Published on AfterDark (31 Aug 2018) – click here to access article
Dean Hodge reviews some of the highlight acts from this year’s Green Man Festival held on 16 – 19 August 2018. (Photography by Nick Evans)
Public Service Broadcasting, Far Out Stage. Photo: Nick Evans.
The imposing sight of the famous green figure in the middle of the site, surrounded by a sea of spectators adorned with glitter on their faces and stack cups in hand, is the unmistakable sight that once again greets me (and photographer Nick Evans) upon arrival at Green Man for my fourth visit here in as many years.
But one part of the festival that has become so synonymous with each of my previous three visits here is missing this year though – the rain. Green Man and wet weather is a natural marriage that has become so ingrained in each of my previous visits here, that it is almost difficult for me to get used to what is actually for once a mostly hot and dry weekend in the Brecon Beacons – to the extent that I actually leave the festival more bronzed rather than soaked.
Joel Gion, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Far Out Stage. Photo: Nick Evans.
But a far more important characteristic of Green Man has remained and that is the quality of the music. For a festival that firmly embraces the left of the dial while retaining a maverick Welsh spirit, this year’s Thursday night headliners are a natural fit for both of these reasons. The music of London’s Public Service Broadcasting is a compelling concept in itself – with instrumental kraut-rock grooves interspersed with samples of public information films, and in the confines of the Far Out Stage accompanied by old film footage on each screen. Furthermore, their second album Every Valley celebrates and mourns the rise and decline of the Welsh coal mining industry. Continue reading
Published on AfterDark ( 25 Aug 2017) – click here to access article
Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from this year’s Green Man Festival held on 17 – 20 August 2017. (Photography by Nick Evans)
Photo: Nick Evans
Even as Green Man Festival enters its fifteenth year, the ethos of promoting the best of new music alongside established icons has not waned. Nor has the encompassing love-one-another vibe that is infectious as soon as you arrive. Certainly, the latter is needed more than ever at such a turbulent time, and the festival returns one more to provide a green oasis of escapism. Still, the awareness of events happening elsewhere in the world filters through and becomes a running theme in many of the artists’ mantras to the audience.
The Big Moon, Far Out Stage. Photo: Nick Evans
US rockers Hurray For The Riff Raff make the odd reference to the growing political unrest in their homeland and elsewhere throughout their set on the Mountain Stage on Friday. The performance itself is a breathless ride of soaring northern-bound classic rock with a southern-fried punk energy simmering beneath that burns with an inner yearning for a more peaceful world. Inward-looking lyrics with a social conscience are delivered with boldness and bite by frontwoman Alynda Segarra – the musical love child of Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen both in her lyrical delivery and her smouldering stage presence. A fitting tribute to The Boss himself is thrown in for good measure with a hedonistic cover of Dancing In The Dark closing the set.
Another high-octane cover of an 80’s classic is provided by London indie quartet The Big Moon – their delirious take on Bonnie Tyler‘s Total Eclipse of the Heart just one highlight of what is a typically vivacious set by the four-piece. Their delirium-inducing, body-elevating blend of murky guitar riffs and sultry melodies is suited for the confines of the Far Out Stage. A backing band of dancers in fancy dress join the band on-stage for closing number Sucker to provide a fittingly fervent finale. An accidental on-stage fall by guitarist Soph Nathan during an over-zealous guitar solo only adds to the chaotic charm of their set. Continue reading
Published on AfterDark (26 Oct 2016) – CLICK HERE to read article
AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from the 10th anniversary weekend of Sŵn Festival in Cardiff (Friday 21 – Sunday 23 October 2016).
Photo provided by BBC Cymru Wales (Photographer: Simon Ayre)
The sight of instruments and amps being wheeled from numerous white vans into one of the various venues in Cardiff. A sea of pink and red balloons dotted around the city streets and inside said venues. People walking around with glitter etched across their face as if it an acceptable form of everyday attire. These are images that have become very much synonymous with the annual orchestrated cacophony of chaos that is Sŵn Festival.
Like a song that reminds you of an iconic scene from your favourite film as soon as you hear it, these images are a visual accompaniment to the many moments of musical magic that have come to define the Welsh festival. Artists have marked their breakthrough here. Friendships (and relationships) have been formed. The odd Jager-bomb has been consumed here and there.
They are moments that indeed now span an entire decade for those that have shared the journey of Sŵn right from the beginning – and four years (and counting) worth of musical memories for me. With local music venues fighting an uphill battle to remain relevant in the current streaming-dominated music industry, the support of these venues and the ability of city-based festivals like Sŵn to highlight the independent scene, is more vital now than ever before. So the Welsh festival marks its tenth birthday by providing more of the high-calibre new artists that have come to define the ethos of Sŵn. Continue reading
Published on AfterDark (16 Oct 2016) – click here to access article
AfterDark’s Dean Hodge previews the 10th anniversary weekend of Sŵn Festival (Friday 21 – Sunday 23 October) and picks his 10 recommended artists.
