Keith Goldhanger continues to run around Cardiff incoherently mumbling something about sending the industry people to Iceland and Texas but preserving Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival for the fans.
He’s probably drunk.
We’ll just let him get on with it.
Saturday 20th October 2018.
Day four….a day to pull up our socks, get in a hearty breakfast and take note of the shops selling cheap sandwiches so we can refuel during trips across town in between any one of the 15 venues at our disposal. We’ll try not to lose the schedule that today looks more like a Snakes and Ladders board than a list of nearly a hundred bands spread across Cardiff City Centre. If this could be spread out over two weeks we’d still hang around so we could watch everything. We know what we’re going to see today, we’ve got over the disappointment that some bands and even some venues will not get seen and we know we can rely on the tight scheduling of the bands that will not be as unreliable as the trains were that got us here.
The first three days were just a rehearsal.
Today starts at lunchtime and will stop when we drop.
“Nothing else to do in CM2…”
Sing Essex trio BILK in their dialect that reminds at least one us of our Essex roots. These guys are still teenagers and teenagers will always want to shout about drugs, fast food restaurants and tell their peers to shut their gob (‘Slob, shut your gob, just because I aint got a job…’).
Our introduction to Bilk made one of us dip back into some old Art Attacks tunes from when we were as young as the trio on stage. They don’t sound like The Art Attacks at all we found but it was a nice reminder of those times. Maybe back then the poor sound quality and ‘just about getting away with it’ attitude is what we fell in love with. This is a young band that along with Horseheads from the same City (Chelmsford) are giving this location its first decent music scene that probably hasn’t been witnessed since Waxwork Dummies and Anorexia logo’s on leather jackets were the counties top fashion item.
RED TELEPHONE are an odd lot. After a couple of tunes we’re frustrated that the front man in the gold leaf jacket isn’t commanding the room like we’d have wanted him to. We think he should be showing off more. It’s impressive song writing, he’s got a voice like Brett Anderson and we realise any early criticism is down to a missed opportunity for this singer who really should be in the crowd by now, standing on tables or dancing in the crowd screaming ‘look at me!’
This is a band that could crawl back into our lives one day to remind us not to be too critical at two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon whilst we nurse our heads from the night before and stare at other peoples pints wondering how these people could be so thoughtless or so keen to start this early in the day.
We’ve come across one or two bands this year that we refuse to write off after one viewing. It’s this local bands’ tunes that have pulled us here in the first place (they sound nothing like Suede at all by the way) and recent tune Victoria Park sounds as though it’s been made under the influence of light psychedelic substances . We hope to come back to this band at a later date and be able to make more sense of them. This is a good thing.
ACCÜ (above) wins the best outfit of the weekend in her bright red suit. She loops her voice alongside some glitchy slow electronic tunes making odd but delightful music.
Welsh duo RIGHT HAND LEFT HAND we’ve seen before and met at this festival in 2016. They’re referred to as Legends nowadays which in their eyes means whoever is writing the program notes thinks they’re getting on a bit now. Their show is like watching a couple of blokes fixing a dysfunctional dishwasher by trial and error that makes such a noise that the conversation between the two is one that only means anything to them and no one else. A bit of chin stroking here, some plugs and leads going in and out there, a conversation with the sound man that the duo resolve without the sound man actually knowing what was about to be discussed followed by some hypnotic repetitive loops of percussion and guitars (you have to see these to work out how this is achieved). Its entertaining to watch these two in action as they produce music that only the two men on stage could possibly explain how this fabulous music can be achieved.
GRETA ISAAC was always on our list of acts to see. Just by trawling through her tunes leading up to this event it was easy to decide that whatever it is that this Welsh lady would serve up needed to be seen. Would this be a full band performance or a young lady with just an acoustic guitar we wondered ? A bit of both as it turned out. The Guitar was strummed by a male in the background whilst either side of the singer stood Greta’s two sisters singing backing vocals. This didn’t disappoint. Hearing the songs at least one of us has fallen in love with recently leading up to Sŵn 2018 and presented this way was beautiful. She may have forgotten the words in Undone, we love it when that happens, that’s what we enjoy when entering rooms such as this one. It’s how the performer reacts to these situations that counts. Greta is only human, she has what some of us feel a huge future ahead of her however the act pans out (full band, solo, somewhere in between). Highly recommended and someone to see again at the next realistic opportunity. An artist to keep an eye on and an artist who’s music we’re still listening to as we sit on the train back towards the real world back in London.
Another of the weekends highlights for sure and our most interesting find of Sŵn 2018.
Listen to this :
Elsewhere a trio called COWTOWN were playing. They were also top of our list of bands to see however following Greta Issac would be one of the bands of the year and it’s felt that most of the Sŵn audience may be feeling the same.
Surely we can now crown DREAM WIFE (main picture and right) the best live band we’ve seen in 2018 ? Their appearance in the stage less venue Kongs may have disappointed a few at the back however this was a terrific performance.
