Stephanie Finnegan/Son Capson/Polly Mackey - Aberystwyth Students' Union
I want to live in Aberystwyth. It's either the romantic in me speaking, or the drunk. The romantic in me is besotted with its bipolar, Twin-Peaks-by-the-sea ambience.
Somehow it's managed to sit itself above a beach, gather up a beautiful Georgian seafront in pastel shades that make my soul flutter, and all this (mostly) without the shameless tack that pollutes most UK seaside resorts. The one eyesore I saw was the pier. And the pier is the reason the drunk in me is drawn to Aberystwyth. It's open until other people go to work. And the following day it has mildly hallucinogenic effects that make you think typing 'eyesore I saw' is witty and clever.
But Aberystwyth is a four letter word of a drive away from almost every other part of the UK. Even the bits closest to it. I'm here to DJ an Oxjam event at the university students' union. I leave home thinking it'll take me two hours. It takes me three. I see red kites, pickups flip themselves onto their roofs, someone breakdancing outside a Chinese restaurant in Welshpool and all of the wrong roads in Aber's befuddling one-way system.
I arrive at the union bar late and harassed. No need to worry, though, because the decks haven't turned up, yet. I'm DJing and I've convinced myself that I've been asked to play lots of old, crap vinyl so that I could go out and buy lots of old and crap vinyl in the run up to tonight.
Fortunately for the poor people of the world, I'm not the only attraction on offer. The promoter - Matty - has assembled an intriguing bill of live music.
First up we get woken out of our lethargy by Stephanie Finegan. She's like getting hit by a lightning bolt of LIFE, 150,000 volts of SeizeTHISMomentWithPoetryPassionAndDon'tMessWithMe-ness. It has to be written like that, all together, because with Stephanie it all comes in a rush. There are no gaps between the sparks.
But that's no problem because these are great sparks. She plays odd chords on a guitar, sings ace songs that route life through a circuit of acute observation, great swearing and subroutines of did-she-really-just-say-that humour. She's a steam train of ideas and the audience is tied to the tracks. In some parallel universe, Janis Joplin and John Cooper Clarke had a child. Stephanie is that child.
Quite a start to the night. Except it wasn't the start to the night. I was, playing Jean Jacques Perrey, Kraftwerk and what I think is highbrow obscura off compilations of German Electronische Musik. I'm so desperate to be pretentious but can't even manage precious half the time. I think Vanilla Fudge will be a good idea before the next artist. I have no idea why.
Son Capson is mostly Liam Percy George. That's not to do down the contribution of the erstwhile and excellent drummer and bass player. But Liam's Badly Drawn Boy Drawn Badly In a Concave Mirror presence is our focus. He sounds nothing like Badly Drawn Boy. But he does have a bobble hat and an innocent face that belies the turbulence in his music. Quite how Cossack rhythms and mentalist vim got riveted to songs about snipers on the roof of Tesco, I don't know. I should ask him, I suppose.
The crowd do dancing. Son Capson are ace. Unique, funny, rollercoasting, surreal and - hopefully - not destined to be overlooked because they don't fit, at all, into the most easily assimilated holes. Hello Sigmund.
I think I play some Ike and Tina Turner and Julie Driscoll, maybe a bit of Studio One reggae, then knock my box of records off the stage so that they spill everywhere. Imagine a blindfolded octopus trying to juggle eels.
Polly Mackey and the Pleasure Principle are on next, and last. They're from Wrexham and have a single coming out on Playground on the 7 November. They make moody, anthemic guitar music. They've improved so much since I last saw them in May. Back then I thought they had a great sound but too few songs. This time the balance is much better.
Polly is an assured and captivating presence. If I was 17 years old, and either male or female, I think I'd fall in love with her in 15 seconds flat, because she sounds like she's singing right into the centre of my heart. The angst is the right side of moving rather than indulgent. The songs have bigger tunes than they did. They all play with great guile and taste. There's none of the 'what the hell is this?' sense I had watching Stephanie or Son Capson - but I could easily imagine Polly's songs tumbling out of a million pairs of headphones in a million hall of residence heads. Deffo.
It's unlikely much of my very short post-Polly set will register in anyone's heads. I wait outside in a wind so chill I think tectonics have moved us to the Artic Circle since the start of the night. Then I end up in the Pier. Oh, Aber, you're so good it's just plain bad for me.