Review: Wales Goes Pop! 2016 – Saturday


Hey, thanks for coming back! If you missed our review of Friday at Wales Goes Pop!, you can check it out here. If you’re looking for Saturday’s write-up, well, you’re in the right place!

On day two of Wales Goes Pop!, I was getting more comfortable, put my feet up and made myself at home in The Gate. I started talking to new people, caught up with familiar faces from the day before and began exploring the stalls on the theatre floor; though I approached with caution because I knew if I looked too close, I’d buy everything.


Market Stall RRW

The School

Opening day two of Wales Goes Pop! was The School, fronted by the event coordinator, Liz Hunt and formed of another seven multi-talented multi-instrumentalists. The School were performing their first album ‘Loveless Unbeliever‘ in full to celebrate the reissue of the album for Elefant Records’ 25th anniversary.

The theatre began filling up with people who were more than familiar with the album, singing along and dancing to every word, and they can’t have been influenced by too much cider (unless they were drinking fairly quickly) because the doors had only been open for half an hour.

The School performed beautifully, they were an excellent wake up call for the festival goers who had stuck around for the Wales Goes Pop! DJ set the previous night after the main event had finished and a jumpstart into the day for those of us who were sensible (or maybe just boring) enough to go to bed early.

Liz, who definitely could have used an early night after yesterday, showed no signs of fatigue or lack of enthusiasm in her performance. She looked as though she’d been eager to get on that stage the second the festival began; Liz may have been running on fumes but The School’s performance was fully-fuelled.


It’s going to be hard for me to be as unbiased as possible writing this because Peaness were the band I was looking forward to the most over the whole weekend, and they exceeded my expectations. But I will try to write a coherent review and not just keyboard-smash excited screams in virtual form.

Peaness seemed taken aback by the large 3pm crowd, which was becoming a recurring theme for early-afternoon Wales Goes Pop! acts. The three-piece set themselves up in the centre of the large stage, admitting they weren’t used to playing in venues the size of The Gate. This didn’t disadvantage them, quite the opposite, it was quite endearing; with the innocence of a child wearing their father’s wellies but stomping around in them with confidence and pride nonetheless.

And Peaness were confident, and they should certainly be proud. Having only formed back in late 2014, Peaness have already got their signature style down both on stage and on record. They write simply and beautifully crafted, effortlessly catchy alt-pop anthems and perform them with the same force of energy and passion that their music sparks in those who listen to it.

There is no time to steadily warm up to Peaness, your love for them will go from 1 – 100 in a matter of seconds. Fuelled by rage, pop and vegetables, Peaness are about to slam their foot on the accelerator, so buckle up or get the hell out.


Peaness at Wales Goes Pop! 2016 by Chris Hunt

They Is They Is They Is and Papa Topo

I only managed to catch a little bit of of both They Is They Is They Is and Papa Topo‘s set because I was interviewing Peaness.

What I saw from both bands was excellent, and I hear Papa Topo even got the theatre audience involved in some dance routines. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see enough of either to write fair reviews. As with Witching Waves from Friday’s line-up, over the next few weeks, I’ll be covering every artist I missed live at Wales Goes Pop! as part of our regular Welsh Music Wednesday feature, so check back soon!


Now, I was around in the cafe for Grubs‘ set, but I must ashamedly admit that I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have been so I’m going to have to put them on the Welsh Music Wednesday back-burner too, but with good reason. Quite appropriately, the reason I was a bit distracted during Grubs’ set was because I was eating. Lilo’s pasta & fajita van had kept my stomach happy two days in a row now.

So with that in mind and because I managed to explore a little more on Saturday, I thought now would be a good opportunity to showcase the quieter side of Wales Goes Pop! 2016…

Exhibition Area

Wales Goes Pop! offers independent labels, record stores and all other creative types, a space to display and sell their work around the edge of the theatre floor, right in front of the main stage. I’ve already mentioned the market stall-type set-up a few times, or rather, how I tried to avoid it for fear of my very light wallet eventually floating up with the balloons and paper lanterns that decorated the room. But I eventually caved in and I’m so relieved that I did.


Life Is Hell RRW

The first stall I was drawn to belonged to record and craft makers, Where It’s At Is Where You Are, or WIAIWYA for short. I snorted with laughter at their blunt and relatable t-shirt slogans (above). WIAIWYA were selling records by one of Sunday’s Wales Goes Pop! artists, Darren Hayman as well as a selection of witty cards and crafts. They also support artists such as Emma KupaThe Leaf LibraryFreschard and many more artists across the globe. Life is hell, but at least there’s WIAIWYA.

