‘Women Of Rock Tour’ – Pontypool, The Dragonffli – 8 April 2017 Print E-mail
Written by David O'Neill   
Saturday, 22 April 2017 04:30

This ‘Women Of Rock’ tour is the brainchild of Matt Hall (Scarsun) and Emily Bates (Digital Criminals). As a concept it proved to be a great night, with a very good crowd. So, if you get chance to see one close to you, JFDI (Just F’in Do It).


The Dragonffli in Pontypool is one of the smaller venues in the area, but Nick Byrne has been rocking this area with some awesome gigs for almost three years, which is about as long as I’ve been going there - funny that! If I were an estate agent it would be described as “compact and bijou”, but it has a heart that rocks. Given what is happening in Womanby Street in Cardiff, with the threat of closure of the music heart of the city, small venues like the Dragonffli, The Doll’s House and The Patriots are a triumvirate of venues in close proximity to each other that continue to support local and touring original live music. #savewomanbystreet. #supportlivemusic.  


Vanessa-Batten Boom-Sons


The Boom Sons were first on the bill and what an opener! I’ve seen these guys a few times and they impress me more each time. They’re a three piece grungy genre of band that do what they do extremely well. Vanessa Batten has an incredible voice and she plays bass guitar too! The bass is bigger than her, but her voice is bigger than any room I’ve seen them in.


They opened with an instrumental track originally titled ‘Intro’ before swinging straight into ‘Radio’ (an as yet unrecorded track), ‘Raise The Alarm’, ‘Heart Attack’, ‘Country’ (another new track), ‘Through The Rain’, ‘Safe’, ‘Move Your Derriere’ and ‘CandyFloss Sandwitch’ (not misspelt) - all from their seven track LP ‘Weird Is The New Black’, (which is available on Spotify, but really should be in your collection!). Solid backing from the rhythm section of Richard Mears (drums) and Vanessa on Bass is superbly grunged up by Nathan Morgan on guitar. Vanessa has a vocal blend akin to Cerys Matthews (Catatonia) and Skin (Skunk Anansie), with a bit of Gwen Stefani and Kate Bush thrown in, which goes from the depths of Skins’ lower range to Bush’s higher register, with the music going from full on rock to crying clean guitar which complements the vocals really well. I really can’t decide which is my favourite track of theirs, but the versatility is worth a couple of quid for the CD at the gig. These really are a band not to be missed.



Emma-Rees Jenovese


After that start, we were then served up a portion of Jenovese (rhymes with cheese), a four piece band from the Neath area… but they are far from cheesy. They describe themselves as anthemic/melodic rock and to go with that theme James Rees on guitar had an Engl stack that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Principality stadium! Thankfully the living room sized venue didn’t have to cope with the potential this displayed! Emma Rees (vocals) Jason Sims(bass) - who looked the part, all tattoos and dreadlocks, which he manfully shook on a regular basis- and Jack Pritchard kicked off with a twinkling backing track that rapidly switched into definitive power drive anthem called ‘Love U To Death’ from their debut EP. A very powerful backbeat provided by Jason and Jack is manfully power chorded by James Rees, which sat nicely underneath the Nancy Wilson like vocals of Emma.


This opening is rapidly followed by ‘Broken’ from their debut EP, ‘Despair’ (from the second EP), ‘What’s The Difference?’, ‘Stronger’, ‘It All Comes Back To You, and ‘We Are We Are’, the last a typically anthemic singalong for the growing crowd, who joined in enthusiastically with the chorus. It all reminded me a bit of a cross between the early Metallica sound with Heart vocals. So second up and the night gets going!




Jessica-Irving Scarsun


Third up was the alt metal offering of Scarsun, fronted by Jessica Irving - and what an offering it turned out to be!


‘Not For You’, ‘Tides Of Ghosts’, ‘Take It All Away’, ‘Only You’, ‘L’ Apelle Du Vide’ (‘Call of the Void’), ‘High’ and ‘Behind The Veil’ were the offerings from this valleys based quintet. However, only ‘High’ is currently available for public consumption, via all the usual social media outlets. The intricate guitar work of Matt Hall is held together by the rhythm section of Aaron Jukes (rhythm), Paul Boschen, (Bass) and Ceiran Jenkins on drums who didn’t miss a beat throughout. However, the crying vocals of Jess are almost good enough to bring tears from a stone. The musicianship of the band is superb and the enthusiasm of Matt is obvious by his constant movement around the (small) stage.




Jade-Ball Dan-Fry Digital-Criminals


Finally, the piece de resistance! Digital Criminals. I’ve seen these a few times too! After this offering I’ll go see them again, and so should you! Dan Fry (guitar) cut his touring teeth with his brother Chris (from the prog band Magenta). This shows so much (not the prog) as his stage presence is only outclassed by that of Emily Bates (vocals). If you look at the album cover from The Boom Sons, Vanessa Batten has a foxes head. If she’s a fox, then Emily is a full on tigress, prowling around the audience getting in the faces of all, an experience few will forget. Bass is incredibly well thumbed by James Hardwick who also gigs around the stage as if he’s on springs. To the final woman of the ‘Women Of Rock’ tour, the lithe, shaven headed Jade Ball on drums.


They open with ‘Emily’, starting vocals with a megaphone with “before it goes any further”, a vocal tongue-twister of an opener where she continues to sing and gyrate back and forth ably supported by Dan and Jimmi on backing vocals. Dan’s guitar playing is technically superb, clean and distortion sweetly intermingled throughout all the tracks. This band are about as polished as a 13-year old boys new found joystick! ‘Got To Go There’ (yet to be released) is rapidly followed by ‘Dark Days’, the single from first EP and the potential for audience participation is easily seen with the chorus (and participated too).


Emily-Bates Digital-Criminals


‘Where Is Your God?’ is not an anti-religious protest song but has very cleverly written lyrics and a much slower feel to it than many of the other offerings from the DCs. ‘Bury Your Head’, from the latest EP, opens with some acapella vocals from the main trio with James holding court with the bass being the strongest part of the song. This is followed by ‘Are The Kids Alright?’, opening with some clever guitar drum work and leads into Emily who continues with the vocal gymnastics and the dark theme of child abuse. This may have passed the audience by when they joined in with the chorus.


‘Sink Down Low’, from the second EP, kicks off with some clever alternate beating feet from Jade and sees Emily swaying and swinging down to the ground. The final offering of the night is ‘Move It!’, a full on upbeat ending to the night with Emily once again dancing around the audience, enticing them to “Get up, just move it”. After another breathless performance the show ended with the audience asking for an encore! Doesn’t get better than that!




As one happy punter in the audience said: “£2 for that! What a fantastic night!” I can’t agree more!


PHOTO CREDIT:  All photos © David O'Neill/Bandtogs/Über Rock.


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