It’s been two years since The Volume Of Things, the second album from west Wales singer Bryde, was released. Midway through retuning her guitar on stage at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, she thanks loyal fans who bought tickets a while back to this performance supporting said album for remembering to turn up to this rescheduled show – now taking place on an exceptionally chilly April evening.
Before her headline spot, support comes from other local-ish indie-pop folk singers Gracie and Tom Jenkins, both with nothing but guitars and their own voices. Gracie appears to have an entire village’s worth of supporters cheering her on from the back, which is almost as sweet as her gently strummed melodies. Covers of Lily Allen and the Velvet Underground are interspersed among original songs, with closer My Friend The Moon sticking in my mind long afterwards for its vividly romantic lyrics. Not a standout performance, but plenty of potential for her to grow.
The more established Tom Jenkins, a Ponty-born strummer who has only been going since 2018, he tells us humbly, has a nice, narrative style to his voice that marries well with his often autobiographical songs. The tone is reminiscent of a more folksy David Gray, but that might just be me. He’s also humble to a fault, apologising that his most popular song (according to Spotify) Drovers sounds “shit” without a full band but feels obliged to play it just in case any of his 400 monthly listeners are in the building. One of them does indeed make herself known, and Jenkins duly dedicates his performance of the song to her. Despite what the algorithm says, my – and possibly the rest of the audience’s – favourite is actually a song inspired by his family of “miners and sheep farmers,” which includes a heartbreakingly provocative chorus about his grandfather literally having the land inside him by way of coal dust in the lung. Consider me your 401st monthly listener, Tom.
Speaking of the algorithm, that’s the very uncool way that I first came across Sarah Howells, aka Bryde. Sitting in my living room during the height of lockdown, a Spotify mix suggested that I might want to hear Help Yourself from 2016’s EP1, and I fell in love with it instantly. Further research told me Howells has actually been active since 2004, formerly part of Halflight and then Paper Aeroplanes before striking out on her own. It’s always a surreal experience seeing songs you’ve only had the deeply personal experience of listening alone to performed live, and a slightly sparsely populated Clwb floor allows most of us there to get right up to the stage.
Bryde kicks off with foot-stomper Peace from her debut album, before continuing at a brisk but easy pace through a set list of greats, including Less, Flies, Wait and a solo, affecting cover of Tori Amos’ Silent All These Years, released as a single for last year’s International Women’s Day, lending it pointed political poignancy. Much of Bryde’s music is filled with dramatic rises and falls, like waves crashing and breaking, and there’s a sense of both intimacy in the lulls and cinematic scale to the peaks that could probably fill a much larger venue.
It’s a lovely feeling to stand right on the shore, though, and let their full strength wash through and sweep you away, anchored by her lilting but powerful vocals. The crowd, not fully satisfied, lure the band back on stage for one more encore song, which, as fate would have it, turns out to be Help Yourself, bringing me full circle.
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Sat 9 Apr
words and photos HANNAH COLLINS
KEEP READING: ‘Much like Wales’ own Kelly Lee Owens, Nik Colk Void started out playing with a bunch of indie-rock also-rans but has since embraced electronics and club culture and in doing so, found her true calling.’
APPLICATIONS for spring term 22 are now Closed: If you’re 18-30, live in Wales, and want to get ahead in the creative and cultural industries, express your interest for autumn term.