THE HEAD / THE BRWMYS / RUM PUPPETS | LIVE REVIEW
Gwdihw, Cardiff, Wed 8 Nov
A rather chilly November evening failed to detract from the warmth within Gwdihw’s gaudy four walls, which found Atlanta-based three-piece The Head gearing-up to play their sixth stint on a 14-date UK tour. As first act of the night, Cardiffian collective Rum Puppets rolled through a series of alt-rock-tinged guitar melodies, splicing acoustic rhythms with kooky trumpet and accordion moments, proving both eclectic and high octane in equal measure. Lead vocalist and guitarist Ioan Davies worked the crowd with affable exchanges between tracks, a high-spirited response greeting the quintet throughout.
Fusing traditional folk and pared-down bluegrass with more disparate cultural inspirations, Cardiff-based outfit The Brwmys rolled through a frenetic sequence of songs, summoning tub-thumping revelry to an already spry and upbeat ambience. Lead singer Paul Cottrell at times lent a Nick Drake-esque edge to Sally Greenwell’s wistful vocals and frenzied violin-playing, effusing with an energy that naturally commands any room; joking with punters between tracks, harking to the communal origins of folk balladry in the process. A riotous rendition of War, standout of the set, with frantic strings synchronised to sombre lyrics reflected the band’s ability to hop, almost schizoid in fashion, between rousing jocularity and more sobering fare.
Gracing the small performance area with arena-filling gravitas, The Head spared no time in propelling through a live wire setlist of expansive anthems and tight, hook-laden material, deploying a playbook that merges the heartland rock of Tom Petty, Simple Minds’ bravado and the sprawling post-punk of Echo And The Bunnymen. Frontman Mike Shaw strutted across the floor space with peppy swagger, a vocal range straddling between Morrissey and Ian McCulloch, wielding the bass in rhapsodic chemistry with guitarist Jacob Morrell. Delivering a sound pinpointed midway between proto-shoegaze and a more propulsive, harder 80s alt-rock scope, the trio excel in conjuring a sense of dedication to their guiding influences, a knack for punchy songwriting whilst blazing with an irrepressible charisma. The latter three reasons explaining the baying, encore-demanding reception they received at the Guildford Crescent venue on Wednesday night.
words CHRIS HAMILTON-PEACH