TRIGGER WARNING: domestic violence and abuse
It’s kinda hard to believe that Dick Dastardly (real name Dean Thomas), a staple player in Cardiff’s Hiphop scene for the last 18 years, only released his debut solo EP in 2021 via Bard Picasso. His follow up track ‘Give Me Love’ was aptly released on Valentines Day this year, with a video featuring Lady AB (Annabelle Johnson) and shot by Charlie JPEG.
Produced by Raph Stormwalker, the track includes a sample of a woman’s voice ‘Give me Love so that I can kill’… which provides the anchor for Dastardly’s lyrics, which he describes as ‘an anti-love song within a love song’. The track is about abuse – both physical and mental, portrayed in the video through using S&M imagery and tightly shot in an attic space, giving the video a claustrophobic feel. When writing to the track, Dean wanted to capture the desperate feeling of wanting to be loved, but also a dark undertone which was reflected in the music. He had pictured the video throughout the writing process and enlisted Charlie JPEG to co-direct, film and edit what Charlie says was the hardest shoot he has done to date.
Because of the subject matter, the three artists, while not professionals in dealing with trauma, had to ensure that they approached the shoot in a trauma informed way. Pushing personal boundaries portraying something that sits uncomfortably close to home, they were conscious to create an environment where they could fully support one another throughout the process. Capturing the content in an honest and open way, whilst also protecting themselves was a tough job, but one which most definitely brought them closer together. Music can be a healing process, but a process which brings up things that are often buried extremely deeply and supporting one another through this is an important part of collaborating with others on creative projects.
The close relationship that Dean and Annabelle have in real life is what makes this video possible. They were able to explore the blurred lines between abuse and kink, sexualisation and normal, through Annabelle’s portrayal of a fantastical character sucking the soul from the other person in an abusive relationship. The tricky question of how to visualise trauma creatively is one that Annabelle was able to bring to life through approaching the project in a playful way. She was able to find a balance in the love/hate nature of the character she was playing through using humour within the darker content of the track and visuals, with the sci-fi element of the whip giving an extra layer to the overall fantasy.
Once the video was shot and edited, there began the problematic process of promotion. Facebook’s ban on sex and nudity, and the choice of the thumbnail image with the ball-gag, mean that the promo was removed from the platform, making it difficult to get the video seen. Charlie JPEG’s private story about the project was also flagged. A whole other conversation could be had around algorithms dictating how we express ourselves through music videos, but also how the choices we make in our content can affect others and how this can be approached. Annabelle being aware of the possibility of children seeing the video was something to be carefully thought about because as we all know, once something is out there it can be seen by anyone. Representing sexually empowered material, with a realisation that the intention behind the project is bigger than any one person, combined with the potential for the video to impact positively on somebody, means that Lady AB is proud they had the strength to give it a go.
Watch ‘Give Me Love’ on youtube:
Catch Lady AB at Fractal, 20th May in Bristol
Lady AB and Dick Dastardly both feature on Dirty Alex’s recent single ‘Built to last’
Purchase Great Ape Fist by Dick Dastardly: Great Ape Fist | Dick Dastardly (bandcamp.com)
Look out for his new project ‘8 Billion People in the World & I’m Stuck Here With You’, due out this summer, as well as an EP with well-respected producer DJ Alkemy and a spoken word EP.
As well as networking and taking bookings for shows outside of Wales, Charlie J is editing together footage filmed on a recent trip to Australia. He’s also working on an album so keep your eyes peeled for that!
How’s it going people, all good? Good, good. I know that I – your (sometimes) friendly wordsmith LG – cannot hear you, but I’m pretty certain you all said yeah, I’m good.
Are you ready to receive the very final part of my FOCUS Wales 2023 roundup, brought to you by Unity? Well, I should think and hope so if the ongoing positive responses I’ve been getting for my days one and two roundups are anything to go by! Again, in all seriousness, thank you very much. These things do not go unappreciated.
Okay then, day three? You ready (sitting comfortably or otherwise)? Then let’s begin.
The cover shot up above is with my dear friend Katie Hall, who fronts CHROMA. Taken one day after their set over at the Wynnstay Arms, and minutes before she took to the stage once again with HMS Morris. Scroll down to that part now if you like, but you’ll miss all of the good stuff in between.
I was to have a very busy day, once again seeing multiple acts over several hours. Again doing my missionary work, the band in question are The Lancashire Hotpots, sporting their RUN DMC parody tee with pride.
With the music-related festivities over at the university concluded for another year, I headed straight into town and over to HWB Cymreag to get things going. First off, a belly dancing performance courtesy of One Kabira.
Their performance went down a storm. A good marker for what was to come.
After having another welcome encounter with NADUH as they were making their way over to Old No. 7, I made my final 2023 visit to Hope Street Church to take in part of a showcase of artists from Hong Kong.
First up was XTIE. I liked what I heard from her in my planning stage for this year’s go round, her song ‘new classic’ is worth a listen. Sounded very good live.
Bedroom Party then took to the stage. I particularly enjoyed the songs they played that you could have a serious dance to, such as ‘Inside My Head’. One notable thing was when they went full on into their set at a time when I thought they were still soundchecking. Definitely caught me out and a few others there! But no complaints, just more to enjoy as it turned out.
Final set for me at Hope Street Church came courtesy of Prune Deer, who mainly played instrumental tracks. Something a little different, a change of pace, but one that I liked.
I then crossed the road back over to Old No. 7 to join this big crowd. There were a lot of people there for the next act, many of whom I knew. I could quite have easily spent over an hour in there just talking to everyone.
So yeah, people showed up – and rightly so – for ADJUA. Remember the name people. With the right guidance, she’s going far.
This shot doesn’t do enough justice to the amount of people who were in there representing for her. People were around several feet deep in every direction that I looked.
It’s clear to see that she puts a lot of heart and soul into everything that she creates.
I wish nothing but good things for ADJUA as she progresses. I certainly hope to see her play again before long.
A wide shot of my one and only visit of the entire weekend to Llwyn Isaf, the flagship FOCUS venue. The headliners of course are the biggest sell, but there will always be artists playing elsewhere at the festival who are just as worthy of your attention, and that was the case for me in 2023.
I was there to see Cosmic Dog Fog. After listening to their Spotify output and reading the bio contained within, I was expecting something a little out of the ordinary. I wasn’t to be disappointed.
This picture tells 1001 words.
Can we just take some time to appreciate the next level decoration as seen at the front of the stage?
They came down to Earth from their home planet during the 2020 lockdowns and ended up in Wrexham. How extremely fortunate for the town and its residents to be graced with their presence.
Towards the end of their set, they were joined by some of their interplanetary friends. Yeah, you had to be there.
And if you weren’t, you missed out on seeing this! So yes, I got the complete out of the ordinary experience I was expecting. What a trip. And an enjoyable one at that.
Positive random encounters were at their highest on the Saturday for me. Including one with a gentleman who I had a short conversation with after a short meal break and on my way back to Old No. 7. He approached me because he believed he’d seen me out and about at various gigs in Manchester and he recognised my face. Crazy, but true. So, if he somehow happens to read this, it was cool to meet you. And don’t hesitate to see hi if you seen me again.
Back at Old No. 7, and there in time to catch the final few songs from the set of Alekxandr. I didn’t think that I’d be back in time to see anything from him, so that was an unexpected pleasure.
A bit of accordion action next, courtesy of Heather Ferrier. It’s not often I get to see someone playing an accordion on stage, so I wasn’t going to pass up on this opportunity, especially after hearing ‘Apple 1’ on Spotify a few days prior, and liking it.
The first of three appearances over at Tŷ Pawb had the purpose of spending some time in the company of tAngerinecAt as we watched Cerys Hafana’s traditional folk offerings together. The harp she played on was a lot bigger than it looks here.
She had the assembled crowd hanging on her every sung lyric and spoken word.
The vast majority of my remaining Saturday programme took place over at The Rockin’ Chair. And it all kicked off with me joining the set of Carlota Flâneur in progress.
I was very impressed by the music of Laurence-Anne in my planning stages, and I made a point of being there to watch her set in The Rockin’ Chair’s smaller room. I made the right choice.
Very expressive in her vocal delivery and stage presence.
And only at FOCUS Wales could I see artists playing an accordion, a harp and a recorder on the same day. How’s that for diversity?
This shot does not do any justice whatsoever to the energy and drive that Korea’s Wedance brought to their set. You’re just going to have to take me at my word when I tell you that they were PROPERLY going for it. If they ever come back to the UK, catching them at a show is 100% recommended.
