Something exciting is happening in Wrexham at the moment (for a change). Focus Wales, an interactive music and comedy festival is celebrating it's fourth year with a brilliant line-up of bands, key speakers and comedians.
Now I've never been to the festival before so thought this year I'd head down and see what was going on and I'm so glad I did! My friend Alex was covering the event for his blog (onthefenceuk.wordpress.com) so I tagged along (and took advantage of his Press pass) to the welcome party, held in Central Station to drink some beer and catch some bands.
Central Station is a nice little music venue based in Wrexham. I've seen some great bands here in the past though I'm guilty of not having been there in quite some time. A key venue in the Focus Wales Festival (www.focuswales.com), the club is opening it's doors to over 30 bands over the next few days.
There are two stages: one for the rock element; and one for the more experimental Indie bands. Beers purchased we headed off to the main stage to see Blood Lips.
The venue was fairly quiet due to it being early on a Wednesday evening but Blood Lips, described as playing dark guitar music got the night off to a great start. The three piece were incredibly good for a new band with their experimental but accessible sound.
Next up, on the more intimate stage, were Mizkai. Describing themselves as 'beginning life as a Petri-dish of sugar solution based in a secret laboratory nestled somehere in the quaint British countryside', Mizkai were up to the challenge of shocking and entertaining the audience. Supported by a neon clad dancer and a rather ominous bunny, Kairi Mori took to the stage looking like an authentic Harajuku girl to play her 'Nintendo' beats.
At one point I did question how many beers I'd consumed but to be fair, while this isn't my type of music, the trio really entertained the crowd with their unique act.
Back on the main stage I re-entered my comfort zone with the commercial rock sounds of The Undivided. The South Walian anthemic-rock act took to the stage where lead singer Joe Disson entertained the crowd while heckling them about the lack of enthusiasm in the room. I felt his pain. The crowd didn't get involved and despite the bands effort the atmosphere was kind of dead. Still a great band that I think will do well in the future and are sure to be hitting the Summer festival scene soon.
Electronic pop-duo Mike Payne & Maff Stenning (aka Half Avian) brought an ambient sound to the night on the smaller stage. The act were great and I could imagine them playing at an exotic beach party somewhere tropical to a trendy crowd, however they really would have been better starting the stage off after Mizkai's antics got the crowd going.
"Sheffield-based purveyors of punk-edged grunge mayhem" Steel Trees where up next. A blend of mainstream rock with a heavy metal element, courteousy of their bass player, their sound was very appealing to the ears. I was incredibly impressed by their drummers 'Octopus-like' skills too. A band to watch in my opinion.
Baby Brave, a Wrexham based foursome, provided the crowd with a chance to rest their years after Steel Trees with their cocktail of infectious guitar driven pop. I would liken them to a mix between Paramore and The Magic Numbers. A great local band that I discovered that night.
This is my favourite shot of the night. Orient Machine are a relatively new North Wales based rock band. Their sound was alternative and edgy which perfectly matched their look. I never realised Wrexham had such great bands, I'm a convert.
Luckily the best act of the night was to follow in the form of Bloodflower. Bringing 80's new wave into the 21st century lead singer Jonnie Owen showed off his impressive vocal range with some truly beautiful songs. With enough equipment to sink a battlehip the five-piece really kept the audiences attention with a polised set. Radio One DJ Huw Stephens has backed these guys as a great new act and that really is an awesome seal of approval.
Now if your into Heavy "my ears are never going to stop ringing'" metal, Bastions are the band for you! I was extremely impressed by this hardcore band from North Wales. Lead singer Jamie McDonald jumped around the stage like a man possessed and really gave his all to the short set. Extremely humble he dropped to his knees at the end making a heart sign to the crowd to show his appreciation.
Bringing the night to a close locals Camera rounded of proceedings well with their accesible rock. This band can be described best as a mash up of Elbow and Radiohead. The crowd went wild for these guy's and left them ready to dance the night away.
I think this 'artwork' in the toilet cubicle says it best! Focus Wales is doing a great deal for the Welsh music scene and I'm so glad I got to experience part of it. If you live around this area check it out. The event is running until tomorrow with a packed schedule of music and comedy.