Well, we said it’d be a quiet start. January is traditionally the graveyard shift for gig listings around South Wales and the West, and 2011 rubs the sleep from its eyes in typically relaxed fashion. If there’s slim pickings for touring bands though, those that are about are of a pretty decent quality – and pleasingly there’s a few enterprising, if slow-starting, initiatives in place to get you onto the icy streets in search of cheap, plentiful local goodness too.
Buffalo/Ten Feet Tall and the Globe both tackle the New Year blues with month-long showcases of local bands, promoters and labels. Best to keep a regular eye on the listings, as they’re still forming as I write; Buffalo’s Myspace and the Globe’s Twenty4Eleven minisite will tell more, but there’s some early highlights. Not least, of course, our own next presentation, in conjunction with the heroic Lesson No. 1, in which mentalist Kraut-noise supergroup DRUM EYES (DJ Scotch Egg, Boredoms and Trencher members) unleash a fearsome percussive battery with awesome chewy prog-folk-pop from H. HAWKLINE and improv guitar/drum explorations from BEAR-MAN in support. It’s on the 21st and trust us, this will be stellar. There’s more gems in the Buffalo calendar, too. Joy faves SATURDAY’S KIDS start their quest to play more gigs in 2011 than I have hot dinners, the disconcertingly mature punk striplings appearing with excellent split single pals EVARISTE GALOIS and Oui Messy (4th). Also among Buffalo’s varied offerings are wide-eyed psych-poppers Broken Vinyl Club (14th), ex-King Blues shouters Slow Science (17th), a first birthday love-in with Cardiff indiepop label ZooPop (30th) and the more delicate, glacial warblings of Mwsog (15th). Fill your proverbial boots, why don’t you?
Less confirmed at Ten Feet Tall and the Globe so far, though there’s a few solid line-ups. Smiley, rollicking indie-pop meets wonky indie-folk genius as ALLO DARLIN’ and SWEET BABOO team up (Ten Feet Tall, 31st, with Ivan Moult); there’s folky singer-songwriting par excellence with THE GENTLE GOOD, Stephen Wheel and Meilir (Ten Feet Tall, 11th), and a fine clutch of epic doom-rock and strident punk led by THE DEATH OF HER MONEY and HARBOUR (Globe, 22nd). Further variations on the latter theme are found with a none-more-VFM free gig with the aforementioned Evariste Galois, grunge-loving goodtime boys DRAINS and, er, Goodtime Boys (Clwb, 28th) and Swansea psych-prog dudes WHITE NOISE SOUND, launching their new album (Clwb, 21st). Newport wakes early, too, with industrious metal promoters Video Nasties lining up a bunch of tasty-looking bills at Le Pub; hometown Black Metallers ORDER OF TEPES headline on the 18th, with Fourth Autumn (4th), Crux (11th) and Spawn Of Cerberus (25th) doing the honours throughout the month.
This is all very well, of course, but perhaps needs a little variation, some dancefloor noise to mix things up. Few bring freaky rock thrills to the disco like lifelong crate-digger ANDY VOTEL. The Finders Keepers mainman teams up with Cardiff’s own psych doyen Carl Forecast and the Harvest DJs (and an as-yet-unconfirmed live turn) at Ten Feet Tall on the 9th. Beat excavators of a hip-hop bent, mash-up mixtape favourites THE NEXTMEN hit the same venue on the 26th, and while we’re on the subject there’s an afternoon of top sweary fun in the offing with Ben Potter’s all-Wu Tang Top 100 (CAI, 14th). Plenty of live electronica too, especially if you fancy a quick trip to Bristol, where you’ll find lush electropop mavens METRONOMY (Thekla, 27th, paired with sweetly kooky Kiwi indie-rocker CONNAN MOCKASIN), so-hot-right-now London imprint Night Slugs’ impresario L-VIS 1990 bringing an ever-evolving dubstep/tech-house/grime hybrid to Thekla (21st), Skull Disco don SHACKLETON‘s own mutant strain of dubstep (Start The Bus, 28th), BENGA and RAMADANMAN heading up a hefty bill at Motion Sk8park (15th) and already tabloid-notorious, ominously drawling street MC GIGGS (Cooler, 22nd). Votel turns up across the bridge too, heading up Qu Junktions’ first big shindig of 2011, a suitably eclectic sprawl with THE LIFTMEN, ZEA and plenty more at the Croft (29th). Or, if you’re set on staying put for the month, you can check out d ‘n’ b veteran turned dubstep dabbler ZED BIAS (Buffalo, 27th) and some homegrown laptop finery from ZWOLF and LITTLE ERIS (Ten Feet Tall, 23rd).