Making their way to Wrexham for the first time were Newport’s PARCS. And if they carry on in the same vein, they’ll certainly be asked back up north to play many times over. Decide for yourself by giving their ‘Dawnsio Trist’ EP a listen.
And now to the act that was the biggest surprise for me for the whole of FOCUS 2023. And a pleasant one at that. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Hannah Grae prior, but my goodness, this one has everything. Powerful vocals, and a fantastic stage presence. A bit further from the crowd being in the main room, but she had a way of keeping everyone in that room involved and engaged.
Whatever you hear from her on record is amplified several times over when she and her band perform live. Again, as with others I’ve mentioned, if you have an opportunity to see her play life, I cannot recommend that you take it up highly enough.
Uh-oh, it’s the obligatory ‘he’s in there somewhere’ shot! Back over to Tŷ Pawb, and there in good time to catch part of Ogun’s set in the Flexible Space. Lots of familiar faces in the crowd representing.
HMS Morris were on my list of priority acts to see over in Tŷ Pawb’s Performance Space. And to think that I didn’t even know of their existence as of a few weeks ago.
Thanks to our mutual friend Mali Hâf using their song ‘Family Souls’ as background music to a short video that she created for her socials, I was able to find out for myself just how good they are. Family Souls is now in line to be one of my top twenty tracks of the year, a long way to go before that is officially the case, but they’ve more than earned that chance.
I read in one of their interviews that they liken themselves to being introverts dressed as extroverts. Few things say that more than the donning of headgear that resembles a hybrid of drill sergeant and lampshade.
I enjoyed myself, just as I knew I would. Note the presence of Katie and two other talented musicians adding to the numbers of HMS Morris as they continued to perform to a high standard. I definitely want to see them play again.
Main event time for me back at the main room of The Rockin’ Chair. I have been a fan of Dream Wife for over six years, about a year or so before the release of their first album. Simply put, I think they’re amazing.
Rakel Mjöll. So much stage presence, mixed with the right amount of charisma and sass.
Alice Go. I’ve seen a lot of guitarists play live on various stages over the years. She is easily in my top five, no question about it.
Bella Podpadec. Bassist of the highest order, and many’s the time when you might see her at shows coming out early to draw sketches of bands playing in support of them. And do try to stay out of the way of her high kicks.
Alex Paveley. The Wives couldn’t wish for anyone better to back them up on drums.
It’s great to watch them continue to have so much fun on stage as they continue to perform. So looking forward to hearing their third album ‘Social Lubrication’ upon its release in a few weeks from now.
Final visit of the weekend to the Flexible Space of Tŷ Pawb, and to see a band that is on the up. Private Party, remember the name and be sure to check them out.
Brodcasting legend Adam Walton introduced them onto the stage, and they are more than worthy of such an endorsement. And if you want to consider the endorsement of this mere mortal in addition, they’re very very good. Start with their song ‘Could’ve Asked Sooner’ and take it from there.
I absolutely loved each and every one of my encounters with NADUH across the entire weekend. Such lovely people, and their music is top notch. If they return to the UK on a future tour, don’t even bother trying to stop me from buying a ticket!
Here we all are, along with Queen of Harps and Mauvey, as we passed each other on the way to our next shows of the night.
Shortly afterwards, another very welcome encounter with this one. Myself and Ffion (Foxxglove) are pretty much kindred spirits at FOCUS Wales now. The first year for both of us in Wrexham was 2021, and we have come back for the festival every year since. Long may this run continue.
My final 2023 FOCUS stop brought me back to The Rockin’ Chair, where I was able to enjoy a fantastic set from Band Pres Llareggub in progress. They had the crowd rocking with their mastery of their brass instruments and the party vibe that they generated.
Don’t mind me, just having a cheeky cider in between sets. Inch’s. Yum.
Final act of the day, and indeed the whole thing. ACID KLAUS, that’s him on the right, accompanied by his talented musician buddies.
A mixture of crowd roasting and good natured banter with his top notch production. A party with an edge.
I had a fantastic time, and it served to be a great way for the music, and the partying, to draw to a close.
What was to prove to be the penultimate encounter with Mouraine (second from left) and his crew (I would see them again for the final time on the train journey out of Wrexham a few hours later). Again, as with NADUH, fantastic to see them so many times. Hopefully our paths will cross again in the future for more ‘educated’ conversations.
One final 2023 look at the HWB. So many fun happenings took place in there on this go round.
A few hours of sleep back at the hotel, and then the Highlander was packed up and ready to go.
Snapped partway through the journey home back to Sheffield at Stockport, Greater Manchester. Fun fact: I used to live there. The town obviously, not the train station.
This one probably doesn’t show up too well here, but I had to deal with a bunch of relevant train delays and cancellations on the way back. After the idyllic surroundings and atmosphere of Wrexham, definitely a hard case of welcome back to reality!
But I eventually made it back. This was snapped shortly after I made it through the front door of my Sheffield home of 3½ years.
So all in all, another great FOCUS! Yes, the problems I spoke of in earlier posts were quite trying, but my overall experience wasn’t ruined. I just hope to return again next year to continue what has basically become a love affair now.
Thanks to everyone involved in the running of the festival for making it happen, those they partner with to amplify the experience, those who performed, those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to help their performances to be the best they could be.
Thanks to my friends, both onstage and off, for helping to contribute to my positive experience, and to those who I met during the festival who are sure to become good friends in the long run. Such encounters go a long way you know.
And, of course, the biggest thanks of all goes to Unity. Thank you for being a great friend, and for continuing to be the wonderful person that you are. Looking forward to doing even more collabs with you in the future.
I originally had a cool snap that we took together at 2022’s FOCUS underneath this, one that I chose to use again from a previous piece. But to reflect the fact that a Unity is for life and not just for FOCUS, here’s a snap of the two of us from the Sbardun EP launch event at Porter’s Cardiff from February 2023. That was a truly brilliant night, spent in the company of many great friends, and me being down for it from Sheffield wouldn’t have happened without her mentioning it to me in the first place. She’s a real one, and I am very happy to have her in my life.
Okay, that’s it! However you chose to read these pieces – top to bottom, scrolling through to look at the pictures, looking for the part where I specifically mentioned you because I told you you’d be in there, anything else – thank you. I appreciate you more than you will ever know.
If you liked what I put out, keep an eye on my Facebook, or any future Unity team ups. There will be plenty to keep you entertained.
Alright, show’s over. Have a safe journey home.
Thanks for reading
Helloooooo!!!!!!! Y’all ready for this, my FOCUS Wales roundup, part two? Yeah, you know you are. The first step is admitting to yourself that you want it, the second is giving in, fully immersing yourself in what is to come, and then hopefully enjoying it.
Hello friends, it’s LG once again to deliver you my take on all things Wrexham related within the friendly confines of the online home of Unity! You know, when you’re done reading this, you should stick around and check out other parts of her website. Start with the ‘Walls’ tab to see her Graffiti creations, and then thank me later. As someone who has personally witnessed her at work, I know just how much she puts into it, but it also comes from a place of love.
It doesn’t matter if she has a can of spray paint or a microphone in her hand, my friend puts in the work! That’s her up above (right) in the cover snap, and stood between us is the fantastically talented Ostara Days. You’ll read more about them later in this piece. To the left is ADJUA, you’ll see some words written about her in tomorrow’s piece. Spoiler alert: they are nice things.
So, if you read my previous piece, you’ll know that these didn’t go out in the way that I intended. But, judging from the positive reactions I’ve received so far, it seems that the delay hasn’t dulled your appetite in any way! Thank you for this, the appreciation on my end is real.
The bulk of this and the next piece were written upon my return home to Sheffield, but with the memories of Wrexham still fresh in my mind. As you read on, I definitely want you to feel as if you had been there if you weren’t able to come to the festival this time around. And for those who were in attendance, hopefully seeing this will reignite some happy memories of your own.
Okay then, day two roundup with LOTS of pictures. Shall we?
Again, as is now tradition, my 2023 FOCUS Friday once again saw me make the short walk from the Premier Inn hotel, past Y Cae Ras (home of Wrexham AFC, congratulations on the promotion!) and back to Glyndŵr University to commence proceedings.
A taste of Canada got things going at the television studio, with Edmonton rapper Mouraine bringing some good and positive energy early doors.
Mouraine: “How do you know about Edmonton?”. LG: “Because I’m educated?”. A good-natured exchange that broke the ice at the end of his set. Got to talking to him and his crew afterwards, very nice people. And thankfully none of them took offence when I explained my one-and-done policy at FOCUS when I was asked if I would consider watching another one of their shows at the weekend. And besides, there were plenty of other happy and welcomed chance encounters over the rest of the weekend.
