The queue was as thick as the sun that was piling down, as long as the fringes that seemed to flop around every corner and as heavy as all those faces weighed down with sweat and piercings. Not soon enough, the beast started to chug forward and with every step that was taken up to the Solus Bar and CF10 the shade became more and more and then less and less until we (because I’m not that much of a loner, you know) were sectioned off into two queues. One queue: those with tickets. The other: those with box-office tickets and guestlist. I slotted into the latter category and after some confusion with my surname – Irish heritage does nothing for me – I was granted access to the Solus Bar, which looked bare. I could have sworn there were more people in the queue than that. But, after looking around I realised that it’d been a while since I’d last been into Solus and had forgotten how well the place camouflages how many people are actually in there. Like the jungles of Vietnam.
There were no Vietcong here, though, thankfully. I hadn’t brought my potato gun and I wasn’t wearing camo shorts so I’d have been spotted straight away. What was here, though, was a merch stand so I wandered over for a gander before getting the first pint in and quickly realised that, to be fair, all the merch was pretty crap. The bands will hopefully admit this as well. Even though they’ve probably paid somebody to design the merch, they couldn’t have been paying them much because they (especially the Taking Back Sunday t-shirts) looked like something you’d find in a Peacocks at its worst. One TBS shirt was there in their merch stand at Taste of Chaos 2006. It’s kind of disheartening to think such a big band can keep selling merch even though they look like an elephant’s sore arse. Anyway, back to the actual bands – the main reason why people had come here.
First on were Straight Lines. Local boys, and they made this clear throughout their set. Reminding us about three or four times that they were from Pontypridd before trying to get the crowd involved in their set by asking if anybody was from Pontypridd. A few raised their hands, a few shouted, but the majority of people stood still and silent. Which was a shame, as most people there were actually from the Valleys way, and Straight Lines did a really good job of kicking things off, which is never an easy thing to do. All the members of the band made sure they didn’t merge away and moved around the stage accordingly, mouthing/singing the words to their songs, headbanging and urging the crowd to get involved whenever they could. Highlights from their set were Freaks Like Us, which had a group of girls near the front dancing and singing along, Say It for Your Sake, which is always a crowd-pleaser when Straight Lines unsheathe it and Antics, which is a personal favourite and is with other people too, by the looks of things. One look around and – different from the rest of the songs – people were singing along, nodding and completely immersed in the band’s sound. Straight Lines can be pleased with their efforts here; they did themselves no harm whatsoever. Rating:
Let me just say (write) here that I’m only going to review the bands I actually saw, obviously. I couldn’t catch all the bands, which was a shame, but the set-times were really weird so I had to miss some parts of sets and didn’t fancy writing a half-finished visual review down.
The Audition were the next band up. I’d waited something like three years to see the guys live so I was pretty up for it. I shouldn’t have been. Their set was flat, unlively, and redundant of any emotion. A bit like a half-finished pint of lager that’s been left in the sun for too long. The only member of the band who seemed to actually want to be there was the vocalist, Danny Stevens, who did his best to rinse out the uncomfortable feeling of disappointment that had saturated into the crowd. However, his unintended impression of a traffic officer holding his hands out to direct traffic, while he sang and strutted around the stage, did nothing to alleviate their flaccid set and they left the stage looking as confused as the crowd. It’s a good thing their upcoming EP (which we’ll be reviewing at WhatCulture) is a worthwhile listen, otherwise I’d have completely written these guys off. Rating:
