A breathless night with Los Blancos on Womanby Street
It’s a peculiar feeling, almost relief, tinged with anticipation, as I cross the Severn Bridge (you can keep your Prince of Wales) back into South Wales. Having been blasting the new Los Blancos album, Sbwriel Gwyn in the car, I can’t wait to see them tonight. I’ve been excited all week – going back to Cardiff – and that tingling sensation is still there as I set foot on Womanby Street.
To the top floor, we go into Clwb Ifor Bach, up the diamond tread metal stairs, and it feels like I’m home again. The smell of stale alcohol and vomit barely concealed by cheap cleaning products which make your shoes stick to the floor, the familiar faces that accompany any trip home, and the relief that comes with knowing my favourite place hasn’t changed a bit.
First on the bill, Hyll. I’ve enjoyed their music for a while now, but this is the first time I’ve seen them play live, and it serves as a stark reminder of how important the crowd is. The band themselves have an interesting contradiction within their performance; playing a set full of energetic and fun songs, performing with a strange cocktail of apathy and passion. There’s certainly no melodrama, nor any trepidation, but I think their stage presence did very little to entice the crowd forwards, who seem to cling to the fringes of the room as if being any closer to the stage would result in their untimely demise. Boring bastards. As their set went on, visiting older pieces of their catalogue as well as the hits from their recent release, Rhamant (a great EP that really showcases the bands musical and emotional range), the audience, helped by a few pints I imagine, come forward and begin engaging with the band, but it’s too little too late. The set’s over, and it’s time for a quick visit to smokers before the main event of the night.
After the customary faux intellectual conversations and greetings outside, up we go again to the crowded bar as Los Blancos start their set. The frenzied guitars and drums echo around the corner from the now crowded, dank room, signalling the beginning of Dilyn Iesu Grist, their most recent single. Pints in hand, round the corner, and then the sound hits us. Any air that might have been left in my lungs after clambering up three flights of sticky, crowded stairs was knocked clean out, and we begin to force our way through the throng of bodies to get near the stage. The set goes on, and the crowd get closer and closer to the stage, as the wall of sound bouncing around the room carries us through the set. The video’s of WWE on repeat at the back of the stage fit the band well; their music is neither clinical nor precise, but rather bullish and confident in itself. Eventually, the band get to Cadi, an affectionate song for the singers’ late dog, and the venue is pulled together. I don’t think a single person that night isn’t bellowing the passionate chorus of “Cadi yw’r cariad, sy’n cadw fi cŵl!”. (Spell it for us phonetically, please. Ed.) The crowd’s pressing tighter and my throat is hoarse by the end of the song, only to be pulled breathless into Clarach, the single I fell in love with the instant I heard it, weeks ago. It’s a bittersweet feeling, knowing that this is the last song of the night, mixed with the feeling of community and certainty that this won’t be the last time I feel like this in Clwb Ifor Bach.
Although I wake up sporting a killer headache, a hell of a sore throat and no idea how I got home, I’m sure of one thing: Last night will live fondly in my memory for a very long time.
Dilyn Iesu Grist Music Video: Los Blancos: Dilyn Iesu Grist