Mouraine’s new album ‘In Search OF Gold’ is out now. You should definitely consider giving it a listen, especially if rap music is your thing.
Having seen them play on exactly the same stage at a previous FOCUS, I knew exactly the kind of thing to expect from Grimelda. I just hope that everyone else in attendance – particularly those in the audience – was ready. You know how people sometimes say “you’re not ready” in anticipation of dropping something big? I’ll go ahead and suggest that this applied here.
Especially when the band’s drummer and co-vocalist decided to go on a little walk, and started playing the floor with his sticks…
And there he is coming up into the audience, snare in hand. Like I said, I knew what to expect, I was lapping up every moment.
Some more snare action in the audience area, I think the seats were being played at some point too.
On the way back to the main stage now. See, don’t sleep on those playing early if you’re in Wrexham for the festival. You never know what you could be missing out on.
Back on stage now, to round out a performance that I’m sure those who were present will never forget.
That concluded a short programme for me at the uni on the Friday. After saying my goodbyes to students (including one who I twice met during her first year, it’s been fun watching her grow in skill and confidence with each passing year, hopefully I’ll be back to see her one final time before she graduates next year) and staff with the full intention of returning in 2024, I headed back into town. And, as with Thursday, the next destination was Hope Street Church.
Back To HSC, and my second consecutive Spanish Wave. After being wowed and impressed by some really cool Spanish acts in 2022, the class of 2023 more than lived up to that standard. Below are Los Premios, I joined their set in progress where the assembled crowd were having a good time. As did I.
Some classic rock with a Spanish flavour up next courtesy of Black Maracas. Yes, some headbanging did occur.
A bit of Catalan flavour supplied by Guineu and her bandmates came next to wow the crowd.
Don’t mind me, just a little selfie post I made for missionary purposes in between sets. Promoting the bands The Empty Page with my shirt, and Millie Manders and the Shutup with my hat. And yes, I did have people asking about them. But that’s me, constantly doing my part to promote the bands and artists that I love in my own way.
Afterwards, some performance art that those present at HSC will never forget, and hopefully remember fondly. I had no idea what to expect when I saw Argentine-by-way-of-Spain Valentinskka dragging a suitcase through the crowd on to the stage, but it proved to be the start of a story that she told with dancing, acting, and smooth vocals. Here she is part way through it all.
Suitcase in evidence in this shot. There were many costume changes.
But with no noticeable breaks, she kept going throughout.
Like I said, a performance to remember. I don’t know of any way that I would have discovered Valentinskka without having seen her perform in Wrexham. That’s what this festival is all about for me.
I have no problems quoting myself when the situation calls for it. And in a piece right here (posted during the technical woes) that I’m guessing that many of you missed, I previewed some of the acts that I was expecting to see on the Friday. Here’s what I wrote about the next one:
“Also on the Friday priority list to see is the wonderful Mali Hâf. Again, if you saw my 2022 Top 20 countdown, you will know that her collaborative song ‘Mamiaith’ stood firmly and proudly at number one (one of her collaborators being Kitty, who I’m also seeing perform her own solo set later in the day), and she is such a great performer with the vocals, dance moves, and her unequivocal love of the Welsh language. Come to Old No. 7 by 4:45pm if you want to see a genius at work.”
I stand by every word. She is that good.
There was a large crowd assembled at Old No. 7 in anticipation of Mali Hâf’s set. Very cool to see. She started things up very well.
Just look here at the passion and the effort that she brought to her performance. No half measures.
In mid movement, she is still as photogenic as they come. Joining her on stage with the bass was Ioan Gwyn. I would see him play later on with another talented artist, who you’ll read about later into this piece.
But back to Mali. She did play Mamiaith, and prior to doing so she dedicated the performance to me, whilst thanking me for recognising the song as being my top track of 2022. You’re welcome, always.
Mali Hâf. A fantastic performer. The sky’s the limit for her.
My first visit of the weekend to HWB Cymraeg – a hub set up in the heart of the town centre to celebrate all things Welsh – saw me first take in a lively performance from skylrk., accompanied by a full band. Everybody gave it plenty.
I particularly enjoyed the performance of ‘Niwed’, a track that appeared on the February release Sbardun EP, courtesy of High Grade Grooves (not that I’m biased or anything, but I think that you should all get a copy!). The live version just went OFF.
OI OI!!!!!! Touching base for the first time in 2023 with Unity. I love how our friendship has developed over the past year-and-a-half, staying in contact outside of FOCUS, and my subsequent visits down to Cardiff on two further occasions to see her and other friends have been moments to treasure.
Watch out world. We’re not done yet. I asked if she wanted a redo of the selfie. She said no. I love that attitude.
She was next to take the stage alongside Ostara Days (who I mentioned up above) and Brooke (aka Tom). The sounds of Samhain could also be heard during the set. However, as you’ve probably figured out, this was snapped before it all kicked off.
There are no stills from me of the performance, as I had a special request to film it (shout out to TrishnaJaikara, missed you SO much at Wrexham this year!). Here it is for all of your viewing pleasure. It’s close to twenty minutes long, so come back to this part later on if you need to. But please don’t ignore it, it’s so much fun to watch.
All of us would make our way over to The Penny Black, where we would see Queen of Harps take to the stage, with Niques on deck duty. I do believe that she might have been the first Scottish rapper that I have seen, if this is the standard to go by, I’ve clearly been missing out. Definitely need to check out some more. To anyone in the know, any reccomendations?
I do love my angled shots. Niques is now up front with a microphone in her hands hyping up her girl.
And, as with Dave Acton one day previously, it was cool to see some of the assembled MCs in the audience take to the stage to drop some guest bars when invited to do so. This community likes to have fun.
I love the point, specifically on Fridays in Wrexham during FOCUS weekend, when the festival crowd starts to blend in with those who are on their regular Friday night out. A mini cornucopia of noise, colour and fun. That started to happen around about this time.
For Friday’s primetime shows, I set my stall out over at the Wynnstay Arms Hotel, as I had five acts in a row that I wanted to see over there. Some tough choices had to be made during that stretch in terms of clashes, but I’ll definitely do my best to see those who I missed out on at other shows as soon as I can.
Speaking of clashes, one band I missed out on seeing during the 2022 event was Hourglvss. As soon as I found out that they were playing this time around, I made sure to list them amongst my priority acts to see. Worth the wait? Yes, absolutely. And the near capacity crowd in attendance for them definitely agreed from what I was seeing from them.
I discovered Atay & JAX during the planning stages, and I absolutely fell in love with their song ‘Avril Lavigne’. It definitely would have been a Top 20 contender for 2022 had I heard it sooner.
They delivered a very cool set, and they definitely won the crowd over by the end of it. I chatted to them afterwards, nice people. Our paths would cross again at various points over the weekend, and right at the very end when our respective journeys home saw us commence them on the same train service. Hopefully they’ll make their way back to these shores again before long.
Next up to take the Wynnstay stage was Kitty. She also performed on the Mali Hâf-led song ‘Mamiaith’, so I made a point of watching her perform too. That impromptu French lesson will live with me forever.
I enjoyed it, not just her performance on stage, but also the friendly natured banter that she had with her mother throughout. She was sat a few rows back, proudly cheering on her daughter.
So here’s myself and Minas having a ‘where’s the camera’ moment? A very busy weekend for this one with his own performances and on the decks for others. Very hard working guy, all the success that has come his way is richly deserved.
You like pop music, don’t you? Give MACY a try, I’m sure that she’ll have something amongst her releases that you’ll like. Note the presence of Ioan Gwyn on bass duty, my second time of the day seeing him grace a stage.
Listening to her song ‘Swear Down’ – an unapologetic slice of feel good pop – was the clear motivating factor for me seeing her perform here. I enjoyed what I saw and heard. Bravo.
And then it was time for Friday’s main event.
If you know LG, you know that LG loves him some CHROMA! I’ve known KT, Bev and Zac for nearly seven years now, and I couldn’t be prouder to watch them continue to grow as a band, both from near and afar.
This one mainly showcases Bev. His axe work continues to be top class.
Zac looks as if he’s being distracted by something. But no worries here, his mind was 100% on the job.
Obligatory ‘Katie in flight’ shot. Got to be done, you know.
The atmosphere in the Wynnstay was electric for CHROMA. I turned around to see the place completely packed out, as well it should be. No place I’d have rather been in that moment, and as long as CHROMA continue to play FOCUS Wales, I’ll continue to be there to watch them.
