team, we set about looking for budding music journalists to come along to a writer’s masterclass followed, a week later, by press access to the Super Furry Animals exclusive gig at the newly refurbished Coal Exchange in Cardiff Bay in November. After three hours of professional tuition it was clear the gathered writers were up to the job of reviewing this — yes, it just has to be said — Super band. Of the dozen young people taking part only one or two had ever heard of the Super Furry Animals or listened to their music, which PLUGGED IN found amazing as they are such a good band who have been around for so long! So it was with interest that we awaited hearing and reading their reactions to the gig. Being firm fans ourselves, we were sure that the young participants would not only enjoy the music and be blown away by the performance of this truly outstanding band but be converted to Super Furry Fans. Some of the workshop writers’ reviews are printed here and overleaf — read on to see if we were right!

As much as I try to keep an open mind when hearing music I am unaccustomed to, I admittedly was filled with low expectation and spirit when I gave up my relaxing night-in in exchange for a Friday night in the Cardiff Coal Exchange. Super Furry Animals are not a band that I had heard much of, so I was somewhat surprised to walk into such a crowded floor filled with heightened anticipation. Now this began to feel like a gig. Still unsure of what sort of night I was in for, I pushed my way to the front barrier, where the atmosphere had increased ten-fold. Both my expectations and the anticipation of the packed floor were not lifted by the support, a somewhat incompetent duet that failed to grab the attention of the crowd, and barely received a small round of applause. After what I considered a failed attempt of crowd-warming, the support left the stage, and the roadies had the rapt attention of the entire crowd. Half an hour later, the projector fired up, music started and the audience erupted, as frontman Gruff Rhys crawled on stage with a beer in one hand and a giant cue card reading “Applause” in the other; which, despite the gap of several generations, the audience obliged to as one. And the show began. There was very little talk and a lot of action on stage, as the band had a lot to get through in their two-hour set. Only pausing to change guitars, grab another beer or to hold up a quirky placard to the audience (some politely stating “Diolch!”, some commanding audience reaction and one that simply read “Pysgod”), my apprehension that had built up through the supporting act was drowned out by the numerous technical effects and the sheer musical genius on stage. The audience were in their element, screaming the lyrics back at Gruff Rhys and reaching their hands over the barrier in the typical rock show fashion. SFA casually surfed through their many styles of music, subtly showing off their flexibility in two dozen songs. Although the vocals showed little variation, the instrumentation pleased the tastes of every fan; the songs split primarily

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into three sections, which welded together to form one set. The crowd-arousing techno opened the set with favourites such as Rings Around The World and Golden Retriever. This then slid into comfortable pop-rock that used a variety of acoustic and electric guitars, and Gruff even pulled out his electric lute during The Very Best Of Neil Diamond. At hearing the sound of Juxtaposed With U, the audience immediately cheered and sang the song word for word over the distorted voice of Gruff and his Vocoder. All previous opinions of SFA now diminished, I was keen to see how the Furries were to finish off the set. I was not disappointed — The Furries blew the audience away with a number of their loudest, most offensive rock songs, in particular Man Don’t Give A F***, the lyrics of which the audience screamed back at Gruff with increasing passion, threatening to break through the barrier and raid the stage. Although not exactly moshpits and mohawks, the crowd jumped and shouted and cheered together as one, beer spilling and no one caring. Gruff Rhys lifted up his “Resist Phoney Encores” placard before finishing the set with Cosmic Trigger. Foreman, bassist and lead guitarist lifted their guitars as one, and crossed them high in the air as a salute to the audience, before Gruff lifted his final placard and placed it in front of the drum kit: “The End”. The audience chanted Super Furry Animals until hoarse, and I left the Coal Exchange happy to withdraw my previous apprehension, and proudly calling myself converted to the way of the Super Furries. BETHAN REES I found myself waiting in the cold on the cobbled street outside of the Coal Exchange. As the doors opened and the security guards let us in I took in the familiar surroundings. High ceilings, wooden beams and the old clock I’d once admired in the hall. Waiting patiently for the support acts to come on I couldn’t help but notice the chit-chat that was going on in both Welsh and English. Adam Franklin took

the stage with an acoustic set which made him seem out of place compared to what was coming up after. He welcomed Mark Gardener, former singer and guitarist of Ride, to the stage where they duetted. The song that seemed to be a favourite with a few in the crowd was How Does It Feel To Feel, a cover of the classic Ride song. Between sets the technicians came on and sorted out the instruments ready for the Super Furry Animals to grace the stage. I turned slightly to my left and saw a bearded man placing several signs in between the amplifiers. One that caught my eye was one that read “Pysgod”, which anyone who has been taught Welsh in school can tell you means fish. As the lights began to dim the screen behind the drums exploded with the artsy video Slow Life. The band marched on stage all except Gruff Rhys. As the song started to near the lyrics Gruff came on stage holding up a sign reading “Applause” and the crowd went wild at this point. Grown men were shouting “Super Furry Animals” like teenage girls! As the set went on the men got more and more drunk which meant more pushing and shoving. Then SFA started to play Hello Sunshine to mellow it down and there’s nothing more pleasing than hearing drunken men singing in unison. Every now and then Gruff would hold up a sign to say “Thank you” or one for us to applaude or scream “Whoa!” depending on the tempo of the song. One thing that struck me about the Super Furry Animals is that they don’t mess around and talk to the crowd very often but they communicate through visual effects and signs. I noticed that two men besides me were “worshiping” and blowing kisses to Gruff. To be honest if someone was to ask me to chose a song of the night it would be an impossible task because there we so many good songs but a dedicated fan would probably tell you Hello Sunshine, Man Don’t Give A F**k and Crazy Naked Girls because they seemed to make the crowd go mental! I went into the gig only knowing the line up of the band and came out a newly converted fan. VICKIE JONES


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The Cardiff Coal Exchange was certainly the place to be on Friday the 20th November 2009. The magnificent building provided the perfect venue for the Super Furry Animals show, entitled Recreation, with support from former Ride front man Mark Gardener. The gig, courtesy of Soundtrack International Film & Music Festival, was the first of a series of Super Furry Animal shows that will be taking place around the UK throughout 2010.The Coal Exchange recently re-opened its doors after being inactive for two years due to redevelopment plans that fell through. There really couldn’t be any better way to celebrate the Coal Exchange’s return to glory than with a night’s entertainment from one of the most successful Welsh bands in existence. And what a night it turned out to be! Not really knowing much about the band Ride or Mark Gardener, I was quite curious about his performance. Strolling onto the stage casually, he showed no signs of being intimidated by the huge crowd that had congregated in front of the stage. Guitar in hand, he bent down and quietly tuned it. Some people watched while others didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention. I was one of those who watched with interest as he continued about his business before leaving the stage. There was something about him that I found captivating, perhaps it was knowing that this was a man who was immensely talented and had given over 20 years of his life to his love of music and performing. When he returned

to the stage, to perform with Adam Franklin, from that first strum on his instrument, there wasn’t one person in the room who wasn’t paying attention to this guy any more. A combination of incredible guitar playing and a voice that didn’t fail to impress, he was the perfect choice to warm up the crowd for the Super Furry Animals. His stage presence was mesmerising as he swayed gently to the music and his experience spoke for itself. Mark definitely gained a new fan in me that night! As 10pm rolled around and the band of the night took position on stage, the excitement of the crowd reached fever pitch. The noise was incredible, both from the audience and the band who knocked out song after song in an insanely psychedelic fashion. Bright lights, coloured lights, flashing lights, they had it all going on while a screen behind the stage filled with swirling shapes and images that left you dizzy and disorientated. The experience was like falling headfirst into a kaleidoscope, with a really good soundtrack. It was hard to tear your eyes away from the stage, but at the same time I found myself spacing out and just listening to what was being played. Gruff Rhys was amazing, and hard to keep up with! He was anywhere and everywhere. Kneeling on the floor singing, holding up signs that read “Applause” or “Diolch”, and at one point I think he was even playing a banjo! Mind you, not being a musician don’t take my word on that! Every move the band made and every note they played went down a storm with the crowd. Standing right in front of the stage seemed like a good idea at the beginning of the night, but every time a particularly well loved tune came on, I was elbowed in the back of the head countless times by hardcore fans rocking out behind me. The audience just couldn’t keep still and they didn’t care who got in their way! Songs like Slow Life and Crazy Naked Girls mixed the old with the new, showing off the band’s varying material from over the past decade. For me, Hello Sunshine was a song that stood out from the rest. I couldn’t help but laugh when halfway through the song the music stopped and Gruff reached down to take a swig from his bottle of beer before continuing with the track. What a classic moment! At the beginning of the night, a woman standing next to me said that she had brought her sister all the way from London to see the band play on home soil. She told me they were amazing, incredible and almost unexplainably brilliant — and when I was leaving she asked me if I agreed with what she had earlier said. I smiled and said yes and, to be honest, she hit the nail on the head with her synopsis of the Super Furry Animals. The band are absolute musical geniuses who look no different from any other five dudes walking the streets of South Wales. Easy to relate to and scruffy in style, their performance was unpolished to perfection. ROBYN KENNEDY

ECIAL

20th November 2009, Children In Need night; a special concert is playing in The Millennium Centre, where some of Wales’ finest acts are performing to an audience of thousands. However, for a thousand-strong crowd of Hometown Unicorn’s, there’s only one place on Earth that can fulfil their need for more musical satisfaction — Cardiff’s Coal Exchange, for a show entitled ‘Recreation’, a celebration for Creation Records 25th Anniversary next year. The venue was awash with beer, beards and Welsh pride, as the crowd was safe in the knowledge that they were about to experience a group of one of Wales’ proudest (if not quirkiest) sons: The Super Furry Animals. That is, of course, after the atrocious, mumbling excuse for a support act left the stage. Despite his rock credentials, former Ride frontman Mark Gardener, and some guy called Adam Franklin, well and truly sucked every last drop of excitement out of the building. The chant of “SFA-okay, SUPER FURRY ANIMALS!” spread in pandemic proportions once “Adam & Gardener” had finally left the stage, dragging the atmosphere back from their embarrassing embrace. Renowned for making an entrance, Gruff and the boys came on carrying placards under their arms: “Thank You” in four different languages, “Woah”, “Pysgod” (yes, that’s right, fish) and the one which Gruff was unnecessarily holding above his head, “Applause”. Slow Life lead from the front, closely followed by (Drawing) Rings Around The World and Golden Retriever, showing right from the beginning SFA’s innate ability to create utterly diverse songs but tie them together with the single thread of psychedelia. This running theme was projected onto the screen behind them, as every member of the set list was accompanied by MDMAzing visuals. Every moment felt anthemic, from the political rage of Inaugural Trams (during which Gruff handed the mic over to a cardboard cut out of Paul McCartney to deliver the German spit), body-swaying romance in the swooping Juxtaposed With U and a fantastic rebellion in the epic Man Don’t Give A F**k. But it was Crazy Naked Girls from their latest album Dark Days/Light Years that wins the title of “Moment of the Night”. With its sexplicit lyrics and raunchy rhythms, it was impossible not to become drowned in the crowd’s chaotic thrashing of bodies. Keeping The Cosmic Trigger Happy was the last hit to ring through the wooden-beamed confines, sounding like The Beatles being thrust into the 21st Century by a rocket of synths and riffs. It was at this moment that the entire room’s patriotism was realised in a hybrid of Welsh/ English slurs of endearment, solidifying that this was a night to be proud of your roots, regardless of where you were. ABBIE EVANS

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To call the Cardiff Coal Exchange a place of important history would be no grand understatement. After all, this was the place of the first ever one million pound business deal. So to suggest that the Super Furry Animals intended to add a bit more history to the place in a gig to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their old label Creation Records in one of the first nights the Exchange has reopened for gigs, would be anything but an absurd statement to make. The venue itself is sort of a grand ballroom with beautiful architecture. Adding some dry ice to the place causes a very dreamy atmosphere, which suited supporting guest Mark Gardener, former singer and guitarist of Ride, just fine. Joined by guitarist Adam Franklin with a Jazzmaster in true shoegaze style, Gardener worked his way through Ride classics, to the delight of the people in the audience who actually knew his work. He proved he still has a wonderful voice and finished off with a stunning version of Ride’s In A Different Place and a suitably psychedelic version of The Creation’s How Does It Feel To Feel? in tribute to his old label. The Super Furry Animals came on stage to deafening applause and for the next two hours proceeded to rip through as many songs as they possibly could, with songs like Golden Retriever appearing to be played through in about one minute thirty. Incredibly the band managed to maintain this thunderous energy throughout, and the audience were more than willing to do their best to join them. Using a video screen which played a variety of interesting psychedelic accompaniments, an unpredictable lightshow which could go from mesmerising to almost blinding during Hello Sunshine and a nice amount of dry ice (or possibly steam from audience), the band managed to conjure up comparisons for me with early Pink Floyd shows. Songs like (Drawing) Rings Around The World used their repetitive grooves to put more than a few people into a hazy trance, especially for one person I saw, who proceeded to perform an ultra-slow motion version of the robot for most of the night. In a live setting when the songs are stripped of studio experimentation, it’s clear that the group play perfect pop songs. Despite the un-linear arrangements, they become instant sing-along classics. That’s not to say that the band has stopped their trademark bizarreness, because that’s not true — particular proof of this was Gruff Rhys’ habit of holding up sign cards saying “Diolch” instead of actually saying it. Most non-Welsh speaking people in the audience (like me) were familiar with the meaning and appreciated it, but struggled to hide our confusion as to why he kept holding a sign saying “Pysgod”, even people who could translate had to stop and say, “What?” As the night progressed the band were building up into a louder and noisier

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frenzy with accompanying strobe lights flashing rapidly. This didn’t disorientate anyone in the audience though, they welcomed it. This show finished with a glorious version of Man Don’t Give A F**k, which gave everyone in the crowd a chance to, well, not give a f**k, jumping around and singing like Wales had just won a World Cup. Gruff held up a sign persuading the crowd to “Avoid phony encores” and to be honest one was certainly not even needed. The band did what they had to do — prove they’re the greatest live Welsh band around and anyone at the Exchange that night would agree. JAKE HEALY

