On the third and final day of this year’s Sŵn festival in Cardiff Keith Goldhanger continues to stagger around the city to view as many bands here who are attempting to grab our attention.
We’ve now realised that because these venues are so close together and the stage times have so far been very reliable, more shows can be visited than we realised when scribbling circles around our schedule before venturing out. A healthy (or maybe unhealthy) seventeen bands were seen yesterday. Even if we only stayed for a couple of songs, they all count.
Today we’re upping our game for the final leg of this three day extravaganza so we’ll listen to a few more bands before we set off.
A visit to the Sŵn museum gets us annoyed that we hadn’t discovered this event ten years ago. Old posters hang on the wall listing bands we used to love, never forgot about and never established where they went.
We begin the day the only way there is to begin a day that would end (obviously it didn’t) with a Plastic Mermaids show by watching the bands friend and backing vocalist RHAIN perform a solo set alongside members of Plastic Mermaids as her backing band. Rhain has a voice so glorious that some of us would suggest we have never witnessed before and for half an hour we get her singing her own songs as she tinkles the ivories (I don’t think they use Ivory any more to be honest) and get’s the pulse racing for the hours ahead.
RIGHT HAND LEFT HAND who we’ve been listening to since breakfast time today are a true highlight of the day, if not the weekend. A duo with a couple of guitars and a drum kit loop everything they play and any spectators watching learn that bands such as God Speed You Black Emperor don’t need all those people on stage with them. Tunes build and build until they sound as though there’s another twenty five people up there. Guitarist Rhodri Viney (we’re best mates already) does his stint on one guitar and switches to the second one as the song gets bigger the longer it evolves. This is probably one of the most unique things we’ve witnessed for a while and we’re reminded briefly of that disappointing show earlier this year by Battles that we hoped that day would be as great as this but wasn’t. Right Hand Left Hand’s recent nomination for the Welsh nomination is something they hardly mention. This is brilliant stuff that has one of us already hearing voices in our heads asking “Please make it stop!” in preparation of trying to come to terms with that amount of excellent acts we’re standing in front of again this year.
JOSEPH J JONES blew our minds when we heard his tune ‘The Video’ leading up to this event however he must have begun early as It’s taken longer to write this sentence than it did to walk up three flights of stairs and announce to no one ..”Oh, He’s finished”.
Which meant we got to see WINTER COAT who are a nice polite shimmering guitar band using lots of echo whilst being brilliant and we then walk up a flight of stairs to see Finish trio HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE JANE FONDA AEROBIC VHS ? for the second time this year and had us doing ‘The Shämäläin’ (whatever that is) and dancing like it’s 1969.
A bit of making it all up as you go along was decided when we temporarily lost our schedules meant we got to see a few bands that looked like school teaches sing strange songs about eggs ‘QUIET MARAUDER’
another band who were all in loads of different bands from Leeds that we know very little about (‘LIVING BODY‘), a band that we could see that from a mobile phone being held aloft they were being watched by someone from the comfort of their living room MADDIE JONES and a band named after an Icelandic explorer ‘LEIF ERIKSON’
Twenty minutes doing nothing at Sŵn is a long time. It’s a bit like when you get down the tube station back home and realise this same amount of time will have to pass before a train comes. However we’re in The Moon Club, the incy wincey far too small for a band that appeared on Jools Hollands’ always miss TV Show two nights earlier. LET’S EAT GRANDMA are here to show us all how they can mess around with all their equipment in a regimented, disciplined way and how to equally attempt to mess with our heads. Theyoung duo probably go through the same motions on a daily basis nowadays, covering every inch of the stage and hitting everything they have up there that can be deemed a musical instrument. This is what makes them compelling. The two members look alike. If you blink you’d miss them swapping places on the drum kit. The recorders come out, and they’re nearly in tune. We get the hint of a smile towards the end but it’s a short serious affair that has everyone in the room smiling and cheering the uniqueness of it all. How long this will all last is anyone’s guess. Will these two from Norfolk throw us a cracking tune one day like Bang Bang Machine’s ‘Geek Love’ (you tube it – it’s a song that’s been dragged out of the cupboard for some unfathomable reason since we first heard this duo’s music) or will they, once they realise they’ve played in every nook and cranny in The UK decide to do something else once the public have decided a second viewing may not be for them?
A small change in tempo is required. BAD BREEDING, a knee in the groin neck strangling scream fest is on the cards and this also has us shaking with delight as the adrenalin kicks back in and we’re watching (what we once told our mothers, would be) the one brutally noisy punk rock band of the day some of are only allowed in 2016. The thrill of this half an hour set is like when we tried to once listen to the whole of that Flux Of Pink Indians album with all the swear words in the title. A monitor catches fire, it gets removed, and no one cares. It’s a hugely thrilling experience that needs a bigger audience. They’re not quite Napalm Death but they are somewhere in between them and The Jesus Lizard. What they are is brilliant and a bit of a sit down is required afterwards so we can digest the hour that has passed that began by standing in a packed room watching Let’s Eat Grandma and ended by going mental to Bad Breeding after a short walk across Cardiff city centre.