Cardiff‘s own curtain-closer to the festival season Sŵn Festival returns once again to numerous venues around the Welsh capital for a whole weekend – showcasing the cream of upcoming artists that are sure to be the soundtrack of the years to come.
Like the one music-obsessive in your social group that continually claims bragging rights to knowing the best new artists before anyone else does, Sŵn prides itself on bringing future headliners and chart-hasslers directly into some of Cardiff’s petite venues. Artists like Temples, Alt-J, The Vaccines and Disclosure are just some of the acts to have graced the Welsh festival on the way to the ‘toppermost’.
Now in its 10th year, Sŵn shows no signs of going stale with its ear still finely attuned to the freshest sounds – and this year’s line up is sure to have something to please everyone whatever their aural tastes. AfterDark’s Dean Hodge handpicks his own ten artists to look out for this weekend. Continue reading
Published on AfterDark (3 Sept 2016) – click here to access article
See all photos by Nick Evans for AfterDark here
Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from this year’s Green Man Festival held on 18 – 21 August 2016. (Photography by Nick Evans)
Photo: Nick Evans.
Having become anointed with the unique charms of Green Man Festival last year, a return was definitely on the cards for me this year. It is quite clear on my second visit that some things simply don’t change at Green Man 2016 – one of them being the incessant Welsh rain (lots of it) which has seemingly become a permanent staple on the annual line-up. Thankfully, neither has the quality of the music – which this year, like the downward water that falls out of the sky here, is in unlimited supply.
Having finally arrived and set up camp on Thursday – on what is a once-in-a-blue-moon dry day in the Brecon Beacons – I make my way to the front of the Far Out tent, which is probably not the most ideal place for the more passive gig-consumer given that the next band to play are capable of bringing bears out of slumber with their cacophony of noise. Continue reading
Published on AfterDark (14 Nov 2015)
AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews some of the performances from this year’s Sŵn Festival in Cardiff (6-8 Nov 2015). Photography by Tess Seymour.
The venues: Buffalo/Clwb Ifor Bach/Four Bars (Dempseys)/Gwdihw/Ten Feet Tall/Undertone/The Moon Club/The Abacus Rooms
Like many, it was great for me to see Sŵn Festival return to Cardiff in its original multi-year form after a two-year spell. The previous downsized DimSŵn events did a fine job of filling the gap in between and keeping the Swn faithful happy, but at last we could now enjoy a whole weekend of arguably the biggest musical ‘street party’ in Cardiff.
The slightly later date for this year’s outing (due to a certain rugby tournament) meant that the days were slightly shorter, the evenings slightly darker and the weather slightly colder (or perhaps not much colder as it is the Welsh weather after all). The quality of the music and the atmosphere though, remained of the same high calibre as it did before.
If the previous two DimSŵn outings were merely slim pickings of the Sŵn fruit tree, then this year’s event promised to be the full cornucopia of aural richness. Having such a plethora of talent gracing some of the city’s venues is both a blessing and a curse, as it leaves a dilemma as who to see or which act could be an as-yet-undiscovered favourite. Continue reading
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.
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…. Continue reading
Published on AfterDark (27 Aug 2015)
AfterDark’s Dean Hodge gives his verdict on this year’s Green Man Festival (with photography from Gareth Bull).
For many, Green Man Festival is a highlight of the festival calendar, and ones which offers the best of both worlds – blending major artists with the more obscure gems of the music world, and evolving into a major platform while still maintaining a maverick, essentially ‘indie’ core. In short, it very much has a festival ‘feel’ without the festival ‘stress’.
With the exception of a few, many of the artists in this year’s line-up I am only just discovering for the first time and some I have instantly become enamoured with. There is such a diversity of music to select from, and as if that isn’t enough, there is plenty of locally sourced food, ales, and other festivities to keep your tastebuds, as well as earbuds, occupied. As myself and photographer Gareth Bull arrive on the site on a drizzly Thursday night, the welcoming vibe that greets us instantly offsets the dread of camping out in a damp field in the Welsh mountains for three days. Continue reading
Published on Cardiff AfterDark (10 Apr 2015)
Dean Hodge talks to John Rostron ahead of the return of DimSwn to Cardiff this weekend.
One of the living symbols of independent Welsh music, John Rostron has played an instrumental role behind the scenes in shaping a musical culture that has helped put Wales firmly on the musical map, and arguably embodies the maverick ‘indie’ spirit that has come to define the scene.
Along with BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens, both men co-founded what is arguably one of the biggest indie festivals nationally Swn Festival, and the first National Music Prize for Wales, the Welsh Music Prize.
Like many shining lights in the music landscape, the Swn Festival found itself in a temporary moment of darkness as it was forced to scale down to an one-day event last year as opposed to the usual four-day marathon due to costs. Rather than bury its head in the sand, the festival rebranded itself as the aptly named DimSwn and responded with a colossal line-up of rising acts in their ascendancy, all condensed into one October day of musical majesty that proved Swn was far from being a sunken ship.
This weekend as the sunshine reappears, DimSwn recommences again in a new spring timeslot. Continue reading