Cold, damp and ready to go! This night meant two things to me. My first time in the Coal Exchange in Cardiff and my second gig. So as I entered I didn’t know what to expect, I had never heard of the band, let alone become a fan of their music but still, as I entered the main hall, the atmosphere was established immediately, with the air filled with smoke and lit with a range of stage lights and a room of people in little groups on the floor, by the bar, and right up next to the stage. The stage also set the scene with guitars, drums, keyboards, everything to set the story that would be that night. So as the large hall slowly and steadily filled with more and more people the lights came up, with Adam Franklin, guitar in hand and microphone at the ready. Franklin delivered soothing but powerful vocals with melodic guitar chords, his voice put you in mind of a teenage prom scene in a movie. However it got more interesting when Mark Gardener joined him. With another voice and a another guitar (this time acoustic) they both stepped it up with some funky guitar work and a shift in pace, you began to tap your foot along to the music, finishing off with the moving ballad, How Does It Feel To Feel. With the support finished, the crowd was waiting in anticipation for the main event. As I looked behind me it seemed that the contents of the room had doubled, you couldn’t so much as lift a camera without brushing someone,

but no one cared, they were there for an intimate and compelling spectacle. The air seemed to go quiet so gradually you could scarcely notice, yet you knew when the show had started, the lights went up, the backing films rolled and the Super Furry Animals, locked and loaded, jumped onto the stage, immediately tackling their instruments and microphones and began to belt out their songs. This was not only a treat for the ears, it was a feast for the eyes with a visually stunning performance, with tantalizing lighting and a projection of colour, It seemed intoxicating while being completely sober. Song after song they continued to deliver to their audience, an energetic, melodic feat of a live performance. The crowd was loving it. With air drumming, sing-a-longs, head bobbing, feet tapping, pulse racing and more “Whoas” than you can shake a stick at, the crowd kept wanting and the Super Furry Animals kept on giving. With powerful renditions of Juxtaposed With U, Cheetah Girl and many, many more, the performance was incredible, with an audience so engrossed in their music that all inhibitions were forgotten. So I think I speak for everyone there that night when I left Cardiff thinking, “That was amazing!” MARTYN DAVID


A 14-year-old girl accustomed to the likes of Take That and Alesha Dixon, I was certainly a newbie to the Super Furry Animals world. I ambled through the bitterly cold, crowded streets of Cardiff, not really knowing what to expect. Would they be good? Or would they just demolish my ears and put me off rock gigs for life? It was worth a try and I arrived at the charming Coal Exchange (an unexpected venue for the psychedelic rockers to play, I thought) to see a line of dedicated Super Furries fans waiting in the cold to be let in — a good sign! The smoky hall was already beginning to fill with people eagerly anticipating the Super Furries, so I bagged myself a spot at the front to see if the Welsh rockers were really worth coming out for. It was a long wait and a slight anti-climax when the illuminated, alluring stage littered with guitars and drum kits was filled with…a man and his guitar. Adam Franklin wandered on to stage and began playing a small acoustic set. Not much of a singer but a skilled guitarist and the lighting certainly did him a favour by shining from behind to give a glowing effect to him and his red guitar. Nevertheless the crowd weren’t too impressed and it was his saving grace when Mark Gardener (the former front man of popular rock band Ride) joined him. Their harmonies rang true over the rich guitar tunes and got the crowd’s attention. Despite this, we still weren’t best interested and an impatient vibe began to rise when the Super Furries had still not come on by 9.15pm. However, the support band wrapped it up (about time!) and various technicians began to meander around the stage doing a sound check. Time ticked on and 10pm arrived — by this point I was practically snoring and fed up of waiting — but I was jolted to my senses when an amazing back projection showing colourful footage started up and the Furries slipped one by one onto stage to the sound of obsessed fans screaming. Leading man Gruff Rhys held up a sign saying “Applause” — as if they needed to ask for it! The crowd were going crazy and when the band burst into their first number, Slow Life, every person in the audience came together and began to sing along and start to dance. I was pleasantly surprised by the catchy rhythms and melodies that you just had to bop along to. The extremely talented musicians welded exceptionally well together, and the weird and wonderful band came up with a variety of innovative things to make their show that little but different... such as Gruff waving a plastic orange tube around the mic to make his own sound effects — it would have been the strangest thing ever at any other concert, but it fitted right in with SFA. I have to say, my favourite part was when Gruff held up a sign that just said “Pysgod” — the most bizarre thing to do, but I found myself lapping it up along with the rest of the crowd and cheering my head off. The Super Furries ensured that there was never a dull moment and performed crowd pleasing tracks such as Rings Around The World, Juxtaposed With U and my personal favourite Hello Sunshine — what a reaction! The crowd loved it and I have to admit I was pretty impressed too. My only grumble is that it was so late, so after a while the songs merged into one and started to sound the same. The crowd got a bit uncontrollable for my liking too — drunken fools pushing desperately closer to the stage and dancing wildly. Despite this I was pleasantly surprised by the band and thought that they gave an exciting, high energy performance, enough to earn a place in my iTunes library. Not bad! MARTHA REED

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DIRTY YOUTH

PONTY’S BIG WEEKEND

Town

Le Pub, Newport I was really excited about the gig in Le Pub, as I’ve heard great things about Town. The four-piece hail from the Welsh valleys and have been together for two and half years, during that time they have obviously developed their sound, starting from a punk rock background and developing into a Brit pop, new wave style. At the gig it was evident they’d gained a lot of support and had a solid fan base. They list their influences as the Clash, Shed 7 and Hard Fi, and Town’s sound echoes those of their musical heroes. The fans and the bands favourite song to play live was No Deliberating, which was a catchy but hard-hitting indie rock number, which showcased lead singer Alex’s strong vocal range. For me the two highlights of the gig were some fantastic covers ­— Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers and the Black Eyed Peas’ I Got A Feeling. The crowd really got into the songs and the atmosphere was electric. I have never heard those two tracks covered by an indie band, and it really worked. I predict great things for Town, and it appears they’re making their way into the music scene by supporting The Buzzcocks and The Holloways. They’re a band not afraid to take risks and when they do something out of the ordinary it definitely pays off. VICTORIA TURNER

Ade Edmondson & The Bad Shepherds The Globe, Cardiff

DEATH BY APRIL

For anyone who was a teenager in the late 70s/early 80s, this was a dream gig: ace comedian Ade Edmonson (Vyvyan from TV’s The Young Ones) playing punk rock songs with a bunch of top musicians (er — but in a folk style), and being rather funny in between. Brilliant! When Ade & The Bad Shepherds kicked off proceedings with The Clash classic I Fought The Law, you just knew you were in for a good night. Members of the audience bonded and played ‘Guess the year’ as the band unveiled their own unique version of The Model by Kraftwerk. Then there were hits by The Stranglers, Sex Pistols, The Jam and Public Image Ltd — all played on mandolin, fiddle, guitars, pipes…genius! A great version of The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks somehow segued into Whiskey In The Jar. Don’t ask me how they did it, but there was a tin whistle involved! The band say they play these songs on folk instruments, “Not as a gag but because we really like the noise.” Tonight, a very sweaty crowd at The Globe agreed with those sentiments. On the strength of this show, I reckon Ade and his Shepherds will have the fans flocking. STEPH McNICHOLAS

Tattsyrup

‘O’ Fest The Otley, Trefforest

DEAD END

Walter Trout

Like a restaurant that overflows with diners satisfied with their meal, a pub that overflows with punters and the sound of ska music has got to be the place to be. So perennial Ponty favourites Tattsyrup played host band for the night during the ‘O’ pubs weekend festival. For one weekend in October, The Otley, Rickards and the Bunch of Grapes pooled their combined resources to bring us not only fine beers and ciders but fine foods and music too. Spoken word sessions happened in the Rickards spanning poetry, prose and rap. The Grapes did their bit for food and the Otley had Tattsyrup. Squeezed together at the back of the public bar leaving maximum space for public skanking the ‘Tatties’ ripped through the usual repertoire of Two-Tone ska classics such as Gangsters, Too Much Too Young and Baggy Trousers. Some original compositions such as the popular Phone Song and Yesterday Chemicals — a hangover from the days of Hair Of The Dogma fronted by Bret and Dan, the current ‘big’ boys of the band. I love the trombone in dub and ska music and I suggest that the band are missing their former trombonist but this does leave space for the lovely Jenny to play more sax. Switching between off beat chords and metal style lead breaks this band innovates as well as entertains. A rousing chorus of Desmond Dekker’s The Israelites brought proceedings to a close with the punters still sprawled half way up Meadow Street. As for me I just about found my way home along with a souvenir hangover. Go see, go hear, go Tattsyrup. LLOYD GEORGE

The Globe, Cardiff Walter Trout and his band are back in the UK celebrating 20 years of Hardcore Blues and they are sounding better than ever. The anticipation of the crowd was immense as some had been waiting over two hours for their annual fix of Trout Blues. From the moment Walter strode on stage the sold-out crowd were up for it. Walter and his band were so tight that every song was played to absolute perfection. Choosing a setlist from his 17 albums must have been difficult, but the songs were spot on: from the fast rocking Out Of Control, the lyrically poignant Motivation Of Love, to the relevant story of today’s world in Life In The Jungle. Whether Walter was singing or playing his guitar the crowd were completely enthralled, and boy can he make that guitar sing. The way he interacted with the crowd and with his band was a fantastic experience to observe. Walter and his band are survivors in the music industry today due to their excellent songs, sheer hard work and dedication to touring. I was 13 when I first saw Walter and it completely changed my life — from the moment he walked on stage and strummed his guitar I was mesmerised. My nose was pressed to the front of the stage for the whole two hours, and I knew that watching Walter and his band was a life-changing experience. Roll on four years and not only has Walter encouraged and supported me with my music, he asked me to open for him on his two Welsh gigs. It was an honour to support him and, as reality started to sink in, I took the stage and prepared myself to perform one of the most memorable gigs of my career so far. To know that Walter was in the side room listening to my performance, proved to me that all the encouragement and support that he had given me over the years and all the hard work and practising I’ve put in to my music thanks to his support was definitely all worth it. Can I recommend him: Yes! All I can say Walter is... don’t ever retire! KADESHA DRIJA

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FACT

Photographs by Sam Williams

Barfly, Cardiff When I got asked to photograph FACT, a heavy metal band, I thought to myself, “Oh no, going to have to endure a couple of hours of ear offence.” I’d only photographed indie bands before so I was being a bit biased that I’d never like that kind of music, but little did I know then how wrong I could be. When FACT turned up on stage wearing Chinese geisha masks it scared me enough to want to leave, but the moment I heard their music blasting through the speakers I was hooked! The mix of heavy drum beats, catchy lyrics and subtle electro notes blew my mind and tore apart any reservations I had on heavy metal music. Their music had such a huge affect on me that after the third song I was really considering throwing my camera away, ripping my top off and doing some serious moshing. I believe their music is packed with enough high-energy and creativity to get them in the charts. FACT are a brilliant band with a very bright future ahead. I can safely say that 15th September was the day I converted to heavy metal! They’re a band that set themselves in a class of their own. SAM WILLIAMS

The Slits

Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff In 1976 punk rock sprung forth and one of the most noted bands to grow from this rebel rock movement was The Slits. This female force rubbed shoulders with The Sex Pistols and The Clash in a London-led uprising, and this unique act were to mix up dub reggae, new wave pop, funk and global grooves to create a magical, musical melting pot! The Slits debut album entitled Cut offered anthems of alienation and angst alongside the weird and wacky, and, with dreadlocked dynamo Ari Up fronting the band, normality was never going to be the order of the day! The Slits are in full 2009 effect via an entertaining biography, a vibrant record and tour dates. The Zoe Street Howe penned text Typical Girls? The Story of The Slits is the tale of seminal survivors who prove via their new Trapped Animal release that it may be 30 years on from their first long player but there is still lots of life left in these ladies! The evidence of their energy was aplenty as the fiery five-piece filled a full house with a range of rhythms. Ari Up (the step-daughter of John Lydon), original bassist Tessa Pollitt, keyboard player Hollie Cook (daughter of Sex Pistols drummer, Paul), guitarist Adele Wilson and drummer Anna Schulte offer their all via a sonic smorgasbord. The gig comprises The Slits’ famed cover of I Heard It Through The Grapevine, the influential joys of Jamaica, fresh material and epic anthems such as Love & Romance, Shoplifting, New Town and the furious finale of Typical Girls. Ari Up gives 110% as a dervish who invites punters on stage for a dance, chats freely with the fans, recalls stories of previous visits to Wales, and pours her bottle of water on to a special area of her body!?! A 70s Slits helped open the doors for girls to get more recognition in rock music and their influence is stamped all over the templates of a host of acts who have followed their trail. The Slits welcomes planet pop in to their mantra and then a cordial invite goes out to the general public to get an Instant Hit from the treasures of the Femme Fatale. ‘The Return of the Giant Slits’ is back on, please sample this aural adventure! ROB JONES

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Taking Back Sunday Cardiff University

Taking Back Sunday has toured the UK with their latest album New Again, and tonight it was Cardiff’s turn to get some live action from the American band. With the departure of guitarist/backing vocalist Fred Mascherino, I was interested to see how the crowd would react to new guitarist Matt Farzi, and how well he could pull off Mascherino’s parts on songs from previous albums, such as Louder Now and Where You Want To Be. As the lights dimmed into darkness, a chorus of “TBS” echoed around the hall in Cardiff University — you could feel the high energy of the crowd. Members of TBS started to appear on stage, the crowd went wild, and then Mr Adam Lazzara appeared with his rugged good looks, sending all the girls into a frenzy. With the flicker of white lights beaming in every direction, the guitar strings screamed the intro of What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost, which led the army of fans into a jumping competition — a good choice for an opening song. Then straight into their brand new single Sink Into Me, which got the crowd into a chorus of “hey, hey, hey’s” and screaming for more. More hits followed, like Liar Liar, Error Operator, You’re So Last Summer and Make Damn Sure. Then it sadly came to their last song, the lights dimmed, there was a sense of preparation from the crowd like they were getting ready for what was coming next and everybody knew what was coming next — Cute Without The E, one of their most biggest and earliest hits. Matt Farzi played the well-known four chords of the song which got a massive response from the crowd, by now singing “Your lipstick, His collar” — there was no need for Lazzara to sing as the crowd were amazingly loud and took the song by storm! This band blew me away with their high energy performance, they are brilliant. If you like jumping around, getting crazy at concerts, I highly recommend you attend a Taking Back Sunday gig. COREY-LEIGH JOHN

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ALEX ROOTS

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Photographs by Corey-Leigh John

