It is coming up to a year since the ÜK live music industry went into virtual shutdown, thanks to the ongoing global pan(dem)ic which has swept through the Überverse and decimated so many lives. With seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel, at least for the foreseeable future, and no sign of any form of “normal” shows, as we once knew them, returning any time soon, artists and bands have had to find new ways of engaging and interacting with their audiences, and promoting their product – never mind selling it and thus keeping a roof over their heads and allow them to plot a course into the future. While some of the bigger, more established, names have had the wherewithal to re-invent their communication and promotional channels, perhaps hardest hit have been what we can perhaps best describe as the next generation… the new breed of young, up-and-coming artistes who would have relied on blagging an invaluable support slot on a bigger bill to spread their message and showcase their talents to wider audiences… which brings us neatly to the subject (sic) in hand…
Enter the students from the University of South Wales, and particularly the campus’ school of Popular and Commercial Music. Last year, with the full support of their collegiate staff, and the professional support of a number of venues across the Welsh capital, they ‘Immersed’ themselves in organizing their first ever festival, showcasing the best up-and-coming young musical talent, not only from the university and its ranks, but the wider region as a whole. It was one of the last major musical events to be held in south Wales before the beer bug swept into town and closed everything down overnight.
However, like so many others in the music industry, and despite having only dipped their toes in the water, the students were not put off even such a cataclysmic turn of events, and set about building on the initial success of, and lessons learned from, their debut venture and set about turning the tables on the crisis around them. Yes, like so many others in the sector, they took the 2021 iteration of Immersed online, using a combination of the university’s own world-class facilities, home recordings – and even some of the venues which, all things being equal, would have staged the various gigs and showcases. And all done within the guidelines of the ongoing restrictions as laid down by the Welsh government.
As demonstrated by the Friday evening’s line-up, the eclectic nature of the artists concerned meant that many of them fell outside ÜR’s remit. However, our support for rising new talent is well-known, and so we asked our “Valleys Correspondent”, David O’Neill – himself a lecturer at USW – to check out proceedings over the course of the weekend, and give us a brief synopsis of each and every act showcased over the weekend… So, let’s catch up with his thoughts on the Saturday performances on the ‘Save Our Venues Stage’ (which was sponsored by the Tramshed), shall we?
- Slummz are a five-piece who look like they are students at the university. It’s a shame the singer read the lyrics from a songbook. A bit punky and discordant, rather like a very rough version of some of the early Madchester sound bands.
- DD Darillo are a very impressive outfit: a bit of jazz-funk crossed with a vocalist who has a very nice voice and was a multiply talented instrumentalist. At some points, the vocals sounded a bit like Hendrix crossed with Roger Hodgson of Supertramp. It was a very impressive set, cool, relaxed and on point. I’d go and see these guys given the opportunity.
- Polly Amourous: a drag act doing pop music covers.
- Gina Grigio: another drag queen who did some good pop covers to backing tracks; good entertainer and stage presence.
- The Kelly Line are a pop punk quartet full of energy, with a really good set of upbeat punk pop tracks. Some of the songs reminded me of Mumford and Sons (‘Hamsters Wheel’ particularly) and Green Day (‘Ballad of the Bee’)
- Emma Mae is a singer songwriter from the Midlands. Most of her set was ballads. She has a nice tone to her voice and a good range that is typical of a pop female vocalist. The catchiest of the tracks was ‘Easy Tiger’.
- Clwb Fuzz are a four-piece grunge/punk female-fronted band based in Cardiff. The singer also played bass. They acquired a sax player and another girl playing synth too.
- Bloom! Are a three-piece upbeat pop rock trio who are USW alumni. For a three piece they were very good and had a unique sound with the vocalist (Sophie) being well supported by the other members of the band, Rhia (drums) and Max on guitar.
- Mellt are a Welsh speaking three-piece punk band from Aberystwyth. The music was very easy listening and reminded me of something but I couldn’t put a name to it.
- Tom Auton & the Bottle Breakers are a blues band who say they are influenced by White Stripes, Royal Blood and the American blues guitarist John Mayer. You can hear these influences in the style of music. If you like the potential mix of these then you will enjoy this band – I did.
- Chroma are an alt rock female fronted three-piece from the Rhonnda valleys. Drums and bass are the instruments, apart from the singer’s voice, which rises above the thumping bass and drums.
Saturday’s action was actually split across two “stages”, with the other half of the day’s action taking place on the wonderfully named Mosh Pit Stage (now, that sounds more like our pint of cider!), brought to us courtesy of our friends at the city’s legendary FUEL Club…
- Skltn Crew: A new punk band from Cardiff. Very punky. Considering this was their first public performance they were quite tight. Some of the lyrics were difficult to hear on the TV when listening on YouTube, but that was probably the TV sound (at least that’s your excuse – Monk).
- Cherry Boys are a six-piece band of talented musicians. The vocalist has a good range and tone to his voice. There are two guitarists who feed well of each other with some good riffs and a nice full sound. The style is a bit of jazz funk with some rock infused passages. It was a very enjoyable set.
- Excursia are very definitely metal to the core. Screaming lyrics, low thumping basslines and drums throw back to ‘80s metal. Some good solos, but it is what it says on the label.
- Alan Van Nguyen was a solo guitarist playing along to backing tracks, one of which was the Immersed!2021 theme tune. He’s a very good guitarist, with very relaxed playing style, a bit like Joe Bonamassa. A variety of guitar styles and techniques on show too.
- Scavengers will be a name known to regular ÜR readers. The pop punk quartet from Cardiff give a full energy set of their repertoire. Considering the difficulties of rehearsing during a pandemic they are tight. The sound and lighting effects really complement the set.
- Led by Lies are a five-piece metal band from South Wales. The music was typically heavy, and the vocals ranged from singing to screaming. Some good musicians in the band, with some good guitar solos.
- Equinox are another doom metal band typical of the genre: heavy, loud, screamo, gut wrenching bass, drums and guitar.
- Telgate are an aggressive form of glam rock, sort of Kiss-like I suppose but female fronted. Reminded me a bit of the Pink Slips meets late ‘60s psychedelia with bad attitude. The singer sounded a bit like Marianne Faithful, but with the attitude of Grace Jones.
- Nightlives are a bit of a strange mix of heavy metal meets techno, but it works so well. I was suitably underwhelmed by the amount of effort put in by the drummer, he made so much noise but didn’t seem to be doing that much! However, this was made up by the energy of the singer who delivered a very punchy punky vocal style. Only one word for the Nightlives’ set: WOW! Huge sound, very tight and extremely well-rehearsed. The best band of the weekend by far.
- No:IR are a unique blend of rap and metal, with some seriously boneshaking metal riffage and basslines accompanied by rapping lyrics… WTF! However, it worked really well. Reminded me a bit of OM&M without the unusual stage props.
Highlights of day two were once again the organization of the whole thing, there were interviews and intro links interspersed with features that supported the themes of the weekend, Teenage Cancer Trust and #SaveOurVenues. Add to this the wide variety of musical styles on show. Altogether a superb effort from everyone involved. Some of the stages had better sound than others but that is the nature of live music, the video recording and editing of the performances was outstanding.
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