Slate Vocal Guitar 3

Focus Wales 2024: review + gallery

Over the course of three days shoe rubber (who has leather on the soles of their shoes anymore), knee cartilage, shin splints, calf cramps, is worn and chipped away in the name of getting round as many bodacious bands at Focus Wales as possible, for you, the reader. It’s ruddy bloody tough work but some poor shmuck has gotta do it. Sitting in The Nags Head pub garden in Wrexham in the middle of the afternoon sipping on a cold brewski ain’t for the faint hearted. Then we had to squeeze ourselves into sweaty venue after sweaty venue after massive tent after cool church, to let you know about the best there is in Welsh, UK and International talent.

Out of a cornucopia of bands, artists, acts, poets and prophets, here are some of our highlights.

Jim Auton (JA), Bill Cummings (BC), Cath Holland (CH)


Punchlove were the first act we saw on the Thursday at the Wynnstay Arms. They performed three times across this year’s festival. This Brooklyn collective craft some of the most fearsomely beautiful sonic gut punches we have felt in some years. Abrasive yet bittersweet, crunchy and exultant, capturing the distortion peddle nirvana of acts like early My Bloody Valentine and sewing it with elements of intricate and shifting post-rock dynamics, and underpinned by an appreciation of the lineage of New York art sound of Sonic Youth, yet retaining an explorative imagination and spirit all of their own. ‘Guilt‘ is a standout from their new album; serrated guitars scale sky scrapers whilst melodic peaks and valleys are shattered and intoxicating, this is arresting and fantastic! We are definitely punch drunk and in love with them! (BC)

Cardiff’s slate are fantastically intense. Singer Jack is a captivating frontman, he contorts and twists as he sneers into the mic, leaning into the crowd as the band hammer out thunderous bass and cutting, angular guitar lines, underpinned by tight and concise drums. Their debut EP is out today. ‘Deathless’. Let’s hope so. (JA)

Angharad mines a largely untapped seam of the feminist spectrum, with stories of motherhood and associated creativity. Handing out egg shakers in lieu of business cards was quite frankly a genius idea, what a  sweet joyous moment when those of us in ownership of the same spontaneously found a pleasing percussive rhythm, confusing pretty much everyone else in the Rockin’ Chair. Angharad’s live version of the tremendous Postpartum is less dystopian sounding than on record, but that’s no bad thing for it; the anger is still present, but more determined, harnessed and prepped and ready to invoke real change, maybe? (CH)


One of GIITTV’s own acts Generation Feral performing in the Fat Boar summoned an artistry somewhere between Kae Tempest, Kate Nash and Victoria Wood, squeezing folk pop, beat poetry and even bits of post punk into her endearing songs. Both intensely touching and personal and yet rooted in the political, wielding a ukelele and a piano, she sang witty yet poignant tales of not being able to display her knees at school and a cost of living crisis that meant she was left in the cold, quite literally. A multitalented artist with the ability to connect, deeply. (BC)

Annie Dressner hails from Cambridge but New York born. A seriously impressive songwriter, it’s great to see that twelve months on from last year’s festival and with the release of her new album  I Thought It Would Be Easier she is starting to gain the attention she deserves. Including a BBC 6 music session and upcoming dates with Badly Drawn Boy and Bernard Butler.

One can see why, performing with just an acoustic guitar in the grandiose surrounds of St Giles Church, she fills up the room, with intimate, heartfelt songs ripe with yearning and sewn with her endearing personality, there are hints at the down to earth delivery of Suzanne Vega, and it’s great to see Annie become more well known outside of the folk scene where she’s been so successful. Highlights include ‘Black and White‘ and when she was joined by collaborator David Ford. Annie Dressner is a name to conjure with. (BC)

W!Zard are three dudes tout droit venu de Bordeaux, France. And what a glorious racket they make. Wondrous song titles such as ‘Stupid Cunt In The Mall’, angular, screamcore, post punk, pigeon holeless bonkers brilliance. All delivered with a sensational accent. C’est manifique. (JA)

