We Were Promised Jetpacks, Holy Fuck, Hotel Lux, Porridge Radio and a few surprises……Day two of Keith Goldhanger’s Sŵn Festival review from the heart of Cardiff. 

(Holy) FUCK !
How is it going to be possible to dissect day two (Saturday) of the 2019 Sŵn Festival?
Let’s try…..

FEET at the downstairs Clwb Ifor Bach venue are our first stop because we heard them on our favourite radio show last week (Xposure – Radio X) and they sing a song about taking a dog for a walk. A common occurrence today is the number of five-piece bands we find ourselves standing in front of. This is mentioned to eradicate from our minds the amount of wind instruments seen yesterday. This particular quintet appear as though they have just been released from the school of silly dances and are so skilled in their ridiculousness that they manage to avoid knocking each other over whilst either wobbling their legs, waving their arms around or even attempting to play each others guitars with their feet at chest height. For ten minutes we had considered going for breakfast but once they get going (or should we be saying keep going) we realise they’re all as consistently crazy and as unhinged as as each other and are providing us with the kind of great wobbly (or is it wonky?) psychedelic tunes that The Rutles once built a career on. Once we’re over the first couple of songs we notice that these songs that change tempo a lot and include some dance rhythms are causing us to shuffle our feet, and we realise we like them a lot more than we thought we were ever likely to during the first song that rhymed the words weather with umbrella. A fantastic start to the day.

HOTEL LUX arrive at Jacobs, a venue we’ve not visited before even though it’s been hosting shows at this event previously and is in fact two venues that take turns in providing acts simply divided by single door (actually it might be a double door but we didn’t take notes). Hotel Lux sound a bit like what The Fall would sound like if Jimmy Pursey was at the mike and not as angry. English Disease is spat out with celebratory abandon (one of our tracks of the year) and The Last Hangman completes a set of tunes that these south London boys should be very proud of. These are great songs that we’d like to think are current late night indie disco floor fillers that young university folk away from home for the first time are raising their pints to and singing along to when they should be tucked up in bed after a hard day studying something they’ll not give tuppence about in ten years time.
They’re probably not, they’re probably still doing this to Blur songs.

Apologies to Conchúr White who we promised ourselves we’d visit but don’t and Grace Lightman who we’ll revisit again later in the year, but HOLY FUCK are due to play in a pub at six o’clock and we don’t want to find ourselves in situations that might compromise this mouthwatering prospect. Our schedules go into our back pockets for a while and we decide there and then to walk into any (all) of the venues in Womanby Street, tap our toes to whatever was going on for a song or two and then leave and find out who these bands are at a later date. We’d forgotten how important it is to do this at Sŵn; go off piste for an hour or so if you like. Or just be a bit drunk on life having already witnessed some of the best gigs one could wish for on a Saturday afternoon, and prepared to chance our luck a little.

Step one involves walking into The Moon Club and sneaking out five minutes later in the middle of a song without even looking at the poster with the artist,s name on. Something is going on at Fuel next door that we can’t really see or hear but then think that Alan Tango across the road would be worth a visit. As soon as we see this strange looking man with the long wobbly legs, bicycle horn hanging from the keyboard stand, brilliant moustache and see he has the ability to put his whole arm behind his head without it bending, we nudge ourselves to the front. We learn this is in fact a Spaniard who along with his three associates (one who sits down outside the Ladies toilets for half a song and a fifth member recruited before the last song) is in fact called ALIEN TANGO. Alien Tango (right pic) play foot-stomping glam electronic pop music songs that sound like The Bee Gees that chop and change in tempo about half a dozen times during any one song. The main man could be Freddie Mercury but isn’t. He’s the man we wanted Justin Hawkins from the Darkness to grow up to be but instead tried to fill the gap made from Status Quo fans having nothing to do any longer instead of jumping onto the disco bandwagon that The Scissor Sisters came riding into town on. The appreciative throng inside Clwb Ifor Bach don’t hold back in the amount of love thrown back at the stage between tunes. One song is a celebratory song telling the world he is about to have sex. Maybe once he removes those tight turquoise bell bottom trousers this could actually be a possibility. We leave high-fiving each other and announcing to anyone who will listen for the next few hours that this has been one of our big highlights of the day so far (it is still about 4.30 in the afternoon). This shows again that taking a few risk at events such as this can be very worthwhile.

We grab another beer before remarking on how fortunate Welsh speaking band GWILYM are for getting to play to a big crowd all arriving in good time for HOLY FUCK. Once we start paying closer attention we realise there’s a good reason for the big crowd. This band have some great rousing songs that just keep coming one after another. The longer we stand in front of this band the more we like them and the more we enjoy the songs they play us. If we had lighters in our pockets they’d be out and held up high (but it’s still early and we’d spill our pints).

HOLY FUCK (top pic) at O’Neils was always going to be unmissable and the hour we are with them doesn’t disappoint. The band have just flown in from Canada, they don’t know what day it is or whether its 6AM or 6PM, they have loads of electronic gadgets, loads of wires, leads, tapes and an item of metal cutlery in their hands as well as a couple of guitars and have had no sound check. It sounds perfect, you can see from their own expressions that this is some kind or miracle however it could also be down to the sound guy at the back who has also just arrived from a long flight and is currently having a very good day.

