Review: Station 18 Festival – Day 1

Hanger 18, Swansea
May 2024

Review and photos Rob Wilkins

When I was a younger human, a long weekend at Download, in a muddy field, with 100,000 others, was the dream. Finding new bands, surrounding myself with music and like minded souls, enjoying a beer or two. Heaven!

Now, age and common sense have taken over, and I have found a love of small, intimate festivals. In this particular example in Swansea, put together by the passionate organisers Gary and Kelly Spiller, for the price of an overcooked burger and a couple of pints in that muddy field I can enjoy twenty one bands spread over three days, indoors and in comfort!

Day one is a gentle starter on paper. We battle the traffic jams and arrive in Swansea in plenty of time to park our comfy base for the weekend in a beachside car park and head into town to the venue.

The first pleasant surprise is that we have a media base inside and even snacks and drinks to enjoy. Incredibly professional and Kelly’s chilli deserves a review of its own!

Opening the music offering for the evening (an all Welsh affair, almost!) are House of Hosts and what a great opening they are! With some cracking vocals from Dan Griffiths they soon have heads bobbing and raise the energy levels with each song. There are some delicious twin guitar harmonies showcased and towards the end of the set we even get a little romance as Dan asks his wife to come forward so that he can give her a cocktail for their anniversary. Final song and debut single “Oblivion” is well worth listening to if you want a glimpse into what they are about.

Casey Maunder

Changeovers are swift and we are soon enjoying Casey Maunder. I am always a little wary about bands that are a showcase for and whose name feature one member but I am quickly won over by Casey’s approachability and confidence. Each song is introduced in depth, explaining the origin and meaning and this adds to the connection you start to feel when he plays. It is very much about Casey. The band themselves are there to support and leave him the limelight but as the songs are so autobiographical it works well. My favourite in the set was “Click Me, Swipe Me, Follow Me, Like Me”. Did he win me over? I would say yes and I’d happily catch another set in the future.

If ever a band should have sponsorship from a hair conditioner company it’s Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters. Hair flies in all directions and their set is rock and roll in it’s primary essence. Beth herself drops the bombshell that in this “all Welsh” line up she isn’t actually Welsh (but her wry comment about her dating history shows Welsh connections!). Their set is one of the highlights of the weekend for us. Beth is a superb performer, the guys either side are a blur of hair and movement and songs like “Down and Dirty” and set closer “Jack and Coke” have the crowd singing back lustily. The band took a break from recording in Spain and hinted that many of the songs in the set may not be played for some time so I can’t wait to hear more of the new material.

Finally the headliners King Kraken. In the build up we had been promised “Surprises” and arriving at the venue the multitude of bright green baby Kraken decorating the hall certainly was unique!

I have never seen King Kraken before but it took no time at all for me to be won over by their crushing, heavy sound. From the first notes of “Devil’s Night” it is clear they intend to take the crowd by the scruff of the neck and not stop shaking them until they leave the venue with ringing ears (and a smuggled Kraken or two). The set mixes old and new, as a newbie to the band it is hard for me to know the difference but I am told there were five new songs, one of which stood out as it became a much more introspective and emotional segment when dedicated to all who had lost someone and a sea of phone lights.

“Haddonfield 78” however became the moment when the evening exploded into a riotous melange of noise and colour as with a pull of two wires, the baby Kraken supported by nets above the crowd were released. For the rest of the set chaos reigned. Bright green balloons filled the air, were kicked and punched back off the stage and occasionally exploded, adding to the ear splitting volume. Throughout it all singer Mark Donoghue exerts huge presence and charisma, truly encompassing the role of frontman and commanding the stage.

One evening down, ears ringing, a big smile and a stray Kraken joining us as we head back to our van we can’t wait for day 2!

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