Clwb Ifor Bach has been a live music venue in Cardiff since 1983 and this was their second outing across the bridge to The Lexington to bring Welsh music to London.
The opening act was Private World and they had to face the curse of everyone first on the bill: a nearly empty venue (although it did fill up with more people before they finished). However, this didn’t seem to faze them as they launched into a set of songs that demonstrated they were well-rehearsed and accomplished performers. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a band that did not stop in between songs to hoover up applause; in a 30 minute set there were only two stops between songs. Private World is an apt name as their performance brought you into their world; a trance-like place of chorused guitar, backbone bass, widescreen keyboard vistas and intelligent drumming dancing in the gaps. There was a melancholy nineties feel with deep vocals like Black’s Colin Vearncombe and intricate an FX-laden guitar. My only personal opinion is that I would have liked more variety in the guitar sound and felt the bass player should share more of the vocal duties.
Second on the bill was half-Dutch, half-Welsh act Angharad Van Risjwijk who performs as Accü. She was the reason I had bought a ticket having loved the album Echo The Red released on the Welsh Libertino label (also home to Adwaith). There is a lavish beauty to the construction of her songs and the pre-programmed backings were enhanced by deft keyboard playing, the use of live vocal loops and some fine bass playing by Richard James. This is Nico filtered through early Goldfrapp via Melody’s Echo Chamber. The music is delicate; it bends but never breaks and requires an attentive audience to allow you to immerse yourself in the tracks. Unfortunately as the set went on there was more and more noise from a group at the back of the venue who I fear didn’t appreciated how loud their conversations were. All credit to the man who went over a couple of times to get them to keep the noise down. Regrettably this broke the spell of her music and spoiled what should have been a beautiful set.
The final act on the bill was guitar and drum duo Alffa. Dion Jones and Sion Land make a hell of noise for two 18 year olds and from the first track they riffed and pounded out their brand of Rock/Blues. To me they were a modern take on the Heavy Rock tradition (with similar DNA to the stripped back sound of the White Stripes) and I saw elements of Black Sabbath, Cream and pre-‘Afterburner’ ZZ Top in their make-up. They are a powerful act with enormous energy and it was great to watch them pulling rock shapes and delivering strong tunes and fine inter-song banter. It’s not surprising they have reached over a million streams on Spotify and I imagine they have a successful career ahead of them.
I wanted to end on a small plea for gig promoters. Something I’ve found frustrating at many portmanteau gigs (showcase gigs where bands have equal billing rather than just headliner + support) is the lack of an MC. If you go to a comedy gig you’ll get a compare, someone to warm up the audience and announce each act. But more often than not, at gigs, the house music fades down and band shuffle on and plug in with nothing more than a mumbled ‘hello’ over the crackle of a guitar lead being plugged in. It would be great if nights like this had a person, or disembodied announcer, to let us know something about the band. Not an essay but the basic stuff like their name, where they’re from; maybe even one or two interesting facts. At the very least ask the acts to announce themselves.
Review and photography by Paul F Cook