6 Music Festival fringe, Clwb Ifor Bach all dayer, Gruff Rhys, audiobooks 3
Bandicoot (photo credit - Bethan Miller)

6 Music Festival fringe, Clwb Ifor Bach all dayer, Gruff Rhys, audiobooks

On the run up to the 6 Music Festival in Cardiff the radio station created a magical bubble from Land’s End to John o’Groats, independent Welsh artists playlisted, songs on rotation to a national audience with the new and emerging grassroots peppered in. 6 Music took presenters, producers, and international names Self Esteem, Pixies, and band of the moment Wet Leg, to the city itself for the weekend. But away from the relative glamour of on air and big stage performances, the fringe more than held its own, Welsh Music Prize winners Adwaith at Clwb Ifor Bach midweek, showcases and mini festivals busying the nights, and our very own editor Bill Cummings on a panel debating the role of modern music journalism at the School of Journalism and Media and Culture.

The camaraderie of local artists is evident all over the weekend; at the Tiny Rebel on the Friday musicians and creatives rock up for their peers, setting the right tone for the fringe events to come. The 6 Music element adds glitter and sparkle, for sure. Bandicoot’s Tom Emlyn opens with a short set with his solo band. We do keep banging on about this but Emlyn is an exceptional observative songwriter and, as it turns out, not too shabby a front man either. Bandicoot were one of the many Welsh bands played on 6 Music on the run up to the festival. ‘Radio 6 is a precious resource that supports the independent, alternative, adventurous music that I love,’ says Emlyn. ‘Getting airplay on there with (Bandicoot) has been one of those milestones that you hope for, and it’s such a great thing for Cardiff as a music city that they brought the Radio 6 Fringe Festival to us in 2022! It’s really drawn attention to Cardiff and the rich, supportive, diverse musical scene that we’re blessed with.’

Foxxglove at Tiny Rebel – photo credit Bethan Miller

Foxxglove and her classy art-pop are very confident and emotive tonight.  It doesn’t seem sufficient to simply say she’s a terrific singer.  Boss, ace, great, all the good stuff. Both artists plus headliners Red Telephone – who have since picked great airplay including Radio 1 – will play Focus Wales next month. Really liked the dark art rock sensibility of Eye too. Tiny Rebel gave a hint at what lies in store for the long weekend but we start Saturday, the first full day, by going official. There’s something fan club or Saturday morning children’s telly about Tramshed around about noon. Broadcast live, frantic and at a pace, we’re on the clock and applaud on cue at APPLESAUCE/”GO!”. Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 release natural relaxed sunshine into the room with their Welsh-Latin America hybrid, Ellis warmly explaining songs, and waving in keen audience participation. Steve Lamacq’s in conversation next with Joe Talbot from IDLES firms up his long-term allegiance.  With so many big names to come it feels wrong yet oh so right to hit an eaterie in town and grab  post-lunch-brunch sugar rush ‘The Elvis’, Cardiff’s take on the King of Rock n Roll’s fried banana sandwich, before hot footing it to Clwb Ifor Bach’s 6 Music fringe all dayer of up and coming Welsh talent. Door staff beckon and smile come on in, it’s free, enjoy, no need for ticket, there you go.

God Is In the TV Sound of 2022 AhGeeBe is simply wonderful, consider us 100% charmed by those sweet Americana vibes and pretty floating melodies proving to be curiously emotional. The buzz in the two rooms inside the venue is infectious, soon enough the place is ‘sold out’ so there’s a mass of bodies going from ground to top floor and back again at the end of each set. The trick is to nip out on each band’s final song to get a good spec for the next.  It’s all about technique and skill, much like the spot on curation of the line up in Clwb today, the wonderful subtleties of Gillie and Ailsa Tully offset by raw and raunchy punk trio Shlug, who bring Elvis into proceedings. My terrible brunch repeats on me, but in a good way. There is a theme to this day, and I kinda Iike it. Alice Low provides charisma and theatre, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard the ultimate good time band, their brand of glam-rock working well in a teatime slot, who knew?

Bandicoot’s sweaty set is a masterclass in indie rock n roll and courteous anarchy, audience members onstage going fully improv, the band swapping instruments, the bass player crowdsurfing. The sole of his boot mere inches from my skull,  yet it still feels like the safest space in the world. Circumstance beyond our control had us miss Mellt which was genuinely upsetting; however fretting subsided at Los Blancos who capped off the day. There’s always a worry a band one hasn’t seen before but dearly wanted to might not reach the hopes, but they bloody well did. What’s not to like about their heart on the sleeve slacker rock, and the Malcolm in the Middle tribute was a witty touch. Eschewing the official 6 Music events today and night for this all dayer of band after band of serious muscle and flair carries absolutely zero sorrow with it. Manic Street Preachers’ triumphant debut (yes really) at Clwb two nights previous feels prophetic in an if-you-see-it-you-can-be-it sort of way, a prediction of what’s to come for those taking the stage today, perhaps? The sort of event people will claim to be at for years to come.

