Sŵn Festival 2015: AfterDark’s 15 acts to watch out for

Published on AfterDark (28 Oct 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge previews this year’s Sŵn Festival (6th – 8th November) and picks his 15 acts to go and see.

Swn cover pic

The venues: Buffalo/Clwb Ifor Bach/Four Bars (Dempseys)/Gwdihw/Ten Feet Tall/Undertone/The Moon Club/The Abacus Rooms

After a brief two-year spell in hibernation and having briefly submerged under the guise of DimSŵn both early this year and last year, the musical behemoth that is Sŵn Festival returns to Cardiff in its original multi-day form. If you don’t currently have anything planned for the weekend between Fri 6th – Sun 8th November, then you may want to put this in your diary.

Right after the clock hand strikes five on Friday, the biggest musical ‘street party’ in Cardiff (co-founded by Huw Stephens and John Rostron) officially gets under way in Abacus and continues all through the weekend. True to form, the line-up this year is a eclectic mix of artists from every conceivable genre, among them a handful of names you’ll likely be hearing more from.

As Swn co-founder John Rostron stated in his previous interview with AfterDark, “We want Swn to be a platform for newer or under-the-radar acts to play to a bigger audience, and to encourage our attendees to discover acts they wouldn’t normally listen to, or be able to easily discover anywhere else. The popularity of an act is very difficult to determine as people’s opinions of how great or established an artist is are extremely varied, and I think that in itself is one of the great things about music.”

With that philosophy in mind, AfterDark’s Dean Hodge has sifted through the Swn playlist of the some of the acts playing this year and compiled ’15’ artists that are likely to be a hit at Swn Festival 2015. Just the matter of condensing into such a number is an audacious task and we’ve likely missed a few good un’s. So read through our handpicked fifteen and judge for yourself how we’ve fared….


The Big Moon

Who are they? London quartet who deliver 90’s-influenced alternative rock that falls somewhere between the sparkling Britpop melodies of Elastica, and the driving riffs of The Breeders. Add to that a deceivingly laid-back swagger which masks the intensity and ambition that weighs beneath each anthem, and justifies their self-appointed namesake.

While their output so far is condensed to a couple of singles, each is the sound of a band with immense belief in their ability – a belief that will likely be shared by the masses of people who will be lucky enough to them grace the Swn stage.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Sucker

When/where do they play? 10 Feet Tall, Saturday, 9:30pm – as part of the ‘PRS For Music Presents’ stage.


Who are they? Liverpool outfit who conjure up the kind of escapist pop melodies and sky-scraping harmonies that the musical heritage of their home city is built on. Their output thus far is scarce but the jagged-knife riffs and radiant harmonies of singles Vitamin C and Runaway have already clipped the ears of fans and radio pluggers alike, enough to stir up a whirlwind of hype around the band. Swn has a respectable record of showcasing rising talents before they are propelled to bigger pastures, and it is a fairly solid wager that Clean Cut Kid will add to that growing list.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Vitamin C

When/where do they play? Undertone (below 10 Feet Tall), Saturday, 9:15pm.


Climbing Trees at Dim Swn 2014 (photo by Dawid Krosnia).

Climbing Trees at Dim Swn 2014 (photo by Dawid Krosnia).

Who are they? Pontypridd five-piece- and along with Houdini Dax a former alumni of Horizons/Gorwelion (see bottom of article) – who perform searing Americana roots-folk with a distinct Welsh lilt. Imbued with soaring folk melodies and sweeping harmonies of such grandiose scope that few others can match, the band craft a wall-of-sound cemented on the roots of traditional folk and blues that is all their own – hence their own self-label ‘Cymrucana’. One of our chosen highlights of last year’s DimSwn, I have every confidence they will repeat the magic second time round.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Happen

When/where do they play? 10 Feet Tall, Saturday, 6:45pm – as part of the ‘PRS For Music Presents’ stage.


Who are they? Veering away from a guitar-heavy cast of bands and towards the more electronic spectrum of acts on the current Swn line-up, one act that particularly warrants our excitement is elusive Cardiff sonic troubadours Cotton Wolf – signed to Cardiff-based label Strangetown Records. Blending dexterous classical arrangements with the expansive textures of dance music, their sound promises to be as equally mesmerising when translated into a visual setting. The hypnotic Siula Grande is where their crossover sound works most effectively.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Siula Grande

When/where do they play? Gwdihw, Sunday, 9:30pm – as part of the ‘All My Friends Presents’ stage.


