Various venues, Cardiff, Fri 18-Sun 20 Oct
ALFFA (Fuel, Sun 20)
Slow-burning, Welsh-speaking, and heavy-hitting, the punk-blues duo well and truly showcased what Llanrhug has to offer. Alffa [top] packed out Fuel, debuting new track Devil Boogie Woogie from their upcoming album as well as recent single Full Moon Vulture.
Bess Atwell’s dreamy vocals bought the feeling of a lazy summer day to Cardiff’s October chill, complete with graceful fingerpicking, romantic lyricism and the kind of rich harmonies that’ll have you hitting replay before the track’s even finished.
Understated and undeniably cool, Seattle-four piece Chastity Belt juxtaposed their signature sharp-wit against simmering instrumentals. With their beautifully candid set captivating Kongs, it was no surprise to see their albums flying off the merch table post-gig.
Intense, topical and as electrifying as usual, the Rhondda Cynon Taff trio smashed out favourites Blame It On Me and Girls Talk as well as new track Pwy Sydd Ar Bai? discussing Brexit, with frontwoman Katie Hall tearing up the place as they do so.
It’s hard to believe Bristol outfit Cruelty formed less than a year ago. Dark breakdowns and postpunk growls hammer home why the band are Idles’ golden boys, having been hand-picked to perform at their homecoming show afterparty.
Trippy five-piece Flamingods stormed a full-to-capacity Clwb For Bach. Their constant instrument switching and hypnotic psychedelia as chaotic as front-man Kamal Rasool (impressively) repairing an instrument with a pair of stray pliers mid-song.
Bold, jarring and completely mind-melting, HMLTD are a real-time masterpiece. Leading the charge of London’s creative renaissance, their flailing art-rock set was undoubtedly the climax of Swn Festival 2019, leaving the crowd clambering for more.
The intensity of their stage presence matching the complexity of the songwriting underneath, Hotel Lux’s debut acoustic set drew a crowd so big it spilt out of Cardiff’s Fred Perry shop into the street.
With indie-rock making a comeback, it can sometimes all meld into white noise, but Wrexham quartet Kidsmoke are an exception. Shimmering pop laced with guitar lines that swirl and glide.
Kicking things off with a bang on Friday night at O’Neill’s, Rainbow Maniac once again prove why they belong in the metaphorical top drawer of the Cardiff music scene. A cover of The Beatles’ Why Don’t We Do It In The Road with vocals from new member David Bassey (also of CVC) highlighted the change-up in band members, before bringing it home with crowd favourite Going Out On My Own.
Probably the most hotly anticipated band of the festival, Squid expertly rode the hype. An eclectic tapestry of shuddering brass, complex cross-rhythms and jagged vocals made for a surreal set, with punters queueing down Womanby Street for a chance to get in on the action.
words and photos HANNAH NICHOLSON-TOTTLE