It’s that time of the year once more where I find myself in the sunny (okay not so sunny today) North Walian border town of Wrexham for Focus Wales, a musical showcase and conference that happens annually and for which I have a regular panel spot offering advice on getting gigs (or permanently dashing people’s hopes of every playing Boomtown, depending on whichever way you look at it). I’m also back with my AAA Badboy DJ hat, playing at UnDegUn for their closing set on Saturday. This year I shall be following the wonderful Cate Le Bon so if you’re in town make sure you head down.
The reason you need to know all of this of course is because if you’re following my blog it’s almost certainly due to sharing at least some similar musical tastes and every year I pull out a few choice acts for those who either haven’t made it to the festival, or those who spent the whole day in meetings and the night blind drunk at one of the local bars singing karaoke.
The first act I caught here was Hannah Willwood, a young singer from Snowdonia with a lovely soothing voice, who I booked for the Floating Lotus stage at this year’s Boomtown based on her solo performance at Focus Wales last year. She was back on a bigger stage, with a full band in tow that she’s picked up from studying at the Leeds College of Music, a conservatoire who’s alumni include the likes of Rusko and Ashley Henry, or various members of Gentleman’s Dub Club and Submotion Orchestra. The band perfectly compliment her singing which is a soulful fusion of jazz and folk, and honestly if you need a warm hug for your head after a heavy night at Boomtown you need to go and hunt them down (13:15 on Sunday).
Forgetting that she now has a band, I nearly gave Hannah a miss, simply because I’d seen her before and watching her left me little time to catch a Hip-hop artist from Neath called Luke RV, who has a couple of tunes I’ve been appreciating recently. In all honesty though, she was one of the few artists at the conference to get in touch and ask me to come and see the show so I made an extra effort. Seriously, the best advice I could give artists who perform at these showcases, is to go through the full list of delegates and invite anyone who might be helpful to you to your show (although if you have a clear idea on how they could be helpful and a strong pitch for afterwards, this is even better). I feel a few acts I know missed out on bookings this year due to not being on the ball that way.
Sadly the conference before Hannah ran over and so they were late getting started. Having spoken to the festival organisers, I know they do everything they can to try and make sure everything runs on time but bands, speakers and especially stage managers need to be fully aware that any deviation from the timetable at these events can mean artists really missing out. It meant me not making it to Luke’s set, though he did jump up with Murkage later on. Nope sadly not Dave or any of his Manchester crew, but a rapper from Newport who has some real nice tracks but who fell foul of his own weed heavy repertoire, and seemingly got too stoned before getting on stage.
There were a number of rappers on the bill last night, but my favourite was a lady from Brooklyn called Miss Eaves, whose subject matter ranged from tinder fuck buddies to rogue pubes. Even though I only caught a few tunes it was definitely the most fun, albeit with some very real issues in the mix. In fact I think the bulk of my amusement came simply from watching the very mixed crowd reactions to some of her more sexually confident confessions.
My highlight of the night however was 9Bach, a band who I’ve been trying to catch live for years but somehow I’ve never quite managed it. I was rather glad of that fact last night because I couldn’t think of a more perfect venue to first see them than St Gilles, a large and beautiful medieval church with great acoustics that perfectly framed their melancholic interpretations of Welsh Folk songs, in a style not too dissimilar to classic Portishead but with added harp, which I believe last night was played by Sian James, a highly celebrated artist in her own right (forgive me if I have that wrong, I forgot to take any notes).
Anyway, I hope you enjoy at least one of these bands I’ve mentioned, there will be more coming in the next couple of days. If you’re here at the festival, I shall be on the ‘Get Me On The Bill’ panel later and of course as I mentioned, DJing the closing set at UnDeGun on Saturday night. I’ll be repeating that as much as possible because someone didn’t take their own advice from earlier in the post.