It was Half Happy‘s first time in Wrexham and they made the most of it, their gorgeously swooning brand of indie pop, riven with intimate details and little moments that pull you out and into the real world. In Rose they have a magnetic vocalist with a touching voice, and diaristic lyrics that always draw you in and speak to you in a way bands like Alvvays or Wolf Alice can. Songs like ‘Runaway Girl’ with its chiming riffs, bounding bass lines and cooing backings are decorated in lyrics that possess a kind of wistfulness that belies the upbeat tune. Newer songs hint at new directions as more shoegaze guitars and keyboards come to the fore. We are excited at what’s to come, but as we head into the evening our hearts are full with the kind of bliss Half Happy evoke. (BC)

Melin Melyn are relaxed and chilled and hilarious and stupendous. They have a song about a real person that was a struggling artist who had to paint dogs North and South, East and West, so he could afford to do what he wants to do. Sounds familiar. (JA)


Em Koko is subdued on stage, there’s minimal movement and minimal between song chat, but she captivates with her sound and her voice. Joined by Minas on a synth, her music skitters somewhere between dream pop, electronica and post punk. Koko’s songs are haunting and emotive she casts a spell on us as we watch this talented young artist, flourish in front of our eyes. One track sounds a bit like Curve with abrasive distorted guitars joining the clasped handed beats and electronic synths. Her recent single ‘Take Me as I am’ is the standout and last track, a pulsing song that sways with a Warpaint like atmosphere and swoops with a melancholia that echoes early Cocteau Twins. (BC)

We deserve better pop stars in the UK than we currently have. And we do need to get shut of those who give off strong ‘can I take your order’ at McDonald’s Dr Thru vibes. Luckily Otto Aday is here to save us. Or offer an alternative at the very least. We did not expect Otto to be like this. It was a case of, schedule him on the app because, could be interesting. And that he was; crushed velvet loons and white platforms, and surely there must be some Tim Buckley in his bloodline somewhere?
His heart on his sleeve, cinematic highly melodic pop songs tinged with psychedelic romance were spiced up and made somehow bigger during his set, and given a sharper twist. He performed at SXSW in Texas this year thanks to Focus Wales and the video for the Dave Stewart-produced ‘Dancing Round The Morning Sun’ won the Focus’s BAFTA-accredited “Best Welsh Music Video”. You’ll be reading more on the pages of GIITTV about Otto Aday. He’s so damn good, and potentially bloody amazing.  (CH)

Eadyth has really found her voice, quite literally. Previously solo, her performance style more muted, her sound clearly influenced by R&B and electro was cool but lacked the dynamism she displays now. At St Giles Church, she vividly depicted by why she has truly been unleashed as part of a duo joined by guitarist Rhodri Foxhall. Her songs are powerful and tap into themes of dystopic technology and self empowerment. Her fantastic voice is bracing and emotive, soulful and rasping, she pulls notes into new shapes, she could shake mountains, which is lucky as we aren’t far from a few. (BC)

Ynys continue their upward trajectory after giving us one heck of a new year surprise back in February at the inaugural Trawsnewid festival in Aberystwyth, striding onstage and showcasing a fresher, bolder energy.
Here at Focus the band, fronted by Dylan Hughes, deliver a greatest hits set from Welsh Music Prize shortlisted debut record Ynys, but don’t let up and tantalize with a tasty selection of tunes from the forthcoming album this summer. Yes, granted, it is hot in this tent this Friday early evening, but the songs are proper sizzlin’. Many smiles onstage and off as they play current single ‘Aros Amdanat Ti’, (Waiting For You) and what a joy it is to hear disco dazzler ‘Dosbarth Nos’ (Night Class) live. Melody, melody, melody.  (CH)

We missed The Family Battenberg last year at The Parish, there was no room at the Inn. So early attendance at Hope Street Church was essential in 2024 but resulted in positioning next to the P.A. and therefore partial deafness. A blistering set from the Cardiff quadruped. But. No ‘Runny Hunny’. We weren’t best pleased, and told them so. They were very apologetic. They are forgiven then, but only because the rest of the set was all killer and promised so much for future releases. An EP? An LP?!? Yes please. (JA)

