Regime, one of the hottest bands in Wales, drop into one of the newest live venues in the valleys. The hills were alive with the sound of anticipation and expectation.
The Cwmcarn Hotel has been around for years, but in the last twelve months it has been taken over by new owners who are looking to create something more interesting than your typical valleys pub with covers bands, tribute acts and karaoke. If they are going to book bands like Regime, the signs bode well.
As we arrive there is the smell of paint in the air. Aerosol paint. And out back graffiti artists are in action, giving the pub a makeover that will set it apart from the rest of the village.
Indoors, Regime are doing a sound check – although it is a bit more than “more bass in the monitors” and “check one two”. They seem to be going through the whole set and are at it for over an hour. Given the band are scattered all over Wales and the west, this is no doubt a rare opportunity to tighten their shit.
Eventually, they finish their sound check and the warm up hit the stage. Newport based DJ/rapper hip hop crew, Applied Science.
They were a little bit disorganised with the rhymer occasionally heading off to the bar leaving the DJ alone – but we are not about to complain because he was laying down some dope tunes (as the youngsters say), using laptop and decks (or rather deck). Although the deck appeared to be just for scratching rather than actually playing any tunes.
When the rhymer was on stage, he was definitely from ‘the ‘port’ school of rap. Self-effacing, irreverent and with a cheeky grin at all times. And the banter between tunes put a smile on everyone else’s mug.
The laid back approach of the Science sat nicely with the vibe of the night. No one seemed to know what was going on and whoever was supposed to be running the door was notable by their absence. But no complaints on that score, free gigs are fine by us.
Eventually, Regime hit the stage. They warm us up slowly, starting with the dubby vibe of ‘That Day’ followed by the anti-establishment ‘Queenie’, from the first album ‘Push’. The first taste of ‘3dB’, the best album of 2017 – by anyone! comes in the shape of ‘Hard Work’, again, still breaking us in gently.
Regulars from the bar are now starting to prick up their years and can be seen peeking through the door to see who is laying down these infectious tunes.
Just when the crowd thought they were in for a laid back evening, ‘Fatman’ is rolled out, getting everyone to get a wobble on, no matter what their shape.
Even Regime virgins find themselves singing along to ‘Like You Mean It’. During ‘Only Fools and Horses’, a drunk Flem leans into me and asks, “What is only for fools and horses?” “Ketamine”, I reply. He nods sagely and agrees. Even drunk people are being prompted to think whilst dancing.
Skepta’s ‘Shut Down’ is given the Regime treatment before they go into overdrive with ‘Don’t Buy It’, the rockin’ vibe now bringing more barflys to stick their heads around the door.
The audience are in the palm of Regime’s hand, with the call and return routines being engaged in with enthusiasm and raised fists – even if five minutes earlier they had not heard the song before.
As we draw to a close with ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Robbing Us’, it’s as if some unseen force is shaking the dancefloor, causing a mass bounce by everyone gathered.
And then they are gone. They melt into the grinning crowd. Old fans were satisfied with a job well done; newcomers to the band looked impressed that such a cool band would stop off in the valleys and the regulars in the bar nod with approval.
And first timers to the reinvented Cwmcarn Hotel (us), were quietly pleased that another oasis of cool has popped up in the cultural desert of the valleys. May its well quench our thirst for years to come.