South Wales has huge potential to be a major draw for any band. Anybody who has hit up Womanby street any night of the week knows how raucous it can get. Two great universities along the South Coast of Wales and numerous great venues dotted about, it seems that the south coast would be a must visit for any band on a whistle tour of the UK.
South Wales Music Health Report – Interview with Max Hicks of Totem Terrors & public opinions..
Sadly, for some reason it is not. To try and discern why this is the case, we asked several local bands why this this? Can it be changed? Is the scene punching above its weight or is it in ailing health…? We asked local bands: Totem Terrors, The Cradles and Third Party for their opinions on what’s going wrong and what is right with the south Wales Scene.
Totem Terrors are a band from the UK (Cardiff & Brighton), formerly known as Joy of Sex. We spoke to Max hicks from Totem Terrors asking him for his verdict on South Wales as a place to start your musical journey.
“It’s really good for up-and-coming bands, but the lack of an independent mid-sized venue in Cardiff is hurting the scene. No mid-size venue means no middleweight bands playing Cardiff on their tours. That means less support opportunities for local bands, less industry presence and less buzz in general. Touring bands come as far as Bristol, so Bristol gets all the action whilst Cardiff starves. It’s a shame, because at the street level there are dozens of amazing bands here (I appreciate Cardiff isn’t all of South Wales, but it is the capital and in my experience the majority of bands from other parts of Wales eventually end up here, at least for a little while).”
Arctic Monkeys play to the 7,500 capacity Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. This is perhaps a rare occasion that a bigger band has hit the capital.
The lack of a mid sized venue is an concern echoed by Cardiff band, Third Party. Gruff Russell-Jones, Singer of Third Party did however suggest that there is plenty to be optimistic about regarding the future of the Cardiffian music scene:
“There is load to be proud of in Cardiff’s music scene. From my own biased view from Cardiff i’d say: We’ve got Womanby St. which on a good night is the absolute best of pure musical thriving. There are loads of good acts out there and we’d love to see Womanby full of it every night of the week. A couple of venues take much of the strain in terms of supporting the grassroots.”
Cardiff Band, Third Party
“We could do with a couple more platforms for our local artists in aid of healthy competition. More spaces to facilitate our work together locally to take what we do beyond. Cardiff & Wales deserve to be on the map as much as anywhere. We are getting there.”
The Octopus Project @ The Full Moon Club – leading the way on Womanby Street
“We need more management, labels, pushers, seedy though influential hangers on… In short a wider network of support. There’s a good deal of talent around that needs to break out into the wider audience. I never thought I’d say it but we need more of an industry to really keep this thing afloat so we can all take off at the same time and in the right direction.“
Miles Kane plays Cardiff Student Union – big names playing Cardiff often bring their own support acts, leaving local talent in unable to get gigs.
The Welsh government has identified the The Creative Industries sector in Wales is amongst the fastest growing of the key sectors identified in Economic renewal: a new direction report. They now provide Digital Development funds providing funding from £5,000 up to £50,000 and up to 50% of each project. This perhaps allows Welsh artists more creative freedom, but they are hindered by the lack of venues.
(this is something me and Max talk about in further depth in the accompanying podcast.)
Declan Andrews from Cardiff outfit The Cradles, suggests that Cardiff’s lack of venues is redeemed by the vibrancy of the pop up festival scene: the likes of Oxjam, Hub Festival and Swn at the vanguard of this phenomenon:
“We’ve played a lot of shows in the South Wales region over the past year and we’ve enjoyed playing with a variety of other bands. If you look at the likes of HUB Festival and Swn then it’s clear it’s healthy insofar as there are a lot of bands doing a lot of different things and people who are passionate about making the local scene thrive. Having said that, we’re aware that it’s quite easy to get caught up playing the same venues in your home city over and over again so what we’ve been focused on lately is getting to other cities in the UK where people who haven’t seen you before can see you live. For any band aspiring to go places that’s an absolute necessity.”
It does seem that these mini festivals are perhaps providing a catch net for new talent in the local area, which takes some of the strain off smaller venues in the area like Clwb Ifor Bach and The Full Moon Club. Despite the emergence of Buffalo bar and more recently Abacus as a popular live music venues, we can only wait on the effect that these new artistic spaces will have on the South Wales scene.
Leed’s Hookworms @ Wombandy’s Clwb Ifor Bach