Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

Cardiff Magic

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

As ya’ll know I freakin love Wales. Every time I arrive I get that feeling of going home. It’s strange, I’ve never lived in Wales. It must be something in the blood.

Once we reached Cardiff (the magic starts), we went to have a look around the museum exhibition of the history of Wales from volcanic rock to current time (mostly in Welsh!). Found a fairly nice chain pub for surprisingly good food and then went off to sort out booking a hotel.

Following a series of fortunate events, we booked into The Big Sleep. AMAAAAAZING! This budget hotel is a converted office block centrally located and owned by John Malkovich. The ceilings and floors are still the same office style and the fittings and furniture are sleek, comfortable and clean. The kitsch lobby bar is the cutest thing (and stays open all night) and we had a lovely continental all you can eat breakfast in the morning. The whole design is straight out of Being John Malkovich and there are pictures of him around the place.

But none of that was the best bit: Being on the 9th floor with the original huge office windows in all the rooms, there are panoramic views of Cardiff. You are above the city and can see the rolling hills in the distance. Stunning by day and by night. It did seem as if fate was on our side – the magic/luck always seems to be in Wales!

Off to Clwb Ifor Bach for soundchecks and set up etc. Easy get in to the venue and Chris found parking really close by (magic continues!). The support acts were top notch. First up was Jon Fazal who is a singer/songwriter acoustic guitarist with smart lyrics and a humble onstage charm. Then it was Stokes, William. I had made various assumptions about the young folk band when they arrived to set up, but was proven wrong. All talented musicians in their own right, this band has good onstage chemistry and energetic performance. The lead singer is definitely a future star and mixed a little edginess with the folk style well. The studenty crowd (cool kids) really loved it and I was dancing along at the merch stall.

Half the crowd was very talkative, this always annoys me at gigs (I know I have been guilty of this in the past and make a serious point of never talking while acts are on). During the song Love Is Not Rescue people did start to listen properly. Then, through Chris’s strong songwriting, banter between singing (and a bit of swearing), he won the whole room over. I haven’t seen someone turn around a crowd so successfully like that and comparing it to the Bristol gig (where he hadn’t done that much between song chatter) was a lesson in how to adapt your performance to a crowd and in winning over an audience. They loved it.

Being a bit wired and a bit drunk I tried to convince everyone to come out partying but to no avail! Off to the hotel bar for more drinks and to gaze at the gorgeous views. It’s the perfect place to stay if you’re visiting the city.

The next day is hard to put into words.

Woke up in Cardiff with perfect springtime sunshine blazing down and crisp cold air on my face and hands. I got a bus from the town centre up to Tongwynlais, in the lovely Welsh countryside and walked up the wooded hill to Castell Coch, after a recommendation by a good friend. What an amazing place.

The impact that going there has had on me is difficult to describe and a bit too personal for the internets. Needless to say it is beautiful.

A lovely walk back most of the way to town and then I was converted to the Yo Sushi experience by Mr & Mrs PWL. It was yummy. Perfect end to a perfect day out.

Massive thanks to everyone involved! Wish I could’ve tagged along for the rest of the tour too, although wouldn’t have missed my day in Wales for anything.

I’m really proud of my big brother, his new album is so lovely and he has always been a great storyteller through his songwriting. Chris, I reckon I properly converted you to Cardiff too!

Go and see him playing somewhere this month and buy the album. Dates and links are on his site: www.christt.com


And The Winners Are…

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Top 5 gigs of 2009:

  1. PJ Harvey & John Parish at Brighton Corn Exchange
  2. Something Beginning with L at Buffalo Bar (Overcoat single launch)
  3. Akira the Don at the Natural History Museum
  4. (joint place) Carter USM at Brixton Academy/all of the afterparty at Jamm
  5. Filthy Dukes at Dingwalls

This doesn’t take into account everything I saw at Swn Festival which was the best thing I went to all year or Lexapalooza Lite which would definitely have made the list had I not played

Top 5 TV shows (of 2009):

  1. The Wire
  2. True Blood
  3. Fringe
  4. Torchwood – Children of Earth
  5. Bones

Special mention for Misfits which I haven’t seen yet but am DEFINITELY GONNA LOVE

Best films I saw for the first time in 2009:

Waltz With Bashir, District 9, Kung Fu Hustle, Gran Turino, He’s Just Not That Into You, Star Trek, Push, The Hangover, The September Issue, Don’t Look Now, A Serious Man, Milk, A Streetcar Named Desire, Shaolin Soccer, Role Models, The Good The Bad The Weird, Cronos, Wolverine

(I haven’t yet seen Moon, Up, WTWTA, Coco Before Chanel, Avatar, LTROI, Nine or 500 Days of Summer)

Most Disappointing films I saw in 2009:

Watchmen, Blood the last Vampire (live action), Fast and Furious, Party Monster, Bound, Wolverine (yes, that’s right)

The best 5 Welsh people of 2009:

  1. Hannah Humphreys
  2. Akira the Don
  3. Huw Stephens
  4. James Anthony
  5. Eirian Rees

Top 5 websites of 2009:

  1. www.akirathedon.com
  2. www.zombiehamster.com
  3. www.londonshopfronts.com
  4. www.timmaughanbooks.com
  5. www.comicsalliance.com

Top 5 bars of 2009:

  1. the Flowerpot, Kentish Town
  2. KU Bar, Soho
  3. all of the Swn venues, Cardiff
  4. Biddle Bros, Hackney
  5. Queen of Hoxton, Shoreditch

swn

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

With Welsh blood flowing through my veins and a passion for stormy weather, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to THE  super-cool music festival in Cardiff curated by none other than the Prince of Wales himself Huw Stephens (Adam W, you’re the king of course and Bethan can be whatever she likes cos she is a goddess).