Not much in the way of touring names in South Wales this month, as we’ve established, but there’s a few treats to note in Bristol so LISTEN UP. Top tip is a cosy one-off evening at the Arnolfini in the company of KRISTIN HERSH (26th), wherein the ever-captivating Throwing Muses leader reads from her memoir Paradoxical Undressing and performs songs from her two-decade-plus career on the indie rock front lines. Should be memorable. Worth booking in advance, too. Likewise, consider upfront tickets for epic, widescreen indie-country rockers BAND OF HORSES (02 Academy, 30th), recently decamped from Sub Pop to Columbia and toting a suitably more mainstream yet still heart-tugging appeal. THE WALKMEN continue to be a U.S. alt-rock best kept secret, 2010′s Lisbon possibly their best effort yet, and they should sell out the Thekla (21st). On a very different note, if just as blog-friendly, Ohio’s TEENGIRL FANTASY offer supremely chilled-out R&B, blurry, smeared pop hooks and Balearic loveliness; see them in unsuitably cold Bristol at Start The Bus on the 22nd. Elsewhere, ex-Hold Steady keyboardist FRANZ NICOLAY brings his whimsical folk tales and splendid facial hair to the Croft (11th) and the redoubtably excellent RICHARD THOMPSON returns to the Colston Hall (22nd). A few familiar names do reach Cardiff, too, notably I AM KLOOT, who played Clwb aeons ago with a youthful Teflon Monkey in support IIRC; they’re now Mercury-nominated and their miserablist, chippy northern tunesmithery now plays the Millennium Music Hall (29th). Rival Schools dude Walter Schreifels is in Spillers more often than me, and will no doubt pop in while visiting Clwb on the 27th.
ADDENDA: Ok, so more good stuff has cropped up in the listings since this went up. You should know about it. BENNI HEMM HEMM, horn-inflected country-folk Icelander and scourge of my previews (one full-band gig commuted to a solo show and one cancelled outright) has a rescheduled show for his six-piece band at Buffalo (28th) with support from the heart-tugging splendour of RATATOSK and Among Brothers’ Alexander Comana. Hushed folk duo NO THEE NO ESS launch their EP at Chapter (15th) with Eugene Capper of Evening Chorus in support. Finally, and guaranteed 100% folk-free, there’s a cracking touring double bill at the Bristol’s Croft (12th) wherein Italian afrobeat/noise practitioners IN ZAIRE team up with Krautrockin’ That Fucking Tank side-project NOPE. Better late than never, I’d say.
Best finish up, I suppose. Last word this month goes to a few outside bets for a reliably fine evening. Gathered In Song kick off another year of tirelessly striving to get people out and watching little-known but well-chosen Americana; they have folk/blues Southern belle DANA FALCONBERRY and excellently downbeat Will Oldham/Iron & Wine type MATT BAUER playing Le Pub on the 29th, and you should support their efforts. THE LOVES draw to a close (again!) with a quick last-minute set alongside the aforementioned Allo Darlin’ in Bristol (Start The Bus, 30th). GEISHA, fiercely punk in attitude if not always musically these days – equally likely to present squalling breakcore noise – head up a seven-band bill for a cool fiver at the Croft (15th), with the Liftmen (again) and surf hotties MUSTARD ALLEGRO among the others on board. And VIC GODARD returns with Subway Sect, the ever-charming punk wordsmith popping up at something called the Thunderbolt in Bristol on the 8th. No, me either. Still, that’s plenty to go on for now, right? Just make sure you make some effort this month. Think of it as a warm up, and resolve to see more bands this year. Or else.