BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Sunday, August 27, 2006

BIG BALLONS: A local festival for local people

The UNISON Baloon inflates so you can see what it looks like, but is prevented from launching by wind.
This weekend saw the ‘Big Ballon’ festival land in Cefn Fforest. Part of me would like to say it is crap, but the thought of something like this happening in the village in which I was born and bred prevents me from being so critical, so I will just say it is … naff. But it is quite interesting, for a while.

What is a balloon festival? … well it is a festival of balloons, but only if the weather is right. Half a dozen air balloons or so get together and at some point in the day, they might actually go up, but only if there is a light breeze. A strong breeze, or an actual wind, will prevent them going up; as will, strangely, no wind at all! I have been up there three years on the trot now, even going up at 6am to catch a dawn flight, but have not yet seen them flying.

So, given that the balloons might not go up and if they do it will be all over in half an hour, there has to be something else to keep people occupied. Hence, the craft market, the funfair, the pets’ corner, the classic car show and the various clowns, acrobats and sheep dogs that are also on display throughout the day. Oh, nearly forgot, the stage with the live bands on, like the ‘Shaking Stevens Tribute band’ (you can see why I nearly forgot!).

It is nothing though, if not a family day out, and in fairness there was lots there to keep Tara Iguana entertained.

The highlight though, is the ‘Balloon Glow’, which this year was brought to us by the wonderful sponsors UNISON. Basically, as the sun goes down, they pump up a few balloons, light them up, pump out some cheesy music and set fireworks off in the background. I seem to remember being very impressed last year so made an effort to catch it again tonight. For some reason this year it did not grab me the way I remember it did last, maybe it is a case of, once you have seen one balloon night glow, you have seen them all. This might explain why the crowd was a lot thinner than the 10,000 last year.

When I was a kid I used to dream of a big event that involved live bands on the Show Field. Now we got one I should not really complain, even if it is naff.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE!!!!: Cardiff City reach highest league position for 36 years

The goal that put us top of the league

With the football season seeming to start earlier each year, festivals have got in the way so today was my first match of the season. With only four games played, we were already joint top with Birmingham City, our highest position for 36 years. And today’s opponents were… Birmingham City! Yes, a top of the table clash.

The day started out with a full veggie breakfast in the 1927 Café (1927 being the year City won the FA Cup).

The Popular Bank was very.. erm popular.. today!

Then it was into the ground early.. for this was to be City’s first sell out league game since 1961. I am not sure you can really compare the two though, the capacity is only 20,000 now, where it used to be 57,000.

Just in case you missed it, that goal again but this time a bit closer!

As the game kicked off City were off like greyhounds out of the trap and looked like scoring in the first minute. The pace settled down a little but there was no doubt who were in control of the game. 12 minutes in Joe Ledley banged in the first goal and the capacity crowd went wild.

City kept up the pressure and never looked like they were going to lose. Despite the fact that we have no 'big' star players, this is the tightest little unit I have ever seen in blue, they really do look like a team. One of our star players from last season, Camerone Jerome was in for some serious stick when he came on as sub for Birmingham with the crowd making him eat his words with chants of ‘You should have stayed with a big club’.

Zulus advised to 'sit down and behave yourself'. Always a bit awkward when you have just wrecked your own seats!

As Paul parry banged in the second goal up the other end of the park in the 75th Minute, the Zulus went mad and started ripping out seats to throw at us. The riot police moved in and ‘calmed them down’. First time this has been necessary since we knocked Leeds out of the FA cup when they were on top of the Premiership.

In the past I have seen City play some excellent football but have never been surprised when the blow it at the last hurdle. This team feels a bit different though. I know it is early to be talking of promotion, but… I think this team may well be going up!

'We are top of the league, oh we are top of the league', seems like only yesterday we were singing 'The football league is upside down'.

