Sŵn and Dirty Protest
Sŵn = Noise. Sŵn = Music. Sŵn = Cardiff. Sŵn = three days of everything. Sŵn = exhausting. Sŵn = fun. Sŵn = friends. Sŵn = no sleep. Sŵn = excellent festival.
Whatever it means to you, Sŵn festival curated by Huw Stephens and John Rostron is an adventurous journey into what can happen with a little genius inspiration, and a lot of good will. They bring together promoters, artists, musicians, venues, DJs, curators, and throw it all at the city in one weekend of madness.
As a Cardiff resident, and a music fan, Sŵn is an explosion of the impossible, a non-stop schedule, an over stimulus, a delight and a nightmare, from packed-out gigs to queues around the block, it's totally amazing - but also frustrating at times.
It's everything someone who lives here would like to see on a more regular basis in the city: an enthusiastic music crowd there for new artists, there for a challenge, there for musical curiosity as much as the local favourites. So even accepting that it doesn't happen on a regular basis, how special and fantastic is 'Sŵn' then, that it can inspire the city for a short while to turn out in numbers, to support the local, to kick into life for this weekend over and above any other.
Cardiff is a small city and a laid-back city, but has an over-abundance of musical and creative talent on display in all its glory during Sŵn weekend.
Despite the wealth of activities on offer, rather than do what I usually do in these city-hopping events (running around like an idiot), I found myself choosing choice activities, quality over quantity. I wanted to see and hear something different, so I decided to start my Sŵn festival adventure at Dirty Protest at the back of Milgi café bar, and hear a selection of plays inspired by SFA songs.
Dirty Protest. Photo: Tom Beardshaw
I loved the removal from reality: the walk down the dark alley, the slightly surreal décor of the warehouse, our seating which was big armchairs, and the only heating being the packed body heat of so many there for the Dirty Protest experience. The plays were subtle, tender, witty, clever, alternative, human, and very very funny. Well done all involved.
From Milgi, I popped over to the bustling Wombany Street to catch some of the Oxford Label Big Scary Monsters' night at Fuwch Goch, including having nothing short of a claustrophobia attack during Tall Ships. Fuwch is a lovely bar, the PA was excellent, and there's a certain charm in watching a band play right up close and personal, but when the band finished, I couldn't get out such was the density of people in there. Panic.
On Friday Adam Walton, C2 and I curated a BBC Wales night at Chapter Arts Centre. I imagine Adam has written a thesis on the event, therefore I'll just summarise briefly to say that I had lots of fun. I particularly loved Wickes' shambolic charm and Young Legionnaire. The latter have come a long way from the pre-Glastonbury show when they supported Foals in a warm up gig in Clwb Ifor Bach, by now Paul Mullen and Gordon Moakes work beautifully together and their songs have a melodic heaviness, an epic and majestic feel about them.
Please refer to Adam's review for more from Friday night, and tune in on Thursday 28 October to my Radio 1 show for loads of live music from the gig.
On Saturday, again I found myself a little out of sync with the Sŵn schedule, as I helped producer 'Radio' Ed record some sessions in the BBC. We saw Happy Birthday, Beach Fossils, La La Vasquez, Still Corners all pop in to record some acoustic sessions for future Radio 1 Wales shows.
I ran on from work to start queuing at the Perfume Genius gig at Chapter. Some had been given hand stamps in the afternoon to try and control the crowd. The overly-careful preparation and crowd control made sense when I then walked into the seated theatre at Chapter. The lights were low, and the fragile strains and delicate keys of PG were a delight and once again transported me from life and reality altogether. A truly lovely performance; it reminded me a lot of Anthony & the Johnsons.
Back to the mayhem of the centre of town on a Saturday night, and I was DJing with The Vinyl Vendettas and Steve Lamacq, after a robust and lively performance from Race Horses on the top floor of Clwb Ifor Bach. This was one of my favourite DJing stints this year and ended up getting home about 7am - testament to the craziness and how brilliant it is sometimes just hanging out with friends at the end of a brilliant festival.
Thanks all at Sŵn for all your hard work, and for putting on such a fabulous event for Cardiff City. Swn = Nos Da.