Sŵn Festival – Friday


There’s a sense of trepidation floating around Four Bars as the clock strikes 11. Cardiff’s prodigal sons Samoans have returned from an almost yearlong absence, bringing with them arguably the South Wales scene’s most anticipated debut album. As they shuffle onto the stage with all the nerves of someone introducing their new spouse to a gaggle of drunk mates, it soon becomes clear that this is almost exactly what’s going down. Wall-to-wall, Four Bars is packed with friends and family of the Cardiff four-piece, and as they kick into a set solely comprised of new material, eyes are wide with pride. Frontman Dan Barnett’s vocals struggle slightly due to an incredibly unfortunate loss of voice, but this matters little when the material being debuted is of such a high quality. Channelling their wealth of math-rock experience through a bombastic and anthemic sensibility, perfectly tuned for stage far larger than this. As bassist Calvin Ley hands out the band’s rider beers to the crowd, the party atmosphere reaches new highs. A promising look to the future of one of Cardiff’s most exciting new bands, this is both a mission accomplished and the start of a new chapter not only for Samoans, but for the South Welsh music scene as a whole. TC


Totem Terrors – Clwb Ifor Bach

Setting up, the awkward duo looked incapable of living up to their name. Fortunately, appearances can be deceiving: their post-punk material is minimal and unforgiving, with heavy bass lines, monotone vocals and the odd atmospheric yelp from guitarist Rosie. Sure, it was weird at times, but in a progressive kind of way. After a shaky start of forgotten lyrics, the pair won over the crowd with cheeky subject matter and a little self-deprecation. At one moment the duo would be seemingly unaware of having an audience; the next, they’d be moving through the crowd and grimacing at press cameras. Totem Terrors gave a quirky performance with a parting message to match: “We’ve been Totem Terrors and you’ve been… a bigger audience than expected”. HES


Radkey – Four Bars

Upstairs in Dempseys, three brothers from Missouri ripped up the venue with frenzied hardcore punk stemming from the ’80s bands with names about dying. The delivery was exceptional and polished. We would never have guessed that the oldest has no more than 20 years to his name, until they introduced a song about “killing women, ’cause, you know, that’s funny” – might want to work on the stage chat? Dee’s vocals resonated with angst as his brother plunged into an eager crowd, writhing around with his bass and a slightly unhinged demeanour. Meanwhile, the littlest Radke brother was trying to keep up on the drums like his life depended on it – and he did, bless him. At this stage they’re a definite band of brothers, but their sound has the potential to be up with the big names in punk, and probably will. Ones to watch. HES


Pawws – Clwb Ifor Bach

You will have heard Lucy Taylor – a.k.a. Pawws – before; you just might not know it. The voice of Kele’s house track ‘What Did I Do’ and the flute section of MGMT’s Electric Feel, Taylor is now releasing her own pop gems completely solo. It is a high, delicate voice that gives us ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ and ‘Slow Love’, songs about relationships sung with the fragility that warrants. Latest number ‘Outside’ would sit comfortably alongside the Drive soundtrack with its shimmering Euro synth and murmured chorus. Onstage Pawws is a demure figure, swaying slightly but otherwise not venturing from behind the microphone, looking over the audience as she bares her soul. The irony is, after a 40 minute set detailing the numerous strains and tragedies of relationships, you’ll be hard pressed not to fall a little bit in love with her. JD


Bo Ningen

Let us not be fooled by appearances. Of course, being separated from the facial expressions of the band by a thick barrier of jet black hair was slightly disconcerting. And yes, not understanding a word they were saying did detract from the enjoyment of the music in some sense. There was also the worry that the excessive arm movements was some form of hex being put on the slightly stunned crowd.  But you’ve got to hand it to Japanese four-piece Bo Ningen, they brought something to the upstairs room of Clwb Ifor Bach that was rivalled by none across the entire weekend of Sŵn Festival. What that something was, we’re not quite sure. What we are sure of, is that the quartet are definitely worth a watch. CM


Wolf Alice

North London’s Wolf Alice were certainly one of the less talkative bands to grace the stage in the cosy upstairs room of Clwb Ifor Bach during this year’s Sŵn Festival but my, did they get away with it. Drawing the crowds in from the streets and away from the festival’s six other venues as the Friday night powered towards its climax, lead vocalist Ellie filled the room with her sweet sounds ranging from the haunting ‘Blush’ to her transformation into the Cherrie Currie of this decade in the chorus of ‘Fluffy’. The growing hype surrounding Wolf Alice has by no means been without reason; it’s clear that it wasn’t just the torrential rain that kept people watching until the very end. CM



Clouded since the summer by Labour MP Tom Watson’s ‘look at me I’m so hip’ declaration of fandom, Drenge had a lot to prove by the time they took to the upstairs of Clwb. But let’s put political point scoring aside for one second. Drenge are a formidable beast, emerging at just the right time to blow away the cobwebs of over-production and stale songwriting that were starting to plague guitar music. Channelling the same energy that first brought grunge kicking and screaming into the limelight, brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless crafted a furious debut album that seems screaming to be let loose of its recorded confines and into the live arena. Tonight the duo’s stage time is set just after one in the morning, and yet the queue that snakes its way down Womanby Street hints at the fervour that surrounds the year’s most promising new band.

Emerging from the backroom clad in Primark pyjamas (a cheeky nod to it being way past their bedtime), the brothers Drenge threw themselves straight into a selection of all the finest cuts from this summer’s eponymous debut album. Predictably loud, the boys barely stop for breath throughout the course of the hour-long set – a gargantuan “Bloodsports” proving to be the highlight. Sadly, the obnoxiously late stage time leads to one too many people having consumed one too many drinks, as evidenced by the awful excuse for a mosh pit that emerges at the front of the room. However, as the evening continues and the grins on the Loveless brothers widen, its clear that nothing could taint this experience for the pair. Small though Swn may be, this is the first festival headline slot Drenge have held. On tonight’s evidence, it’s sure not to be the last. TC


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