After the game the Zulus were held back and somehow we managed to find ourselves the wrong side of the cordon to get back to the car when they were let out. Normally this means waiting till they are all on the bus then walking through, but with lots of ‘lads’ out for the sell out game, it ended up with us being chased around Grangetown by riot police, horses and dogs. All very pointless, not big and not clever. We ended up in a pub miles from the car but no matter, WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE.

review on official City site
review on Western Mail Site

Monday, August 14, 2006

LION AROUND: Stopping off in Longleat on the way home

Monkeys inspect the windscreen wipers of the Iguanamobile

Time to head home from Dorset, via the legendary Longleat. After a fun packed week including three festivals and a trip to the beach, what would Tara remember as her favourite bit? MONKEYS!!!

The Famous Lions of Longleat... dangerous my arse!

"Would you like some nibbles dear?"

Sunday, August 13, 2006

ENDORSE IT IN DORSET: Probably the best festival this century

After a bit of a lie in, it was back to the kids’ area, with Tara and Jasmine in full swing. While they were having fun, I nipped across the field to check out…

Chicken Shed Zeppelin are a three piece from Brighton that knock out hillbilly blue grass punk with attitude. Featuring Ade, formerly of the Tofu Love Frogs and currently with Tragic Roundabout (amongst other things) we felt we had to get up early to check out this, their third set of the weekend. And well worth it it was too. Being an early set the crowd was mainly made up of kids, people hiding from the rain, and friends. But, undeterred, they managed dust off those Sunday morning cobwebs and wake everyone up like a mug of Rocket Fuel Coffee. It was not long before they had a bigger crowd than the main stage! Now that we know the score we will make a point of hunting them down again, ‘cos they are one of those bands that like to turn up and play wherever and whenever they can.

Dub Dada is centred around Jonno, formerly of Community Charge (now there’s a blast from the past) Nucleus Roots and occasionally collaborator with Zion Train. He pounds out some thunderous earth shattering bass heavy dubs today with some half tidy rapping laid over the top, but the set is a bit rough around the edges, with him forgetting his lyrics at one point and numbers coming to an abrupt end because of a lack of time… but the rough and readiness of it all added a bit of character to the set. Not as good as a set by a proper live band, but warmed us up for the dubness to come.

RDF/Military Surplus. Well, what can we say? Festival legends from the good old days, among the first to mix dub and punk they have been imitated by many but equalled by few. They were about as hardcore as it came, true outsiders living on the edge of society and their lyrics reflected that.

This is the first time they have played together for almost 20 years, and the word is that it is just a one off. Although billed as RDF (Radical Dance Faction) many of those on stage were never in RDF but were in singer Chris Bowsher’s previous band Military Surplus.

Bowsher’s contempt for authority is still in evidence, time has not dulled his rage, and the set contained all the venom mixed with beauty it always had. Proper dubs had you skanking away eyes closed soaking in the bass, then the punk button was occasionally flicked to get the old crusties moshing like it was still the 80s.

When making my mind up whether or not to go to this festival, the fact that RDF were on the bill was a major factor. A good decision was made!!!!

Molara always struck me as having a beautiful voice when she was with Zion Train, but somehow that is how I always thought of her, as part of the band. Now she has gone ‘solo’, I have started to sit up and take more notice. I am struggling to think of a better contemporary female ‘reggae’ vocalist. When you throw in a backing band which is substantially made up from members of Dubmerge, you really do have something special on your hands.

The weather this weekend was not quite as sunny as it had been the few weeks previously, but it did have its moments. As I sit here trying to remember what it was like when Molara was on all I can think of is blue skies, golden sunshine and warm vibrations. I don’t think it was very sunny at the time, but that is the sort of memory watching Molara leaves you with.

Senser are well and truly back on form now that the original line up is fully restored. Mashing hip-hop, rap, break-beats and metal to give us a rabid anti-fascist pit bull with a hatred of the system that makes Rage Against the Machine sound one-dimensional. Tonight their full on sonic attack had old fans and people just waiting for the Mad Professor enthralled with the energy, rhythm and anger of their set.

