After a years rest Merthyr Rock is back for one day and compared to previous years has a lively line up, from Taking Back Sunday to Merthyr’s own The Blackout. It’s a Sunday and the train to Merthyr is a longer one than I remember. As you head out into the town there’s a mix of locals, and those like myself, a bit lost. Groups gather outside Tesco before going in packs to the site. (A few signs wouldn’t go amiss here) Walking in the site feels more compact than ever, a few food stands grace the back fence, a couple of clothing stalls and two outdoor stages next to each other with a smaller one to the back packed with local bands. What stands out is the mix of people here and it’s great to see.
The One Hundred
Kicking our afternoon off is The One Hundred, with a mix electronic and rock, it’s good and it doesn’t feel already done. The crowd, albeit thinned out, is digging it enough to break out a pit at the front. Even as you walk around the outside half the crowd are dancing spontaneously. The festival as a feel that many are just here to have a good time.
With the stages side to side, it’s a small walk to watch the next band Blitz Kids, who are welcomed onstage to girls screams. It’s a somewhat sterile crowd where only the youngest seem into it. It doesn’t help either that the set feels a bit lack lustre for Blitz Kids who in the past have played outstanding smaller shows. Although it does feel like they’re trying, it’s just too hard to reach out to this Merthyr crowd.
Up next are Lostalone who get another impressive crowd welcome. They play hard and they play well. It’s impressive to hear a band as good as their CD live. Frontman Steven doesn’t seem to stop talking throughout the set, even at one point telling himself to shut up. He shows us his custom built guitar whilst telling us it’s majestic. There’s lots of dancing to their set and it feels like it’s hit the point where the site is a constant feel good vibe. “Can we go volcano!” he belts out. For the confused it’s explained straight after, “Do you know what a kangaroo is? Do the basket ball movement…” and the crowd do it. It’s a fun set all round from these lads.
All the punks are out to play and down the front for Anti-Flag who get the biggest pits of the day. Their set is intense and fast, just the way they probably like it and just the way fans in the circle pit like it. Political issues flow throughout the set and receive an encouraging crowd reaction. They bring up Mike Brown of Ferguson and calls for equality. Fuck the police is also thrown in for good measure. The set comes to a close with bassist Chris playing in the crowd whilst the crowd plead for more.
Unfortunately Feed The Rhino pulled out due to medical reasons so who’s on next is somewhat of a mystery to most. As they take the stage we see the good lads in Polar have stepped in last minute. The crowd unaware are thin on the ground but they play hard anyway.
Reel Big Fish
Back over on the main stage the super man music comes on and Reel Big Fish come out. The good vibes just keep on flowing, the crowd are lively and happy, as are the band. The Star Wars ska version gets many peoples approval as does the banter, “This man is handsome and yes, that beard goes all the way down to his balls”. As they jog around the place and command the crowd to dance, who do incredibly well to the various versions of the same song, from ska to circle pits to getting their groove on, the stage is their happy place and it’s an incredible atmosphere to watch as the sunsets.
Outcome the riot that is The Blackout to an overwhelming fan base. The set is pumping as the entire band bounce around the stage. Sean continually bombards the crowd with his presence as security get tangled up in his mic lead, and as Sean commands the crowd, Gavin commands the stage whose vocals continually stand out and get stronger. An electrifying set off the homeboys in their hometown.
Taking Back Sunday
Even now it feels weird to think that Taking Back Sunday, an internationally well noted band from the US played Merthyr Tydfil. It’s great to see such an act play here when many play one off UK shows in London, kudos to the promoter Orchard, who’ve brought some great acts to Wales recently. It’s dark, intimate and incredibly cold for a summers evening, but we’re in Wales and it didn’t rain, we can be thankful for that. Taking Back Sunday smash through an hours set and it feels like just as they were getting into it, it was time to leave. We get to hear some classics among many new song in which the crowd nearly sing along as loud as Adam who’s impressively swinging the microphone around. It’s a great act to close with and something unique to witness. Feels like future Merthyr Rock’s could be on the table if they continue to create thrilling line-ups like today.