SWN ’09, the background and preview of which you can read here, has come to an end. The festival which took place in venues spread out throughout Cardiff was characterized by the laid back atmosphere and great cross section of bands on offer A good time was had by bands and audience alike; frequent ‘thank you’s’ from long-travelled acts to attentive and substantial crowds made for a contented atmosphere and appreciative cheers from enthusiastic attendees. The Highlights Three Trapped Tigers, perhaps my favourite of the recent glut of Tiger themed band names (seriously, how did that happen all of a sudden? I can name 5!) played a gripping and energetic set at the virtually unpronounceable Y Fuwch Goch (The Golden Cow). PICT0005 Playing a mix of atmospheric electronic soundscapes underpinned by serious grooves and a bright, crisp set of drops stood TTT out from the crowd. Great on record, great live, and a definite must for any fans of Rolo Tomassi, Health, 65daysofstatic and Battles. Wild Beasts will have easily been one of many peoples’ most anticipated acts to play at SWN. That said, they played to a criminally small audience in a somewhat charmless, high-ceilinged hall with woefully bad lighting and no real acoustics. Nevertheless they fucking killed it. Wild Beasts The quartet, whose last LP Two Dancers is a shoe-in for plenty of ‘Album of the year’ shortlists, were utterly mesmeric. Two incredibly talented vocalists, either of which individually would be enough to completely carry a more sub-standard band, an inventive rhythm section and an approach to writing pop music that is so refreshing it seems not to be predicated on any real reference point. It’s a rejection of them and a return to beauty, to inventive hooks and an utter originality. Wild Beasts deserve every hyperbole and superlative heaped upon them. Tom Brosseau was perhaps a little shy, more than a little country ‘n’ twee, yet was effortlessly sweet and possessed of a charismatic voice. His understated guitar lines and accomplished, dynamic tunes were engrossing solo, but they really shined through once he’d invited a friend up to strum and sing along with. Lo-fi US singer/songwriter gets it spot on. PICT0014 The Twilight Sad have utterly perfected the melodic wall of sound. PICT0018 Gold Panda, awesome break beats infused with sounds of the orient. Ambient yet progressive enough to keep you moving, Gold Panda strikes a fine balance that ensures his appeal spans both your iPod and your dancefloor. The panda hat was a nice touch too, though stifling heat is really no excuse for taking it off mid-set. BAD PANDA. PICT0025 Pulled Apart By Horses continue to support their claim to being ‘best live act’ touring right now. Impassioned, accomplished, tight and thunderous, PABH ensure you’ll leave their set chanting ‘I! PUNCHED A LION IN THE THROAT!’ in your head if not the middle of the street. PICT0047 PICT0055 PICT0060 Sons Of Noel and Adrian hail from the Brighton Wilkommen collective; a massive 10 man (well, 8 man 2 woman) folk monster turning classical guitar tricks under an earthy vocal timbre and real foot stamping drums. Very impressive and surprisingly firey. PICT0155 Stornoway were similarly melodic and folky. Of particular note was their lead vocalist; rambling in-between songs in a wonderfully unhinged, unblinking fashion about the correlation between George Clooney’s ‘Men Who Stare At Goats‘ and similar research that was carried out in the 60s. Luckily this bizarre episode didn’t impact on the lyrical and evocative folk ditties underpinned by some incredible expressive (both instrument and musician) keyboard work. Highly endearing. PICT0151 The Drums are stuck in the 50s. A neckerchiefed pair of backing vocalists was just the finishing touch to the immaculately coiffured quiffs, rolled up jeans’n’sleeves and well defined cheek-bones behind the jangle of surf rock and big hooks. PICT0186 A tad too much ‘mystery music’ (pre-recorded whistling, synths, and even bass parts) tarnished what would otherwise have been one of the most entertaining sets of the festival, due in no small part to the massive stage presence, manic tambo antics and sheer bloody-minded denial of the passage of time. An anachronism then? Perhaps, but of the best possible kind. PICT0209 Full Slideshow: Closing Thoughts: SWN 09 was a definite success; some big names, enthusiastic crowds and a great showcase opportunity for the Cardiff homegrown. The only criticisms I had were down to the lack of any real press provision which meant unfortunately missing out on being able to cover some of the bands we'd hoped to, a few misguided band-to-venue judgments and some unavoidable schedule clashes. These, however, are easily rectified (hopefully); and are really only hindrances to reportage; as a music fan in Cardiff you'd have absolutely no complaints. Were you there? (AND YOU DIDN’T SAY HI!?) Sound off in our Fourum!