Mad Professor is something of an institution on the dub scene, having been around since the late 70s and working with the likes of Lee Perry, Massive Attack and Jah Shaka. Tonight he twiddles his knobs to create thunderous vibrations and rains peace and love down on the fields of Dorset. Guests float on and off the stage to join in the party, including Molara and Dub Dada, making for a wicked, varied, set that had the gathered masses groovin’ an a skankin’ to the end of the festival.

As all the main stages close down, the Wildcat Stage provided a few final hours of tranceadelic hedonism for those that were not quite ready to go to bed and to finish off probably the best festival of the century so far.

See Sam Samelia's photos from the weekend here

Saturday, August 12, 2006

ENDORSE IT IN DORSET: Probably Saturday... with some early Sunday chucked in

The pace started picking up a bit on Saturday and to be honest there were too many bands to mention here, but I will touch on the highlights.

The day started off gently though with a few hours in the kids area, including the gratuitous violence of Punch and Judy

New Look Tarantism, apart from a line up change magnus has also had a hair cut

Tarantism were a must see at midday. These lot are a LONG time favourite here at Iguana HQ. I cannot really mention them without dropping in that they did a gig for us the week that daughter number two was born, which had a lot to do with where Tara got her name. I got quite emotional at the thought that this was the first time Tara had seen the band perform live.

Anyway, I had not heard from, or indeed heard of, Tarantism for quite some time. I was beginning to think they had split, so to see them on the line up was quite exciting. This is something of a new line up from when I last saw them, but they still have that magical something that enables them to float between Celtic, ska, techno and dub seamlessly. The new line up gives them a slightly rockier edge than before and there are even hints of funk in the mix now.

Finding a new album on sale there was no hesitation to dig into me pocket, l also discovered there is now a re-mastered version of the original tape only first album which was obviously a must have.

Hayseed Dixie seem to spend more time in the UK than they do over in the US of A these days. Given the reception they get for their bluegrass metal mash up who can blame them. Metal classics such as ‘Hells Bells’ and ‘Ace of Spades’ were ripped apart and given the Dixie treatment and brought a smile to the faces of those that recognised them. Self-penned tracks such as ‘Kirby Hill’ and ‘Moonshiners Daughter’ also demonstrated that they are more than just a messed-up covers band and are quite handy at writing their own tunes. In fact, when the novelty of hearing stuff like ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ done country style wears off, the original stuff is actually better than the covers.

The Beat, still banging, and as sharp as ever

The Beat seem to be almost as popular now as they were back in the ska/mod revival of the early 80s. Tonight they demonstrated why; their infectious dubbed up ska with a conscience had everyone skanking. Mirror in the Bathroom’ was superb and when ‘Stand Down Margaret’ mutated into ‘Stand Down Tony’ and everyone joined in the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

Eat Static fried brains for over three hours with no let up

Eat Static finished the night off on the main stage with a massive three-hour set taking us into the wee small hours. As I have said previously, a couple of heads on stage playing with laptops and samplers is very rarely a spectator sport, but they managed to keep the masses grooving well into Sunday moring without ever risking becoming boring.

Even after Eat Static’s 3am finish there was still loads’ going on till about six. I ended up in such a state I could not decide which jacket I was supposed to be zipping up and found myself with two different jackets zipped together.

Friday, August 11, 2006

ENDORSE IT IN DORSET: Probably the first day of the festival

Nucleus Roots: Rootical and New line up

A three hour drive, combined with an ‘under the weather’ Tara Iguana and a five pm start for the festival meant we did not get to see much on Friday, but what we did see was top hole dear boy.

Nucleus Roots were first on the agenda, this Manchester based reggae outfit who have been skanking up dancehalls and fields across the nation for a good many years now. The vibrations given out by this new line up were a nice little warm up for the weekend.

