Review: SÅµn Festival 2013
WORDS: Tom Bevan + Tom Williams
IMAGES: Tom Bevan
SÅµn Festival 2013
Various venues across Cardiff
Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th October 2013
The four-day musical seize of Cardiff was back last weekend as SÅµn Festival struck the city with a double shot of the brightest new and established artists.
Now in its seventh year, the glorious additions of a SÅµn Radio station, an outdoor stage open for all and a brand new festival HQ in the Cardiff Fashion Quarter meant that this was another weekend to remember in the Welsh capital.
Opening night pulled no punches with a string of the biggest names on offer over the weekend. Everything Everything drew a large crowd to The Great Hall and impressed with tracks from 2013’s Arc. Their singalong brand of future-pop has never sounded livelier and even the ear-grating falsetto vocals seemed to make sense. Next door at Solus, Mr Scruff brought his legendary Keep It Unreal five-hour set and in a dark function room at the Angel Hotel, Ghostpoet dished out his chilling modern meditations. “I ain’t wise, I’m just a blagger,” he declares on opener Garden Path and with blurred delivery, his image-rich lyrics were looped, rapped and slurred. Hip-hop at its most lo-fi and lonely, Dial Tones and Meltdown from new album Some Say I So I Say Light have never sounded fresher than with his live band in tow.
After a much required rest, we stuck to DIY’s hype-filled line up at Clwb Ifor Bach for an alternative take on a Friday on the town. North London’s Pawws dressed up Hot Chip basslines with some irresistible sugar pop vocals and her catchy hooks harked back to warmer days. Downstairs, Heavy Petting Zoo proposed something far more raucous. The Swansea five-piece smashed away any with their punk chick vocalist and a holy rolling dancer called Jonathon. We spotted one festival curator Huw Stevens jamming unashamedly at the back and another, John Rostron, right at the front.
SÅµn is the perfect word to describe Bo Ningen, the Japanese four-piece winning our noise demon prize for the weekend. The assault on our eardrums reflected the complete freedom of this infectiously alive acid punk band whose demonic live sound is ADHD breathless. The band’s name means ‘Stick Men’ in Japanese and the skinny, long haired sprawl of their half-hour splurge nonetheless had a very human heart.
While the gorgeous setting of Jacob’s Market played host to Peski Record’s art-filled extension to the SÅµn line up, including immersive audio-visual performances from a number of Welsh performers, Saturday’s highlight was LA rap trio Clipping. A refreshing addition to this indie-dominated line-up, experimental hip-hoppers were led by MC Daveed Diggs who flowed over some mighty distortion. Entering the stunned audience for Bout That and looping the shout back chorus “real G sh*** means don’t say nothin’” , this was a full on demonstration of yet another new direction for hip hop.
Just across the road at The Moon, the stage presence of an adored, idolised band was presented by Money who are surely on the fast track to the big time. Lyrically and musically tight, this will be the indie band on everyone’s lips. While, The Wytches’ gloriously moody psychedelica was propelled forward by the near-screamo vocals of Kristian Bell, one-man band Theo caused a stir at Fuel with an electrifying set of looped guitar riffs and storming percussion. An artist whose live presence demands attention and he rightly received it.
Little Arrow and Ellie Makes Music were among the best on offer on Sunday’s outdoor stage on The Hayes whilst the NME stage at Clwb featured Telegram, whose Caerphilly-born vocalist led the well-dressed four-piece into an indie/psych exploration. It’s a mix that later headliners Temples also go in for, and both seem to be leading the continual delve into this vintage-delicious genre.
Waxahatchee weaved her magic onto the sleepy Sunday crowd with a set of poetic laments from her second full-length Cerulean Salt. Angsty yet pure lyricism and a clean, minimalistic approach to her music was a tonic to the messier acts of the weekend and gave plenty of room for reflection on what was a packed few days of quality, variety and unbridled expression.
An awesome job once again from Wales’ best alternative promoters.