The microfestival – the ever growing and rapidly multiplying condensed musical extravaganza. Are we living in the age of the microfestival? Left, right and centre, events are sprouting and using the broad sub title of microfestival. So, the question is, why are these events becoming more and more popular? Perhaps we can answer by exploring the confines of a new microfestival that, at a glance, looks like it will be an absolute hoot (I apologise in advance).
In the heart of the Welsh capital lies a venue with the most weird name – Gwdihŵ. Translated from Welsh, the term means owl (I really am sorry). It is soon to be the home of the Jealous Lovers Club and Juxtaposed microfestival. Twelve bands, two stages, one day. As a regular frequenter of Gwdihŵ, I am thoroughly excited to be attending the microfestival and seeing how it is pulled off. It is a rather quaint and quirky venue, with fantastically random decor - like the washing line of multi-coloured bras that dangle nonchalantly down above the bar. The space, although somewhat tiny, boasts fantastic sound, top notch techies and on the whole friendly and talkative staff. The perfect place for a little festival then eh?
On observing the line-up, it is immediately evident that this is not a random handful of bands thrown onto a stage together. Au contraire, the line-up seems to have been put together with care and attention. It is a product of two established names in South Wales music promotion pooling their resources – Jealous Lovers Club, a promotion company and now record label ran by Connor Cupples, and Juxtaposed, a weekly indie night held at Gwdihŵ.
Timing is perfection. Each band on the line up has recently hit some sort of peak. Top-of-the-bill Tellison boast a position high up the ArcTanGent roster as well as slots at The Great Escape and Handmade Festival. Local Cardiff five piece How I Faked The Moon Landing recently released a four track EP called “Things You Can Do Without” – a collection of their best tracks to date. Every band, from the first to the last band on, has some degree of buzz about them.
Not only are all of the bands very current, when positioned side by side in such a line up they somehow start to complement each other. Samoans, for example, inject a raw strength and intensity that is bold and compact, with huge guitar licks, solid drum beats and powerful vocals. The Cardiff four piece have just announced they will be undertaking a June tour with Olympians – another band on the bill. These young fellows are adventurous in their compositions, with layers of keyboards creating rich textures, percussive detail that clicks and clacks and sits alongside fabulously folky vocal harmonies. Both bands are signed to Cardiff based label Barely Regal Records and seem to be maintaining a strong following of loyal fans whenever and wherever they perform.
Cleft inject a whole different level of interesting into the music on offer at the microfestival. The band is constructed of but two members. Yet, Cleft boast a masterful complexity. They bring with them a ballsy mathrock flex of brainpower and ability that is unrivalled by most. Their songs often spurt to life through what is sometimes an uncomfortable burst of power and energy. On finding their groove, they wander off on a tangent of effortlessly tight but hugely complicated stabs of musical excellence, leaving me giggling in boyish excitement and recognition of their musical talent.
We are then given another dimension, one that comes in the form of Woahnows. They utilise a more subtle, warmer and perhaps a less brash intricacy. Tricky spurts of brilliance seep into the guitar work, pinching and clean in its tone. The bass guitar is given a slack leash and is allowed to break into flurries of melodic playfulness. Drums are lively and almost whimsical in their sudden stops and starts. Woahnows are, essentially, bad ass. Their signing to Oxford based label Big Scary Monsters positions them amongst some of the crème-de-la-crème of the UK music scene. Woahnows are another band that have not long released a fantastic piece of music called “Watching Accidents”, which is available for free on their bandcamp.
Speaking of current bands, Radstewart have found their way onto the bill. These guys have recently been on fire. This might have something to do with them being taken under the wing of Connor Cupples, who also manages Samoans. Although not exactly brand new and musically groundbreaking, they seem to be ticking a lot of the right boxes. Their trebly tone, simple pounding percussion and nonsensical shouty vocals have stolen the hearts of many. The four lovely boys have just played Wales Goes Pop festival after coming back off tour with Jonny Foreigner. Their raw and rasping lo-fi punk has found its way to Green Man festival, and is probably set go a long, long way in 2014.
Playlounge are also on the bill. They utilise that familiar combo of jangly guitars and raucous vocals that can be heard in the likes of Radstewart. Their songs are short, snappy and stripped down, with no messing about. Simplicity is the name of the game, yet there is something undeniably interesting and rather nostalgic about the band’s music. No wonder they have been lovingly placed alongside the other acts to make up this stunning line up. Another two piece called Nai Harvest are set to play the microfestival. They are similar to Playlounge in some respects. However, in their grungy spiral of distortion, they manage to hold a whole lot of depth in terms of harmony. Her Parents could perhaps be likened to these bands, and are also set to play the festival. Constructed of Internet Forever, Stairs to Korea and Dananananaykroyd, Her Parents show no lack of experience when it comes to performing. Fingers crossed their punky, and quite frankly abusive, set of songs will make for some fun viewing.
Totem Terrors, yet another two piece, are also part of the line-up. These guys have earned the backing of loveable BBC Radio Wales DJ Adam Walton. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, as they occupy the space between the weird and wonderful. Simplicity, again, is the key. Minimalistic textures are left bare, emphasising the vast difference between styles that the male and female vocals utilise. Their lo-fi art pop is certainly unlike anything you are likely to have heard.
Esuna is the final act I have yet to mention. Who, according to their Tumblr page, are four guys from Cardiff making night-time driving music.. From what little I have heard of Esuna, I am entirely excited to watch their set at the microfestival.
Phew, that’s all the bands covered. I seem to have somewhat digressed from working towards an explanation of why microfestivals are becoming a more familiar sight. In my defence, the bands and the music should surely come first. Anyway, it seems quite apparent that the microfestival is the lovechild of Connor Cupples. Many of the bands on the bill have worked with him in the past at least to some extent – whether they are under his management like Radstewart and Samoans, or they have merely played at a Jealous Lovers Club gig long ago. Either way, the line-up looks to be a product of years of hard work and dedication that Connor has relentlessly endured through Jealous Lovers Club. So are these types of all day gigs becoming more common due to healthy relationships made between artists and promoters? I’d love to think so. Perhaps there are other, more obvious parts in play – a microfestival would certainly be cheaper to put on than a full weekender with fewer bands to pay, fewer stages to set up, fewer staff to hire. I could go on but you get the jist. Maybe though, just maybe, Jealous Lovers Club and Juxtaposed have created this festival out of love for the bands they have on the line-up.
Yet, when all is said and done, it is fantastic to see people who share a love for music collaborating and getting along. In my experience, there is too much animosity between music promoters, labels and managers. Shows are postponed, or even discarded all together, due to people getting touchy about standing on each other's toes. So when a little festival is put together and promoted by the combined forces of two of Cardiff’s top names in promotion, it really is rather refreshing. Not only are they pulling this off, but they have got Circuit Sweet (a “music media outlet”) and Quench Music (a Cardiff University magazine) involved, both of who are sponsoring the festival, giving it further coverage and exposure. What lesson shall we take from this microfestival then? Join forces! Help a brother out, and a brother might help you out. Work with your fellow musicians to create something special, just like Jealous Lovers Club and Juxtaposed have done.