Keith Goldhanger is now into his third day of venue hopping around Cardiff reporting on this years Sŵn Festival. Today he has a plan that he plans on sticking to.
Friday 19th October 2018.
We have a plan and we’re sticking to it.
The easiest thing we could do today would be to go back to The Tramshed, get drunk and watch Gaz Coombes (who we did catch fifteen minutes of), Boy Azooga and The Go! Team. They’ll all be brilliant, we know this already but that’s the sort of entertainment we’ll save for the Glastonbury Park Stage.
What about the acts we’ve been listening to at home over the past few months ? First of all the guy that lives on a farm who has released a decent album we’ve been listening to late at night and may not ever travel outside Cardiff to perform let alone turn up on our doorsteps in East London on a wet Tuesday night when there’s nothing else happening. This is why we’re here, to try to witness acts we may never have seen before and may never get the opportunity to see again.
One big gig or a few little gigs ?
Bands we’ve seen two or three times before and will probably see again next year or something new ?
You know the answer already.
We enter Clwb Ifr Bach and there’s a man standing on a chair shaking his body whilst keeping the microphone close to his mouth and looping the huffing and puffing he’s making whilst doing this. We imagine this may not be what’s going on over at the Tramshed where the bloke who used to be in Supergrass is still playing. He’s hopping on one foot, walking amongst the audience, avoiding any eye contact and tap dancing very badly (shuffling his feet then) as the electronics on stage produce a simple beat. By the time we get to the second or third tune and a few minutes before he just stands on the stage with his head in his hands like a man who has just watched his house fall down in front of him he’s walking around asking the audience to say hello into the microphone that he loops and incorporates into a song. Truly brilliant and truly bonkers. Mark Daman Thomas aka FARM HAND engages with those of us here in a way that makes us glad we’ve attended this show. Ten out of ten, an act that makes us glad to have also put to one side for another day the Norwegian Shoegaze band playing elsewhere or the loud, fast guitar band that sound like The Clash around the other corner. Clwb Ifr Bach are in charge of the festival this year and it’s already clear that wherever we go we can trust these people as much as we hailed the choices of John Rostron and Huw Stephens who previously held the reins at Sŵn. There are decent bands performing everywhere around Cardiff this week. This is why attending is a must for some of us.
Clwb Ifr Bach allows us time for a beer and a sit down for a bit before VIVE LA VOID turns up to shine a bright light in our face and tickle our senses with droning, hypnotic dance music that is noisy yet brilliant. If Factory Floor can get us dancing with throbbing beats that make us tap our feet hard then Sanae Yamada, half of US band Moon Duo can equal this by providing us with electronic humming, droning and very subtle dance tunes accompanied by some lovely whispered vocals that we just know will now become part of our late night listening at home.
This is going well so far.
We saw SUUNS (top pic) earlier in the year at London’s 1100 capacity Scala and the reason for our attendance that evening was ILK, a band that make music that makes us want to know from the makers how or why they produce music such as they do. We left disappointed that Suuns didn’t make us ask the same questions that evening.
Tonight is so different.
Tonight these Canadians make a truly magnificent fucked up nasty, noisy, unpredictable, hypnotic racket that make us think is the most unconventional music we’ve heard since we crossed paths a few years ago with fellow Montreal man Airick Woodhead of Doldrums.
Instruments fire noise from every direction conceivable. A show that starts with a slow, sexy, dark dubstep rhythm soon gets swallowed up by glorious thumping slow electronic beats, layers of feedback, controlled by the disciplined men on stage that are happy to keep it all going without any gaps, just simple head nodding tunes that build as they add various bleeps and wailing guitars that join the songs together. Those involved know when to slow down, know when to kick it all off again and most important of all know when to do nothing at all whilst other band members (usually the drummer) will tip tap their way around a new way of ending a song and beginning another. This is turning into one of the most original and entertaining performances we’ve seen for a long time. So different from the show earlier in the year (big venue/small venue scenario again ?). Yes it’s odd, yes you can still dance to it, cover your ears up to it and punch the air to. We leave the venue believing this could be one of the performances of the year. A Sŵn performance that will sit alongside some of the great shows we’ve seen in the past inside this venue.
THE BLINDERS around the corner don’t stand a chance of winning our affections after this. We’re exhausted already, how can this be followed we ask ourselves as we stagger down to road swerving our bodies around the Friday night drinkers and smokers in St Mary Street, up a flight of stairs and in time to rest our tired feet again, calm ourselves down with another cold beer and prepare to pen our preconceived ideas about this Doncaster band being no different from many of the rock and roll bands we’ve seen before.
