Independent Music Venue Week: Neuadd Ogwen

Music lovers in North-West Wales were treated to a trio of bands performing live last night, as part of Independent Music Venue Week; and all for the price of a couple of High Street coffees. The independent music venue in question was Neuadd Ogwen; situated in Bethesda, on the edge of Snowdonia. It’s a tiny town, surrounded on all sides by mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes.

A handful of stragglers missed the start of a captivating opening set from Belfast based septet, Documenta; including four guitarists who blended together gracefully; the instruments caressing each other, creating a shoegazing soundscape awash with atmosphere and melodious noise. Documenta cherry pick from (and experiment with) everything from Can to The Beatles, and it works perfectly.

They opened strongly with “Idle Hands” from the album “Drone Pop #1” and from that moment on, the audience were theirs for the taking. Five tracks from the album were included in the set; as well as an as yet untitled song. A 12” EP is in the pipeline, which vocalist Joe Greene promises will be even more experimental. They closed their set with the grooving beat of “Gentle’s Yard”, from the album, and left an appreciative crowd hungry for more.

Up next were Manchester’s Horsebeach. Manchester isn’t renowned for it’s sunny climate; neither is North West-Wales for that matter, but from the moment Horsebeach kicked off proceedings with “A Place Like This”, you could easily imagine you were sitting on a warm summer beach, sipping a cold drink, and contemplating a siesta before going out to party; no mean feat considering this was a cold, wet, and dark Saturday night in January.

The set was a mix of tracks from the band’s prolific back catalogue, plus three new songs from their next album, due out in March.

Ryan Kennedy’s dreamy, hazy croon dripped like melting ice cream, and you could see the enraptured audience swaying along to songs like the sublime “It’s Alright”, as though they didn’t have a care in the world. Reminiscent of Aztec Camera at times, Horsebeach took us elsewhere, and Neuadd Ogwen basked in the warm melodies the band created.

Last on stage were local band Yucatan. Being on home turf (vocalist Dilwyn Llwyd runs the venue) they were received with rapturous applause from an anticipatory crowd; and rightly so. The band seduced the audience with songs that felt almost hymn like at times. Minimal, soothing, ethereal, almost childlike, Yucatan’s set seemed to reflect the stark beauty of the area that surrounds Neuadd Ogwen; one suspects this is what heaven might sound like if it was a band, and Yucatan’s ability to enthral an audience looked almost effortless at times.

The fact that the lyrics were sung in Welsh didn’t distract at all, and a number of non Welsh speakers hearing the band for the first time were overheard raving with surprise about how amazing they were; quite right too, because Yucatan are startlingly good.

From the moment the drums pounded the intro to “Ffin”, you knew you were in safe hands, and hearing “Cwm Llwm” felt like The Velvet Underground singing you to sleep.

They finished the set with the crowd pleasing “Un Cyfle”, which is the only point where the laid back Llwyd finally becomes animated. The song starts slowly but surely, and finishes with a squall of noise as the band exits.

At the end of the gig, one audience member was seen taking a photograph of the empty stage. As this night was a part of Independent Music Venue Week, it seemed appropriate to do so. After all, this week has been an opportunity to celebrate the smaller, intimate, independent music venue, and when all is said and done, it is Neuadd Ogwen that the audience was there to celebrate.

Naked Freelance Writer Earns Money

When I was offered the chance to be a Life Model for an Art Group, my first concern was that I might be compared unfavourably to previous models…in the trouser department I mean. Reassurances from my girlfriend that I was “a grower, not a shower” didn’t help; the last thing I wanted was to grow, mid pose.

As it turns out, the size of my equipment was the least of my worries.

For a start, coming up with eight different poses was hard enough.

“We require five 5 minute poses from you, two to last 15 minute each, and one you can hold for an hour…with a 5 minute break half way through, should you require it” said the lady in charge.

Another worry was the itch on my nose, which started halfway through the first of my 15 minute poses.

Then there was the wind…not the gale force one blowing outside (they’d provided a wall of heaters for that), but the one threatening to explode from my backside; as I knelt on the floor, with my bum in the air, and my back to the artists.

There was a spot of bother “down below” at one point, but it was due entirely to the coffee I’d accepted, halfway through the session; and not because of any dimensional deficiencies, or unwanted expansions on my part. In short, I was desperate to pee. I managed to hold it off until the end of the session, and it was a blessed relief when I finally let go.

And so I stood, and I knelt, and I lounged, and I hugged myself for two hours; striking poses like a pro (because I’m also an actor, there were a couple of dramatic stances on display too that morning).

At the start of each pose, I would find something new to stare at; anything to help me stay perfectly still; and distract from the fact I was stark bollock naked, in front of a dozen women and three men, halfway up a mountain in North Wales, in a bleak midwinter.

And so my advice to any man considering Life Modelling is:

pre-prepare some poses,

practise staying still for prolonged periods,

politely refuse any drinks offered to you during any breaks,

avoid beans, eggs, curries etc. the night before.

Most of all though, don’t worry about your tackle. Because if you’re lucky like me, you’ll come away with a bit of spare cash, a new profile picture, and a nice piece of material for a new blog post.

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