Skinny Pelembe weaves together elements of soul, blues and art pop into an addictive blend. Ty Pawb is packed now and we can barely get in but by the time we do we are treated to a riot of songs rippling with character and left us wanting to explore more of his back catalogue. (BC)

Shark School are a spiky punky band from Galway, Ireland, they sound like Sprints colliding with Sonic Youth, sure they have the talky singing thing down and the barrelling riffing, but they’re more punky than that. The track ‘411’ is a scampering highlight about the dysfunctional transport system back home. (BC)

Gintis are an unexpected emotional gut punch. The small room in the Wynnstay Arms is packed to the rafters and Carl’s huge infectious grin is lubricated by a never ending pint of Guinness. They don’t play live all that often, their two albums are over a decade apart but there is so much unbridled joy in the room and each song is a huge sing-a-long. By the end of ‘Now I Know’ there isn’t a dry eye, or cheek, in the house. (JA)

Dactyl Terra are given a slot in the wee small hours at The Parish but this probably only aids the psych rock woozy feel. We’re all a few pints down and then some by 1am and it’s a heady mix. Ear splitting volume, multiple guitar hooks and licks, harmonies, driving rhythms. Hypnotic. Incendiary. (JA)

Bored Marsh


Bored Marsh are playing their first gig outside Nottingham and leave us anything but bored. Singles from last year ‘The Grind’ and ‘A Better Way (Don’t Start)’  are as fresh and vibrant as the rest of the setlist taken from the upcoming Idiot EP. Epic, anthemic and sky scraping. This may be the first time but it won’t be my last. (JA)

Over at St Giles Church, the beautiful, sobering surroundings provided the perfect setting for The Gentle Good to play a selection of songs from recent album Galgaran (Grief song), reinterpretations of old Welsh songs some lost or forgotten. Sometimes we all need breathing space, and to rest awhile mid-festival and listen to acoustic guitar, cello and Gareth Bonello’s vocal gently rising and falling, in the cool confines of a parish church with such history, is just about the most effective medicine there is. (CH)

Tara Bandito’s theatrical performance at Rockin’ Chair – with props – did not distract from the focus on her substantial songwriting skills, and my word her vocal range is so impressive. Moreover, she is the best creator of ‘fuck you’ songs in contemporary times, and that’s a fact. Let’s face it folks we, especially women, need a spark of Tara’s fire. The familiar and much-loved ‘Unicorn‘ was performed and now we have a new ‘up yours’ song  ‘Marginally Mad’ (‘I’ll show you fucking crazy, baby’, she promises) with which to weaponize ourselves. (CH)

Laura J Martin 1

Laura J Martin performs in Tw Pawb in memory of Janice Long on the BBC Wales stage for Adam Walton. Joined on stage by producer Iwan Morgan, they unite on recent single ‘Living on the Wall’ decorated in daubing keyboard motifs, crunchy percussive stomps and haunting melodies, Morgan offering a counter point to Martin’s glowing delivery, it’s a bright eyed delight. Hailing from Liverpool yet with a deep love of Welsh music as shown by her collaboration, Martin speaks fondly of meeting Janice, and her work in championing artists like her on the radio. At one point they are joined by Gareth Bonello hours after his own set in the parish church, it’s a heart-warming set that offers a tantalising glimpse of her marvellous new album Prepared. Finishing off the set with the flute driven ‘Spy’ that’s almost Middle Eastern rumble and artful vocals, draws an evocative tale of espionage. (BC)

Pixy Jones performed after Martin around about midnight, the conclusion of the Janice Long tribute strand. The former El Goodo front man ’s debut solo album Bit N Bobs from a couple of years ago is one criminally overlooked, chockful it is of psych-pop with 60s alt country infusion. The final song on it, ‘Dewch Draw’ was emotionally received at Focus. If we had lighters or been allowed them indoors they’d be held aloft and no mistake. ‘Bad Throat’ is serious subject matter – health is wealth – but if anything, the good humored vocal harmonies tonight playing with elements of doo wop underpin that message. What a privilege to hear unheard material as well, very much into the Janice new music ethos. Absolutely fantastic, and a fine tribute to a woman who did so much to support independent music, Welsh or not. (CH)
Photo/gallery credit: Beverly Craddock

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.