Sŵn Festival 2015

Venue: Cardiff City Centre
Date: Saturday 7th November

Sŵn Festival is always one of the events I look forward to most in my musical year. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the whole weekend, but was determined to make up for this on Saturday by cramming in twelve performances from incredible artists throughout the day and night.

The afternoon started off in Clwb with Horizons BBC Cymru hosting the downstairs stage. Walking into a room at 13.30 full of support for Dan Bettridge shows the good work the Horizons scheme has provided by helping artists get the exposure their music deserves. As was expected Dan Bettridge played a soulful set with each song being sung with true emotion and passion. There were many highlights including ‘Jolene’ which had me hanging intently on every word, this is an artist who is sure to get the success his great songs deserve. No matter how much you try and keep up to date with new music Sŵn is always an event to open you up to new discoveries, the first of which today was Hannah Grace. The moment she sang her first word there really was no turning back, her voice is earth shattering. If the term ‘the next big thing’ is still being used in music then it is a label that Hannah Grace can claim as her own.

Next up was Aled Rheon. Two years have passed since I last saw Aled play a mesmerising solo set at Sŵn and today he was joined by a full band including Matthew Frederick (Climbing Tress) on keyboard. Aled and his band treated us to a set of beautiful songs written and performed by musicians who truly care and believe in the music they create. Aled had extra reason to celebrate after announcing to us that he became a dad on Thursday, and that happiness was certainly resonating throughout his set. A quick dash up the stairs in Clwb enabled us the opportunity to catch the second half of Bright Young People, a three piece from Rhyl who epitomise the true meaning of rock n roll. This is a band who will make you want to grab life by the throat and make the most of every second available. The second new discovery of the day came in the form of Afrobeat who stepped in at the last minute, and I think that I can speak for everyone who attended this show when I say how grateful we are for this. Afrobeat are uniquely brilliant, there is no one else doing what they do at the moment and the way they had the Clwb crowd dancing on a Saturday afternoon has to be applauded.

Over to Four Bars next for Danielle Lewis, an artist who we have already declared our love for this year. This was our first time to see her live and it was everything I imagined it to be; sweet, charming, joyful, endearing and uplifting. The audience in Four Bars was attentive throughout allowing Danielle’s songs to fill the room and put a smile on the face of many. Back to Clwb for Hooton Tennis Club, one of my must-see bands of the day. Everything about this set was perfect, how anyone could not like this band is beyond me, it is indie guitar pop at its very, very best. The third new discovery of the day was Violet Skies an artist who performed an amazing, captivating set full of atmospheric songs that are certainly destined for those big crowds.

Next stop of the day was Ten Feet Tall for The School. Regular readers of AMP will know how much I love The School and have declared them as the greatest pop band around right now. Tonight’s performance did nothing to make me change my mind, this is as perfect as pop music gets and I am sure there is an alternative world where The School are top of the pops. Tonight’s set also saw onstage banter between Liz and Simon Love around song writing credits which made me reminiscent of the days when The Loves were together.

Back to Four Bars for yet another new discovery. Tree Of Wolves are a band from Carmarthen who certainly gave us a set to remember and ensured this is a band we want to hear more from. Everything Tree Of Wolves did worked a treat; the melodies, hooks, passionate vocals and driving rhythms all combined to create songs that are impossible to ignore.

The night was to come to an end in The Moon Club with the final new discovery, Upbeat Sneakers, a young ska band from Merthyr who certainly know how to have fun - honestly if you do not enjoy this band then you really do take yourself too seriously. It is simply infectious and uplifting music that the world is really crying out for right now, ok maybe the cover of Ricky Martin was pushing things to the limit but this really is a band who enjoy themselves. Their recent single Current Affairs is turning into one of the singles of the year for me.

The band to bring Sŵn to an close for us was the much-hyped Pretty Vicious. In all the years I have been following new Welsh music I can’t recall a time when a band was signed to a major label after only one single. I have been meaning to see Pretty Vicious all year so was not going home tonight until I saw them. After finally watching them the one thing I can say is that all the hype is certainly justified. They are so damn good it is scary, everything they did was absolutely faultless. The chemistry these four young men have on stage is something that can’t be faked, you look at them and think they were just made to be together as a band. There was so much energy and passion on stage that was being shared with everyone in a very packed out Moon Club. If this band are not headlining arenas within three years then something would have seriously gone wrong.

Yet another perfect Sŵn festival came to an end, and walking down the steps of The Moon Club singing ‘Movin' on Up’ by Primal Scream into the magic of Womanby Street the whole world just felt right.

Steve Tay

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