Glen Matlock Barfly, Cardiff

A sparse but enthusiastic crowd gathered for the visit of a punk legend. It was a warm Welsh welcome to Glen Matlock, the musical brains of The Sex Pistols (prior to the farce of the Sid Vicious circus!). The man who was once a teenage Sex Pistol deserves respect as he was also the major creative force within the underrated and influential Rich Kids (who included Midge Ure in their number) and, amongst other credits, Matlock has worked with Iggy Pop, Dead Men Walking and he has recently been on stage with Mick Jones (The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite and Carbon Silicon) and Steve Diggle (Buzzcocks). Matlock came to Cardiff armed with his six-string accomplice and a promise that he would offer something old, new, borrowed and blue! An affable stage presence whipped up the audience who mingled with Matlock and in turn he delivered the Pistols (via God Save The Queen, Pretty Vacant and their cover of 60s anthem Stepping Stone) and The Rich Kids (courtesy of the title tune of their awesome 1978 album Ghosts Of Princes In Towers and the track Burning Sounds). The drive was dropped when Matlock paid homage to one of his own idols, the late Ronnie Lane (once of The Small Faces and The Faces) and Ambition, which was written for the Iggy Pop long player Soldier. Visceral vocals fuelled the punchy playing and Matlock proved that his career did not end in 1980 as he took us on an unplugged journey of his solo songs — Born Running, Somewhere Somehow, On Something, Yeah Right and Hard Work. Matlock is a fine rock ’n’ roll songwriter, and it was a shame that a full band was not present to take this aural assault on to its optimum level of electric energy. ROB JONES

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Richmond Fontaine Muni, Pontypridd

Tonight Pontypridd welcomed American band Richmond Fontaine, who had released their ninth album this year: We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River. Walking into the Muni, the crowd had a sense of maturity and a very mellow vibe, most of whom were sitting down ready for the performance. They gave a huge cheer when the band came on stage, opening with he cheerful You Can Move Back Here off the new album. RF is a band with a smattering of bristling straight-ahead, dry-throated inspiring alternative country sound. Their music has a lot of sweet melodic guitar, with a steady beat on the drums. They went on to play their hit Capsized, which the crowd swayed and sung along to. I really enjoyed the song The Boyfriends, which has embellishment from piano, pedal steel and a marvellous bittersweet flourish of trumpet — all added to the basic mix intermittently and faultlessly. The band do have some deep and powerful lyrics like on the song Two Alone, which is a fiercely emotional six-minute mini-opus describing a drama of a single mother and child. This band surprised me: they were really good at what they did and got me interested in the alt-country scene which I never thought I’d like. Richmond Fontaine is the type of band you would listen to while driving in your car on a hot summer’s day, with the roof down. I would recommend a listen if you’re in a very relaxed mood. COREY-LEIGH JOHN

Secret Affair

Parc Hall, Cwmparc IRONIK

Tonight’s support was Tonypandy band Burning Sky, who are a fiery quartet amalgamating the sound effects of such new wave icons as The Jam, The Ruts, The Members and Stiff Little Fingers. The boys have built a sizeable fan base on the back of their live gusto as they are a tight team that delivers a sonic tonic! In the distant past the Rhondda Valley was always labelled as a heavy metal domain, but with the likes of Burning Sky, The Deadheads and The Satellites flying the flag for rebel rhythms, old school punk rock will continue to thrive in the South Wales hills! Headliners the legendary Secret Affair fitted in a Rhondda gig in between dates in Moscow, Madrid and Newcastle! A full house was overjoyed with a mix of maximum R’n’B, plus 60s meets 70s power pop that filters a soul stomp with a Stax stamp! Ian Page and Dave Cairns lead this 16-legged groove machine (that includes a brass section) and the Parc Hall became awash with dance frenzy! This was a no holds barred, evening of energy that mustered up a series of smiles from an animated audience, and the eight-piece act responded with a value-for-money set that offered a glut of encores. Secret Affair led the second wave of mod in 1979 and these Glory Boys are marking 30 years of Going To A Go-Go manifesto. May their Time For Action mantra continue to prosper! After a good shift on stage the performers headed to the Parc Hotel for a well earned drink and fans mixed freely with their heroes to put the icing on a memorable night. Well done to John Davies and the Parc Hall staff who scored a major credit in getting Secret Affair to do a one-off show in Wales — the Cwmparc premises is thus proving to be a vibrant venue on the Welsh music circuit! ROB JONES

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Arriving at Caephilly’s Megaday I was surprised to be met by quiet streets with little to no indication of what was being caged within the club gates. As eager as I was to find out what was actually going on I had to get past the bouncers first, who were having none of my “free ticket at the gatehouse” story which was actually true! I did have a ticket, well, should have had one waiting for me. Some cock-up meant that I had to argue my way in. Despite being aware of possibly getting my head bashed over a curb I didn’t want to miss this: Goldie Lookin’ Chain close to home. GLC burst onto the stage, beer toting and bouncing, creating an instant hyperactive atmosphere, filling the room with hails of applause. The set kicked off with several classics including Soapbar, Your Missus Is A Nutter and HRT. Hilariously the boys then rewarded the fans, who were rapping along with every word by initiating “Stage 2,” which saw GLC breakout their never seen before, first ever choreographed dance! Lining up, they worked round the stage with their not-so-well rehearsed Jackson-esque moves, before busting out sick freestyles such as handstands and moonwalks one by one. By this time the room had filled with energy, even the die-hard fans in drag were battling against the intense heat, nevertheless the Chain’s pace was un-relenting. Despite the flying bras (which quickly became hats) apparently the audience were not ready for “Stage 3” yet. Next up was the slammin’ tune Space Police, from the new Asbo4life, album which didn’t fail to entertain. To round off the epic set, the lads invited a few kids onto the stage to help them bust out their moves — and to the security’s horror much of the crowd decided to join in, spilling over the fence to get into the action. After the band left, the riot calmed, shell shocked and confused people stumbled from the exhausted tent, leaving one thing certain, GLC ruled the night and “you knows it!” JAMES BANNISTER

There’s not three of them and they’re not from Alabama! No, but they can definitely put on a show to remember. Donned with stetsons and suits, Alabama 3 immediately commanded attention as the Coal Exchange roared up in booze-fuelled excitement. I can’t remember a gig where there was so much noise even before the music started. This, however, was nothing compared to what was about to come out of the stacked amps at the front of the stage. If you don’t already know, Alabama 3 are those guys who did the theme tune to The Sopranos, and tonight they brought every ounce of that smoking barrelled, slick coolness to Cardiff and gunned down everyone in the building. Their fusion of Country and Blues and acid-house and plenty of other styles is a spectacle that can only be marvelled at, as the sound is so full-on and so unique that anyone hearing it cannot help being completely blown away. You are transported into the outrageous and twisted world of A3, guided by Larry Love (Rob Spragg) and The Very Reverend Dr D Wayne Love (Jake Black) whose manic personas shape your journey. The Coal Exchange was treated to several more epic tracks that should be legally allowed into a set list including Hello…I’m Johnny Cash and, of course, the favourite that led them to fame Woke Up This Morning. And just as the unrepeatable performance was drawing to a close Pancho (Dirty Sanchez member) hurdles the crowd barrier, steals a mic and starts to sing along, A3 and crowd alike ended a hectic performance weak with laughter. This was not a gig you wanted to miss! JAMES BANNISTER

Megaday, Caerphilly

Coal Exchange, Cardiff

Jimmy Webb The Gate, Cardiff

Legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb is the man who penned songs like Country favourite Wichita Lineman and the epic MacArthur Park. These happen to be two of my all-time favourite songs, so it was a thrill to see Webb playing this intimate gig in Cardiff at the start of a nationwide tour — and he’d brought his sons along for the ride. Sitting behind his piano, clad neatly in a suit, Jimmy effortlessly played, sang and told tales about his life and work, while three of his five sons (James, Chris and Justin) swapped instruments and vocals in a fantastic set. They were joined on drums by Cal Campbell, son of singer Glen Campbell, pedal steel player Tim Walker and Romeo Stodart from The Magic Numbers on guitar and vocals. (Romeo played a solo warm-up set earlier in the evening, which was a great surprise and pure magic.) The ensemble got the show on the road with The Highwayman, a song recorded by Johnny Cash. Then we were treated to some of Webb’s other popular tunes, including Wichita Lineman, as well as some I’d never heard before. When the night finished with MacArthur Park, I must admit I got goosebumps. STEPH McNICHOLAS

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Photographs by James Bannister

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Fight Night

Muni, Pontypridd

The Guns

Rock Out Festival, Newport

Newport was alive with musically charged energy for its ‘Rock Out Festival’, which was held on an open-air stage in the middle of John Frost Square. There were seven acts in total, all of which had a magnetic presence on stage. The first band was Rico & The Thieves, an indie rock band with much to offer. The second act was a fantastic five-piece band called Mooch who hail from The Midlands. For such a young bunch of lads their music was mature beyond their years. Their musical style reminded me of a young AC/DC and Black Crows, absolutely brilliant music. The next two bands, Hit Or Miss and Lil Death kept up the rock ’n’ roll vibe, and the crowd were really enjoying their sets. The fifth band on the line-up was Straight Lines. For a band that has only been together two months their set was electrifying, with musical influences of Weezer and Biffy Clyro oozing through their songs. The next act was a band called Dirty Goods. This three-piece had a distinctive dance, electro, poprock vibe to their set, which is a welcome change from the dominant rockpunk scene of today. The headline act was local boys The Guns. The gig was the first live open-air appearance since they released their debut album With The Guns on iTunes (which reached 18 in the chart). It had been a year since The Guns last played in Newport and they exploded onto the stage with the dirty rock number Donkey Kong, which was an instant hit with the crowd. The band did have some new additions to the line-up in the form of three female backing singers, whcih gave The Guns a more distinct and powerful sound. The set was filled with raucous, rock ’n’ roll numbers but the highlight for me was the crowd-pleasing rock anthem Gordons & Lemonade. It really set the atmosphere on fire and it felt as if the whole of Newport was rocking out to The Guns. The band’s musical talent was demonstrated in this song, with excellent guitar riffs by Adam Turner, and vocalist Alex Wiltshire encouraging the crowd to get involved in the song. The Guns were the perfect act to end an adrenaline-filled night of amazing music, and in my eyes the ‘Rock Out’ festival was a success and should be a prominent feature in the music calendar for years to come. VICTORIA TURNER

A New Day’s Gergiou kicked off Muni’s Fight Night with an improvised acoustic set with a chilled out vibe as the rest of the band couldn’t get to Ponty on time. Despite it being unplanned he quickly had the crowd behind him with their punk rock tunes that worked surprisingly well on the lone guitar. Next on was local five piece Tiger Please armed with their popular indie rock sound which had heads nodding and toes tapping instantly. The addition of a drum breakdown from lead guitarist Tyla Campbell went down exceptionally well with the music fans, who were excited to see something a little different in an area of music that can easily get repetitive with such a large amount of bands trying to emulate the same sound that Tiger Please pull off so effortlessly. Following were Cuba Cuba who lit up the Muni with their full-on sound. They too switched things up a little with Morgan and Danny swapping guitar for keys in the middle of the set, both bringing a clean sharp sound to the table on both instruments. Their plethora of great tunes included the groovy Fountains, which much of the local crowd excitedly sang along with. Finally headliners Straight Lines, featuring members of the ever popular SaidMike, hit the stage with their unforgettably unique style oozing a full-on punk pop vibe featuring many great, great (so great it has to be said twice, seriously!) anthems such as Versus The Allegiance, which went down a treat, being met by a wall of applause as it faded out. Straight Lines provided a cherry for the top of the cake of a fun, light-hearted gig with plenty of banter between the bands, who often play together. This easy atmosphere between the boys emanated into the crowd which, judging by the grins all round, had as good a time as I did. JAMES BANNISTER

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Kate Walsh

Slaid Cleaves

Brighton based singer-songwriter Kate Walsh has made quite a name for herself since her debut album, 2003’s Clockwork Tower, and has been on tour with this year’s release Light & Dark. Support came in the form of Mick Flannery, usually backed with a band, but tonight it was a purely acoustic session. This Irish stonemason played a set of deep, emotional songs, sung with a powerful gravelly tone. His most defining characteristic was the odd way he played his guitar, which was a right handed guitar played as a left handed one (making the low E the closest to the floor). Kate Walsh played a wonderful set of mainly material from her first two albums, accompanied by a cello and piano. The ensemble were chatty and very open to conversations with the audience. Kate herself was a lovely person, and I had the pleasure to chat to her after her set. On stage she was very confident and in touch with the music, possibly because of how personal the songs are. LIAM PADFIELD

On a cold Thursday night (my birthday might I add) I was met in the Muni with a sight I wasn’t used to — tables and chairs scattered around the hall with candles. I felt a bit out of place due to the fact I was clearly the youngest person there by at least 10 years. The support act was Dan Razza, a Londonbased acoustic act. He played only a few songs in his short set, and it seemed he spent most of his time tuning rather than playing, but the songs he played were relaxing and joyful. Slaid Cleaves came to the stage next. The cheerful duet played a long and varied set of catchy songs. Each song had its own personality and each was wonderfully written, both music and lyrics. The pair were very talkative, and made a point to talk with the audience, and tell stories behind each song and its meaning. Not really my usual kind of gig, but it was very enjoyable, and I’d tell anyone to go and see them, because it’s a lovely way to spend your night. LIAM PADFIELD

Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Muni, Pontypridd

The Specials CIA, Cardiff

The immensity of The Specials’ 30th anniversary reunion was made clear with the visit of the band to Wales. The Specials planned to perform post 9pm, but rude boys and rude girls started to gather outside the Cardiff International Arena during the mid-afternoon of a wet and windy winter day. The assembled throng did not care about the climate as they only wanted to Do The Dog, and these loyal fans were granted this wish because their heroes were to offer a solid 90 minutes of dance frenzy! The magnificent seven of The Specials (that increased to a 10-man line-up) delivered the diamonds that originally caught the imagination of the record-buying public between July 1979 and June 1981. This is a nostalgia trip but The Specials material has not dated, and their influence continues to cast a magical spell over planet pop. The age of their current following falls between pre-teen and senior citizen, but it is clear that both the music and its messages have a contemporary resonance. The singles and album tracks carry equal favour, as every tune is an anthem! The masses sing along as if their lives depend upon it and the potency of an atomic act does not lose its momentum in a large auditorium. There is no doubt that in the heyday of The Specials there would have been more than the odd audience altercation and, as a result the police surrounded the venue. However, this was an Enjoy Yourself affair not a Too Hot To Handle riot as a plethora of punters were taken on a journey back to their youth! The call for racial unity is a Specials stronghold and head vocalist Terry Hall may be renowned for his trademark deadpan veneer but he is serious when he tags BNP leader Nick Griffin with a less than complimentary new title! Roddy Radiation, Neville Staples and Lynval Golding also take centre stage as the rest of the guys keep the beat rock steady. Unofficial Specials leader Jerry Dammers has bypassed the comeback gigs and he was sorely missed, but an evening of indelible electric entertainment still ensued. Hall states that the Welsh crowd are the best that The Specials have played to and post-show there were countless public comments that this was the finest concert ever. Everyone was a winner at a never-to-be forgotten event. However, an 11th July 1978 bill of The Clash, The Specials and Suicide at the long-lost Cardiff Top Rank must have been the ultimate real deal! ROB JONES

