Last month, I spent a glorious two weeks in the UK, including a fantastic day at Sŵn Festival. Here are the swellest, mostly film snaps and songs from my enchanting, expectedly chilly trip around the kingdom.
Edinburgh: After a brief stop in London, I headed to visit some old, dear friends in Edinburgh. Most of my stay was filled with laughter, hardy food, castles, and a certain unmistakable Scottish dampness. I did manage a stop to see Blaenavon at The Mash House with a bit of football pre-gaming. I’ve never seen an entire crowd move and scream-a-long as one like they did at that set.
Glasgow: Glasgow is a fantastically underrated city. The charm of the streetlights’ orange glow matched the golden hue of the buildings. While its many record and vintage shops did not hold a copy of the ever-evasive The Blue Nile’s Hats, I was finally able to catch the very fun Anteros at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. I also had the absolute pleasure meeting Tom of GoldFlakePaint and getting a copy of the new magazine just before his neighbor called the police on the suspicious girl on the street.
Brighton: Brighton is my kind of beach town. It’s a little bit grey all the time, easily walkable, always sporting impressive sunsets, and filled to the brim with it’s own sort of weird creativity. Amongst the lanes, I found a gem of a little shop called Family Store. They were spinning the Kurt Vile record the day I entered and I got to visit during the launch of their latest fun faire of illustrated goods. While in town, I also managed to see a 2+ hour historical film called Peterloo, a packed Gaz Coombes set next to some beach volleyball, and an incredible pair of sets from Honey Moon and Her’s at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. Both bands have been favorites in my recent listening rotations but filled the short ceilings with as much energy as possible.
Sŵn Festival: Multi-venue, city festivals have been a favorite way of mine to see music and Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival did not disappoint. I was only able to make it for the final, jam-packed day but managed to soak in all kinds of fabulous sets.
It started with Cardiff’s Sock who reminded me very much of bands from Philadelphia with easy going indie rock that has a hint of sway. Next up, Pizzagirl was electric and filled the room with inviting grooves as just one person. Then, I left a smidgen of my hearing in the basement of Jacob’s Market with Cowtown‘s impressively frenetic punk. It had been 3 years since hearing the effervescent nature sounds that comprise Cosmo Sheldrake’s songs. His set at Sŵn was as endearing, clever, and catchy as I had remembered. I got stuck far in the back of Dream Wife‘s blistering set after that but you could still feel their intensity from there. Los Blancos‘ set in Welsh was colorful and mighty loud. Sam Evian‘s live performances have always been stellar but there was something special in the interworkings of the band’s expansion of their recorded material that night in a way that was easy to feel.
My two favorite sets of the day came from the unexpected. I had heard the Wild Cat Strike song on the playlist below and it was enough to put them on my must-see list for the day. But, their unique combination of genres, energy levels, and songwriting made their set unforgettable. If you ever seen Snapped Ankles, you already know how much fun I had at that performance. If not, the ghillie-suit clad funk partiers should be a part of your next show bill/playlist/dream/nightmare. Martha rounded-out the evening with a bit of toe-tapping pop punk that’s made it on to several of our playlists.
Sŵn Festival was heaps of fun and I only wish I could have gone to all of it. It’s great to see that such an accessible, varied festival like this one exist in Wales.
Wales: The pervasive sort of grey of Wales is in perfect balance with its abundance of natural and historical wonders all around. It’s a cozy place that is home to a strikingly medieval castle and our best buds, Various Small Flames. It was such a joy to spend of few days with Jon, Liam, and even little Juno.
London: London is overwhelming at a glance but is quite a blast to explore. Our Sofar Sounds city director here in Philly, photo taker, dinosaur lover, and my pal, Carolyn Lederach joined me on much of my exploration around the city. We went to a Sofar Sounds show where we caught a glowing acoustic set from Brother Zulu and also made a stop at sketch whose spaceship-like bathrooms you can see above. On my last full day, I was able to catch another set from Sam Evian at London’s Rough Trade East, a full-on performance from Australia’s Haiku Hands deep in the city, and the display of the Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics lining Carnaby street in neon.
I couldn’t have asked for a more fun holiday filled with just the right amount of train rides and rain. Catch all the bands (and some I just missed) in playlist form below and flip through the photos above. I already can’t wait to return and finally get that gluten-free Sunday roast that eluded me on this trip.