SONIC BOOM SIX
If you’ve ever been to Merthyr Tydfil, you’ll know exactly why it’s important that events like Merthyr Rock are taking place. It’s not exactly the centre of the universe, and there’s little doubt that it could do with plenty of investment when you look around the town centre.
Set away from this town centre is Cyfarthfa Park, which is home to the young festival – Punktastic are only here on Saturday and Sunday this year (because we’ve used up most of our holiday days), so we’ve missed Saves The Day, Futures and Razorlight (shame) on the Friday.
Our Saturday begins with The Astroid Boys, and it’s the first time we notice over the weekend that the smaller of the two stages is fucking loud. Their crossover rock/hip hop does little to escape novelty, but it’s good fun nonetheless.
The Dirty Youth are up next on the festival’s main stage, and the footfall today is starting to look much healthier than a few hours back. Unfortunately, the band don’t really do anything particularly noteworthy, and their ultra-American vocal ends up grating by the 4th or 5th song.
Bastions are next up, and they stick out like a bit of a sore thumb. The sound isn’t particularly excellent today for them either, so it’s not going to go down as their finest ever set.
Then Sonic Boom Six enter the fray, and with the electronic parts of their sound supercharged in the new material, they revitalise the afternoon with an energetic set. The band may be one of the most over-the-top bands in the UK scene, but there’s no doubt that it’s a load of fun.
Now Black And Reds are on the second stand, and we have to dash off halfway through their set to film some awesome acoustic sessions. They don’t bring anything particular new to the table from what we see, and as we end up missing Exit Ten and only hear an excellent Exit_International in the background, we were ready to see some massive tunes delivered.
Neil Starr & Gavin Butler are an entertaining watch on the second, and for a moment it’s nice to not have our ears battered by an incredibly loud sound from the second stage. After this, we have to dash off again and only catch glimpses of Yashin, but we’re back for Save Your Breath and they crash through a particularly excellent half hour of pop punk to get us warmed up for the last few bands.
Lower Than Atlantis deliver the kind of set that they’ve been delivering all year, and though it’s a decent watch, we’re looking forward to the band releasing their new record so that they get a bigger reaction to all the tracks.
Next up is Pulled Apart By Horses on the second stage, and they sound massive. It’s freakishly loud again, but the band prove once more that they’re one of the best in the country and deserve every great slot that they’re getting. A true lesson to all “heavy” bands’.
To finish our night, Skindred deliver a set that only they can deliver. They played the year before as well, but they’re just an incredible live band that never get boring and would be welcome every single year. They have the best frontman in the business, and the band manage to kick the party off with some of the best ragga metal that you could expect on a night out.
One of the strangest bands of the weekend: “A”
After stretching out a bit in Cardiff and a drive up into the valleys we were fully ready for Merthyr Rock Round Two, and began our day with a healthy dose of Verses on the second stage. It’s super-loud again today on stage two, and the band just about manage to deliver an interesting, if a little uninspired, set.
Next up, we catch the James Cleaver Quintet on the main stage, and their set is begging for a refresh with more new material. We’ve caught the band live loads of times, and it’s the new songs that really stand out today. There’s nothing wrong with the set at all, but you can tell what the bands want to be watching.
The next band on the main stage are Straight Lines, and they continue their fine tradition of starting conga lines with one of the best sets of the weekend. Most definitely from “just down the road”, the band even get cheers for name checking their village, and they prove again that they deserve to be massive.
In probably the most fun set of the weekend, Don Broco show just why they are being tipped so heavily right now. Songs from their new album sound huge – especially ‘Whole Truth’ and ‘Actors’ – and the band seem more and more comfortable on the larger stages with each new outing.
In a set where pretty much everything went against them, it’s unlikely Future Of The Left will visit Merthyr again any time soon – while the band remained raucous as ever, sound problems blighted the set, and that coupled with a seriously poor crowd meant they didn’t get the attention they deserved. A missed opportunity for the Merthyr Rock faithful.
Over on the second stage, we catch Marmozets performing a manic set – we’ve seen them plenty this summer, and though it’s neither the best crowd they’ve played in front of or the best sound they’ve had to play with, it’s great fun to watch nonetheless.
Next, We Are The Ocean are on the main stage, and the band are looking far more confident as a four piece than they have done to date. Songs from forthcoming album ‘Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow’ sound best today, and there’s no doubt that the band have a mastery of their audience.
The boys in Canterbury command a fairly big crowd today – one of the biggest on the James McClaren stage on the Sunday – and despite sound problems not helping their set – they put in a great performance. Singles ‘Gloria’ and ‘Saviour’ receive the best reactions and the band can be happy with a good job all round.
The next band we caught live was one of the strangest additions of the weekend – A. They were also the last band to play the James McLaren stage of the weekend, and paid fitting tribute (like many over the weekend on the stages) to the late broadcaster. The set itself started a bit jerky, but it soon turned into a great laugh, with Jason Perry delivering the second best between-song chatter of the entire weekend. The band playing ‘Nothing’ is always going to be a great moment, and hopefully they’ll have another few shows in them over the next year.
Kids In Glass Houses finish off the entire weekend, and their set is as great as can be expected. Tracks from all their albums make a debut, and a fitting tribute to McLaren is delivered by the band during the set. It’s an emotional one for the South Wales, but you can tell that they’re very much at home.
Overall, Merthyr Rock is still a very new festival, and one that will hopefully grow and grow as the years progress. It wasn’t quite as busy as we’d have hoped, but there’s little doubt that it’s an important fixture of the summer for the local scene.
TOM AYLOTT (additional: CHRIS MARSHMAN)