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Fight Night

Photographs by Liam Padfield

Muni, Pontypridd The atmosphere is buzzing as The Missive, a five-piece band from Aberdare, enter the stage. Lights go down and the volume goes up as the band starts the night with their song People Like You. As Emma parades around the stage with her high-class vocals, she captivates the crowd — which then doubles in excitement as the band take on the huge hit Holding Out For A Hero. With the crowd singing along and jumping around, the song goes down nicely, followed by the more popular hit of the band We Are Dead. To wrap up a great performance the band close their set with their currently recorded song on myspace Zombies, and once again the crowd were jumping to catchy riffs of the guitar, the unique voice of Emma, the bass and the drum. This band has great potential. Next on were Conquer The Decade, an allmale band with a lot of attitude! Opening with their already recorded song Angela Howells, they quickly won the hearts of the crowd as the lead singer Dean screams down the microphone. Without failing to drop the level of energy the band smoothly work their way through their set list, which included their song 1005 Ways To Kill A Hooker and a very unique cover of Beat It, a cover of a song where the crowd were singing at the top of their lungs again! To finish off their set the band closed with their soon to be recorded song She Devil. An amazing song, which will feature guest vocalist Tom Weaver from Save The Last, with again a lot of energy behind it. Watch this space! Third to play were Death Before Sunrise, a band who really got the crowd moving with their opening song Lying To Me. Each song they delivered was upbeat and original, and their song Catch You At Arms Length proved this band has something special to offer. Although they may not have looked like the typical teenage band you get at Fight Night, these guys showed the audience that they’re just as good, if not better, and truly deserved their place on the set list. Fourth to please the crowd were Her Game Is Over. The coloured lights lit up the stage and screams filled the room as the band members walked on. This band deserved their place as being the main support group simply because they were so professional and really got the crowd going. With two vocalists, and a synth line, they stood out and proved that they were good at what they do. And if interacting with the crowd and getting almost everyone jumping around wasn’t enough, the band then took a risk by covering a song by the huge band Enter Shikari and pulled it off with style. A terrific band that oozed potential, and definitely one to watch out for! Then the show really began when the guitarist from GO-X walked on the stage. Everyone swarmed to the front of the hall and you could already tell that it was going to be a great performance from Josh and the other band members. The audience erupted and started going crazy even before the band began to play. The screaming increased as the guitarist started to create a simple, yet brilliant riff, but still no sign of Josh… Then the crowd (mainly the girls) began to go mental as you saw the silhouette of a guy walking through the smoke. Girls everywhere had their hands up in the air, calling out to the band, just wanting him to touch their hand. The excitement is well above average and everyone is waiting for it to begin. They started with their song The Australian and Josh with his unique voice won over many more fans. A catchy tune with an amazing bass and guitar line, complete with Josh running up and down the stage providing a smile for each and every fan. One of the better songs they played was their newly recorded James Bond Vs Dr Kananga, an upbeat song which was quickly loved by the audience. The band also include their song Thank You For Using The Postal Service and finished off their amazing and pitch-perfect set with their classic song Dance Again, a tune I had heard as many people’s ringtone that night! Without failing to disappoint, the band left the stage and it is safe to say that almost everyone had a great night thanks to all of the superb bands that had played. ANNALESE MAZ

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Gary Numan

Millennium Music Hall, Cardiff Gary Numan came in to the consciousness of the pop public in 1978. Many critics thought that his alien attack would vanish in to the electronic ether. However, the man born Gary Webb has ensured that his ongoing wizardry has had an indelible effect upon our aural annals, and his songs have also been covered or sampled by a random range of artists, including The Foo Fighters, Damon Albarn, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson, Beck, DJ Hell, Basement Jaxx and Moloko. This band of performers crosses many musical boundaries, and as such the cynics who have regarded Numan to be pretentious and bombastic have failed to acknowledge that this seminal synthesiser star is as still as vital as ever. Numan is an innovator who would rather satisfy his own artistic needs than be driven by media acceptance. Numan can also count upon the support of a loyal and obsessive fan base that has made a lifetime commitment to The Pleasure Principle pioneer. And these electric friends came out in force to witness their hero at the Millennium Music Hall, Cardiff. Numan programmes his yesterdays forward to the tomorrow’s world that he has always sought, and the bright lights of the stage masked the dark delights of a six-piece band that is hell bent on producing power! The technological trickery drives a traditional template and then the roles are reversed as the emphasis meanders between art rock exploration and heavy machine execution. This is not a greatest hits package even though there is plenty of gas in that tank, but this is an evening of the past creating the future... and then we head on to a time zone that occupies another distant planet! The devotion of the crowd to the hammer of their god is a site to behold and Numan responds with humble courtesy and a lengthy encore. The cries of “Numan! Numan! Numan!” echoed around a sweltering auditorium, and the Music For Chameleons on offer proved that this is not robotic rock for disenchanted Daleks! The Numan call of Me I Disconnect From You was not indicative of the atmosphere of a vibrant venue on a bitter winter night. A special bond was being formed between a warrior and his worshippers, and as such Numan will always be guaranteed a warm Welsh welcome! ROB JONES

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Thursday

I had decided to take on Womanby Street for the first two days of Cardiff’s October Swn Fest, and spend my time at The Gate in Roath for the third. Collecting my florescent pink three-day wristband from the Toucan, I headed straight over to Dempsey’s where Them Squirrels were opening proceedings. As 7.10pm arrived the room flooded with people, who were treated to a masterclass of lunacy. Odd noises from the three-piece filled the mics and suddenly the experiment was developed! Freakily twisted, dreamy mellow tones were effortlessly melded into distorted keys and crazy riffs. This was just crazy. What a start! After feeling a little dazed and confused by the quality of what I had witnessed by Them Squirrels, I hot-legged it over the The Model Inn where the heavy (the very, very heavy) The Death Of Her Money were opening. In contrast they were the heaviest band on the bill that day, so I knew I was in for an interesting change in sound. Not to disappoint, they blew my ears off! The booming drums and driving bass made it unsafe to stand. You could feel the intensity and I hoped the floor would hold up! With hollowing tones howling from the bass amp, broken up by the intense screams of frontman Kaskie, I now know how it feels to be tied to a gravestone at full moon. Skilful stuff from Newport’s merchants of doom rock, delivering three mind-bending tracks in their brilliant half hour set. With the feeling that I had been ripped apart, and a little queasy from the sheer intensity of TDOHM’s riffage, my next stop was Y Fuwch Goch, and the aptly named Three Trapped Tigers. The London-based three-piece were a tight outfit, melding some crazy and tenacious electro with its keyboards, synths, drums and guitars with the ambient and atmospheric. On walking in on the set it was serene and dreamy, before bursting into life, going totally mental. Quality songs showed a good range, proving their inclusion on such a bill. Three Trapped Tigers were explosive and very likeable. My next stop was Dempsey’s again, on a friend’s suggestion that Cardiff’s Islet were not worth missing. What Buzz (my mate) should have told me was that these guys were worth the weekend’s ticket! On arriving, Fredrick Stanley Star was coming to the end of their set. Sounding as quality as ever — folk acoustic, harmonic, balladic — the room was rammed, which came as no surprise as FSS are popular. Then came Islet. Describing them is tough! Experimental is an understatement. Featuring two members of Them Squirrels, and members of Attack & Defend and ex-members of Victorian English Gentleman’s Club, Islet didn’t just put on a musical performance, but instead gave an amazing showpiece. Cardiff should be proud that they have Islet. They were awesome. It started with random shouting, as frontman Mark walked through the crowd. It ended with random harmonic singing from all four members. In between, well, just about anything and everything, from hyper noise and ridiculous guitar solos to cool riffs to odd hooks and lots of shaking. Indeed, one tambourine didn’t survive the ordeal. There was random shouting into an echo-phased mic set into the middle of the floor, super slow downs and drums, lots of drums. I witnessed a true showpiece in dual drumming by JT and Emma, and some quadruple drumming just for good measure. Islet make noises. Islet make very, very good noises. To be honest I could have checked out and gone home, as that was always going to be

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tough to follow. But there was more music to be supped upon, and so I headed back to Y Fuwch Goch where I had the chance to catch London outfit Not Cool who were, well, really cool. A funky punk rock three-piece with catchy riffs and some great songs. Gutter Pop they call it. Plenty of hooks and some right dirty bass topped a good set from a band that had more mass appeal than any other on the day. My final stop of day one was my only trip to Barfly, where the well-thought-of Gallops put on some quality tuneage with their fusion of electro post-rock which provided a packed Barfly with a captivating set. Despite drummer Dave having half his kit nicked, the instrumental quartet were pretty awesome. An energetic showpiece was held together by some powerful and rather immense drumming, pounding away whilst allowing the cool electro underscore to ebb and flow with tenacious sounds and engaging with some serious riffage that charged from their dual guitarists. Gallops were like a galloping freight train — full steam ahead, and powerful as f**k!

Friday

Friday had a lot to live up to, with expectations set highly following a fantastic first night from which I was still buzzing. I started by catching the opening 15 minutes of Cardiff favourites Threatmantics, who were probably one of the first names on the bill for this event. They’ve recently lost a member, and added two, becoming a four-piece. Despite the changes they were sounding good with their cheeky pop tones and were well received. Indeed Threatmantics were typically ambitious, whilst hitting the top notches with some old favourites. However I made an early exit in anticipation of PLUGGED IN favourites Exit International. The three-piece totally blew me away. Hard, driving and ballsy rock hammered through the top floor of Clwb Ifor Bach, piledriving everything in its way. Quick songs with immensely satisfying riffs, and some catchy lyrics make Exit International a class act, and certainly ones to watch — all bass and drums and one kick-ass live band. The highest tornado in history clocked up around 484km/ hour. I think it’s just been blown away! Just like Thursday, Friday was a day for chopping and changing musical styles, whacking my musical senses all over the place. So from the blitzkrieg that was Exit International I went back over the street to Y Fuwch Goch to watch another artist that was on my “must-see irrespective of what else is on” list. Sweet Baboo, aka Stephen Black, is one of the most talented musicians to come out of Cardiff. And my, oh my, he was in fine form. With a fantastic solo acoustic set Sweet Baboo warmed the hearts of all in the absolutely rammed bar. His witty story-telling styled songs brought smiles, laughter and sadness to the room, proving that he is one of the best songwriters in the UK. Lifting many emotions through great guitar work (picking and strumming), great lyrics and great songs, it was so engrossing. With Sweet Baboo you get led through stories of his own personal falls and triumphs with interesting allegory. It was a truly inspirational set. Next up was a trip to Dempsey’s, and the soulfully acoustic Elephant & Soldier. More than anything with this duet, it really hit home the diversity of artists in South Wales. Elephant & Soldier are a two-piece from Cardiff, and played a great set full of catchy and emotive songs with Sam on the guitar and, instead of a drum, his foot on the mic’ed up case of Olivia’s cello. Used to great effect, the “drum” helped

keep the rhythm as the guitar danced around, and the cello was soothing and tender at times, and picked to rather cool effect when needed. Sam tried a song on the ukulele to close a great little set. The cello helped put a fantastic twist on the otherwise acoustic set, picking up emotive vibes and finely polishing off the acoustic segment to my weekend. It was then off to queue (yes queue) to get into Clwb Ifor Bach where the immense tunes of Johnny Foreigner were about to pick up the business, roll it up and smoke it! The venue was heaving, and the Birmingham threepiece were on fire, producing some colossal live tunes, full of rock-tastic charm and pure tenacity. Looking good and sounding good, Johnny Foreigner’s indie-pop-rock tones built Clwb into a frenzy with a great in-your-face live performance, proving they can back up the quality of new album Grace & The Bigger Picture with a kick-ass live show. With the musical fire still blazing, the same number of people that were upstairs moved swiftly to the much smaller bar downstairs as Leeds’ rockers Pulled Apart By Horses were ready to turn them inside out. If the night wasn’t mental enough already, the four-piece might as well have been waiting with straight jackets. PABH pulled off a phenomenal set — heavy, ballsy, in-your-face and out-of-control rock and roll. With some really catchy riffs and fist-pumping hooks, the band had the bit between their teeth, played some hell-raising tunes, moving neatly between the screams and the melodies. Frontman Tom Hudson was in the crowd here, there and everywhere. PABH are true rock ’n’ rollers, and make some great music. Minutes later I found myself in another onein-one-out queue, but this time at Dempsey’s. I’d heard many rumblings about the Silver Gospel Runners, and luckily I got in just before they took the corner of Dempsey’s upper floor — otherwise known as the stage. The Cardiff seven-piece didn’t disappoint, filling the corner with bodies, and filling the room with a great selection of cool indie-pop songs in a set that bounced and flowed behind some very tight musicianship. With percussion that included trumpet, xylophone and a blowkeyboard, SGR really impressed. There were up-beat, happy, smiley sounding tunes and slower melodic tunes, each that made you smile. Everything was well crafted, giving each song much bravado and making the Silver Gospel Runners a band to watch out for. I was advised to stay in Dempsey’s by another mate (Owen) who suggested that Dimbleby & Capper were worth watching. Taking the advice was once again a top decision. Fresh from playing Glastonbury’s Introducing stage, the oddly named London-based four-piece were brilliant. Intriguing, interesting and cool tunes made D&C stick out from the crowd — they play dark, seductive, electro-post-folkpop and it’s damn good. Front-woman Laura Bettison leads the seduction, with a great voice and wicked synth beats — as well as getting all eyes firmly focussed on whether the gaffertape keeping her unzipped top from exposing her boobies would hold up! I’ve found out this is actually her own solo-effort, but with double bass, drums and guitar joining in (by three eerily hooded men) D&C offered a great live experience — once again showing that there are no boundaries to musical exploration. This was different, and very, very enjoyable. From the different and the eerie, to, well, the different and eerie…kinda! Strange News From Another Star, upstairs in The Model Inn, was my last stop of the night. On stage at 12.45 meant that a rather raucous crowd were


Swn Fest was quite simply an event of wall-to-wall insanity — at times outrageous, but generally damn right audacious, showing that there are no rules or boundaries with music. If you thought there were, or if you thought you’d seen it all, then think again! to be treated to some wall-to-wall carnage. SNFAS are three rather exhuberant chaps from Cardiff, clad in denim and making some rather loud music. With very fast and very heavy rock tones, together with some exceptional drumming, SNFAS played a breathtaking set which ended with a stage dive from front-madman Jimmy Watkins, and a “one minute mosh for charity” which shook the floor of The Model Inn. They topped off an immense day with some quality rock tunes that were played with great passion and intensity. Cracking stuff!

