We awoke to another fine Wrexham morning as our final day of Focus begins. We got ready and drove to the Pontcysyllte aquaduct. I had been here on my own two years ago and enjoyed a long walk along the canal before getting a delicious lunch at the Fron House tea room. I wanted to recreate that day but with the company of my girlfriend. We arrived at 12:30pm and took a stroll past the canal boats then crossed the viaduct before getting to Fron House. I was surprised at not seeing any signs up on the way to the house and my suspicions were confirmed as the gate was closed and so to was the tea room. We drove back to Wrexham and went to Nandos.
After lunch we chilled at the B&B for an hour or so then I headed into town to watch the first of my ‘must see’ bands of the day. I discovered the music of Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog on the compilation album ‘Y Record Goch’ in 2011 and instantly fell in love with their track ‘Mae Hi Yn Hoff O Nodio’. They have released four albums and their latest (IV) came out recently. I highly recommend giving it a listen, especially ‘Lle’R Awn I Godi Hiraeth?’, ‘Mor Ddrwg â Hynny’, ‘Dwi’N ‘Nabod Y Ffordd at Harbwr’ and ‘Deud Y Byddai’n Disgwyl’.
I arrived about twenty minutes early and saw nobody I knew which meant that I was standing about like ‘Norman Nae Pals’. I was approached by a gentleman in a blue T-Shirt whom I had seen several times over the past few days. He said that he had to come over and introduce himself (and his charming wife) as he had noticed that I was there for nearly every band he went to see. I assured him that I wasn’t a stalker and he appeared to accept that so we started chatting. He was full of questions about where I am from and why I have such an interest in Welsh music. We had a good blether and we share quite a few musical interests. My attention was distracted when I heard Cowbois starting to play, we headed to the door and were greeted by a Focus volunteer who informed us that the venue was full and if we wanted in then we would have to wait until someone left. Fortunately, a couple of people walked out and I was able to get inside. Having the chance to see Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog play was worth the weekend wrist band alone. Check out their new album if you haven’t already done so.
I stayed at the same venue to watch Hinemoa from Iceland. Prior to going to Focus I had checked out their music and was impressed by their track ‘Bye Bye Birdie’. The band informed the audience at the start of their set that the bass player had to return to Iceland the previous night. This was due to his wife going into labour early. Fair play to the band for carrying on with the show. They put on a great performance and a highlight for me was their cover of ‘Streets of London’.
As with Hinemoa, I had checked out The Kickstand Band from America before the festival. They released a great EP last year called ‘In The Sun’ and I played this regularly in the weeks leading up to the event. The EP is available to listen to on YouTube and Spotify and it’s a lovely upbeat offering which is the perfect companion for a sunny afternoon. The audience were behind Gordon and Alison from the start and the songs were well received. I hope The Kickstand Band earned a few more fans because they certainly deserved it. Afterwards they kindly wrote out a set list for me which is a very welcome addition to my collection.
Next up was Meilyr Jones. There’s definitely something special about him as anyone who has listened to his debut album ‘2013’ will tell you. He was exciting to watch and at one point scaled a speaker stack. I’m really pleased I got to see Meilyr Jones perform and I have a feeling he will continue to make great music.
Swnami were due on stage after Meilyr Jones but I think one of the band members was unwell so they had to pull out. I was disappointed about this because I really like Swnami and it would’ve been good to see them play again. All was not lost though, Los Campesinos were the last band to play at Central and they smashed it. When they played their signature tune ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ the place erupted. They are another band I’ve liked for ages and seeing them live was a treat.
To round off the weekend, we went over to Undegun and had the chance to savour their fine selection of ale for the last time. Adam Walton was broadcasting live for his BBC Radio Wales show which I listen to religiously on a Saturday night between 22:00-01:00. The show is still available on the iplayer if you missed it. I managed to catch most of Connah Evans set and he’s one talented young guy. Check out his latest single ‘Wait For Me’. I was also fortunate to procure a set list for the collection.
Peaness took the stage at 00:30 and they were electric. I was really looking forward to seeing this band play. Their songs are catchy and well constructed. They have an EP out (‘No Fun’) and have just released a single called ‘Oh George’ which has a go at our cretinous prick of a chancellor. They are simply a great band who have a selection of infectious tunes. The ‘No Fun’ EP and ‘Oh George’ are available to listen to on Spotify. I had to get the set list so I was loitering at the side of the stage just after the band ended their last song. I spotted my chance and swooped down for the prized piece of paper. At the same time, a rather drunk guy had the same idea but lacked my set list stealing skills. If you’re not fast you’re last pal!
In conclusion, Focus was a blast this year and hats off to the folk who organise the event and also the bands and artists who perform. It’s great to have a showcase for music from Wales and beyond. I’ll be there next year and I can’t wait.
Until next time,