Babyhead, zooted and booted

Babyhead were here to entertain us for the second time this summer, bringing their own brand of classy up tempo hip hop infused soulfully dubbed up ska. Are they a club band that go down well in a field? Or are they a festy band that go down well in nightclubs? Who knows, and who cares, they are just seriously slick and professional dudes that cannot be ignored.

Pronghorn, like an out of control tractor driver listening to Metal FM

Pronghorn took time out from organising everything tonight to give us a barn-storming cider-fuelled knees up blending hillbilly, punk, metal, skiffle and polka with a big cheesy grin. Like a Werthers mint covered in manure...... original and best!

A certain member of the Iguana Tribe needed to go to bed, so we missed Neville Staples of the Specials (was not really bothered) and Tarantism. Missing Tarantism was a disappointment, but they would be on again so we could live with that.

ENDORSE IT IN DORSET: Probably the best festival in Dorset

The back stage bar was strangely to front of the stage, so bands could sit upstairs and watch thier mates on stage

Well, well, well, what have we here? ENDORSE-IT-IN DORSET aint as good as the old skool pre Criminal Justice Act Days, but it certainly has the nearest thing to the vibe from those days we have encountered for a good ten years. Like a Travellers festival without, erm.. Travellers! Having said that there were quite a few cans of special brew and loads of characters that looked as if they might turn into crusties with the addition of some mud. All in all a wicked little do with a bit of the 'edge' that is sadly missing from most events these days.

Cardiff's very own Splott Brothers entertain the kids with thier own brand of comedy magic

The site was nicely laid out, 4 stages, dance tent, kids area, market and plenty of food and beer available. The camping area was a bit tight and some areas looked as if you would need a sledgehammer to get the tent pegs in, but I cant grumble cos we found a cracking spot with clean toilets and water near by and, most importantly, a really friendly bunch of like minded groovers with kids camped right next to us.

Cutting and sticking making noisy things in the cutting and sticking tent

Yip, a big shout to the Portland/Weymouth crew for welcoming us into your gang and for having a Jasmine for Tara to play with.

Nah, it can't really be them on stage... can it?

Over the last few years’ festivals have tended to have good line ups but little atmosphere (like the Larmer Tree just down the road) or have lots of atmosphere but a less than brilliant line up. This little beauty had it all, atmosphere and a wicked line up. A cool idea was to be selling a compilation CD with lots of the lesser-known bands on to give you a taste of what was to come. Unfortunately I did not give it a listen till I got home, had I heard it in advance there would definitely have been a few more bands I would have made an effort to see (Tip for Tony Viagra… make it available on line in advance next time geezer!).

The whole thing was run by Iguana favourites Pronghorn, who demonstrate their talents go way beyond being the UK’s number one cow-punk outfit. The best festival we have been to this century and a definite for next years summer planning.

More on the line up to follow……….

Monday, August 07, 2006

THE ESTEDDFOD: Stuck in the past???

The 'Chairing of the Bard' (watched from outside the packed tent). For those not in the know this is the equivilent of the World Cup for Welsh langauge poetry

I talk about the festivals I go to as if they were the only type of festival there is. Today I attended what is probably the oldest festival in Wales, the Eisteddfod.

I did not get to see as much of it as I would have liked to, I was working on a trade union stall, but I did get to have a little wander. Much of the site is made up of stalls for colleges, charities, banks, even Sw@nsea City FC. In fact there are so many stalls of this type it is hard to find any culture.

But you can find culture, there is a massive 3,000 capacity pink marquee which holds all sorts of cultural events, from clog dancing and choirs to poetry and harp playing. I think it good a showcase for Welsh language culture exists, but I think it sad that it is stuck in some bygone era. The Druids and all that malarkey are a spectacle and I am sure they would be even more interesting if I knew what the f@ck they were on about, but the whole thing ignores contemporary Welsh culture. How about Brith Gof (contemporary performance art), Llwber Llythog, Gorkys Zygotic Mynci, or one of the numerous adventurous welsh language bands that are about.

