Sŵn Festival is a multi-venue music festival based in Cardiff city centre that started in 2007 with a focus on new music, emerging artists and homegrown talent. This year RPM decided to take the plunge and get involved in Saturday evenings entertainment and try and race across as many venues as possible. First things first I’d like to make a comment just how friendly the staff were at each of the packed venues there were plenty of staff about and every venue was pretty packed it has to be said and considering it was a Saturday night in a busy city centre this was no mena feat. Whilst the venues mainly concerntrated around the Womanby St area it was only a ten minute wlak to Jacobs basement and the Tramshed which were away from the main hub but not far enough to cause an inconvenience. Now I’ve been going to shows in the city for over 4 decades and I ventured into a couple I’d never set foot in before and didn’t even know existed but the Sŵn insta page was well singed and running times were easy to navigate.

Wristbands and passes were aquired smoothly and it was off we went to see The Shunkos hit Tiny Rebel and the very busy venue quickly adjusted their trousers and put on their shit kickers for some hardcore punk rock from Port Talbots finest new kids on the block, and they didn’t disappoint with a impressive set climaxing with a cover of ‘Chaise Longue’ that taught the original a thing or two about delivery and having a good time before ‘Beer And Gear’ made it all ok. Hearing the band through a very nice n noisy yet clear PA was a treat. Top turn all round and it was smiling faces all round as the temperature was rising and the bar had been set.

Time for a wander and it was into Fuel to catch a few songs from Death Cult Electric before we ventured off to find Jacobs Basement for some DIY garage psych courtesy of Family Battenburg where it was strictly one out one in as the packed venue shook their shit as the post-punkers rattled out an impressive and infectious set of Alternative rockers.

We also had time for a few DJ sets just to focus the mind as this quick paced festival catered for all tastes in all typres of venues whilst the so called normal world carried on with its business outside the festival bubble.

It was time to head over to Tramshed for BC Camplight and their piano driven radio friendly alt rock that certainly had its fans in the appreciative crowd. After a quick turn around it was time for the fantastic Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs.

They delivered a powerful and heavy set that shook the very foundations of the packed venue with the likes of ‘Rubbernecker’ and the excellent ‘Ultimate Hammer’ as the Geordies turned in a festival topping performance where Matthew Baty led the band through a Sabbath meets QOTSA dessert sessions set of mighty metalic perportions. The set was jaw dropping and exhilirating and seeing the Stone Cold t shirt made me smile something the great man would be proud to be represented at Hell Yeah! that was ass whooping stuff.

Whilst Pigs were dropping audio bombs on the Tramshed it was the turn of Getdown Services to show Tiny Rebel how to do a proper mash up with their very real and working class observational alternative pop with parts Goldie Looking Chain and part Sleeford Mods if youre looking for lazy observations but they had something about them with catchy songs that caught your attention and made you move and smile which in this day and age is always a good thing.

In summery its fair to say we were really impressed with what Sŵn festival dished up and we’re most definately going better prepared next year. Happy smiling people packing out every venue regardless of who was playing just gig goers out for a good time. Going for the whole three days and trying to defy logic and cover more bands for what was one of the best shows we’ve been to in a long time. Punctuality, friendlieness and bloody good music from a wide variety of genres which to be honest was its single most noticable super power. Diolch yn fawr iawn Sŵn, we had a blast and watched as many great bands play as possible. Heres to next year when we do it all again time 3.

Swn Festival

Its been a good year for Justin Sullivan and his New Model Army.  They’ve managed to capture the essence of what the band are all about in 2019 on the record ‘From Here’ and are playing to packed venues right across Europe promoting that very same record.  Now I’ve seen the band live many times from festivals to small clubs and most venues in between but tonight I was really looking forward to what kind of set they were going to deliver.

On entering the venue I was reminded of my first foray as a young man into the belly of the beast that was a New Model Army show back in the early to mid ’80s,  they rode the crest of a wave in the mid ’80s and dented the charts and it was where tonight began as the band appeared out of the clouds of smoke on stage to head straight into ‘No Rest’ which signalled some older men to start flinging themselves around the pit like time had stood still (something they might regret come the morning) . It was without pause we headed straight into the new record from there with the epic ‘Never Arriving’ that seemed like the perfect soundtrack as the wafts of dry ice cleared and the stage bathed in red the band’s silhouettes cast large on the backdrop as the opening new track from  ‘From Here’ was received like a prodigal son.

With an immense back catalogue its always a treat to see what they will perform live as they smatter the set with “singles” it’s not nessasseraly the singles that are crowd favourites anyway.  The NMA faithful are a rabid bunch who seem to love all the songs equally but deep down they’re probably like me and wish now and again that they’ll turn up to hear a run-through of all the singles in order of release followed by the best of the rest.  Something that made me smile towards the end of the set when Justin announced that the band were quickly approaching their 40th anniversary and he might be persuaded to do a tour with that in mind but I’m not convinced and smiling as he said it he wasn’t even convincing himself, but we can certainly hope for it. 

I digress. The new album is well represented with no less than eight songs being played. The band are a well-oiled machine and the songs are performed with much passion. Ceri Monger didn’t stop and his role is such an important part of the band as half of the rhythm section that really drives the sound on the more uptempo numbers something Justin has maintained throughout the bands existance and something thats such a big part of the sound.

We were treated to a blistering run through ’51st State’ which seems like it could have been written yesterday such is the stance at Westminster these days anyway I’ll try and keep politics out of this much like Sullivan did except to use his place to plead with the audience to do anything but vote Tory which went down well in south Wales even in these messed up times.  New Model Army fans still know what’s right and wrong.

To put together a fluid setlist must be a tough call for Justin but we got ‘Believe It’ from ‘The Love of Hopeless Causes’ then to follow it up with the excellent new track ‘Where I Am’ was excellent then to dip back into ‘Eight’ for a run through ‘Wipeout’ wasn’t something I was expecting.  The balance of the set was something that came across really well  ‘winter’ was appropriate and ‘State Radio’ gave the pit a second wind. then surprisingly we dipped back into ‘The Love of Hopeless Causes’ for a couple more as we headed for the encore.

I was hoping for a couple of choice picks and I kept my fingers crossed for maybe ‘White Coats’ and ‘Stupid Questions’ or maybe some ‘Vengence’ but alas I got none.  However, I did get a run-through a pretty impressive ‘125 mph’ so at least there was a few off ‘Thunder And Consolation’  as ‘Bodmin Pill’ brought the encore to an end but there was a second encore from a really vocal and appreciative crowd who called the band back for the oldest track in the set ‘Betcha’ to play out as we finally made our way out into the cold evening having been treated to an impressive set from one of the UK’s best alternative and still relevant  live bands.  Tonight the New Model Army were inspiring and uplifting and I can’t wait to do it all again next year after all a promise is a promise, Justin.  See you down the front.