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.
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.
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…
If you live around Cardiff, then you know My Name Is Ian for one song; and if you don’t, well then you probably haven’t heard of them at all. I’d say that new album Cincinnati Cola is about to change all that, but if that’s what the band were aiming for, they’d’ve made something a lot less… well, odd. From orchestral/electronic/spoken-word-sounds-like-a-film-quote opener Spring Grove Cemetery, it’s clear this record isn’t meant to be accessible, at least not in any mainstream sense of the word.
That’s not to say that these songs aren’t catchy – in fact, some of the more pop-orientated tracks among the collection are instantly recognisable if you’ve seen the band live recently, Shangri-La And Paradise and lead single Fight, Drink And Watch People Die On TV are two that particularly spring to mind as having been in their set for a while. Once upon a time, great pop music was recognised by earworm songs rather than autotuned vocals and the ‘right image’ – any argument in favour of these songs being considered such though is scuppered anyway by lyrics often constructed of nonsense rhyme. Then take into account that even around the sing-a-longs, the rest of this album is mind-bogglingly strange – as you’re ultimately reminded by final track Merlot Ego (If I Was A Gentoo Penguin, I Would Find You The Smoothest Pebble) ending on two-and-a-half minutes of nothing but erratic bleeps and blips.
But that’s the fun of it, being a fan of My Name Is Ian is almost a cult wherein once you can sing along to In The Best Case Scenario We’d Die At The Same Time (from their previous album), it feels like you’re ‘in’. Saying that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fight, Drink… becomes the new festival anthem; you can check out the What’s My Age Again-inspired video for that one below. Oh, and if you do live in Cardiff, keep an eye on where they are at the end – working out the punchline before the camera pans up makes it even funnier. Back to the record – Cincinnati Cola is out now via Bubblewrap Records, available digitally by itself or as part of a t-shirt/download/artwork bundle from the label’s website.
They’ve been quiet (in terms of releases at least) since their self-titled debut album late in 2015, but Cardiff’s most entrancing live band return now with a double A-side single. Chain Of Flowers’ Let Your Light In/Flesh, Blood And Bone will out next month, June 16th to be specific, again via Alter and the first of the two tracks is online to listen to already.
Cardiff’s live music scene is, without a doubt, blooming. The fairly recent addition of Tramshed brought the mid-sized venue which the city had been crying out for, completing the set so to speak. However the true wealth of this city (for music fans, at least) lies a 10-15 minute walk from there – a few metres of mostly-pedestrianised road (artists loading in and out are the only vehicular traffic) sandwiched between the giant Principality (formerly Millennium) Stadium, and the mainstream nightlife of St. Mary Street. Home to multiple grassroots venues including Clwb Ifor Bach, a 30-year-old, three-floor wonderland of bands and DJs; as well as pubs and even a vintage market which are often used as pop-up stages during the many festivals that take place along there, Womanby Street is the hub of live music in the Welsh capital.
In the past few months though this area has come under attack – first from Brains, the Welsh mega-brewery which has claimed back The Moon Club to be converted to a jazz and blues bar, and Dempsey’s (including upstairs live room Four Bars) which will be turned into a Gareth Bale-sponsored sports bar. On top of these blows, Wetherspoon have announced that The Gatekeeper, a strange anomaly on the otherwise locally-owned street plan to add hotel rooms above their current pub. Whilst on the surface this may seem to be a harmless development considering that it won’t directly affect any of the other properties, it is important to consider why this enclave has flourished in the way it has. A big contribution to Womanby Street’s success has to be its location – in the centre of town, the lack of residences nearby avoid noise complaints from loud music or late-night revellers meandering between the clubs. Taking this into account, the concern about having a hotel there is apparent – who will become responsible for ensuring these guests’ peaceful sleep? After only saving Le Pub in next door Newport by some determined fundraising to pay for soundproofing after such complaints almost saw them closed down a couple of years ago, the South Wales music scene is all too aware of the risks such venues face.
The first step to counter this new threat was a petition against Wetherspoon’s development, signed by thousands of people including musicians such as Frank Turner. If you would like to add your own name to that list, you can find it here. A much more active stance however is being taken by a campaign group working to protect the area by law, as a cultural night time economy. This includes encouraging the Welsh Assembly to see the agent of change principle adopted, which simply means that it would be up to the developers of the hotel to ensure they protect against existing noise from the street, therefore taking responsibility for preventing complaints away from the venues. In this scenario, Wetherspoon could carry out its plans without putting Cardiff’s live music scene in danger; let’s just hope that this street can be recognised for its cultural value, not just development potential.
Follow Save Womanby Street through facebook or twitter to keep up to date with the campaign’s progress, and to find out how you can help.
Following their initial demo just over a year ago, DISJOY have been quiet on the release front but return at last with Divided. It is apparently the precursor to a “full record” but what form this will take and when it will be out, there is no indication of yet other than “soon”. So for now just appreciate this song and keep your eyes peeled for more info.