Meze Festival: Newport

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Over the past decade I've been out to many, many gigs in Newport: memorably to see Suede and The Charlatans at Newport Centre, to Gorky's, 60ft Dolls, Disco, and Gouge at TJs, the Pipettes at the wrestling club opposite, Jakokoyak at the Riverside, Future Of The Left and Shooting At Unarmed Men at Le Pub, Gruff Rhys at The Riverfront Theatre, and the GLC again at TJ's during Eisteddfod week.

Its status as a musical city is built on such amazing credentials, venues lovingly titled "legendary" by John Peel, the Kurt and Courtney saga/proposal if stories are to be believed, and dubbed "the new seattle" for a brief time in the 90s. There's definitely a passion for music in the city, but it also battles a poverty and an attitude like many of the UK's inner cities, which makes it very difficult to love. It's 'rough' in other words!

I park up, and head towards the Meze Lounge on Market Street, just 50 yards from the car, but its Friday night and the streets are in full Friday night swing. A gang of lively lads are throwing things at two girls dressed to the nines and swaying from side to side, hobbling, and trotting down the street, yelling and swearing at their tormentors.

I get to the Meze as soon as possible, and I'm greeted by friendly bouncers - the first surprise of the night. Secondly, Meze is like a haven from the streets of Newport, friendly faces behind the bar, punk and goth kids, mix with the dolled up girls, (my friend described the fashion as a 'Pretty Woman' fancy dress party!) Yep, dresses barely covering the arse, and 6" thick heels. Good for them, its Friday night after all!

I'm here to witness the second night of the Meze festival, a marathon of music organized by Johnny from the band Science Bastard. I mention him personally, because - what a nutter - organizing a month of gigs, every night with four or five bands playing in a city which might not be thanking him for it. The first thing I notice here is that there's quite a few Cardiff faces about for this gig, while the locals are hiding in the club's nooks and crannies waiting for the disco (provided by me later).

I've missed the first three noise bands tonight, Pompeii from Austin Texas, Samoans from Cardiff, and Spotlight Kid - but am here for the first show from King Alexander for quite some time. I'll admit Laura from King A is a close friend of mine and fellow DJ as The Vinyl Vendettas, but her role in King A always amazes me.

She's so cool, laid back, punk, and absolutely brilliant - like a young Kim Deal, funny, sexy, great guitarist, amazing voice and utterly brilliant! It would be quite something if someone like Laura got a chance to spice up the UK's music scene right now.

Bias aside, she's an absolute star, and backed by incredible demon musicians in Rich and Simon, former members of Shooting At Unarmed Men and Mo-ho-bish-o-pi. Headlining the night are the ear piercing, skull cracking, totally engaging Big Joan. I've got ear plugs in, and there's just no point. The small church like Meze's walls are shuddering. Its Jerico any moment now.

Torture over, I clamber over amps and cables and hit the decks, basically I chuck on some indie disco, get the place bopping, get asked for Guns & Roses, Dubstep, Paramour, Daft Punk, and a whole host of bizarre combinations. We (me and Fi Vinyl Vendettas) try and satiate their vorocious appetite and quietly retire in the early hours. All in all a good fun Friday night out.

Newport, you confuse and baffle, you frighten and depress me, but you certainly know how to have a good time.


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