I might be wrong and the modern is represented, but if it is it is well hidden.

Check out Ankst Records, and Crai Records

Sunday, August 06, 2006

STEREO MCs BIG IT UP: 90s funksters play Cardiff Big Weekend

Cardiff’s ‘Big Weekend’ has been running for several years now. It is a big free event put on by the council with a live stage and the largest travelling fun fair in Wales. Each year it gets bigger, and it is estimated 250,000 people attend the event over the three days.

Oddly, the bigger it gets, the crapper the line up seems to be. I have memories of some pretty decent bands playing there; Dub War, Afro Celt Sound System, Fun loving Criminals, Ladysmith Black Mombaza and many more. Perhaps it is unfair to say the line-ups these days are totally crap, but for every decent band you have three or four bands like ‘Katrina and the Waves’, ‘The Alarm’ and ‘Kubb’. I suppose at the end of the day, it is free music for the masses, but I cant help remembering years when I sat there all day and enjoyed just about every band.

The main reason for nipping down tonight was to catch the Stereo MCs, whose 1992 album ‘Connected’ remains one of my favourite albums of the 90s. They seemed to go into hiding for a while and it was 2001 before they released their next album ‘Deep Down and Dirty’. It is a class album but I think the momentum had been lost so they have not quite received the recognition they have deserved of late.

They were funky, chunky, soulful and groovy, mixing numbers from throughout their 17-year career. Well worth making the effort to get down to the big smoke.

After the MCs I was dragged into the fun fair by Tara Iguana, who is staying with me for the week. She clearly has a stronger stomach than me because I nearly threw up on the first ride she took me on. That will teach me to watch a ride first to see what it does!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

PUNK GOES TO COLLEGE: Damned headline mini festival in Usk College

This was the first festival i had been to where there were more toilets than punters

The festival season is full of clashes, but in August it starts getting a bit mad. This weekend there is a choice of THE DAMNED AND 999 IN USK, POWERSTEPPERS IN WEST WALES, THE BIG WEEKEND IN CARDIFF, SICK NOTE IN BATH, BENNIES ANNUAL TRIKER PARTY IN BLACKWOOD, CARDIFF CITY’S FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON IN BARNSLEY or THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF WALES’ ANNUAL RED BARBEQUE (And the important added extra of an Emergency demo in London against the nonsense going on in Lebanon). MMMMM… decisions, decisions. Which would it be?

It was not an easy decision, but we ended up with a short trip to Usk. The site had a capacity of 3,000 but I doubt if there were 1,000 there, which was a shame, but it did mean there was no queue for the Black Rat Cider. There were very few youngsters about, mostly people who were around thirty years ago, some of them have grown up and this was a walk down memory lane for them, some are still regular gig goers but have moved on from punk, and some of them looked like they were stuck in 1976 and have only gone up a size or two in clash shirt.

I did comment that we should have done an ‘old head bingo’ with names of people we could have guessed would have come out of the wood work for it, there was a nice showing of old faces I had not seen for a while.

Pig answers the question 'who ate all the pies'

This System kills were the first band I wanted to see, but for various reasons (including hanging about for the artist formerly known as ginger, who can never make his mind up) we did not see them. We did catch singer Pig having a light snack though.

Did not pay much attention to the first band we caught, all old skool covers, so a bit of a waste of time really. Then it was Girlschool. They were one of the first bands I ever saw outdoors, supporting Motorhead in pot vale football ground in the late 70s/early 80s. They were interesting for nostalgia purposes, but they were never one of my favourites so they were ok for a grin but did not set the world on fire.