Because I basically have NO time at the moment at all and the memories of swn festival although will stay with me forever are not as clear as they were when I got back last Sunday, here is a very brief summary and links.

Winners:

Islet – This Cardiff based band with near to no web presence and a retro view of mailing lists (they are sending out a paper newsletter!) are brilliant. The four-piece have superb musicianship and a real hard-to-find chemistry on stage. I loved them and would travel far to see them play again. They also curated the night under the banner of their own indie label and have truly eclectic tastes. This was an amazing start to the weekend. I am now a massive fan of them. Some guys have set up a fansite which is here.

Envy – lovely Envy. This young star rapper is brilliant. She has sponteneity and confidence far beyond her age. Her lyrical flow and ability to improvise and adapt will make her one to watch in the coming years. I was really looking forward to seeing her play and was disappointed when the set was messed up by timings and by lack of a proper audience. Despite these issues, Envy did two storming sets and her energy on stage was not effected.

Soft Toy Emergency – I caught this really great band between Envy’s two sets. They are freakin’ awesome. Proper good rock band with a girl frontwoman, something we don’t really see that often at the moment. I didn’t catch their whole set but I loved their performance and the tunes I heard were really good – I will definitely look to see them again some time soon, (especially since having a look at their online stuff which is quite heavily styled not in a good way, they are surprisingly good live).

Chris T-T – as you know, I am biased when it comes to Chris’s stuff. I can say though, that this was the best I’d ever seen him as a solo performer. He appeared calm and collected (without losing the lovely down-to-earth bimbly personality that his fans admire). He used two guitars and a keyboard which all gave the set a variety not usual for a solo act. The new songs are really really good and my favourite was Nintendo.

Gideon Conn – I really liked this guy, he’s quirky and his songs are good. It took me a while to warm to him as his onstage character appeared to be a bit ‘mannered’ and a bit false. I would have liked to have spoken to him in person to see whether this was a genuine portrayal of himself and he was just nervous or whether it was a ‘put-on’ caricature. A friend who had had a conversation with him previously assured me that he was genuinely a bit weird, which is great!

Internet Forever – this band is definitely gonna be massive soon. I love their quirky rocky keyboardy masky fucked up sound. They could definitely have mainstream success and draw big crowds. I couldn’t hear some of the vocals and I’m not sure if this was the sound they were going for or whether it was technical issues. I’m gonna check them out again. They seem really likeable and really talented.

Pulled Apart By Horses – definitely would have been amazing had I seen them properly. The tiny room was rammed full and the energy from the stage emanated in waves. Unfortunately we were right at the back behind a whole load of tall people who were not dancing and didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves. I was quickly frustrated at not being in the heart of the action and at not being able to see the band so we didn’t catch much of the set.

Meh or Unsure:

Girls – we were some of the lucky few who managed to get to the end of the rainsoaked queue to see this much-hyped band. I hadn’t heard any of their backstory or anything and to start with the music sounded a bit too much acid-60s/70s -throw-back for my tastes. However, the drumming was some of the best I’ve seen and as the set progressed the music developed into more Spiritualized-esque white noise sounds which was great. Due to some good songs and honest-looking stage awkwardness by the lead two members, this band came across well and are clearly very good at what they do.

Los Campesinos! – I love a couple of their songs and the energy was of course brilliant for their headlining set. The room was so hot we had to sit down and fan ourselves (not very rock n roll) and the bars were not kitted out with the right booze and were impossible to get to. The band were good. Having not seen them before I’m glad I went but I heard that they had been better at other gigs. Hilarious stage dives and guest spots from the other bands added to the fun but I was gutted I had missed my last opportunity to see Broken Family Band perform as the timings clashed.

Losers:

I didn’t like Johnny Foreigner, I have to be honest. I thought they were unoriginal and derived, mostly from early 90s indie. This was evident in their songs as well as their stage performance (and even their hair). I sulked until my friends agreed to leave during their set.

Allo Darlin’ – I could see the appeal of this female-led folky/poppy group doing quite sweet twee songs. I didn’t really like it and thought that some of the songs could have been better written.

A massive thanks to Hannah and Mr and Mrs Pagan Wanderer Lu who were lovely hosts and looked after us even when we rolled in at 4am very drunk.

I’ll definitely be at swn next year – one way or another.

x