Thursday, June 21, 2012

Busk on the Usk

From the Chartist Rebellion of 1839 to Paul Flynn's views on cannabis to the recent election of an actual member of Goldie Lookin' Chain to the local council, Newport has always had a bit of a rebellious streak. It also happens to be a place with a rich pop cultural heritage: Joe Strummer was a former resident; the Sex Pistols passed through on their Anarchy Tour; the Stone Roses adopted Newport Corporation's cherub logo for the cover of their comeback single Love Spreads; and then there is the whole Kurt and Courtney at TJ's mythos. What I like about the city is that unconventionality is not frowned upon. It's no surprise to me that gay Surrealist photographer Angus McBean and acid-dropping feminist film-maker Jane Arden were both educated there. Newport also spawned proto-Beat writer WH Davies. And nobody tapped into the latent weirdness of the wider Gwent landscape quite like Arthur Machen. It's a place where extraordinary things happen. Blondin once walked a tightrope across the Newport marshes. Houdini escaped from a cell at Newport police station and on another occasion dived off a bridge into the River Usk! In 1968 Jane Russell - possessor of the most famous cleavage in cinematic history - did a week of shows at Cleopatra's Palace, a local Newport nightclub. And lest we forget in 1944 Joe Louis, arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time, boxed an exhibition bout at Rodney Parade.

What better way, then, to celebrate the city of Newport in all its idiosyncratic glory than a FREE festival. Busk on the Usk will be hosting bands and other music industry-related events on June 30. Green Gartside (aka Scritti Politti) who once sold communist newspapers on the streets of Newport will be back but this time subverting your ears with his musical ideology. Also performing will be punk legend and former Newport resident Jon Langford. Upstarts such as Cate le Bon, Kutosis, Anna Calvi, Dirty Goods and Fist of the First Man, amongst others, will add some youthful vitality to proceedings. In addition potentially fascinating talks and seminars are scheduled to take place. Dai Davies, former manager of The Stranglers, is set to wax lyrical about pub and punk rock. The man behind Stiff Records, Dave Robinson, will enchant you with tales of his life in the music biz. And James Endeacott, the man who signed The Libertines to Rough Trade, will share an anecdote or ten about that particular ensemble. Also holding forth will be Pauline Black frontwoman of classic ska outfit The Selecter. Adding some literary colour to the festival is Richard King whose recent tome How Soon is Now? charted the rise and fall of independent record labels such as Factory and Creation. It all sounds fabulous to me. For the full line-up, specific event locations, and details of how to obtain your FREE festival passes you need to investigate the Busk on the Usk website.