Solus is busy before Falling With Style even start. Their sound is powerful, vocal driven, heavy rock – not unlike Linkin Park – and it definietly precedes their youth. Singer Lucas Woodland performs confidently; it’s refreshing to see a young band move on stage with such passion and energy (you can blame raging teenage hormones for that). Unfortunately, the band seem to have little understanding of volume control, and Woodland’s lyrics are virtually inaudible. Even for a metal band, playing too loud can be a problem, and these guys are deafening. Drummer Thom Pike is tight as a nut, but his overcomplicated grooves sound messy at times. If they can push through these elementary mistakes, and hold on to talented backing vocalist Scott Carey, they’ll fall with style… and land on their feet.
The person that let En Garde, the self-proclaimed “foul-mouthed, violent rock” band, play at Solus should be sacked for incompetence. Every song starts with deliberate amp feedback, which is literally painful to hear. The singer spends more time erotically caressing his face with the microphone than actually singing in it, and he purposefully falls over on stage… twice. His crimson red shirt mirrors his crimson red face perfectly. He’s either straining his voice, or wearing depressingly tight y-fronts. They’re slightly embarrassing to watch.
With bleeding ears and crushed self-belief, The People The Poet are refreshing. This is happy music. The singers sing, rather than shout. There’s a lovely balance here between lush harmonies and gritty, bluesy tones. Their songs are based on stories, written and sent in by the public, which results in a lyrically playful and versatile sound. It holds emotional value, a stark contrast to the insincerity of En Garde’s set. While their music seems a little out of place at Solus tonight, it has the texture of salted caramel, a touch of sweetness and a tang. The People The Poet are, perhaps, the strongest band in South Wales at the moment.
For the most vain act ever to play Solus, it’s hard to tell whether Hey Vanity’s name is ironic or an acute observation. Credit must be given for their energy and image; anyone left deafened by En Garde might actually enjoy this band. Those with their hearing still intact must now endure some outdated and somewhat undignified pop rock. They’re the second act to force their amps to squeal, and people cringe in obvious discomfort. The vocals are nasal, gruff, and irritating. Like Falling with Style, their set is ear-splittingly loud; complex guitar riffs are lost in rambunctious noise. Each song sounds like a cover of the last. Their music is banal and depressing.
Straight Lines are really, really good at sounding like other bands. They’re like a Welsh Fall Out Boy, with a singer that could be mistaken for Jack White. They are the epitome of the South Wales rock band – an unfortunate stereotype of heavy pop punk, tarnished by the likes of Lostprophets and Funeral for a Friend. It’s genuinely hard to see any differences between the four rock bands tonight. Aside from The People the Poet, they all churn out mundane, banausic heavy metal. No amount of Coors light will make them sound any better. Despite almost five years of playing together, Straight Lines’ failure to find a distinctive sound is undoubtedly their greatest stumbling block. They draw closure on what is a primarily disappointing night for Welsh music, its only saving grace being the talented Poets from Pontypridd.