Written by George Hill & Claire Hill
Photographs by Mac Kendrick
Cardiff’s Fuel is the city’s only bar, live music venue and nightclub exclusively dedicated to rock music. With friendly staff and an engaging atmosphere in the bar area that’s open all day, Fuel has a beating heart that is carved of rock and metal. With over 70% of tickets sold several days before tonight’s event at a time when many gigs are unfortunately being cancelled, it is testament to both the venue and the calibre of these bands that crowds have flocked here to see the four bands playing tonight.
First band out of the blocks tonight is Chepstow’s Black Lakes. This is the first time the six-piece have played live since before the pandemic hit, but from the instrumental opening track of their seven song set, they play with an invigorating energy, with seemingly no dust to shake off.
Frontman Will Preston’s glowing red mic stand is very much a focal point, and as he introduces new tune Avarice the band get into their stride, using every inch of the stage. Drummer Dafydd Fuller takes a turn on the mic for some screaming whilst he beats away at his kit. The sound from these six accomplished musicians fills the room as last single Fragments follows, and Will’s vocals soar, weaving in and around the instrumentation, captivating the audience. Guitarist Dylan Burris’ hair flies around as he plays, with Will’s headbanging between vocals adding to the onstage spectacle.
The set continues with The Divide, which has some of the audience singing along, and new song Verity in Flames. All the songs from tonight’s set are taken from the band’s long-awaited debut album which, Will tells us, will be out early next year. The epic Deathrone follows and the band’s excitement and energy is palpable, oozing out of every pore as they headbang, and transferring into the audience.
All too soon it’s time for set closer Dissident which is performed under dramatic red lighting. Will is incredibly animated, breathing life into the lyrics with his expressions and that dynamic voice, ably backed by guitarists James Rowlands and Scott Bradshaw. This is a band whose live performance invades all your senses; they are utterly enchanting and deserving of a bigger stage where they could really let rip.
WHO KNOWS DIDLEY?
This Pontypool band arrive onstage to an explosive start with their first song. The four-piece clearly have plenty of experience, and the mature bunch throw out catchy riffs and thumping drums galore. A storming guitar solo and great harmonies from the rest of the band have the crowd interested from the off. 1000 Secrets is up next and vocalist Paul ‘Jabez’ Matthews, ironically wearing a H.e.a.t t-shirt whilst sweating profusely in this small venue packed with people, leaves the stage to let out a mighty scream into the audience. There’s frantic drumming from Craig ‘Will’ Willmott in this energetic track, which has heads bopping and feet tapping aplenty. 20 Kilo Suitcase follows, with its groovy baseline, building momentum and getting the audience moving. A nice breakdown into a great solo from Gareth ‘Duck’ Allford and the crowd builds with people dancing to this track. Electric Mind has an opening reminiscent of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, with funky, groovy riffs and basslines. Will looks to be in his element.
A brand new song follows, “Guaranteed I fuck the lyrics up!” says Jabez, before the very 2000s pop punk vibe of the track begins. The riff is very early ’90s sounding and Jabez is barefoot! There’s rapturous applause and a dedication to ‘Pop’ who passed away. The somewhat heavier sound on this one whilst still being funky and groovy is something that this band does well. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were a RHCP cover band at some point. The club is filling up now and the atmosphere is great, looking around the room everyone has a smile on their face.
Who Knows Didley? are a fantastic warm up band as everyone seems to be enjoying the music and having a good time. The bass and drums are bigger on this penultimate track and the last song of the set begins with a fast pace before an old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll vibe kicks in, bordering on a punk feel. The whole band join in singing the chorus, while the drum beat takes influences from late ’50s and early ’60s rock pioneers. Jabez takes time to thank the people of Cardiff before introducing the rest of the towards the end of the song. The crowd are very responsive and give the guys a massive round of applause.
This accomplished trio from Devon start their ferocious set with Sunstroke from the debut album In Delirium, released earlier this year. From the opening resonating bass notes and thwacking drum beats, it’s clear these young men mean business. Zach Cornish’s vocals are clear and strong as they fill every corner, his brother Ben’s quick-fingered prowess on the six-string a sight to behold.
