Before you jump straight into Day Two, it might be worth having a look at Day One if you haven’t already done so… or this post could be rather confusing.
Although feedback is great, I get slightly concerned after doing public talks or panels at just how many people come up afterwards and say “thanks, that was really honest”. It’s literally the main thing that gets said, and it makes me think I’ve been saying something I shouldn’t. Remember, what’s said at Focus Wales, stays at Focus Wales… or something like that.
Perhaps in future I shall divulge some of these potential secrets from the ‘Get Me On The Bill’ panel that I was on yesterday, but for now all you’re getting is music I’m afraid. There’s been some beauties here too.
At the risk of losing you too soon, I’m going to start off with my highlight, though it has to be said most of you will probably prefer the last act I mention (don’t skip).
I’d met Maija Kauhanen briefly on Thursday evening, she’d been highly recommended by Lisa Whytock from Celtic Connections (amongst other things), whose tastes I tend to trust, especially in the wider realms of Folk.
She performed solo using an assortment of instruments, but largely centred around the kantele, a traditional stringed instrument from her homeland of Finland. The particular one she played this time looked far from traditional though, with a clear body filled with decorative lights and sequined material. It added an intriguing extra touch to her performance, which in itself was absolutely hypnotising. Even though I have no grasp of Finnish I followed her stories avidly as she managed to translate the emotions through her powerful vocals and virtuoso instrumentalism. I’m not sure it comes across quite so well on video as live, and this is a stripped back version with far less percussion and an under-mic’d up kick drum, but here’s a little taste that should be watched til the end.
Just before Maija began I’d bumped into Mr Phormula, a stalwart of the Welsh Hip-hop scene as both beat boxer and bilingual wordsmith. I briefly caught some of his set with rap savvy poet partner Martin Dawes last year but with an extended line up that included a keyboard player and a bassist / saxophonist, their show as BARDD this year had me dancing and singing along from the start til the very end. Conference crowds are often notoriously difficult to squeeze emotion from but I was certainly not the only one joining in and I honestly felt the general mood of the room raise a number of degrees til it reached the perfect level of warm and friendly across the diverse range of age groups present.
Quodega gave me something of an almighty flashback as I recognised the central figure on stage as Tom Raybould, whose Fake Death EP under the alias Zwolf I released as an official Chrome Kids ‘Free-Release’ a decade ago next month. I’d actually forgotten about any of those releases up until that point and just found them again here.
This is a very different project although I can hear snippets of previous work within some of the grooves. It’s a lot more guitar heavy and the drumming is more intense and experimental, which if I’m right in reading that they are provided by Kliph Scurlock, makes a lot of sense. If you’re not familiar I write about him here last year. Although I really liked them, I don’t think I have enough musical references to do the band any descriptive justice, but they have been likened to Tom’s other alias as Fist Of First Man.
They were certainly a great warm up for Snapped Ankles, a tree themed post punk troupe, or ‘AGRROcultural PUNKTRONICA’ as they call themselves. They were perhaps the band I had recommended people most as I loved their Rough Trade show in Bristol previously. Looking like they’ve maybe stepped out of a Super Furry Animals cover probably stands them in good stead for a North Walian crowd, but these energetic electroclash ents also have some really great music to back it up and had the majority of a respectably busy room at UnDeGun jumping around last night.
Hopefully I can get at least a handful doing the same when I close that room tonight! The way I’m thinking, the music won’t be too dissimilar but that could all change in the next few hours.