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

Saturday, July 25, 2009


The Powersteppers launch new dub night in Swansa

Pretty Shitty City. A harsh and possibly inaccurate description of Swansea, but one that it is going to have to live down for may years following the cult movie, Twin Town. It is only down the road from iguana HQ, but it is a place I have not really bothered much with. I have been to union meetings there, I have travelled through it on my way to the Gower and, of course, have had ‘interesting’ trips to watch Cardiff City playing at both the old Vetch and the Liberty Stadium. Oh.. and last year I went to see Ozric tentacles in Sin City, a gig memorable for the band taking a half an hour break to have a spliff in the middle of the set, which in fairness, seems like a pretty Swansea thing to do (there you go, I have fallen into the trap of stereotyping the place). Tonight though, we head for the Monkey Café, a venue that looks like it might smash my preconceptions of the city.

The Monkey Café aims to bring a touch of jazzy, funky coolness to this coastal town. Inspired by venues in Australia, Europe and Asia, in particular Schemes like the arts factory in Byron Bay Australia. It aspires to be a “meeting place for artists and musicians and a forum for their work, a progressive and ethical policy in terms of business practice, styles of food, waste management and a relaxed and bohemian atmosphere”.

Originally opening in 1998 as a restaurant with a difference, in 2004 it expanded and gained nightclub status. Since then they have played host to artists such as Hybrid, Freestylers, Scratch Perverts, Dreadzone, Mr C and LTJ Bukem. They host regular club nights, including salsa, Latino, funk and hip-hop nights. Tonight we are Monkey bound for the launch of a new monthly Dub night and who better to kick the night off than The Powersteppers with Molara on the mic.

Being a nightclub, things don’t really kick off till traditional pub closing time. My travelling companions tonight are veterans of the Monkey and often don’t leave Blackwood till midnight to get there. Tonight we have a few jugs in Cardiff then head west. We arrive about half eleven and the place is almost empty, so head for one of the two ‘smoking balconies’ to ‘acclimatise’ ourselves for what is to come. As we wait, the walls, doors and teeth rattle as Colin sound checks in the main room.

A quick scout around reveals a nice funky ground floor bar restaurant thing. Head up to the first floor and on the left you have the main room which will hold about 400 sardines with, what has to be said, a pretty fine sound system which handles the bass very nicely if you are stood in the room, but when in the toilet you think you are in the middle of an earthquake. On the right you have the smoking balcony, complete with its own bar and extremely friendly bar staff. Leg it up to the second floor and you have another smoking balcony, which security tend not to pay too much attention to, and a chill out room.

All the staff are friendly and laid back, even the security chick dressed all in black with bum length blonde dreads and looks like she an extra from Kill Bill.

The balcony slowly fills up with reprobates, rascals and rogues, with a few bohemians chucked in for good measure.

Eventually the main room opens. Colin twiddles and tweaks his knobs like a good ‘un and people drift in and out to check the vibrations. The dub connoisseurs set up camp in the corners and of the room and let the heavy weight bass lines wash over them, but the lure of the smoking balcony proves too much for those that have just dropped by for a late night. Eventually Molara picks up the Mic and soon the smoking balcony empties as the lure of the dance floor becomes too much. Those in the know nod, knowingly. For those that are new to this, smiles of discovery and skanking feet are the order of the day.

Then at lost track of the time O’clock, the Powersteppers give way to Manasseh in Session with Brother Culture on the mic, live and direct, straight outta Brixton SW9 for some rootical sound system stylee goings on to keep the bass lines coming and the feet moving.

In no time at all it is 4am and we have to head back to civilisation, with a quick stop at an all night superstore to buy some cheese!

Monkey Café? Yeah, not bad, certainly more bohemian than your average nightclub and whilst it may not have smashed my preconceptions of Swansea, it certainly dented them.

PS a big shout goes out to Mr Pat Pending (as seen on Dragons Den) for staying straight and driving home at dawn. A trooper once more.

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