Sŵn Festival 2015 – Cardiff – Live Review (Part One)
Keith Goldhanger spends a few days in the Welsh capital where he visits the Sŵn Festival and in the first of two reviews he tells you as much as he can remember about it.
Yet again, loads of bands we don’t really know yet.
We have already established that in a few days time one or two are about to enter into our lives, onto our laptops and hopefully yours, your friends and your friends’ friends too.
Three years ago we came away from Cardiff with a handful of new tunes and new bands and the ones we liked, tapped our toes to and were seeing for the second or third time that year have eventually graced a few big festival stages, our TV screens and sold a few albums since (Drenge, Wolf Alice, Nadine Shah, Everything Everything…there were probably a few more that fit into this category but we may have missed them).
It’s day one of two and we have a plan.
A plan to wander the streets of the Welsh capital and seek out the new and to hopefully remain as giddy with excitement as we were when we began investigating these names we’d not heard of previously that caused us to dance around the kitchen in reaction to what we were being fed over the information superhighway .
DAN BETTRIDGE in the downstairs bit of Clwb Ifor Bach eases us into the proceedings with his laid back polite country folk tunes followed by a superbly sounding HANNAH GRACE belting out some tunes that seem to shake the walls and grab everyone’s attention.
In between these two acts we’d wandered upstairs to catch LOVERS OPEN FIRE.
It’s a bit shouty and a bit too rock and there seem to be too many long instrumental interludes that even the singer gives up thumping the floor to and simply looks a bit fed up with by the time he has to return to the microphone. The angst in their tunes doesn’t seem to work whilst they’re grinning from ear to ear at the sight of a room full of early arrivals before them. however, once we get back to civilisation we gave them the thumbs up for their tunes on Soundcloud.
SKINNY GIRL DIET (top pic – K Goldhanger) over at Abacus are a much better shouty, screamy and grungy affair. They fabulously remind us of the days before these women were born when we were discovering Babes in Toyland and Hole. There’s always a nervous demeanour to their performances and we simply can’t wait for them to eradicate this as we believe they’re still not firing on all cylinders at the moment. They will do eventually and once that happens they’ll be tearing apart audiences as second nature.
PALACE at the Buffalo Bar pull a decent size crowd, strum some twangy guitar and cause us to sway too and fro in front of some tunes we’re still in the early stages of getting used to. There’s a fantastic cover version of Jamie XX’s “Loud Places” out there if you google it. Alas, we don’t get that one this afternoon but instead a few new tunes (to them) as well as “Kiloran”, one we’ve been listening to during our insomnia-affected nights with the radio on at full blast. These tunes from Palace are mostly all new to us at the moment but give it a year and we may be even more smitten.
Apologies go out to WILL JOSEPH COOK who was swerved for the chip shop but we’re hearing good things, not only on his Soundcloud page but from those who did manage the show.
BLOODFLOWER’s polite pop music was OK for a tune or two but the day was getting busy now and decisions were having to be made before we decided to sample the local ale and anticipate the “Saturday night in a large city centre experience” (not the name of a band but you can have it for free if you’re stuck).
REMEMBERING AUGUST over at Dempseys hd at least seven personnel short of what we’d hoped for but this duo have some happy songs in their repertoire that consist of basically some keyboards , guitar and dual male female voices that are worth checking out.
LIFE (pic above right – K Goldhanger) from Hull are a highlight of the day. This four piece we’ve seen before, we already play their tunes at home and tell anyone who will listen that they are probably the best punk rock band in the country at the moment. Life remind us that late 70s punk was really all about infectious, distorted fast-paced pop tunes, a voice that sings not shouts and tunes that are tinged with beauty and joy. Generation X, The Lurkers, The Ramones…good songs, short songs played with an attitude you can’t buy. If you’re mad enough to sit in a van from Hull to play for 25 minutes, have a laugh in the process, stay sincere and then drive back again you deserve this attention. We need to make Life household names, you need to see this band if you haven’t yet. Which on looking around the room appears to be plentiful in this part of the world today. I know we’ll miss out on one or two things over the weekend ourselves and I’ll accept that and catch up another time. Whatever everyone else was doing at 6.30 Saturday evening (and by the size of the crowd in Clwb Ifor Bach that was possibly Hooton Tennis Club) then remember this band next time you see them doing something in your area and you’ll hopefully come to the same conclusion that this band are bloody fantastic. Go to their website now and it’ll take you two minutes to understand what we’re harping on about here.
BABY BRAVE (pic right – K Goldhanger) we met in Manchester a couple of weeks ago and their catchy tune “Jitters” has got us hooked. Emmi Manteau sounds like Clare Grogan (Altered Images) fronting The House Of Love and sings her lyrics that more than once during a song get us sitting up straight and paying attention to someone who we feel has probably been sitting at home for years writing books the size of telephone directories containing lyrics. Baby Brave make glorious C86 inspired pop music and are from Wrexham. That’s about three to four hours in a car and they too will set off on a return journey shortly after their short but sweet and infectiously enjoyable set of tunes.
