Review: Wales Goes Pop! 2016 – Friday


This year I had the unbelievable pleasure of attending Wales Goes Pop! in Cardiff. Held at The Gate Arts Centre in Roath, Wales Goes Pop! is an all-ages festival that takes place over the Easter bank holiday weekend. It hosts artists from all over Wales and beyond and sees music lovers from across the world coming together under one church roof. Whether you’re chilling in the pews, grooving on the dancefloor or fighting for the front row, the one thing everyone will be doing, is having a good time.

To introduce this three-part Wales Goes Pop! review better than I ever could; Liz Hunt, coordinator of the festival and frontwoman of The School, has been kind enough to lend me a few words about this year’s event. You can give them a read here.

To begin reading about Friday’s event, carry on reading below!


Welcome to Wales Goes Pop! 2016 RRW

Baby Brave

Now, you don’t usually expect many people to turn up at 2pm on their Easter weekend to see the opening acts, but apparently Wales Goes Pop! crowds aren’t as pessimistic as I am. I was pleasantly surprised to see the theatre, which is the church’s answer to the ‘main stage’, gather quite a crowd. Even the pews which bordered the room couldn’t tempt people away from the floor. Music fans shuffled forward with their paper-cup-coffees in hand to witness Baby Brave kick off Wales Goes Pop! 2016.

And what an opening it was. Baby Brave showed no sign of nerves as they took to the stage, despite seeming quite surprised themselves at the number of people in the theatre. Their toe-tapping tunes soon made the audience ditch their caffeine cravings for the musical wake-up remedy of Baby Brave’s noise-pop melodies.

The members of the audience who were a bit too young for coffee, however, could be found bopping and popping the balloons as fast as they were being blown up (much to the quiet frustration of the grown-ups) but it was hard to feel anything other than joy during Baby Brave’s set. Let the balloons burst.

I’d only listened to Baby Brave’s EP ‘Tacky Birthday‘ the day before they performed, but already I found myself singing along to lyrics I’d barely heard. Baby Brave write pop songs, but with heavier guitars and a daring essence of punk rock. Their music is infectious, as soon as they finished playing, I wanted to press repeat and listen to their songs all over again. Luckily, there’s a website for that.

After their set, I was lucky enough to interview Baby Brave. I’d never interviewed anyone before, so I use the term ‘interview’ loosely; we stood outside smoking and eyeing up Lilo’s fajita and pasta van whilst I nervously attempted to conduct some sort of conversation. You can check out our chat and a review of ‘Tacky Birthdayhere. For more Wales Goes Pop! coverage, onwards!


Of course, it wouldn’t be the first day of a festival without something going wrong. A band due to play in the theatre were running late, so in order to keep the schedule running as smoothly as possible, Instructions stepped up to play the theatre stage instead of the café downstairs.

At first, Instructions seemed a bit flustered by the last minute change to a much bigger stage, but who wouldn’t be? After being floored by Baby Brave, admittedly it did take me a little while into Instructions’ set to properly warm up to them, but I guess this was down to them being (understandably) unprepared to be playing the theatre.

After only a few songs into the set, Instructions found their cool, covering up their disorientation with their charming stage presence, easy-on-the-ear songs and simply hilarious backstories to their music. My favourite backstory was that of ‘Sarah Takes Time‘, the B-side to their single ‘Soft Rock Is My Radio‘. The ‘Sarah’ in question refers to the frontman’s physiotherapist who treated him when he’d done his back in… Whatever interpretation you might draw from the backstory, the song itself is an inarguably catchy indie-pop anthem.


There was quite a bit of excitement brewing for indie-synthpop Londoners, Cosines. Their name kept popping up in conversation around The Gate, not that I was eavesdropping, but when Cosines started playing, the whispers made sense.

Cosines were originally scheduled to perform in the theatre but that didn’t stop a theatre-worthy crowd cramming into the considerably smaller café to watch Cosines perform. There are no set clashes at Wales Goes Pop!, so the audience can move between the theatre and the café throughout the day and not miss any artists, which is definitely one of my favourite things about the festival itself.

Playing in a much smaller space didn’t hinder the band’s performance and certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of those in the audience who had were wrestling with the café tables and chairs to find a space to dance and singing along to every word of Cosines’ older tunes.

Witching Waves

Unfortunately, I missed Witching Waves because I was interviewing Baby Brave. But I kept hearing a lot of good things about them after their set.

As it’s unfair to miss out bands and artists just because I was doing interviews, I’m going to feature Witching Waves (and everyone else I missed) over the next few weeks as part of my ongoing Welsh Music Wednesday feature. Witching Waves may not be Welsh (they’re from London) but that won’t stop me including them as part of an extension to this Wales Goes Pop! feature. Look out for a Welsh Music Wednesday on Witching Waves in the next few weeks!

¡Ay, Carmela! 

Ok, I have to admit, I almost didn’t go to see ¡Ay, Carmela!, I was already getting pretty tired (amateur, I know) and honestly, the name of the band put me off a little, despite considering myself a fan of many bands with names I don’t like. It was actually this acknowledgement of my own hypocrisy that spurred me to go and watch ¡Ay, Carmela!, and I can sincerely say I will never judge a band by their name ever again. As I was watching their set, I was angry at myself for even considering not going to watch them. ¡Ay, Carmela! were fantastic.

The queer, intersectional feminist, indie punk rockers owned the stage effortlessly, well, the café, but they made the café floor feel like a stage. I tried (and failed) to promise myself that I wouldn’t pick favourites at Wales Goes Pop! but ¡Ay, Carmela! were the first band to force me to break that promise. As you can imagine, I felt pretty damn silly about my initial feelings towards them.

