Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff | 17 October 2012
The Welsh can sometimes be rather reluctant to sing their own praises. Sometimes the course to a well-deserved pat on the back involves notable mumblings and embarrassed shuffling. Especially if Gruff Rhys’ acceptance speech at last year’s Welsh Music Prize Award ceremony is anything to go by.
And so on the eve of this year’s official award ceremony, when shortlisted artists took to the stage at Clwb Ifor Bach, MC and Radio Wales DJ Adam Walton treated the crowd to repeated exclamations of joy, just to make sure we weren’t missing the point.
The Welsh Music Prize, now in its second year of celebration, has become an integral part of Sŵn, and a much needed benchmark of success within the Welsh music industry. Curated by Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens and music promoter John Rostron, the award looks to champion accomplished Welsh artists. Last year’s esteemed victor meant the twelve shortlisted this year were in good stead.
Kutosis began the evening’s feast of sounds, playing to a slowly filling room, their youthful, post-punk sound providing an energetic bite to start to the evening. Not often are there so many musically knowledgeable heads under one roof, and the appreciation for Kutosis was also mirrored for the more delicate sounds of Huw M and Jodie Marie. Both delivered soothing and serene performances, if perhaps a little underwhelming after the swagger of Kutosis.
If the evening is to be measured by excitement and a raw feeling of recklessness, then Truckers of Husk piled those feelings onto the scale. Their performance was delayed momentarily by a search for a ‘missing bag of effect pedals’, which seemed a fitting introduction to a seemingly incompatible mastery of instruments on the one hand and a general air of disarray on the other. Frantic percussion and an addictive narrative were to follow, punctuated by the occasional hurling of frankfurter sausage into the audience.
Not all the shortlisted artists were present at the concert, and so a projector was used to show videos from the absent acts, including Kids in Glass Houses (whose video contained a Girls Aloud-esque scene, think a demonic Sound of the Underground), Islet, Future of the Left and Los Campesinos!
In fact, it would be Future of the Left who would go on and win the prize at the following evening’s official awards ceremony, with their polemic, abrasive rock winning top accolade from the judging panel.
Bright Lights Bright Lights proved a delicious lift to the evening, with their 90s-inspired pop and coordinated dance moves beheld like an exotic animal. Though the frantic head-nodding ceased at this point, the extraordinary vocals from Rod Thomas and his pristine pop convinced many a listener to shake some limbs.
Cate Le Bon delivered a bewitching, though at times somewhat inaccessible, set complete with participants running on stage in order to shake bells and bow beneath the singer. At these points it was hard not to feel like an onlooker to some mystifying ritual, and yet, this very same mysterious energy was what worked to captivate the audience.
In a prog-metal maelstrom, Exit International certainly brought things to a halt in the swaying crowd. Comfortably the heaviest band of the night, they pelted numbers like Glory Horn at the audience in a two bass-led assault, with ferocious results.
The evening culminated in a set from Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog, who certainly always succeed in bringing a Welsh earthiness to the room, with their bilingual songs and rich, country sound. Accompanied by singer Georgia Ruth for the first time, the three brothers delivered a harmony of folk to lull everyone at evening’s end, when a saturated but content audience left, dragging a few frankfurters at their heels. A worthy tribute to a glorious year for Welsh Music.
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Words: Betsan Jones