Rhodri Brooks’ electric guitar remained muted and mellow as the inevitable rain hit The Hayes at the start of his set. However, the unassuming singer soon turned things around. The minute that ‘Your Head Was Full Of Trouble’ and its finger-picking melodies floated to the crowd gathered beneath the trees, a smile flitted across the performer’s face. Toe-tapping and head nodding, the audience were as entertained by the musician’s humorous stage patter as by his simple-yet-beautiful tunes. Sŵn suddenly felt less like an urban festival and more like a rural idyll. Vacillating between his deep-voiced folk songs, and the as-yet-unnamed ‘funny little country’ ones, it is evident that Brooks is a versatile and skilled performer who fortunately lacks the inflated ego that his level of talent usually merits. IT
Hail! The Planes
After an excruciatingly particular soundcheck Cardiff’s Hail! The Planes were ready to play and once they began the reason for all this fine tuning was made abundantly clear. Hail! The Planes are one of those bands who think about every last detail of their sound and this all accumulated into a hypnotically beautiful performance, a combination of great on-stage chemistry and lead singer Holly Müller’s delicate vocals had the suitably large crowd crammed into Fuel lulled into a slowly swaying silence.
The six-piece slipped effortlessly from track to track from their forthcoming EP; ‘Send A Signal To Me’, (catch the launch party in Clwb Ifor Bach on the 15th of November) and finished on their mesmerising two track EP from erlier this year; ‘Brother, I’m Sinking’.
So, although the mellow, drawn out sound of Hail! The Planes may not be for everyone it does lend itself well to live shows and so even if their records don’t quite grab you it may well be a different story live and therefore well worth checking out. HB
Flamboyant five piece Palomino Party brought their theatrical vibes to O’Neils. With their frontman Linford Hydes bedecked in a string of pearls and a fur coat, one would assume that the band’s focus is on aesthetics alone. This is far from true. Basked in the venue’s pink glow, their brand of upbeat indie earned enthusiasm from the amassed crowd, who seemed as engaged by their funk-infused tracks as by the quintet’s high energy performance. Costumes and dancing aside, this is a band whose songs are strong enough to stand up independently. The Foals-esque ‘Deseo’, and contemplative ‘Scarletta’ were particular highlights of their set. Whether building their songs out of lazy guitar lines or insistent drums, Palomino Party prove that well-composed and considered tracks remain the best part of an artist’s show. IT
Olympians are a band who clearly love what they do more than anything, a trait portrayed best by their live performances; they were fun, entertaining and had an infectious energy that swept across the crowd and made for one of the more enjoyable shows of the weekend. Their insightful and often quite bleak lyrics are counteracted by a constantly amusing and light hearted repport with the crowd so as not to bring down the mood too much by reminding everyone of the banality of life through the themes explored in their recent EP ‘Adventure Gun’.
Barely Regal Records rarely present a band that don’t impress, as was showcased on Saturday again and again in Fuel, and Olympians are no exception as the London/Norwich pair delivered an impressively complex and psychedelic sound with a range of complicated pedals and diverse instruments in a both widely entertaining and stunningly beautiful show. HB
Despite officially being a five-piece Among Brothers took to the stage on Saturday eight members strong, a number you would expect to seem crowded and overpowering in the tiny claustrophobic venue that is Fuel. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth; Among Brothers were, as usual, flawless.
With their wide scope instruments including trombones, violins and obscenely bass heavy drum-pads Cardiff’s Among Brothers deliver a unique sound like no other ranging from ideas of contemporary experimental electronica to delicate, hushed vocal harmonies. The set spanned across their whole back-catalogue and onwards with a few tantalising new numbers from what is setting up to be an astounding follow up to ‘Homes’; their debut album released earlier this year.
Despite the quality of their performance however, Among Brothers drew a disappointingly small crowd, and not for the first time so it cannot be stressed enough here; if you get a chance, go and see this band! HB
Since the 90s the emo/punk/indie-rock sounds adopted by Sheffield’s Nai Harvest seem to have come full circle from being on-trend, to off-trend and now back on meaning that there seemed to be quite a lot of buzz surrounding their set and Feul was packed to its tiny rafters with all the coolest people Sŵn had to offer. It is safe to say though that this buzz is not misplaced as the Sheffeild duo delivered a strikingly touching performance surrounding the questions and problems that arise in the mind of a twenty-something modern day punk, drawing mostly from their latest album; ‘Whatever’ which was released earlier this year.
If a critique is to be made, however, it’s that as a performance Nai Harvest left a little to be desired. While the audio was spot on, the visual side of their show was virtually non-existent as the pair slaved away melancholically, hardly moving or looking up from their instruments. Although this may not make for the most exicting persomance in the world it is a style fitting to their genre and therefore shouldn’t detract too much from what was a passionate and engaging set.
When I think of a one man band, I imagine grainy 1970s Top of the Pops footage of an old man with a drum strapped to his waist, bells on his ankles, and a harmonica braced onto his jaw, working himself to the bone to create an amateur skiffle noise. Theo isn’t really like that; he plays heavy math-rock in the vein of Maybeshewill and 65daysofstatic, solo, without vocals, and definitely no bells on top.
He walks out to a small crowd in a tiny room. It’s always cosy watching an act in Fuel, but Theo – real name Sam Knight – packs more electrical equipment than any band I’ve ever seen, and space is at a premium. He takes centre-stage with guitar in hand, and begins a simple riff, distorted and looped into a beat. We watch as he casually discards his guitar, the riff still ringing out, and wanders over to the drumkit as if bored while shopping for instruments. When he starts hitting the drums the sound is palpable, I feel every note crackling through my hair and pressing against my clothes. I’m able to pick out the single ‘I Am Destructor’, but just barely; the set blurs into one six minute electric catharsis after another. The crowd leans in and out as one, dipping heads appreciatively in a modest approximation of a headbang, until the static rings out and it becomes apparent the set has finished. Theo gives a little smile, his first expression in forty minutes of playing, and takes a few seconds to take in applause before beginning the long, long process of packing away his kit. JD
Clipping – Clwb Ifor Bach
“It’s Clipping, bitch” – the motto, mantra, and introduction to the stage of this L.A industrial hip hop act. Quite unlike any other band at Sŵn, Clipping lay lightning verses over beats almost shredded beyond recognition. Often you will stare open-mouthed at MC Daveed Diggs, wondering at the inner-metronome that can keep tempo to a track that sounds like knives in a ceiling-fan. But keep tempo he does, spitting his assorted stories of the streets for the good people of Cardiff, some of whom seem unsure what to make of it all. A trenchcoated hipster stands in front of me, arms folded, a pillar of scepticism in an otherwise sound room. He clearly doesn’t expect the next song to be performed inches from his face, mic held in a three-finger grip by the breakneck Diggs, who stands and watches the young man squirm for a good couple of minutes. Poor bastard. JD