SHE DREW THE GUN were seen a week earlier in London during what was meant to be a quiet night out with the support act . What we saw that evening is repeated again at Clwb Ifor Bach and we get to hear Louisa Roach performing her poems in between tunes that reflect the dissolution that many people feel about the UK’s attitudes to many things in 2016. Crass are quoted on the backdrop video screen and all of a sudden we realise there is someone out there who has directed her anger and talent towards the state of the country we live in. Musically, She Drew the Gun are an easy listen on the ears, the shows we’ve seen so far are mesmerising, proving a band can be politically minded without have to scream the house down. This is a very good band worth seeing and worth supporting and hopefully they will become a band whose thoughts are eventually channelled more into the minds of other bands that currently satisfy their audiences with songs about simply going out on a Friday night getting drunk, falling in and out of love and then taking loads of drugs in order to look at the universe in a better light (Maaan!).
One other thing worth mentioning about this band – Fabulous boots.
Back on planet Zong, or O’Neils as it says on the sign outside we have STEALING SHEEP looking like three Dalmatians sporting dark round sunglasses and spotted onesies. The electronic drums don’t give the tunes enough ‘oomph’ and the songs sound like cheap horrible pop songs lacking any kind of catchy chorus.
CHORUSGIRL seem to have a few hooks and catchy songs back in the Moon club that need investigating more which then get us in the mood for the second PLASTIC MERMAIDS show in ten days over at the stage-less and tiny Four Bars venue. Tonight we get a bird’s eye view of events which gives us even more reason to rattle on about how this band operates. Band members struggle across the floor, trying not to upset equipment just to operate a button or two that may only trigger off a sound for two seconds (or simply ring a bell) that no one else seems available to do. Tiny details that all make up for the finished product. It’s a disciplined almost choreographed display of playing a bit of everything that’s available on the performing area the suchlike we haven’t seen since Let’s Eat Grandma a few hours earlier. Anyone here will confirm what’s already been said this year about this being something special in the making.
ALL TVVINS are a dance trio that sound like Friendly Fires or LCD Soundsystem but lacking the distinctive voice that these two named bands have. However the guitarist twist and turns and his U2 sounding (he’ll hate me for this) axe gives these tunes the euphoria much required. We get to hear ‘Thank you’ a cracking tune we’d checked out before leaving for Wales and it’s a great way to end the evening.
But it’s not the end is it? Because some of us have to walk past O’Neil’s again where MELT YOURSELF DOWN are about to zap any energy that any punter still standing has left. Unfortunately for one of us this energy has now all but left the body and even though this boisterous, bouncing, hands in the air – dance ’till you drop style energetic performance would be great had we not been galloping around town for three days and nights in the lead up to this show we’re all out of puff and need a long lie down.
Sŵn 2016 made me feel the way I felt many years ago after every stupidly long European tour with the band I played in. I came home wondering what the dickens I’d been doing and why, and what, if anything I’d achieved. Trying to see as many of the current musical acts in 2016 is an endless task but Sŵn is worth the trip to catch not only Cardiff’s finest acts but a few more from around the UK, indeed the world that we have on offer at the moment.
I expect that the people whose paths were crossed will pop up in our lives again when we least expect it (quite possibly whilst watching yet another band performing on yet another stage somewhere) and next year’s calendar will certainly be marked in anticipation of Sŵn 11.
I’d like to thank everyone at Sŵn that made this such a great weekend, from the organisers to the bands, the technical staff, the volunteers in fact everyone who were there who all played their part including the audiences.
A massive 37 bands in three days were seen (and twice as many missed).
These included 12 that I didn’t know the existence of a month ago that I’ll try to drag as many people along to when or if they play in London and will investigate as much as can be found out about.
There were fifteen bands performing in Cardiff that I already knew and will continue to keep an eye on everything they do.
There are a few bands I didn’t get to see but whose music I have been listening to and will go and seek when or if I get another chance and four bands I already knew, have seen before and would like to see again that I also missed over the weekend in The Welsh Capital.
I would imagine these are bigger numbers than are totalled after a weekend at any one of the UK’s large summer festivals.
And I got to sleep in a nice comfy bed.
Best weekend of the year – and there’s been quite a lot of competition. Roll on next October.
Here are a few tunes from Sunday’s Sŵn line-up.
More photos available here.
All words and pictures 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).You may subscribe to the Goldhanger Shorts Facebook page too if you so wish.