Just weeks after celebrating its 20th birthday, 6Music brings its annual festival into the Welsh capital. Given it is the best and most eclectic music station bar none, the programme they have laid on during a long weekend of music is suitably rich in depth and quality.
After Blackwood’s very own Manic Street Preachers opened the festival with an intimate gig at Clwb Ifor Bach on the Thursday, the first proper evening of the festival gets underway with a series of gigs littered across the city. The biggest draw of the night was to be found at the Great Hall where the Pixies are on at the unfeasibly early hour of 7pm; presumably for live broadcast reasons.
The band begin with Gouge Away and don’t let up over the course of the next hour. There’s barely a pause for breath as the band play hit after hit. The crowd were treated to classics like Debaser, Where Is My Mind?, This Monkey Has Gone to Heaven, Mr Grieves and other such songs which soundtracked a generation and launched a thousand bands.
Despite the non-existent interaction with the crowd, it was evident by the end of the set that Black Francis, Joey Santiago, David Lovering and Paz Lenchantin had thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Perhaps the happiness was in part down to the intimate setting of the gig compared to their usual arenas and stadia.
Next up was the critically acclaimed Lucy Dacus, the American indie/folk singer-songwriter. This was a curious choice of support given this set was comparatively quiet and low-octane when placed on the same bill as two rollickingly loud rock acts. As it happens, the scheduling worked well as it gave the audience a chance to catch its breath and cool down. In that sense, Dacus was very much the eye of the storm in the proceedings…and what a storm it was that ensued.
Although familiar with the material of Idles, this was my time seeing them in the flesh and hearing the songs the way they are intended to be heard…live and ear bleedingly loud. Idles live is an experience that is hard to describe due to its incredible intensity, energy and sheer joy. The band are a ball of energy, with each member feeding off each other.
Welsh frontman Joe Talbot is like a coiled spring, barking his vocals out with wide eyes and bulging veins in his neck. He dedicates the song Mother to his dad who he says is standing somewhere at the back of the venue. One can only imagine the pride he feels in seeing his son, prowling the stage with the audience in the palm of his hands at all times. Never Fight a Man with a Perm and the pro-immigration anthem Danny Nedelko cause the first mosh pits and crowd surfing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s joyous.
The band close with Rottweiler just to make sure that the last bead of sweat and ounce of energy is wrung from the heaving mass that once resembled a crowd of unruffled and cool spectators. When the band exited stage and the lights came on, you then saw the evidence of a special night; garments soaked through with sweat and grins from ear-to-ear.
Idles had big shoes to fill after coming on after The Pixies but they filled them and then some. This performance was nothing short of spectacular.