Station 18 Festival 2024 / Friday: Bigger, Better, And Bursting With Talent

“If you build it, they will come.” The oft-misquoted line from 1989’s Field Of Dreams is applicable in many scenarios, but no more so than the rapidly burgeoning Station 18 Festival in Swansea. Now in its third year, 2024’s event promised bigger and better than ever. 

Station 18 Festival 2024

Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024

Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings

Whilst there was a moment of doubt in 2023 when organisers Gary and Kelly Spiller considered whether they had the capacity to run the festival whilst in the middle of a prolonged house move [they ended up squeezing in a mini event in October 2023, which proved the catalyst to move forward], that was soon quashed.

And with 21 bands over the bank holiday weekend, it was unsurprising that ticket sales have been brisk.

Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
Beth Blade Fans – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Tonight is an all-Welsh affair, and there is one band that are dominating all thoughts as you enter the venue. There are balloons everywhere, but not just any balloons, oh no. This is the invasion of the Kraken, the mythical sea beast, and the monster’s babies in balloon form loom large around the venue. 

High above the main part of the pit hang two nets full of writhing and wriggling juvenile kraken, desperate for freedom, to join their brethren who are hanging menacingly from the walls and to be unleashed on the unsuspecting punters below. Stand below at your peril! 

King Kraken - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
King Kraken – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk
King Kraken

We’re a little behind time when King Kraken make their entrance. The room is full, Kraken shirts everywhere. This is a partisan crowd who are ready to welcome their heroes to what is a rare Welsh show. 

Dramatic intro music blasts out of the speakers, the band roars onto the stage, and we are away. They know their starting point: hit hard, hit heavy. Devil’s Night and Bastard Liar bring the riffs, the power, and an element of familiarity. Both tracks feature on their now 15-month-old debut album. 

King Kraken - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
King Kraken – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

But this is a Kraken intent to move forward. We get five new songs in the show, including the thunderous Bezerker, which threatens to rip the roof off. There’s a different feel to one of the new ones. Hero sees singer Mark Donoghue dedicate the song to all who have lost someone. Phones are lit, the emotion levels are ramped up, and King Kraken add a new dimension. 

King Kraken - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
King Kraken – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

But it’s nothing compared to the fun that ensures during Haddenfield 78. Midway through the song the nod is given, the nets open, and hundreds of baby kraken balloons drop onto the audience below. All hell ensures, and for the rest of the set, the air is filled with green as the balloons fly back and fore. 

King Kraken - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
King Kraken – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Smiles all around, its foot down towards the end. But new songs aren’t finished yet, and the crashing riffs that throw in El Giganto and March Of The Gods promise much for the forthcoming second album. 

King Kraken - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
King Kraken – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

It’s a triumphant final straight now, though, and Castle Of Bones and a raucous Freak finish the evening off in typically gnarly Kraken style. 

Rightfully taking the applause, it’s a joy to see a band who have developed so impressively over the past five years now standing on the brink of the next step. 

King Kraken - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
King Kraken – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk
Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters

She admits she’s not technically Welsh, but to the crowd, Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters is, to all intents and purposes, family. Admitting that she once dated someone from Merthyr, “that was interesting” she smiles, this is one of those performances where you wonder why this band aren’t headlining. 

Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

There are plenty of fans in the crowd, and they sing along with gusto to the band’s ballsy riff-heavy rockers. Maybe it’s that time in the evening when the early beers are kicking in, or maybe it’s the effect that they simply have, but from the opening bars of Tonight I’m With You, this is a stellar performance. 

Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

This bodes well for the next album and for the headline gig that will come next month in the same venue. There are plenty of singalong opportunities, with Down And Dirty and Never Let Go working especially well. By the time we get to Jack And Coke, Beth and band have firmly cemented their place in Welsh hearts. 

Casey Maunder

Local boy Casey Maunder is no stranger to the South Wales scene, with time spent in The Cherry Thieves and Four Stories High. Out on his own since 2021, Maunder has a confident swagger which endears him straight away. 

His songs are honest, from the heart and often autobiographical. He’s a solid guitarist and takes time between songs to explain some of the sentiment within his music. Rolling In The Rat House refers to the old Coach House Inn in Swansea, whilst the anthemic Superman’s Dead hits all the right places. 

Casey Maunder - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
Casey Maunder – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

There’s limited activity on stage, with his fellow band members rooted to the spot. It leads Maunder to take centre stage through the show, and he is talented enough to manage this with ease. 

By the time he had finished his set, with social media observations Click Me, Swipe Me, Follow Me, Like Me, he had nailed it and grabbed the attention of most of the audience. He is an endearing performer, and it’s always a pleasure to catch him live. 

House Of Hosts 

Opening the evening, House of Hosts bring their riff-heavy alternative rock style with aplomb. They’ve not long returned to the scene, and they immediately get heads nodding with a powerful, energetic performance. 

House Of Hosts - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
House Of Hosts – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

House Of Hosts grow into their set, hitting their stride well. We have a romantic moment when frontman Dan Griffiths arranges for a cocktail to be delivered to his wife in the audience. It’s their second wedding anniversary. 

House Of Hosts - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
House Of Hosts – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

I’m not sure how involved the rest of the band are, but it’s a feel-good moment that adds to the day. When they hit the final song Oblivion, most in the venue are fully engaged. The M2TM quarterfinalists are certainly worth a watch.

You can read all MetalTalk’s coverage of Station 18 Festival 2024 here. The 2023 edition can be seen here.

Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk
King Kraken - Station 18 Festival - Hangar 18, Swansea - Friday 3rd May 2024
King Kraken – Station 18 Festival – Hangar 18, Swansea – Friday 3rd May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

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