Sŵn Festival 2015
7-8 November 2015
Part Two of Keith Goldhanger’s weekend at Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival watching, listening and drinking with some of his new favourite artists.
On a day when we don’t even have to be cooped up inside small bars to witness a day that seems bereft of any daylight we venture cautiously into day two which gets off to a flyer.
We’re straight into the downstairs part of Clwb Ifor Bach and metaphorically thumping the air at our coincidental appearance in front of a man called BRIK PHRO looking dapper and politely singing along to his CD deck. No shouting, no swearing and bereft of that everybody put your hands in the air nonsense, just nice laid back hip hop funk performed by one man and a machine.
We’re in a good mood and we cross the road to smile along and offer up our ideas as to the type of songs we’d like to hear from a likeable chap by the name of Sam Russo. As one wag suggests it’s time we heard a really sad song we get it for a short couple of minutes and we find ourselves spending a good half an hour hearing songs based around the man’s experiences that range from sleeping in a mates garage to falling out of love to standing on his own in a far off land waiting for the bank to open. Sam sounds as though he’s met a few interesting folk throughout his life and we get the feeling he’s a man with bucket loads of tunes he could allow us to hear at any time. No set list, just an invitation from the man to interact with those of us here before he heads off to play another gig later on in Southampton. Sam has left his mark and we’re all very grateful for what we’ve witnessed today.
BORIS A BONO may be a terrible name for a band wether or not one third of the trio is actually named Boris. They look like the kind of folk that would pull out tin whistles and fiddles and start skipping around grassy hilltops as the sun comes up over high hills in Somerset during the summer time, however what we get is a selection of glorious laid back electronic short tunes that are restrained, refreshing and simply marvellous. Half a dozen gigs old with other projects scattered around them, these fellows make music that the world would sit up and take notice of once they venture away from their native country (Wales). Another one of those short half hours that make us happy to have made the effort to be here and a new potential favourite band to add to the dozens we already have. If you like Sigor Ros but sometimes find them just a little unsettling at times then plug your laptops into this band – Boris a Bono are producing some marvellous stuff.
If there’s one artist that we see all weekend at Sŵn Festival that we now expect to go to great places and become a household name it must surely be MISTY MILLER.
Misty’s appearance over at the tiny Moon club is the most professional and amazing performance we see all weekend. The world is going to love what we witnessed today once put on a larger pedestal and she’s already been playing around the UK and picking up new fans wherever she goes. We note that it’s over four years since we’d crossed paths previously when she held a ukulele and welcomed some early mid-week arrivals into a North London bar. She’s still young and has a very exciting future ahead. Fabulous stuff.
Which continued a little later with THE MAGIC GANG on the same stage singing very happy songs for sunny days and journeys made standing on surf boards. Debut single “No Fun” had us expecting a few checked shirts and Nirvana nods but this is more like the Beach boys than the Seattle boys. They seem very polite chaps singing very catchy coherent songs that like Misty Miller proceeding them are destined to be loved by the nation in the next few years ahead.
London band WEDDINGS who have no chance of anyone ever finding them on the internet are treading the carpet over at ABACUS and thrilling us with chopping and changing bursts of guitar and managing to have a singer as a great accompaniment that lacks any predictable shouting one may expect to augment these frantic compositions. They sound like Vampire Weekend on speed or a more polite iForward Russia! and have us tapping our feet furiously.
WHITE NOISE SOUND at Undertone sound like Spaceman 3, have three guitarists with a huge number of effects pedals each, a keyboard player with a few boxes of effects, a bass player and drummer squashed in the corner of the room and they make an unholy racket whilst simultaneously scratching their heads wondering why the sound is giving them grief. They must be a sound engineer’s nightmare, however once they get going are a joyous racket that we’d be happy witnessing again once they realise that whatever racket they make may not be possible to recreate every time they appear inside tiny rooms such as these.
We decide that time is on our side to go and watch a bit of THE JACQUES and again after yet another short ten minutes come to the same conclusion for about the fifth time this year that they sound a bit like The Libertines.
PLASTIC MERMAIDS are from the Isle of Wight and are nearly (and still potentially) one of our favourite bands in the whole world. Their online music has been much to our liking in the build up to Sŵn Festival and what we get tonight is something that anyone with slightest interest in the music of Flaming lips, Mercury Rev, The Earlies, Sigur Ros and Hot Chip will love. We’re not really sure the personnel involved up on this stage realise this to be honest. There’s a lot of what they do all crammed onto the tiny stage at The Moon Club that’s pure genius and the set is full of surprises throughout. The sudden appearance of a loud hailer, the multiple vocals, tinkling piano, subtle electronic beats and towards the end a lady with the most amazing operatic voice we’ll hear in Wales all weekend that gets a round of applause before her first bout of singing has even turned into the second. This is glorious bonkers stuff and glorious bonkers music is what some of us embrace.
There’s so much going on up there and whilst it’s performed with so much confidence we do spend a few moments trying to work out what is wrong with this. (We’ll just do what everyone does here and blame the drummer shall we?) There’s something nearly perfect about this band which is the most annoying criticism we have during this. The fact that this criticism even exists is even annoying. Maybe it’s the size of the venue, maybe we’re in denial about watching yet another fabulous band maybe, maybe maybe……..ooooh we don’t care, this is definitely a band to go and see again and even again and again because one day Plastic Mermaid may become many peoples favourite band. Not yet though….but soon maybe. We’ll work on it and once we can put into words why we’re not clinging onto the back of their van trying to escape to the Isle of Wight just yet we’ll get back to you on this band.
And finally after a quick look at DU BLONDE at the Buffalo bar we concede defeat and collapse into a heap and just lie there, waiting for someone to scoop us up and take us to our beds.
Sŵn Festival has been fantastic, Cardiff is fantastic, the people here are friendly unassuming and as keen as we are to experience the fresh and new that the rest of the UK will get to see and hear themselves eventually.
The one frustrating thing about Sŵn Festival and other similar events is the inability to be in two places at the same time therefore whilst keeping our ears open and gaging the general reaction of other people’s experiences this weekend we have certainly taken on board what we missed.
We’d heard good reports about Will Joseph Cook over at the GWDIHW and Hooton Tennis Club upstairs inside a packed Clwb Ifor Bach. PEANESS were responsible for people to be grinning widely as we entered and passed those leaving the same venue on Sunday evening and I’m Sure Tuff Love, Clean Cut Kid, Pretty Vicious, Protomartyr and 5th Spear would have been worth a look. We were a little bothered about missing The Prettiots but that itch was scratched the following Tuesday when they turned up in London’s West End at another gig hosted by one of the Sŵn Festival Organisers (BBC’s) Huw Stephens (who co-founded this marvellous weekend with Cardiff promoter John Rostron)
Maybe one day someone will arrange a festival where all bands play twice thus allowing those who venture into too many chip shops can get a second chance to see what we’ve been listening to in the lead up to these events?
We trust now that over the next few months when we’re kicking our heels back in East London one wet a Tuesday night and we see a bands name that we recall was on our big piece of paper we had folded in our pockets this weekend are playing, we’ll probably wander along, say hello, tell them we’re sorry we missed them in Cardiff (probably omitting the bit about the chip shops) and then add them to the ever increasing list of acts that YOU (if you haven’t yet seen or heard yet) and I would certainly enjoy together.
Time for a lie down now I reckon.