For the last four years the Surplus Festival in South Wales has been one of the highlights of the grass roots festival scene. Over the first weekend in July 2017, the event went up a gear, putting on their best event yet and throwing down the marker for other grassroots festivals. It will take some doing to beat Surplus this year.
Arriving at the site near Bonvilston, just outside Cardiff, it was almost immediately obvious that this year was a more organised event. More Stewards, better organised parking, more security – yet at the same time, the laid back vibe that makes Surplus what it is, was still there.
As the ballots papers were rolling in, hoisting Theresa May by her own petard, Public Service Broadcasting were in Ebbw Vale, launching their new album. ‘Every Valley’ reflects on the decline of industry in the valleys. Some would argue the decline was hastened by the last female Tory Prime Minister.
The timing was pure coincidence, the gig had been planned well before the snap election had been called, but the irony could not be ignored.
Tredegar’s six legged Sandinistas continued their rise to the top with a blistering set for young members of UNISON, the union for public service groovers, in Cardiff’s Ten Feet Tall.
Fresh from playing South by Southwest in Texas and string of sold out shows in the UK, the Sandinistas showed they have not forgotten their roots by playing the launch party for UNISON Cymru Wales’ Charter for Young Member’s.
They may stand like the Clash, walk like the Clash and be named after a Clash album (or maybe the South American rebels), but their music is fresh and original, taking only the energy and enthusiasm from the Clash sound.
With high octane guitar laid over machine gun drumming and menacing bass, they lay down a sound that has enough punk sensibility to remind the older members of the crowd of their youth. But they also have a clean sophistication to their sound that will entertain the younger audience, who demand more than the three chord wonders of the past.
They tore through their set with confidence and swagger, but still found time between numbers to interact with the audience and big up the cause they had come to promote. As they put it, ‘You can’t spell UNISON, without U and I’.
They had the gathered masses gyrating and smiling from ear to ear; from their tyre smoking start, through their ‘Ready to Blow’ single, right up to the end of the set.
The problem with being in a new band is that you can get caught out. If you blow your entire repertoire of songs in your main set, what do you do when the crowd demand an encore? Well in this case, we were given Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ – on steroids. Then, by way of punishment for Mark Turner of UNISON for trying to be a young member, he is dragged up on stage to give us a rendition of the Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’.
Watch out for the Sandinistas when they play Merthyr Rising 26th to 28th May, the festival sponsored by UNISON. You never know, Mark Turner might be up on stage again – he has got a month to actually learn the words!
We surfaced at the crack of mid afternoon. We had planned on getting up for Reverend Dread’s Sinday Service set in the dance tent at noon, but it was too warm and dry in the tent.
First stop was the cafe for a caramel Steamer then to stand at the back of the dance tent watching the big box little box crew grooving to one of the many DJs that made up Psy-Sunday. We then had a bit of a wander, took some photographs of the kids on the bungee swing, stuck our head inside the ‘psychonaught’ machine for a psychedelic ten minutes and back over to the buskers stage.
Again, there was some sort of hip hop jam going on. Clearly they had not spent half the day in bed like we had, ‘cos at four in the afternoon they had the thousand yard stare and mile wide grins, but still managed to get a decent free style beat box and rap session going. Continue reading LANDED FESTIVAL REVIEW: Sunday (01/05/16)→
Waking up at the crack of noon we went for a day time reckie. The site is on land owned by descendents of James Watt, the steam engine bloke. Apparently they have the honour of being heirs to the title Lord Watt of Wye. The site is at the bottom of a beautiful valley, has the A470 and Doldowlod Hall on one side, with the River Wye bordering the other side of the site.
In between is beautiful flat lush grass land with some magnificent ancient trees dotted around the site.
For this weekend the trees are complimented by several stages, a bar, several small cafes, a craft area, a small market space, kids area, circus area, the deliberately trippy psychonaut tent and the obligatory dance tent. Scattered around this are random acts of beauty, in the shape a variety of sculptures. Continue reading LANDED FESTIVAL REVIEW: Saturday (30/04/16)→
Preparing for a festival we don’t normally have to worry about being prepared for snow and ice, but amazingly this was potentially on the cards for Landed Festival this year. It was with some trepidation we set off up the A470, but we needn’t have worried, the festival was always going to eclipse anything Mother Nature had to throw at us.
Arriving on Friday evening it was clear from the off that this was going to be a laid back friendly event. The gate crew were warm and welcoming and as we drove into the site lots of familiar faces reminded us what a tight knit and welcoming community the festival family is.