After saying my goodbyes to my dear friends, I made my way over to The Rockin’ Chair for my only visit of the day. But what a great reason to be there. If you ever have an opportunity to watch Afro Cluster play live, you just HAVE to take it. They are fantastic value.
Here’s a small sample of the atmosphere, but trust me, this little clip scratches the surface when it comes to justice being done. You really had to be there.
Kaptin Barrett is one of the good guys, another of the movers-and-shakers within the industry giving others a platform to shine. I love this snap. You should find out more about him, go to his website, his name without the space, followed by the obligatory dot com.
My day concluded with my only visit of the weekend to The Parish, where Boy With Apple rounded off proceedings. Note the presence in the assembled crowd of John Robb (if you don’t know who he is, then go away and educate yourself as soon as you’re done here), and Emmi Manteau of Baby Brave.
So that was my 2023 FOCUS day two, many acts seen over a timespan of thirteen hours. Go hard, or go home. I know no other way. And neither do I want to.
Alright, I hope you enjoyed all of that! Perhaps I’ve given you some ideas of acts to check out for yourself? If so, my work here is (almost) done. Come back on Saturday for my final day piece, ya hear?
‘Til next time
Oh, hey. So where were we?
Oh yes, that’s right. Just like last year, in association with the glorious Unity, I was to provide you with my personal insight to FOCUS Wales. My perspective, in blog form, 2023 edition.
I had such a positive reaction to last year’s go round, so much so that it felt natural to do the same thing again 12 months later. And I was excited to do so, perhaps some of you saw my preview entry here that went out on the Wednesday prior. The idea was to enjoy the festivities on each day, go back to my hotel room and get everything written up ready for the following morning to view here. I was going for the morning newspaper vibe, something to read with your coffee and toast.
(Other beverages and food commonly associated with breakfast are available. Just kidding, this isn’t the BBC.)
But, unfortunately, that optimism turned into disaster.
As much as I enjoyed creating last year’s content, it didn’t come without its frustrations on the technical side. Unforeseen problems with getting my pictures to upload to the website caused heavy delays and LOTS of frustration.
I’d bought myself a laptop a few days prior with the expectation that it would get to me no later than the day I was set to travel to Wrexham. You know, in order to majorly alleviate the issues of 12 months ago.
But the company I brought the laptop from messed up badly, and didn’t ship it to me from their warehouse on the day they were supposed to. Meaning that it wasn’t set to arrive until the Thursday, day one of the festival. Absolutely no good to me with me being at a location some 90 miles away.
I tried my best to get around the problem though. I had a Bluetooth wireless keyboard with me for backup purposes which I connected to my phone. That worked fine as far as typing my words was concerned. Well, YOU try doing this, writing something of this size using just the keypad on your phone. I can tell you that doing so is NOT a fun experience.
Anyway I got back to the hotel after last Thursday’s festivities concluded, and proceeded to get my typing done. Nice and easy with an actual keyboard, I’ve never done any formal touch typing courses or anything, but I’m no slouch. I know what I’m doing, and all the ‘Thursday’ words were done in just over an hour.
But, sadly, the uploading issues that I was trying to avoid this time around came to the fore, and this time I was like, no, I am NOT going through this again!!!!! Sure, I wanted to get the word out, but not at the cost to my sanity.
I discussed the situation with Unity, and we both agreed that it would be best to continue with this in a manner that wouldn’t see me stressed out. So hence the blogs coming your way in a ‘retrospective’ format. Does a week truly count as being retro though? Possibly, you decide.
Anyway, so now you know. Despite the down tone, I remain hopeful that all that you read up above was entertaining enough up for you to want to continue on with it. Still with me? Good.
What you’re about to read is an edited form of what I knocked out for your reading pleasure in my room at Wrexham’s Premier Inn (other hotels are ava…oh wait, I did that one already, I’ll stop now, promise). Obviously some of the content has been edited on account of it not being as relevant a few days on, but I’ve tried to keep the character and tone of my original piece as true to what was intended as possible.
Alright. Read on, please…
NOW THEN!!!!! Do I have your attention for a second FOCUS 2023 blog post? Good, good. Come on in then, the kettle’s just boiled…
Hello everybody, your (sometimes) friendly neighbourhood LG is back with another guest blog piece in association with Unity!!!!!
I hope you’re all good, and ready to receive lots of text and photos. Day 1 of FOCUS Wales is in the books, and it has been a fun one.
Yes, all the usual pieces are in place. People descending upon this wonderful town for three days of music and film-related fun. And as for me, watching so many cool live performances. Making new friends. Reuniting with existing friends. Not many random conversations in the street yet, but there’s plenty of time for that.
Funniest moment of the day? Probably not much that happened during the day itself, but trying to swipe myself back into my hotel a few minutes ago as of this writeup. Nothing was working…until I realised that I was trying to use my trade union membership card to get in. Ooops!!!!
I’m still cool, not completely tired yet, just a case of my brain momentarily deciding to stop functioning. But I’m back now and ready to give you my report, so let’s make it happen.
Day 1, as usual, started with me heading over to Glyndŵr University and their television studio to catch some of the artists playing early sets, under the direction of students and staff. I love this annual tradition, people over there recognise me instantly and welcome me back like an old friend. Their friendliness and professionalism is a credit both to the university as a whole, and to themselves.
The day got underway with some nice and mellow vibes, courtesy of Canada. First off, Ellen Froese, and her band…
…followed by Cassidy Mann, and her band. Chilled out, yes, but with more of an ease-your-way-into-the-day flavour.
Things, however, ramped up a notch, when NADUH took to the stage. That’s them up above in the cover picture, by the way. Such lovely and friendly people too, I saw them later on in town at another show, and further chance meetings over the weekend would not go amiss. (Edit: our paths would indeed cross multiple times over the weekend, each encounter being as fun as the previous one.)
But what of their time actually on the stage? Sublime. Cool vocals. Great background beats. Wonderful stage presence. And the cohesion between all five of them is clear and present to see.
NADUH. Remember the name. If you ever have a chance to see them play, please take it.
Next up were Half/Time, here from New Zealand on their first ever UK tour. I have to say that I was very privileged to have witnessed a piece of history, their first show on these shores was something quite memorable. Very intense, but in a good way.
Some friends of mine in a band (who you may or may not read about at some point in another FOCUS 2023 blog piece, hmm…) are due to play a show with them very shortly post FOCUS down in Newport. Both bands are going to have a blast. (Edit: that show has since taken place.)
But for now Half/Time are definitely on my personal radar, and if a clear and present opportunity to see them play again comes at a further point down the line after this, their current tour, you’d best bet that I will be taking it!
After saying my goodbyes to everyone at the university for the day (I would return bright and early on Friday morning), I headed back towards the centre and over to Hope Street Church. Destination: Portugal. Via Wrexham.
On the way back into town, I picked up a meal deal from a conveniently positioned petrol station en route. Every time I get a meal deal these days, a song of the same name from the band Panic Shack instantly pops into my head. You should check them out. Go on, you know you want to.
The first artist I saw at Hope Street Church to bring the Portuguese vibes was Isa Leen. Her passion and intensity was right there for all to see. Of course one of the coolest things about any festival is that you have more than a fair chance to see someone who you saw play earlier in the day as being in part of the same crowd for someone else who you’re watching. That exact scenario happened with Isa and her crew following my final set of the day. I made sure to tell her that I enjoyed hers.
Next up from Portugal via Brazil were Trypas Corassão. Put it this way, anyone who was in that room were served up a performance that nobody is likely to forget in a hurry. And these two well and truly performed, if their set had been part of a standalone show, you would have more than gotten your money’s worth.
After enjoying a little of what Portgual had to offer by way of the festival, I then crossed the road over to Old No. 7, a popular location that has seen my presence at least once for every FOCUS I’ve attended to date.
I arrived over there where a Larynx Entertainment takeover was underway. After touching base with the main man Dave Action – my first time seeing him in person since last year’s FOCUS – I got to seeing some of the young MCs each taking the mic and delivering their bars straight from the heart.
First up was Xelous, who did more than a commendable job after being asked to step in as a late replacement, and very charismatic with it too:
JP was up next. His family featured prominently in his bars, everything he’s put out there – as well as the unreleased material he blessed us with – is clearly not just about him. Very cool to see.
Entah wrapped things up for Larynx on the day, another late substitution stepping up and delivering when needed. Wrexham has got some talent, if you’re into your MOBO, don’t sleep on the place.
