Swn festival: a three (and a bit) day jamboree of musical, or other, thrills that rubbed up against Cardiff like an amorous cat recently. This is its third year, and here begins yer official Joy Collective round up of what caught our ears, eyes and groinal regions. Keith’s review follows mine.
Science Bastard (Chapter)
Plugging the Meze Festival twice onstage. Pushing this writer to the back of the room and trying to snog him mid-song. Having to sit down towards the end, a bit tired. These are some of the Good Things that Science Bastard do to mark their slot as evening party starters. Musically it’s a dense stew of complicated riffing, stop start rocking and a man called Vern wandering the crowd, shouting into the air between you. It’s great obviously, and the Bastard will later be seen at various points in town, um, rolling on the street fighting. Good attitude.
Team Brick (Model Inn)
Does this man have a business card reading ‘Professional Bastard’? The last time Matt Williams played round here Klingon throat singing, live brass and demented electronics were on the menu, and recent sets have allegedly headed in an orchestral direction: tonight sees dirgy guitar wallowing, an in-mouth microphone, and not much else. “That’s it, go away” he says at the end, and I kind of love him for that, the wilful git.
Devil Man (Model Inn)
Shoeless amongst much scattered pig meat, DJ Scotch Egg lays out one more humongous bass link before crushing one last mini snack product against Dokkebi’s laptop screen. This is the end of Devil Man, the latest project from these busy pseudonymous Japanese men, and along the way it also featured heavy, heavy dub waves, half speed evil beats, locked in terror grooves, and a food fight brought on by Shige introducing a fun pack of mini scotch eggs to the audience. Totally brilliant, and there are breadcrumbs everywhere.
Daedelus (Toucan and Clwb Ifor Bach)
“Hello, I’m Alfred Darlington”: words to end wars. The man who is Daedelus radiates such bloody decency he could use his Toucan lecture to explain the advantages of cluster bombing and people would still crowd round him grinning afterwards. As is is, his talk jumps off from the dullness of most electronic acts live shows to a demonstration of the monome, a flat, square and fucking great-looking gadget of 256 lights, programmed to blink in rows while spewing twisted samples. At five minutes, it’s fairly jaw loosening. In Clwb later, it’s devastating: one hour of blurred fingers, high volume and utter rave awesomeness. A god, in a waistcoat.
Wet Dog (Chapter)
No matter that they seem contractually bound to play Cardiff every six months: a Wet Dog set in front of your stupid face is still a fine, fine way to spend any amount of time. They just have it fucking down; songs that recall the time when Liliput and the Raincoats ruled post punk hearts, but played with too much lovable brio to qualify as a history lesson. Plus, on a related note, it’s great to see local promoters PeppermintPatti back in their spiritual home Chapter, curating their usual X chromosome superiority aceness. Even if they don’t join in with Wet Dog sumo wrestling the day after.
The Twilight Sad (The Gate)
The last song of Tom Brosseau’s set, an ultra quiet version of Tom Waits’s ‘Innocent When You Dream’, gets interrupted by vicious guitar prodding from next door. Yes, the Twilight Sad live experience may feel a little more prosaic than their recorded matter, in a half empty, too bright church hall, but their tunes still carry undeniable heft and gut punching ability. Opaque, emotional bruising sounds better delivered in a thick Scottish brogue; guitar and organ that circle then deliver like some sick punchline make it better still. The sight of two female stewards arriving at the front to dance like extras in a hair metal video, adds a further level of weirdness to this oddly compelling event.
Allo Darlin’ (Chapter)
It’s Saturday, and everyone thinks it’s Sunday. Around Chapter, DJs play reggae, a second hand record fair gets ruthlessly done over by vinyl vultures, and the mood is dangerously benign. A band called Allo Darlin’, you might think, would tip the scales into unbearable niceness, but they’re a genuine revelation: sweet, ukulele-based songs that balance melancholy and joy perfectly, and know their way round a stomping too. Cold-heartedly beautiful, and all the better for it.
Y Morgrug (Model Inn)
There are gawkers and ironists here, and you can’t completely blame them. It’s not every day you see four primary school boys play their debut gig at a music festival. Needn’t worry: Y Morgrug have more charisma than most adult indie scum, and possess a weird unflappability which leaves them free to have fun playing their dot to dot pop tunes about car journeys and, er, the importance of numeracy. Other highlights: correcting the Swn Programme which said they were 10 year olds (sorry about that); their mum tuning guitars and making sure all stage pronouncements are bilingual; invocations to clap with a pre-broken voice. In fact, if you can speak Welsh, Y Morgrug also take best stage banter award: “We’re out of time.” “No, we’re out of songs.” “Would you like to hear one more? Yes? Hang on – the drummer is asking ‘why?'” A genuine highlight. They will later be seen rolling on the street fighting Science Bastard (not really).
Gaggle (Toucan and Clwb Ifor Bach)
Gaggle play two Saturday sets, and while their acapella performance, fanned up a stairwell in Toucan, is a cute taster, they need to be fully plugged into the laptop beats for the music to match the spectacle. Which is: nearly 20 women in glam cloaks conducted, chided and rearranged by a frizzy haired lady out front. Multipart warnings get mixed with props to fags and booze. For five minutes at a time, it’s a swirling hydra-headed advertisement for doing Whatever The Fuck You Want, fun you wouldn’t mess with.
Tim And Sam’s Tim And The Sam Band With Tim And Sam (Chapter)
Fleeing from wankers talking over everything in Fuwch Goch, or wankers sitting on the floor ignoring the bands in Dempseys, Chapter offers an oasis of everything anti-cool shitester. Broken Family Band will see whole families bid them farewell; Tim And Sam have more surprising thrills for hardened hearts. Their music takes serenely strummed guitar, loops and layers it slowly, adds xylophone and clarinet, until you get weirdly devastating clouds of quiet, 50 tog value post rock, and totally great with it. Put their mini album right up your shopping list. As a bonus, this gig also features a mad middle-aged woman hula hooping for the duration of their last song. They take it well.
Y Niwl (Gwdihw)
Despite being the most unknown of the bands playing in the small, cold Gwdihw tent, it makes pure sense to put Y Niwl on last. Raise your pints to the power of surf rock ladies and gentlemen, and the finest music you can dance to halfcut. Amongst the bunting and festival zombies, these north Walian enigmas tunnel straight into a deathless seam of twangy goodness, Man… Or Astroman?, the Pixies and a million other beach botherers tossed around and nailed to the floor. All songs identical and interchangeable, which means: total instrumental greatness, sleazy sunbeams for cold bodies and tired feet. Kings.
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