Rocking in Wales for Autism Cymru|
ABERWYSTWYTH, Wales: It must be hard enough getting your rock 'n' roll career off the ground while trying to be Wales' answer to Michael Eavis - without having to go to school every day. But that is what 18-year-old Sam James has been doing for the last three years.
While watching Aberystwyth's Castell Rock music festival, his brainchild when he was 16, double in size, he has also been making a success of his own band, The Poppies, as well as studying for A-levels in music, art, drama and English.
This year's festival takes place on July 9 in aid of Autism Cymru, with some of the most promising young rock bands in Wales lining up alongside the best in local talent to play for free in the town's castle ruins in front of an expected 2,000 festival-goers.
The bill features The Poppies - also comprised of bassist Eifion Austin and drummer Twm Champagne - who despite their young age have already released a mini-album under the tutelage of manager Owen Powell (formerly of Catatonia) and earned a slot on BBC Radio One's Session In Wales show.
They also play next weekend's Sesiwn Fawr festival in Dolgellau and Wakestock the following weekend.
The July 9 event will have a celebratory atmosphere for the band now that school's out for summer - indeed, for ever. "We should get Alice Cooper to play," laughs singer and guitarist Sam as he repairs some amps in the lead-up to the festival.
"We all finished school at staggered times because we were doing different exams. So hopefully loads of my friends will turn up on Saturday for a party."
The event features North Wales bands Winebago, Bob and The Heights as well as Aberystwyth acts Smokestack and The Accelerators. An alcohol-free event, it is funded by Ceredigion county council, Aberystwyth town council and the Communities First fund.
"But that doesn't cover the amount of time that's put in," he says.. "Everyone involved in it is a volunteer."
Entry is free, although a collection will be made for Autism Cymru. "The first year we raised £400 for Tenovus and last year it was £800 for The Samaritans, so maybe we can raise twice as much this year.
"The point of the gig isn't to raise money for charity, but if we can raise some money at the same time all the better. The original idea was to run a gig for young kids who couldn't necessarily afford to go to Glastonbury.
"Two years ago I was playing in my first band thinking it would be great to play with a big band on a big stage. Part of it is to give the new bands from around here the opportunity to play in front of more people and with bigger bands.
"I'd never want to have a line-up that's just full of the biggest bands I could have - there would have to be local bands."
Now that they're free from the shackles of school, Sam and his bandmates plan to try and make a go of The Poppies before thinking about whether or not to go to university - they have already filmed a slot for S4C music show, Popty, to be screened in the autumn.
"We're concentrating on chasing a record deal, getting bigger gigs and getting out there," Sam says, adding: "It's just great not having to worry about getting up for school the next day!"
Castell Rock takes place in Aberystwyth Castle ruins from noon-10pm on June 9. For more information, go to www.castell rock.co.uk
(Source: Daily Post, July 8, 2005)