REVIEW gig Funeral For A Friend Y Plas, Cardiff Students Union, Cardiff 06.04.16

The Farewell Funeral

A quick-fire query was pondered on, in the light of the evening set in motion... why would the Wales-based quintet be placed in a surprisingly small venue for what is soon to be their final farewell?

But to anyone that understands the bands stimulus for being who they are, would know that the intimacy of Y Plas held the close quarters needed to look their follower’s dead in the eye and thank them for their constant support and the mutual love that blossomed over their sixteen year existence.

Zoax were an opening act to be reckoned with. An almost immediate sigh of relief was exhaled from the audience as they came to realise that this was no awkward introduction to the night. The ‘Jack Black eccentric’ known as Adam Carroll was nothing short of a delight as he strode onto the stage and engaged the front row faces with a sinister smile, a magnificent beard and a classic quip which had grown to be the norm for the Irish front man.

Proving to be incredibly theatrical in his wonderfully weird characteristics, he took up an offer to join the public and paced the middle of the empty centre circle, repeatedly persuading the introvert border to clap and move as much as possible.

The remaining members stood fast and added their own elements to the performance, ranging from the drummer’s bomb dismantling concentration to the string musician’s erratic stage tremors. It was difficult to believe tonight was a sold out show considering Zoax had an average sized audience, warranting through their set what should have been a full to capacity sweat-fest.

Shai Halud did not wait long before making their presence known. On strutted the sandworms of Pompano Beach, with lead guitarist Matthew Fox sporting a thermos of an unknown content. Alcoholic or not, he had definitely come prepared. He and the bands bassist shared a joint attitude towards impulsive encouragement through a consistent fist pump that frequently struck the air during their songs. It also became increasingly difficult to differentiate a drumstick from Mr Watson’s dreadlocks, which sprang to life with each ferocious fill.

Not leaving much room for the crowd to breathe between tracks, Matty Carlock was not only persistent in honing his furious singing spirit but determined to make an impact, which proved to be a relatively straightforward feat for the talented New Jerseyan. A realisation also occurred which illustrated that these support acts were not just part of a well-orchestrated tour but were all paying their respects in a manner most suitable to the headliners.

A steady surge of incoming spectators slowly assembled as Casey McHale’s drum kit emerged from its blanket-strewn prison and the last sound checks were finalised as the lights lowered and out walked the Welsh entourage with a wail of delight to welcome them.

Matthew Davies emerged rocking a Volcom cap and asked if everyone had recovered from the following evening of playing through the ‘Hours’ album, which was met with a shared whooping but an undeniably anxious underline to press on into ‘Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation’s' material.

The crushing opening note of “Rookie Of The Year” blared out, sending out a blast wave which transformed the gathering into a frenzy. It came across instantaneously that the band were all too aware that this would be their last show under this title in the bosom of their home country. They knew exactly how much they needed to raise the bar and escalate the ambiance to levels of eruption.

Third song in and Mr Carroll decided to grace the stage yet again as he was invited on to take the second vocalist role for “Juneau”. The raw magnitude of his devil belches unified with Matt’s on-key serenade created bedlam among the rabble, sending the venue into a lifted uproar.

The playful nature emanating between the musicians was irrefutable and heart warming to watch as Gavin Burrough, Kris Roberts and Richard Boucher all kept within close proximity of each other as Matt and Mr McHale focused on their craft.

“Not everyone who flees a war-torn country is a fucking terrorist” and “don’t believe everything you read in the papers” were but a few words of wisdom uttered that night as touching tracks such as “Your Revolution Is A Joke” summoned lighters to the heavens and song introductions left the microphone overpowered and defeated by the connected vocals of the entire venue.

“This Year’s Most Open Heartbreak” awakened the nostalgia and became one of many highlights as another guest vocalist entered and revealed himself as none other than Ryan Richards, the group’s first drummer/joint vocalist. The middle of the floor imploded as the shoulder to shoulder experience quickly expanded into a miasma of bodies hurled sadistically back and forth. With a wave of dedicated cries and claps, Ryan embraced every member and made his exit.

The close was nigh and lumps in throats began to take shape as Matt thanked the attendees for being there with the band over all of the years and albums they had come to create for them.

“Please feel free to lose yourself” became the channel that roused “Roses for the dead” which came finger-bashing its way in to the viewer’s immense pleasure. As difficult as it was to watch Matt choke up on the lyrics, the faceless voices of Y Plas stepped in to lend him a helping hand right up until the moment the five-piece took their concluding bows.

Funeral For a Friend was an apt description of the huge congregation that had been drawn together to see them depart, and as Matt shed a tear of his own departing the stage, the entire venue broke out into song to remind them that their history was theirs and “your history is mine”.

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