R.I.P. Samoans

R.I.P. Samoans

There’s less than a week to go now before Samoans play their final ever show, and well, it’s also gonna feel like the end of an era for many of us outside of the band. The first time I saw them, my first Sŵn festival, the set featured all brand new songs from their (at that point unreleased) debut album but the singer had lost his voice, so I had little idea how it was meant to sound. The next was one of my favourite festival slots of all time, regular readers may well have heard this story before; but watching the songs from Rescue live in a marquee, with the sun setting behind at the end of a bright spring day, turned Gwdihŵ‘s car park into a miniature urban paradise. Samoans are also the last band I ever saw play in Four Bars before that was closed, as well as many more times over the years and in various places.

Despite the difficulties the band faced during the making of the first album, from having to take a year out due to injury to changing drummers during this time, they (with a newly-added second guitarist) seemed to have been pulled closer by experience. Since then though, cancelled shows and rumours of inter-band hostility have given a more fractured countenance, and second album Laika just didn’t have the same chemistry as its predecessor. So when the band announced they would be playing just two more shows before splitting up, it was disappointing but not entirely unexpected news. For a group who were once Cardiff’s future stars to call it a day is a loss to us all, and I for one look forward to hearing whatever musical projects each of them persues next, as well of course to one last party first.

The show takes place this coming Saturday (May 12th) at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, more details can be found here. Thanks for the good times, guys.

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Like An Island

Like An Island

I couldn’t tell you the last gig I went to where every song on the setlist was familiar to me. Ok, I mean before Wednesday last week, or I wouldn’t be mentioning it now. The down-side of finding ridiculous amounts of great new bands and artists is that, well, there are still only twenty-four hours in each day, and I still have to work, eat and sleep. I have so little time to pay attention to all the songs I’d like to, that I can rarely keep up – somehow with Bryde, I managed it.

Jumping on her bandwagon fairly early (thanks to Adam Walton’s radio show), I’ve caught everything from solo gigs to the evolution of the full band, recognised ‘new’ singles having already heard them live, and so by the Cardiff leg of debut album Like An Island‘s launch tour I’m fully knowledgeable. The record itself documents the change in line-up – a couple of songs have been included from previous singles and EPs, enough to give a nod to tried-and-tested favourites without retreading the same ground. The decision not to rework these with the full band says that this is still very much Sarah’s project; I hope later releases hold onto that as I have to confess, I’m personally biased towards the tracks that she’s clearly written alone. The depth of emotion and expression in her voice just hits harder when there’s less going on musically.

Hence I couldn’t believe that, back some years ago now when the band featured just Sarah and her electric guitar (I don’t remember if I was ever around quite early enough to have seen the acoustic), in a corner of the City Arms I had to shush two people chatting in front of me. There was no need for that last week at Clwb Ifor Bach; nothing but rapt silence through every poignant moment, as a packed room appreciated the winding journey that led to the creation of this wonderful record.

[Preview] Minty’s Gig Guide Venues Map Launch

[Preview] Minty’s Gig Guide Venues Map Launch

As you may, or may not be aware, over the past few weeks the creator of Cardiff’s favourite live music podcast has been sharing drawings of the city’s venues. These images combined will form a comprehensive map, highlighting the wealth and diversity of spaces we have here to support artists, all the way from their very first shows to the 75,000-seat stadium. Thursday night (November 2nd) sees its official launch at Clwb Ifor Bach, a venue that has sat at the heart of our music scene for more than thirty years, and recently had to be defended from the ever-looming eye of developers.

In swift response to this threat a campaign was launched to ‘Save Womanby Street’, the tiny pedestrianised strip of Cardiff’s city centre where Clwb is situated – home to an extraordinary number, for its size, of the places to be featured on Minty’s map. One Saturday afternoon in April, somewhere just shy of 2000 people gathered here and marched on city hall in protest against the application to build flats right against the side of the iconic building. With the backing of many local MPs and councillors, the campaign showed signs of real impact within weeks as Wales’ Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs announced her intention to amend current planning policy with explicit reference to the agent of change principle, and to allow for the designation of areas of cultural significance. Before the end of the summer this had been debated in the Welsh Assembly and unanimously agreed upon. Over the months that followed all appeared to quieten, when out the blue it emerged that the plans for development had been withdrawn, with no reason given; quickly Cardiff Council purchased the land, to not only prevent future threats but also with the aim of expanding the venue.