Bury Tomorrow are who I go and see next and I’ve waited since 2009 to see what they’re all about live. Unlike The Audition, these guys nailed it. The combination of the aggressive style of lead vocalist, Daniel Winter-Bates, along with the gorgeous, impossible-to-not-sing-along-to style of guitarist and clean vocalist, Jason Cameron, makes them not only an excellent replacement for Of Mice & Men but (I’d go so far to say) a more worthy addition to the line-up. The crowd were going mental, moshpits and slam-dancing were like HIV and I don’t think there was a solitary head not nodding along to the harsh yet soothing sound Bury Tomorrow bring to the table. Bringing out old favourites such as Casting Shapes and You & I, alongside newer material such as Royal Blood and An Honourable Reign, the band made sure they made a lasting impression on new listeners and older fans alike. Rating:
Say Anything. Need I say more? Not really. The band are on a bandwagon of hype and rightly so. Their blend of indie/punk/pop/whatever you wanna call it can be listened to by diverse music fans, and it is. Frontman Max Bemis prowls the stage like as if it’s his own Jag, he actually might think it is considering his recent mental issues, and he sings the lyrics as if his heart is hanging out of his mouth. Not bleeding, but emotion and love staining everywhere. I tend to ignore bands with a lot of hype hanging around them but Say Anything actually do deserve the hype and they were quite possibly the most impressive and entertaining band of the day. Each member of the band played their instruments with concise precision and constructed their set as if it they were building a house for their childhood sweetheart. The audience were their sweethearts, Solus was the house. They built it pretty well. It didn’t get blown over by the wind, anyway. Rating:
While She Sleeps have been in a whirlwind of critical acclaim and are now, probably, one of the bands in the hardcore scene who’re likely to burst out of it. Or have they already? Having never seen the band live before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Are the other reviewers talking a load of shit? Are the band just living off the hype of their recorded material? The answer to both of those questions is: no. The hype lived up to its meaning and the band lived up to the hype. Their set was a gnarly, heavy, uncompromising approach to owning a stage and owned it they did. Vocalist, Lawrence Taylor, screamed and shouted into the mic as if his last days were looming and the rest of the band livened their set up even more by moshing, kicking out and screaming the lyrics right back at the crowd. Highlights: The North Stands For Nothing, Be(lie)ve. Rating:
You’d have sworn that Motion City Soundtrack were headlining, given the amount of MCS t-shirts that were swooning around. Two of my friends, who I’d gone with, had pretty much only come to see them so I was hoping they weren’t gonna be disappointed – but it would have been pretty funny if Motion City Soundtrack had played an awful set, given the band come packaged with a reputation for an impressive live show. However, nothing was funny about the gig, apart from how hilariously good the band actually were. I’ve never been a huge fan but they really did blow me away. It was as if they’d just stepped out of your iPod: that’s how polished their sound was. Playing favourites such as Attractive Today, Pulp Fiction, Last Night and True Romance, the band almost persuaded people to buy their records and merch and posters because of the quality of their music and it worked for me. In the morning I was listening to their back-catalogue, nursing a sore head. Motion City, you did indeed get a new fan. Rating:
Taking Back Sunday are the band you listen to when you’re an insecure 15 year old. But then that insecure 15 year old grows up to become an insecure 20-something. The insecurity never goes away, but the age does. Most of the crowd were younger than 18 at this point, which says something in itself, but there were older people in the audience who seemed just as up for their teenage heroes as much as those who couldn’t drink. Enter Taking Back Sunday. The headliners. The band who everyone was supposed to be here to see. Throughout their set, the band focused on crowd interaction and vocalist, Adam Lazzara, did a good job of making everyone feel engaged in the set. Playing classics such as What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?, A Decade Under The Influence, Liar (It Takes One To Know One) and You’re So Last Summer, including others, the band reached out to older fans and newer ones alike. The rest of the band did enough to take away the limelight from Lazzara, though, as they headbanged, sang along and urged the crowd to sing along too. Even though their set wasn’t the most memorable tonight, it certainly left you with no reason to doubt why they were chosen as headliners. They were better than their T-shirts, anyway. Rating:
Slam Dunk Cardiff was a memorable gig that brought together many different people, and a lot of diverse bands. Hopefully, there’ll be one next year, and Solus will have knocked their prices down on beer.