Again, Wrexham has talent. Including Dave Acton himself. This man goes above and beyond when promoting others and giving them a platform to shine, but he delivers the goods too, as he did over at The Penny Black.
His subject matter on the mic certainly cuts deeper and gives the listener something to think about, but he has this way of drawing you in and leaving you hanging on his every word.
I also loved it when he had a bit of fun at the end and invited the MCs in the audience to come up onto the stage and drop some guest bars. Niques was amongst them. I like Niques, and so might you if you give her a chance.
My first FOCUS visit to Tŷ Pawb for anything other than the purpose of collecting a wristband came with a trip to the venue’s Flexible Space to catch French duo Bracco in action. And boy, were they ever intense! They left every bit of themselves up on that stage after their set.
Just a reminder to everyone: you can always check out for yourself anyone who I mention. Sure, everyone has different tastes, but you never know, you might find or hear something that you like. I’m all about opening up avenues. Come on now, do you really want to disappoint this face by not giving others a try?
A final visit of the day to The Penny Black saw me take in Lizzi£ Squad. I’ve seen them in Wrexham before, and they delivered yet again just as I knew they would. Plenty of cool hip-hop to be found in Wrexham, sometimes you’ve got to look beyond what you think is the obvious in order to find unexpected gold.
I hadn’t heard of Hanorah as of a few days ago, but discovering artists like her are the very reason why planning my festival schedule(s) ahead of time continues to serve me well. Just a couple of listens of her song ‘The Drudge’ was more than enough to reel me in.
And hearing the song live – along with many others of course – was a treat. Promoters of the UK, please book her for other future shows, I beg you!
My final destination of the day was a venue that has gone through ownership and name changes, but the interior of the now-named The Rockin’ Chair is still the same cool place, the undeniable character is still there.
I joined the set of Mellt in progress in the smaller room. They had the crowd rocking, and even though I was just a small part of it on this occasion, I caught that energy.
Over to the bigger room, and to catch some of what Ynys had to offer. More chilled out vibes, but they connected with the assembled crowd pretty well.
And then on to the ‘friendly’ part of proceedings, by this I mean it to be the time where I reunited with the biggest concentration of friends in the same room. Sorry if I put you in the mind of squash with my use of the word ‘concentration’. Perhaps a nice glass of Ribena or something. But no dilution necessary here.
Okay, enough with the digression. I’ve been a fan of tAngerincAt for just over five years, but it is in recent times that I’m starting to get to know Zhenia and Paul on friendly terms, and they are very cool people.
I stated in Wednesday night’s preview piece – you know, the one that actually went out as planned – that they were sure to deliver an unforgettable performance, and I’d like to think and hope that everyone in attendance for their show would agree with this. Particularly everyone asking about Zhenia’s hurdy-gurdy, an instrument I daresay that many people were seeing in operation for the first time.
I enjoyed their set from start to finish just as I knew I would. I’m not sure as of now when I will see them on stage again, but I already know that I don’t want it to be too long.
And then…enter Minas.
You might remember me speaking very highly of this gentleman and his bandmates during last year’s FOCUS. And not without good reason. If you followed my Top 20 countdown for 2022, you will also remember me speaking highly of the collaborative track he made with others (including Foxxglove, who was also in the assembled crowd, sooooo good to see her again after so long), it getting into said 20, me speaking highly of it, and, again, not without good reason.
But Minas as a performer is absolutely top notch, he and his bandmates will more than give you everything that they have. And it was absolutely grand to see a big crowd turn out for him, including several familiar faces. Here’s one of them, her name is Ffion, and she performs under the name Foxxglove. And yes, I did just mention her up above. You should also check out her music too, it’s very good.
‘All My Love Has Failed Me’ is a quality album to listen to if you get a chance. But watching the tracks come to life when played live is quite the treat.
Back to the big room, and time to see some local heavyweights in action. The Joy Formidable originally formed out of Mold, not that far away from Wrexham, and so of course there was a big audience to greet them. I’m a bit further back for this one as I hung back to chat with friends after the previous set ended. Yes, I am about the music, but I also value and cherish all of the friendships that I have made through music, and especially the ones that have their roots right here in Wrecsam. (Yes, TJF are in the following shot, honest, you might have to squint a little if you’re viewing this on a small device.)
I’ve seen The Joy Formidable play on several occasions over the years, and they’ve always put on a great show. That reputation was more than maintained at The Rockin’ Chair.
The final set of the day saw me watch MOJA in the smaller room. They are a two piece rock band from Tokyo, and the energy they brought to the place was raw, primal and ferocious. They said during their set that they hoped to get another opportunity to play here before the weekend is out.
(Edit: this is a paragraph I wrote a few days later as the issues I had – as mentioned up above – rendered what I originally wrote here obselete.) I’m happy to report that they did get to play again at the festival, and I’m 100% certain that what I saw on that night was fully replicated at their other shows.
So yeah, another busy day at FOCUS Wales in the books. And I came back to my hotel room in the very small hours afterwards, and typed out all of this before heading for bed. Hah, don’t worry about it. I’m hardly likely to give a world class touch typist any sleepless nights if I was to have some kind of typing contest with them, but I know my way around a keyboard, and I’m pretty decent at the typing thing. So there!
Okay, that’s it for the text that you should have read early last Friday morning. There was originally more underneath where I was going to tell you about my full plans for Friday, and to give details of other top bands and artists not on my schedule to consider checking out. But no suspension of disbelief required here. What should have been here will now remain on the cutting room floor.
But I sincerely hoped that you liked what I had for you in this revised piece. Questions, comments, complaints, compliments even, can be sent to me at my Facebook profile. Sorry, no Instagram for the multiple people who have asked.
You want some more goods, in the form of my Friday, day two shenanigans? Of course you do. Keep an eye out, and stay safe!
‘Til next time
Hi all! LG is here!
Unfortunately I’m having a few technical problems at the moment, ones that are getting in the way of letting you have that nice day one FOCUS Wales 2023 report that I’ve prepared for you.
Rest assured that I am doing everything that I can to resolve this. Worst case scenario, you’ll have to wait a while, until I return home on Sunday at the earliest. Yeah, I know it’s not the greatest. But technology is not on my side at the moment.
But all is not lost. Until then, you can at least see my plans for Friday, my thoughts on said plans, and other ideas for acts to see. So, shall we proceed?
(The following is adapted from the piece that you were SUPPOSED to be reading right now. I’ve still tried to keep this skeleton version as informative and as entertaining though.)
First off, ignore the gap towards the bottom, I used last year’s schedule as a template, and forgot to remove two lines from it before publishing. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology (when it actually works!) I made them disappear.
Now that’s out of the way, you won’t be surprised to learn that my friend, generous platform provider, and fantastic person in general Unity appears on the list. Her set with Samhain and Ostara Days over at the HWB is not to be missed.
And of course CHROMA are there. It’s an unfortunate three-way clash at the time when they are playing for me, but these three are my homies. No way I’m missing out on seeing them at the Wynnstay Arms.
Also on the Friday priority list to see is the wonderful Mali Hâf. Again, if you saw my 2022 Top 20 countdown, you will know that her collaborative song ‘Mamiaith’ stood firmly and proudly at number one (one of her collaborators being Kitty, who I’m also seeing perform her own solo set later in the day), and she is such a great performer with the vocals, dance moves, and her unequivocal love of the Welsh language. Come to Old No. 7 by 4:45pm if you want to see a genius at work.
Afro Cluster will more bring the smooth vibes, and they would be in many respects a great way to close out the day at The Rockin’ Chair, but of course there will be more. It’s how I roll.
I’m also looking forward to finally seeing Hourglvss for the first time, I missed out on seeing them last year, and in no way was I prepared to see lightning strike twice.
And if anyone assembling at the university early on hasn’t seen Grimelda play before, I promise you, to use modern parlance, that they won’t be ready.
Best of the rest? Of course.
If you have a chance to go and see Shelf Lives and are interested, PLEASE take it. They’ll bring the attitude, you won’t forget them in a hurry.
They were part of my triple clash, along with JUICE MENACE. If you’re planning on seeing the Cardiff CEO, GET TO PENNY BLACK EARLY. The energy in that room when she performs is going to be insane.
Two opportunities to see Aisha Kigs, so no excuses if you were planning to see her and failed to take at least one. You will have seen the high praise I gave to NADUH high up in this piece, go see for yourselves what I’m talking about (yay, I used that phrase correctly) over at the Penny Black (they’re on right before Juice.)
