Musical highlights from 11th April’s one day Dimsŵn festival; this is the little sister of the Sŵn three/four day festival held in Cardiff in October, (this year confirmed to be in November due to event clashes in the City). Last year, Sŵn held it’s first all-dayer, and by all accounts it was a success, leading to a second batch of bands heading to Cardiff this Saturday, I thought I’d head down and give it the once over.
Things kicked off early afternoon and carried on into the small hours with club nights and DJ sets taking over, as usual there was a mix of bands from home and away and with a variety of genres to chose from. From 3pm in Undertone a trio of punk bands kept me coming back inbetween some tasty craft ales.
Twisted in particular were impressive. I missed them recently when they played at the DIY Cardiff gig with Caves so it was great to get another chance to check them out. Livi’s off kilter semi-spoken bark also somehow manages to carry a tune and they nail the short sharp but fun side of punk brilliantly, they seemed tense at the start but soon eased into the set. Another higlight for me was WaLL, a more abrasive, scuzzy alt-rock feel here and plenty of fuck-you attitude, it really didn’t seem to matter if they had an audience or not, however their front man did apologise to me after he trod on my foot during one of his flailing adventures off stage, so I feel it may have been mostly for the show. Bloody Knees were entertaining, bit poppy for me but worked the crowd well, plenty of stage presence from their frontman and Shinies also stood out; dreamy indie rock and a tight performance.
The one day version of Sŵn is harder to do if, like myself, you are not with a group of friends, the gaps between sets were 45 minutes meaning you couldn’t stay in one place for long as the venues all cleared out at the end of each performance and I found myself watching bands I wasn’t keen on whilst waiting for other venues to get set up. Lesson learned for me I think, but overall it was a solid event.
It would have been great to have heard the Goodtime Boys new album Rain properly before seeing them play on 24th May, but it wasn’t to be – our PC only came back from the shop a few days ago after breaking down with the album stuck inside its cold dead maw, leaving me sadly playing catch-up.
Honestly though, not knowing the tunes by heart didn’t take anything away from their performance, which was strong and fluid. Since seeing them last in 2012 it feels like the Goodtime Boys sound has evolved gradually into something more melodic and varied and in a live setting the band felt tighter and more confident. It was a commanding performance even in that small venue, and with no stage to separate them and us, they held our attention easily while they ripped through their set – playing pretty much the whole of the new album.
It feels strange that Goodtime Boys are still playing £5 gigs in tiny basement venues in the UK when they’re signed to Bridge 9 in the US, but Pennie explained to me after the gig that the band is not interested in being the next big thing; after all, he’s been there before and to me it seems right that they are getting to play with bands they love in front of smaller groups of hardcore fans like this.
Of course, it wasn’t just Goodtime Boys playing, before the headliners the excellent Svalbard opened the evening with their noodling envy style guitars over screamed girl/boy vocals. This band are getting better all the time and I’ve read a few reviews where they’re being touted as the best upcoming band in the UK and it’s understandable – they sound fantastic live, arguably better than their recorded output. They are obviously well practised and pull off all those epic post-rock style moments with ease, sounding huge in the small venue. They also pulled in a pretty sizeable crowd for first band on.
Next up was London hardcore mob Grappler; under the surface of weighty riffage and heavy hit drums there is a lot more going on – some complex guitar work and nicely melodic sections filter through and I imagine that on record the little touches would be even more evident. Their live show is all about their intense frontman though – he’s almost scary up that close – leaning in and screaming in our faces whilst eyeballing us with manic stares and then moving side to side, kicking out and flailing limbs in every direction catching the front row with glancing blows.
I’m going to recommend you check out all the bands mentioned here – Goodtime Boys debut full length album Rain is out now through Bridge 9 in the US or you can order from Palm Reader Records in the UK. Svalbard and Grappler can be found and listened to on their Bandcamp pages (links in the band names).
Swn Festival Day 3 & 4 highlights
This Is Wreckage opened my Saturday – this is a band that likes to play loud and dirty and the crowd were with them every step of the way. The Swn guide quoted for fans of Big Black and The Jesus Lizard so this was one I couldn’t miss and I was more than pleasantly surprised. the bass was huge and dirty, the guitar was juicy and jagged and the vocals husky and nicely judged.
Swn Festival 2013 – Day 1 & 2 Highlights
Day 1 – Thursday 17th
The Opening band of the weekend for me was His Naked Torso, a discordant, angular duo from Cardiff dealing in noise-rock of the ear shredding variety. The Moon was pretty full of curious onlookers but the duo still managed to make enough noise that I got out my earplugs immediately. They used drums and guitar along with some caustic screams to get their point across and melded in some nice head-bobbing beats to keep us all hooked.
So, with another 50 bands announced yesterday for October’s Swn Festival in Cardiff how’s the line up looking?
I’ve attended and reviewed the last two years and have been keen to see the announcements for this year, but so far there aren’t a huge amount of bands on the lineup that are grabbing me, some that I’d be interested to see but none that I am desperate to check out which is a touch disappointing with the festival on my doorstep.
On the maybe list so far are:
Band of Wolves
His Naked Torso
I don’t think that’s really enough for a full weekend of fun though so far which is a shame, and so far I’ve held off buying a weekend ticket. The lineup seems to be indie and folk heavy at the moment but they do usually pull an evening or afternoon of decent punk or noise bands out of the bag at the last minute, so far not a snifter this year but hopefully there will be some developments soon.
Check out the full lineup and ticket info at swnfest.com
The Bronx @ Clwb Ifor Bach, 10th January 2013
A last minute venue change from Cardiff Uni to the smaller Clwb Ifor Bach meant this gig ended up being the first sold out show on the tour and the more intimate venue made for some great crowd/band interaction.
Frontman Matt Caughthran takes the stage draped in a Wales scarf and talking about the rugby the day before – he always knows which buttons to push and it worked a treat, the crowd already eating out of his hand before they’d even played a note, but even so, the first couple of crowd pleasing tunes saw a surge for the stage and a pit open up in the floor straight away. Early on Matt began descending into the crowd – with no barriers or security to be seen he made frequent trips into the pit – soon literally the whole place was moving and bodies were flying off the stage every couple of minutes – top stuff.
The set was a mix of old; False Alarm, Six Days A Week, Shitty Future, History’s Stranglers, Knife Man, and new, with tracks like Under The Rabbit and The Unholy Hand from recently released The Bronx IV – I could go on but I wouldn’t want to bore you with a huge list, needless to say it was full of hits played with energy and professionalism and they kept us all moving until the last track. Caughthran had a ‘moment’ part way through the set and couldn’t stop grinning, he explained that they just love to play and who can blame them if every set gets such a great reaction from the audience. It felt over far too quickly but after braving a huge queue at the merch stall everyone left happy and satisfied, (if very sweaty), a top performance once again from The Bronx. I never get tired of watching them.
OK, so I won’t be winning any awards for these pictures but we had a really fun night at Undertone with Chalk Talk and Everyone Everywhere last night: