Festival season is gradually coming to a close, with the summer recollections of standing in a field sunburnt and intoxicated, revelling to your favourite band, becoming replaced by overcoats, finding the choicest alcove in the city and huddling around a steaming cup of coffee as you shelter from the occasional autumnal shower. Sŵn Festival, however, is one of the last few events this year stoking the embers on what’s left of the dying party inferno, giving punters a final chance to have one last major soirée before the frigid air and lust to be next to a fireplace overcomes us all.
Although taking place on the tail-end of the festival season, Sŵn certainly is packing a punch when it comes to its line-up. With over 145 bands playing across 10 stages throughout its three day running time, Cardiff’s premium festival looks to be one of 2019’s standout events. Wax is forunate enough to be heading off to the Welsh capital this weekend to witness the festivities, so with that in mind, here are five acts we’re looking forward to seeing whilst attending Sŵn this year.
Katy J Pearson
Heavenly Records have always been solicitous and discerning when it comes to deciding who receives the privilege of sitting upon their eclectic artist roster. Katy J Pearson has been one of the fortunate few to join Heavenly’s elite ranks in recent years, with her adroitness and knack for engaging live performances giving credence to the wit of the label which supports her. Assisted by a watertight backing band, KJP’s soaring coo over her kinetic songwriting has been one of the main attractions for attending the wealth of live appearances she’s made over the last year. Having now just released her debut single, ‘Tonight’, Katy’s brand of country-via-pop aesthetic will no doubt be emboldened as she promotes her first physical offering out into the world. Deep into a UK wide tour by the time she appears on one of Sŵn’s stages, Pearson’s recent gracious steps into bigger things will no doubt make her a one to watch over the weekend, as her ascent to the top of the alternative music pyramid will no doubt be a quick one.
Born from an era of cyclical news feeds and the bombarding amount of clever marketing wordsmithery, Dry Cleaning take on the intellectually cluttered world as they see it, recycling spin and online drama into deft compositions of ‘post-punk’ tenacity and vitriolic spoken word. Lead singer Florance Shaw dispenses a voice and delivery that is unique amongst the current wave of guitar band contemporaries, with her dead pan and frank tone making the music both enigmatic and alluring. The fact that Dry Cleaning’s schtick is wrapped up in a musical exterior that is so catchy and melodic is a complete boon. It’s hard to put into words how in demand Dry Cleaning are when it comes to the live circuit, with bookings for the band being as numerous as the advertising logos which surround us in such a consumer centric world. The regularity of their performances, however, shouldn’t put you off as a band you can ‘always catch later’, as the demand for Dry Cleaning shows that their performances are something which the audience want to experience again and again.
Black Country, New Road
A darker breed of band has started to rise from the metropolises of this country, shunning the distorted and bruised tones that you would think would enrich their call, but instead generating their sinister expressions from efficacious songwriting alone. Black Country, New Road are chiefs of this category, employing dissonant guitar riffs and an assortment of saxophone to weave their bleak stories of social commentary. Perhaps, the rising horn section and fragile voice of Issac Wood is reminiscent of the more swelling moments of Neutral Milk Hotel. However, a very dirty and British slant is put upon the music, with the bleating brass referencing London’s clandestine jazz revival. Being a product of Speedy Wunderground’s kaleidoscopic production chain too, means there’s an urgency and a degree of boundary pushing creativity added to the compositions. With Speedy’s very own Pierre Hall describing the first time he saw Black Country, New Road as “incredible”, the hype surrounding the band is very real and deserved, and considering an air of mystery still clings around the group despite all the attention, taking advantage of seeing them this weekend will undoubtedly be a solid choice.
Treating genre like how a child would treat a sweet shop, FEET grab at anything that pleases them to help create the kooky and sometimes outlandish world in which they live. Forged from the camaraderie of friendships established through circumstance (university), FEET rose from oblique obscurity in 2016 on the back of their Soundcloud single, ‘Petty Thieving’. Fast-forwarding to 2019, this year has treated the band kindly, as a string of successful singles released on the buildup to their debut album, ‘What’s Inside Is More Than Just Ham’, has afforded them a wealth of opportunity when it comes to curating their oddball skewed live show. Maybe if they were named after any other limb, FEET would only be half as danceable. As this isn’t the case, however, the funk laden, Frank Zappa-esque eccentricity the band posses onstage has quickly become notorious, with the dabbles of brit-pop and sophisticated songwriting making what they do not only for the ridiculous, but also for the pensive.
One of the key components of this years Sŵn and undoubtedly the main headliners, Twin Peaks are here to remind us of the nostalgic garage rock cacophony which swept across the blogosphere at the beginning of the decade. However, with the garage revival tide almost fully receding, Twin Peaks still remain a constant fixture of the musical horizon, due to the band being overwhelmingly comprised of standout songwriters of the classic variety. With the release of their new album ‘Lookout Low’, Twin Peaks have reached another level of maturity that shows further refinement to their Americana sound. This, mingled with earlier classics taken from the bands breakout album ‘Wild Onion’, should cause their set to be a dynamic and turbulent one; making you feel as if you’re watching the sun slowly set over a dusky, desert city, before entering a neon lighted club and partying until it rises again.
Words: Dan E Brown