Focus Wales


I’m writing this on a train traveling backwards from Wrexham where I’ve spent the last thirty hours seeing a couple of gigs, providing projections for a couple of bands and catching up with people all due to focus Wales, a new annual international music gathering across the city.
No doubt spurred on by other city festivals like sonar, SXSW and Cardiff’s swn , focus Wales provides a showcase for up and coming new music and ideas with a cymgraeg focus but international awareness.

I arrived at the Glyndwr university’s Catrin Finch centre midday after an 8.30am bundle into a mini bus, (seated going backwards) with the band gulp who I was doing said video projection for that evening. Guto from the band was taking part in a discussion panel with a mix of members from the music ‘industry’ looking at issues facing new musicians- in this instance, what are currently the most effective ways to promote music.

With late capitalism having something of an identity crisis at the moment, its a mine field out there when it comes to ways of launching a new musical venture, and yes there were some great tips on using the usual social networks but between the old hand label heads, new indie labels, online digital distribution enthusiasts and even musicians there felt an underlying optimism that it is still possible to make a bit of money and get noticed. It might not be as clear cut as it once was, but the playing field is fairly wide open and producing a professional DIY project has never been easier.  Punk’s not dead after all, it’s just reads the guardian. A Limited Vinyl release seems to be an effective way to target the writers of influential blogs, and subsequently more established media outlets, with digital a no-brainer.

setting up ready for Gulp
setting up ready for Gulp

Gulp wasn’t due to play until a quarter to midnight, so after a sound check and a polystyrene tray of complimentary curry we had a few hours to kill. Heading back to the guitarists’ house  for copious cups of tea and chocolate biscuits, I walked back into town at sundown to catch a few bands.  Moja were my stand out show – a girl (drums) and boy (bass) duo. They made an almighty fast and furious racket with contagious enthusiasm and rising sun politeness.

Meeting up with old friends at the main venue in time to regrettably only catch the end of violas and hear some lovely tight licks from the Rosevile band then set up my projector in a makeshift guerilla balancing act on a bass bin. Gulp played a stonking and loud set of their unmistakable psychedisco synth rock pop. The bass was belly rumbling and vocals soaring (I’m not biased or nothing), the crowd were numerous and in such good spirits too, making it all the more special.

Man without country started delightfully heavy and melodic, but my host was keen to get home and chew the fat over pizza, and who was I to argue with that?

Trwbador lunch club

7 hours after going to sleep on my sofa, I was back in the car on the way to town to see Trwbador play to an eager lunchtime crowd (big up the breakfast massive!) and beam some videos and graphics onto the ceiling behind and above them – which in retrospect I should’ve tried the night before, but hey. Such an early set was always going to be challenging, but Owain and Angharad picked up the baton with aplomb and dropped their trippy electrofolk effortlessly for the bleary eyed audience.
A chocolate brownie and coffee later I roamed the old market-steel-coal metropolis – taking in the towering Gothic cathedral, hidden alley ways,  and rather downtrodden shopping areas before getting on this train going backwards to Cardiff.