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Sŵn diary

Bethan Elfyn

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There was a little hum of excitement around the streets of Cardiff, especially down the musical hubbub of Womanby Street where Clwb Ifor Bach, Dempsey's, the Full Moon and now the Fashion Quarter are based: a vital heart to the Sŵn Festival activities.

The Full Moon was my first stop as I collected my wristband and felt the immediate warmth and pink glow of a plan about to hatch. Sŵn year six is go! An hour later I gatecrashed the Welsh Music Prize at the Angel Hotel, where such an array of Welsh talent gathered to hear who the panel of judges have awarded the album of the year to.

The nominees - Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog, Cate Le Bon, Kids In Glass Houses, Bright Light Bright Light, Jodie Marie, Los Campesinos! and so on - were all so totally different it was hard to see how they could compare such works, but the esteemed prize went to Future Of The Left for The Plot Against Common Sense. Band members Jimmy Watkins and Jack Egglestone took to the stage to accept their award with a bizarre but amusing speech and sporting quietly confident smiles.

The next step on my Thursday evening toe-dipping Sŵn experience was a showcase of short music documentaries by Soundtrack festival at 10 Feet Tall. This was one of my favourite Sŵn experiences too: from a yodelling farmer to a honkytonk piano maker to an obese rapper from Spain, all the films were incredibly gripping and entertaining.


After a day of sightseeing around Cardiff with some Sŵn visitors, I was late out on Friday and just made it to Clwb Ifor Bach to see The Invisible. 'Funkiness' can be a bad word in some circles, but here it's an apt description: pure funky flow, relaxed basslines, falsetto croonings and toe tapping dazzle. I liked it a lot but Liars had started already upstairs so I inched my way out of the packed crowd before the end of their set.

The last time I saw Liars in Cardiff was in the small confines of the Barfly, and I've still got their rather bizarre spray painted tie from the merch stand that night.

This time the onset of flu-like symptoms, a razor-raw sore throat and not being able to see much past their strange visuals meant I didn't exactly get into it, get my head around it, or come near to appreciating it. I call it a night, the duvet calls!


The day of our annual BBC activity at Sŵn. Since the beginning and Adam Walton and I have hosted a joint stage and to showcase some of Wales' finest talents as well as bring in some new music names that we enjoy and appreciate, from Marina and the Diamonds to The Duke Spirit and Slow Club.

This year Frankie and the Heartstrings came to join us at Clwb Ifor Bach in the early afternoon for a raft of acoustic sessions. The others on the line-up included Sweet Baboo, Among Brothers, We Are Animal and Osian Howells, and if you're quick they can still be heard on Adam's show and my show from the weekend on BBC Radio Wales.

Frankie and the Heartstrings

There's something about seeing bands trying to adapt what they do normally for an acoustic session, and it often gets quite surprising results; from Frankie and the Heartstrings' cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain, to Among Brother's breakdown of random handclaps, those recordings will be something to remember.

Among Brothers at Swn Festival 2012


I was involved with more sessions for future broadcast at Music Box studios, making the wave upon wave of bands in the city for the weekend. Sunday started with the privilege of recording Leeds band Fossil Collective, Bristol folk loveliness from Joyce The Librarian, and Welsh bands Golden Fable and Trwbador.

An up close and personal Sŵn experience then, but sadly my flu symptoms were raging by this time, and I had to abandon my plans to head to the Peski and Poor Records Swiss night at Gwdihw. I went to hide under the duvet some more, instead living vicariously through people's Twitter journeys around Cardiff.

I asked a few Twitter friends to send some thoughts on a new discovery they found over the weekend. Here's what they said:

Haley Evans ‏(@haythebluebird)

"Pretty much every act I saw was a new discovery for me, but I really enjoyed Y Bandana - and that's from a non Welsh speaker!"

Ian Hamer (‏@ian_hamer)

"Night Engine in Undertone 4pm Sunday. A bit Bowie, a bit Talking Heads, a bit Robert Palmer! Intense and immense live."

James Alone (‏@alone_music)

"Cut Ribbons absolutely blew me away, they were absolutley flawless. One of the best shows I've seen this year!"

Hysterical Injury ‏(@hiband)

"Cold Pumas at Clwb Ifor Bach, Sunday: drummer on lead vocals; otherwise diametrically opposed to Phil Collins in every way."

Shell Zenner ‏(@shellzenner)

"I've been dying to see Faye play live for 6 months. Her Sŵn set showcased her pop sensibility with a dynamic edge and beats."

Damian Jeremiah ‏(@CassidyUK)

"Holy Mountain. The drummer was obviously the love child of John Henry Bonham and Keith Moon. But better at drumming."

Amy Van-Baaren (‏@amyvanbaaren)

"I didn't even know I liked live music: Harri Davies, Paper Aeroplanes, We Were Evergreen, Beatbox Fozzy & Earth."

Hannah Cook ‏(@han_louisecook)

"Never wear white shoes to any of the gigs, and Palma Violets do a killer live show."

Sŵn Festival is a glorious place to be in so many ways.  The venues and bars of Cardiff come alive to some wild and exciting musical acts from around the world. The music industry from further afield returns to the city year on year, but industry aside it's like a jolly reunion of friends past and present.

The world of welsh music comes together be it promoters, DJs, bands, Welsh language bands, record labels, designers, photographers, and venues. So well done to all who contribute to the biggest weekend in Cardiff's music calendar; well done to Huw, John, Gemma and the team for pulling it all together.

Although the excitement and happy memories live on via Twitter and other forums, Cardiff's music and nightlife will continues to glow, just not quite as pinkly

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