I’m yet to see a band from out of town this year, but that’s no bad thing. It seems like every month brings the closure of another legendary venue in our fair city, which is undeniably tragic, and a sign of the times we’re living in. It’s a symptom of that bloody banking crisis (please don’t forget that the banks put us in this situation, NOT the migrants/poor/unemployed). The arts suffer before anything else, as in a strict capitalist model they fall in the ‘unnessential‘ category. But this doesn’t mean that the hard-working musicians that make our city great will give up. We will see more performance spaces cropping up. If the demand is there (which it certainly is), the scene will thrive. I’d argue that it already is. Here’s a list of the first 11 live acts I’ve had the honour of watching this year, all local acts that you’d do well to familiarise yourself with. Click on the pics to take you direct to their sites.
Johnny Cage & The Voodoogroove
Who knew at New Year’s Eve that we were actually witnessing the last gig The Moon Club would ever host. The Voodoogroove don’t really need any introduction, as they’ve been performing their trademark Cuban swamp blues around these parts for years, but the last year has been massive for them. Finalists on the BBC’s ‘Best Part Time Band’ series, their album is weeks away from general release, and the new(ish) rhythm section fleshes the band out perfectly, with each of the 5 members bringing huge stage presence and energy. If you haven’t seen this lot yet, you must have been living under a rock.
The first band I saw post New Year’s Eve are a true folk act worth your time. Utterly friendly in their sound, featuring a full string section and gorgeous vocal harmonies, when I saw The Brwmys at Free-For-All there was a puppy in the building watching the show, and it made perfect sense. They made the building feel like a country pub in a rural Somerset village, the only thing missing was a roaring fireplace. That’s the kind of feeling this band inspire, one of utter warmth, familiarity and home.
Maddie Jones Band
The undisputed queen of Cardiff rock ‘n’ roll has an aesthetic that sounds completely paradoxical on paper, simultaneously managing to be both totally twee and sexually charged at the same time. Her voice is unmistakable, with guitar chops and compositional acumen to match. She’s gotten plenty of attention from Walesonline and other publications over the past few years, but definitely deserves more. She contributes to our scene in a myriad of other ways, not least with her Bowie covers band that have been setting people’s hearts alight since his passing. Hopefully the powers that be will make her a household name before too long.
My Name Is Ian
I’m never quite sure what anti-folk is, but My Name Is Ian are definitely it. With a wit as dry as Morrissey, they can turn the most depressing subjects in on themselves into a catchy sing-along, as well as somehow seeming like a totally different band depending on which venue I see them in. They’ve managed to come across like a gentle folksy act, and quite an angry punk band on different occasions, despite playing the same songs. If you’re into Jeffrey Lewis, The Moldy Peaches, or The Wave Pictures, I doubt you’ll be able to find a band locally that fits your taste any better than this lovely bunch of lads.
When I played at the Freerunning Academy in January, there was a lot of buzz from folks with taste I respect about Cities. I’d never seen them before, but I got the sense it was something I shouldn’t miss. A post-rock band had better be good, as it’s a notoriously demanding genre to excel at. But honestly, I rate these guys above many of the nationally touring acts from within that scene. Complex, beautiful and crushing soundscapes with jazz influences, and prog-rock chord sequences, I haven’t been this impressed by a new band in a while. I already can’t wait for the next time they cross my path.
Kid Kosmic FKA Hipicat
Following a recent name change, these spangly boys have been working hard at carving out a sound all of their own. Fusing disco and psychedelia in their wardrobe choices as well as their music, Kosmic Kid take their influences from such varied places that they really don’t sound like anybody else, at least not to me. They avoid the cheesy pitfalls of their influences with soaring emotive vocals, and an insistent groove meaning you don’t even notice the absence of a drummer when they play.
In terms of outright talent and hard work, Mike Dennis is unbeatable. The world’s most successful rapping fiddler made it onto 6music not long ago, and deserves to go the whole way. Spitting bars in 5/4 and bashing out beats and basslines from a violin, a cajon and a loop pedal, his most recent album ‘Smiles & Cries‘ is his most accomplished work to date, alternately hilarious, heartwarming, self-aware & poignant. Everybody has to see him live, that’s a given, but I’d heartily recommend checking out the whole album on Spotify or Bandcamp, as he does just as well on record. And oh yeah, we put out a free song together this week!
M I L K
It’s as if nothing past the 70’s matters with this lot. MILK are a band for peeps who like big, loud, chunky riffs played by beardy, sweaty dudes. They’ll make you laugh, pull a horrendous screwface, pump your fists and stomp, and they play exactly the kind of shit that Reading Festival ought to be full of if we want those kids to grow up wrong. Tight as fuck homoerotic drug-rock for the masses. Get it in your ears and thank me later.
What can I say about Junior Bill, the friendliest bunch of fellas in the city. I’ve seen them more times than any other Cardiff band, and it’s always a treat. I know that Rob has a distaste for the ‘indie-ska‘ description I’ve seen them tagged with, but it actually does a pretty good job of describing what’s going on here, as they pay just as much homage to 70s reggae punk acts like The Clash & The Specials, as they do to 00s singer-songwriters like Jamie T. Each member is excellent at their role, with a special shout to Ed their permanent sound guy applying perfectly timed dub effects throughout the performance.
The Phucks/The D Teez
I’ve lumped these last 2 together because I rarely see them apart, these are 2 punk bands with ethics. Despite song titles such as ‘Shut The Fuck Up‘ and ‘Americunts‘, they’ve got hearts of gold really, inspiring people from far and wide to empty their pockets and donate enormous quantities to the food bank. And musically, it’s everything you’d want from a pair of punk bands. The Phucks’ tunes are as catchy as Buzzcocks but with bite and pure political rage, whilst The D Teez have a wicked range of tempos and styles, all within a punk aesthetic. Love to them both.