Keith Goldhanger returns to Cardiff and witnesses the 2018 Sŵn Festival. He’d argue it’s the best multi venue festival he’s aware of. Over 100 bands to choose from across four days and sixteen venues.
Parts two and three reporting on Friday and Saturday will follow shortly.
This is what happened during days one and two.
If it’s going on for more than a day it’s worth coming we’ve always said.
Train disruptions or not, we have all day to get here and we never take notice of the news reports nowadays anyway. No trains ? – Project fear is the expression we believe the kids call it in 2018.
We’re back in Cardiff (Seven hours seven minutes in case you’re wondering), the capital of Wales where people speak different languages, buskers play Radiohead songs and we’re here to blow steam out of our heads like a screaming kettle, talk cod shit to strangers all night, lose the plot on the dance floor…. (For some of us that don’t watch many films we’re always reminded of Human Traffic when we walk down these streets). It’s a city where Spud-u-like still exists and even though we’re not sure at first if we’re brave enough to participate – we’ve found a vegan kebab house. An effort was made to combine a music review with a food review however this establishment closes at 9 o’clock every night, possibly to avoid any members of pissed up carnivorous stag parties losing their shit about their post beer meal they’ve only half eaten once they realise there are no baby lambs in their grub. Fights in chip shops ? – Not in this one, no risks being taken there.
Day one has a line up that is the perfect cure for any travel sickness and a nice way to ease us into what we expect could be a hectic few days.
HALO MAUD aka Maud Nadal and her band kick of proceedings and sing us songs in French and English. Beautiful vocals and a subtle, gorgeous set of songs kick of this years proceedings.
ADWAITH a trio from down the road in Carmarthen (although you wouldn’t want to walk it) sing in Welsh and provide us with the weekends first huge highlight when they perform Fel i Fod, a single from earlier this year and provide a half hour demonstration of beautiful refreshing music that leaves us thinking this may be the beginning of getting a lot more familiar with a wonderful selection of songs they’ve written.
The former Pipette GWENNO (top photo) arrives and captivates the packed Tramshed as she bounces around performing her tunes in three languages (Cornish, Welsh and English). We watch as she engages in polite conversation with the audience that we expect we’ll bump into again over the next few days and whilst this went on some of us didn’t have a clue what these people were talking about. A lovely experience, some fabulous tunes rounded off by finding out later that the conversations were about cheese.
This was everything we wanted from our first day in Cardiff. Subtle foot tapping music as crisp and clear as we’ve heard all year and a reminder of what a great venue The Tramshed is.
The security still shake our hands as we leave – it wasn’t just a one off two years ago.
After spending the day spotting local band Estrons billboards around town advertising their debut album (these were the third band we saw last time we visited in 2016) and timing the walking distances in between venues for the weekend ahead (OK, we went to the pub and stayed there) it’s time for day two, yet again a three band line up, this time inside the 1500 capacity Great Hall at the University.
THE ORIELLES arrive and provide half an hour of light, polite, jangly Indie and ROLLING BLACKOUTS COASTAL FEVER, a name one will have to write down five hundred times and still not remember (even their record covers seem to be abbreviated) had us pumping our fists in the air for the first time this week. Fast guitars, overlapped three way vocals and a tight bass and drummer that keep the whole thing chugging away at a comfortable foot tapping speed. An acoustic guitar in the mix never slows down and a bucket full of catchy verses have us struggling to catch our breath as these Australians make quite an impressive re-introduction to the UK.
DRENGE have doubled their personnel since we first saw them all those years ago (six) for the first time at a North London XFM all dayer. They’ve matured enormously since then and we see and hear tonight a band that seem to have now found their own identity and throw out dirty grungy punk rock tunes that have us wondering why it’s taken this long for the band to attract such a large boisterous thong of sweaty beer swigging youths. We’re reminded of Leeds band Eagulls a little as we take all of this in, Eoin Loveless has the swagger of Josh Homme and our ears are filled with a lot of wailing fuzzy fucked up guitars for the best part of an hour. Drenge are a band with enough fire in their bellies to keep us interested for at least another half a dozen years and a fan base that will keep coming back for more it’s felt as we soak in a selection of tunes many of which one or two of us haven’t heard previously (new album just out).
This is the half way point of the festival. Tomorrow is when it starts getting difficult as we start to realise our aching feet and the trust we have every year that everything will run on time may result in broken promises to the bands we’ve promised (ourselves) to see. Lots of good bands, lots of great bands playing at the same time. We can moan all we like but if you do the maths it was always going to happen.
The sun is shining.
The weekend has landed.
‘All that exists now is clubs, drugs*, pubs and parties…..’
*No drugs, its another Human Traffic reference.
Friday and Saturday to follow.