'If something goes wrong, you just have to march on'

Published date: 22 April 2014 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


IMAGINE you are waiting in the wings.

It doesn’t matter if you are a drummer in a five-piece band or a solo artist, you can still hear the crowd waiting and you know that any moment you have to walk out in front of them.

This week, several hundred musicians will experience this mix of fear, anticipation and adrenaline at Focus Wales in Wrexham.

Dan Davies, guitarist for Wrexham band Doppelganger, will be among them, alongside bandmates Don Simms on lead vocals and guitar, Kie Williams on vocals and drums and Carl Bowes of Connah's Quay on vocals and bass.

Dan said: “What do we do to warm up? Well, I suppose it probably looks a bit funny, we do a bit of stretching because there’s a lot of jumping around.

“We also try to psych each other up, do a bit of shouting and screaming to get ready to go out there.”

Doppelganger have been around for about two years now, cranking out alternative rock and carving out a following locally and in London.

They are one of the heavier acts at Focus, alongside rockers Bastions and Black Moth. But it’s a similar story for melodic musicians.

Singer-songwriter and solo artist Meilir, who is based just outside Mold, was thrown in at the deep end, when he played with Manchuko.

He said: “Our first gig was on the TV. It was for S4C – so it was all go. For myself playing in Wrexham, there will be a few people who know what I do but there will also be quite a lot of new faces who don’t know what I’m about – so I’m a little nervous but also excited.

“One of the things about being on stage is that I use a computer – so you can’t change the timing. If something goes wrong, you just have to march on.

“But I’ve noticed time seems to go more slowly on stage than it does in rehearsals. It’s a physical impossibility, because the computer is right there, timing it – but it’s almost like meditation. The moment seems slower. I think it’s down to the adrenaline.”

Focus will be all the more significant for Meilir as he’s making a return to live performance after a hiatus.

He said: “I’ve had some time off for a variety of reasons but among them was that I became aware that I was beginning to feel a bit lethargic playing on stage.

“Now I’m back with new material, fresh songs. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ben Hands, a Wrexham-based artist, specialises in songs about the every day.

He said: “Yeah, for me, getting out on stage is all about telling a story. My subjects are about what happens to people.

“I do get a bit nervous before performances. It’s all about how people react. I don’t mind so much if people aren’t up and dancing, it’s not that kind of music.

“The moment I know it has clicked is when I see people’s faces and they are listening, really listening, to what you are singing.”

Calan, a band drawn from various corners of South Wales, are newcomers to the festival.

They incorporate traditional Welsh musical techniques, including an instrument called the pibgorn, which is made from a wooden pipe bull horns.

Bethan Williams-Jones said: “We’ve done the really tiny, tiny gigs and we’ve done big gigs, including playing to an audience of 26,000.

“So for us, it depends on how important the gig is – because you don't want to mess it up.

“To be honest, I’m a little nervous about Focus – but that’s good. It keeps us on our toes.”

All of the artists, both newcomers and veterans – Meilir has played every Focus Wales festival so far – were unstinting in their praise of the event.

Bethan said: “We were really pleased to be invited. The festival approached us and we know thousands of people go, so it’s really exciting.

“We’ve wanted to play there since we heard it had been set up.”

Meilir is similarly keen to get up on stage.

He said: “It’ll be great to see the other musicians.

“ I’m looking forward to seeing Damo Suzuki (former frontman of influential krautrock group Can) again as I’ve played with him before.”

Ben Hands emphasised that there were opportunities for musicians as well as music-lovers at Focus, as industry professionals were gathering in Wrexham for panel-based talk events and some would have their eyes peeled for talent.

He said: “It’s a great chance to show people in the industry who you are. They do come out to watch gigs.

“I’ve gigged in England and British Columbia – so this is a kind of homecoming for me.

“Everyone comes out for Focus, which is great, because the point is for everyone to have a good time.

“It doesn’t cost much to see 100 bands over four days. It’s a different kind of atmosphere.”

Dan Davies of Doppelganger is confident that the band is well-rehearsed.

He said: “Once you’re out there, it all just clicks. The set flows, you are in the moment. Nothing else matters.

“We are headlining an event at UnDegUn on the Thursday for the first time, which we’re really pleased about. We’re itching to get on stage. It can’t come soon enough."

Focus Wales starts tomorrow and lasts until Saturday and takes place at venues across Wrexham.

Doppelganger will appear on April 23 at 10pm at UnDegUn.

Calan will perform at Queen’s Square on April 26 at 6pm.

Andy Hickie will give a free show at 6.15pm at the Royal Oak on April 24 while Ben Hands will also provide a free performance at the same venue at 4.55pm on April 25.

l For more information about bands, times and tickets, visit

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