Psych-rock wizardry, trippy dance punk and flaming heaps of fun: the five best bands we saw at 2024’s Focus Wales festival

Focus Wales
(Image credit: Focus Wales bands)

This year, Focus Wales, the largest showcase festival and conference event in the region, welcomed its 14th edition, and saw a legion of industry professionals and music lovers descend upon the Welsh town of Wrexham in search of the best new acts and ideas. 

Proudly showcasing more Welsh artists than any other event, the festival additionally brought in musicians from Australia, Basque Country, Canada, Ghana, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, USA and more, spanning across a variety of genres, including everything from psychedelic rock, heavy metal to folk.

A creative meeting point for executives and artists alike, 2024’s Focus Wales sparked new connections, and shone a light on the most groundbreaking performers coming out of the industry right now. During our sunny weekend in Wales, we saw some weird, wonderful and downright awesome acts, but these are the ones that got us the most excited.

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If you’re a fan of King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets or Elder, Portuguese psych rockers Travo must land on your radar. Led by their tongue-wagging, wild-eyed frontman Gonçalo Ferreira - whose facial expression often looks as though he’s either trying to shit out a rubik's cube or solve one - the quartet plummet through stretches of tantalising riffy prog, classic metal and crunchy garage rock, climbing into peaks of fierce psychedelia that whips heads into a slew of appreciative nodding. The vocals echo out through the gust, a distant hazy call that sounds as though it could be coming from elsewhere; another room, perhaps another world. An epic watch. 


London/Bahrain quartet Flamingods are flaming heaps of fun as they close out the Friday night (or really, Saturday morning) to a gaggle of bouncing bodies in the Rocking Chair, arms swaying and swirling in hippie-ish motions to the band’s brand of “exotic psychedelia”- a fizzing amalgam of jazz, indie, psych rock and Asian influences. While waving around his oud - a Middle Eastern stringed instrument - frontman Kamal Rasool oozes out his vocals, silky smooth as lava lamp bubbles, weaving through the acid-laced sugar rush of chirping synths, leaping percussion and hyperactive riffs. 

Groom The Giant

‘Bring me witch's blood’, the frontman gruffly sings over moody, elephantine riffs, while wearing a long tunic and waistcoat, standing next to a keyboard player who dons a wizard hat. Visually, Groom The Giant look like they could fit quite nicely in the Lord Of The Rings universe, playing stoner/desert rock to a room of startled hobbits. Instead, they summon a frenzy of boisterous humans in a cosy Welsh pub that’s far too small for their sizeable racket. This Wrexham foursome even proclaim to be “actual warlocks”, as well as pioneers of “Wizard-Grunge”, a term well-fitting for their rough, riff-laden sorcery, smattered with proggish synth. 

Fat Dog

The upstairs room of Wrexham’s Penny Black venue is so tightly packed, that some of the crowd are standing on chairs - including this writer, who was determined to get a better view of one of the more chaos-igniting bands of the festival. Tracks such as Running, featuring a trumpeting riff, hooting saxophone and electronic flutterings see the band at their bedlam-boogieing best, while King Of The Slugs is as disorientating as its title, propelled by an extravagant regal melody and dizzying synth as bodies on the floor leap and crash into each other under flashing lights. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait too long to catch this band of trippy dance punks again, as they’ll be playing at both Wide Awake and Glastonbury Festival. 

Unsafe Space Garden

Licked with red face paint and garbed in fluorescent rainbow-coloured rags, the Portuguese Unsafe Space Garden look like a troupe of kitschy camp leaders who gobble hallucinogens and enjoy discussing how “children are the future, man” while staring at their own hands - and immediately, it becomes obvious that they’re even more outlandish than they appear.

Following a lengthy set-up time due to sound difficulties, USG set upon their psychedelic voyage, shutting out the sane order of the everyday with continuously mind-boggling, shroomy songs that include everything from synth-driven, whizzing psych rock to comical conversational tracks about “finding yourself”. Hilariously, the latter tune is no shamanic exercise, but rather an instructional geographic guide using the help of google maps for those feeling lost in life.

It’s jarring, as multiple band members bulge their eyes at the audience, punctuating the tracks with kicks and clownish smiles. But the most wild and watchable of the lot is the pixie-like, sugar-sweet synth player/vocalist, who co-captains the chaos with a theatrical tenacity, dancing between notes and stomping her shoeless feet. Undoubtedly, Unsafe Space Garden are the most eccentric, original and wholly-consuming band of the weekend, but just like an acid trip itself, they’re not for the faint of heart. 

Liz Scarlett

Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music.