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Cardiff, Wales

By Andy

I am writing this from the point of view of an English man in Wales and one who has only been here for five months. I expect others will disagree with some of the things I say, but so far this is how I see Cardiff. I think the first thing to remember is that it is Welsh - 30% of people around you will be speaking Welsh and this is higher in some areas. It is also a capital city. These things combine to offer a lovely compact city with loads of atmosphere and the bonus that most bands touring will do one gig in Wales and it tends to be here. Cardiff is a city in a state of change. The largest urban redevelopment in Europe is ripping out huge chunks of its industrial past and replacing seemingly all of it with never ending blocks of flats. Who lives in them all is something of a mystery, but the pace of change does make it an exciting place to be.


Clubs


Twisted By Design

Dempseys, 15 Castle Street, Saturdays, 8pm-1am
Cardiff legendary indie night. Held every couple of weeks in a room above an Irish bar, it is similar in style to that most famous of clubs, Offbeat. It plays a good selection of fey indie pop and mod/northern soul bits and bobs. The crowd are a happy bunch and seemingly all round good bloke Gary (who also runs the website which acts as a brilliant gig guide to what’s coming up in Wales) can be relied on to play at least one Ballboy song every night.
(www.twistedbydesign.co.uk)

Club Mad For It
Barfly, Kingsway, Fridays, 10.30pm-2am, £5/£4 NUS
The Barfly (part of the chain) can be counted on to give a good old fashion indie night every Friday and Saturday and often has short runs of other more specialist things during the week. The recent Robot Rock nights being a good example.
(www.barflyclub.com)

Clwb Cariad
Clwb Ifor Bach
, 11 Womanby Street, Saturdays, 10pm-2.30am, £5/£4 NUS
The epicentre of Welsh indie, Clwb Ifor Bach completes this triangle of indie joy (they are all within about 500 metres of each other). Clwb, as it is often referred to is the centre for the Welsh language indie scene and so much more. The exterior is frankly scary but its 4 floors (I think it is four) can be relied on to cover pretty much every kind of good music you can think of and is responsible for putting on some of the best gigs in town.
(www.clwb.net)


Venues

 

St David's Hall
The Hayes
Some attempts have been made to bring culture to the masses with this bizarre venue. Often holds orchestral recitals and the best of world music, but you are equally likely to find the Chuckle Brothers here. Smaller than the Millennium Centre, this is a useful place to know about. It is also one of the ugliest buildings in Cardiff. Back when they did not like playing live, B&S played here.
(www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk)

Chapter Arts Centre
Market Road
A former school building has been converted into the Chapter. This lovely live venue has a monthly folk night on a Sunday and puts on a wonderful mix of left field nights and mini festivals. Part of a larger arts complex with cinema/gallery and one of the best bars in town.
(www.chapter.org)

Dempseys
15 Castle Street
Opposite the castle in the city centre, this is normally just a club but has been known to put on slightly ramshackle band nights. Does not seem to have any plan to when a band will play, but they tend to be good when they turn up.

Cardiff University Students Union
Park Place

Very much the traditional couple of thousand capacity venue at a university. Some shows are restricted to students and most carry some sort of age restriction.
(www.cardiffstudents.com)

Glee Club
Mermaid Quay
As with other venues in the Glee chain, this is firstly a stand up comedy club, but sometimes they get bored and put on bands. Not a bad place to see someone play if you like sitting down at little tables. Reminds me of a bad jazz bar, but I should not be trusted. Part of the Cardiff Bay development so a bit out of town.
(www.glee.co.uk)

Clwb Ifor Bach
11 Womanby Street
Brilliant live venue. Can be trusted to put on an eclectic range of small bands. If you are Welsh you will play here and every good Welsh band has. Used by many of the local DIY promoters, it can be relied on to have something worth seeing every week.
(www.clwb.net)

Barfly
Kingsway
Nice little grotty indie venue. The classic NME style hovel is the most constant venue in town and has live music pretty much every night. If you want your traditional guitar driven alternative music, this is the place to be. Used for the NME tour and anything BBC Wales tend to do. The kind of place keeping live music going and should be applauded for that alone.

