May 06

Tuesday 2nd May

Deadstring Brothers, Christopher Rees
Barfly, Cardiff.

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Christopher Rees kicked off the show with some nice, well crafted acoustic numbers. This Cardiff boy brought most of the small crowd down himself for his birthday party. They all seemed to enjoy it but can’t say its entirely my bag to be honest... he has a nice website though :www.christopherrees.co.uk

Then to the main course, Detroits Deadstring Brothers. We saw them last year in the tiny Chattery in Swansea where they were jammed into the window of the cafe. Tonight the six piece including pedal steel and keyboards seemed to be just as crammed on the Barfly stage. Sounding like mid-period Rolling Stones and looking thinner than rakes with a pallor that says they have probably eaten too much service station food and seen the inside of more transit vans than is good for them, the Deadstrings are the real country rock deal.  Playing the majority of the tracks from their two excellent albums Deadstring Brothers and Starving Winter Report it was difficult to pick a favourite amongst them. These guys gig so hard around the world, they could play these songs blindfolded. Female singer Marcia began to lose her voice towards the end but Christopher Rees, as well as support act is an old friend of the band and helped out with backing vocals on encore You Look Like The Devil. A top night but a shame that not many could be bothered to see one of the best and hardest working bands around.

Check their website for more gigs:  www.deadstringbrothers.com

Wednesday 3rd May

iLiKETRAiNS
Barfly, Cardiff.

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Don’t be fooled by the gimmick of wearing 1970s British Rail uniforms, something much darker and intriguing lies beneath these Leeds based chaps. Visually striking with a ramshackle slide and projection show being run by a remote control held by their able Cornet player Ashley. Starting life on Forward Russias Dance to the Radio label, their brooding, slow-building songs are mini epic stories in their own right. Tonight we are treated to Rook House for Bobby (about tortured chess master Bobby Fischer), two songs about Arctic exploration firstly Fram and then the story of Scott’s failed Arctic Expedition Terra Nova (which sailed from Cardiff, fact fans). Also in the set was the classic first single about stalking - Before The Curtains Close - a Bauhaus Bela Lugosi for the noughties if ever there was one. Other songs to grace the set included

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The Accident and Stainless Steel not forgetting the rather magnificent Beeching Report played as a reluctant encore

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These guys are no ordinary trainspotters and their haunting soundscapes wouldn’t seem amiss on a Stephen King horror film. The often funeral-march paced songs with vocals not a million miles away from Tindersticks Stuart Staples or perhaps The Smiths at the wrong (slower) speed may not be everyones cup of British Rail tea, but they seemed to gain a few more passengers on the night.

One wag shouted  “return ticket!”as they left the stage. I’d make mine a family iLiKETAiNS RAiLCARD, this is First Class! Sign up for one at www.iliketrains.co.uk

As Sir Jimmy Saville used to say, “This is the age, of the train”....

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Sunday 7th May

Boy Kill Boy, The Automatic, !Forward Russia!, Howling Bells
University Solus Club, Cardiff.

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The annual NME new music tour rolled into Cardiff on a wet Sunday night. First up were the Aussie country tinged female fronted rockers Howling Bells. Despite fighting a terrible sound, the band

made the best of it battering out the singles Wishing Stone and Blessed Night with aplomb. With lead singer Juanita and her brother Joel on guitar looking healthy and tanned compared to the rest of the bedraggled mob who were to follow. If this was a TV talent show they’d win hands down! The music was somewhere between P J Harvey and Mazzy Star..

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Howling Bell Juanita

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!Forward Russia! Tom asks for a toilet break

Next up were Leeds mighty !Forward Russia! whos energetic frontman Tom, looked like he had taken the whole tours medication before going on stage. Leaping around, strangling himself with microphone lead and urging the now packed hall to join in the dancing. Thankfully nobody copied his moves or there would have been carnage! A number of technical problems with guitarist Whiskas (9 out of 10 cats prefer him apparently) equipment seemed to affect the flow of the set for the band. Ploughing through last single Thirteen and new one Nine the other numbers (pun intended) were similar in their approach and sound. As fun and entertaining a spectacle as they were, and that the new album Give Me A Wall will be excellent,  I’m really not sure what direction they will need to take for the second album, perhaps start with the alphabet at A?!