Right again and wrong again.
Consider that in our minds at the current time everything about tonight’s Blinders show is against them. The gig down the road we’ve just come from, the basically lit venue with one side brightly yet plainly lit so we know which end of the room the stage is in, the six inch stage (we didn’t measure it), the sparsely attended room (that changes as soon as the show begins) and the small grudge we bear from being thrown out of the room at Liverpool Sound City earlier in the year (not the bands fault of course). Everyone has told us we will love these which has previously made at least one of us raise our eyebrows as most of the tunes we’ve already heard sound not a lot different from what we may have heard before.
What does that matter? Once we’ve noticed the snarling blank stares of the members involved and that they can go twenty minutes without blinking (including a second drummer we didn’t notice for half an hour), it seems apparent that what’s going on here is basically the kind of stuff that the big wide world out there (those that have now decided after three and a half years that Idles may be worth a look at nearly twenty quid a pop) are going to absolutely adore. And why ? Well the riffs are big, the tunes are big, there’s an intensity that comes from somewhere that other bands never seem to find and they play as though they’ve not had a holiday for three years. Some of us may be looking for something that we have to carefully pick the bones out of when we cross paths with certain bands but there’s a huge amount of people that will hear this band and immediately want to include them in their record collection. The Blinders are doing what they do very well. Just as we remember Kasabian managing at the same stage of their existence, ditto Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or even The Wytches. There’s a bit of Jim Morrison in the voice when it slows down and they have a healthy amount of songs that the world will want to sing along to during the next few months. Big venues and big festival stages in two or three years time it is then? The Blinders make music that people set in their ways with their alphabetically sorted albums on the shelf will love. Nothing groundbreaking, nothing new, just a set of fresh, well thought out and well played superb tunes and a set of people totally in control of their activities that will soon gatecrash into many peoples lives. The black clothes, the serious stares, the not so serious stares, the black stripe across Thomas’ face (we’re already on first name terms) and their mates in the background, looking after the spare guitars, keeping an eye on each other as the band casually stroll into the audience and perform amongst the drunk, happy, crowd surfing throng. The Blinders have great future ahead of them, many of you may already know about all of this already. One or two of us can’t wait to see them a second time. One of us may know the words and be shouting along to them by then.
BO NINGEN have been going for years and are becoming more unlistenable the longer they exist. Ok, we only catch the last quarter of an hour this time. It’s a barrage of noise we walk into as the four piece twist their bodies around, hold their guitars towards the ceiling and rock out along with the huge crowd before them. We want them to be like Boredoms but they are becoming more like another chaotic psychedelic band that have lots of false endings that outnumber the tunes.
Today has been a lesson in why some of us believe that with a little (ok, a lot) of preparation and a hunger for something new the rewards can pay off. Cramming yourself inside large venues, three deep at the bar in order to catch up with the familiar may be an easy option but one that will often leave the gig goer curious as to what may have been missed elsewhere when attending events such as this.
Tomorrow will be worse in terms of missing acts we (still) want to see however we’ve not done too bad on day three. Four, maybe five bands on today’s schedule were left by the wayside and noted that we need to see another time if we ever get the chance. We’re complaining we can’t be in the two places at the same time, we’ve discovered acts recently that we still haven’t seen yet, however those we have seen have made our journey to Cardiff worthwhile already.
Tomorrow the shows start at lunch time and could double the final count of gigs before we return to our beds. Sŵn 2018 is already a huge success, the polite lovely build up on Wednesday, the subtle gear change on Thursday and today being loud, mad, chaotic and incredibly challenging. It’s already Saturday by the time we hit our beds and re draw some of the circles we’ve already mapped out on our schedules for tomorrows final day. Our decisions so far have been a resounding success and we’ll be doing this again for twice as long and twice as hard once we wake up again.
It will come to no surprise that those who had a total different set of acts to guide them through the hours on day three of Sŵn are saying the same as us. All these bands still on our own paperwork we didn’t get to see will be remembered for future investigation. We’ve heard good things about many acts we could’t attend and one or two are taking notes from ourselves on some of what we’ve seen.
We’re fully aware we are only scratching the surface here.
A fifth or at best a quarter of what’s going on will be reported on. It’s a tough life but worth every aching limb.
Saturday (Day four to follow)
Friday photos here :
All words 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 or browse some of his photos too if you so wish.