(EDIT: I wrote lovely and beautiful things about NADUH in the original piece, they really are all that, and I cannot wait for you to see it in full. No, really. I can’t.)
Half/Time will play a full on set in the early evening at The Rockin’ Chair, so maybe you’d like to experience some of that intensity (that I talked about in the original piece) for yourself? And I saw Mauvey on a past FOCUS visit, he’s got the goods.
Again, just suggestions that look beyond the obvious. Plan out your day the way you want to. Or just go with the flow and see where it takes you. It’s all good.
So there you go. Not all that I wanted you to see right now, but I PROMISE you that I will get the rest out to you as soon as I can.
Enjoy your collective Fridays!
‘Til next (and a hopefully happier) time
Greetings one and all. My name is Leo (LG), and if you were here and around at this time last year, the following will come as no surprise to you.
I teamed up with the wonderful Unity in 2022 to bring you coverage of FOCUS Wales from my perspective. It got such a great reception – thanks again to everyone who engaged! – that it made sense to repeat the feat 12 months on.
(If you’re new, go here and read last year’s introductory piece to find out more about me. My stance and attitude towards live music as set out there hasn’t changed, if anything it has strengthened.)
So here we are. FOCUS Wales 2023, we go again.
This is my third consecutive FOCUS, and it has now become one of my favourite weekends of the year. A young child on Christmas Eve is probably the only type of person who can match my excitement for this as we get into April in any given year, as the days leading to tick down one by one.
So bring it on. Reuniting with friends. Random conversations with like minded people in the streets. Remembering to schedule enough time to eat (yeah, that’s a thing with me). The hustling to get from venue to venue.
And, of course, the music.
As with previous years, I plan on going hard on each day. Wall-to-wall with a timespan of at least twelve hours for Thursday, Friday and Saturday? But of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
As per usual, I cannot be everywhere – clashes will always be a thing – but I will do my best to see as many acts as possible. Anyone of interest who I’ll miss in Wrexham will be seen at another time. And there are some acts who I saw play shows elsewhere in the run-up because I knew that clashes would be a thing. Call it The FOCUS Effect.
With that said, would you like to see my planned schedule for tomorrow?
I’ll take that as a yes. If you come back here each day, you will find my daily schedule contained within as a timed exclusive for a few hours. So without further ado, here is how my Thursday looks:
See, I told you that I was going hard, no messing about here! Nineteen acts planned to see for Day 1, over a span of just over fourteen hours.
There are some here who I’ve seen before, such as The Joy Formidable and Lizzi£ Squad, and it will be great to reunite with MINAS and Dave Acton, both of whom I haven’t seen in person since last year’s event. Definitely looking forward to seeing Dave take the mic. He’s usually the one showcasing and putting on others, but he’s got some bars too.
Of course I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on this list, but I just want to highlight tAngerinecAt. They come HIGHLY recommended from me, seeing them will provide you with an experience you won’t forget.
I’m also especially excited to see Evrah Rose and Hanorah, as I was quite impressed from what I heard from both of them on record as I was putting my schedule together. And if people choose to stick around at The Rockin’ Chair after The Joy Formidable conclude their set, they will definitely hear something excitable and interesting from MOJA.
So yeah, that’s my schedule, but it’s only fair to highlight some of those not on the list, those playing elsewhere who I also recommend.
Billy Nomates is sure to draw a large crowd at Llwyn Isaf, and rightly so. She will give it absolutely everything, and if you get there earlier for Baby Brave you won’t be disappointed.
Perhaps you might want to head over to The Parish? If so, you’ll find Pillow Fite and Atay & JAX waiting for you from 1830. And if you get over to The Rockin’ Chair early enough you will find Grimelda waiting to entertain you.
All of these are just suggestions of course, but if you have your own plans or just want to go with the flow, have fun with it.
And for anyone not able to be there, hopefully you’ll be entertained with what I have to bring here. Reports, pictures, schedules. Living vicariously through me this weekend is 100% encouraged.
Okay, that’s it for now! If all goes to plan, the next piece will be with you early on Friday morning.
‘Til next time
Red & Blue ~ a five-track project by Unity ~ Released 19th August 2022
~ choose your myth and act accordingly ~
Words by Jane Oriel & Doc Blackdawho
Diving Deeper was Unity’s first release with Bard Picasso in 2021. Now comes her new work, Red & Blue. The project is an expression of the struggles we all face, and Unity’s ways of coping with the complexities.
The lead track Red & Blue (featuring Wolfgang Von Vanderghast and produced by Billy Phono) explores contradictions; those internal and external battles and how everything is interwoven. There are questions:
Who are we? – Descendants of apes and living on a giant rock that spins around an even bigger ball of fire.
What are we? – At birth, we inherit a bunch of 2D labels that can’t possibly fit our 5D being.
But when those labels and expectations are stripped away, who are we? Could we become anyone in any moment? When you live by the roll of the dice and acknowledge the myriad personalities existing beneath the surface, who is the true you? Choose your myth and act accordingly!
High Street Bullshit (produced by Rollo)
In neglected city areas of Swansea, graffiti writers overcome conflict to work together instead of against each other in a system that wasn’t designed to be inclusive.
Faith Makers (Featuring Missy G. Produced and mixed by Leone Vuetivavalagi.)
There is so much sadness in the world it can be overwhelming, but beneath it all we are human – we all have access to empathy and smiles and rainbow coloured wisdom.
Dead Boy Walking (Featuring Skunkadelic. Produced by DW Smith. Additional vocals by Stabitha.)
Unity would hear teachers talking when she worked in Primary Schools. They’d tell tragic stories of parents there who held their children back by neglect and/or intent so they could claim disability benefits. Children were coming to school unable to speak or use the toilet because they hadn’t learned at home but had just been given a screen.
Running (Produced by Unity. Additional vocals by Stabitha. Cuts by DJ Veto.)
Are you running to, or are you running from? You need to bravely face yourself first before you can face the world head on.
All five track on the Red & Blue project were mastered by Jamie Winchester, who also mixed all tracks except Faith Makers
Diving Deeper (2022) Bard Picasso
Garden of my soul (2021)
Progress is a process (2020) Later Records
Hey all. It’s that Leo guy again with my final blog post on FOCUS Wales 2022 in association with Unity and LOR Cardiff. I’ve seen the reactionary love and the retweets for my scribings from earlier in the week. Thanks, it means a lot, nice to know that I’m having a positive impact. Perhaps I should do more of this more often.
I started writing this the Monday morning after on a train that departed early doors from Colwyn Bay. Wait, what? A bit of a trek from Wrexham, right? Well, what you need to know about me is that while the festivals may wrap up for another year, the live music does not.
A dear DIY musician friend of mine who goes by the name of Grant Sharkey is currently on a tour of his own in promotion of his latest album. He travels all over the UK in his car to play to anyone willing to listen. And how fortuitous it was that he happened to be playing a string of shows in Wales at the same time I was in the country. He played an open mic night at The Pavilion in Colwyn Bay the evening after FOCUS, so it was an absolute no brainer to travel further north to see him and his double bass in action. Yes, you read that right. Here’s some pictures. And go check him and his music out, there might be something there that you’ll like.
(The second of the two pics is used with permission from Grant, because, frankly, the selfie he took with his camera is far better than the one I did.)
Yes, a little digression there, but a little something to give you a better insight into me and what I’m all about with the live music thing. It’s my biggest passion in life, I love it so much.
People will have said this before about FOCUS, but the general vibe of the festival is so special. And how cool is Wrexham for the setting? I’ll definitely consider travelling there for one off shows in the future.
I loved the interactions and conversations with people outside the venues as much as what I saw on the various stages. Interactions such as the two I had with members of Vagina Witchcraft, they are really cool people. Giving a cheery hello and appreciation of the set they just played to Aleighcia Scott and her bandmates as they walked past me on the Friday evening. Seeing the bandmates of Samantha Savage Smith having breakfast in the dining area of the hotel on the day of departure, walking over and having a friendly conversation and giving them tourist tips for when they visit Manchester later during their tour.
Numerous fist bumps with Skunkadelic when passing each other at various times. Bonding with Kaptin Barrett over a shared appreciation for black midi. The quickest of catch ups with Maditronique in the entrance of The Royal Oak. So many welcome LOR interactions, too many to mention but one that stands out was a nice lengthy chat with Małgola a few doors down from The Parish on Friday. I was unable to see her solo set at FOCUS – that’s clashes for you – but I know even now that I am certain to catch a future solo or 100% Rabbit show. Just a question of when.
