Live Review & Photos: Merthyr Rock 2012 – Saturday (1/9/2012)

The first band that Already Heard catches today at Merthyr Rock on the first full day of music, is Red And Blacks. The band sound like they have come via Nashville to Merthyr today, displaying a sound and style heavily influenced by The White Stripes. As well as their name tipping a hat to the famous bands colour scheme, the drummer also dresses De Stijl. Their bluesy brand of punk influenced rock is a pleasant way to start the day.

Up next is Manchester’s finest ska-punk band, Sonic Boom Six. With a new album on the way next month, you could forgive the band if they had their mind’s elsewhere, however this is not the case. They produce a real highlight of the afternoon with their inherently fun set that gets the crowds dancing. With older songs like ‘Bang Bang Bang Bang’ and ‘Dangers of Rock and Roll’ which is described by lead singer/rapper and bassist Barney “Boom” as “a little bit of hip-hop, a little bit of ska and a whole lot of party.” It is an apt description for the band, as they go on to stoke the party vibe even more with covers of Wyclef Jean’s ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ and even a snippet of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Rollin’’ before thundering through new single ‘Virus’ and closing with ‘Piggy in the Middle.’ Definitely the most fun we’ve had at this time in the afternoon.   

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Bastions are next to play on the James McClaren stage and they may take the title of being the heaviest band on the bill this weekend. The screaming, energetic style of their front man certainly pleases the three diehard hardcore/metal fans that have come out. It is difficult to tell whether he is singing or having a fit sometimes, such is the energy level but the band deliver a passionate and highly sincere set of powerful hardcore songs.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Reading cult heroes Exit Ten are up next on the main stage. Technically solid and gaining in live presence evermore today, the five piece impress with a powerful performance. Strong vocals, and great pop-meets-prog rock melodies are mesmerising and attract one of the biggest crowds of the afternoon so far. The growing crowd predictably go mental for ‘Resume Ignore’ and we see Merthyr’s first proper circle pit. They close with the atmospheric ‘Lion,’ a slower, more ballad-y track that sees them off in style.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Exit_International are certainly a hyped band here today and it is not hard to see why. With a short, sweet and oh-so-satisfying set of breathtaking musical prowess, they wow the festival today. With a sound that is hard to pin down but exists somewhere in the realms of hard rock meets psychedelic hardcore, they are an unstoppable live force. I don’t think there is a person who leaves their set today feeling disappointed and it won’t be long, in my opinion, before these guys are playing bigger shows.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

There is something that inherently bores me about the slew of metalcore bands that have emerged recently. It is a trend that is starting to grate, and so I come to Rise to Remain’sset today very sceptical. They fall into a lot of the clichéd metalcore traps and there are bands that do the same as them but better. However, they produce a highly energetic performance with lots of crowd participation. Lead singer/screamer Austin Dickinson has the hallmarks of a true front man and although it is not something I can personally engage with, they clearly have a lot of promise and a bright future in their scene.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Gavin Butler & Neil Starr are, for today at least, breaking away from their day jobs (The Blackout and Attack! Attack! respectively) to perform some acoustic numbers for the crowd. Today they mix songs from their new split EP which they have been touring recently with fan favourites including Attack! Attack’s ‘Honesty’ and classic Blackout track ‘Save Our Selves.’ Hearing these songs acoustically is a real treat. The Blackout means a lot here in Wales and this is a nice tribute to the Welsh scene. Not bad for a side project, all being said.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Welsh pop-punkers Save Your Breath are up next. They bound around the stage and look like they’re having a good time throughout whilst delivering an eminently likeable set of somewhat generic pop-punk tunes. I can neither enthuse nor discredit their live performance. They are certainly fun, but they are very familiar and their shtick has been done many times before. They play a good mix of old songs as well as dropping in a track from their forthcoming EP and certainly put a smile on the faces of the assembled masses.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Up next on the main stage (a place where they are finding themselves become more and more comfortable) are lad-rock band Lower Than Atlantis. This band have seemingly been everywhere this summer, playing festivals the length and breadth of the country and so by tonight are well-practiced in the art of getting a festival crowd going. Dropping massive hit ‘(Motor) Way of Life’ early in the set gets the crowd warmed up nicely for a non-stop set. By this point in the festival season front man Mike Duce can interact with the crowd like a well-oiled festival machine (he even does that bit where he gets the crowd to kneel down and jump up) and it is clear that everyone is having a good time. In a testament to their ambitions perhaps, they throw in a cover of Foo Fighters’ ‘Everlong’ and end with what is now becoming a festival anthem, ‘Deadliest Catch.’ Impressive stuff from a band that just keep getting bigger and bigger.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Pulled Apart By Horses are the headliners tonight on the James McClaren stage. The grungy indie-rock band have been garnering plaudits from all quarters because of their powerful live performances and is with that kind of expectation that a large crowd has gathered. They open with ‘Fuck Yeah’ and the energy does not drop for one moment during the set. Through ‘Bromance Isn’t Dead’ and ‘Yeah Buddy’ it is hard to stop looking at the frantic guitar work or intense concentration on the faces of the band. Despite a frenetic energy level throughout, there is something of a presence lacking from Pulled Apart By Horses’ set today. Perhaps it is the expectation or the weak crowd response, but there is something missing from them in this environment. They are definitely a blistering live band, but they do not quite warrant all the praise coming their way, in my opinion.

It is with great anticipation that Skindred take to the stage this evening and it is not misplaced anticipation. From the second the Newport-based band take to the stage there is a party atmosphere in the air. Throughout the day there has been a disjoin between fans of traditional rock and punk rock bands and ska and hip hop fans who are here today mainly for Skindred. The band is a unifying force in this otherwise disparate crowd. Mixing elements of hip-hop, grime, ska and metal together is no easy task but Skindred does it in such a way that is just jaw dropping. Throwing in nods to all the aforementioned genres (with a “cover” of Beyonce’s ‘All The Single Ladies’ being a highlight) they make sure there is not a body standing still in the entire tent. A remix of Slipknot’s ‘Duality’ is so good it gets played twice.  They close with their own massive hits, ‘Pressure’ and ‘Nobody,’ as the tent erupts in a melee of shirt-swinging. It is such an impressive sight and it is clear that no one leaves the tent tonight not thinking that Skindred might well be one of the best party bands on the planet. 

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

View more of Already Heard’s coverage of Merthyr Rock 2012 here.

Words by Tom White (@WhiteyWitters). Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett (@SarahLouise152)

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