The youth of Cardiff is out in force and the NME’s in town, promising gifts of fun, danceability and copious advertising for the alternative masses. This wouldn’t be my normal choice for a night out in a city teeming with alternative delights, but a few factors come into play to persuade me to pop along. The line-up, discounting the middle band, doesn’t look too bad at all. I even look forward to it, and trickle into the Students’ Union full of the joys of autumn.
The crowd slowly gathers, and Australia’s Operator Please take to the stage with the large arena half full. It’s a violin riff, a snazzy keyboard line and then all hell breaks loose, or at least threatens to… Operator Please have a quirky sound for a band on the mainstream indie bandwagon, violin ripping through the seams of their polished, raucous rock like an exotic gift.
At times they’re fantastic, the lead singer pushing it along with robust and mellifluous vocals that teem with a fledgeling anger and rebellion. The keyboardist stage-left has a quintessential pop cool, shimmering along to her own shimmering lines that provide a fine counterpoint to the sizzling violin, and the drummer, who looks like he can be no older than 15, hits his skins in Fraggle Rock frenzy that adds another buzzing layer. Operator Please are forever on the verge of becoming an absolute riot, and the tension this causes is fantastic. Just one more Le Tigre dream and they might just fall over the edge, in doing so really shaking the mainstream to its core.
The Union’s now packed to the rafters, and next up are a band who have dreamt every musical dream under the sun and sacrificed them to the shimmering demigod of Pop. The Go! Team bound on stage like a carnival from Mars, excited as a bunch of starving kittens. They fly round under the flashing lights and atmospheric backing footage that looms behind them with the alacrity of bats, and the last time I saw anyone so into a gig was The Apples In Stereo at Clwb Ifor Bach last winter.
Rapper MC Ninja performs the first two songs like its New Year’s Eve 3000, and her band play along like they’re in on the secret. The sound is great, a prolonged explosion of Pop awe with a raucous sprinkling of party rap. MC Ninja takes centre-stage for the first few numbers before joining the drummer on a second drum set for a dual beat assault that drills outlandishness into our ears; the keyboardist stage-left becomes a melodica angel, a flute demon and a guitar hero in a matter of minutes; another girl takes over vocal duties for a while as the pace changes from raucous party hip hop pop to a shimmering thing of humble restraint, and at the end we all walk out like we’ve been juggled by Durga. It’s been a good night.