So many others I could mention and they were all good, but yes, you’re right dear reader. Time for me to get on with the day three FOCUS review. I hear you.
Just the mere twelve hours of action to close out proceedings. But I didn’t miss, I saw everyone as planned – and, get this – I actually scheduled a meal break for once as opposed to grabbing a quick bite on the go! Yay me for being sensible.
My day started off at Hope Street Church and with a showcase laid on by Fierce Panda Records. Manchester band SHADE were up first, and they did a very solid job of getting things up and running.
If you’re going to call yourself Enjoyable Listens, you’d better have the tunes and the character to back it up. Both boxes checked, and Luke – the guy who bought his suit from a charity shop for a fiver just minutes before the set started – has oodles of charisma. His in between banter was on point, and I enjoyed a nice chat with him afterwards. We’ll meet again.
Good three piece bands will always bring the energy, and JW Paris had plenty of that. The photo you see below should provide ample proof of this. People moved around in quite the enthusiastic manner during their set.
I planned my entire time at HSC on day three around Moon Panda, their Spotify offerings impressing me greatly during the planning stages. They lived up to my expectations when on stage, and like so many other people I encountered this weekend, they’re cool people too. If things work out, I might have a chance to see them again later this week in Brighton. Yes people, I do get around.
Now excuse me if you will, but I’m going to step away from doing things chronologically just for a moment. Because what I saw next from Unity and the LOR crew at Old No. 7 needs way more emphasis and attention. You’ll read more on this later, but for now look again on the cover shot of myself with the aforementioned Unity on the right, Skunkadelic and the fabulous Cara Elise.
I hate the fact that UK Garage declined in mainstream popularity at some point in the noughties. I still have a lot of love for the two-step, and what I saw from Niques was top drawer. She has bags of personality too, and she made everyone in the sizeable Old No. 7 crowd feel as if they were all a part of it, like one big happy gang.
My final visit of the festival to The Royal Oak and its single file viewing saw me take in a solo set from Aderyn. She’s got the tunes and the chat, and I enjoyed what she had to offer.
A flying visit to CENTRAL after the aforementioned meal break saw me go over to Room 2 and take in a set from Irish band Manilla Times, their choice of stage outfits a clear show of solidarity with the country they were playing in. They did a good job, and a shout out to the little lad also in this shot, he was well into it and I loved to see his enthusiasm. He started a one man moshpit at one point.
I saw Razkid do his thing at 2021’s FOCUS, and I was expecting something good from him at Penny Black. Of course the man delivered, and it was cool to be a part of the crowd there to see him do his thing. He kept calling on us to come further forward, at one point I thought that we were all going to be hanging out with MINAS behind the decks. More on him later.
One final visit to Llwyn Isaf to catch the set of Art School Girlfriend, in case you didn’t figure this out from the snap below. I liked what I heard.
Back to Old No. 7 to catch a piece of history in the making. Whenever I mentioned the name of sorry stacy to anyone, those in the know without exception told me how good she is. I’d planned on seeing her before reaching Wrexham in any case, but the glowing reports received from others only served to heighten expectations.
She did really well. It’s highly likely that she would have been dealing with first performance nerves, but if she was she hid them well. Hopefully we’ll be seeing and hearing more from her from a stage many more times in the future.
Back then to CENTRAL and the nightly shuffle between Rooms 1 and 2. What I will discuss here will be out of sequence with good reason if you continue to read on.
The last time I saw Big Thing was many years ago in my Swansea residing days. I’d come over to Cardiff for a gig at Clwb Ifor Bach and they were one of the support acts, playing then under their previous band name of Winter Coat. Until Saturday night I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing them on a stage since then, I definitely enjoyed the experience this time around.
I read in the artist bio section on the FOCUS Wales app that SUNHILL named themselves after a cheap wine brand. It would have been funnier still if they’d somehow come across some old episodes of The Bill in their native Sweden and used that as their band name origin story instead. They were quite loud, but very good and they had Room 2 rocking.
Next in the top to bottom trio are KEYS who also made a joyful noise to those in Room 2 land, and Eitha Da who took advantage of a longer set time to give a largely knowledgeable and appreciative Wrexham crowd everything that they wanted and more.
CRAWLERS were a band that I cast a particular critical eye over. When planning for gigs and festivals over the past few months, I kept seeing their name popping up over and over again. So I’m like okay then, let’s see what you got.
And you know what? Yes, I’m believing the hype. They have decent songs, and their leader Holly Minto was definitely meant to front a band. I particularly liked the way how she went out of her way to personally acknowledge those who were there just for her band in the front row who had queued outside the venue long before it opened. If they maintain that level of love and respect for their fans throughout, they’ll go far. Definitely keen to see where they go from here.
But out of everyone I saw in CENTRAL that night, nobody had a greater impact on me than MINAS.
Yes, the above sentence is there on its own for deserved greater emphasis. Man, this guy. I’m not going to suggest for one second that people who perform aren’t passionate about what they do. But there are some out there who are next level, and it just shines through in their output. He is one such person.
I saw him in various places during the week on deck duty for other artists playing. Some performing acknowledged his role in the production of some of their work. (I particularly enjoyed Niques during her set talking about setting up a potential Direct Debit scheme in order for the two of them to get back into the studio to work on new material as quickly as possible.)
This dude gets it. His desire to help other artists be the best they can be shines through. And as for his own work…damn! Just damn. Let’s just say that man’s set flew by quickly, and I could have listened to twice as much.
As I said up above, his passion comes through loud and clear in his performance, and the impact on those in the crowd was pretty cool to see too. Especially Benji Wild. He was 100% feeling it. I’ll remember his reaction to what he was seeing just as fondly as the performance.
Definitely have to see him somewhere again with the mic in his hand, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be at a future FOCUS. Joint best performance of the day for me.
Okay, you’ve waited long enough. Time to rewind back to Old No. 7 and the Starving Artists CDF showcase as hosted by Skunkadelic.
I started talking to Unity about the prospect of writing this guest blog on her website from the previous Sunday. I consider myself to be reasonable at this writing thing, so why not?
We then met up in various places during Wrexham, watching the same artists play on many an occasion. To be honest, it blew my mind a little when she made it clear on the prior Sunday how much she appreciated my passion for live music, as we hadn’t spoken much to each other at that point. But we have mutual friends, hence the invitation to blog.
(Big up LUCE KANON and St Bernadette. Your collective presence was definitely missed in Wrexham this year!)
So it has been cool bonding with her over the past week. And of course I was looking forward to her set at Old No. 7, along with the LOR crew.
Having seen her in the exact same venue last time around, I knew that it was going to be good. After all, how could she fail with TrishnaJaikara backing her up on the decks? And also with Cara Elise pacing her with her own silky smooth vocals? What a team.
But yeah, she’s got the bars and she knows how to spit them. And as with MINAS, I definitely could have listened to her perform for much longer.
And her crew too. Big up Asha Jane, Harriet, and Trish for what they did when they each took their turn on the mic.
TeiFi almost stole the show when she got up and did her thing, actions that I highly approve of by the way.
And a shout out to Brooke for playing a mean guitar, and to Eädyth for laying down the cool basslines. Some real talent on the strings right there.
Yes, I could go on and on. And yes, I was thoroughly entertained.
My personal 2022 FOCUS came to an end in the upstairs part of Penny Black taking in a set from Seazoo as part of an evening’s entertainment broadcast live on BBC Radio Wales. Yet another band that somehow managed to miss my attention until now. But that’s what these events are for, they’re definitely on the LG radar now. Yes, the radar is a thing. I refer to it a lot as regular readers of my writey stuff on Facebook can attest to.
And that was my Wrexham adventure done for another year! I had so much fun for the second year running, and even though I have no idea where I’ll be at in life 12 months from now, I have to say that those FOCUS Wales 2023 Super Early Bird tickets look seriously tempting.
Time for thank yous. A wholehearted thanks to the team behind it all. I’m so appreciative, and I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that Andy Jones somehow noticed this and gave such a lovely reaction in response. Thanks for everything that you, your colleagues and your whole team do.
Thanks to all of the FOCUS staff and crew for helping to keep everything running smoothly. And thanks to all of the security personnel for helping to keep everyone safe. They don’t get anywhere near as much respect for their role in all of this in my opinion, and they should be celebrated more.
Thanks to all of the movers and shakers. The promoters, the delegates, those providing networking opportunities. Your role in all of this is appreciated.
Thanks to all of the artists who I saw on stage, and for making my decision to come and watch you play a good one. Especially if I saw you play for my first time.
