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Since the closure of the town’s last rock venue, the studio bar, Merthyr Tydfil has been a town without a live music scene until the announcement of a new music festival that would see a line up of established artists performing in the Welsh town to celebrate the new Merthyr Rock festival last year in the town. The first festival in 2011 saw a number of bands make an explosive name for the festival, including The Blackout, Ocean Colour Scene and Funeral for a Friend all performing at the festival. Thousands of people arrived at Merthyr’s Cyfarthyr Park to catch a weekend full of live music and performances from Kids In Glass Houses, Skindred, Don Broco, Save Your Breath and many more artists performing over two stages at the festival.

Friday saw the official launch of the festival followed by a fantastically indie line up. The James Mclaren tribute stage featured a great mixture of local talent including The Dirty Goods and the lyrically fantastic The People the Poet. One of the festivals main draws saw Johnny Borrell’s new look of Razorlight. Mixing a blend of new tracks with oldies, the crowd were given what they wanted in ‘Golden Touch’, ‘Somewhere Else’, ‘America’ and ‘In The City’; but something was missing in their performance. New tracks blended seamlessly into old with no obvious attempt at something a little different or new for their less patient fan-base. Headlining this festival was an attempt to thrust Razorlight back into the limelight with a little bang to show they’ve still got it and went down graciously well with the crowd.

Within a few hours of the gates opening on Saturday, over 2000 people arrived on site at Cyfarthyr Park to catch the first full day of action at the festival. Standout early performances came from the likes of Save Your Breath who are just about to embark on a European tour, the punk-pop rockers performed a tight half hour set that received one of the best reactions of the day. Saturday evening saw the likes of Lower Than Atlantis take the main stage, The festival literally started bouncing as Merthyr came alive to the sound of post-hardcore. Keeping the talking to a minimum, Lower Than Atlantis tried to cram in as many songs as possible, including a special mixture of Foo Fighters hits. It’s obvious that Lower Than Atlantis have found their target audience at this show and proved they are destined for bigger things. The band ended their set with the ever-popular ‘Deadliest Catch’.

Headlining Saturdays evening is Skindred who prove they can do rightfully wrong when playing live at festivals it seems, as they so rightly prove. Skindred prove to be more than just a rock band, backed it up with a loud, energetic and solid set, fronted by the incredible Benji Webbe. An all-round great performer, Benji carried the set wonderfully with admirable energy and stage presence. It was a heavy set that should’ve settled any arguments regarding Skindred’s credentials, as they put on a set worthy of headlining any festival. Concluding with the Newport Helicopter the tent looked like it was going to take off as thousands waved their t-shirts in the air.

The final day of Merthyr Rock saw a line up that gave the festival a much needed buzz and got people travelling from all around the UK to Cyfarthyr Park to catch a line up of fresh new talent and some of the biggest names currently in rock. With The Sun Shining the day had a line up mixed with welsh talent and numerous other bands. The main stage tent was packed out for Kerrang favourites We Are The Ocean who performed a set that proved to be one of the main festival highlights, their set included new and old songs including ‘Waiting Room’ and ‘The Road’. Getting the crowd ready for the headliners saw Deaf Havana return to Wales not long after headlining the sold out Cardiff Solus. The band received deafening screams and tore apart the Merthyr Rock stage, chart storming hits including ‘The World or Nothing’ and ‘Vines’ were some of the stand out highlights from their set.

Drawing Merthyr Rock to its end the second year saw the triumphant return of Kids In Glass Houses who last performed in Merthyr seven years ago. The welsh band gave a performance that was strong enough to headline Reading festival. As soon as the five piece take the stage, manic screams appeared as the band open with what would have been their greatest and most know hit seven years ago, ‘Me Me Me’. Aled Phillips who is contained with endless energy throughout the set receives an overwhelming reaction for a set that is almost pure perfection. Interacting with the crowd and throwing out endless witty band, his main aim was to turn the show into the craziest party possible, from Jaggermiester most pits to conga’s around the tent. Each song had a consistent song-along from hits including ‘Easy Tiger’, ‘Undercover Lover’ and ‘Diamond Days’. It really is impressive to see how far the band have come, from supporting bands at Merthyr’s old local venue ‘The Studio Bar’ to developing a dedicated fan base who turn up at every show possible. Kids In Glass Houses proved at Merthyr Rock that they can be listed as potentially the best band in South Wales.

As the festival drew to end, it was easy to tell that no one wanted the festival to end as Kids In Glass Houses closed with the ever popular ‘Matters At All’ creating a memorable end to a festival that will not be forgotten!

Words and photo: Mike Lewis