Clwb Ifor Bach: These Wicked Rivers And The Hot One Two

It’s a clear and balmy evening as I enter Cardiff’s Welsh club Clwb Ifor Bach, which has an illustrious history within the Welsh music scene. Alternative, indie, rock, Metal, dub, reggae, you name it, there has been someone from each generation playing here.

These Wicked Rivers – The Hot One Two

Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024

Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings

These Wicked Rivers - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
These Wicked Rivers – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

I have a lot on my mind. I’ve just heard from my stepfather that my mother, hospitalised with an aggressive form of dementia 14 months ago, has passed away. It’s also my wife’s birthday, and a ticket to this show is one of her presents. 

I hear my mother’s voice in my head. “You can’t do anything here. Get on and enjoy your evening.”

I follow her advice, and two of the UK’s finest rock bands bring a smile to the face, a beat to the feet, and joy to the heart.

Music does that, you know.

These Wicked Rivers - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
These Wicked Rivers – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk
These Wicked Rivers

Temperatures are elevating steadily inside Clwb as These Wicked Rivers hit the stage. The Derby quintet have reached a decade together and recently released their second album, Force Of Nature. 

It’s a fine slice of US-inspired classical rock that draws on their wide influence. For 90 minutes, they treat us to a stellar show crammed full of high-quality playing, the focus of which is always the incredible lead guitar work of Aaran Day. 

These Wicked Rivers - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
These Wicked Rivers – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

He’s a blur of fretwork magic, all high kicks and cool poise. How he manages not to be drenched in sweat in his suit and Stetson is beyond me, as I’m sweating in a t-shirt and jeans!

The stage is, as usual, flamboyantly decked out in the lampshades, drapes and home furnishings that have long become the band’s style. 

These Wicked Rivers - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
These Wicked Rivers – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

There’s a delightful nod to The Allman Brothers in their approach, as well as in their playing. They kick off with Force Of Nature and Shine On, the latter from debut album Eden. Both are guaranteed to get the audience on side. 

Not that they need any help, for many in the room are sporting the band’s merchandise. 

These Wicked Rivers - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
These Wicked Rivers – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

A show of hands later does reveal a few newcomers seeing the band for the first time, but for the vast number in this sweatbox of a club, it’s another opportunity to witness a band surely destined to move onto bigger venues soon.

There’s a swagger to These Wicked Rivers that quickly gets under the skin and demands you nod and singalong. Black Gold is anthemic, fists punch the air whilst the crowd mouth the words. Thick keyboards, solid rhythm section and John Hartwell’s gritty vocals, with added drawl that belies their hometown roots all combine to provide a richness that is often imitated by rarely performed with such panache.

These Wicked Rivers - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
These Wicked Rivers – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Although the songs are liberally spread across both releases, it’s Force Of Nature that is being promoted and we get every song from the album. 

It’s not an issue for many, who know every word. A change in tempo cools the moisture on the brow as the band drop the pace for When The War Is Won and Just To Be A Man. 

These Wicked Rivers - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
These Wicked Rivers – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

It’s a clever bit of pacing that slowly returns the tempo for the final trio of Testify, The Family, and set closer Don’t Pray for Me. 

Eyes closed, the audience are heavily invested. 

These Wicked Rivers - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
These Wicked Rivers – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

It won’t be long before These Wicked Rivers are packing out much bigger venues than this. My advice is to catch them whilst you can. Seeing them up front and personal makes a difficult evening much easier.

The Hot One Two
The Hot One Two - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
The Hot One Two – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

There’s a surprisingly sparse crowd in the venue as The Hot One Two take the stage. Maybe the reasonably early start confuses those still quenching their thirst in the neighbouring hostelries. 

But they are the losers as the ever-smiling Cambridge outfit power through an engaging 30 minutes of high-octane hard rock with a definitive ’80s swagger. 

The Hot One Two - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
The Hot One Two – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

They are an engrossing bunch to watch. Plenty of movement and action, with guitarists Nick Manners and rhythm player Kev Baker moving like men possessed. 

The Hot One Two - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
The Hot One Two – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Vocalist Simon West is engaging and has a solid hard rock vocal style that works well with the band’s bouncing music. All six songs are drawn from their 2023 debut, Superbia, and although new to me, they have an engaging sound that draws you in and keeps you entertained. 

The Hot One Two - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
The Hot One Two – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

As they launch into their extended finale of Tie Me Down, complete with their Scorpions-style coordinated guitar rolls, it’s easy to see why these guys got the opening slot at Stone Dead festival this year. 

The Hot One Two - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
The Hot One Two – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

RIP Gill Winton.

The Hot One Two - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - 24 May 2024
The Hot One Two – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 24 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Sleeve Notes

Sign up for the MetalTalk Newsletter, an occasional roundup of the best Heavy Metal News, features and pictures curated by our global MetalTalk team.

More in Heavy Metal

Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Search MetalTalk

MetalTalk Venues

MetalTalk Venues - The Devil's Dog Digbeth
MetalTalk Venues – The Green Rooms Live Music and Rehearsal
The Patriot, Crumlin - The Home Of Rock
Interview: Christian Kimmett, the man responsible for getting the bands in at Bannerman's Bar
Cart & Horses, London. Birthplace Of Iron Maiden
The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton

New Metal News