And then we get into the “what the fuck is going on here ?” part of the evening..
Some of us will never be able to shy away from a trio of blokes in full body stockings playing two drum kits whilst a bloke at the back hits a button that blows out digital raspberry noises from his keyboards (I assume it’s a “he”).
As we enter the venue known locally as ABACUS the trio are standing arms aloft in silence before continuing the tune they’d just stopped. They’ll start again after we’ve all stopped giggling. We’re watching a band from Liverpool called BARBEROS and it’s a bit like watching two drummers jamming out some prog rock solos that crash band and wallop, crash bang wallop and crash wallop ding into nowhere in particular. Brighton’s AK/DK do this miles better. So do Canada’s Holy Fuck – the crowd inside this venue are lapping this up, it’s a great speactacle, it’s ridiculous but as much as we like the ridiculous it’s also a bit lacking in the catchy tune department. We haven’t found anything that will make us whistle as walk down the road in the mornings but we’re glad we’ve seen this to be able to arrive at this conclusion.
We move on briskly.
The very young looking YR EIRA sounded good during the short three minutes we saw and we cross the path to have a look at THE PEOPLE THE POET who are playing their set of tunes written for a stadium inside the Moon Club. Right down to the WHOOooooooh’s they encourage and succeed in getting us to do at the end. What we see here should be happening around the corner in that big arena famous for being the location of the dramatic failure of the mighty Brentford Football club when we were younger.
The husky commanding voice we’re hearing from The People The Poet is rather captivating (think Bono but bigger, think of Tom Waits but huskier, think Coldplay but without as many fans). They may be running before they can walk but that also needs encouraging. We’re smiling as we leave and one person is still singing the refrain that goes WHooooohhh WHoooooo OOOhh OOOh OOOHhhh !!. We’ll be looking for this band’s tunes as soon as we’re back on line again with the speakers plugged in and decide then if these are the people that would fit nicely between Coldplay and U2 or if they’ll be spending the rest of their lives playing gigs under a gazebo, sheltering from the rain inside a village pub beer garden in a few summers time.
HMS MORRIS back over at Clwb Ifr Bach seem to have employed a better and less titillating version of Pans People into their act (ask your grandparents). Perfectly orchestrated synchronised dancers wearing sportswear that we can’t see very clearly because there is no stage and a band also sporting the same attire have us scratching our heads wondering what the dickens is going on over there in the corner. It’s the maddest thing we’ve seen since Darwin Deez 80’s inspired disco dancing but an hour later once we’d recovered none of us could remember anything about the music but we’ve been very impressed with the spectacle we saw once we succeed in craning our heads above the throng.
THE GO! TEAM (pic right- K Goldhanger) are the best band in the word for 40 minutes tonight. If the world we currently live in was a better place we’d all be going to Reading festival watching these headline whilst congratulating each other on our ability to understand and celebrate the reason for big events in big fields and being non the wiser in our ageing lives about watching all those bloke bands that grace the main stage nowadays that have us scratching our heads furuiously. The Go! Team are jubilant, exciting, they don’t stand still for more that 0.3 of a second, they play each others instruments, jump up and down, sing (quite possibly very badly but that doesn’t matter) together with arms in the air, get the audience to do the same and actually manage to sound rather unique with the results they produce. The tracks we’ve heard from their recent “The Scene Between” album need to be listened to and the band need to be seen by everyone. The Go! Team are fun, The Go! Team are ace, The Go! Team are about to conquer the world. Surely nothing can get in their way now.
What a fantastic rowdy way to spend a Saturday night.
TRAAMS are playing down the road and a few days after the Mirrors Festival a certain individual mentioned wanting to see them again in a better situation, that someone finds himself watching this trio punch their way through some fiery groove-driven menacing riffs that prove that man right. The potentially boisterous crowd seem restrained but enthralled. If noisy, fuzzed guitar lead lurching is your thing then this would be your cup of tea. About the strongest beverage one could actually purchase in theis building today as it turns out.
We’ve no idea whos idea it was to put DINGUS KHAN (pic right- K Goldhanger) on as late as midnight but it worked a treat for those of us after one more fix of Saturday night rowdyness. This lot are bonkers (ticks box) come from Essex (tick) have a man wearing a sack cloth, a man in a white dress , two drumers and a singer that spends a large part of the show brushing his teeth in between mouthfuls of lyrics. They all shout and holler, all drink heavily whilst performing, get involved in some kind of dance ritual between them, snog each other, cause the drunk crowd to sing that bit from the annoying Fratellis song (the only one) whilst bemoaning the fact that sometimes people tend to want to play this over loud public address systems during football matches (double tick). They cause the biggest most enthusiastic, raucous audience reaction we’ve seen so far, have some terriffic tunes and have managed to close day one in an explosive manner.
It’s been a great day and to think that this morning we were thinking day two may look better…(to be continued)…
All words by Keith Goldhanger. More writing my Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).