The seven days and events like these has showcased to an international audience says Minty of Minty’s Gig Guide – whose posters are plastered on billboards across the city over the period, venue maps clasped in the hands of locals and visitors alike – what Cardiff can do as a “music city”.  ‘It’s a moniker that’s floated around for some time – never been a fan of using it. I will however for this make the exception. Because for seven days, that’s how it felt…the cohesion from local authority to grass roots venues to artists and fans. The world looked over and we got the nod. The coverage, the platform, the inspiration it has given to many artists who played the fringe and festival was nothing shy of sensational.’  Gwenno had to pull out of her headliner on Saturday, Covid still having its effects, Cardiff DIY punk five piece Panic Shack taking her place. ‘They were given a real opportunity to step up and perform in Y Plas, doing so, so elegantly which as a result is going to bolster their already upward trajectory,’ he enthuses.

Sunday morning delivers us back bright and early and more chipper then expected at Tramshed for Georgia Ruth. She and her harp came over from Aberystwyth that morning but her songs fresh and delightful, and she treats us to the first live performance of new single ’25 MINUTES’.  Teenage multi-instrumentalist Cerys Hafana and her Welsh triple harp joins Cerys Matthews for a chat onstage, her infectious enthusiasm at blending traditional and modern, how her love and learning came from family and community.

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Cerys Hafana and Cerys Matthews at Tramshed – photo credit Beverly Craddock

We head to St David’s Hall next. Music from Welsh artists is omnipresent in the bars and venues all weekend, insistent on being heard. To go with the theme, audiobooks drove down from a show in Newcastle last night, before reaching the Hall’s press room sofa, one complete with 6 Music monogrammed cushions and lights. David Wrench put together a four hour long Welsh playlist for the journey for he and Evangeline Ling. Koreless, Man, Budgie proved an education for her.

‘There was lots of old stuff I’d never heard before. Golden Lock Chain?’

‘Goldie Lookin Chain,’ smiles David. ‘She hadn’t heard them before…’

She bursts out laughing. ‘Guns Don’t Kill You, Rappers Do! My favourite track of the playlist!

A surreal title which fits in with her own lyric writing. ‘I studied fine art at Goldsmiths. I was drawing lots of comic strips and finding it difficult to put writing and drawings together so I ended up having chunks of writing waiting for me to draw them out as stories. But then I met David and we started to write music and I already had all this pre written stuff. It would’ve been weird if I didn’t have a go at singing.’

‘She started texting me these weird stories out of the blue. I said these are too good to just be text messages so why not put them over some of this music we’ve been jamming?’ he explains.

‘I wasn’t thinking of them as lyrics, I was thinking of them as short stories to go with drawings,’ adds Evangeline. There is lots of improvisation when you are both creating songs, is that right?

‘If I have someone to channel in my mind, I find it easier to improvise. If I’m not channeling anything, it’s a bit slower. On the first record it’s all pretty raw takes, especially tracks like Dealing With Hoarders. In my I head I was being Marilyn Manson and it just comes out all…wrong. Friends in the Bubblebath I was trying to be Justin Bieber and then it comes out wrong. So it’s its own thing. I feel comfortable enough to look a complete fool in front of David, a load of gobbledygook comes out first but I get past that then suddenly I zone in and everything seems to work. I always keep in my notebook phrases or sentences I like so if I get a creative block I go to them, and use those, fit them in.’

audiobooks played Birkenhead’s Future Yard in my neck of the woods twice over the past year.  In Birkenhead Park, the Eisteddfod Stone represents the Welsh National Eisteddfod held there in 1917.

‘We love Birkenhead! We love Half Man Half Biscuit. The lyrics are so playful, so cheeky, so cool,’ says Evangeline excitedly, and proceeds to do the best Nigel Blackwell impersonation in the history of the world.

‘Fuckin’ ‘Ell It’s Fred Titmus! He could have used someone else’s name, it had to be Fred Titmus. Stuff like that, you can’t learn, he understands it intuitively.’

audiobooks understand their audience well, ‘I love audiobooks!’ a common refrain at the mention of their name.
‘You either get into it, or don’t. Those who do, get passionate about it,’ David reckons. They love putting the audience on the back foot at the beginning of a show, using the journalistic technique to unsettle interviewees to make them slip up.

‘We do it less now,’ David continues. ‘When I used to see The Fall, they didn’t give a shit if you liked them or not. And there’s something endearing about that. I think the worst thing is when you see a band and they really want you to like them. It’s a bit off putting. If a band comes out and they’re “whatever, take this, deal with this”, you warm to them. It’s reverse psychology. It’s good to lay the gauntlet down. “Can you deal with us or not?”.’

The thought amuses Evangeline. ‘I think it’s an enjoyable feeling. I like to feel uncomfortable or intimated you’re going there to feel something. With Blue Tits, I love to make people feel disturbed. I love unsettling people. “What is she going to say next?” They’re not sure if they want to leave, but they don’t want to bring attention to themselves. I sort of trap them there!’

