Kids in Glass Houses, Attack! Attack! & Joy Formidable - Cardiff Civic Centre
Every year, as July collapses inelegantly into August, Cardiff City Council host The Big Weekend which largely constitutes the parachuting of a funfair and midi-festival stage into the neo-classical surrounds of Cardiff’s civic centre. Like a modern day, democratic Caligula the Council offsets the pain of the council tax bill with some free entertainment. Panem et circenses. Being free, it is, of course, a magnet for desperate low-life from miles around but, thankfully, the Council demonstrate both taste and decency by generally giving the ‘alternatives’ a night of their own which attracts fewer psychopaths. This year the focus of the alternative night is upon Welsh talent and the kids have responded en masse with a sizeable crowd of Goths and emos braving the inevitable Welsh rain.
A good natured crowd it is too. First band up are Save Your Breath,a posse of skate punks from (gasp) Newport. Now, back in the day, a band from Newport playing Cardiff would, at the very least, leave with a couple of life threatening injuries but the class of 2009 barely summon up a pitiful ‘boo’ as the band leap onto the stage. Maybe parochialism is dead and, hey, maybe all the middle east peace process requires is a free emo-festival? Aye, maybe not but fair play to the ‘kids’, one of whom (aged circa 3) keeps offering me some of his pick n mix which, being on Music Fix duty, I have to decline. I digress; Save Your Breath do a great job of warming up a damp crowd and churn out some crowd pleasing tunes which blend the apparently obligatory South Wales emo sounds with the somewhat cheekier riffage of bands like Green Day. After the show the sell their cds for two quid and mingle with starry eyed kids – they are doing things the right way and could take their place in the queue to be the next, next big thing from Wales.
It is a long queue mind and ahead of them by some distance are TMF faves The Joy Formidable who stand out on this bill like Aswad at a BNP rally. This ‘emo’ thing is all very well but there’s more than a whiff of testosterone about it and, given the huge proportion of girls in the crowd, it is shocking that Ritzy is the only female to take the stage this evening.
It isn’t mere gender which sets TJF apart from the other bands on the bill as, musically, they are cut from a different cloth and recall the pop joy of The Primitives and the swirling guitar of Levitation. Again, kudos to the kids, who, despite being clearly here for an emo-fix, take Ritzy and her mop of flaxen hair to their hearts and bounce enthusiastically along to the powerful energy rush of The Last Drop, engage in some ‘hands in the air' clapping to Austere and full on moshing to the howling, incendiary rawness of Whirring. While this open-air, mid-table festival slot failed to fully convey the explosion of energy this band produce at a club show this was, nevertheless, compensated for by the way in which tracks like The Last Drop took on a new, epic grandeur and engaged an unpartisan audience. You can’t help but feel that something big is around the corner for this band.
I’m left more mystified than impressed by Attack! Attack! who’s singer looks like he’s on his way to participate in a darts tournament rather than play a rock and roll show. They play a formulaic set which is, essentially, a tribute to Fall Out Boy albeit with original compositions. They can play, no question but they fail to move me in any way, shape or form. Not one tune lodges itself in my brain and they arrive and depart without any great incident, although they do instigate a giant moshpit and then feign alarm when it, inevitably, turns horribly violent. Those lads and their testosterone eh? Tsk!
Still, ignore my miserable carping if you aged under 25 as the kids thought that Attack! Attack! Were the best thing they’d seen since, well, Save Your Breath – these youngsters are hellishly easy to please these days.
Arriving to scenes reminiscent of the height of Beatlemania Kids in Glass Houses demonstrate how it should be done in front of a hometown audience. Musically they are not streets away from Attack! Attack! but there the comparisons end. The Kids are here to put on a SHOW and, in Aled, they have a frontman who, part Bono, part Kenneth Williams, owns this crowd from front to back. You can see immediately why Nicky Wire wanted to take them out on the road with the Manics as Aled shares with Wire a wicked sense of sarcastic humour and an innate need to patrol every inch of his stage; perched on a stage monitor, microphone stand raised triumphantly over the crowd he looks every inch the bone fide rock star.
None of this showboating is, of course, very ‘emo’ at all and it is this star quality which sets them miles apart from the pack. Yeah, the songs were marginally more memorable than those of Attack! Attack! but, Saturday and Give Me What I Want apart, there’s not much to turn your head. There’s a great deal more subtlety in delivery however and shimmering guitar work which would not be out of place on any classic stadium band’s work. I arrived expecting to be bored rigid by Kids in Glass Houses as they are patently not my thing, and I am not their target audience by a long stretch but, bugger me, they know how to put on a show and that’s why the girls are swooning over the barriers and hurling condoms at the stage. It may sound a bit hokey but, as another local boy Anthony Hopkins says, ‘life is hokey, so what’? Undeniably exciting this is just what Cardiff needs on a rainy Friday night and, on Saturday, Kids in Glass Houses will be on a plane to the States to record that crucial next album. A lot is riding on that trip, will the next hometown gig be in Barfly or the Millennium Stadium?
(words & pictures: Steve Burnett)