Saturday

My Saturday was spent at the Gate in Roath, which saw the pick of the evening’s action. I managed to get there for a set by Scottish psychobilly outfit Copy Haho. I could hear the bass helping on some rather rockin’ tunes, but where was the bassist? Ah yes, he had joined the watching crowd, just there in the front. He spent most of his time there, and this was a sign of things to come! Copy Haho filled their time on the main hall stage with cool and quirky tunes, melding some groovy punk-pop tones with catchy rock ’n’ roll. I really enjoyed the up-beat set, which put the growing audience in a great mood. Hungry for more, I legged it round to the small bar in The Gate to see Munch Munch. The short dash was more than worth it, as a busy bar became a rammed room pretty quickly, and intriguing Bristolian’s Munch Munch negotiated their way through a very appetising and experimental set. There was a lot going on here, long songs were neatly crafted and textured with dynamic changes. Complete with lots of drums, lots of keys, lots of group singing. Munch Munch were very entertaining. Next up were a band that have been making a big stir on the UK recently. Glaswegian sixpiece Dananananaykroyd certainly lived up to the hype. As crazy as the name suggests, Dananananaykroyd put on a right good show, with front-men Callum and John regularly finding time to jump into the packed audience, who were already whipped up into a frenzy thanks to the bouncy and upbeat possi-core tones. Dananananaykroyd have a great sound, it’s very pop-rock-party. Pop-fuelled, but heavy and distorted in places, it’s very charismatic and full of energy which comes through in the front-boys duelling vocals. And in all the madness was the “wall of cuddles”. How fun! You couldn’t have asked for a better warmup for the return of Cardiff favourites Los Campesinos! They hadn’t played in Cardiff for a while, and boy did they make up for it! The indie-pop seven-piece tore through an amazing, crazy and psychedelic set of the stuff which has helped them gather a fanbase and much deserved success. They were genuinely happy to be back and played with all the fun and hurrah that surrounds the pick-me-up tunes. Los Campesinos! are very likeable, very listenable and an awesome live band. Everything tonight sounded great, the guitars, the keys, the violin, the vox. And

closing the show on favourite Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks was perfect. Complete with guitarist Neil crowd-surfing whilst completing his solo, this topped off a truly special set to a truly special event. I give one blink for this! It left the sweetest sound in my head. I was still buzzing as I left. Swn had been immense. ADAM PERKINS My first hit of Swn 2009 was one-man-army Gold Panda at Clwb Ifor Bach on Friday. He took to his decks and delivered us some thumping bass to go with his extravagant dance melodies. Especially in a track called Quitters Raga with gives a new take on the Sitar and Indian chanting music like Ravi Shanker. Halfway through the set Gold Panda finally showed the panda in him and donned his panda hat with ears and all. Spinning vinyls while working with samples on his laptop shows a lot of skill and focus especially when performing live in a room filled with dry ice is a challenge. Gold Panda will certainly make some noise on the underground circuit. Then I headed over to Y Fuwch Coch to catch Jonquil. It’s hard to catergorise them, but I would go down the route of something similar to Mumford & Sons in that you can hear the folk routes there pieced together with some various brass instruments, but I also found myself hearing guitar melodies that Vampire Weekend could have been playing. It’s an interesting blend of instruments and melodies, helped with the harmonies of the vocals that will leave most punters going home smiling. I hope I get the chance to see them again as this was a really good set list. Back to Clwb Ifor Bach — what the hell was I getting myself into as the man that is known as Drums Of Death took to the stage. Wow! Dressed all in black with a white-painted face and black-rimmed eyes he scared me a bit and reminded me of that Gene Simmons Voodoo Doll film I once saw. So it was vinyls and laptop time again but with an added twist. Drums Of Death also took the mic and started singing along to his samples, while spinning vinyls and doing the old laptop mess-around. Thumping bass, and I mean thumping to the point when my body started shaking uncontrollably through no effort on my part, the floor felt like it was going to cave in and swallow me. That being said, I found myself enjoying it. Complete originality had gone into this act but, sad to say, I don’t think this sort of thing will make it to the mainstream. Discovering this kind of act on your own really shocks and surprises you at first but then gives a sense of euphoria. This becoming mainstream would tarnish that and I thank festivals like Swn for helping me discover music like this. This is some seriously underground, untouched and underated stuff. Saturday and it was Goldheart Assembly at Y Fuwch Coch. I almost didn’t make this gig as I was needed elsewhere beforehand, but I’m glad that I did get the time to watch this band perfrom. Goldheart Assembly have this

folky feeling to them which is becoming the “in” thing at the moment with bands like Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons doing the rounds. GA could be the next ones to break it in this music genre, and well deserved too. Filled with melodic vocals they reminded me of the later (better) Beatles’ ballads and that’s one hell of a comparison. The on-stage chemistry was particularly evident on the track So Long St Christopher which was a stunning performance, and you could tell the band were on the same level and knew each other inside out. Beautifully crafted songs have given them some much deserved recognition as only a few months ago they played Glastonbury and Reading. So if you’re looking for your next dose of melodic folk then look no further. GARY BOLSOM Swn Festival — heaps of bands to see, my only complaint: not enough time. Oh yeah, and Tom the “shouter” and guitarist of Pulled Apart By Horses spat beer in my eye and was sick on my feet! More about that later. I had a wristband granting me access to all Swn venues and a few hours of time on the rainy Friday 23rd October. First stop, Clwb Ifor Bach for You Animals from 8-8.30pm. All skinny jeans and big hair, this band were a mix of teenage looks and punky, riffy, pop-rock and what they lacked in banter they more than made up for in an enthusiastic performance. My gig mate and I planned strategically, choosing acts within a few hundred yard radius to fit in as much music as we could manage. Next up, Elephant & Solider in Dempsey’s from 8.30-9pm. Sam Goudie’s dreamy vocals and acoustic guitar accompanied by Olivia Smith on cello truly are a goosebump-inducing combination, having only heard the EP previously their live performance didn’t disappoint. I was sorry such beautiful music had to end, but the show(s) had to go on and so did I. Just a few puddles down Womanby Street was Geraint Williams in The Toucan Club from 9.30-10pm. This 16-year-old singer-songwriter has been compulsively creating songs since the age of 12, so says his myspace, and as such the sincerity and innocence of his music was certainly conveyed in this heartfelt live set. Seemingly shy, in time I think Geraint’s bashfulness will dissipate and his confidence will grow to match his song-writing abilities. There was just time to finish my beer before returning to Clwb for Pulled Apart By Horses (10-10.45pm). Characteristically chaotic, the Leeds band were in full flow when we arrived, delivering their screamy, thrashy, hyper energied disco rock. Undeniably engaging, I squeezed through the throng for a closer look and listen of the frenzied foursome to assume an unfortunately intimate position. Tom broke away from the main stage into the crowd, projecting an arching liquid missile of beer straight into my eyes, then threw up all over the floor, including all over my boots. A sticky end to Swn for me, but very rock and roll! LISA DERRICK

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Leisure Society

Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff Over the three days of the Swn Festival, there was one group that I had to see. It was The Leisure Society. I had been enamoured by their first album The Sleeper, a rich mix of folk and pop with an unusual slant on vocal style which you could say was almost unique. So prior to the gig I just had to have a quick chat with Nick Hemmings, the power behind the band. Tell us about The Leisure Society. It started as a home recording project for some soundtrack work I was doing for a Shane Meadow’s film many years ago. It didn’t really become a proper band until I moved down to London to play in Christian’s band. We started recording some song ideas I’d had and ended up playing a few shows as a duo, they went pretty well so I began recruiting/poaching musicians from the Brighton bands I was playing in (The Willkommen Collective). Helen was the last to join, I asked her over to record some flute on The Last Of The Melting Snow. As soon as the seven of us played together it felt complete. Seven is definitely my lucky number. On your album The Sleeper you give us a unique musical sound that is both uncommercial yet on a level which could quite easily be picked up by a mainstream audience because of its edge. How do you believe you’ve achieved this? We never really had any grand design for The Leisure Society sound, we just kept adding the instruments at our disposal, things that we liked the sound of. At the heart of it I think there are some strong melodies that people can pick up on. There is also a lot of honesty in the album, the songs were very cathartic for me to write, things I was dealing with at the time, but hopefully themes other people can relate to. We poured a lot of love into the album too and hopefully that comes across, we laboured long and hard over every arrangement. Did you set out to follow a different musical path or did your music just develop this way? I started out as a rock guitarist, I certainly never thought I’d be a singer in a band. I wouldn’t even sing in front of my own girlfriend for years, never mind a paying audience! I had a bit of a revelation after listening to The Beach Boys Friends & 20/20 album, it opened my ears to endless musical possibilities. The songs on the album seem very personal and emotive. What is it like to open yourselves up in this way? It’s quite scary at times. Melting Snow is incredibly personal, I remember finding out Marc Radcliffe was going to play it on his Radio 2 show. I was quivering in front of the radio, terrified that he’d rip it to pieces. Luckily for us he liked it. How do you feel the songs on the album transpose to a live set? I think the songs are possibly better live. What we miss in instrumentation — there are probably about 100 different instrument tracks on A Matter Of Time — we more than make up for with exuberance. You’re here playing Swn, the Cardiff Festival devoted to both new and interesting music. How do you feel about being part of this event that Huw Stephens has organised? It’s great to be asked to play, there are some amazing bands playing over the weekend. It’s particularly exciting for us as it’s kicking off our first ever European tour. We’re playing Cardiff and Canterbury then heading across the channel to France, Germany and Belgium. Their gig was held in the refectory at Chapter and started off as bizarrely as the music we were about to hear. After queuing outside, the crowds rolled in to find the band all standing on the stage, looking slightly perplexed. They silently waited for the room to fill until Nick said, “I suppose we should start now.” They soon washed away any signs of awkwardness as they pushed through their set, the crowd becoming more appreciative by the second. To say they were note perfect, sounding even better live than on the album, would be both an understatement and unfair on their recording debut, but as they played a set including A Fighting Chance, The Last Of The Melting Snow and A Short Weekend Begins With Longing they found a new fan base in the Swn audience and proved to me personally why this had been my choice of performances to see over this weekend. DW

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James Morrison

Cardiff International Arena “The first time I played Cardiff was down the road at the Barfly with an audience of two people, and I think they had come to see the other band anyway!” James Morrison told the 10,000 people who were hanging on his every word. The mention of Cardiff sent the crowd into a frenzy, in fact anytime he mentioned Wales, said “Diolch” or even moved around the stage everyone screamed. “I love you James!” shouted the girl next to me, who followed up this revelation by falling over, spilling her pint of beer over my shoes. I was a little surprised — not by her falling over but that she had changed her affections so quickly — as just moments before she had shouted, “I want to have your baby!” to the lead singer of One Republic, the almost-show-stealing support act! James Morrison had come to Cardiff to promote his already well promoted latest album Songs For You, Truths For Me and kicked off his set with the first track of the album, the funky soul groove The Only Night. And this was a big night, in a big venue filled to capacity, with a solitary man backed by a 10piece band that included two backing vocalists and a threepiece horn section. You may have thought that Morrison, who it has to be said is very slight, would have been lost amongst the show’s paraphernalia onstage, but he wasn’t — in fact he seemed to grow in stature through the performance. When he opened his mouth to sing his voice exploded out of his body, filling the whole place and everybody’s head within it! To say it was powerful, would be understating the man — cos boy can he sing, having one of the best soul voices around that completely held the stage for the next hour and a half. Mixing up hits with album tracks and classic soul numbers, the songs just kept coming. Of course, it was the hit singles that created the most pandemonium among the crowd: Please Don’t Stop the Rain, Broken Strings and Nothing Ever Hurts Like You, which he performed wonderfully well with Motown

classics I’m Coming and It’s Alright thrown into the middle. But it really didn’t matter what he sang because whatever he did sing was performed with complete conviction and professionalism. The set ended with You Give Me Something — but as ever the crowd wanted more, so in the encore he gave us his version of Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror (before which he moonwalked across the stage) and ended the show with Here With Me. James Morrison proved he is a force to be reckoned with on the music circuit, and deserves the accolades thrown at him by his adoring fans — one of whom was the bloke in front of us (who was with his wife at the time) and couldn’t help shouting: “I love You James!” Though I did worry how this revelation was going to affect his relationship, coming out in front of thousands of people in this way, it was the power of James Morrision’s performance that had made this happen. Morrison deserves his success and I’m sure his little daughter to whom he dedicated the song Love Is Hard will grow up being proud of her dad. GG

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CDs, EPs Downloads & Demos

Dame Shirley Bassey

The Performance (album)

Our Shirley is back and, believe me, there ain’t nothing like this dame! With an album of all-new material she doesn’t just sing with her powerfully unique voice, but tells you a story, rolling out the drama that has been this lady’s life, a story of every stage she has ever walked upon and every audience she has held captivated with the sound of her dulcet tones. This isn’t Dame Shirl doing the bombastic style of her classics that we all know and love, like Big Spender, this is the lady being more reflective and subtle. But she still reaches those wonderful heights that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck — especially on the opening track Almost There. For The Performance she has collaborated with many famous names and this in itself proves how well respected she is by other musicians. Take That’s Gary Barlow has penned This Time, while Nice Men was written by the excellent KT Tunstall. On the final track, The Performance Of My Life, those stalwarts of beautiful bombastic pleasures the Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, take a hand. But the track that stands head and shoulders above the rest comes from a collaboration with true understanding of Welsh minds — and that is The Girl From Tiger Bay which was written by the Manic Street Preachers for this amazing woman of substance. Throughout the album the brilliant composer David Arnold pulls things together beautifully, with ornate orchestration that proves he was the right man for the job. And despite their collective musical credentials, no one connected with this album stands in the way of Dame Shirley who makes every song a joy to listen to. The majority of the music press has been unkind in their reviews of this album by our Shirl, but I’m here to tell them that they’re wrong in condemning The Performance — they obviously can’t see or hear the power, the history and the emotion that she’s put into each and every performance on it. She is a true Welsh icon and this album confirms that, simply by effortlessly showing the awesome power of her incomparable voice. Dame Shirley Bassey is unique and should be respected for that. GG 38