Who are they? Cross-national London-based ‘trop-pop’ outfit – the members hail from the UK, France, Spain and Portugal respectively. Their disparate musical backgrounds are blended and stirred within a straw hat-topped cocktail of glorious sun-kissed folk-pop imbued with bossa-nova rhythms, within which lie melancholia-tinged lyrics of adolescent yearning behind a sun-lit veneer. The band’s distinct ‘popicalia’ sound will provide a fitting antidote to a cold, Welsh autumn weekend.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Sunset of Our Troubles

When/where do they play? Four Bars at Dempseys, Sunday, 7:00pm.


Danielle Lewis

Who are they? Bilingual folk singer-songwriter from New Quay (currently based in Cardiff) who crafts inescapably upbeat folk melodies that wrap like a velvet glove around her beguiling vocal. Given the array of high-octane guitar bands that populate this year’s line-up, she will surely provide a welcome reprieve and a brief chance to unwind from the festivities, with a set of tracks so poised and purifying that they could cleanse even the tiniest traces of one too many Brain’s ale from the average festival goer’s head.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Love Live Life

When/where do they play? Four Bars at Dempseys, Saturday, 4:30pm – as part of the ‘SWB Artists Presents’ stage.


Who are they? London/Birmingham duo with an unbridled devotion to 80’s disco and R‘n’B, who have sought to replicate it in their own sound. On the back of the latest single Last Chance to Dance, they largely achieve that feat with a stiletto-stomper of a track which comprises the kind of warbling bass rhythms and sugary vocals that defined the era. Their emergence is well-timed with a current revival of the classic 80’s R’n’B sound by numerous electronic acts, and they are sure to bring an added touch of neon light to the Swn circus.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Last Chance to Dance

When/where do they play? Buffalo, Saturday, 8:45pm – as part of the ‘GRLTLK Presents’ stage.


Houdini Dax at DimSwn 2014 (photo by Dawid Krosnia).

Houdini Dax at DimSwn 2014 (photo by Dawid Krosnia).

Who are they? Cardiff garage-punk power trio – and one of the previous class of Horizons/Gorwelion artists along with Climbing Trees (see bottom of article) – who pack razor-sharp riffs, dense harmonies, and more hooks than an angler’s shop. For sending an entire crowd through the roof (as they did at last year’s DimSwn), they have become a reliable go-to choice.

Back this year as part of their tour for their new Welsh Music Prize-nominated album Naughty Nation, you will definitely want to head to this early and save yourself enough time to get a pint or two in, because this gig will fill up. Fast.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Found Love in the Dole Office

When/where do they play? The Abacus Rooms, Friday, 10pm – the Swn 2015 Opening Party.


Who are they? Not much is known about the R’n’B/soul crooner from London. What is easy to identify him by are his trademark bob hat, his equally distinct honey-scented vocal, and his penchant for sculpting soulful grooves within luminous electro-pop textures. This is epitomised by his unescapably upbeat single Good Feeling – a four minute slice of saccharine soul that should frankly come with a sugar-level warning. His fairly obscure status is precisely why he merits a place on this list, and why he may just be the contender for the most surprising act of this year’s Swn.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Good Feeling

When/where do they play? Buffalo, Saturday, 7:30pm – as part of the ‘GRLTLK Presents’ stage.


Who are they? If you’re to ask anyone their opinion of who is worth seeing over the Swn weekend, the answer exuded from most pairs of lips will likely be these guys. The Merthyr lads’ unbridled swagger and visceral energy is matched only by their penchant for an infectious hook, resulting in a growing canon of earworm singles that are as inescapably catchy as they are unapologetically cocky.

The triple-salvo of releases they’ve delivered so far, while perhaps not game-changers, are solid and noisy enough to rumble the foundations of the musical pecking order, and there is surely much more they have up their sleeve. With anticipation at full throttle plus the small capacity of The Moon, getting in early is highly recommended!

Dean’s choice of first listen: It’s Always There

When/where do they play? The Moon, Saturday, 11:15pm – as part of the ‘YPN & Wales Online Present: The Wolves of Womanby Street’ stage.