Next up on the quick turnaround was local boys The Automatic. Gaining the biggest crowd and cheer of the night the band went as wild as the teeny bopper crowd that had come to see them. With some good bass driven pop tunes these boys could go far if the singles Recover and Raoul are anything to go by. New single Monster looks likely to push them into the big time and with a mental stage presence and insane Bez style keyboard/vocalist Pennie who leapt 20 feet into the crowd without warning for the final song, they won’t have to work too hard.

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The Automatic with the young girls in the crowd pointing out who their favourite is...

Heading the tour were Boy Kill Boy. Acknowledging they were really playing second fiddle in The Automatics hometown, they ripped through their upcoming album containing pleasant hook driven pop/rock in the vein of The Killers. Looking more like an old Boy band compared to the rest of the bill, this lot must have a hidden past which is waiting to be uncovered. Standout tracks were singles Suzie and Back Again which were well received, but halfway through the set the audience began to drift home as their mums and dads were waiting for them outside and it was school tomorrow...

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Boy Kill Boy or Grandad Murders Grandad which we think would be more apt..

Tuesday 9th May

Ox, The Ash & The Oak, Blind River Scare
Le Pub, Newport.

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Blind River Scare seem to be playing every venue in South Wales at the moment and tonight its the turn of Newport Le Pub. As the venue filled up, the early attendees were treated the Scares fiddletastic country tinged pop songs. The band continue to forge their reputation as a tight outfit. Keep Saying Sorry, Graveyard Shift, Something for the Pain, Killing Time and Wolfman Jack were all delivered with the precision and passion to which we have become accustomed. If you haven’t already tapped your foot to these guys, see them soon.......check: www.blindriverscare.co.uk.

Next up were local couple The Ash & the Oak. Having played a number of gigs as a full band they seem to have pared down to a husband and wife duo lately. Pleasant, whimsical indie folk songs in the style of early Sarah Records or lo-fi Belle & Sebastian, played on acoustic guitar with percussion from a variety of instruments from cymbols, melodian, autoharp through to toy xylophone. Worth checking out. www.theashandtheoak.com

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Top of the bill tonight were Canadian trio, Ox. With two well rated albums behind them, much was expected of their performance. Unfortunately due to a lack of ability on the part of their drummer the songs were reliably similar and unremarkable. Highlights being cover versions of Julian Cope and Cheap Trick. More like “Ok” than “Ox”, A case of Wales 2 Canada 0..

Thursday 11th May

Great Lake Swimmers, Redlands Palomino Co, Lone Pine
Clwb Ifor, Cardiff.

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Fresh from their tour of Northern England and the bigger cities of Scotland, Lone Pine grace the Cardiff stage for the first time in a few weeks. Starting with Down on You and then progressing through their debut 6 track EP The Lock Up Sesions Vol 1, picking up the pace throughout, the boys seemed on top form tonight. With guitarist/mandolin player Neil particularly fired up and jumping around, especially on the new tune with maracas to the fore, the band seem intent on taking the place of the Stones when they finally retire. Ending on the uptempo favourites Somethin’ Musta Changed and Love Is Everything, it can only be a matter of time before one of South Wales biggest secrets finally get the recognition they deserve. If you don’t have one already, pick up an EP while you can at: www.lone-pine.co.uk

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Appearing as a duo tonight as the rest of the band were “too lazy to travel so far”, Alex and Hannah of the Redlands Palomino Co ran through a selection of their acclaimed 2004 album By The Time You Hear This and a smattering of songs from their upcoming new album. With a few false starts and admitting to being hung-over, the pair demonstrated the fine voices they possess individually and how magical they become when they sing together. We look forwards to seeing the full band again soon... 

