By: Jamie Jones
They said it couldn’t happen again.
In this case ‘they’ were the promoters themselves – despite a successful first year bringing 3 days of gloriously gnarly rock and metal to Cardiff’s Womanby Street the Red Sun team said they simply couldn’t repeat the trick this year. Then, just as it seemed all was lost, they pulled a surprise 180 and announced Red Sun II, set to take place this very weekend. Those lucky enough to be at their first gathering last year were very happy indeed.
For those who weren’t there let me paint the scene – set down an unlikely looking alley across the road from Cardiff castle (how many other festivals can claim to be within a half-hearted stone’s throw distance of an actual castle?) lies 3 venues in triangle. Inside stood three stages of doom, thrash, hardcore, sludge and a bunch of weird and wonderful of strains of heavy rock yet to be even named, whilst the space in between the venues became a communal gathering area for the like-minded to swap band tips, share anecdotes and perhaps even have a wee drink. It’s a beautiful set up for an incredibly relaxed festival, with a smattering of craft ale pubs nearby for those who fancy a pint and a break as well as many much needed eateries of both the fine and the not-so-fine varieties.
And, most importantly of all, it had a slew of excellent bands. This year’s bill is arguably even stronger with welsh stoner rock heroes Hark, ‘Championship Superboogie’ band Honky (led by Jeff Pinkus of the Butthole Surfers and occasionally the Melvins) and sludge titans Slabdragger headlining the three days. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, with the lower card being put together with a little help had a little help from fellow Welshman and Cosmic Carnage promoter Rich Collins who’s dragged HAG, Casual Nun, Death Pedals and Black Moon 1348 across from London.
It promises to be an unmissable weekend for fans of The Heavy. To get warmed up for it we asked Red Sun designer and promoter Oz (who when he’s not helping put on heavy shows is busy playing them as the guitarist from Welsh doomsters Spider Kitten) what happened with that u-turn and to give us a few tips for Red Sun II.
(((o))): Hearts were broken earlier this year when we were told there’d be no repeat of last year’s excellent Red Sun weekend in 2016, so it was a lovely surprise when Red Sun II was announced. Was putting the festival on this year always secretly on the agenda? And if not what changed that made you decide to go ahead with it after all?
We’re in this business to break hearts. It wasn’t part of some ill thought out social media stunt or anything like that; we genuinely didn’t think we could all get together to make it happen again. A lot of us have had big changes happen in our personal lives recently, not to mention babies dropping left right and center! We were pleased with how well RS1 went and started planning the next one immediately. However things started to lose momentum as daily life got in the way, and pressing questions from eager folk forced our hand; we didn’t want to leave anyone hanging and decided to cut our losses and think about focusing on a 2017 date. But then we got bored.
(((o))): Everyone I spoke to over the weekend seemed to be having a ball, but how did last year’s event go from a promoter’s point of view? Did everything go as planned? What are you doing differently this year?
Oz: We’ve nothing but great memories from last year; all the logistical headaches and months of promotion culminated in 3 days of superb performances, non stop fucking about on the street and an atmosphere over and above what we imagined. Of course we’d say only good things about our favorite child, but we’re sure that anyone in attendance last year will agree when we say there’s just something about Womanby Street; the venues literally couldn’t be any closer to one another, which turns the whole street into one bustling beer garden. No rushing around for miles from venue to venue, and if there is unfortunately a clash between 2 of your favorite bands it’s a simple matter of climbing a staircase or going next door to catch a good chunk of either set.
As for doing things differently this year, we’re going to do well to remember that there are 3 days to get through. It’s a marathon kids, don’t spunk it all on the first day.
(((o))): One thing that always seems to surprise people when they hear about Red Sun is the price. A tenner per day (or £25 for all 3) is ridiculously cheap – how do you make that work?
Oz: Its all careful planning of course, we knew what we could realistically achieve and set things out accordingly. The well milked, “We don’t do this for the money; it’s about the music man!” rhetoric, although righteous, isn’t necessarily a leading factor. The venues we use obviously have a capacity we can’t exceed, which prevents us for now from pulling in more expensive international acts vis-a- vis the superb Desert Fest- which would then dictate a higher ticket price. That said, our man motive for founding RS was to first and foremost create a platform to showcase all our home grown heavy; RS1 featured only British bands. That doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t potential for growth however; this year sees American band Honky join the bill, and there are still plenty of clubs and pubs on Womanby Street that could be persuaded to march under the Red Sun banner. A low price is also an obvious incentive and we want as many people to come to Cardiff as possible. Welsh metal heads are also tight bastards.
(((o))): Will you have time to get in and see some bands? If so who are you most looking forward to seeing over the weekend? And if not, who should everyone make you jealous by seeing?
Oz: We were all swamped last year, but we still managed to skive off a bit here and there. My hot hot picks are Iron Witch and all their titillating new material, Casual Nun and BlackMoon1348.
(((o))): Is there anything people attending should know, or anything you’d like to say to them?
Oz: The Whetherspoons next door has wonderful toilet facilities.
(((o))): If you had to swear to it right now – will we see a Red Sun III in 2017
Oz: Yes definitely, and if it goes tits up we’ll misdirect you with more Facebook propaganda, like we always planned…
Red Sun II takes place from Friday 29th-Sunday 31st July 2016 across 3 bars on Cardiff’s Womanby Street. Tickets are available from Spillers Records, Diverse Music, Bristol Ticket Shop, WeGotTickets & SEE Tickets as well as on the door.