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Gruff Rhys & Cath Holland – image by Beverly Craddock

Waiting to meet with Gruff Rhys next, the sounds of ‘Frontier Man’ from 2018 album ‘Babelsberg’ float through the floor and walls as he soundchecks. Just a couple of hours earlier at Tramshed he played a short acoustic set, got called a legend by  6 Music’s presenter Tom Robinson. ‘I think it’s a complimentary thing to say,’ he says modestly when I mention it to him. ‘I call people a legend in the pub…’

One of the musicians in Georgia Ruth’s band said you helped him carry some gear earlier. The opposite of rock n roll behaviour. ‘He was having trouble at the door I picked up a case for him, it’s nothing. What did Teenage Fan Club used to do, take paints with them, used to clean up dressing rooms, and paint over graffiti?’

‘It feels great,’ he continues, about the Cardiff 6 Music takeover. ‘I saw Cerys Hafana play to a full house and go down really well. It’s really exciting. There is so many great artists around. Mind boggling really.’

It’s been so good to hear and see so many Welsh artists getting a leg up in this way, especially those who sing in Welsh.  Does it feel to him like there’s a change in the air, people are more ready to give it a listen now?
‘I think it’s always been the case, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t. I like to think people are open to more different languages now than 20 years ago. People are exposed to more variation in music these days.’

You’ve always incorporated music from different cultures in your work. ‘I’m interested in music in languages I don’t understand,’ he laughs. ‘You get different rhythms out of different languages and you get something unique, it’s hard to put your finger on it with language because music goes beyond (that). There’s different rhythms and sounds and it’s really exciting.’

The festival has been encouraging artists to play covers, is that right?
‘Partly why I write songs is that I can’t play covers, some people’s brain is constructed so they can pick up any song they hear and play it and for whatever reason my brain isn’t constructed like that. I’m not a conventional guitar player or anything.’

There’s little chance new EP ‘People Are Pissed’, inspired by Boris Johnson during the pandemic, will get 6 Music airplay. Due to length – it’s eight minutes long – and language, but he’s ok about that.

‘That’s the period it was written. It’s a pretty vague song. Because it’s vaguely a sweary song I’ve had lots of chats with people, is pissed a swear word or not? Turns out it sort of is.’

In America it’s not a swearword, it’s a regular everyday phrase.  ‘And in Australia you can swear anyway. There’s no censorship!’

What does he enjoy about songwriting?  ‘I really enjoy the process, I’m not sure if it’s comparable to making a crossword or something, you get the germ of an idea and figure out the song around it, hopefully a song that’s different to other people’s songs. And different to my own songs. I find it really enjoyable. A lot of it is in the moment, the melodic ideas and other aspects you have to work on, refining the lyrics.’

You’re the wearer of many hats. Literally and creatively.
‘Yeah, I lose hats, so I don’t have as many! Everything’s based around songs. If I do something vaguely different it’s related to songs or touring I ended up writing books about touring but it’s residue from life as a musician, my main interest is writing songs.’

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H Hawkline at Tramshed- photo credit Beverly Craddock

Today is a day of boomeranging, after our chat is over it’s back to catch H Hawkline at teatime at Tramshed, sharing the evergreen ‘Means The Much’ and new material. Fine songwriting from an artist we don’t see enough of. The Bug Club open for The Mysterines over at Y Plas later, the trio as tight and riff filled as ever. It feels a bit odd to experience them as support and similarly over at St David’s Hall, with audiobooks and Gruff Rhys the appetiser for Cat Power exploring her ‘Covers‘ album, and headliner Father John Misty, who is bloody loving being backed by the  BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Seems to enjoy teasing his new song ‘Goodbye Mr Blue’s cheeky resemblance to Fred Neil‘s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’; and with the orchestra tonight for much of it it’s a bit like having Glen Campbell or Harry Nilsson in the room. There are worse things. From the nosebleed seats, his red socks are glowing. You’re a long way away buddy. Miles. But that’s ok. He gives us a soft landing after one heck of a ride.

After the festival is done, the 6 Music vans packed up and driven away, musicians are still processing both their own involvement and contribution, and how they benefited.

‘Being asked to play the 6 Music festival was such an honour and it did not disappoint! It was absolutely rammed. I think the tickets sold out in 4 minutes!’ Gwen Anthony from Adwaith says. ‘And everyone was so supportive. On top of that, we were also playlisted so it was such an incredible week for us and we are so grateful for all the support from 6 Music. There was such a buzz around Cardiff which is always amazing to see. Take me back!’

For Minty, he is optimistic the spotlight on Cardiff will have a constructive effect, going forward. He spoke with so many people over the festival, he reflects, from Wales and those who travelled from all across the UK, Dublin, Spain, Portugal and Peru. ‘All so positive about the city of Cardiff and what it had to offer and all leaving Wales with a positive impression and an urge to return. What is important now is we maintain this momentum going forward and we need local authority to continue to show that it is dedicated to the music in its city — and that this wasn’t the flutter of the peacocks feathers during an a moment of international coverage – we’ve seen it can be done. We know it can be done.’

Bandicoot feature image photo credit – Bethan Miller




God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.