Review: Sŵn Festival 2016 – “Providing musical memories for ten glorious years, and hopefully more to come”

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)

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

Sŵn Festival 2016: AfterDark’s 10 must-see artists

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.

10 Must See Artists Swn (Copyirght AfterDark)

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

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Talks With Amy Wadge

Amy Wadge & Pete Riley

Published on AfterDark (28 July 2015)

Prior to sensational songwriting duo Amy Wadge & Pete Riley‘s recent performance at St David’s Hall (26 June), AfterDark’s Dean Hodge managed to grab a quick interview with Amy Wadge – herself one of the most prolific songwriters in the music industry today as well as an established solo artist in her own right.

She has famously co-written with Ed Sheeran including their global smash Thinking Out Loud which reached number one in the UK Official Chart last year has now spent a full consecutive year in the UK Top 40 chart alone. But Amy can boasts working with a stellar amount of names from her impressive repertoire – including the likes of LeAnn Rimes, Janelle Monae and Birdy to name just a few.

However, the Bristol-born artist has always called Wales her home and her involvement in the Welsh music scene is just as profuse. In the last few years she has co-written for, produced and mentored numerous up-and-coming artists including Gabrielle Murphy, Kizzy Crawford, Delyth McLean, Maddie Jones, Remembering August and countless others. However, it is with fellow songwriter and touring partner Pete Riley that she has enjoyed a particularly fruitful collaboration.

Amy and Pete first came together in 2010 and immediately clicked after many years performing in various bands. Since then they have written together, toured and released a pair of highly acclaimed albums – Rivers Apart and Afterglow.

Read the full interview here in which Amy discusses how her partnership with Pete first came about, how Thinking Out Loud was born, balancing her currently hectic workload with family life, and why Wales will always be home to her. Continue reading

Live review – Cast, The Globe, Cardiff, 2 July 2015 – ‘A stark reminder that they have lost none of their magic touch two decades on’

Published on AfterDark (15 July 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews Cast’s performance in The Globe in Cardiff (with support from Houdini Dax).

CAST

Britpop titans Cast marked their return to Cardiff in fine style within the dense musical hive of The Globe. Their return tour coincides with twenty years since the release of their inaugural album All Change, an undisputed classic of the 1990’s British indie scene that cemented the Liverpudlian band as one of the shining jewels in the Britpop crown, and earmarked frontman and The La’s alumni John Power as a songwriting force to be reckoned with. Furthermore, their Cardiff gig came on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the debut single release that kicked it all off for them – the ageless paean to limitless positivity Fine Time.

A full-capacity audience greeted their welcome return, standing as testament to the band’s enduring popularity and the timeless appeal of their impressive canon of anthems. There was a mix of generations old and new, from people who have followed the band from the beginning, to new fans discovering them for the first time. Continue reading

Horizons 2015: AfterDark Talks With Dan Bettridge – ‘My parents’ record collection was the primary influence on my musical upbringing’

Published on AfterDark (23 June 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to Dan Bettridge, one of this year’s Horizons 2015 artists.

Dan Bettridge

The power of music partly lies in the pure, unabashed escapism it can offer and its ability to transport you to another time and place, regardless of where you are and when. It’s a philosophy that Welsh warbler Dan Bettridge fully embraces.

His husky, bourbon-soaked vocal and raw delivery instantly – the voice of an old soul placed upon young shoulders – sounds like more something born out of a smoky jazz or blues bar in late 60’s or early 70’s deep south America than like anything else today. You can almost feel the warm glow of sunset and the scent of smoke when you listen to his irresistible brand of Americana-infused Celtic soul, delivered with a voice which echoes the spirit of Van Morrison and Otis Redding but refines it within a Welsh lilt. Continue reading

Horizons 2015: AfterDark Talks With Cold Committee – ‘To be asked by Liam Gallagher and Miles Kane to play for them is just living the dream’

Published on AfterDark (23 June 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to James Cairns from Cold Committee, one of this year’s Horizons 2015 artists.

Cold Committee

As the old saying goes, ‘rock ‘n’ roll will never die’. While the rock genre is quite far from dead, it lately seems to be in a prolonged state of hibernation, lurking in the shadows as a wind of soulless, manufactured-pop blandness sweeps across the musical plain.

Where there is a gust of third-rate Ed Sheeran wannabes or mediocre Arctic Monkeys offshoots, there is always a wave of frustrated young men with guitars to counterbalance it. But while there are plenty new bands making a big noise, it doesn’t seem to be getting heard by the masses.  Rock itself is in a current state of deep freeze, slowly being preserved for when the time arises for it to reignite in the mist.

One of its torch bearers may have just arrived in the form of four North Walian lads who together form Cold Committee. Possessing a love for back-to-basics rock ‘n’ roll in its purest form along with a disdain with the bland scene around them, they have decided to do something about it by picking up instruments, learning a few chords and writing great tunes. Continue reading

Horizons 2014 Spotlight: Baby Queens – ‘An intoxicating, hypnotic musical cocktail to warm the soul and entrance the mind’

Baby Queens interview

Published on Cardiff AfterDark (12 Mar 2015)

The cream of Welsh pop royalty Baby Queens talk to AfterDark about their upcoming debut album, being chosen for the Horizons project, and the artists that most influence their sound.

The current golden girls of the Cardiff music scene Baby Queens are making a big noise in Welsh shores and beyond – one which will undoubtedly go up a few extra notches with the news that a debut studio album is finally expected to see the light of day.

After an exciting year that has seen them go from being chosen as one of the twelve acts to represent the Horizons scheme by BBC Wales and Arts Council of Wales, to emerging as one of the highlights of last year’s Swn Festival – and in the process being lauded by fans old and new one of the most exciting, hyped-about prospects in the Welsh music scene – Baby Queens have officially begin work on the recording of their debut album expected to be unveiled later this year. Recording has commenced at Strangetown Records studios with production duties overseen by Super Furry Animals synth wizard Cian Ciaran – an inescapable figure in Welsh music news lately thanks to his aforementioned band’s recent comeback and a debut album with Zefur Wolves (also consisting of his partner and Baby Queens member Estelle Ios). Continue reading