“Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.” So said Glen Cook and as the day dawned brightly on the fair parish many would agree. Two brilliant days gone, one remaining, but stamina is now the key to survival.
Saturday is a day that always delivers riches at Focus Wales and today would be no exception. Despite the early sun being chased away by a downpour, thus delaying the action on the outdoor stage, proceedings in the Wrexham Museum were running very smoothly. From the land of sun (well Australia is sunny I’m guessing), Bonny Piesse, of Star Wars fame showed that the force was with her as she delivered an acoustic set of hauntingly beautiful songs, one of which, The Bridge, features in her upcoming film.
By now the room was rammed for the appearance of local favourites Heal The Last Stand. A warm room suddenly became much warmer, but it was not due to the temperature but to the genuine love that their local audience have for ‘the Healers’. This is folk but so much more as the gentle harmonies are delivered with occasional bursts of controlled power. There is a soothing quality to the sound and the inspired cover of Peace (instead of Grease) is The Word is little short of genius. It was an emotional afternoon as the band members become immersed in what they do but we were all the better for the time shared. The Healers new album is due soon and Louder Than War will keep you updated. From here to the town centre outdoor stage in time to catch Canada’s Darren Eedens with his banjo driven, high octane bluegrass sound.
The evening session saw a massive stroke of luck as we caught the simply amazing Rad Stewart in 3b. This four piece offer something completely different with, to these ears, elements of The Fall and Wedding Present combining to produce a sound that is less obvious and at times surprises in a most agreeable way. The acerbic lyrics demonstrate a well-honed observational skills and a spiky turn of phrase that was a joy to hear.
Central Station was up and running by now and Yr Ods were in full flow. A brilliant Welsh language band that hail from some of the loveliest areas of North West Wales they delivered punchy melodies and infectious hooks in a jaunty sound that is irresistible.
Saith Seren was the next venue where Elly Sinnett was introduced by Radio Wales’ Adam Walton as one of the most promising talents in Wales. A man like Adam Walton, with his finger firmly on the Welsh music pulse is unlikely to be mistaken and she belied her youth to deliver a set of delicate yet strikingly mature songs, with her backing band and, impressively, accompanied only by acoustic guitar.
Back in Central Station, we caught the tail end of the no holds barred rock of Keys, the brilliant Cardiff-based band who also feature on the soundtrack of the film Svengali. One of today’s most anticipated sets was about to be delivered by Gulp and it was an absolute belter.
Former Super Furry Animals bassist Guto Pryce and Scottish vocalist Lindsey Leven have been joined by Race Horses drummer Gwion Llewelyn and Gid Goundrey on guitar. The results of this chemistry are obvious from the minute the band hit the stage with Pryce’s churning, incessant bass rhythms complemented brilliantly by Leven’s dreamy and haunting vocals. This is irresistible dance music but there is a lot more going on besides. The power-house drumming combines perfectly and Goundrey’s guitar is sometimes a little under-stated but never anything less than intriguing. Lindsey Leven complements her mesmeric vocal performance with some sublime synth touches and the sound veers from a hypnotic rapture to something that could be almost Banshees-like and the crowd, unable to resist the urge to dance are lapping it up. Gulp have their hotly-anticipated debut album out in July and it can’t come a moment too soon.
As Central Station shut down proceedings it was round to Un Deg Un for the driving synth pop of The Echo and The Always before the grinding power of We//Are//Animal wrapped up Focus Wales for another year.
“Time brings all things to pass” and now the venues are quiet. All that remains is to thank all the fantastic artist who made it such an enjoyable few days, all the audiences who indulged in the venue hopping and finally all the Focus Wales team who have worked so hard to create a festival that Wrexham and the whole of Wales can be proud of.