¡Ay, Carmela! were fun and energetic, despite being trapped inside a car for hours in the Easter traffic. They were confident, funny, passionate people, an indie pop dream who are highly deserving of success.

¡Ay, Carmela! were my favourite band of Friday’s event- a prestigious honour, so prestigious that there’s no prize good enough to award them with. If I did have prizes, however, ¡Ay, Carmela! would win them all.


¡Ay, Carmela! at Wales Goes Pop! 2016 by Chris Hunt


Day one of Wales Goes Pop! was now in full swing and the theatre was filling up for Chorusgirl, jangle pop & roll noisemakers with a heavily instrumental presence, matched by the elegant yet assertive vocals of Silvi Wersing.

One of the first things that struck me about Chorusgirl was their gracious demeanor, the Londoners appeared very humbled to be performing to such a great audience in Cardiff. The affection was certainly reciprocated, the crowd were quite taken with Chorusgirl and I could see why. We were still only just beginning the Wales Goes Pop! weekend, but Chorusgirl made 5pm on a Friday feel like 1am on a Saturday night, or Sunday morning, depending on how you interpret party hours.

After ¡Ay, Carmela! succeeded in breaking my “no favourites” rule, the list just kept getting bigger. Chorusgirl were definitely another one of my favourites of the day and remain one of my favourite bands from the whole weekend.

My Name Is Ian

My Name Is Ian rocked us into the evening with their uptemo and brilliantly witty indie anthems. After a day of light indie pop, My Name Is Ian closed the café for the day and opened up the evening performances by showcasing the gritter side of indie rock & roll.

The audience, who were definitely a few ciders in at this point, eagerly joined in with the hilarious and undeniably creative crowd participation chants, which is a key element to any indie rock anthem.

My Name Is Ian were one of the bands from Friday’s event whose set I didn’t want to end, I guess you could say, In The Best Case Scenario, We’d Die At The Same Time.


My Name Is Ian at Wales Goes Pop! 2016 RRW

Pete Astor

As quickly as My Name Is Ian picked up the pace, Pete Astor slowed it right back down with his mellow acoustic ballads. It was the first time all day I’d seen utter stillness and heard complete silence in the theatre. Yes, you can hear silence when it’s that intense. It wasn’t just the nature of the songs that calmed the audience, but Pete Astor’s voice itself exuded tranquillity. Fortunately, it wasn’t so relaxing that you drifted off to sleep, Pete Astor had his audience clinging to every word he sang.

He didn’t, however, have quite the same effect on the audience when he told jokes, maybe they just didn’t want to break the beautiful silence in the theatre. He came back from this slight hitch in superb style by playing excellent music, and redeemed himself even further by inviting Simon Love to join him on stage. With this dynamic addition, the gentle tone of the set swiftly transformed into a more animated performance; perfectly creating a lively atmosphere to set Wales Goes Pop! up for the rest of their night in the theatre.

The Loves

Legendary indie pop band, The Loves, who had been away for quite some time, returned to the stage for Wales Goes Pop! 2016. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that will be a regular occurrence, but that did make their performance even more special, it was an honour to witness it.

Long-time fans of The Loves proudly showed off their Simon Love t-shirts, I saw more Simon Love t-shirts than any other band t-shirts that day, and that’s really saying something. The same fans filled the theatre floor to sing, dance and celebrate the triumphant, albeit temporary, return of The Loves. By the looks of things, those die-hards weren’t disappointed. The Loves performed an outstanding set, displaying their musical diversity and incredible abilities and showing us what great live music is all about.

Girls Names 

Admittedly, I had never heard of Belfast electro-pop band, Girls Names, before Wales Goes Pop! but I definitely have now, and will be hearing a lot more of them as soon as I can afford to get my hands on their records.

I’m a sucker for 80s pop music and anything inspired by that era, so the second that synthesiser was wheeled onto the stage, I knew I was going to love Girls Names and immediately headed to the floor. Little did I know that they would soon floor me in more ways than one.

Considering Girls Names formed in 2009, they could have easily been from 1985. I was born in 1993, I didn’t get to live through the era I’ve come to love, but watching Girls Names made me feel like I had been given the chance to experience something pretty close.

Though they’ve clearly been inspired by 80s electronic and pop music, their overall sound was symbolic of a more technically developed version of the era. They combined their old school synthop influence and dark, reverberating vocal techniques with more modern, complex guitar riffs. They were both a throwback and a step into the future performing in the present day.

On another technical note, Girls Names performing in a church completely enhanced their sound. The acoustics of the building went hand-in-hand with the resonance of the synthesiser. Girls Names used the synth to form the beautifully droning foundations of their live performance. That glorious sound filled the room, my ears, vibrated my chest and gave me goosebumps.

It wasn’t just the synthesiser or the equally impressive guitars that caught my ears, the vocals were utterly stunning. Sullen, deep and completely captivating. Girls Names are, in short, phenomenal.

The only thing that disappointed me about their set was that I hadn’t listened to them before and I wished I had been familiar with their music so I could have enjoyed it even more. I saw many bands at Wales Goes Pop! I hadn’t heard before who I would consider listening to and going to watch again, but Girls Names are a certainty.



Girls Names at Wales Goes Pop! 2016 by Chris Hunt

That’s it for Wales Goes Pop!’s Friday event, check back soon for Saturday and Sunday!

Header Image by RRW.


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