The week of concerts began on the first Saturday of the Welsh National Eisteddfod. I had already been on the Rebel Alliance farm for four days. Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Cymraeg was running affordable concerts – designed for the not-so-well-off people - at Penrhos Dairy Farm, and it was not an official part of the National Eisteddfod events. Thus, I dubbed them “The Rebel Alliance”. Gwyn and I had been helping Pastor Rhys Llwyd from Caersalem Church in Caernarfon, and Ieuan the farmer and his farm hands to convert the barn into a concert venue.
The first Saturday started off big. Bryn Fon was the draw of the Saturday night. The heartthrob actor/musician from the 80’s/90’s packed the cow house with screaming women of all ages, but it definitely leaned a little gray. Over the week Candelas, Meinir Gwilym (one of my favorite Welsh songwriters), The Welsh Whisperer, Steve Eaves, Bob Delyn, Gai Toms (one of my favorite people and favorite performers), and Geraint Jarman (the Welsh version of Mick Jagger) took the stage at our little cow palace. Tuesday night became a night of bards, and the poets took over the evening. The cows were getting milked at 6am and 4pm, and by 8pm the people rolled in and the music began each night.
There were some acts of particular note during the weeklong event. Candelas performed a set as tight as any I’ve ever seen. They were professional in every respect, and as approachable as your next door neighbor. Of course, I am assuming you have an approachable neighbor. Steve Eaves is the consummate professional as well, and he has a long history of great folk rock in Wales. His set was emotional and beautiful. Geraint Jarman rocked the house, and even in his seventies, he pops around the stage with his gangly, lanky frame and performs his reggae infused Welsh rock to make your body move. Meinir Gwilyn’s set was as fun as I had expected, and even more fun when I was able to hang out with Meinir a bit after the show, and again a couple days later on the main Eisteddfod field. The Welsh Whisperer is an act that transitions between bands, and introduces the performers, but is as entertaining as any of the bands. But, the surprise of the week was my friend Gai Toms. I’ve seen Gai perform solo a few times. I even jammed with him, when we first met in Washington D.C. This was the first time I had seen Gai perform with a full band, and he knocked it out of the cow pasture. The drummer was playing with him for the first time, but it didn’t matter. The band was tight. The performance was funny, emotional, dramatic and musically stunning all at once. I told Gai, “I used to like you…but after tonight, I love you.” Gai gets my nod for best performance of the Penrhos Farm/Cymdiethas Yr Iaith Cow Palace Festival. Well, that’s my name for the event.
On the second weekend of the National Eisteddfod, I met Meinir on the Maes (the main field of the event). We talked music, we talked Welsh langauge, and we talked about life in North Wales, and I recorded the time together. Please check out the interview. It will be worth your eight minutes. Meinir is one of the kindest, most approachable people you can find, and considering her popularity in the Welsh language music scene, that is noteworthy.
I also spent some time with one of the most engaging and happy groups of the Cow Palace Festival. Y Brodyr Magee (The Magee Brothers) from nearby Caergybi (Holyhead) were in the house for one of the evenings. This group of brothers ranging from nine years old to late twenties sang traditional Welsh songs, had some originals, and were as cool a group of brothers as one an find. Move over Jackson 5! I spent a few minutes talking with them, and you can catch that interview here on AmeriCymru as well.
By the end of the week, I was knackered (one of those words an American learns to say in the UK). Since my flight was heading off early Monday, I had to beat feet for London before the barn was returned to its pre-concert venue state. I said my goodbyes to the boys on the farm, and Ieuan told me to return anytime I was anywhere near Bodedern, Ynys Mon, North Wales. I will definitely be back to say hi to Ieuan and the gang, but I imagine next time it will just be the girls getting milked in the back who will be singing.