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Rise Against Saviour (single) During the PLUGGED IN writer’s workshop we set the students the task of reviewing a CD. Here are two of the results: The start of the song draws me in. There’s no instrumental introduction, the singer jumps straight into the song’s lyrics as the first chord is struck. The section which is normally the bridge is replaced by what seems to be the introduction. Personally, this throws me off track for a while until the chorus kicks in and the screamy vocals of the lead singer is repeating, “I don’t hate you”. The song starts to wind down to the end and I’ve realised this song is almost as if it was written by a teenager suffering from depression not a grown man. But this is the music that catches my attention the most. VICKIE JONES Adrenaline pumping angst is abundant in this track. The blaring racket makes you want to punch a wall — but in a good way! The floor around my feet must surely have been slowly eroding, as my foot is tapping like a thing possessed. Yes, the lyrics are hard to pick out, apart from the occasional scream of “I don’t hate you”, but it all makes for a fantastic tune to thrash your head to. The drums pierce through the guitar riffs with all the force and passion of the aforementioned punch to the wall, making your heart beat in emotive synergy. One for the mopey teenager that dwells inside us all. ABBIE EVANS Ian Brown My Way (album) Opens with a pretty decent track called Stellify, an original beat plods this one along at a steady pace while gathering volume as it goes. The second track Crowning Of The Poor sounds like it was mistakenly taken off a Jay-Z album with Brown adding his own lyrics — very odd! There is a lot of weird stuff happening on this album, track three again has a hip-hop vibe about it. Marathon Man just doesn’t do it for me and then the track Own Brain has these weird synths which sounds like they shouldn’t be there. There is also a cover of In The Year 2525 which was famously done by Zager & Evans and is an odd cover for Ian Brown to do. The plus points are the above mentioned Stellify, Laugh Now and album closer So High, which is more of the Ian Brown his fans know — but nothing compares to the old classic F.E.A.R. GARY Spectrum7 So Silent The Night (album) When they say don’t judge an album by its cover, this is the album they’re talking about! I really loved this album. With a Muse-like sound and a hint of Alien Ant Farm quirkiness that really made this a good album to listen to. The only disappointment was that it’s so short, only seven songs, but all well written and sung. Just everything about it had us all in the car, with the music blasting, trying to sing along! SIWAN The Guns With The Guns (album) The long-awaited debut by The Guns is here, and it will blow your head off. “It’s On Like Donkey Kong,” the fast and furious opener proclaims. It’s on indeed! And you

can’t get it off. As reported in Issue 5 of PLUGGED IN, this has been a long time coming, so it’s no surprise that The Guns have produced an amazing 12-track. Favourites like Gordons & Lemonade and No No Know still come across with epic proportions. Fast and tantalising, this record is in your face rock’n’roll. Tracks like You Can Eff Right Off and Listen Up are racy and rebellious, leaving you trying to catch up, whilst North Or South and Kings & Queens offer a glimpse of the cool and collected without loosing any of The Guns’ raucous style and temperament. With The Guns is a banging record, summing up The Guns existence so far. ADAM Katherine Jenkins Believe (album) Wow! The new forces sweetheart returns with a stunning new album of beautiful songs and a sexy image that looks like she’s ready to do more for our solider boys than just sing! Included is an excellent reworking of Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life, minus the rapping (now that would have been a revelation) and the sumptuous duet with Andrea Bocelli I Believe. Our Kath is trying to break the US market with this and her new Greatest Hits package that have been released at the same time, and if the American’s don’t take to her and her voice they must be both blind and deaf. A must for any home in Wales. DW Eskimo Project Once Around The Sun (album) Eskimo Project are certainly an interesting bunch. Hailing from Ashford, they are a threepiece band but like to invite others to join in the fun (helping to create their “digital baby” as they like to call it). Once Around The Sun is the band’s sophomore effort and is a fantastic collection of instantly loveable songs. With hints of an older influence by way of The Beatles, and more recently Kula Shaker/Feeder, this record is beautifully catchy. Copious amounts of feel-good ambiance in songs such as Hydrogen Bomb and Dreaming Of Summer, this down-to-earth album is a pleasure to listen to. MARK Yeah Yeah Yeahs It’s Blitz (album) The Yeah Yeah Yeahs can get deep, down and dirty but the new CD also displays that the band can display a diligent dance drive and an angelic acoustic approach (get the four bonus tune version of the LP). Karen O & Co still have gusto, but they have fine tuned their style to create new textures. The Big Apple has brought us great acts such as The New York Dolls, The Beastie Boys and now the YYY’s (as their CV advances with each acclaimed album). The slick singles Zero and Heads Will Roll are rock/disco delights, and It’s Blitz has much more Midas! We say Yes! Yes! Yes! to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs! ROB Void All Because Of You (album) This album is defo a creeper. At first it was like listening to the really old Bon Jovi or Stereophonics’stuff, then it was “Oooooohhh this is quite good.” Love the songs, well written, not over-produced so the rawness of the band came through. Really good album, for all the family! SIWAN

Broken City Skyline It’s So Dark On The Outside (ep) These indie kids have been going for about three years and have improved with age. Third track on the ep, So Low, is a stunning piano-driven track which makes you want to hear more from these guys. The effect they have on the vocals makes me think I am listening to them playing in an empty hall, but this effect gives off an anthemic feel to the songs. GARY Nia Morgan Nia Morgan (album) Ms Morgan sounds exactly how I imagined her from looking at the cover photo on this album. This is a sweet, gentle, folky collection of songs, four of which are sung in Welsh, including Hon. Though she never rocks out, this makes for pleasant enough listening, perhaps best played on a lazy Sunday morning. STEPH Robin James Saint Jude (album) Love-struck Robin James is clearly a man in amorous disarray. There is a gentle charm about this album which has a lot to do with its laid back “straight to tape” approach to recording (think Jose Gonzalez’s Veneer). Tales of lost love and religion dominate, from the haunting fragility of Postcard to the beautifully crafted Going Blind. Van Gogh is a standout track, where James really comes into his own (lyrically, vocally and musically). Overall this is a beautifully simplistic, fragile and vulnerable record and is certainly a grower. MARK Zenyth Fall (ep) Full of melodies, guitars and drums, this would fit snuggly into my itunes collection. Don’t be surprised if this band start making some waves in 2010. Death Of The City Life has an addictive guitar riff and the main riff of Dirt reminds me of Shoot The Runner by Kasabian, which is always is a good thing. If you like your guitars and addictive chorus’es then give this a listen. GARY Automatic Insterstate (single) As part of a micro-teach lesson on writing a review, I set the class the task of reviewing The Automatic’s latest single. The students then had to assess the results with the two joint winners being published below. DW Interstate opens with a slight raw feel, reminiscent of the late 70s punk era mixed with middle-of-the-road Brit pop rhythms. More Britain’s Got Talent than Jello Biathro this is nevertheless both catchy and energetic. But is it a monster hit? ANDY WANT The track is a chirpy and cheerful one. The gradual beginning and ending of the song reflects a piece with nostalgic reminiscence at its core. Although the lyrics may not have a great deal of depth, they are catchy and fit the feel of the song well. To me, this is a summer anthem for mellow house parties with laid back pals. GETHIN DOWN

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Stereophonics Keep Calm & Carry On (album) It’s difficult to ever say that Kelly Jones can do no wrong and it’s hard for me to say this being an avid follower of the band since year dot but with Keep Calm... there seems to be something lacking. The songs are good but very little stands out and it’s that wow factor the Phonics usually deliver that is the missing element. Of course you get variety of styles plus skilled musicianship but the edge has been softened. Maybe because it follows on from Decade In The Sun, the brilliant Greatest Hits package that the band delivered to us last year that was an unstoppable listen and permanent fixture in my car that this album seems like an anti-climax. Still it’s better than most albums around today, buying it wouldn’t be a disaster, and it still shows that the Stereophonics are Wales’ largest and best worldwide rock musical export and even these guys can have a bad day. DW AFI Crash Love (album) Long-standing members of the LA rock scene, AFI’s 8th studio effort is an allembracing big production affair. Opener Torch Song hits you with no-nonsense layered melodic rock, and Too Shy To Scream takes you into Green Day pop-Ppunk territory; bouncy beats, punky guitar and sing-along choruses galore. Single Medicate is a stormer, with a killer intro riff and a massive singalong chorus. This isn’t just a band churning out pop-punk by numbers however, listen out for the change of direction midway through Medicate. Whilst not really my cup of tea, the fact that AFI are still making fresh sounding music with no lack of enthusiasm is certainly worth applauding. For fans of Green Day, Kaiser Chiefs, 30 Seconds To Mars, Hoobastank. MARK New York Dolls Cause I Sez So (album) This has sonic survivors Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen igniting akin to their 70s incarnation. Cause I Sez So is a jigsaw of gems that shows four decades of circling this Punishing World has made a dynamic duo stronger for the experience. The ’09 Dolls kick it with their seedy glam/punk, but they also adopt 60s pop (with a nod to the epic girl groups of the era), sleazy blues, saloon balladry and spaghetti western rock (that would fit a Tarantino film score). David and Sylvain have burnt every candle at both ends. and God bless them! ROB Fighting Fiction (four track ep) Fighting Fiction produce a “powerful collision of indie rock guitar riffs, reggae-tinged punk and socially aware lyrics” according to the cover of their CD. Hmm… They’ve covered a lot of bases here, but the truth is they remind me of the kind of political punk band you would’ve seen at TJ’s 25 years ago. While the mellowest track, You Mean the World To Me, with its declarations of love is strangely reminiscent of early Billy Bragg. STEPH

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Million Dead A Song To Ruin (album) This is fast, furious and noisy as hell. Metal fans will enjoy the screaming, the old school riffs and complex drumming, in the same territory as Gallows and Enter Shakiri. To quote one of the tracks here: “The Kids are going to love it.” LUCAS Meretto Street Talking (album) I did quite like this album, was thinking positive thoughts, then the bad language started. It totally spoiled it for me, as I’ve got young kids, so couldn’t give the album the time I would have liked to. Shame! SIWAN Kate Walsh Light & Dark (album) I’ve heard the name Kate Walsh for a while now but must confess to not having given her due airtime, until now that is. Walsh is obviously a talented vocalist and guitarist, quickly established in album opener As He Pleases. It features beautiful instrumentation and is accompanied by Walsh’s unmistakable voice, perfectly setting the tone for a soothing album. Trying sees Walsh venture into full band territory, more akin to Turin Brakes (who, upon reading the album insert actually play on the song — an instant winner in my book then). 1000 Bees stands out for me, a superbly crafted uplifting melodically rich pop sing-along tune. Light & Dark travels through a variety of emotions — from melancholic through to uplifting, contemplative to blissfully ignorant. This is mellow Sunday afternoon music at best, but that’s not meant to be a bad thing. For fans of Turin Brakes, Zero 7, Natalie Imbruglia. MARK Funeral For A Friend Your History Is Mine: 2002-2009 (album) When an artist releases of a best of package after only four albums, it throws up all sorts of questions including: can they supply enough songs to call it a best of? Well in the case of FFAF they can. This is probably one of the best packages you could spend your hard earned cash on this Christmas. Filled with everything from 10.45 Amsterdam Conversations to Kicking & Screaming from Memory & Humanity you get a true sense of FFAF progression. The high point is History, a line from which that the album title is taken and Into Oblivion (Reunion) when Funeral were at their strongest commercially. The only dampner is the four new song that are tacked on the end which, though good songs, haven’t stood the test of time and you feel they’re just added to make the true dedicated fans spend more money. Two new tracks would have been enough and the inclusion of Waterfront Danceclub would have finished this off perfectly for me. Saying that the additional album of rarities, demos and b-sides is a real treat for true fans, especially their version of U2s Sunday Bloody Sunday and the dance version of Into Oblivion that stands out like a sore thumb. Go buy this, you won’t regret it. DW

Eliza Doolittle (four track ep) The original Eliza Doolittle was the character from My Fair Lady who rose from rags to riches. Not sure if these four songs will elevate this Eliza Doolittle to superstardom, but it’s very well-produced and radio friendly. Think warm, husky vocals over modern, jazzy grooves. Stand-out track is Go Home — neat, cute and very catchy — and any song that ends with the words “Cha cha cha!” is ok by me! STEPH The Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique, Check your Head & Ill Communication (albums) These are 09 re-runs of fine LPs with bonus remixes and rarities. These CDs are imperative listens, but please look out for an updated version of Ill Communication because this is the most accomplished of the B-Boys back catalogue albums. The lads cross a mass of musical genres and their travels offer us rock/punk/jazz/funk/hip hop and more! Guitar riffs crash in to subtle instrumentals, hard core leads in to old school and in amongst this endless creativity extra treats are also on board! ROB REM Live At The Olympia (album) REM have got a weird thing going: old but too famous to be cult heroes, yet old but too small to be U2 (their stop at Cardiff this year had to be moved from the Millennium Stadium to the CIA due to lack of ticket sales) — they’re kinda stuck in the middle, like lukewarm water. I suppose they must be making money by taking advantage of the obsessive side of their fan base, because this is the band’s second live album in two years, all from a band that previously hadn’t released any! Luckily for REM, the music tends to be pretty great, especially since this time they’re focusing on the earlier IRS years (yes, I’m one of those fans!), featuring great versions of Driver 8, Feeling Gravity’s Pull and Carnival Of Sorts (Box Cars) while even managing to make songs from Reckoning, an album I always thought was pretty mediocre, sound good. There’s also lots of fun stage banter from Stipe & Co too, which is particularly entertaining when he reads out some misheard lyrics found online of West Of The Fields. Oh, but if you couldn’t have guessed with this 39-song (as the cover proudly notes) extravaganza, it’s too long. Thirty minutes is raw rock and roll fury, 70 minutes is a nice overview, two and a half hours is total overkill. Unless, like me, you’re an obsessive fan of course. JAKE Doves Kingdom Of Rust (album) This album confirms that this talented trio are the masters of the soulful, indie anthem. Eleven haunting hymns glide with grace and these tunes are inspirational in terms of their ambition and application. The Hours and Cherry Ghost have recorded crafted tunes that deserve more reward, but Doves can claim the kudos of critical credits and successful sales! This winning formula looks set to continue for the funk boy three of guitar-rock! ROB


live performance Cerys Matthews Don’t Look Down (album) Cerys Matthews returns with her long-awaited offering and delivers us two versions at the same time — one in English, the other in Welsh. Don’t Look Down though is just what you’d expect from the brilliant songstress — uplifting, reminiscent songs, with boundary changes between traditional folk to more poppy radio-friendly numbers like album opener Arlington Way. This is an album which may take some getting into, but once you realise the power of Cerys’ song-writing you’ll never let it leave your turntable. She is an undeniable Welsh talent that transforms everyday life into a thing of beauty. DW Lightning Bolt Earthly Pleasures (album) For anyone who doesn’t know, Lightning Bolt are a drum and bass duo from Providence, Rhode Island, who play heavy repetitive riff based-noise rock with fantastic hands-allover-the-place drumming and weird vocal effects coming from inside the drummer’s collection of bizarre masks. They’ve been around for about 10 years and Earthly Pleasures is their fifth album, continuing their pattern of being an improvement on the last one. The sonic palette is essentially the same as 2005’s Hypermagic Mountain, it’s cut live to two-track DAT with no overdubs, essentially replicating their loud as hell live concerts. Differences? Well it’s nine minutes or so shorter than the last one, which adds clarity — not a moment is wasted. The song-writing has improved a lot too, this time drummer Brian Chippendale spends more time playing along with Brian Gibson’s bass riffs, instead of performing flurries of seemingly randomly drum hits. The wild vocal effects almost seem melodic on the stoner rock Colossus and the bizzare world cow-punk of Funny Farm and plenty of other tracks. Although anyone interested in a sample of what these guys are all about should check out the 12-minute finale Tranmissionary. For some it will be pure head-banging bliss, for others it will be a Guantanamo Bay torture-style endurance test. JAKE

