Last night saw Clwb Ifor Bach become home to a wonderful music event, hosted by Horizons Cymru. Showcasing some incredibly unique and diverse musicians and bands, spanning across all genres. There really was something for everyone. Acts including Sonny Winnebago, Panic Shack, Lucas J Rowe, HANA2K, Codewalkers, Esther, Darren Eedens and Gruff Rhys all took to the stage to perform, for the gig celebrating Independent Venue Week 2020.
Each act had a short-burst set of half an hour, which was just enough time for them to give us a flavour of what they were all about. The night began with Sonny Winnebago and Panic Shack, who I heard performed amazingly well. I was gutted to have missed their sets at the start of the night, but time got the better of me on this occasion. Arriving a little later than I’d planned, I just managed to get through the door as Lucas J Rowe began his set in the downstairs room of Clwb. With a sound similar to what I would describe as Bruno Mars meets the Weeknd, Lucas brought hip-hop pop to Cardiff, and it was definitely something different for me to see on the stage, compared to my usual indie-rock gigs. I enjoyed his set, it was refreshing to explore a different genre to what I’m used to seeing live, and I loved how much he interacted with the crowd and brought everyone’s attention to the stage.
This gig had an upstairs, downstairs approach, which was entertaining, as after each set finished, a hoard of us would all dash between the top and bottom rooms of Clwb. One band would play downstairs, and as soon as they’d finished the next would be upstairs, so it added an unexpected bit of comedy to the night, with everyone running back and forth. This was highlighted in the moments where each band was introduced before their set, with Minty from Minty’s Gig Guide hosting the stages. I’ve always been a fan of Minty. He is fantastic at promoting and supporting Cardiff’s local music scene, as well as of course always being on the pulse with sharing upcoming gigs and events to look out for. Minty was a great on-stage host, and made us all laugh on multiple occasions, it was fab to see him taking on the role so confidently and boldly.
The next act on upstairs was HANA2K, so we all dashed up to watch her perform. Hana was introduced by Minty, and the rising pop-icon took to the stage. Hana has had a marvellously successful few years, most recently even performing at the Welsh Music Awards, which is a fantastic achievement. This was my first time seeing Hana and her music did not disappoint. I was expecting a pop-princess, but Hana is so much more than this. Incorporating meaningful emotive, heartfelt lyrics, all whilst remaining sassy and confident, providing an upbeat, bubbly performance. Hana reminded me of Zara Larsson, with the lyrical power of Maisie Peters, a great combination. Hana is one to watch, and I have a feeling this is only the beginning for her.
As soon as Hana’s set finished, we were back downstairs ready for the next band that followed. Stand out surprise favourites of the night for me, Codewalkers blew us away with their energy-packed set. Their music is a swirling mix of genres, ranging from rap, to rock, with a touch of reggae thrown in. They effortlessly switched genres even within each individual song. It really was great to see, and I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face throughout their performance. It was different, unique and really brought life to the downstairs room of Clwb, with seemingly everyone in the room getting involved and engaging with them. The band were clearly enjoying being there, and all mashed brilliantly together when performing. Codewalkers were smiling and laughing throughout their set, a confidence which exuded marvellously in the fun but fantastic show that they gifted us with.
By this point in the night, Clwb was getting really busy, and there was a great atmosphere building. It was lovely to see that so many people had turned up to support these bands, and with every person walking through the door making a contribution to Children in Need, it was all even more worthwhile for such a fantastic cause. The gig was obtaining coverage on BBC Radio 6’s show, as well as being recorded by Horizons. It was a high-impact event and a great celebration of Independent Venue Week. In the slight breaks in between sets, it was apparent to see that it was also a chance for people to network and get to know each other better. Everyone was chatting and laughing, and it was clear that something rather special was taking place. I managed to chat with several people I knew myself, this included meeting the very talented Welsh Music Podcast boys for the first time, who were so lovely and chatty! Saying hello and meeting people at gigs is always a favourite part for me.
Following Codewalkers set was the sublimely mesmerising Esther. Channelling an angelic, bohemian style, Esther danced and sang her way through her set. Carrying a softer tone to her vocals, when compared to the previous acts that had performed, I did feel that it was a shame not all of the crowd acknowledged this by giving her set the respect it deserved. Esther battled admirably against the noise and chatter that was rising due to the venue getting busier. However, I will admit I did struggle to hear some of her lyrics which was a shame, as the songs I was able to hear were beautifully delivered. I’d absolutely love to see Esther perform again in a quieter room, with an audience dedicated to her. Esther possessed a voice that was soothing, yet bold in parts, and I’d love to listen to her more closely.
Next up was Darren Eedens and his band The Slim Pickin’s. Wow, were they a breath of fresh country air. Bringing fantastically fun country music to Wales, Darren Eedens set was absolutely brilliant, and got the room up and dancing. Canadian-born Darren told us how he’d moved to Wales five years ago, and explained how welcoming he’d found all of the local Welsh people. It was a lovely little nod to our Welsh spirit and culture, and in turn he is sharing with us his wickedly quirky, country music, that really sent out such a feel good vibe across the venue. His set was an explosion of fun and friendship, with everyone seeming to enjoy it and get involved! Darren Eedens is definitely someone I’d recommend you to see live if you love a muscian that can have fun, all whilst still being incredibly talented. Darren Eedens and The Slim Pickin’s played an array of instruments from the banjo to the violin, that brought together this sensational country music collective.
Last but not least, the headline act Gruff Rhys embraced the stage. Having achieved success in both his solo career, and through a number of bands, Gruff Rhys is certainly not new to the Welsh music scene. It felt like a real privilege for me to get to see someone who many consider to be a Welsh music legend on stage for the first time. The beginning of his set mainly consisted of his Welsh language songs. Not being a Welsh speaker myself unfortunately, the lyrics were lost on me, but I was appreciative of the music and it was wonderful to see how in awe of him his fans were. His music is certainly something I could enjoy given a few more listens, just as I love other Welsh language music from bands such as Adwaith and Chroma. The second half of the set really picked up though, when Gruff began playing his hits that everyone knew and loved. I could hear the crowd singing and there was an electric atmosphere. The room was absolutely full to the brim and full of life, which wasn’t bad at all for a mid-week gig on a rainy Wednesday night.
All in all, I found this gig a lot of fun. It was so interesting to see such a variety of brilliant musicians, that really gave it their all. The gig brought a strong sense of community spirit to Cardiff’s music scene. Everyone involved rallied together to put on a fantastic show, and had clearly all worked incredibly hard to make this event so successful. They should all be very proud of themselves. The night was in aid of two well deserving causes; for charity, and for promoting Wales’ wonderful musical talent, within Cardiff’s great music scene.
Although I sadly missed Panic Shack performing at this gig, I have seen them previously and written about them in my very first gig review which you can find here: https://beckyandthebands.home.blog/2019/12/01/my-first-blog-post/