Now it’s time to celebrate our success, and how better to do so than with a beautiful and informative guide to everywhere Cardiff has to offer to live music fans! Oh of course, and a big party featuring performances from alt-rock live wires CHROMA and hip-hop violinist Mike Dennis, as well as a secret, to-be-announced-on-the-day headliner. Alongside these will be guest speakers in the form of Save Womanby Street founder Ewan Moor; one of the campaign’s earliest supporters, Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens; national Music Venues Trust representative Jon Fox and Adrian Palmer from For Cardiff. Full details of the event can be found over on facebook, and just in case you want a quick reminder why these, and other grassroots venues need so desperately to be protected:

Track of the Day – ’72 & Sunny’ by Wylderness

Track of the Day – ’72 & Sunny’ by Wylderness

I have to confess, by the time Wylderness got around to releasing their debut single, I was concerned it might be a little late in the year for a song titled 72 & Sunny. However while the temperature might not be quite there, October is proving today that it can still be pretty bright!

The name may be very slightly misleading anyway – while there’s no denying the prominence of hazy vocals and washed-out guitar, there’s also an underlying element of the garage rock of (previous project featuring most members of this band) KUTOSIS. This added bite actually asserts the track as fairly fitting for a crisp-but-clear autumn afternoon.

Event Preview: HoyFest 2017

Event Preview: HoyFest 2017

Following on from a successful debut last November, HoyFest returns this month with a few favourites playing again and lots of new loves to discover, including headliners Pretty Vicious and the ever-vibrant Estrons. Condensed from last year’s two-day event into one manic Saturday, the festival has also been moved up a few weeks, this time coinciding with freshers’ in Cardiff. As before it will be held in The Gate, a beautiful converted church turned arts centre situated in Roath, one of the city’s main student areas. I don’t half wish I’d had the opportunity of an event like this on my doorstep back when I’d first moved here!

However while it’s unarguably convenient for them, the event isn’t aimed particularly at students. Showcasing some of South Wales’ finest up-and-comers, alongside various visitors from elsewhere in the UK, there’ll be something for everyone to discover no matter your level of familiarity with the local scene. Bands are alternated across across two stages to avoid clashes, the main area being the theatre and a second space in the cafe; the latter was previously sponsored by Fireball Whisky, which I can’t say did my head a lot of good – this year’s alliance with Brothers Cider doesn’t bode too well for my hangover either! Curated by Cardiff-based label Lucky Man Records, the festival takes place on Saturday 30th September, tickets are available online now and more details can be found on the event page or via the festival’s social media.

Stream: Samoans – Patience

Stream: Samoans – Patience

Well, where to start – it’s been a long couple years, boys. In the time Samoans have been away, Four Bars has shut; the venue where I both first, and most recently (nearly said ‘last’ there, but hopefully not!) saw them. Watched the band live, that is – as for the individual people involved, most of them tend to turn up fairly frequently around Cardiff, occasionally in my work which is cool if always a little awkward.

Rescue, the group’s debut album, has been spun half to death though I’m still sure I’ll never get bored of it. The split with Freeze The Atlantic in the interim was a fun little snack, but something more substantial is definitely overdue. And so we look forward to Laika. This second full-length record has been announced for release on September 29th via their own Apres Vous Records, and is preluded by the aerial Patience.

I half think this song reminds me of something else, or is it akin to that curiosity where you meet someone new who it feels like you’ve always known, fresh yet familiar at the same time? Alternatively, maybe I’ve just listened to the damn thing too many times already. You can’t really blame me for that, as from its sudden intro the track softens into a swirling, undulating dream which holds you in a trance you’ll never want to leave. Even after it finishes, when you find yourself hitting play again… If it’s not obvious by now, I’m loving this and pretty keen to hear the rest of the new album; I hope they’re as glad to be back as we are to have them.

Stream: Silent Forum – Trust

Stream: Silent Forum – Trust

Picking up their pace in terms of releases, Silent Forum shared their second single within as many months. Darkly fretful, Trust is held back from outright despair by its jaunty guitar melody, a delicate balance that sounds much more contained on record than their visceral live shows. Speaking of such, they don’t have any gigs lined up at the moment that I know of, though I did hear a rumour that plans of one with surf-punk wunderkinds HODAD could be in the works…