It’s 3pm, the gates have been open an hour, and the first act of the day are about to hit the main stage and open proceedings, it’s a band you’ll be familiar with; CLEAR THE AUDITORIUM . The young Welsh electronic-rock 4-piece won the Young Promoters Network battle of the bands and as a result, got to kick off the festival. The boys were as charismatic as ever, playing through tracks such as “Outbreak”, “Eye For An Eye” and “We Are The Danger”, but it was clear that performing on a stage of that size was new to them and you didn't quite get the full CTA experience. Performing at this level however will come naturally to them sooner rather than later, and this was a promising start both for the festival, and the band.
Second band, second stage, and we’re treated to one of the highlight sets of the day very early on in the form of COLT 45 . The Cumbrian based 3-piece delivered a stunning set of RISE AGAINST inspired punk-rock from their albums “Coughing Up Confessions” and the more recent “The Tide Is Turning”, and really it’s all over far too soon. Brilliant display and the bar is set high already.
REAPER IN SICILY  are no strangers to Merthyr Rock and this year they’re back performing in the YPN Up-And-Coming tent. As predicted they put on a great performance churning out the crowd pleaser's, and it’s also worth noting that their new members Mitch Ponting (guitar) and Sean Ruck (drums) have effortlessly slotted into their respective roles, but the tent itself IS small and really doesn't quite suit the bands energy. They worked well with what they had at their disposal, with their brand new single getting a great reception, things no doubt looking good for the future.
Nantwich’s BLITZ KIDS  hit the main stage at 5pm and prove why they’re one of the biggest rising UK bands on the scene right now, off the back of their hit album “The Good Youth”. Songs like “Run For Cover” and “Sold My Soul” going down well with the afternoons entertainment now in full swing.
LOSTALONE  were up shortly after on the second stage, and with a live set said to be “must see”, expectations were high for the Derby based trio. They performed well but didn't quite manage to have a complete grasp of the crowd; possibly down to a lot of people were there to watch a new band, as opposed to being actual fans, who knows...
Next up we’re treated to the set of the day, courtesy of ANTI-FLAG . The Pennsylvanian punks delivered on all fronts and had the crowd begging for more. With a back catalogue spanning twenty years they pleased fans of all ages and even started up the first proper circle pits of the day. This was straight up, high-octane punk rock at its finest and it laid waste to Merthyr Rock.
Keeping in tune with American punk rock, we take it down a peg or two now for REEL BIG FISH  who bring the trumpets and the fun by the bucket load. Their ska-infused style of up-beat pop-punk had the crowd singing and dancing and kept spirits high into the early evening, ensuring summer was still in full swing, especially with hits such as “Monkey Man” and a brilliant cover of A-HA’s “Take On Me”.
THE BLACKOUT  never fail to disappoint, and close the second stage with a bang. Being home-town heroes, they get a great crowd and lap up the opportunity to play such a big show in what’s essentially their back yard. Playing tracks from “Hope” and “The Best In Town”, plus with probably the best banter of the day courtesy of front-man Sean Smith, it’s impossible not to enjoy their set and we look forward to their next tour in October.
Finally then, it’s time to close the festival and at 9pm, the head liners, TAKING BACK SUNDAY  grace the stage amidst a colourful light display to break up the night sky. They perform well, opening up with recent hit single “Stood A Chance” off the acclaimed album “Happiness Is”, and fleet back and forth their back catalogue playing some crowd favourites, however given some of the performances we've seen today, it’s somewhat of an anti-climax and the whole set can’t help but appear just a bit mellow for a headline act, but they still had some great sing-along's.
All in all, Merthyr Rock’s return to the festival calendar has been nothing less than triumphant. It may be a relatively young festival, and will need time to flourish, but given the right support, this annual event in the valleys of South Wales can become more than a hidden gem for lovers of live music for years to come. Here’s to 2015; the road to Merthyr begins again…
Photo's courtesy of Menai Richards: https://www.facebook.com/MenaiRichardsPhotography