The along came 999. Slightly heavier than 30 years ago but have weathered the storm nicely. Many old skool bands still treading the boards can sound quite embarrassing, but 999 were always a bit more that three chord wonders, so their music has stood the test of time. They rolled out all the classics, but they were polished up from being played for 30 years.

Then came, for me, the big surprise of the night. I never really paid much attention to the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, even when Alex Harvey was alive, but I have to say these boys really are very good (not quite sensational though). The few numbers I recognised were pretty true to the departed Alex and far from walking in Alex’s shadow, the front man added his own little magic and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Not sure what the die-hard fans thought of him, but for a band I was not expecting to be any good they really were a pleasant surprise. Will be looking for stuff to down load later.

The Damned. What can you say? First punk band to release a single, first to release an album, first to break up, first to reform. They have a back catalogue any band would be proud of and with Grave Disorder they proved they have not lost it. In fact, although they have strayed from what could be described as punk these days, they are possibly better now than they ever were. Tight, slick, well-oiled, intelligent, professional rock musicians that can throw in the odd guitar solo without sounding pompous and can tear it up like no other punk band ever could.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Well, it might feel like we have had the longest summer in the history of long summers, but there’s still plenty of staggering about drunk in sun-scorched fields wearing novelty shirts you would not dare wear down the local drinking rough cider and losing your lighters to be done.

Here is a round up of a few of the events still to come.

CARDIFF BIG WEEKEND 4/5/6 AUGUST: its big, its in Cardiff, its on the weekend, and its FREE. Some decent bands tucked away amongst the crap and the biggest mobile fun fair in Wales. (Not as good as it used to be!)

USK MUSIC EVENT 5TH AUGUST: it is in Usk and it is an event involving music… actually a half decent line up, THE DAMNED, 999, THIS SYSTEM KILLS, THE SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND(??!!) and many more

CELTIC BLUE ROCK 5TH AUGUST One day thing in beautiful west Wales with Powersteppers

BIG GREEN GATHERING: its big, its green.. you get the picture…. HAPPENING AS I TYPE

ENDORSE IT IN DORSET 11 TO 13 AUGUST: The Iguana tribe will be there… as will RDF, Senser, Hayseed Dixie, the Beat, Pronghorn and many more… will you?

BULLDOG BASH 10th to 13th AUGUST Biker Heaven

SHAMBALA FAMILY CAMP 16 to 20 AUGUST A bit like the Shambala festival, but more kid orientated

EARTH FIRST SUMMER GATHERING 16 to 20 AUGUST : Eco warriors of the world unite

FLOATING LOTUS 18 to 20 AUGUST: gathering near malvern, with Kava Kava, Astralasia, and our butty the Earthdoctor... only 300 tickets!

GREEN MAN: 18 to 20TH AUGUST: Near Brecon, sold out!

BEAUTIFUL DAYS 18 TO 20 AUGUST: levellers gathering in Plymouth, Sold out

SECRET GARDEN PARTY 18 to 20 AUGUST Shhhhh it’s a secret (nice website though)

REGGAE FESTIVAL OF WALES 19th AUGUST Is it on? Is it off? Who knows!

SOLFEST: 25 to 27TH AUGUST: wicked looking do in Cumbria… SOLD OUT

CARLING (READING/LEEDS) AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY: Commercial nonsense from Vince power


CAMP FOR CLIMATE ACTION 26 AUG TO 4TH SEPTEMBER: grass roots activist gathering thing

OFF THE TRACKS 1 to 3 SEPTEMBER Festival in a hotel, much better than it sounds, 45 real ales and Dreadzone

CROW POINT 15 to 17 SEPTEMBER: Celebrating 100 years of Newport transported bridge, with Asian Dub Foundation FREE

This really is scratching the surface. The best resource for festival information is Festival Eye magazine. Unfortunately Andy does not put the dates on line, to encourage people to buy the mag. This years mag is the best ever and worth getting your mits on... even if we are half way through the season!

And if that aint enough for you.... the footy starts again on saturday