Combining hardcore punk with grime might sound dangerously close to nu metal, but Cardiff five-piece Astroid Boys are looking ahead, not back – experimenting to push culture forward. Vocalist Traxx, wearing a baseball cap and checked black-and-white chefs’ trousers, looks like he’s just knocked off work at a greasy spoon. At one point during this exciting, uncompromising show, second vocalist Benji mounts the barrier and raps, “Look at me now!” to a crunching guitar riff.
The crowd at Reading Festival has been notable for its lack of curiosity, with lesser-known acts struggling to woo in punters to convert, yet here is proof that the future of alternative music is in safe hands – The Radio 1Xtra Stage is rammed with teenagers moshing to Astroid Boys’s genre-melding tunes, pulling gun fingers and mounting the shoulders of fellow audience members to crowdsurf to the front.
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The Welsh hip-hop act – who must now be sick of side-eyed comparisons to countrymen and comedy rappers Goldie Looking Chain – have been gathering pace for the past few years and 2015 album ‘CF10’ (the postcode of their hometown) distils their talents into seven eclectic tracks that chart their slow grind through the underground scene. Today’s early doors show is chaotic and anarchic, the songs sounding more guitar-based than on record, underlining the fact that grime is the new punk: DIY, fiercely independent, a self-contained community that emerged from underground culture.
In truth, Astroid Boys are much better live than heard through the speakers of your laptop. On the album, the Sean Paul-referencing ‘Wake Up’ sounds muted, brooding, understated – but here it’s a bomb blast, each lyrical blow a shard of shrapnel that could maim the crowd. The crisp beats of ‘Bruddah’ become rumbling, bassy and ominous, making Traxx’s admission that “I just wanna make a better life, my bruddah” sound almost threatening; you would not want to stand between him and success.
Batting away a beach ball that’s sailed from the back of the sprawling, seething crowd, Benji assesses the front row and notes that “I see bare familiar faces” of fans that have supported the group for years. As the spooky synth of new song ‘Ghost’ floats through the tent, Traxx crowdsurfing and Benji waving the Welsh flag, it looks like Traxx will soon be ready to hang up the chefs’ trousers for good.