Monday, 4 September 2017

Memories of 2017 gigs #7

Wolf Alice
The Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd - 21 August 2017
Support: Head Noise

Wolf Alice? At a small local arts centre in the Welsh valleys? Nope, I didn't dream it. Wolf Alice really are playing some tiny venues you've probably never heard of in the lead up to the release of the second album in September. The last time I saw them was in the tiny Cardiff venue The Globe just before they released their debut. Since then they've been all over the place playing to huge crowds around the world, doing TV and radio and have generally been adored. They've already sold out some of their larger-venue tour in October so the chance to see them again in a small space was just too much to resist. Tickets were scarce (only 200 available) and quite difficult to get but I snapped up three - one each for MrsRobster and I and one for TheMadster as the show was taking place on her 20th birthday! Two of my colleagues Neil and Pete were there too.

The Muni was saved from closure by a consortium of investors and reopened in its current form as a charitable concern in 2015. That's a good thing as it is a really nice little space, ideally suited to gigs. It was our first visit, but Neil regaled the tale about tagging along with a friend who had a free ticket to a show there once. Neil was too embarrassed at first to reveal who he'd seen, but later confessed to it being "the singer from Dr Hook." So not even Dr Hook then, just the singer...

Local bands have been given the opportunity to support during this tour and tonight was the turn of Head Noise from Cardiff. Here are three young guys who soooo desperately wish it was the 80s. The singer in particular looked like he should have been in The Goonies. He even played a bloody keytar. Sadly, they didn't do it for any of us. Maybe the excitement of the occasion was too much, maybe they had too much fizzy pop before going onstage, but they sounded shambolic and untogether. Their recordings sound a little better (even if it's not my thing at all - I never much cared for 80s synthy stuff in the 80s, I sure as hell don't like most of the 21st century derivatives) so perhaps you're better off listening to some of them over at their Bandcamp page than take my word for it. However, their attempt at covering the Chemical Brothers' Hey Boy, Hey Girl (with a verse of Get Free by the Vines woven in) was absolutely woeful. I cannot give them any benefit of any doubt whatsoever for that one!

For the record though - I LOVED The Goonies. Like, who didn't?

Wolf Alice kicked off with a new track - Don't Delete The Kisses - followed by a couple of old familiar ones before launching into the raucous (and somewhat hilariously-titled) Yuk Foo, the lead single from the new album. And that set the tone for the night really - a set of crowd pleasers interspersed with new songs, some of which hadn't been heard yet. My personal highlights were You're A Germ, Moaning Lisa Smile and Yuk Foo.

pic by TheMadster
But here's the rub - Wolf Alice are an exceptional band. They have some really good songs and make some great sounds, and live they can certainly kick into another gear and ratchet things up a level. Yet neither of the times I've seen them have they made me go 'wow'. They've not blown me away, and I think they're the kind of band who ought to. I can't explain it - and I'm certain most of the (admittedly very young) audience there were completely blown away - but I still yearn for that moment even 29 years after my very first live show. And it still does happen now and again, just not this time.

But this show does have its significance. Wolf Alice came on stage at 9:30pm. Exactly 20 years earlier at that exact time, TheMadster came onto life's great stage in the maternity unit at North Devon District Hospital. MrsRobster summed up the moment. "I just thought as they came on stage that this was the moment you dreamed of 20 years ago," she told me. "That she'd be at a gig with us and say 'I'm going in the mosh pit'." It wasn't Madster's first gig, and it wasn't even her first mosh pit, but MrsRobster (as usual) is so right. For that alone, this show will stay long in my memory.

And TheMadster herself? Well, following a day dragging her boyfriend round the shops (during which she picked up Wolf Alice's first record on vinyl), she drank vodka, joined the sweaty masses in the pit, took some photos and bought a t-shirt. Sounds like a pretty damn good birthday to me!


  1. I always look forward to the show reviews, Robster. What a fine way to see a band that, as you say, could fill a much larger venue. Belated birthday wishes to the Madster. What a way to celebrate No. 20!

  2. I think it's disappointimg to see such a lack of responses to something so wonderfully written and so very personal. Wonderful review and the weaving in of The Madster's special day made this a great read,

    Thinking back, this was a time (Sep 2007) when a lot of us, for one reason or other, were struggling with the whole blogging thing and this post must have been inadvertendly passed over by many.

    One thing I will say.... I bet The Madster is proud of her old man and probably very quietly admires his talents.

  3. I've only now stumbled across this review and I am the lead singer of the support band that night. It's a bit sad to see such a negative response from yourself after personally having such an amazing night ourselves that has has always been very memorable for us. I totally understand your viewpoint though as art/music is subjective, but I was a bit disheartened to see that I have so many other musical influences in common with you after reading some articles on your blog. It can't be helped but I just thought I'd give some sort of response as a self-assuring conclusion for myself. All the best anyway, and keep up the writing! - Mitch

    1. Hi Mitch. Reading this back for pretty much the first time since I wrote it, I have to admit my words do seem pretty harsh, especially as I've always been a big supporter of young bands just starting out. In my defence though, I pride myself in always being honest. If I love something, I say so. If I don't, I won't pretend otherwise. That's the way I've always written, whether professionally or for pleasure. I never mean anything personally, and it's never malicious. I like to think everyone who reads my stuff accepts it is purely from my viewpoint, no one else's. My words ought not to deter anyone from carrying on doing what they are doing. When you make music, some people will love you, some will hate you, some will be indifferent. When I write something, I know some will agree and others will not. That's how it is.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting, and as you say it is all subjective, so please don't be disheartened. I'm genuinely glad you had such a great night. You'll never forget it. Keep making music and sod the critics! ;-)

    2. Hi Rob!

      Thank you for getting back to me on this. I was looking around for quotes online to use for our Facebook page, stumbled on your review and I was just a little down-put by it. I do appreciate your honesty though, but I felt like I wanted to say something to give myself a bit more confidence if anything. We had a similar review when we supported a band in Cardiff a few years ago where all the other 5 acts on the bill got praised and we were the only ones to have a bad review back, even though the crowd seemed really into it. I checked out the blogger's website and saw that the majority of the music he listened to himself were actually big influences on Head Noise ourselves, so I always kicked myself for not responding in some shape or form. I didn't mean to come across like I was having a whinge at you, I'm just super proud of everything we've managed to do so far in our little DIY career, so felt obliged to respond.

      I guess we don't tend to get much honest coverage online so when we eventually stumble on something written about what we do, it can knock us back a bit when it feels as though the fantasy clashes with the reality. I think when we supported at this gig we were so nervous with it being the biggest gig we'd had ever played. I fell out of my chair when the Wolf Alice emailed me back saying that we had been selected as the support band and we had a lot of rushing around to get things ready in time. We had just lost our guitarist due to a recent falling out and hadn't been together that long, so it was all a bit whirlwind, heat and flash! Fair play to our guitarist who played on the night, he was thrown right in the deep end for this first ever live set with us! As much as it was a great experience for us all, it was also mortifying (especially since our laptop broke moments before going onstage and it it was quite an early incarnation of what the band has currently evolved into now).

      I just want to say thank you for responding though, I do really appreciate it. No hard feelings I hope as I do really like some of the posts that you have put on your blog after reading through so recently. I can totally get behind a lot of your '50 songs to take to the grave' selections also. Ashes To Ashes being one of my all time favourites too! We've covered that song many times in our 80s New Wave cover band we have on the side, so I do also commend your fantastic music taste.

      All the best and it's been a pleasure chatting! :)