“There’s something for everyone as hundreds of bands play across the city in this charming festival: the only problem is deciding who to watch”
The Guardian ⭑⭑⭑⭑
“Sŵn Festival is setting the benchmark for festival line-ups and really hammers in a ‘no more excuses’ approach when it comes to diversity on line-ups… A perfectly run event, glued together by beautiful, kind and community-driven people.”
With music discovery and the elevation of talent at its core, Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival today announces its 20 For 23: twenty of the most exciting emerging acts to feature at this year’s festival and the first names announced for its 2023 edition, which will be taking place across the Welsh capital from October 20th to 22nd. Between them, the group of artists collected here capture the wealth of talent and diversity across the UK musical landscape, as well as shining the spotlight on the most promising newcomers from the Welsh scene. Following on from the success of Sŵn’s 2022 instalment – the festival’s first full-scale edition since before the pandemic – it promises to be another year of nurturing the best local, national and international artists and offering a platform to bigger and better things.
Pop disruptor Jessica Winter is in town, beckoning us into a world of gothic, dance-driven cabaret. She contorts pop into unsettling, yet irresistible shapes from trap and indie to disco grooves – all delivered with an operatic flair. Winter’s long-awaited debut EP Limerence has been the fascination of the UK, with the likes of The Guardian and BBC R1’s Jack Saunders falling under her synth-goth spell.
An artist who must be seen to be believed is the near-mythical Lynks. Instantly recognisable thanks to his self-made costumes that have earned him descriptions as a ‘masked drag monster’, or, according to the NME, an ‘alt-pop gimp’, his taste for in-your-face dance numbers, ear-splitting bass and queer, punk ethos has made the Lynks live experience unlike any other.
Joining them is alt-pop visionary Ethan P. Flynn who has been declared by Slowthai to be “as great as Bowie… a legend in the making”. His flair for subversion and pushing the limits of what pop is capable of is something that’s led to collaborations with FKA Twigs, Jockstrap, Black Country New Road and David Byrne.
The live performances of Welsh natives Slate have been described as a ‘narrative experience’. Their jagged, grab-you-by-the-collar strain of post-punk is chained to passages of prose inspired by their shared love of Romantic poetry, which serves as an arresting showcase for Wales’ next great band in ascent.
With his upcoming album An Inbuilt Fault on the horizon and ready for an outing at Sŵn Festival, Westerman’s performance promises to be more daring than ever. A sprawling world of invented scenes and characters set to industrial-grade instrumentation, it will be an undoubted triumph of imagination.
South London auteur Heartworms will be unveiling her inky, dystopic sound equally inspired by Interpol and Kraftwerk as it is the poetry of Keats. Complete with a full live band, Heartworms’ performances are said to be a masterclass in poise and theatre. Met with her intense stare, Heartworms conquers not only the stage, but your mind, with absolute command.
With one foot firmly on the dancefloor, and the other in a state of frenzy, one of the most electrifying emerging UK acts Baba Ali will be bringing their electro-punk disco energy to Wales. Having worked with producers responsible for LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip and M.I.A, theirs is a sound with an infectious, raw energy that makes standing still impossible.
Bringing their art-punk teen angst from the red brick abodes of North Leeds to the streets of Cardiff is Treeboy & Arc. The latest signees to Clue Records (Bored At My Grandmas House, The Wedding Present, YOWL), the frenetic five-piece have been declared by DIY as “a band simultaneously treading new ground and never having looked more sure of themselves.” Gearing up for the release of their debut album Natural Habitat this summer, expect to see Treeboy & Arc sounding darker, harsher and more brutal than ever.
Adding to a line-up already bursting at the seams, you’ll find the explosive post-rock compositions of Butch Kassidy, KEG’s unrelenting abrasion and the punchy yet tender works of Lande Hekt. Joining them in Cardiff will be riotous Peckham duo O., the otherworldly singer-songwriter Elanor Moss, the synth-heavy, post-punk hybrid sound of Hull-hailing band Low Hummer, art-rockers Moin and frenetic electro-punks Shelf Lives.
On a grassroots level, we will also be treated to performances from Y Dail, the transportive pop project of 19-year-old Huw Griffiths and composer and multi-instrumentalist Cerys Hafana who is transforming traditional Welsh sounds into thrilling new contexts.
Sŵn Festival will be shining a particular spotlight on Wales’ burgeoning hip-hop scene, too, with a performance from rapper Luke RV who, while being completely independent, has earned 57k monthly listeners with accolades from Lady Leshurr as her 1Xtra Introducing Track of The Week and an invitation to Maida Vale for their BBC Introducing x 1Xtra Rap Cypher. Joining him will be pioneer Sage Todz who is at the fore of the Welsh-language drill scene. His track ‘Rownd a Rownd’ proved to be a viral hit, being viewed on Twitter 200,000 times a month after its release.
Speaking on the wonders Sŵn Festival has in store this year, live manager Adam Williams shares: “Sŵn books artists at various stages in their career, but with a focus on emerging talent. Some are more established touring internationally, others are gearing up to release their debut album and there are artists nobody knows exist yet. It’s most often those lesser known artists who excite us the most!
The festival welcomes around 140 artists each year and we normally announce around 70 in our first wave. What we wanted to achieve in 2023 was to announce just 20 up and comers who we believe should be on every music listeners’ radar. An opportunity to focus on those artists who are breaking through or those finally getting their time in the sun. We believe our audience trusts and wants to know who we are listening to. And that simply is what Swn 20 for 23 is all about.
We’ll be working with this years 20 for 23 artists to deliver some pretty special moments across that weekend in October and we can’t wait to share that with you.”
Keep your eyes peeled for more from Sŵn Festival as October approaches, but for now head to swnfest.com for more information and ticket pricing options (early bird and tier one sold out before a single artist was announced), and see below for the full rundown of acts announced today.
Sŵn Festival is an award-winning multi-venue music festival based entirely in Cardiff’s city centre, which has been running since 2007. Since its inception, the festival has been focused on new music, emerging artists and homegrown acts.
Sŵn Festival – ’20 for 23′ announcement: