October 18th to 21st saw Sŵn Festival take over 17 venues throughout Cardiff for a weekend of incredible music, both local and not so local. Read on to see what Quench had to say…
Photos | James Cohen
Charlotte Church | Dempsey’s
I’m sure we all have our preconceptions when it comes to this lady. At 26 years old, she’s already had enough media coverage to last a lifetime, and certainly enough for us all to have formed some not-so-complimentary opinions of her. But, armed with some new material and a completely different sound, she’s working hard to shake the image of the old Charlotte Church who we all know and, um, don’t love. She had the midnight slot in the upstairs of Dempsey’s, an Irish bar and the most unlikely of settings.
Seeing the child-opera-star-turned-off-the-rails-teen-pop-star perform such an intimate gig and take on the role of the front woman of a rock band was very surreal. Combining genres and avant-garde experimental sounds seem to be all the rage in the music world at the moment, which could be good news for Charlotte and her unusual brand of operatic rock. It was strange, but somehow it just seemed to work. I don’t know whether I would say that I particularly enjoyed her music, but it was intriguing. Hats off to Charlotte for trying something different.
Gallows | The Globe
It was obvious that the Gallows were approaching the stage. The anticipation and size of the crowd stepped up as fresh towels and water were being set out for the headline act. Their entrance got the biggest roar from the crowd so far. They then surprised us all by ignoring the stage and moving microphones, guitars and basses into the crowd. As soon as they started playing, the energy in the room stepped up. Fans screaming the lyrics at the lead singer, boisterous dancing, drinks flying and heads banging altogether. The lead singer then directly asked the crowd if Gallows were the best band at Sŵn festival so far. Despite the festival being only a few hours old in all venues, and this crowd only seen a couple of bands before, they must have been in the running. Their music mixed big, heavy guitar and bass riffs, a screaming solo guitar and choruses with great vocal hooks, which even the new listeners could sing along to. The breakdowns, common of the genre, gave a great contrast to the high-tempo music. Gallows proved less challenging on the untrained ear to this genre.
As the concert climbed to its peak, Gallows showed themselves to be real entertainers. As they played their new song Vapid Adolescent Blues, they pushed their way further into the crowd, spreading themselves out to give more of the crowd even more chance to be directly involved. The lead singer ran up to the balcony and towered over his adoring audience. What a fantastic showman. As a climax for this eccentric group of musicians, they made a beer slip n’ slide. There were guitarists and singers playing and singing while slipping and sliding around on the venue floor. These were extraordinary scenes – incredibly energetic albeit slightly destructive. It made for a very entertaining set, even if you were not a fan of hardcore punk.
Pulled Apart by Horses | Clwb Ifor Bach
Something is amiss with Pulled Apart By Horses. The Leeds rockers have just cancelled what would have been their biggest tour next month, and when I ran into guitarist James he apologetically said they wouldn’t be doing any interviews because of ‘stuff that’s gone down’. Whatever has happened, it didn’t stop them playing the wild and raucous live show they’re well known for, with a setlist full of crowd pleasers that have even more venom injected into them played live. The audience were perhaps not quite as vicious as PABH’s average one, but a couple of moshing skinheads the size of bull elephants ensured that standing in the audience still had a certain degree of peril. Let’s hope that whatever problems they have can be solved, as they played one of the most fun gigs I saw all weekend, and the short set time just left me wanting more.
A Girl called ruth | Buffalo
With a gentle voice comparable to the likes of Ellie Goulding and Nerina Pallot, A Girl Called Ruth wowed the audience at Buffalo with nothing but her voice and a guitar. Her style is acoustic/singer-songwriter style, not too dissimilar to Laura Marling in ways, and her songs are simple yet relatable, tackling issues such as fast, fleeting love in 24 Hours. She really connected well with her audience thanks to her bright and cheerful disposition, and managed to make the stage her own by inserting her own personality into the performance as she engaged with the audience in songs like I Need a Man, which summed up her own ‘car-crash’ experiences with men. A Girl Called Ruth was a joy to watch and listen to, and I’d recommend her song Lullaby, as it was one of my favourites.
Foxes | Buffalo
The crowd had gathered at Buffalo for what it is safe to say was a brilliant set by Foxes. The rich, melodic texture and mixtures of electronic beats in this trio’s Delilah-esque style created an intense, slightly dramatic feel to the atmosphere; and the whole thing felt a lot more like a performance than your average gig. The emotive tone to the lead singer’s voice and the use of electronic drones made for a much more dense, more atmospheric musical style; and a surprise end to the set, which involved the lead singer fleeing the stage through the parted waves of the crowd before the end of the final song, did nothing but keep the audience entertained until the very last note.
The musicianship and sound quality were excellent, and the band performed a great set that left no one dissatisfied at the end, and I would thoroughly recommend you give these guys a listen.