The band that has the honour of opening Merthyr Rock 2012 is Cardiff-based four-piece The Undivided. Merthyr Rock prides itself on putting young Welsh acts on the bill and this young band certainly earns their place today. With a sound reminiscent of early 2000’s emo a lá Saves The Day but grungier, they provide an energetic and enjoyable opening to the festival. They have genuine potential and a great variation on a well-worn sound and are a surprisingly good opening to the day.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Up next, on the main stage, are locals and battle of the band winners Tone Damage, comprised of five kids playing rock and roll in the style of School of Rock. It is the kind of sound that would be debauched if the band weren’t from the local sixth form. Despite playing a clichéd style, the band is confident and semi-tight live. They are clearly talented musicians and in time their sound will develop. A tip for them may be to change their name, though.

Swapping back to the James McClaren outdoor stage, the next band on is The Lash. They are a female-fronted affair with a Juliette and the Licks influenced, rock and blues style sound. Heralding their arrival on stage with a drum roll was probably meant to be atmospheric but ends up being a bit confusing. They have some decent sleazy, bluesy, rock and roll tunes but perhaps have grandiose ambitions above their station. They are perfectly listenable though, and provide a good warm up to the growing crowd of locals and music fans; such is the nature of this local festival.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Back on the main stage Futures are on and they temper the atmosphere with their chilled brand of pop-rock. With keyboards and electronic influences, they are by far the most complete sounding band of the afternoon thus far. The blissful vibe goes down well with the crowd, as songs from their new album mix well with tracks from their acclaimed ‘The Holiday’ EP. Closing the set with the single ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf,’ the band elicit the first real sing-along moment of the festival.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Welsh folk-rock outfit (noticing a Celtic pattern here?) The People, The Poet are up next. Formerly Tiger Please but now with a new name and a softer musical output, the Pontypridd lads are here today playing tracks off their new EP but as a full band. So instead of gentle acoustics, we are treated to more poppy versions of the tracks that sound no less catchy. They close with a rousing version of ‘The Trip’ and leave the crowds with a fuzzy feeling that lasts as the sun goes down on the first day of Merthyr Rock.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Back in the main stage tent, the conspicuously American Saves The Day take to the stage. Not letting their transatlantic status in an otherwise British festival deter them, the veterans made it their job to represent the United States the best they could. Thundering into life with ‘Firefly’ and the electrifying ‘Shoulder To The Wheel,’ tonight the band are on top form. Mixing newer material like ‘The End’ with classics like ‘Anywhere With You’ produces a high energy set and unlike last week at Reading Festival, where I felt the set fell a little flat, tonight the band are fully engaged. Finishing with a double header of ‘Can’t Stay The Same’ and ‘At Your Funeral,’ Saves The Day do an admirable job tonight on a bill where they are the only American band.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Headliners Razorlight seem an odd fit on the lineup and there is much curiosity about how these once-mighty indie darlings are going to perform tonight. Dressing your new backing band in massive pimp hats is an interesting entrance to make, and one that answers no questions about whether Johnny Borrell’s ostentatious behaviour has been quelled. There is a new earnestness to Razorlight however. They rocket through the hits in front of a crowd who are lapping up them, playing with verve and determination. Songs like ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘In The Morning’ are dispatched with early, and allow Borrell and Co to play some new material, which for the most part is classic Razorlight, all jangly, Libertines-esque guitars. ‘Somewhere Else’ is another massive sing along and it is at this point that I realise that I am actually, perversely, quite enjoying myself. Despite the theatrics, the attitude and the ridiculousness of the situation, it is a fun set. Closing with massive anthem ‘America,’ Razorlight tonight have attained some kind of redemption for their past crimes, and shown Merthyr Tydfil a good time all at once.

View more of Already Heard’s coverage of Merthyr Rock 2012 here.

Words by Tom White (@WhiteyWitters). Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett (@SarahLouise152)

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