Another stall that not only caught my eye but had me in…stitches, ahem, was Twin Made and their fabulous emBOWIEdery (their pun, not mine). Twin Made are, yep, twins, “who like to make, bake, knit and sew”. They also run workshops in Cardiff to show you how to make your own delightful trinkets just like this…


Twat and Butts RRW

Charming, aren’t they? As well as their emBOWIEdery (below), the twins also make lampshades, jewellery, badges, cross-stitches and more. It was a lovely stall run by lovely people and I’ll certainly be saving my pennies to buy myself one or seven of these…



Mammoth Penguins 

Although there were plenty more wonderful stalls to explore, Mammoth Penguins were now on stage and they seemed to be one of Saturday’s most heavily-whispered names, so I was keen to listen up. The Cambridge-based indie-pop three-piece performed excellently. Their melodic yet gritty tunes are carried by the dirty riffs of the electric guitar, and they have as many anthemic choruses as I do double-barrelled phrases in this paragraph.

The anticipation of the audience who had been waiting to see Mammoth Penguins transformed into pure joy and the eager whispers became shared outbursts of indisputable praise for Mammoth Penguins.

Mammoth Penguins are looked after by the ever-growing Fortuna POP! label who have (or have had) a number of Wales Goes Pop! artists on their roster as well as a few up and coming names that may ring a bell: The Pains Of Being Pure At HeartFlowersMarthaSeptember Girls … the list goes on. Needless to say, Mammoth Penguins are in very strong company, I hadn’t heard of them before Wales Goes Pop! but I’m not sure how, and I’m not sure how you haven’t either. I plan to spend some time making up for my mistakes and I expect you to do the same. Watch this space for Mammoth Penguins, and make it a big one.


Sometimes with bands, the clue really is in the name, and Gindrinker are a fine example of that unwritten rule. Storming, or rather, staggering across the cafe floor sporting a red jumper that was allegedly dug out of a lost-and-found box, and I believed him. Maybe it was the vocalist’s drunken authenticity, or maybe it was just his stomach peeking out from under the red stitching, but I believed him.

Gindrinker were one of the most interesting and memorable bands who performed at Wales Goes Pop! and one of the sets I look back on with a huge smile and even a giggle, they were hilarious.

I’m not entirely sure if the drum machine is a frequent member of the band or whether it was filling in for someone, but either way, holding a reasonably-sized crowd when there’s only two guys and their instruments (and their drinks) is quite an achievement. Gindrinker kept their audience engaged with brutally blunt yet somehow catchy songs, fuelled by punk and gin, lots of gin.


Gindrinker RRW


I’m not sure if it’s because they were following Gindrinker or if they were just a bit tired after travelling from London, but Shopping took a while to really grab me. They weren’t the most memorable band of the weekend for me, but they seemed to go down incredibly well with the theatre audience. Maybe I was the one who was tired.

Nevertheless, Shopping are excellent musicians. That’s something I’ve found with any artist at Wales Goes Pop! who didn’t appeal to me as much as others did, everyone was still undeniably skilled in their art, and Shopping were no exception. They write catchy songs and perform well. They were a perfect, energetic filler to get the audience’s muscles moving and drinks pouring for the Saturday night ahead.

The Spook School 

Queer indie-pop punx” from Scotland, The Spook School ensured that Saturday night at Wales Goes Pop! had well and truly fired up. They were rowdy, energetic and loads of fun and they seemed to encourage that kind of energy in their audience too. I was sat up in the pews for The Spook School’s set, as I was for most of the weekend, but they were one of the few bands who made me wish I was down in the crowd. The audience were bouncing, dancing and cheering, and as much as I enjoyed being a spectator, I was envious of those right in the sweaty, heart of the show.

As well as performing superb songs,  The Spook School also used their platform in the presence of a large crowd to draw attention to social inequality; in particular, the difficulties faced by the transgender community. Trans and LGBTQIA+ issues as a whole is something that is very close to my heart, and the hearts of many, and yet it isn’t something that is raised in everyday environments. To see a young band talking and singing about these issues was empowering, heartwarming and reinforced what a positive difference music can make.

Los Campesinos!

Saturday night’s indie-pop masterclass headliners and one of the most highly anticipated acts of the weekend, Los Campesinos! had a lot of expectations to live up to. And they were certainly aware that the Wales Goes Pop! crowd were expecting a lot. The six-piece took to the theatre stage with an effortless professionalism and air of confidence, sporting their LC!FC kit, although personally, I would have preferred them to have worn these.

The audience took to Los Campesinos! straight away; the theatre was the fullest I’d seen it for any of the headline acts, and probably the fullest I’d seen it all weekend, from the floor right up to the top of the pews. The pews didn’t stay full for long though; more and more members of the audience made their way down to the floor, clutching their beers, punching the air and shouting along to Los Campesinos!’s rousing indie anthems.

Despite growing up in Wales with a keen interest in music, Los Campesinos! somehow managed to slip through my fingers and until Wales Goes Pop!, I had never seen them live and, admittedly, barely even listened to them. But Los Campesinos! are one of those bands you can watch without knowing a single song and you’ll still have a brilliant time, and that’s often a sign of a truly impressive band. Los Campesinos! are undeniably talented, excellent musicians, singers, dynamic, energetic and all-round brilliant performers. They’re completely deserving of the success they’ve earned and much more.

And with that, the sound of Wales Goes Pop!, round two, echoed into the night, un-christening the holy building with the pouring of the devil’s water.



Los Campesinos! RRW



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