Swn Fest 2008

Various venues, Cardiff 15th/16th November

That’s pronounced something like ‘Swoon’ by the way, if you come from the land of double-height road signs that is. That’s right readers, The Fly has headed down to Cardiff to check out the second year of Huw Stephen’s very own Swn music festival held in his hometown and dedicated to the best in new music, especially that from Wales itself.

Having trekked from THE NORTH it’s Saturday before we make it down to catch the festival, but we throw ourselves straight into the city and it’s sound. We head up past the Reflex’s and Subway’s that epitomise what is it  is to be British and come across something strange an unusual, a big bloody castle, right in the middle of town. We’re impressed, and handily right next door is Cardiff’s very own Barfly.

The first people we catch on entry are Broken Records, who play (Melo) dramatic indie rock pop. It’s mostly good, but every now and then they ramp themselves up a little too much and turn into a Killers pastiche. Stick to your roots lads, it’s always best when it’s real passion.

Next on Amazing Baby are from Brooklyn and mates with MGMT apparently. Though they have an electronic element they’re quite different from their friends and initially have a rather unconvincing Stone Roses vibe. As we go along though, they hit a darker, deeper groove and we’re a little moved. One to watch, maybe.

Queues bar us from the infamous Club Ifor Bach we so hoped and we have to make do with the delights of the local indie discos above the pub at Dempsey’s and Barfly

Saturday, and having also sampled the delights of a chain hotel on an industrial estate, we’re back at Barfly for Friends Electric. There’s an obvious Gary Numan influence on the name there. They begin with fairly mediocre indie, but start to slip in those electronics and things get a little better. There’s a touch of new rave about them but they have more subtly and that can only be a good thing.

Skipping to the Buffalo, a lovely little bar off Queen Street, we get the classy delicate folk of Pete Greenwood before we head back to Barfly to catch Picture Books in Winter. It’s a name that sounds like you put emo+twee into a computer and asked it for an answer. Despite this, we enamoured by their stomp, which combined with quality guitar work, some jig-style violin and the passionate vocals of the frontman add up to something that is possibly our fave act of the festival.

Tubelord follow them with gusto. They make a lot of noise for three people and, throwing themselves into the crowd, they nicely wake up a subdued Sunday audience. They seem to owe their melodies somewhat to Hot Club de Paris but with less wit, but they make up for that in dynamism and sheer force.

Once again we walk up Queen Street to the Buffalo and we switch from the bright young things which dominate this festival to John Head, one of the brothers from seminal Liverpool band, Shack. John carries an air of having seen much and, armed with just his voice and acoustic guitar, plays plaintive but beautiful songs of hope, regret and most of all, experience. It’s some of the most moving music of the festival.

We venture out of town to the shiny regeneration land of Cardiff Bay, and into the cool converted church venue that is The Point and we’re soon greeted by a show from Newport’s finest, Goldie Looking Chain. Some would have them down as a joke act and, while they’re not Bon Iver, with their re-appropriated beats and witty lyrics, they say a lot more about life in the UK than a thousand whiny indie bands could do. Crucially, they’re also really fucking funny. We question whether we’re drunk enough for this sort of thing but it’s fun and riveting and we are clapping along by the end.

Genod Droog are the last band on. They’re a welsh hip-hop act, but unlike the last act they peform in welsh, they’re passionate, and have a dark edge. Unhinged, mesmerising and loud, the group is made up of two lads in hip-hop gear, two geekyish guitarists and a woman, all steaming drunk. . It’s strikes us that might be something uniquely Welsh and we’re sad to hear it is their farewell gig.

Rob da Bank graces us with his DJing and then the carnival starts. Stiltwalkers, big lasses doing mad disco dancing on stage,  ballons, fancy dress and general decadence. Sportsday Megaphone interrupt the records with their music, they have nice line in urban alienation euro electro srock, but we’re more interested in dancing by this stage.

We’ve had a good time in Cardiff and this is a suitable ending. There has, as always, been plenty of chaff and only a small amount of wheat, but that is good enough for use, especially when combined with Cardiff’s unique charms and party atmosphere but having been to a lot of these urban music events, we can’t help thinking that the fundamental flaw of having so many bands on in such a short space of tine, when people are constrained to a place like at a real festival, is that fatigue inevitably sets in and you don’t see all that you could do. Either that or we’re just getting old.

Now, if we’ve learned one thing from Cardiff that we’d like to pass onto you dear readers, it is that the best place to get your brains, is in the goat major. Farewell.

By Kenn Taylor

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