The four piece bounce onto the performance area and are the stars of the weekend for those of us that can see. Once a few tunes have been completed there’s a break in the proceedings when they invite the smaller people in this heaving crowd forward to step in front of the person in front if that person is taller. If the riot girl scene was angry back in the 90s then the difference here is that this is delivered in happier, more joyous way. The results are similar. Not musically but in terms of the friends the band are making when they arrive in these venues. Band members adopt strict eye contact and killer smiles with the audience when they’re not studying the tools of their trade, huge grins from each of the front three, the obligatory jumping up and down and a faultless performance that is always exciting to witness but still gets better and better. Dream Wife seem to have it all sussed now and huge audiences await their arrival not just in the UK but overseas to. If you haven’t had the chance to catch them live yet then its advisable to do this now.
It’s their time.
Indie dance floors will be full of kids by now we imagine dancing very badly to Dream Wife tunes along with the staple tunes we know never get left at home by those up and coming DJ’s that have Blur and Franz Ferdinand back catalogues ready to be taken out to finance their midweek drinking habits. Dream Wife are the sassy sound of 2018, one of the bands of the year for sure – With at least four or five (indie disco) dance floor fillers to place alongside those we know already. Today, presented in a tiny room where many couldn’t have been able to see, many would still have left the venue having felt part of a wondrous performance.
Another Sŵn gig that rates as one of the best we’ve seen.
Three blokes all dressed in yellow that first caught our eyes in the summer are trying to decide if what they’re performing is the soundcheck or part of the show. Once WOOZE get going those of us here are swaying along and realising these tunes are for keeps. The distinctive tunes that go by the names of Party without ya and Hello can you go are all we know at the moment. The rest of the tunes we hear in Tiny Rebel (bottom of Womanby Street and up a flight of stairs) suggest there’ll be more of the same to follow. Keep your eyes on WOOZE, once their tunes get familiar you’ll find it hard to put them down again.
GIANT PARTY have a singer that wears a suit, likes to walk amongst the crowd and roll around on the floor metaphorically screaming ‘Look at me!’ It’s like watching Future Islands with sometimes Nick Cave at the front and at other times Mick Hucknall.
Inside small venues this is nice. Once someone begins bringing this around the house for a dinner party it may not sound as good. Twinkling Pianos, high pitched over-sincere vocals (that Future Islands thing again really) and a group of people that sound like the kind of band that Simple Minds fans (maybe Coldplay too) might like but may not last very long with one or two others. Not to be written off just yet as they’ll probably have their tunes being played during Match of The Day football montages in time to come as another West Ham own goal goes in or a distraught but obnoxiously rich manager gets the sack. Hopefully, as this band get to play in larger venues this won’t stop the front man from continuing to perform in the crowd. People will love them for this and will turn up expecting it every time.
WILD CAT STRIKE are another of the big finds of Sŵn 2018. We were so excited about these that we cheated and caught them in London a week before coming to Wales and have been playing the new album Rhubarb Nostalgia everyday since. Tonight their performance is certainly one of the loudest we’ve witnessed all year by anyone. Ploughing through most of the tunes from our favourite new album all four voices belt out and thrash their guitars as though their lives depend on it. How a drum kit can survive what it’s going through is anyone’s guess however putting our earplugs to one side for a moment (or rather inside) we’re hearing a band that are heavy on the vocals and as sweet sounding as Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You! Black Emperor (who both of course don’t have vocals). This Brighton based band arrived a day early and were spotted at as many shows as we were at for a couple of days. A fabulous band with a fabulous album and a band we’ll be seeing again without doubt.
It’s worth popping over to O’Neils to have a look at Martha we thought. They’d been seen a couple of years ago and we were impressed. Four singers playing bouncy pop punk tunes tunes similar to Weezer to keep those still on their feet comfortable in their dancing shoes.
And then we stopped.
Called it a day.
ESTRONS were playing around the corner in a tiny pub that we know we wont even get through the door of. We’ve missed FLING somewhere along our journey today and never managed to get anywhere near Gwdihŵ where a short list of bands existed we’d have loved to have seen and said hello to.
The obvious criticism of Sŵn would be suggesting this was too big this year and that a couple more days may have been better however considering the shows we missed offset against the ones we saw were really down to some of us preparing obsessively before leaving the house and relying on those in charge to start the bands at their advertised times. Something that they achieved at every one of shows we attended.
Sŵn 2018 beat us in the end.
No other festival can usually get the better of us, that’s how fab these four days were.
This really was a strong line up that those in charge got 100% right just as we feel they have done at every Sŵn Festival we’ve attended in the past. This is surely the best Multi venue event in the UK at the moment and the most successful in regards to introducing us to bands we would not have been familiar with previously.
Which is surely the whole point really we think you’ll agree.
Thank you to Cowshed, all at Clwb Ifor Bach and all the organisers, bands and attendees for allowing this all to have happened.
See you again next year hopefully and if you weren’t there this time then come along with us.
Day four 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.