Sŵn Festival, Great Hall, Cardiff University Students Union, Thurs 18 Oct
Spirits are high as Cardiff University’s Great Hall fills up ready for the anticipated headline act of Thursday’s Sŵn Festival, Drenge [above]. And to kick it all off are sisters Sidonie B Hand-Halford, on drums, and Esme Dee Hand-Halford, on lead vocals, with their best friend Henry Carlyle Wade on guitar – better known as The Orielles [bottom]. The Halifax band bring a dance-infused indie/alternative sound to the table, entertaining the audience with some fun, experimentalism as Esme tries out the whistle and maracas and Henry taps the cowbell. At eight-and-a-half minutes long, previous single Sugar Tastes Like Salt tells a story and eases everyone in with its mysterious opening guitar riff. There is clear passion in The Orielles’ performance, Wade and keyboardist Alex Stephens enjoying a boogie to their own sound.
Travelling across the globe from Melbourne, Australia, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever [above] play Sŵn as part of an extensive EU tour. Songs like French Press make for an easy listen, the kind for a lazy Sunday, although some tunes spark pleasure amongst the crowd in the form of a friendly moshpit. There is a strong stage presence from all five members, as they work the stage and make the most of their space. During one song the absence of guitar sound brings spontaneous crowd clapping – a pleasurable moment to witness, and you imagine more so for Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, who have received an all-round positive welcome.
As with the Orielles, headline act Drenge bring family talent together with frontman Eoin Loveless and his younger brother, Rory, on drums. With notes of grunge and punk, Drenge impress both new and old fans with their melodic, guitar-heavy approach – a loud and powerful sound from just three members. Although Sŵn’s Thursday line up has strong support, it is clear that Drenge up the ante, which sees increased jumping, moshing and notably, beer flying overhead into the pit. It’s hard to avoid the craziness and the mood is infectious.
Set-wise, Drenge showcase songs from their new EP, Autonomy, released two weeks prior to this performance, while fan favourites Bloodsports and Backwaters from their debut album are left until the end. The band close their second Sŵn Festival appearance with Running Wild, solidifying their huge sound, and the crowd are left hungry for more, chanting “encore” – but it does not come. Drenge have left victorious.
words and photos AMY FARRER