Let’s set the scene – the night was dark, wet and stormy the light flowed welcoming from the open doors at The Muni Pontypridd as we set foot indoors to hear three bands. Tonight, was the second night of the Planet Rock Tour featuring three bands that are demanding to be heard. The bands in question all have something in common Those Damn Crows and The Bad Flowers both have debut albums, Murder and The Motive and Starting Gun respectively. Federal Charm’s album Passenger is a virtual debut as it is the work of Federal Charm Mk2. The excitement was hot and we wanted the first band to start, the strong local support from the band from Bridgend was evident by the number of Those Damn Crows T-shirts. Our demands were quickly met as Those Damn Crows stormed the Muni Stage.
Tonight was an opportunity to showcase the tracks from the album to the fans have been live favourites. For a while, Those Damn Crows always deliver when the five are on a stage. Why? They are full on honest rock n Roll. Opening the set with I Don’t Give A Damn this is a five-piece full of raw attitude. They have one mission – to deliver music that they love to play and we love to hear. We do give a Damn and thirty-minute set was far too short as they closed out the opening slot with Rock N Roll Ain’t Dead… This is a rousing number that everyone happily joined in answering Shane who always leads from the front. Microphone in hand he stands high on a box, then leaps off the stage to sing up close. This is high octane, energizing music we were warm with the glow of another fine set from The Crows. Into the mix of favourites we heard Behind These Walls if this is a helping from the follow-up album we are in for a treat. Thank you for a magnificent set of live music, Shane, Ian, Dave, Lloyd and Ronnie.
With a quick turnaround, we had Federal Charm on stage. What an entrance as they strode on dressed in suits, Peaky Blinders gone rock. Tonight many were hearing the band for the first time since they relaunched with three new members, vocalist Tom, Drummer Josh and guitar/keys & tambourine Mark, joining Charms originals Paul Bow & LD Morawski. The hour-long set included eight numbers from Passenger so we heard a selection from the album reinforcing that they work as well live as in the studio.
Tonight, and especially Paul the tour gremlins hit them, with Paul having to endure technical issues as his pedal board misbehaved and the sound balance was off; that though did nothing to knock the band off balance. The set will have won them many fans as they are in transition from the Federal Charm many remember and the new harder-edged, darker and rockier approach. The majority of the set unsurprisingly was from Passenger, opening with Swing Sinner, the latest single from the album. There is no doubt the dynamics have changed with Tom as the vocalist he leads the band from front and centre. He uses the microphone and stand as a prop when the instruments take over. They become an extension of his body that swings and writhes enthralled by the guitars, bass and drumming. This is a band in transition the old songs in the set from Across The Divide and earlier have been revamped. Death Rattle, a perfect song to play live, with the drum patterns to highlight Josh’s skills and the lyrics is a homage to music venues and the importance of not losing them to gentrification – long may the Muni be the heart of live music in Pontypridd. Followed by Get Through, Paul comes forward and leads the band with heavier riffs and chords that thunder through the venue, His skills on the guitar along with the wonderful bass lines from LD is a forever constant in the band and will always delight.
The new distinctive shaping of the Charm’s sound is still a work in progress. The new songs have depth and charisma, but I would like to hear more keys from Mark and the interplay between the two guitars is different reshaping the dynamics of the band. The new attitude was captured in You Can’t Rule Me they are recreating the sound they want us to hear, enjoy and come to love. Along the road, this co-headline act on this tour will win many new fans whilst older fans may be lost or put on hold their allegiance. Federal Charm, is like the ubiquitous Ford Escort, times change the shape changes but the attitude and music stays a constant. For me, the jury is out as I get in tune with the new reformed, re-imagined Federal Charm. One thing for certain is this they are never Passengers, they deliver with energy and rock out with the music that is creating the re-formed Federal Charm.
And now for tonight’s closing act The Bad Flowers. Starting Gun, the acclaimed debut album is full of rocking good numbers that easily transcends from studio to stage as proved tonight as across the hour we heard ten of the eleven tracks. After hearing two five-piece bands we were now being treated to the hard-hitting, loud trio that manages to sound as if a few extra musicians are on stage with them.
Tom, Karl and Dale opened the set with Hurricane, a fitting number as storm Ali was circling the venue with intent to cause havoc. The storm was tamed by a band that had the audience in Pontypridd under there spell once again. What a trio the music hits you and connects so the beats, riffs and rhythms flow around your veins. The previous night at The Thekla, the tour Gremlin played games with the Flowers not tonight, Karl stayed firmly behind and in control of his drum kit as his bespoke sticks, from London Stick Company flashed through the air. They were on form, they made full use of the hour keeping chatter to a minimum so we could hear more of the music that defines them. Tom had time to regale the story of getting drenched through to his underpants…. As he led the bad into aptly titled number Let’s Misbehave. Followed by a new number, well for those and many in the crowd had seen their set at Steelhouse 2018, a new song from their forthcoming album due early 2019, Who Needs A Soul. The number grows with every outing the lyrics tell a story and the musicianship is superb. We saw Tom, dexterously change guitar as he picked up his Flying V. As he quipped not easy to do when wearing a hat with a wide brim. The changeover was faultless and the band were closing out with three numbers that are always a highlight of a Flowers set. Thunder Child, my personal favourite Rich Man and the song we expect to end a night with this infectious trio City Lights. Tonight they creating an atmosphere of audience and band as we were all partying together. This is a band that gets better every time you are lucky enough to be in their company. Tom’s voice is getting stronger and stronger as he shapes the lyrics with purpose, passion and determination. He adds to his vocals some clever guitar work that allows the numbers to be extended when playing songs live without them losing shape and form. The Bad Flowers, a trio who play tight and true with a rhythm section that sparkles and adds depths of tone and texture. Dale’s bass work is stunning and Karl will always entertain.
What a night of live rock music, three bands that made a wet Thursday night in Pontypridd special. Why? Crows Charm Flowers all delighted music fans tonight. Keep supporting your local venues and you will be rewarded with live music that stays with you long after the lights go dark and the stage falls silent.