By Terry Marland, Rock At Night Wales
REVIEW: FOCUS WALES – October 2021
Wrexham once again welcomed an estimated 15,000 festival goers to the annual Focus Wales event. The three days of music and arts delighted audiences from 7th – 9th October and featured over 250 live acts across twenty stages as well as art, film screenings and conferences.
The festival made a welcome return after last year’s Covid enforced absence. The line-up again featured a rich variety of acts that included Richard Hawley, Lucy Spraggan, Kelly Lee Owens and Don Letts alongside a host of emerging artists from Wales and around the world.
The town was a hive of activity as festival goers hopped from one location to another to submerge themselves in the eclectic mix of music on offer. The venues ranged from intimate settings in local pubs, to the majestic 16th century St. Giles’ church in the heart of the town. The heartbeat of operations was Ty Pawb (translated from Welsh means “everybody’s house”) that hosted a raft of Music and conference events and was buzzing with activity as industry bods rubbed shoulders with aspiring artists.
Rock at Night sampled some of the acts on offer, concentrating on international artists, emerging local talent and headlining acts.
The international flavour of the festival was much in evidence at the aforementioned St Giles’ church where music lovers were able to sample the performances of the Austrian Alicia Edelweiss whose set included an atmospheric rendition of “Fare Thee Well” from her 2019 album When I’m Enlightened Everything Will Be Better. There was also a fine performance from Welsh/ American Pamela Wyn Owens. One of the most talked about acts over the weekend was Finnish quartet Tuuletar who impressed a large crowd with their ethereal harmonies. This was their only UK performance and it was a privilege to see them live.
Elsewhere high energy Indie Rock four piece “The Pleasuredome” performed a blistering set to a packed audience at “The Parish”. The following evening Swansea band Breichiau Hir delivered their own brand of post-hardcore rock with some style at the same venue.
Welsh talent was well represented including the highly rated Kidsmoke and the about to break-big Royston Club who drew a large crowd for their Saturday evening slot. Swansea band Bandicoot performed an energetic set including some spectacular stage jumps. From just over the border in England , The Zangwills, who can boast recently racking up half a million plays of their track “New Heights“ on Spotify, delivered a power-packed performance with front man Jake Vickers in fine form.
A giant Big Top tent located in Library Square hosted some of the more established artists. Lucy Spraggan delivered a master class in audience engagement including her customary take on the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be“ (500 miles)” which had the whole crowd singing along. Richard Hawley was the Friday night headliner rounding things off with a customary well-crafted performance.
On Saturday, Tim Burgess, best known as lead singer with the Charlatans, finished off his stellar set with their classic “The Only One I know” while Welsh artist Kelly Lee Owens fresh from her tour of America, brought her ”Inner Song” tour home, along with a spectacular light show.
Elsewhere there were performances from The Membranes, Gruff Rhys, JOHN, Campfire Social, and Bob Vylan among many others who collectively ensured the success of the festival.
The final show of the weekend came from the legendary Don Letts who presented his DJ set into the early hours of Sunday morning. On the previous day he had given a captivating talk on his life in music to promote his book “There and Black Again”.
This was the tenth Focus Wales festival which once again demonstrated its standing as a showcase platform for emerging talent from Wales and around the world. It all starts again next year when it reverts back to its usual Spring slot running from 5th to 7th of May.
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