So, at the weekend I went along to From Now On Festival, a two day event held over in Chapter Arts Centre and curated by Mark Thomas from Shape Records.
Mark is one of those people who I’ve known for years, and has fingers in pretty much all local musical pies. He runs a label, his band Islet are Pitchfork approved, and this weekend he picked out a load of crazy noisemakers for people to listen to. Mark has been playing in bands since he was a teenager, though his main one is Islet, and his old one with his two brothers was called Attack + Defend. They set up Shape Records together back in 2007, and have released a fair bit since then, mainly limited edition vinyl pressings. With Islet, Mark has been lucky enough to play festivals and gigs all over the world – “it’s a very fun thing to be a part of”, as he tells me.
This is Mark (or Sparky, as I like to call him. I’m unsure as to whether he likes it, but there you go). This was taken at Swn Festival. Doesn’t he cut a dashing figure?
Anyway. I had a spiffing time at From Now On. Friday night was a total mess of weird noises made with harps, guitars, synths and god knows what else, bookended with the superbly crafted tunes of Gwenno (at the start) and Richard Dawson (at the end).
Gwenno (you know her, she was in the Pipettes, right?)
(apologies for the crap pic, you can blame my camera phone)
Then there was Rhodri Davies. I walked in and saw a man with a harp. Ah, this will be nice and mellow, I thought. NOT SO. Never thought the musical boundaries of distorted drone would be pushed – by a harp.
Trwbador (this pair are from Carmarthenshire, and they played right lovely twinkly electro-pop)
Bridget Hayden – slow paced distorted guitar and vocals – reminiscent of early PJ Harvey (though I would have liked to have heard more of her voice)
Lucky Dragons got everyone to put their hands together to make music, beautiful music!
Richard Dawson closed off the first night. He sings traditional-style English ballads with a massive voice and his tiny guitar – interspersed by breaking into Abba, Journey, and various other pop hits. Brilliant.
Day Two consisted of more excellent music, ales, cups of tea, and sweet potato fries. Which is why Chapter is such a great venue for watching bands!
First up was Tender Prey, aka Laura Bryon, featuring two members of Islet on drums and bass, yeah?
After that was Hail! The Planes. I don’t have much luck with their gigs. I’ve seen them three times before – once my friend’s bag got stolen, the other time we had been out drinking the night before and got there in time for the last song, and then a few years back at Swn Festival, they were on on the Sunday after a very long weekend of boozing and not sleeping, me and two friends sat at the back of their set in Undertone on a sofa, then got the giggles so badly that we were massively shushed by everyone at the back of the room and in the end had to leave. Anyway, I managed to see the whole set, and it was great!
After that I went to listen to Aidan Richard Taylor and Kim Da Costa weave together some music and visuals – bended by lights …
Then it was time for some melodic, dreamy stoner rock from R. Seiliog. It was HEAVY and it was GREAT.
Then came my undoubted highlight of the night – which was the Peski Records Silent Disco – by far the weirdest silent disco I’ve ever been to. One channel had a DJ playing some deadly beats, another was soundtracking the screen in the middle of the room (playing old disco records and various other random things), and then another – well, I’ve no idea how to describe it, other than it sounded like a man doing the shipping forecast over members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop trying out sounds for a new sci-fi programme. It was brilliant!
The festival was closed off by Euros Childs! Isn’t it a lovely day, eh?
Other shots, from around the festival over the weekend…
I had a great time at the festival. One of my favourite things about things like this in Cardiff is the likelihood of bumping into everyone you know there, as I did. Lovely to catch up with people! In fact, there were so many ‘Cardiff band-scene’ people there that one of my companions wondered how many new bands were being formed right there, in the miasma of knitwear, beards and sparkly jumpers, outside the Theatre in Chapter, before our very eyes…
I guess we can look forward to seeing them all perform next year, eh!
Mark was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the festival. Overall, it was a great couple of days. Roll on the second one!
Have you ever run a festival before?
Mark: No, I’ve been putting on live events in Cardiff for years and always wanted to put on something more ambitious. When the opportunity came to work in collaboration with Chapter and the PRS For music Foundation it gave the platform to realise that.
How did you pick the line up?
Mark: Each of the acts has been chosen for their leftfield approach and individuality. There is a strong independent spirit to many of the acts in the sense that many operate without a record label or music industry representation. It’s music that challenges the boundaries and operates outside of the mainstream.
What local bands will be ruling the world soon?
Mark: On a world level Cate Le Bon is going from strength to strength at the moment and it’s brilliant to see her getting the recognition she deserves.
What bands generally are you excited by at the moment?
Mark: Well, we’re releasing a record by a band called from Wrexham called Mowbird so I’ve been listening to that almost constantly. I’m very excited about them!
How would you describe the music scene in Cardiff generally?
Mark: I love it, I’ve been involved with music in Cardiff for over 10 years now and people come and go (still miss Kruger) but there is a very supportive and strong backbone to the whole scene with places like Clwb Ifor Bach, Spillers Records and Music Box being particularly vital and good to know. It’s big enough that you can never know everyone involved but it’s small enough that you can feel comfortable & reasonably worthy!
If you had some friends visiting Cardiff for the weekend, what would you tell them they HAD to do to fully enjoy the city?
Mark: I’m pretty partial to a Frankies, which is a takeaway pizzeria on Mackintosh Place! Also a wander round Cardiff indoor market is a good way of getting a true Cardiffy flavour.
Thanks Mark! All photographs in this post were taken by Adam Chard and me, Helia Phoenix.