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Nephu Huzzband Elementary (album) Where to start? At first I thought trying so hard to be the Sex Pistols and failing, but then track 8 started and it was WOW. Did start to get into the album as a whole after a few listens, but tracks 8 to 12 were what made it for me — so much so they’ve been put onto my playlist! Was like going back in time and listening to Motorhead. Yipee! SIWAN Trashcan Sinatras People (single) The only time I saw gentle Scottish indiepopsters Trashcan Sinatras playing live, they looked as nervous as a bunch of five-year-olds in a nativity play. Many years later, on the cover of their latest single People, they look more like dads who’ve just dropped the kids off to the play. Yet they sound as laid-back and light as ever. People is taken from their fifth studio album In The Music. Recorded in New York, it’s so mellow it could’ve been created in a field in England on a summer’s day. Call me cynical, but when the singer croons about “People — people who fall in love…” it’s way too wimpy for me. STEPH Straight Lines Versus The Allegiance (single) And from the flames did a mighty pheonix grow. Straight Lines have formed from the demise of PLUGGED IN favs SaidMike and bring us this the first single from the forthcoming album Persistence In This Game (a telling title if there ever was one). What we get is a pacey fast forward hectic piece of indie pop that is both relentless and energetic. If this sample is anything to go by then the album is going to be brilliant. DW Nouvelle Vague 3 (album) This album is full of leftfield covers (Echo & the Bunnymen, Sex Pistols, Psychedelic Furs, Magazine, Gary Numan, Simple Minds, Soft Cell) all done in styles far removed from the originals! 3 is sweet, sublime and charismatic with guest slots from Ian McCulloch (Echo & The Bunnymen), Terry Hall (The Specials/Fun Boy 3) and Barry Adamson (Magazine). ROB Overspill Poets Thompson Falls (album) First track Thompson Falls opens well enough, however I can’t help feel it would benefit drastically from a live drum kit. There is some lovely guitar work throughout the album (listen out for the intro to Boxing Gloves as well as the slide playing and outro solo on The Neon Lights Are Beautiful). This record is radio-friendly enough, however the use of a full live band along with some subtle harmonies (think Eagles) would give this collection of country-esque songs a chance to breathe and shine. MARK

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Lack Of Afro My Groove Your Move (album) “I’m telling ya, everything is beautiful here. It’s gonna be real groovy, man!” cries the sample in track six (Beautiful Here) and that’s not far off the truth. This is an inventive collection of songs filled with funky grooves, clever sampling, tinkling piano and a bit of rap. Great name for a band, too. STEPH Moscow Drive Colossal (single) I like this track, listened to it quite a few times cos it has a real nice sound, which isn’t in-your-face. Very much an anthem in the making if they were a better-known band. I must admit though, I loved the b-side, Cincinnati, even more. Both songs are growers, the more I listened the more I liked what I heard! SIWAN

send your CDs for review tO: THE EDITOR PLUGGED IN magazine Haul Fryn Publishing HAUL FRYN Courthouse Street Pontypridd CF37 1JW

Tiger Please! They Don’t Change Under Moonlight (album) Sounding like an American-influenced melodic rock band, this is the most accomplished set of songs that our local boys have ever produced. You can hear the work that has gone into each track through the song structures and vocals that can be lacking live (especially after a few drinks, Leon mate!). Every track is a winner, especially Without Country the sing-along winner for this issue. Great things have now come from this band and on the standing of this mini-album, our expectations have been raised above the roof. Don’t miss out on a great Welsh band and get this album now. DW


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THE MUSIC MAGAZINE FOR WALES

THE BLACKOUT

on chart success — and living with Mum PLUS The Oratorios The Epaulettes Y Betti Galws Fusebox The 3Gs Community Choir ALSO Live Merthyr Music

SPECIAL ISSUE


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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hen you think of Merthyr Tydfil and its musical heritage, not that many names spring to mind. There is the great Peter Carey, the show-stopping singer famous for his role in Phantom Of The Opera and... Donny Osmond, though really it’s a distant family link as he never actually grew up on the Gurnos estate himself! But those two famous names aside, there was only one group of guys who actually featured on the Merthyr PLUGGED IN list of bands we wanted to talk to. They are, of course, The Blackout. PLUGGED IN first interviewed The Blackout prior to their gig at Cardiff University for Issue 3 and have always kept an eye on the six guys’ progress — as they have done with us, asking about the next issue whenever we meet. So to finally get hold of them and give them a cover was a long time coming — and a bit of a coup, as the boys were in the middle of a tour and were back in Wales visiting family for just one week...it happened to be the week we contacted them explaining we were working on a mini-mag called Merthyr PLUGGED IN. As usual, they were extremely supportive of what we were doing and three of the six-piece were able to give up one of their evenings to come along and be interviewed by two of our young students on the project. Settling down at a table just inside the picture window of Glamorgan Gates in Merthyr’s high street, Gareth, Matt and Sean were introduced to Merthyr PLUGGED IN’s Alex and Taylor who would be asking a few questions. But before the interview got underway, I [Darren] started the conversation by talking about the distance the guys have come since our last interview, having released two albums in a fairly short time — firstly, the long-awaited tour de force We Are The Dynamite followed, more recently, by the more commercial but no less explosive Best In Town. So how did they feel We Are The Dynamite was received? Sean gives a proud little smile and says, “I think it was received quite well.” Very modest there I think! “Looking back, we were kind of forced into it by our label Fierce Panda who basically said: ‘OK guys, you’ve got to have an album out in two months.’ But it was good for us to have a full-length album out, with lots of new material on it.” Well they definitely gave themselves a bit of an anthem with the title track, I remember hearing loud chants from the crowd of “We are the dynamite!” before the band hit the stage. “Yes, our fans seem to like that one,” says Sean, again in modest tones. With the release of their second full-length album Best In Town the band seem to have picked up more radio airplay. I was amazed, but very pleasantly surprised and happy for the guys, when I heard the first single, Save Yourselves, being played by Jo Whiley on daytime

Radio 1. So what is it like to be finally recognised and placed into the mainstream? “Whatever you do when you make something new you’re always going to have people who are not going to like it, but we’ve never intended to limit ourselves to a certain kind of audience. It’s always been a dream of ours to get as far and do as much as we possibly can. We an never be accused of selling out because how can you sell out from your original intentions? We’re a kind of pop band in a rock band’s body, whose song-writing skills have developed as we’ve developed. Working with Jason Perry on the Best In Town has given us a compatriot who has found the best in us, commercial or otherwise. You know, a little bit pop, a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll...” Gareth interjects: “We’ve never really stuck to one formula from the start. If you take our first ep, The Blackout, The Blackout, The Blackout, most of the songs were heavy, but then you get High Tide that brought us away from everything else we were doing at that time kind of showing the next step. What you now get with Best In Town is a sort of mix of everything and all that influences us on one album.” Matt adds: “We just like to mix it up, which shows we’re not following one route.” This is a factor that was shown with the release of the first single from Best In Town. Called Save Yourselves it is a very commercially astute song that is still without a doubt The Blackout. Mellower in its style, the chorus consists of the repeated line “This is The Blackout” which leads me to say that I believe it to be one of the most effective pieces of song-writing marketing that I’ve heard in a long time. If you’re new to The Blackout, like most Radio 1 listeners would be, then the boys are telling you exactly who they are throughout the song. So who formulated that idea? “We’d written the main structure of the song but had a problem with the chorus, though we knew we had a certain number of syllables to sing. It was actually Jason’s idea to use ‘The Blackout’ as the line and we thought that’ll work, plus we’d be constantly shouting our name out,” explains Sean.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Merthyr PLUGGED IN gets an exclusive interview with the boys from The Blackout Words by Alex & Taylor Photographs by Darren Warner Matt adds: “It was kind of strange. We’d finished the album and had left Sean and Gavin in Essex to complete the vocals, not knowing what this crucial chorus was going to be. When we got it back and we heard ‘This is The Blackout’ it was so right.” So with six members in a band that is touring relentlessly, the boys must feel like they’re living in each other’s pockets. I had to ask how come they aren’t publicly ripping each other’s heads off. Matt kicks off by saying, “The thing is, we’re all friends and basically have always been together....” “Apart from the drummer who we found one day in Giles Sports,” interjects Sean with a wry smile. “The band became something to do really just to pass the time. And nothing has changed. We’re just friends who play music together.” “Everything’s a joke,” adds Gareth. “Sometimes we’re just having a laugh and practising something and we go: ‘Boys! We’ve been to Japan, twice!! How did that happen?’” “If you’d told me three years ago that I’d know Linkin Park, I’d have said: “That’s not going to happen’,” adds Sean. “To have toured with them, well, that was awesome.” The gig Sean was referring to was Linkin Park’s European tour that Gail and myself caught up with at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes, which under the title of Projekt Revoution also featured the superstar rapper Jay-Z. Much to our disappointment, The Blackout were not scheduled to play this one-off event — though the boys were moshing with the rest of the crowd on the day. A shame because we’re sure the 80,000 crowd would have been blown away by the Merthyr boys. So who else have the guys toured with? “So many great bands you wouldn’t believe. Like America’s The Used, who I got to sing on stage with,” says Sean. “In fact, I’ll have to say that of all the bands we’ve ever wanted to play with, we actually have. Apart from the ones who are dead, that is. I’d like to reanimate Freddy Mercury... but apparently that’s not allowed!” Personally, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen The Blackout play live, first noticing them at the Full Ponty 2006 where they were down the list and regarded as “a band from Merthyr”. Since that time I’ve caught them at Clwb y Bont, performing an acoustic set with guest vocals by Ian Watkins (of the LostProphets), playing the Full Ponty 2007 (almost topping the playlist and taking to the stage with the crowd chanting “We Are The Dynamite”), then headlining the rock night at the following year’s Big Weekend, among many other occasions. (These mean a lot to me as all the gigs were within a mile of my house, so I could float home happy.) One thing I’ve noticed each time is that the live set hasn’t just got stronger due to the professional nature of a band’s learning process, but that they are getting much more energetic at a time when most other groups seem to calm down and just perform the numbers. Unlike any other group, The Blackout seem to have stepped up a gear. “With the amount of touring that we’ve done and the amount of other bands that we’ve seen who just seem to be strolling along, I want them to say of us, ‘What’s wrong with these guys, they’re constantly running about.’ When we started the band we didn’t think about things like recording albums, we just wanted to play live. And we do enjoying shocking people! By touring so much we’ve got to hone our instrumental and vocal skills to a point that means we can run around and climb things,” says Sean. “And enjoy ourselves,” adds Matt. Gareth sums up saying: “We try to be the band that we’d like to go and see, and no offence to indie bands but if you’re just stood there your audience might as well just listen to the CD and save themselves £30 or more. As for us, we’re just trying to mix it up a bit.” The Blackout and LostProphets have always shown friendship and respect for each other, with Ian Watkins even guesting on the anthem hit Hide Tide Baby (check). Have they ever considered doing a double-headlining tour or collaborating on a track together? “What I’d like to do is a Christmas dingle, but not just with the LostProphets

with all the Welsh bands, like Funeral For A Friend, Bullet For My Valentine and Attack! Attack! among others,” answers Sean. Gail (the editor) who is in the room keeping an eye on the proceedings and never one to miss an opportunity quickly interjects, “Well I’ve always wanted to do a cover shoot with all the Welsh bands on it. Maybe for the magazine’s 5th Birthday.” (I’m not quite sure how we would fit them all on the cover but, hey, I’ll find a way!) “Yeah,” says Sean getting excited at the prospect, “and we could put a CD on the front with tracks from all the bands including the Christmas song!” When the laughter dies down, Taylor and Alex start to question the guys about coming from a town like Merthyr Tydfil. Taylor: While you were growing up in Merthyr was their anything in particular that influenced you to be a part of the music industry? “Boredom, I guess,” answers Sean. “When we were in school there was really nothing to do. Matthew and me were sitting in a science lesson at one time and said, ‘Let’s just start a band’ and because

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there was nothing else to do it just made sense.” Alex: So what was the first music you bought? “Guns ’ n’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion 2,” says Sean, adding, “I was into a lot of dance music until I was about 16 when I found Limp Biskit. I heard Fred Durst the lead vocalist swearing and I thought, ‘That’s really cool, I want to do that, swearing is the future.’ And as I grow up I want to do more swearing and I’ve got to learn to swear as best as I can. I suppose Limp Biskit changed my world. Without them I would never have found rock and would never be in the position we are today. And guess what, I told him so when we met him once. He just said ‘Thank you’ and walked away as if he didn’t care...” Taylor: Any influences musically to form a band? “I became a bit of a sweaty mosher and had been playing LostProphets’ Fake Sound Of Progress constantly so decided to watch them live at the Blackwood Miners Institute. It was my first ever gig and it was awesome. We said that if we could be even a quarter as good as they were, it’ll be amazing.” Matt adds: “I think that the Prophets made us believe that making it in music was achievable. Around that time rock was stadium based with the likes of Metallica and Bon Jovi and was distant. Seeing the LostProphets doing it in front of 200 people was very inspiring.” “They were doing what was regarded as more of an American thing at that time, being more of a rock band than an indie band,” adds Sean. Gareth then tells us: “Local rock bands around that time couldn’t get a gig for love nor money. By the Prophets doing what they did they became pioneers and have influenced every Welsh band since.” Alex: So where did The Blackout get their name from? “We used to be called Ten Minute Preview, then we changed our sound when Bob, our rapidly balding guitarist, joined. The new sound needed a new name and we saw a T-shirt regarding the New York Blackout that afflicted the city in 2001 (I think). It said: ‘I Survived The Blackout’ and we thought that’d be a great name for our band — plus we got a T-shirt idea as well! Apparently, there’s a white power band called Blackout, but we didn’t realise that fact or we wouldn’t have chosen the name. At one gig we played in LA

