Jager Royales and Human Pyramids
by Matt Blackhouse
I first got involved in Sŵn in 2009, as a ticket holder, and having lived in Cardiff for a few years and had been to lots of gigs in that time, I remember thinking how amazing it was that someone had come up with a festival that brought together all these great venues that we were/are blessed with as a city (some now unfortunately closed down). Wales never really seemed to be on the map with a big flagship outdoor Summer festival, but the idea of a multi venue urban festival using existing venues was a great one, and seemed to me to make the most of exactly what’s great about our city. We weren’t trying to copy anyone else — it felt unique to Cardiff.
I enjoyed it so much that the year after, I put my name down to volunteer and manned the ticket desk at Dempsey’s, meeting some brilliant people and also getting the chance to sneak off and see some great bands, with everything culminating in the famous silent disco at the Great Hall. Though I had been as a customer in 2009 and really enjoyed it, getting involved as a volunteer was even better. I remember walking through the city to see Swans in the now defunct Millennium Music Hall, and on my way over, walking past 4 or 5 venues with huge queues of people outside waiting to see Sŵn gigs — there was an ridiculously good line-up that year, and the festival seemed to be creating an amazing buzz and reputation in the city. It felt great to be a small part of something great that was clearly growing.
I continued to volunteer in 2011 and saw the festival go up a level with the introduction of the welsh music prize ceremony tagged on, meaning that really prominent figures from the music industry were coming to the WMP ceremony, and then sticking around — I recall being on the guest list desk and giving out a wristband to Vic Galloway from BBC Scotland, and having a chat that he was only sticking around for the Thursday night to attend the prize and then heading off. I then bumped into him again some 4 days later in undertone on Sunday night, and him mentioning that there was no way he could’ve left with so much to see!
I continued to volunteer until 2014 — the interim years saw me make some more great friends through the festival, the invention of the Jager Royale (replace the red bull in a Jager bomb with prosecco: bad move!), the consumption of far too many cans of Oranjeboom, human pyramids outside Clwb at 5am, and of course getting to see some great bands in unique small venues that have gone on to play headline shows at the venue that I now work in (Motorpoint arena).
In the days where smaller venues are being squeezed more and more, the festival clearly plays a massive part in the progression of bands getting to arena level, and John and the team do an amazing job at promoting and highlighting the importance that live music can have in bringing benefit to the city in a wider sense.
This year I am gutted that I won’t be able to make the festival in any capacity for the first time in years — grown up responsibilities of being at a wedding on the Saturday have meant that I’m away all weekend.
I recently moved house, and when unpacking, amongst all the bits of gig paraphernalia that I have collected over my various jobs in music over the years, the one poster that still takes pride of place is my signed Pete Fowler commemorative “5 years of Swn” poster that now adorns the wall of my spare room.
Summed up, Sŵn is great! — if you are thinking about going as ticket holder or volunteering, DO IT! You won’t regret it.
I will be back in 2017 — in the meantime, have a Jager Royale or Oranjeboom for me!!