Remembering AugustWho are they? Bridgend folk-pop duo that frame evocative lyrical storytelling within pristine folk melodies, delivered with a pop sensibility and an inner confidence that transcends their songs into anthemic territory. Some of the truly great bands are driven by a dynamic duo – Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, the Gallagher brothers to name a few– and while such comparisons are lofty, the taut chemistry and tight vocal harmonies between singers Jessie Hallett and Luke Searle is a testament to that golden rule.

Dean’s choice of first listen: 1963

When/where do they play? Four Bars at Dempseys, Saturday, 6:00pm – as part of the ‘SWB Artists Presents’ stage.


Who are they? On the subject of dynamic duos, this London/Flamborough-based pair evoke the same brand of grandiose acoustic indie-pop that became the stock-in-trade of bands such as Doves, Starsailor and Turin Brakes in the early 00’s. The heart-tugging vocals of singer Jack Sedman combine magnetically with the roaming melodies of guitarist Harry Draper, resulting in a cinematic wall of sound that, in terms of both volume and ambition, is far more than the sum of its parts. They are sure to invoke a hugely positive reaction from the Swn crowd come next weekend.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Be There

When/where do they play? Clwb Ifor Bach (upstairs), Saturday, 4:45pm – as part of the ‘JackRocks Presents’ stage.


Who are they? Another duo that finds its way onto this list is the London-based pairing of vocalists and guitarists James Hoare (Veronica Falls) and Jack Cooper (Mazes). Out of this arises a sound that is minimal and mesmeric in dual measure, with one foot firmly planted within the hazy, harmonic pastures of late 60’s indie guitar-pop and proto-punk, and the other dipping its toes within more experimental, future-leaning sonic waters. Break the Chain, in particular, comes about as close to recreating a modern-day Velvet Underground as any other track has and likely will.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Break the Chain

When/where do they play? Buffalo, Sunday, 3:00pm – as part of the ‘Wales Goes Pop! Presents’ stage.


Who are they? Residing at the heavier and headier end of the ‘swn’ scale, the Swansea/Cardiff-based garage-psych rockers are sure to deliver a sucker-punch to the senses with their own kaleidoscopic wall of blistering riffs and towering shoegaze grooves. You can almost feel the sweat levels that are bound to be multiplied by every member of the crowd when the band unleash their raw sound and primal energy upon the Swn faithful. Tracks like Sunset will likely fail to depart your synapsis for a good few days after.

Dean’s choice of first listen: Sunset

When/where do they play? Undertone, Sunday, 7:45pm.


Who are they? I’m perhaps cheating a bit here by including this year’s class of Horizons/Gorwelion artists – find out more about the Horizons/Gorwelions initiative and the selected artists here – performing at Swn as my fifteenth choice, but with an abundance of treasures among the cast, it merits the final slot.

Last year’s Horizons line-up (including Climbing Trees and Houdini Dax) brought many of the Swn venues to packed capacity. With Clwb Ifor Bach hosting ten of the acts throughout Saturday, you can expect a lot of movement through Clwb’s doors for the most of the day.

To try to sum up every act in the space of one paragraph would be frankly impossible as well as an injustice (plus I’m feeling fairly lazy at time of writing too!), so I suggest just checking each act out for yourself and heading to the Horizons stage in Clwb Ifor Bach on Saturday to see them upfront – each act and their allotted time is detailed below.

On that note, the same advice applies to the entirety of the acts adorning the Swn stage this year – listen for yourself and make up your own list of acts to see. After all, it is the championing of new music discovery that has come to be the bedrock of Swn.

When/where do they play? Clwb Ifor Bach, Saturday, 1:30pm – 9:00pm (in the following order):

Dan Bettridge 1:30pm/Hannah Grace 2:15pm/Aled Rheon 3:00pm/Y Reu 4:00pm/Peasant’s King 5:00pm/Mellt 6:00pm/Violet Skies 7:00pm/Yr Eira 8:00pm/HMS Morris 9:00pm

Swn Festival will take place in Cardiff on 6th – 8th November. Wristbands can be collected at the opening event at The Abacus on Fri 6 Nov from 5pm onwards, and from Womanby Street on Sat 7 – Sun 8 Nov from 12 – 8pm.

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One thought on “Sŵn Festival 2015: AfterDark’s 15 acts to watch out for

  1. Pingback: Review: Sŵn Festival 2015 – “If the previous two DimSŵn were slim pickings of the Sŵn fruit tree, this year was the full aural cornucopia” | Dean Hodge

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