Saturday, 20 October 2018

Memories of 2018 gigs #5 & #6

Here we go then - two gigs in two nights. Not unusual 20+ years ago, but now this old fogey creaks and aches far more than is pleasant and usually needs a good few days (sometimes weeks) to recover from each show. So, can we get through it? Well, you should know us well enough by now...

Support: Heavy Lungs
SWX, Bristol - 16 October 2018

Without a doubt, the album of 2018 is 'Joy As An Act Of Resistance' by Idles. Such an appropriate title because very little else has given me such unbridled happiness this year while reflecting on what a messed up world we're living in right now. Idles have taken all that is crappy and turned it into furious, energetic punk songs riddled with humour, positivity and, most importantly of all, hope. So a hometown show to kick off their UK tour should provide a right old riotous couple of hours right? Yep, damn right!

We've never set foot inside Bristol's SWX before, but on tonight's showing it seems to be a darn good venue. Support band Heavy Lungs were onstage as we arrived. Their billing was not entirely unexpected considering 1) they are also local lads; and 2) they are fronted by one Danny Nedelko, the subject of one of Idles' best-known songs. Personally, I wasn't all that taken by them, though I will say some of their music was rather offbeat and, perhaps for that reason, also a little bit interesting.

Idles, a band who have really come good in the last couple of years thanks to two storming albums, had nothing to prove to an audience who knew only too well what they were capable of. That same audience was blown into the middle of next month by set-opener Colossus. Its ominous, bass-heavy rumbles at the start were rendered even darker and heavier by being slowed right down, the pace being maintained throughout the first part of the song which got progressively louder and heavier, before the second (fast) part kicked in and the mosh pit really got going.

New single Never Fight A Man With A Perm was next, and Idles could have ended their set right there and half the crowd would have gone home happy. Probably. In the end we got all but one of the songs on the current album, and a sprinkling of those from last year's debut 'Brutalism'. Samaritans, Great and 1049 Gotho were my personal faves, but other notables were Danny Nedelko (during which the aforementioned singer of the support band was carried around the stage on the shoulders of a roadie), Well Done (which singer Joe claims has earned him a whole £7 on Spotify) and Television.

I have to give a lot of credit to the audience for the brilliance of this show. It has been a long time since I saw such exhuberance and energy from a crowd - the mosh pit was immense. Bristol audiences are generally excellent but this lot surpassed themselves, their love of their band plainly obvious by their reactions. They certainly played their part, but Idles know how to play to the crowd.

Idles were so good, I had to buy a t-shirt. Yep, that good. The bass player sold it to me. I signed off the transaction by telling him what a "fucking great show" I'd just witnessed. "Oh thanks very much," he replied with seemingly humble surprise. A nice touch for a band on the verge of hugeness, with nothing but the highest of acclaim following them wherever they go. Maybe I'd have forgiven him if he'd been a bit of a dick, but it's good to find they're still firmly grounded. For now anyway.

Support: Adwaith, Halo Maud
Tramshed, Cardiff - 17 October 2018

And now for something completely different... The sound of bellowing punk was still rattling around my head the following evening as MrsRobster, Our Mate Colin (OMC) and I entered the Tramshed in Cardiff. This was the opening night of the Sŵn festival, an annual five day extravaganza of music across numerous venues in the city. And what better way to get it started than one of Wales' most heralded artists singing in Cornish?! Gwenno's new album 'Le Kov' is certainly one of 2018's more intriguing releases, but the fact it's also very good means it's worth more than just a token listen.

To kick things off though, were Gwenno's French labelmates Halo Maud. I'd not come across this lot before but their debut album, also released this year, seems to be picking up plenty of plaudits. I wasn't entirely convinced by their opening number, but everything that followed got better and better. Think Cocteau Twins meets Stereolab and you're part way there though there's plenty more going on. Worth investigating further for sure.

Carmarthen's Adwaith have been touted as one of Wales' best new bands. The all-female three piece make a somewhat minimal post-punk noise in the mould of early Wire, The Slits and the Au Pairs, yet they failed to make an impression on the three of us. Maybe in a smaller venue it might have worked better, or even some better songs. Either way, they didn't connect with us on the night, which is a shame. Young Welsh talent is always welcome round here so I'd like to be more positive.

You could be forgiven for thinking that, based on her two solo albums to date, Gwenno's live shows would be dreamy, laid-back affairs. And compared to an Idles show they probably are. But while she almost whispers her lyrics on record, live she belts them out with gusto. Den Heb Tavas was delivered with a ferocity that was unexpected, and Hi A Skoellyas Liv A Dhagrow sounded far more earnest and intense than its recorded version.

And that was the overriding feeling of the set. Gwenno's decision to sing entirely in her first two languages - Welsh and Cornish - is fuelled by her passion and belief that her native cultures and identities should be kept alive through music and language instead of being forced into extinction. Whether you agree with this concept or not, you'd have a hard time arguing against Gwenno's conviction. The psychedelic moods of the new Cornish material sat comfortably alongside the more Krautpop tendencies of the Welsh-language stuff from her first record. There's certainly something in Gwenno's sound that brings to mind the much-missed Broadcast, though she's just as likely to name Aphex Twin and Maurice Chevalier as influences. It's that mix of retro and modernity that fits the whole spirit of Gwenno's words and music.

As the backdrop showed us live psychedelic images of Gwenno in full flow, and the strains of Tir Ha Mor, Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki and Chwyldro filled the Tramshed, it was evident that there was more in common between the two shows we saw this week than we might have otherwise expected. Both Idles and Gwenno have causes to fight for, passions to elicit. Both acts are animated onstage and have a convincing presence, connecting with their audiences. Closing her set with Eus Keus?, Gwenno's final song touched on another pressing issue close to her heart. Teaching us the chorus of the song which translates as "Is there cheese? / Is there, or isn't there? / If there is cheese, then bring cheese / If there is no cheese, bring what there is" she laments that "There just aren't enough songs about cheese." How true. Maybe if this Cornish language lark doesn't catch on, Gwenno can define a new genre. Dairy-pop, anyone?


  1. Good post Robster. I'm not entirely convinced by Idles but am open to being converted. Gwenno is great.

  2. Two fantastic artists. Still need to buy Le Kov, but on the day I should be in London with the hopeful thousands, I bought the Idles fantastic album and I liked it, slight recompense somehow. They stole my full stop