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The (not entirely serious) guide to surviving Sŵn Festival

15 Oct 2021 4 minute read
Meilyr Jones, Tramshed, Sŵn, 2016 (Credit: Sŵn Festival)

David Owens

Sŵn Festival returns to Cardiff this weekend – and we couldn’t be happier.

This feast of the finest in new music, founded in 2007, celebrates its latest incarnation across various venues in the capital.

Whether you are a seasoned Sŵn-goer or an absolute newbie, here is some sage advice that will see you through.

1. Have your Covid pass ready. This is the new normal so respect the brilliant volunteers who make this festival such a success. And don’t try to use your Tesco Clubcard. Nobody is that stupid.

2. Be prepared for your moment in the spotlight. Yes, really. Bands will drop out last minute, so be sure to have your spoons, washboard and The Smiths’ greatest hits in your head just in case you get a call up from the subs’ bench.

3. Don’t pretend you’ve heard of everyone on the line-up. We’ll know you’re lying and don’t expect us to believe you when you say “oh yeah I saw them playing The Nathan Barley Arms in Hoxton back in 2019.”


4. Plan who you want to see with military precision. Take into account potential clashes, how long it takes to get between venues and that inevitable moment you end up in a conversation with Ninjah.

5. Wear a sturdy pair of trainers… or at least shoes conducive to pegging it between venues. Remember this festival is rather like a marathon – by the end of it you’ll be craving a long lie down, a Mars bar and a foil blanket.

6. Keep nimble. There’s no shame in stretching before you leave one venue for the next (see point 5). Just be careful your ‘mate’ doesn’t share pictures of your over elaborate lunges on Instagram. They could come back to haunt you.

7. Always listen, never talk – when a band is on that is. This is a discerning crowd of music knowledgeables that will shoot you a look so full of loathing and disdain, it will shrivel your soul and make you regret ever drunkenly shouting nonsense into your mate’s ear just at that crucial quiet moment in a set.

8. Play it cool. If you see Sŵn celebrities like radio don Huw Stephens. Please forgo the urge to run up to them as if they have just landed from another planet and attempt to burn out their retinas, blinding them with the selfie flash from your phone, while asking for a request for your mum on 6 Music.

9. You will invariably meet hundreds of people who will insist they were at The Vaccines’ gig upstairs at Dempseys during Sŵn 2010. We know the capacity is only 100 and you sir/madam are a liar.

The Vaccines, upstairs at Dempseys, Sŵn, 2010 (Credit: Sŵn Festival)

10. Steer clear of party revellers. On Saturday night, Cardiff has a tendency to degenerate into some sort of dystopian nightmare fuelled by fancy dress, lager, and pink cowboy hats. And that’s just the blokes. So don’t make the mistake of engaging a stag or hen party in conversation. At. Any. Time. Ever.

11. Pace yourself. Whether you be a teenage indie kid or a veteran who has seen action at C86, Madchester and Knebworth, there’s no point in pretending you’re a hedonist channelling the spirit of Liam Gallagher and Keith Richards in a hazy fug of excess. No one wants to be missing the last vestiges of Sŵn, because they’re having their stomach pumped in A&E. Obviously.

12. And finally. Just enjoy. Most of us haven’t been to gigs for more than 18 months. So embrace, savour and lose yourself in the sublime sounds of Sŵn Fest.

Remember like Christmas, Sŵn comes but once a year. But thankfully you’re not forced to share it with your family.

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