Cardiff’s annual celebration of the best new music in Wales is back, this time with no wristbands. Charlie Piercey takes a look at what to expect from this year’s festival.
Since last year’s momentous Sŵn 10 the question on everybody’s lips has been, “Will there be another?”, or was that the swansong to a healthy 10 years as one of Cardiff’s most talked about festivals? It seems the answer to this is a firm and very well received “NO!”.
Sŵn is back this year and a little different, with a hefty size on it. It’s no longer the three day binge of new and exciting bands ripping apart Womanby Street and its margins; it’s now a full-fat, month-long rework of live music spread across the city with gig after gig to fill up your autumn calendar, showcasing larger profiled acts than before as well as the independents climbing the rungs of the industry.
We know it’s always been here for the latter and it won’t disappoint this time around. Punters may be dismayed that there’s no longer one wristband for all, but arguably that’s an acceptable sacrifice for such a high calibre and volume of gigs in close succession on your doorstep.
So, what’s on the menu?
Things kicked off a little early in September this year with The Skints and Sacred Paws, this was followed by an intriguing discussion on the credibility of contemporary music criticism and Songhoy Blues headlining the Tramshed as well as a sold out Silent Disco in the National Museum Cardiff.
Not to worry, there’s plenty on this month. There’s a smorgasbord of great artists and new sounds. Don’t miss Jen Cloher, Touts + Vistas, This Is The Kit, Dan Bettridge, The Amazons, She Drew The Gun, Tom McRae, Clean Cut Kid and Peace, all billed as headliners throughout October each with their own exciting support bands. Supports are possibly too numerous to name but many will be recognised as Welsh bands currently making an impact and seeking to capitalise.
As far as venues go, it’s looking better than ever with the Transport Club, Tramshed, St John’s Church, the Big Top and of course the always dependable and longest established Clwb Ifor Bach listed. Indeed for bands and audiences it’s an exciting time for live music in Cardiff as new venues appear to be cropping up, larger spaces are being utilised (for those tricky mid-size gigs) and legal barriers are being moved aside.
One unusual venue will host an impressive collaboration with Sŵn on Sat 7 Oct. The aptly named ‘Off Kilter’ will take place at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and will house enough vintage gear, curious electronic sound-scapes and large beards to satisfy all your left-field needs. Of course we jest, there will genuinely be astounding experimental music from the likes of Richard Dawson, Cotton Wolf, Rhain, Ed Dowie and Vohrees and the chance to see it all in different spaces within an architecturally titillating building.
If you’re partial to films about music, Pale Blinds is another partnership with Snowcat Cinema bringing music documentaries and other highly anticipated film screenings to the festival as well.
Lastly, Sŵn wouldn’t be Sŵn without emerging young bands; the next big things of tomorrow working their magic and this year Sŵn will present them at one spectacular finale under the moniker ‘Discovery Day’.
One ticket gets you a Saturday filled with fresh talent from Wales and beyond. We expect this to be a big draw and doubtless Sŵn does too as it’s the kind of thing that put them on everyone’s radar to begin with. The list is quite sizable, with a total of 45 different acts scheduled. We’d advise you to take a look at the Sŵn website and follow their handy Spotify playlist.
So, from all of this we can universally acknowledge that Sŵn is looking particularly appealing this year with its brand new threads and exceedingly generous format. Here’s to another 10 years (no pressure).
Sŵn Festival 2017, Various Venues, Cardiff. Fri 22 Sep – Sat 21 Oct. Tickets: prices vary per event. Info: www.swnfest.com