by Dylan Graham
This years’ Sŵn Festival started in style with a brilliant trio of acts playing Cardiff’s Tramshed, headlined by Welsh alternative pop artist, Gwenno.
First up was French art pop group Halo Maud. The venue was half empty as they took to the stage, yet they managed to fill the empty space with their quirky psychedelic tones and catchy rhythms, effortlessly captivating those in attendance. Front-woman Maud Nadal sang in French and English, often accompanied by beautiful vocal harmonies from her fellow band members. As the Tramshed slowly filled throughout their short set, they abruptly announced that they were about to play their final song, much to the crowds’ dismay. The group seemed to have made many new fans at Sŵn Festival, an exceptional start to the evening.
As Halo Maud left the stage, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the crowd as to what else the evening could bring. After a short break, the Welsh alt-folk trio Adwaith began their performance. The band have a laid back but grungey feel, with most songs lasting little over 2 minutes. Their performance started well, although it felt at times as if some sort of coherence was missing. Midway through their set, the groups vocalist Hollie Singer announced that their next song was called ‘Dunno’, “because that’s what I always say when people ask me what I want to do with my life”. Although still true to the groups fundamental style, this song featured tongue and cheek lyrics and clever wordplay, performed in a laid-back rap style. ‘Dunno’ stood out as a more memorable number from Adwaith’s set.
Their penultimate song was titled ‘Fel I Fod’ and has gained close to 400,000 streams on Spotify, much to the groups self-proclaimed amazement. It was clear to see why it has become so popular – Fel I Fod is a beautiful, stripped-back tune. The crowd was in complete silence for the duration of the song, before bursting into applaud. Adwaith’s set ended on a high and are definitely ones to watch in the future.
The Tramshed was now packed for the main act of the night – Gwenno. Singing in Welsh and Cornish, Gwenno’s stage presence was second-to-none. Between the psychedelic stage visuals and her energetic band, the whole performance was an absolute delight to watch. She had the whole crowd in the palm of her hand as soon as she took to the stage, blasting through her electropop bangers. The performance was a refreshing celebration of Welsh and Cornish language and culture, beautifully incorporating these Celtic languages with modern but alternative pop music.
Although a large percentage of the crowd didn’t speak Cornish, Gwenno had everyone in the Tramshed singing along towards the end of her performance with the superb song ‘Eus Keus?’, which translates to ‘Is There Cheese’ (“because there’s not enough songs about cheese”, explained Gwenno). As her performance finished, the crowd was instantly cheering for more. Gwenno quickly reappeared on stage for a single song encore, before the first night of Sŵn Festival was officially over.
All three acts delivered great, memorable performances. Sŵn Festival 2018 has officially begun, and the rest of the artists performing this weekend have a tough act to follow after a great night of music at the Tramshed.