Once we had plotted up for the weekend it was time for a quick sprint around the site to get bearings and establish what was on the menu for tonight. Only on site an hour and we had our first ‘clash’. Was it to be Kilnaboy on the Main Stage or Cosmo in the Verbal Melodies tent. Fortunately, with a site this size, it was not too difficult to flit between the both.
Kilnaboy have been slowly but surely slogging away at it for over a decade now. With each year they get tighter and – once the perennial support band – now claim decent slots on the bill of any half decent festival. Their usual rawkus set of punk fuelled celtic rebel music had the well wrapped up crowd losing layers and warming up the tent. Being so familiar with a band you sometimes assume everyone knows them, but it was clear from the response that even those that had not come across them before were loving it. Continue reading LANDED FESTIVAL REVIEW: Friday (29/04/16)→
It’s a long time since we have been to a gig with four bands worth catching on the bill in one night. Yes, we know, it’s lazy, we should always make the effort to check out support bands – that is the best way to discover new music – but hey, they were still sound checking when we arrived for tonight’s Bellrays gig.
Penetration were born out of the maelstrom that was the first wave of punk back in 1976, before the chord police dictated that you should play no more than three chords and they should all be played super fast. Although this is not quite the original line up, the current band all came out of that same old school where energy was matched by rhythm.
Forty years on Penetration have grown old gracefully. Unlike many of their counterparts who have reformed, they don’t try to dress like twenty year olds, they look like seasoned musicians with rock and roll jackets and shirts.
Tonight, in Clwb Ifor Bach, the band set things in motion by getting into an instrumental groove. Singer Pauline Murray then slowly wanders through the crowd and climbs on stage, complete with silk shirt, waistcoat and trilby.
They kick off the set with a half dozen numbers from the new album, Resolution, released in 2015, which go down well. Pauline then has a chat with the audience about the merits of old tunes v new tunes and never knowing what a crowd wants, before storming into some old classics from back in the day. Continue reading PENETRATION: Live @ Clwb Ifor Bach 02/04/16→
Canine testicles. No, that is not the name of the new Ozric Tentacles album (although it might be), but a description of an Ozrics live show. Tonight they bring their full on sensory overload experience to The Fleece in Bristol.
Despite your feet sticking to the stone floor and the pillars obstructing your view, The Fleece, formerly the Fleece and Firkin, is one of the best live venues in the country. Originally built as a wool market in 1830, the grade II listed building is now home to a 400 capacity live venue that has hosted some serious names since it became a venue in 1982, including Oasis, Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age, White Stripes and the Tofu Love Frogs.
It is difficult to describe an Ozric Tentacles gig to the uninitiated. There is nothing to compare it to. Just about all of your senses are subjected to overloading and your brain is sliced and diced during two hours of the most psychedelic experience you can have without drugs. Good luck to you if you opt to experience it on drugs. Continue reading OZRIC TENTACLES: The Fleece, Bristol 20/03/16→
‘What an old codger I am’. No, not a statement of fact, but the B-Side to the Stranglers’ ‘Nice and Sleazy’ single, which was taken from the ‘Black and White’ album. It was just about the only song from that period they did not play tonight, as the Black and White tour stopped off in Cardiff University Students Union.
The ‘Black and White’ album, released in 1978, was the first album a teenage me went out and bought the week it was released. It came with a limited edition free single with the Stranglers performing Dion Warwick’s ‘Walk on by.
Hype is rarely all it is cracked up to be. It can be counterproductive, leading to audiences being disappointed. It usually brings a crowd out though, and the hype surrounding Slaves certainly brought out a capacity mob to the Velvet Coalmine on the Saturday night. But would they be disappointed?
Saturday was the busiest day of a busy Velvet Coalmine schedule, with film screenings, poetry readings and Q+A sessions taking place in town to compliment the packed list of bands playing all over town as part of the ‘Fringe’. Continue reading Slaves @ Velvet Coalmine 2015→
The lights went out, searchlights lit up the sky and the sound of an air raid siren pierced the air. But it was not the Luftwaffe that was coming, it was Dub War.
Twenty years ago Blackwood Miners Institute was an essential stop off for any touring band looking to make a name for themselves. It was also second home to Newport’s Dub War, who tore the roof off the venue several times in their short but explosive existence.
Fitting then, as the Velvet Coalmine crew try to reinstate Blackwood’s place on the national live music circuit, that Dub War, playing only their third gig in eighteen years, should step up to the plate. Continue reading Dub War @ Velvet Coalmine 2015→