Tonight is one of those moments they’ll chat to each other about for hours afterwards one suspects in order to try to work out how such a chaotic preparation can result in such a brilliant show. A brilliant forty five minutes not just for themselves but for us too. HOLY FUCK may sound a little more conventional today than say they did over a decade ago but its the same electronic road Cabaret Voltaire trod during the mid 80’s. That’s not to say we don’t get the noisy, heavily disguised beauty that’s hidden inside tunes such as Lovely Allen that ignites the heaving crowd into an arm-waving feet-shuffling delirium that would be just as appropriate after midnight as it is before tea time. We step back out into the early evening air having witnessed one of Sŵn Festivals most amazing and breathtaking performances since we first stepped foot inside Cardiff.

Reports during our designated dinner time are received of half a dozen other bands around the city causing ripples amongst the attendees. The love seems to be evenly distributed today, the names we’ll be taking note of for future investigation but for now it’s time to revisit the ‘very sober never been drunk during any performance ever’ (apologies for assuming otherwise recently) PORRIDGE RADIO who simply get better and better the more they have been appearing in front of us over the years. This Brighton four-piece remind the eldest among us of the day when the same south coast town was providing us with bands such as The Chefs or Nicky And The Dots. Stick this band in a time machine back to 1978 and they’d be a shoe-in for inclusion on the seminal Voltage ’78 compilation album that reflected the music scene from the town they currently reside in. Porridge Radio are one of those bands that we hope will eventually be embraced by the kind of music loving public that enjoy being reminded of the sound track of their youth without having to revisit the same (and now much older) individuals, only to be hugely disappointed that they cant jump up and down any more and are a shadow of their former selves. This band are just as relevant in 2019 as they could have been back then. Another fabulous highlight of this years Sŵn, one to cherish for everyone in the room.

The new decade is only a couple of months away and your first favourite band of that decade might be Dublin band THE CLAQUE. It’s still early days for this lot but the experiences we’re already bottling up are already keeping some of us up late at night. The ingredients that make this so great are the rasping chain saw guitars, simple metal-sounding percussion and equally simple bass that seems to take many twists turns, stops and starts that are held together by an angelic voice that would provide us with something quite ordinary in any other context. The harshness and beauty of My Bloody Valentine is present – the simplicity of it all along with the fact that there’s no one else like this doing the rounds at the moment mean you have to hear them. The Claque were the first (and certainly best) golden nugget we unearthed when the first festival schedule was released a while ago. There may not be many here today watching this but those here will find themselves falling in love with what the band have released so far and no doubt continue to do so the longer the band continue. Debut tune Hush is one of our favourite debut releases of 2019 without doubt and we haven’t even mentioned the personnel the band share with one of our other favourite bands from Ireland, Girl Band.

Time to visit a couple of venues we’ve not visited yet and to catch a couple of bands we watch for a tune or two whilst simultaneously trying to read our apps to establish the name of whatever band we’re watching. Local band HYLL have a singer lying on the floor singing to the ceiling whist occasionally forgetting the words to whatever he’s singing. Another time we’d stay until the end but there another venue around the corner where SWIMMING TAPES are playing their non offensive Indie pop tunes we’ve heard on the radio this year. We miss SELF ESTEEM and decide to buy a ticket for her London show but realise that we’re going to see HMLTD the same night for exactly the same reason (HMLTD are also playing at this very moment in the only venue we’ve not visited yet so far this weekend ‘Kongs’).

The reason for this decision (or rather decisions – there are about 4 other shows we could also be at that take our fancy) is because WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS are playing their decade old debut album back over at O’Neils and we need to get into this building early.
This means we get to see the wonderful SKINNY PELEMBE whose laid back sweet sounding songs are a pleasure to hear and witness. This chap has a voice that’s as strong as anything we’ve witnessed so far this weekend, you can tell that the front few rows are lapping up every moment but we doubt they’ll be singing the refrain to the powerful No Blacks, No Dogs No Irishmen (the set closer) as they wander along the street later on. A great powerful performance from a superb singer with plenty to say.

Believe it or not but some of us have managed to get through life so far without witnessing the glorious WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS (right pic). It was worth the wait as the Scottish four-piece play out their debut album These Four Walls as an enthusiastic crowd sings along, sheds a tear, climbs on top of each others shoulders and reminds one or two of us of the first time we saw Canadians Arcade Fire for the first time on a small stage many hours earlier in the day than they would eventually be accustomed to be performing at. Every moment of this performance is worth bottling up and remembering for ever. It’s easy to hear why they’ve attracted such a big early evening (actually it’s nearly midnight) crowd and its certainly the only way one can end such a fabulous days entertainment. We could have stayed for PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS or any of the other options still available but that would be greedy. We need to start early again in the morning (OK then afternoon) and get into some of these venues before the rest of the city have recovered from the rugby.

Day two has been incredible yet it’s Sundays’ schedule that we have been anticipating greater during the weeks leading up to Sŵn – An early night then …..? Ah! Too late – the sun is rising already, the pubs are filling up with red-topped burly men singing loudly and we’ve a list of people to get in touch with as we go through the list of reasons we’re not coming to see their band today.

Reviews for Friday and Sunday are here and here.

Words & Photo by Keith Goldhanger. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).

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