We weren’t in the best of moods as we got stuck in road works for over an hour on the notorious A55 on a grey murky Friday evening on our way to see what could only be loosely described as a “Happening”
Geoff my trusty friend for all obscure music happenings was driver for the evening and to be honest we didn’t really know what was in store for us at Bangor only that one of the most important influential Welsh bands of all time Datblygu were playing to a backdrop of an Andy Warhol film.
Either way it was an opportunity not to be missed as I had caught them last year at “All Tomorrows Parties” in Prestatyn when the Stewart Lee curated event had put them on and despite “technical difficulties” they blew me away on how well they took on a audience who were made up of the curious and won them over completely with ease.
I have been a fan of the band from their early days and once put out a compilation tape entitled “Sprat and Mackerel” that featured one of their tracks Hen Ysgol Cloff a short dark brooding track that had menace and poetry a plenty. The strange thing then was that Datbygu were largely ignored by the conservative Welsh media and only a few hardy weirdo’s and souls attended their early gigs.
It was the presence of John Peel who championed them to a mainly English audience that their songs started to make a breakthrough and of course music legend Rhys Mwyn’s early compilations [on Recordiau Anhrefn] were often the source.
I don’t really want to discuss history as Datblygu aren’t a nostalgic type of band and prefer to keep making innovative and experimental music to whoever will listen, but I expect that even if no one were listening Datblygu would still exist as I don’t really think they care about judgment or acclaim.
I wasn’t even sure we were at the right venue as we had not been to Pontio before and the lashing rain in the darkness made our bearings difficult. It was reassuring to see DAVID R EDWARDS vocalist of Datblygu with carrier bag and cigs, smoking outside oblivious the excitement inside where all the movers and shakers of the North Wales band scene were inside with a healthy sprinkling of younger people as well.
The venue is impressive with a jazz band playing in the foyer with a well stocked bar attracting the excited punters as we wait and chatter. We walk into the cinema and see it reassuringly full, with Pat’s Casio organ taking centre stage in front of a huge screen.
Datblygu casually walk on to respectful applause with Warhol’s film “The Kiss” as backdrop. To be honest I didn’t really take much notice of the film, as despite loving the Velvet Underground I can take or leave some of the films he produced but it worked well in this instance with David’s imposing presence making shadows on the screen and so on.
It’s hard to take your eyes off David as he has charisma aplenty and a slightly brooding presence that attracts your attention; not that he wants or even notices it. Pat is often underrated as a member, but she is probably the most important thing about it all as she composes perfect dark landscapes with such ease and modesty.
There are some old songs like Mynd and a brilliant Dafydd Iwan Yn Y Glaw but also new songs that include a nod to “Wild Man Fischer” as David drinks from a milk carton and prowls the stage like a trapped lion in a cage often leaving the stage, adding to keyboards, live-producing, a bit like Mark E Smith.
The two band members walk off coolly with the keyboards and samples still playing for about five minutes on their own whilst the film plays in the background. Perfect.
David walks on in a uncomfortable manner at the end to thank us, not really used to attention but like this excellent venue’s space, the audience was both respectful and polite and the whole thing worked really well when it really might not have.
I am writing this fairly soon after the event without giving me time for true reflection but I am still amazed on how well the performance went. So I will declare that it is good to know that they are still the most important band in Wales after all these years.