Thanks also to those who I missed out on seeing, and for making the choice to pass on as difficult as possible. Trust me, you haven’t gone unnoticed, and I will see many of you play elsewhere at some point along the line.
Thanks to Ladies of Rage Cardiff! It’s been a pleasure to catch up with many of you from last October, and to meet many more of you for the first time. I’ll be seeing many of you again, and not just in Wrexham either.
And, of course, the biggest thanks of all goes to Unity. THANK YOU SO MUCH for giving me this opportunity. It’s been a pleasure to bond with you this week, and I am more than up for future collaborations if and when the opportunity arises to do so. Changed my mind about sharing this one. I assure everyone that I wasn’t harmed during the making of this photo.
I hope I’ve done you proud.
So that’s me done. But before I go, let me leave you with a screenshot of my upcoming plans for May. Some of you might have seen this already, but for those who haven’t, just sharing so that you can truly see what I’m about.
Yes, I’m doing all of this, no joke. By the time this goes out I will have gone to Nottingham and seen FOCUS participants Eädyth and Mangka perform. And this coming weekend will see me do something similar to what I just did down in Brighton for The Great Escape 2022. I plan on seeing a handful of acts down south that I also saw in Wrexham.
The rest you can see for yourself. This is my passion, and I cannot ever see myself stopping completely unless I’m physically unable to continue.
Okay, time to sign off. For those who read any of this, whether it be a few words or every word, thank you so much. And thanks again to everyone who has shown me love for all of this. It’s still blowing my mind that anyone would care to give attention to any of this, but please don’t think that I don’t appreciate it. I do. Wholeheartedly.
Thanks for reading.
How do? LG here with your daily FOCUS Wales 2022 post in association with Unity.
It’s Saturday morning here in Wrexham, and the sun is out. Hopefully you’re having similar luck with the weather wherever you may be.
Going to be a relatively quick one today owing to me having little time to write before day three’s festivities get underway, but I still hope to continue to capture the essence of this wonderful festival for you through the words and pictures that follow.
I had a blast on day two. Saw a whole host of top quality acts, met up with friends old (in terms of time knowing them, not age, let’s make that clear to avoid confusion) and new, made new friends, had more random friendly conversations with people in the street.
Yeah, all good.
My Friday FOCUS was scheduled to be the busiest in terms of planned acts seen, and I largely stuck to it with action spanning just over fourteen hours. As with Thursday, my day started off over in the studios at Glyndŵr University with more acts from Canada on the bill.
As you might have seen at the tail end of my last post, I had high expectations for openers Super Duty Tough Work. They delivered a solid, tight set, and it is highly likely that I will see them play again next weekend at The Great Escape in Brighton. Check them out, they’re worth your time.
On to Art d’Ecco. Now imagine all of the cool things musically about the 80s and updated into an easily accessible package. That’s exactly what you have here with this guy and his band. Plenty of influences abound, if that decade means everything to you, remember the name.
Vagina Witchcraft were up next. Yes, that’s their name. And they were LOUD. Put it this way, if anyone was sleeping in that studio they would have been awakened in a hurry. They’re cool people too, I saw them out and about in town afterwards and we had a lovely conversation.
After saying my goodbyes to everyone at the uni for another year, I headed back into town and to Hope Street Church for a showcase of Spanish artists. Seen here are Sophia Lafuente (she’s the one in black), the Catalan band Chico Jorge, and Marta Knight stood on the right of shot with her bandmates. Very good sounds from all of them.
I have to single out the mini event closers Yo Diablo though. They were absolute dynamite and they had the entire crowd at HSC rocking long before the end of their set. If our paths cross again somewhere in the future, I wouldn’t be mad about it.
Back over to Old No. 7 and the hip hop vibes. Caught up with friends in the crowd, and there was a great atmosphere for the time that I was there at least.
First up we had Fig. bringing that Caerphilly flava. I felt the passion.
And then Aisha Kigs and her silky smooth vocals stepped up and delivered something that just simply oozed cool.
Abertawe represent! The mere mention of Swansea was more than enough to get me interested anyway, but Original TitanTeeth held my attention from beginning to end in any case. He’s on the right in this shot, also seen here is Charlie J who plays his own set today in the same venue.
Over to Llwyn Isaf and FOCUS Wales’ equivalent of a Big Top. Many other places I could have been at this particular moment of the day, but I didn’t want to miss out on seeing Aleighcia Scott play under any circumstances. I made the right choice. If you like reggae, go check her out.
Beija Flo is cool. She’s awesome, and she’s one amazing lady. Sorry to everyone else playing at the same time as her, but you had no chance. As with Aleighcia above, I wasn’t going to miss out on seeing her play over at The Parish. Her rich personality shines through in every performance, and she won over those in the audience who watched her whole set.
In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m a fan.
But yeah, so cool to be on hand to see her first ever performance in Wales, and I’m already looking forward to seeing her play again.
My day ended at CENTRAL, but I was there for five hours switching between rooms taking it all in. Both music and conversations with friends and bands. And friends in a band. Liam Bevan is one such friend in a band (CHROMA). He is who you see with me in the snap at the top of all of this.
On the music side of things, what I heard from Feather Beds and Los Blancos sounded pretty cool.
Gabe Is A Unit are one of those many bands that I wished I’d heard about sooner. Seeing them for the first time last night, and I strongly suspect that I’ll be seeing them again in the future.
I changed my evening schedule so that I could make time to see Language Arts (having been very impressed with them in the planning stages), and I told them so later. Yet another cool band both on stage and off. Very friendly and relatable. I hope they are able to come back to the UK frequently and often. But if I ever get the chance to see then play again in their native Canada, I’d happily take it.
My second viewed Barcelona band of the day are another I’d happily see again further down the line. I thoroughly enjoyed the angry at times (their description, not mine) rock of The Crab Apples. And they’re also cool people.
And now CHROMA. Yes, I’ll find the words. I love them. They’ve been my homies for six years and counting, and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow and develop as a band. And I have also enjoyed my friendship with them that has continued long after I returned to England to live. That hasn’t stopped me travelling to various towns and cities in Wales and England over the years to see them play though. And it never will.
They played to a packed out Room 2 in CENTRAL, so pleased to see such a big crowd for them. KT was on FIRE with her vocals and overall performance, Bev keeping everything in control with his axe work, and Zac was playing so intensely that at one point he totally and involuntarily rearranged the alignment of his drum kit and needed assistance to put everything back in its correct place.
I could write about these three for several more paragraphs. You just have to know that I am so very proud of them, and the support will continue.
Goat Girl are such a cool band. Last night was the third time I’ve seen them play, and they continue to get better and better. I know that ‘On All Fours’ is still relatively knew, but I already want album three, so excited to see what they do next.
A change to the CENTRAL schedule saw Jack Found play next in Room 2. Well, how do you do! A very pleasant surprise, a very cool discovery at this festival. I definitely want to see more at some point in the future.
My night ended with HENGE. They were quite something. You only have to look at the collage below to get the vibe. Definitely a case of what on earth did I just watch, but you know what, I was totally there for it and the crowd reaction and interaction.
Longest scheduled day at 2022 FOCUS in the books and it was fun from beginning to end.
Day three now, and this is a real time write, so by the time you see this my day will be underway. Check the schedule.
After touching base with Unity all week in various festival spots, I finally get to see her do her thing on stage at Old No. 7. I expect TrishnaJaikara to be laying down the beats with her, and I hope she brings out Cara Elise to perform with her at some point as I’d love to meet her afterwards.
Moon Panda were a band who stood out for me during the planning stages, and I’m fully looking forward to seeing them in action.
I first saw Big Thing many years ago in my Swansea residing days, and it’s been quite some time since I saw them last. Looking forward to seeing them again.
Crawlers are a band who I’ve seen popping up all over festivals and potential gigs to attend. Definitely keen to see what they’re about.
After seeing MINAS in various guises performing different roles for other artists, I’m excited to finally see him perform later.
And whenever I’ve mentioned the name of sorry stacy to anyone who knows, they’ve had nothing but good things to say about her. I understand that today’s set at Old No. 7 is going to be her first ever public performance, so history in the making right there.
Looking forward to it all. Please come back for my final recap and a wrap up of my overall impressions of FOCUS Wales 2022. It will be with you no later than Monday.
‘Til next time
- July 2023
- May 2023
- August 2022
- May 2022
- April 2022
- February 2022
- November 2021
- October 2021
- March 2021
- February 2021
- December 2020
- June 2020
- April 2020
- December 2019
- December 2018
- October 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- November 2017
- September 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- October 2014
- September 2014