Festival season may be coming to an end for 2011 but there’s always room to squeeze one more in. This year saw the first ever Merthyr Rock held on the 4th of September at Cyfartha Park, Merthyr Tydfil, featuring a range of established bands as well as some of the most exciting up and coming bands in the country.
Revoker take to the main stage greeted by a largely static crowd and as their set goes on they do very little to encourage any movement. Despite a few decent riffs the band plod through a heavy metal 101 performance complete with predictable set pieces such as synchronised hair swinging and fret wanking by the bucket load that renders this as a pretty forgettable experience.
Following them Attack! Attack! also have trouble igniting excitement in the crowd who seem to still be half asleep. Despite having a devoted fan base, especially here in South Wales the band struggle to gain any form of momentum. The set is scattered with a few gems such as ‘Too Bad Son’ however on the whole their brand of Fall Out Boy-esque pop rock falls a little flat.
The quality between Young Guns and the bands before them is immediately apparent. Despite the crowd still being one of the most tame this year’s festival season has seen Young Guns are full of enthusiasm and confidence, the picture of a band who’ve been stuck in the studio for a while and have been itching to get out and gig again. Coming across a little polished on record Young Guns sound is surprisingly heavy in a live environment as they rattle through such hits as ‘Winter’s Kiss’ and ‘Weight of the World’ and even debut a new track that proves that the new album is worth getting excited about.
With such a lifeless crowd, the organisers could not have booked a better band to follow than Skindred. It’s not long before the ragga punks do what nobody else could today and create the sort of chaos we’ve come to expect from them. Benji remains one of the best front men in rock music today and whips the crowd in to a frenzy like nobody else can. They pull their usual tricks out of the bag such as getting everybody to robot dance and the Newport helicopter t-shirt spinning during ‘Warning’ that leaves smiles on everyone’s faces, resulting in Skindred being hands down the band of the day.
Funeral For a Friend have a bit of a shaky start as the crowd has gone back to their restrained ways but it isn’t long before this changes as singer Matt Davies-Kreye gets a circle pit kicked off during the second song. Funeral For a Friend are a rejuvenated band in 2011 playing new songs such as the fantastic ‘Front Row Seats to The End of The World’ that fit in seamlessly with classics from the first two albums such as ‘Juneau’ and ‘Streetcar’. The set is a crowning moment for what has been a fantastic return to form for the band as they are greeted by deafening sing alongs for the entire duration of their set.
The Blackout would arguably have their work cut out for them headlining over Skindred and FFAF however they have never been a band to shy away from a challenge and with a hometown crowd eagerly anticipating their return Sean Smith and co waste no time in tearing the tent apart. As a band who have been a little lacking on record they make up for it live as the duel front men in the form of Sean and co-vocalist Gavin Butler are natural born front men and their presence easily fills this massive stage. Playing a set that includes new hits such as ‘Higher and Higher’ but also gives a nod to their early days with songs such as ‘I’m a Riot? You’re a Fucking Riot!’ for the many here who saw them back in sweat boxes. Merthyr Rock ends a special night for the band and fans alike.
Big Deal Stage
Crossbreaker are one of the UK’s best up and coming hardcore bands however on this line up they stand out like a sore thumb as the heaviest band playing by far. This fact coupled with the fact that they’re on early doors means they are met by a non-existant crowd. The band still go as hard as you’d expect but without the hardcore crowd behind them something is lost in the translation.
The Social Club also stand out from the crowd but for very different reasons. Their brand of indie rock is the opposite end of the spectrum but is met by just as much indifference however due to their generic sounds and static performance it’s not hard to see why.
Spy Catcher take to the stage and are still only greeted by a tiny crowd which is a shame because they promptly deliver the best set this stage sees all day. Their debut ‘Honesty’ is one of the best albums released this year and their infectious punk rock anthems really resonate live due to an incredibly passionate performance cemented by singer Steve Sears’s visceral vocals.
Due to the dwindling crowds this stage has had all day coupled with the fact that the heavens open would in theory spell bad news for Save Your Breath. However as way of proof of how good this band is they pull one of the biggest crowds the Big Deal stage sees. At first glance Save Your Breath seem just another UK pop punk band but as soon as they start they deliver huge chorus after huge chorus that gives many of the bands on the main stage a run for their money.
Review by Gavin Lloyd
All Photos © Finn Beales