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 Hannah Golightly

The Fag Machine + I Am Austin @ Focus Wales Festival, 28.05.11

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by Hannah Golightly

On the surface, Wrexham north Wales seems like any other dead-end ex-mining town.

But scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find a goldmine of musical talent and a thriving live scene, producing bands with a higher calibre of creativity and diversity than can be found in most big cities. Maybe it’s born out of a lack of things to do. In a place like Wrexham you only have three options for kicks: do drugs, become a boy racer or Form A Band. Fortunately, many of Wrexham’s population have opted for the latter. And people are beginning to pay attention. It says a lot that the Focus Wales Music Festival and Industry Conference is being hosted here this weekend.

A band I heard a while ago on MySpace are playing. I Am Austin are the loudest two-piece band you are likely to hear anywhere … but before I get to them I wanna talk about the surprise gem of a band that I saw on the Emerging Talent Stage a few hours earlier.

The Fag Machine (pictured above) are amazing. That’s the first thing you need to know. As they strut across the stage and take their places, I am unaware of the impact they are about to have on me, my friend, and the rest of the audience here. They plug in, turn on and take to the mic, as veteran drummer Lazlo pounds the drums into a bassy dark swell of rhythm and the band unleash a cacophony of wild untamed sound. The Fag Machine take pieces of New Wave bleakness, then mix them with b-movie horror film humour, post-punk attitude and theatrical posturing as the singer shares his torment with the mic. It’s the first time my friend has heard them and she is already in awe and takes the first opportunity to seek out the band members after they finish to find out where she can buy their record. When is the last time an unknown band inspired YOU to make such an impulse purchase? Money talks.

Unfortunately for my friend, TFM’s guitarist Iggy informs us that their record has sold out on CD at the moment. But it’s not all bad news, apparently they are about to get in the studio and record an album. “Hurry up and do it,” we say. This thought is echoing around the room. Surely it’s time a record company picked them up as The Fag Machine are ripe for the picking. After all they already have the crucial trinity in place: The Songs, The Style and The Audience. In the meantime, we can comfort ourselves with the tracks that are available to download.

It feels like I am standing on the set of Later… With Jools inside the Central Station venue tonight. As soon as one band finishes on the Emerging Talent Stage, the band on the Focus Stage starts up before the audience has a chance to walk over and take their places – all that’s missing is Jools Holland himself.

Various bands and singer-songwriters come and go, covering a range of genres from straight-up punk to folk to metal, emo and country. The vibe is open-minded and laidback. Someone has even mic-ed up a typewriter and is using it as a percussion instrument to the delight of the audience. Sex might sell, but innovation and novelty have their charms.

Speaking of sex, finally I Am Austin (pictured below) take to the Focus Stage and start banging out their sleazy repertoire of dirty fuzzed-up bass and booming Queens Of The Stone Age drums. Smoke seems to be erupting from the drumkit, where singer-drummer Mitch is holding court while hooded bass magician Adam dances about niftily playing bass riffs that defy physics. If The Fag Machine were a band to listen to and jump up and down to, then I Am Austin are a band to dance and make love to. I have absolutely no idea what they are singing about when Mitch belts out ‘L.A.F.S.’ in the voice of Chris Cornell’s Welsh twin brother, and I don’t care – I’m too busy being immersed in their sound as my body starts moving and I am all but lost.

The set continues, touching on sounds stolen from Fat Of The Land-era Prodigy, moments of Daft Punk by proxy, Death From Above 1979, Soundgarden, and their own secret blend of music that can punch your lights out. It’s been a while since any new music this heavy turned me on. It is like grunge at its heaviest, dance at its deadliest, all wrapped up into four-minute-long hook-filled bite-sized pieces. When their set ends to shouts of “More!” (which they don’t give us, such are the tight constraints of the time slots) I feel nourished and satisfied.

Photography: Hannah Golightly

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