Free the Dog (from the Taurus EP), and The Hunter (from In Delirium) follow, and the band’s frenetic pace continues, as they hardly seem to draw breath. Dan Aston’s inventive drumming is carried out with such precision, Ben Cornish throws out killer riffs and melting melodies from under his whirlwind of hair, and the brothers’ vocal melodies are glorious. Laying on of Hands is a particular highlight, with its incredible light and shade, showcasing the band’s abilities in the areas to perfection.
The swaggering Serenity and Bitter Wishbone, both from the album, give Ethyrfield a chance to blow off some more steam and they have the crowd on their side. Zach’s vocals changing in a split second from powerful and snarling to emotive and ghostly on the former, Ben’s guitar work masterful. Each song from these guys is as captivating as the last, including Bag of Bones, from their 2017 self-titled EP, which closes the set tonight. It has groove, riffs galore and call/response vocals from Zach and Ben and really has the crowd moving. A masterful performance that shows real promise of bigger things to come.
Opening with Say My Name and bathed in red light, the Welsh sons are playing to a crowded Fuel. It’s clear the local boys have a strong following here as the audience is awash with Scarlet Rebels t-shirts. Chris (Jones, guitar) launches into one of his trademark solos, hair flying and the audience lap it up. Following Not The One, Wayne (Doyle, vocals/guitar) gets the crowd to sing the chorus to Storm in harmony before the beat kicks in, and tells them he will be keeping an eye on everyone to make sure they are singing. This riff heavy track has the whole crowd going and the club is now packed to the rafters. No One Else to Blame seems to start with something missing as the sound guy tries to sort out the issues but as true professionals, Scarlet Rebels play on regardless and the crowd cheer to encourage them on.
The crowd start clapping as the first chord from Let Your Love Go comes in, and don’t let up for a minute. Chris is like a Duracell bunny bouncing around the stage and fires up another awesome solo. Wayne speaks to the crowd and thanks them for coming, especially those who have travelled from far away. He also mentions the new album See Through Blue and says they’ll be playing a couple of tracks from it a bit later. This gets a great reception from the crowd, and the harmonies and driving beat of Can I Open My Eyes plus the big drums as Heads in the Ground kicks off get the crowd very excited. Wayne’s in fine voice as he segues into a cover of Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive for Tony in the audience, before starting Part of Me, with an almost country guitar sound. The crowd are singing so loudly, at times it’s difficult to hear Wayne! There’s an air of Joe Perry in Chris’ guitar playing on this track.
Any sound issues that were present earlier have been ironed out as the band are sounding amazing by Leave A Light On, which is from the new album. It’s instantly catchy with a memorable chorus. This new song is taken down while Wayne gets the crowd clapping and singing along as if they’re in a choir, it’s an instant anthem. There’s a dramatic burst of Say My Name, an old V0iD song, the crowd know all the words and sing along; it’s evident that this crowd have followed the band for some time. The chorus kicks in and a thumping bassline take this song to another level. It’s time for some more ‘oh yeah’ call and response before Save Me breaks into AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way to the Top (if You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll), complete with more call and response from the crowd. We’re plunged seamlessly back into chorus of Save Me, then Wayne takes a little time to talk about a local charity, which they have collected food for; the corner of Fuel is stacked high with food donations.
New song Take You Home follows, which is high energy, fast paced and heavy. Chris launches into a screaming guitar solo, before Wayne thanks Midnight Tornado team Mark, Kelly and Gary for putting on the show. He thanks the crowd and announces the last song, You Take my Breath Away. It’s the last chance to dance for the crowd and they make the most of it. Wayne introduces his bandmates before going back into the song.
There is of course an encore. The crowd wouldn’t let them get away without one. It’s the beautiful Heal. The crowd sings along from the first lyric. Clapping starts during the breakdown before the thundering drums come back in, signalling the rest of the band to go all out on this epic track. What a night for live music.
Scarlet Rebels: http://www.scarletrebels.com/
Who Knows Didley: https://www.whoknowsdidley.com/
Black Lakes: https://www.blacklakes.com/
Midnight Tornado – Music & Events: https://www.facebook.com/MTMNAE