It’s not often we get decent live music here in Pembrokeshire, so it was bloody brilliant last night to get to see not one but two fine sets of musicians performing at the Queen’s Hall in Narberth. Rising star Ben Howard ( ) was the headline act, with support from local band Chailo Sim (, and both were playing in support of that esteemed organisation Surfers Against Sewage ( ).

Ben Howard is gradually garnering quite a following amongst those who know a good tune when they hear it, with appearances of late on Radio 2 and Radio 6 and a new EP ‘Old Pine’ out later this month, and I would totally recommend getting to one of his gigs if you can.

I guess that here in Pembrokeshire, home to one David Gray Esq. (who once ‘supported’ the band I used to play in – but he was only about ten at the time) comparisons with David are inevitable. Vocally there are similarities, true, but Ben’s music has a slightly different feel to it – I would say that he’s more surfie where David is more urban in both their feel and appeal.

Indeed, as Ben is a surfer himself that’s perhaps not surprising, and the surfie crowd at last night’s gig were totally stoked with the performance, from the quieter, more low key opening numbers to the full on jump around and get sweaty final tunes that were an amazingly big sound from a three piece consisting of India Bourne on cello, vocals and bass and Chris Bond on drums, bass and vocals (brilliant musicians themselves) as well as Ben with his unique guitar playing combo of plucking, strumming and beating both the fretboard and the soundboard to give a full and admirably percussive sound.

Rather than me blather on inanely about Ben’s music, however, I’d suggest you just get out there and hear it for yourself. And even if you don’t I reckon you’ll be hearing a lot more if it on the radio, TV and Internet in the future.

When it comes to defining a sound Chailo Sim are actually harder to categorise than Mr. Howard. They call themselves an alternative folk band (the lineup consists of guitars, vocals, bass, keyboards, drums and occasional trumpet) which could put a few people off – I myself have an allergic reaction to the combination of beards, sandals and finger-in-your-ear music that turns me into a homicidal maniac – but fortunately for all concerned Chailo Sim are not at all like that.

I bought their first album ‘Replete’ last winter and found it’s mellow, chilled out sounds to be the perfect accompaniment to a fine whisky and a roaring fire on dark winter nights, whilst now the weather has improved it’s also goes rather well with long, summery evenings when a few friends are round for a cold beer or wine (bloody hell, how awfully middle class we have become…).

The band will be gigging here in Pembrokeshire and as far afield as that London over the summer and again, I urge you to get out there and give them a listen.

And now on to the second half of this blog, ‘Small World’…

It occurred to me last night what a small world I live in. Here’s why:

The gig was organised by my friends Ross Beece and Alice Middleton, the SW Wales reps for SAS. Alice is the daughter of one of my oldest mates Andy Middleton, the founder of the well-known TyF Group here in St. David’s, who I was at university with and who I can blame for getting me into surfing.

As a result of getting into surfing I eventually became the editor of the now defunct ‘Surf’ magazine. Whilst in the post I went on numerous surf trips for the mag, one of which was to the Canaries in 1997 with a hot young surfer from Saltburn in tow, one Andy Cummins – who is now the SAS Campaign Director.

Another of these lame excuses for ‘work’ was to the Bahamas with pro big wave rider Gabe Davies, who is now as SAS Team Rider and a good friend of Ben Howard, to whom I was introduced by Gabe on a surf trip to France a couple of years ago – which brings us round full circle to last night’s gig.

A small world indeed – and a very fine one to be part of…




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