We decided not to go back to Reading after last year (read more here.) The festival seemed so big, so expensive, and less bands we liked were playing. Although the bill for this year was sort of tempting, the ticket price was not. We ended up buying ourselves tickets for Merthyr Rock festival, in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, for just £25 each. One of our favourite bands, Taking Back Sunday, sat at the top of the bill, and so the amazing price point and small festival atmosphere were enough to attract us. On the same day that I booked our tickets, I also booked the nearest Travelodge for £12.50 each. Bargain!
On Sunday, we set off from home just after 10am, via Tesco to stock up on munchies for the road. The journey went pretty quickly (so did the Maoams) and before we knew it, we pulled up in the Travelodge car park. We had to pay an extra £10 to check in early, but it meant we could get our bags in the room and freshen up before heading to the venue. Our room was massive! There could have easily been another double bed in there. The Travelodge was a newly refurbished one, much nicer than the London ad Reading ones we've stayed in before. It was situated in the middle of a retail park, which had a cinema and restaurants. We went in to the all you can eat Chinese buffet, which was bloody awful, and then made the half an hour walk to the grounds of Cyfarthfa Castle.
The festival amenities were okay. There were only two food vendors - burgers and chips or fish and chips - and only one bar. Also, the toilets were mixed, so the girls had to walk past the guys using urinals to get to the cubicles. Not something which I had a problem with, but I can imagine others would. Big Deal clothing and Heads Above the Waves had their own merch stalls, as well as the festival official merch. It was such a small site compared to what we're used too; even smaller than South West Live on Weston Super Mare beach, but I think that's what made it so unique. We bumped into friends who had been to the festival a few times before, and they said that this year seemed smaller and there were less vendors - cutting costs maybe? Either way, it made no difference to the impeccable organisation of the music.
There were three stages - the Main Stage, as pictured at the top, the Second Stage which was to the left of the Main Stage, and the Young Promoters Network stage, a small tent to the left of the arena space. The last time I went to a festival where two stages ran alongside each other was Give It A Name in Earls Court, 2006. It worked brilliantly then, and it was even better in Merthyr. Within minutes of a band leaving the main stage, the next one had started on the second stage. It was constant live music all day, and loads of the artists sang the praises of the organisation.
Musical highlights for me were The Blackout, who were playing in their home town, Reel Big Fish, who got us moving our feet and shaking our hips in the sunshine, and of course, Taking Back Sunday, the band which brought Ash and I together over 8 years ago! I saw the signing tent schedule pretty early on in the day, and knew we had to seize the opportunity to meet the band who's gig we met at in 2006. We queued up 20 minutes before, and were shuffled through quite quickly. We were told no photos which was a shame, but it was still a pleasure to get our tickets signed and have a quick chat with them. After the signing was over, we managed to snap this selfie with Adam Lazzara who I used to have the biggest crush on #noshame
Merthyr Rock has such potential to become a great festival, and if the line up's right, maybe we'll return next year!