We’d never heard of the Great Lake Swimmers before tonight and as the trio shambled onto stage in matching shit brown outfits we began to wonder if it was a mistake. How wrong we were! From the first strums of bango, acoustic guitar and light tap on the drums, their understated 

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heart wrenching songs drew us straight in. They may be quiet, lo-fi and laid back, but there is more soul in this band than a truck full of Motown. If Iron & Wine, Ron Sexsmith and Bonny Prince Billy float your boat, then you need to hear this band. A total revelation and their entire back catalogue was bought on the way out. To all the people who have spent 120 to see Madonna 100 yards from this venue his summer - you are suckers! This entire three band gig was one of the best 6 I’ve ever spend in my life! Enjoy being treated like the cattle you are....

Sunday 14th May

Centro-Matic, The Long Winters, Gethin Pearson
Meze Lounge, Newport.

Local guy Gethin Pearson kicked off tonight’s fun. Playing a solo acoustic set instead of with his usual backing band The Scenery, his songs are from the heart and venomous in a Ryan Adams bittersweet kind of way. Probably the first song ever to be written about Cwmbran Station featured in his short set! Different from most local singer/songwriters and very promising. Definitely worth seeing again.

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What? More Beer requests!

Next up was Long Winters frontman John Rodderick playing his bands infectious pop rock to a filling up Meze. With two excellent albums The Worst You Can Do is Harm and When I Pretend to Fall to pick from it made for a great set. Highly amusing and enigmatic, John had the crowd in stitches in between songs with his quips and observations of the ancient town of Newport, claiming to be part Welsh, at one point saying he

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Long Winters John has an Elton moment

always honoured all audience requests a wag in the crowd asked for a beer which he duly delivered! (OK, I admit, it was me!) Some cracking tunes in the style of The Shins all the way from Seattle, Washington. Highlights including Cinnamon, Car Parts, Shapes and a cover of Aimee Mann’s Its Not Going to Stop. Absolutely first class and worth the 3 entry alone. Check out the free downloads if you don’t believe us at: www.thelongwinters.com

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Centro-Matic begin their world domination in Meze Newport

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Top of the bill tonight was Texans, Centro-Matic. I had not heard any of their material prior to the gig but within minutes was transfixed by the intensity and power of the songs. Having been together for 10 years and released nearly a dozen albums, including two under their other moniker South San Gabriel, they are as tight as any major act and have a chemistry that simply just works live. Swapping instruments around and telling stories about the songs between changes, lead singer Will (who also has two solo album to his name) comes across as a real down-to-earth, unassuming observer, which comes out in the songs. Most of the set tonight was played from latest album Fort Recovery, an instant classic that has not left the CD player since I got it home. They reminded me of a less noodling My Morning Jacket or even when REM  used to be good (and I should know, I saw them in the New Ocean Club Cardiff in 1984!). Check out their website for loads of free MP3’s etc.. www.centro-matic.com

At only 3 for tonight when the same line up is 12 in London the next night, this was definitely bargain of the century. The only downside to an otherwise perfect evening was that not more people could be bothered to come along on a Sunday night to witness one of the best bands to grace South Wales in years in a small club. It is somewhat ironic that this is a South By South Wales gig emulating the South By South West which is held Austin, Texas - the home town of tonight’s band. Big respect is due to Steve Honeywill for organising this and the other gigs over the past few weeks. I hope he continues to do so and the word gets out just how good these nights have been and more punters attend next time.

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Thursday 26th May

Jim Noir
Barfly, Cardiff.

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Jim Noir playing as a 5 piece attracted a sell out crowd tonight. Unfortunately a few of the kids who had managed to get in with their fake IDs had also managed to drink enough to think it would be clever to be obnoxious for the first few numbers, only shutting up their pathetic heckles and interruptions when threatened by the rest of the crowd. Fighting a dreadful sound, the band did their best to get across the vocal harmonies and play their part Beatles, part Beach Boys and part Nursery Rhyme tunes to the now appreciative crowd. Standout tracks were the singles Eanie Meanie, Key of C and encore finale My Patch complete with ukulele accompaniment. Lots of promise but a missed opportunity in so many ways. Loved the gnomes, I think they may be breeding though! 

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