The Virginmarys & Ragsy, Retro-Vibe Records, Cardiff
The Virginmarys are currently in the mist of their UK/European tour (one that continues into June) supporting their latest album, reviewed here:
The first part of the tour didn't come anywhere near Wales (although there is a Bristol Thekla show on the 19th of June) but Cardiff record store Retro-Vibe Records got an exclusive acoustic in-store, which would go down as the tour's longest in-store with the band playing for 30 minutes plus. This exclusive gig had the bonus of being a free ticketed event meaning all we had to do was go to or contact the amazing shop and reserve a ticket. Simples.
Due to the early start time it was a bit of a push to arrive for the start but happily I did. With most of the punters already down stairs, I made my way downstairs and saw the cameras of Made In Cardiff TV set up to record the evening. Fame and fortune at last I thought until I saw they were trained on the performance area, still maybe a cheeky nod to camera would do it. As everyone shuffled around the room looking for a good view point I hid just under the stairs and I was just in time for support act Ragsy to start his set. Wales based singer songwriter Gary Ragsy Ryland has been featured on BBC's The Voice and plays world weary acoustic ballads in the true troubadour style, his voice is emotive and commanding fully conveying the poignant content of his songwriting. Ragsy was a very last minute addition to to bill due to the original support being struck down with illness on the day of the gig. Still Ragsy made an impression on the sizeable crowd in the basement of the record shop, his songs were well constructed and performed and he was warmly received by the crowd. Ragsy's performance was proof of the Welsh music scene's importance and wealth of talent. 8/10
As the crowd chatted amongst themselves in excited anticipation, I headed upstairs to have a bit of a chat and to get some fresh air, due to the heat emanated from the room downstairs, which is a good thing in a venue but during the breaks it's nice to escape a little bit. Then as the crowd roared again I swiftly went back in as the three piece band took up their instruments, Ally Dicktay on vocals and acoustic guitar, Danny Dolan on snare and brushes and Matt Rose with an acoustic bass and backing vocals. Their half an hour set was punctuated with a lot of tracks from their new sophomore album Divides (only released that day), happily many of those in the crowd knew the songs from the record so happily mouthed along to the tracks, no singing possibly due to the cameras, however they were vocal when the songs ended clapping, cheering and hollering, during the music there was thankfully movement from the head nodding of the old-schoolers with the youngsters dancing away to the bands indie-blues-punk fueled groove.
The songs played sounded just as good in the stripped back format, carrying enough gusto to convey the messages in the lyrics, but also highlighting the band's incredible musicianship and Ally's rough, passionate vocals that carried with them an angst that is rare, with the vocals and the way the band attacked their instruments there was raw, intimate feel to proceedings that evoked the atmosphere of small pub gigs in a raucous pub. The sound was perfect for this very special gig acting as the icing on the cake for what was a brilliant night of live music in a thriving independent record shop that supports both the local and British rock scene strongly, here's hoping that Retro-Vibe do many more in-stores/signings in future as it's a great venue for it helped in no small part by the excellent performance of The Virginmarys, I suggest you catch them on the June leg of their tour as on the basis of their acoustic performance their full amped up show looks to be dazzling. 9/10