North Wales is a beautiful place, but it’s got to be said that in between the university towns of Bangor and Wrexham, stuck at opposite ends of the country like inverted commas, it’s a desert for quality new music. The DIGS Project in Colwyn Bay is a brave attempt by some locals to create a music scene where none existed before. The venue might be an alcohol free church hall, with pop and cakes on sale, and there are serious things like ‘bidding for council funding’ but the heart is there. I was very slightly sceptical, but once inside, the place is impressive as a venue – a good sound system, a proper vari-light rig, and a better backstage than half of Manchester’s venues. All they need now is an audience that doesn’t cling to the walls and sit at the back. One of the mainstays of the DIGS project is local girl Ema Davies, who told me she’s been trying to get gigs off the ground in the area for a little time. She and the team have managed a bit of a coup tonight, getting FOE and Dogbones up here from the south coast and London, as well as local heroes Kick Start Kitty.
They’ve got a ridiculously early start time and I managed to miss all but the last two songs from the Kick Start boys. What I saw was good fun, enthusiastic rock somewhere in Kiss / screamo / US punk territory. I’ll catch a whole set next time.
Next up were FOE. It’s the third time that I’ve seen them play, and the second time in a short while that they’ve been in North Wales. When I first spoke to the band a couple of months ago, they said they were determined to play as much live music as possible. They’re putting their money where their mouths are sure enough, and slogging those motorway miles. There was halloween face paint aplenty on the band, to complement the ghouls and brides of frankenstein in the audience. As a production, FOE have been hugely impressive from the off, what with the 6Music sessions before they’d hardly played a gig; that didn’t seem to phase them. As a live outfit though, they’re developing solid presence to go with the art school / bedroom production outlook. Hannah has owned the stage from the off, but the guys in the band now have more of a strut, less inclination to shoe-gaze on stage. It might just be the effects of a big brightly lit stage of course, but it was a confident set, closing out with a sucker punch courtesy of a segued ‘Get Money’ through to ‘Tyrant Song’ (the one that got me hooked in the first place) and onto a thrashed jamming outro. I’m more convinced than ever.
I deserve a kicking for not having seen Dogbones before now. That social networking internet thingy shows that they’re rated by all the people that I’ve come to rely on as opinion canaries, and so it proved. Even before the set, vocalist Nomi was strolling around the audience in a wig and tiara, lapdog under her arm complete with its own fur coat and punk hairdo. Lordy it was some extensive stage rig – two drummers spending as long as you like building a monster kit with the usual bass, toms, and all the rest of it but now with added tympani to boot. It was kind of indicative that the band had lost sight of their singer while they were setting up, then realised that she was out front in the audience. I mentioned wall flowers before – Nomi was having none of this and in the countdown moments was working the room, getting everyone on their feet and up in front of the stage. The band just started up as though they’d seen it all before, and Nomi hitched up her dress and climbed up onto the stage, eschewing the stairs that anyone else might have used. They’re loud, they’re thrashy, musically the engine room is very tight indeed. Whereas Nomi is wild and young (is she ever wild!) the rest of the band felt like seasoned pros, giving her the sort of foundation that Garbage did for Shirley Manson. Nomi pranced and danced, contorted and rolled around, this was visceral howling stuff. Think punk showing its knickers to the world, in this case quite literally, the pants in question emblazoned with the word Wales; she’s originally from round these parts and proud of it. Despite or because of such shenanigans, there was 110% credibility. John got his moment to swap guitar for vocal, but in truth Bin Laden could have successfully hidden on stage, given the compelling nature of Nomi’s performance. They went off, they came back on, this time she’d lost the wig and her dress, and was now bedecked in a pyjama jacket. The stage having perhaps grown too confining, Nomi spent the rest of the set in the crowd. She’d been spitting water fountains before, and now decided to try and eat the point and shoot camera that someone was using to film her, in between half-terrifying whichever member of the crowd she gave her attention to. Two more songs and they ground themselves to a stop. The remarkable thing was that for such a hung out and wasted looking performance, the whole band were chipper and chilled minutes later backstage, Nomi insistently recommending other bands to me as well as jokingly getting me to interview her mum. I can pretty much say I’ve never quite seen the like, and certainly not in genteel North Wales.
More please, that’s the kind of music scene we need!