“Cardiff was a big neon sign pointing towards adventure” – Bethan

bethan-elfyn-web

“We took the Porsche down to Tiger Bay,
Drank the pubs dry where bands used to play in their heyday.
Cardiff in the Sun”

– Super Furry Animals

We must’ve been skinny, because there were five of us squashed into a mini metro. We’re driving around Fishguard, recklessly, in Dan’s car. Blaring on the stereo are the Stone Roses. “Send me home like an Elephant Stone, to smash my dream of love, Dreaming till the sun goes down, and night turns into day!” Life is great! I’m a fresh faced minister’s daughter from the mountains of mid Wales and family friend, Daniel Evans, is introducing me to life in the fast lane, and adopting me to the Glantaf gang. Life was about to change. From one weekend out West to hauling life and future from North to South.

These were the kids that made me fall in love with Cardiff, the beautiful, cocky, fun, brazen, colourful, earthy, yes, even hippy, music-breathing kids from Ysgol Glantaf. Unlike anyone I knew back in my home school. At home it was small town clubbing and nosey neighbors (closest friends aside of course), here it was house parties, jamming till dawn, discussing the world, creating art, creating music and this breezy rush of freedom! It was idealistic, naïve, preposterous, yet it was new, it was youth, and it was an awakening.

With these naïve and wide-eyes I saw the city, and felt like I belonged. From boot sales in Splott, to Jacobs market’s spiraling treasure trove. From squeezing into Spillers and bacon butties in the Hayes, to the stretch of vinyl at Kellys – it was riding buses, walking railway tunnels, driving flyovers. It was dressing up retro, it was cherry tobacco, it was the Astoria’s all nighters, or Time Flies’ raves under chandeliers at the City Hall, it was dark and dangerous at The Hippo Club, it was the docks, it was the City Arms, Model Inn and Clwb Ifor Bach combined, it was Marcello from café minuet and the historic arcades. There were rituals and there were parties, oh, there were so many parties. From parties on Penarth beach to fires up the Wenallt, to student kitchens, to famous lock ins – it was a big neon sign pointing towards adventure.

Dan and anyone else from class of ’91, I’ll salute you for bringing me here, making me fall in love with the life you were living, just school kids on the brink of the future, and anything was possible.

My plans to have a gap year in France fell by the wayside as I fell in love with the city and the engrossing music scene. Every weekend was spent at Clwb Ifor Bach, till you knew every name in the building. Weeknights were full of big NME/Melody Maker bands on tour at the Uni like The Charlatans, Primal Scream, Pulp, St Etienne, Catatonia and erm Bjorn Again! I got a job, I was ‘saturday girl’, at Spillers Records. The Newport gigs were kicking off at TJs with 60 ft dolls, Disco, Gauge, Gorky’s and others. When you’re busy living in the moment you don’t quite realize the significance of all this. When venues later close, and legends start to disappear, you regret that photo you didn’t take or that chat you didn’t have, but you’re busy being young and being invincible.

I was in the busy heart of Cool Cymru (a term which we all hated), running around in the veins of the city, and would drive the length and breadth of the UK, to see live bands. A National Express to Sheffield to see Primal Scream and the Orb stadium tour, a club in the Valleys for the famous Splash tour where the Stereophonics supported The Big Leaves, college friend Denis Pasero’s 2cv shakily bombing down the M4 taking us to Y Cnapan festival, being gobsmacked at the SFA’s tank on the Eisteddfod field and the news crews in overdrive about what language they would sing in that night, and the band I stalked the most throughout this time were Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. Sadly, I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen them, but it’s awkward!

The music has changed unrecognizably from the few sweaty venues we used to frequent back in the 90s, but then as now we make our own fun here, it’s a small city with a big creative heart and a tight social community. My friends now, are an amazing crazy bunch of brilliantly talented people, and help me dream the same dream I had on coming here in the first place. Keep finding the adventures in the everyday, live with the wide eyed wonder towards the new, changing and evolving cityscape, and clap my thankful hands at the beautiful sounds* that keep emanating from this small city.

Footnotes

*Astoria = Venue on Queen’s Street where Oasis famously also played in 1994, supported by 60ft dolls. Used to be a massive club, not particularly nice, so this isn’t particularly nostalgic footnote!

*Sounds of Cardiff now. Do check out…
Cate Le Bon, H Hawkline, Sweet Baboo, Islet, Future of the Left, Strange News From Another Star, Samoans, Gruff Rhys, Euros Childs, Jonny, Richard James, The Gentle Good, Hail! the Planes, Le B, Jemma Roper, Saturday’s Kids, Harbour, Hunters, Truckers of Husk, Man Without Country, Houdini Dax, The Method, The Keys, Friends Electric and many many more.

Bethan Elfyn has been broadcasting and reporting across Welsh radio and TV since the late 90s. She started with BBC Radio Cymru in North Wales, working across the board from politics to music; interviewing millionaires, farmers, millionaire farmers, lots of musicians, comedians, drama ‘lovies’, and the highlight of the whole lot a record breaking “human mole”. In 1999, she was chosen to front BBC Radio One’s exclusive new music show for Wales, the Session in Wales, presenting the late night show on BBC Radio One till 2010. The decade was spent firmly ensconed in the UK’s music scene, hosting main stages at festivals across the land from Reading to Greenman, and DJing clubs, student balls, festivals and fashion events. She’s been TV host to The Pop Factory on BBC Wales, Popcorn and Dechrau Canu on S4C, and currently presents on BBC Radio Wales every Saturday night from 5 till 8pm – a show which has seen the cream of the Welsh music crop come in to co-host, from Sir Tom Jones, to James Dean Bradfield, to Cerys Matthews. She currently lives in Riverside.

Bethan was photographed at Kelly’s Records by Adam Chard

***

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4 responses to ““Cardiff was a big neon sign pointing towards adventure” – Bethan

  1. Wow Beth – what a beautifully written story – really drew me in with all those parts of Cardiff that are long gone and forgotten (like the Hippo Club!!!). A brilliant reminder! I smell a memoir brewing??

    Like

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