[this is a continuation of Wales Goes Pop coverage that began on day 1]
Cardiff band Luna Bird kicked off Sunday's performances with bouncing electronic pop, a touch of the theatric, strong harmonies, and high production values. The audience couldn't get enough of these Italian transplants.
Brit Simon Love performed solo on an acoustic guitar against a moving starfield backdrop. Love has a long history and I'm only now starting to dig into it. A cover of David Berman's "Thats Just the Way That I Feel" combined with a whiff of Sloan or Teenage Fanclub, and plenty of witty banter made me excited for that task.
Capitan Sunrise from Madrid appeared as a four-piece performing a 25-minute acoustic set of gentle, earnest indie pop rich with harmonies. The fantastic sound and multicamera production interspersed with video elements were impressive. I'd later learn I like this version of the band better than the more synth-friendly non-pandemic version.
Puff Punch from Indonesia were the surprise hit of the festival. The full band performance teaming with bright guitars that became fuzzy in a heartbeat was everything indie pop should be.
Or maybe it was Hazy Sour Cherry from Tokyo that was the surprise hit. Not surprising is that both bands are signed to the excellent Damnably Records. Bouncing indie pop with plenty of coed vocals, guitar leads, and energy. The appearance of a mini gong in the middle of the band's 25-minute set elicited cheers of excitement in the chat.
The most anticipated act of the festival may have been Crystal Furs from Oregon. The band spent several years recording and retooling, but it was thwarted from making its grand reentry by the pandemic. This would be that band's debut. The trio straddled the fuzzy line between indie pop and pop punk with a jangly three-song set recorded in a tiny room. The teaser elicited demands for a UK tour once "all this is over."
Swansea Sound from various UK locales headlined the evening. The band features several famous members including Huw Williams (of Pooh Sticks) alongside Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey already seen as The Catenary Wires earlier in the fest. The band's two-song set (both debuts to my ears), shone as a video that cut together the six geographically disperse members into a close approximation of a full-band affair. The short set left the fans in the chat asking for more but it doesn't matter how many clapping emojis were posted, the band was not coming back on. At least there was a disco stil.
So how do I feel about getting to see Wales Goes Pop without flights and hotels and vacation days and all that expense? Like each person I spoke with, I was happy to stream it, and determined to attend in person next year. After all, there's no substitution for the immersion of live music. It starts when that first band is announced and when that schedule is public. Anticipation sets in as accommodations are booked months in advance and long journals are started. It's the ritual of venue queues, and sound checks, and ear plugs, and stashing your coat in the corner to find it there later. It's the care you pack the vinyl you purchased in your bag for the trip home. None of that is streamable. During this year's festival, during one of the longer sets, a guitarist took a quick break to tune; the chat erupted. No one had heard a guitarist tune on stage for a year. Now even the mundane was exotic and desirable. Live streams offer advantages, for those who can't attend in person they're a godsend, but for many of us, they're only an appetizer. I'll see you in Cardiff next Spring.