Cardiff International Arena
Mary Ann Street
The second biggest venue in town can be relied on to pull in some crowd pleasing big bands. Normally full of chart centred pap and childrens television characters doing whatever it is they do during "Fireman Sam Live" or what have you, it can occasionally draw in a good band. I guess it is a 10,000 ish capacity when the seats are taken out and the beer is not that stupidly priced. As good as venues like this get.

Millennium Centre
Next to the Welsh Assembly building exists a large concert venue. It is the best looking building in town and worth seeing if only from the outside, though the wooden auditorium is also a work of art. Shares duties with the St David's Centre for putting on "serious" music, but likes to sneak a Big Camp Musical in now and then as well as big name leftfield comedians. Not sure if any bands actually play there but is well worth knowing about
(www.wmc.org.uk)

Cardiff Castle
It is a castle, a bloody huge one at that. For some reason Meatloaf was allowed to sing in its grounds once. I add this more as a warning than anything else.

Millennium Stadium
It is flippin huge! 70,000 people can be packed in to watch the biggest of live acts. Every so often they go crazy and put some kind of all day festival on which can be quite good fun. The place to see the likes of Oasis, the Foo Fighters and Take That. Obviously also the home to major sporting games. If you are trying to find it in Cardiff, frankly you are not in Cardiff. It is huge and could not be more central. Is perhaps best to avoid the area when large football matches are on as it completely ruins the atmosphere of the city
(www.millenniumstadium.com)

The Coal Exchange
The Exchange Buildings, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff Bay
I have not actually been here, but lots of bands seem to get put on. Very popular with the local Forecast Collective who over the last year have put on many of Cardiff’s best gigs.
(www.coalexchange.co.uk)

The Point
Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff Bay
Badly positioned venue with a seemingly random policy on who is allowed to play. Rescued by putting on some truly great bands and being in a former church. Loads of atmosphere as long as the yuppies who swarm nearby are kept out. A risk worth taking for when it is having a good night
(www.thepointcardiffbay.com)


Bars

Café Europa
25 Castle Street
Café Europa is well worth going to and opens late with some nice chilled out music and cups of hot chocolate that you could drown in.

Café Calcio
145 Crwys Road
When Café Calcio bothers to open it is will worth the trek. Lovely lovely food and a nice atmosphere. The "Fat Bastard breakfast deal" is allegedly a tribute to regular customer James from the Manics.

Chapter Arts Centre
Market Road
The Chapter is my favourite place to go to. Lovely beers and a real deep understanding of how to make a good cup of tea. If you are the kind of sad guy like me who likes going to the cinema alone, this bar is the place to sit with the paper whilst you wait for your screening to start.


Record Shops


Spillers Records

36 The Hayes
Famous the world over (so they would have you believe) Spillers Records is the oldest record shop in the Whole Wide World. Unquestionably the best place to buy in town it has a huge selection of CD and vinyl stuff. The staff are enthusiastic and take the time to offer recommendations. They even smile which is quite surprising considering the near arctic temperatures they seem determined to work in. They often put on instores with bands playing in town that night. These are free to get in to, but they do ask you to bring cake to share with the audience (twee so and sos!) The instore I saw with Arab Strap was one of the best shows I have seen them do.
(www.spillersrecords.co.uk)

Kellys Records
222-226 The Balcony, Central Market, St Mary Street, 9pm-5pm, Monday-Saturday
Kellys Records and the cleverly titled Record Shop are a bit further out of town and are the kind of second hand places that may (or more likely) may not throw up a gem of a bargain.
(www.kellysrecords.com)

Fopp
89 Queen Street
Despite being a chain, I have always found the Fopp in town to be pleasingly non evil.


Local Bands

Not sure about this. I have tried to catch gigs over the last few months, but do not really feel part of the local scene enough to comment. The Loves are always worth seeing though.


Miscellaneous


Cardiff Underground.
Gigs and events messageboard, updated daily. Well worth checking out if you are ever coming to town.
(www.cardiffunderground.com)

Main Cardiff photo and Europa photo © Urban75.com

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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