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this fella turned up, stripped to the waste and had white pride tattooed across his chest. We started playing and he looked at us as if saying ‘poofs’ and quickly left.” Taylor: So was there any band you wanted to be like? “LostProphet, I guess,” says Sean. “For a long time I wanted to be Ian Watkins, but now I know him I find him quite annoying really...” He laughs. “I did want to be Limp Biskit, too, and definitely wanted a red baseball cap.” “I’ve still got mine,” adds Gareth. “And for a while,” continues Sean, “I wanted to be Kelly Jones, being a fan of the Stereophonics at that time. I saw them in Morpha Stadium.” “I think everyone in Wales saw them in Morpha

Stadium,” quips Gareth again. “Just loads of bands really, including PLUGGED IN Issue 4 cover stars Midasuno, who we used to follow everywhere. They were just wild and smashed up the venue.” Most bands try to escape the places where they grew up, but The Blackout are renowned for returning home. So what is it about the town that pulls them back? “My mother lives here,” says Matt, and Sean adds: “I have thought about getting an apartment in Cardiff, but I like being here. Merthyr is not as bad as people like to make out. My parents live here and living with them is cheaper than having my own place. In fact there’s no point in any of us having an apartment as we’re never home long enough before we’re off touring again.” But do you think that Methyr could do with a decent live venue? “I don’t think it’s that necessary. Venues in the past have failed because Cardiff isn’t that far away and attracts the more popular bands. They probably think Cardiff is far enough so don’t want to travel further into Wales,” answers Sean, adding, “Not that it’s like Deliverance up here!” So are you proud to be Welsh? “I guess so. It’s growing on me.” Then Sean explains: “I originally didn’t like the patriotism that you

can get with the Rugby boys going out saying ‘Let’s fight the English’. But my pride has grown because I think we’re a humourous nation who have learned not to take ourselves too seriously.” “We’re not ashamed of our heritage, being from Merthyr or Wales,” continues Matt. “We always tell our audience we’re from Wales, but don’t need to go as far as having ‘Made In Wales’ tatooed across our foreheads.” “And we do have the best flag in the world. Think of a better one!” challenges Sean. I rack my brain and instantly think of the St George’s Cross but don’t believe that anyone else in the room, let alone Methyr Tydfil, would agree with my choice. “If somebody made a flag with a wolf fighting a bear on it, maybe that’ll win, but I don’t think anybody could really beat a dragon,” concludes Gareth. So what would do they believe The Blackout would have turned out like if they had grown up in somewhere like Surbiton in Surrey? “Well we would never have seen the LostProphets which would have been a bummer...” quips Sean. Matt adds: “Welsh bands seem more focused on songs, while English bands are more technical. Our personalities are like this, because of being from Merthyr Tydfi, being from Wales.” “Also, we would have been English which would have automatically made us scumbags...” jokes Sean as he looks straight at me, the English fella sitting opposite him. The Blackout have presence and have the wit, humour and, of course, talent to take them away from the confines of the town where they grew up. But they are not ready to turn their backs on the place, nor I believe ever will. They want to stay in touch and by staying within touching distance of the ground will always mean that the ground is in touching distance of them. Cut the ties and you’ll float off, forgetting who you are. The Blackout will never forget who they are, ever.

The Best In Town by The Blackout is out now, featuring additional vocals on Children Of The Night by Year 6 Heolgerrig Primary School, Merthyr Tydfil


Y Betti Galws Y Betti Galws are an exclusively Welsh-speaking band, who believe that their music transcends all language barriers, and you can enjoy their music whether you speak Welsh or not. The band members are Jamie on guitar, Phyl on guitar, Eifion on bass, Tom on drums, and Emma and Delyth on vocals. Jamie is the main songwriter, but all of the band members contribute to the mix. They have been together for a year after jamming together as friends, some of whom met at school, the others in Ganolfan Gymraeg the Welsh Centre in Merthyr. Their rather unusual name is a play on words not quite Welsh not quite English, it is also the name of one of Captain Morgan’s (the Welsh pirate) ships. Their musical influences range from PJ Harvey and Lyndisfarne to Eva Cassidy and Sibrydion. They have played quite a few gigs around the Merthyr area, Bedroc 09, Taith Tafod, Clwb Y Bont, and the Merthyr Show, to name but a few, and are hoping to be on Radio Cymru’s C2 sessions. They also are hoping to record some demos in Glamorgan University’s Atrium in Cardiff. This band is well worth a listen, with vocal harmonies from Delyth and Emma, that beautifully compliment the music. www.myspace.com/ybettigalws KAREN MOORE

The Epaulettes We spoke to The Epaulettes who are a five-piece band that have been together for about six years. They are inspired by The Libertines, so when they first formed they were a Libertines covers band. They started a band just to keep their talent which is playing music. They have been writing their own material for as long as they can remember. They told us that if they all quit work then they would want to make it to the top with their band. Their dream gig would be on the Radio 1 stage in the Reading festival because they have been going there together for a couple of years. They like playing venues where there are loads of people watching them. They grew up by listening to bands like Oasis, The Clash, The Beatles and The Smiths. They choose their name by default because t h e y needed a name as they had an upcoming gig and were asked what they were called for the posters! www.myspace.com/theepaulettes BRADLEY WALSTOW & ANDREW COOPER

The Oratorios We spoke to Tom and Richard from The Oratorios who are a five-piece band from Merthyr, who have only been together with the current members for about eight months. The band have been inspired by a large genre of bands like The Jam, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Arctic Monkeys. They started the band out of boredom because they had nothing to do around the house. We asked them how long have they been writing their own material and Richard told us he writes all the songs and has been writing them for the last three or four years. They said they want to go as far as they can with the band, and their dream gig would be in the Millennium Stadium because they would be playing in front of a home crowd. They didn’t choose the genre that they play, Richard just takes the lyrics into band practice and the rest of the guys helps to put in the music. This collaboration works well — and anyone who has seen these guys play live will know what we mean! www.myspace.com/theoratorios BRADLEY WALSTOW & ANDREW COOPER

The 3Gs Community Choir With around 20 members, the 3Gs choir makes a noise whether they’re singing or not! The 3Gs Choir practises out of Bishop Hedley school, Merthyr, every week, and is made up of young people from the local community — similar to PLUGGED IN, no one is turned away if they are willing to show commitment. The choir has been performing at major events over the last year or so, including at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Castle and more recently working with the Welsh National Opera to perform before the opening night of their opera Onegin at the Wales Millennium Centre. They also performed live on stage with Mike Peters, of The Alarm fame, when he played The Coliseum in Aberdare last summer for his Love Hope Strength Charity concert. MERTHYR PLUGGED IN TEAM

Fusebox Fusebox are made up of four band members, Ben (vocals/guitar), Ian (drums), Clunky (guitar), Frankie (bass guitar). Ben is the one who writes most of the songs and told me, of those he doesn’t write himself he’s the one in the band who okays them. Ben also told me that the way he starts with a new song is with playing riffs, linking into a song, then lastly adding on the lyrics, how and when the feeling takes him. As a band, Fusebox have been together for two years, getting together after Ben put an ad on a music website. Their first ever gig was at a social club in Merthyr, but they’ve since played the Belle Vue and are now aiming for the bigger clubs in Pontypool. The style of music they attempt to play is blues rock, 60s style, but Ben told me: “It doesn’t sound like what it’s supposed to — it sounds better!” Ian butted in saying: “I have the dirtiest, stickiest job in the band — as the drummer.” This is a band for any bluesrock connoisseur to go and watch. RICHARD H


MERTHYR LIVE

Merthyr PLUGGED IN gig Belle Vue

It was a cold rainy night outside the Bell Vue in Merthyr Tydfil, while inside the pub the evening was hotting up. A great live gig was just about to start for Merthyr PLUGGED IN, five live bands were performing and the atmosphere was electric with a tremendous excitement in the room, which was full of eager gig-goers. Compere for the night was PLUGGED IN’s very own Creative Director Darren Warner — who has a voice loud enough for public speaking! Also present was Editor Gail Griffiths, who at the end of the night thanked everyone for coming to support such a special event — especially the five acts who all played the gig for free. First up was Sunshine Satellites, an acoustic duo who set a very high standard for the others to follow. Not only was their performance fun and enjoyable, their vocals were pitch perfect as they harmonised together. A great start to the night! As we in PLUGGED IN like to mix things up a bit, the second act was the wonderful 3Gs Community Choir. The assembled 20 or so youngsters gave us a beautiful rendition of Hallelujah amongst the three magical numbers they performed, beautifully arranged with each choir member singing their part in turn in a different key, much to the audience’s pleasure. Next on was local folk singer and contributor to Merthyr PLUGGED IN, Karen Moore. The audience gave Karen an outstanding welcome before she sang three of her popular songs. The first, Nothing Stays The Same, was a folk melody that took us back over the years to the Summer of Love, when Vietnam, Martin Luther King and men were dancing on the Moon, a peaceful and relaxing melody which was well received by the audience. The atmosphere settled down as Karen sang Worth The Wait, a quiet and relaxing ballad expressing the pain and hurt of relationships. Karen writes from her inner feelings, words we can all relate to, which suits all ages. There was great applause for this number expressing the excitement in the room. The third folk song Life, was an up-tempo catchy tune about the experiences of the heart. This lively folk song ended Karen’s performance to great applause. The Epaulettes turned the venue into a feast of brilliant noise as they pumped through their riotous rock ’n’ roll set. Never ones to slow down, they launched through song after song coming to the end of their time too soon for this reviewer. Fun, enjoyable and downright gritty in places they had move the performance notch up to a different level and it was up to local heroes The Oratorios to beat that. Which they did with the slickness of a performance that was more akin to a larger venue than the small one we had offered them! Highly professional, they delivered us with hints of The Jam crossed over with indie Brit rock toped off with their own unique style. Treading the boards for a few years now it is totally amazing that The Oratorios haven’t been picked up by a record label, because these boys don’t disappoint when they play live. In fact I’ll go as far to say they won’t allow themselves to disappoint — they are that good! Tonight Merthyr PLUGGED IN tried to showcase the variety of talent that was found within a short distance from the Glamorgan Gates HQ, highlighting the potential Merthyr Tydfil has to offer the world. Believe me the world better watch out! THE MERTHYR PLUGGED IN TEAM

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Merthyr

Live Reviews Over the period that I worked on the Merthyr PLUGGED IN project I watched a number of bands at different location throughout the town. Firstly I saw The Boogiemen at The Great Escape who played old-style rock ’n’ roll, honky tonk music. They were tight, and sounded like the Eagles. Mellow! I found the performance very enjoyable, though most of what they played I didn’t recognise, so I took it as original numbers. The second half seemed as if every other song was a Rolling Stones track. Funny as a lot of the time they were slagging off the English. Aren’t the Stones English? The next gig was the Black Dogs at The Crown. The first half was made up of the more eccentric side of rock, consisting of David Bowie, U2, Run DMC...slightly on the edge of the rock fraternity. After a short break they came back on, cranked up the volume and let rip, playing the heavier side of rock. The musicianship was good and they produced a good sound. Finally I went to watch Vertigo, again at the Great Escape who opened with the U2 track of the same name. Initially carrying on with the same style of music, they then went on to the more mature type of rock. Mostly mellow. They played a good version of Parisienne Walkways by Gary Moore and ended the concert on an equally good version of Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again. A good, all round set, well played and a enjoyable evening. RICHARD H


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

MERTHYR PLUGGED IN

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lamorgan GATES is a partnership between the University of Glamorgan and the Communities First Unit of the Welsh Assembly Government. It is both the concept of a “gateway” between the university and the community and a physical presence, the GATES Centre, sited in Merthyr Tydfil. The project is aimed at all sections of the community, but we also focus on people who may be disengaged from the community. We strive to develop imaginative and innovative methods of lifelong learning through activities and events rather than formal learning frameworks. This will be developed and facilitated in partnership with local groups and individuals to ensure relevance and appropriateness to the needs of the local community. These activities will be wide ranging and are likely to include topics within the arts, science, technology, media, sport or work based learning. It is now generally recognised that “…cultural activity should be regarded as an essential part of community regeneration”. Glamorgan GATES will therefore aim to provide “cultural activity” in the broadest possible sense by drawing on local traditions and customs in areas noted, historically, for their capacity to create their own culture and, also, reflecting more contemporary interests and concerns. Initially the focus will be on encouraging engagement with learning in a non-challenging way to build confidence, develop self-esteem and broaden horizons to promote personal and community capacity for development and change. In the long term, Glamorgan GATES will seek to make a significant impact on the currently low levels of educational attainment and participation

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in further or higher education in valley based communities. GATES is characterised by community involvement in the development of creative ideas and in the creation of projects. It is a collaborative process where the community and the GATES team aim to have equal contribution. GATES is committed to working closely with Communities First Partnerships and other local interest groups in the Merthyr Borough. Glamorgan GATES welcomes people dropping in to express their interest in any subject. We keep a database which records peoples’ expressions of interest so that when we have enough numbers for a particular topic, if viable, we endeavour to run a class in it. If you have any ideas for future workshops please feel free to drop in! Workshops we are currently running or will be running in the near future include: • Business Start-Up Surgeries • Art Drop-In Sessions • IT Tasters • Portuguese Dancing • Creative Writing • Belly Dancing • Merthyr Aloud Community Choir • Monthly Open Mic Nights • Guitar Lessons • Sound Engineering • Meditation If you’d like to find out more please call Jenna on 01685 729940, email gates@glam.ac.uk or drop into the GATES shop, 121 High Street, Merthyr Tydfil CF47 8BL.

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articipants of the Merthyr PLUGGED IN Project, found themselves face-to-face with a huge name in music — Merthyr-bred Radio 1 featured band The Blackout. Budding journalists and photographers Taylor and Alex interviewed lead singer Sean Smith, drummer Gareth Lawrence and guitarist Matthew Davies before joining them for a photo shoot. Quite a scoop for their first ever interview! The project, run in association with PLUGGED IN magazine, took place during July and August in Glamorgan GATES. Merthyr PLUGGED IN aims to tie in with the magazine’s objectives by specifically offering media opportunities to people in Merthyr Tydfil. The project involved six weeks of writing and photography workshops, including a trip to Red Dragon Radio and the ATRiUM in Cardiff, the culmination is this magazine. An exhibition of photography currently on display at Glamorgan GATES celebrates contributors’ achievements. MANAGING EDITOR & PUBLISHER Gail Griffiths CREATIVE DIRECTOR & CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER Darren Warner PROJECT CO-ORDINATOR Lisa Derrick MAIN PARTICIPANTS Alex England, Andrew Cooper, Bethan Lewis, Bradley Walstow, Brandon White, Breda Ethelstone, Janice Jones, Karen Moore, Richard H, Scott Lyndley, Taylor Bradley

Profile for Darren Warner

PLUGGED IN Magazine Issue 8  

The Independent Voice For Music In Wales

PLUGGED IN Magazine Issue 8  

The Independent Voice For Music In Wales

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