Taking place for the fifth time this year, Merthyr Rising is slowly becoming a vital part of the Welsh festival calendar. With artists like Stiff Little Fingers, Basement Jaxx, Goldie Lookin Chain and Alabama 3, the 2022 instalment promised to be one of the best yet.
The setting for the three-day music extravaganza is Penderyn Square, the scene of one of the very first organised uprisings by workers in 1831; it’s believed that the red flag of revolution was first flown on this very spot. So, with a mandate to improve political awareness in the area and to celebrate working-class culture, a stellar lineup of varying acts have assembled in south Wales to celebrate this important occasion.
With the Friday night still clouding the body and mind after a storming set from headliners Basement Jaxx, it was up to fast-rising Welsh rockers James And The Cold Gun to bring the main stage to life with more of their loud, abrasive early-00s styled guitar rock. Winning over a pro-Stiff Little Fingers crowd was never going to be easy, but they rose to the challenge, with guitarist James Biss even managing a few selfies with audience members whilst playing. They’ve added a third guitarist, to boot, ensuring that J&TCG were the loudest band of the day.
Perhaps the perfect act for a festival of this ilk, political folk hero Beans On Toast – aka Jay Mcallister – had the unenviable task of following the aforementioned band, but it proved to be the breather the crowd needed. Coming on stage in a Merthyr Rising shirt, Mcallister’s combination of folk ditties and political outbursts aimed at the monarchy and government made him an instant crowdpleaser, with lots of crowd banter bringing everybody together.
Over on The Unity Stage in arts centre the Redhouse, it was DJ/beatboxer Dean’s turn to get the crowd revved up for the triple threat of Boyo, Kaya and Manlikevision. Rap duo Kaya, up first, kept the crowd on its heels, but things really stepped up when Manlikevision took to the stage. Already making a name for himself in the scene, he directed the crowd through a raucous set that left you feeling you may have just witnessed UK rap’s next big act.
Then it was ex-Guns frontman Alex Wiltshire’s turn to shine in his rap guise of Boyo. Opening with new single Pwy Wyt Ti, followed by the boisterous Raw Pap which had the crowd singing along to its “keep your money in your socks” hook, Boyo showed there are many strings to his bow; in closing out the Redhouse stage for the night, he provided one of the sets of the weekend.
Back outdoors to the main stage, people were jostling for position down the front as the threat of Stiff Little Fingers loomed. The Belfast punk heroes opened with Suspect Device – cue big, instantaneous singalongs, the crowd seemingly primed and ready all day for this. It’s worth noting, too, that a wide range of people stuck around for SLF. An energetic show finishes up with a rousing Alternative Ulster and the crowd disperses readying themselves for Sunday’s action, having just witnessed perhaps the best punk gig Merthyr has ever seen.
Penderyn Square, Merthyr Tydfil, Sat 11 June
words CHRIS ANDREWS photos ANTHONY CONWAY
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