The Cardiff Big Weekend
1st - 3rd August 2008

The Cardiff Big Weekend is described as "The UK’s biggest free outdoor music festival offering three days of quality live music", which it may well be, but, in my mind, it tends to conjure up scenes of
driving rain, dodgy portaloos and beer at £3.50 a pint. Friday and Saturday had not really had much to commend them music-wise with the headliners being The Men They Couldn't Hang and Prince Buster respectively, however Sunday promised better things with the ever pleasing Ash rounding things off.

I arrived in time to see The Automatic in full flow and given that they had recently lost their only charismatic member in Alex Pennie, they seemed to be trying their hardest to get the crowd going. New member Paul Mullen (ex yourcodenameismilo) seems to be fitting in well, but as a band they will forever be lumbered with the albatross that is the track "Monster" and try as they might I can't see them hitting those dizzy heights again. Whether to prove they are not a one-band-song, they did the aforementioned track early in the set, but unfortunately that meant that for the less dedicated fans there was little to look forward to. The new single "Steve McQueen" is getting quite a lot of air play, and sounded good live, so perhaps all is not lost. They finished off with "Raoul" just as the heavens opened for the first of several downpours.

The Automatic
(Pic Joe Sullivan)

Next up were the new saviours of rock'n'roll
Glasvegas and with the backing of their own personal svengali Alan McGee, it is only a matter of time before they are bigger than the Beatles (probably). The most obvious thing to say about them is they don't particularly look like rock stars. The lead guitarist Rab Allan looked like he had just come from a Hue & Cry video shoot in 1987 and appeared to be wearing a "Choose Life" T-shirt so favoured by Wham and Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the early '80s. The bass player appeared to be only about 15 and I'm sure that drummer, Caroline McKay, was in an episode of that TV great "Birds of a Feather". However despite their appearance, my God, have they got a BIG sound, part Phil Spector, part Jesus and Mary Chain, vocals by Richard Jobson mixed with a hint of House of Love. In truth until the CD comes out in September the only tracks I instantly recognised were "Geraldine" and "Daddys Gone", but suffice to say, none of the other songs deviated greatly from that formula, but were all warmly appreciated by the sizeable crowd.I'm seeing them again on the upcoming UK tour so for now I reserve judgement, but it was more than a promising start.

(Pic - Pyranha)

I'll be honest in saying that I cannot name one Young Knives track and after last night that it not likely to change. Where as the previous band had been dressed only in black, they hit the stage in fetching tweed suits (not a look I find instantly appealing). Unfailingly cheery all the way through their set, they tried to engage the audience with small talk between songs and in fairness there were people present who found them entertaining. However it seemed to me that they just proved that the Mercury Prize judges give nominations, by in large, to bands that have no real relevance, and I spent the whole time they were on stage musing over the fact that guitarist Thomas "The House of Lords" Dartnall looked very much like a young Ronnie Barker (but unfortunately not as funny).

(Pic Pyrahna)

Finally headliners Ash arrived to provide a burst of energy to proceedings, although in truth their set list seemed to veer from classics to unknown new songs/album tracks with alarming regularity. Having shed the token women in Charlotte Hatherley they are back to a three piece with no discernable difference to their sound. Tim Wheeler is a likeable front man and an accomplished axe-god, especially when striking poses with his Gibson
flying V guitar. Most of the standards made an appearance with "Burn, Baby, Burn", "Shining Light", "A Life Less Ordinary", "Goldfinger", "Oh Yeah", "Orpheus" and "Girl From Mars" coming in quick succession. Maybe they were using tonight to give an airing to the songs from their debut LP "1977" that I see they are playing in its entirity at London Astoria in September. For me their finest moment will always be "Kung Fu", which is worrying since it was practically the first thing they ever did, and it is difficult to see where they can now go other than to periodically tour to play the old favourites to their,admittedly adoring, fans. But still, they seem like top
lads, and who can begrudge them the adulation they received tonight as they left the stage to the traditional night ending fireworks display, all paid for courtesy of Cardiff rate payers.

(Pic Amy Davies)