Groovers on Manoeuvres

The rants and raves of a music fan in Swindon.

Sounds Around Town : 9th – 15th October

425603_10100168477043011_9295930_nThere has been a bit of a discussion in the on-line comments sections about how easy this article is to understand and extract the necessary information. One side of the argument is that the actual content is difficult to fathom out from my description and prose, opinion and attempted humour, that it would be better if the article was just an embellished list of pertinent information more akin to a listing than an article. My defence is that this column attempts to make the prospect of local live an exciting one through vividly painting what the bands are all about through prosaic description. Whilst I don’t profess to be a new Lester Bangs or Paul Morley, neither would I want this column to read like a telephone directory and hence the poetic license to colour what is effectively a musical menu. I also think that by suggesting that the average reader couldn’t follow my literary twists and turns is to actually undermine their intelligence. That’s my defence and I’m sticking to it.

 

To someone so engrossed in promoting live music performance, the idea of DJ nights might seem anathema to me. But when the DJ in question is one who still scours bargain bins and backstreet music shops to find the right hip-hop, soul, funk and rock vinyl to mix live then you know you are dealing with something above the normal club DJ spinning the same old sounds. DJ Format brings his dance floor filling skills to The Victoria tonight.

 

Friday runs from the sublime to the ridiculous. The Sublime coming in the guise of Tennessee jazz-bluesman Mark Merriman at The Beehive, back in the country on a short tour of the area. At the other extreme we have a certain X-rated act whose naughty name I can’t really mention here but who is known for toilet humour, self-deprecation, smut and catchy pop-melodies. Not for the faint hearted, easily offended or completely sober. All will make sense if you head to The Rolleston.

 

Between those extremes, Riffs Bar offer the not inconsiderable talents of roots musician and slide guitarist Kevin Brown, a man who learnt his trade from none other than Son House and is held in acclaim by the likes of Mark Knopfler. The Victoria has hi-energy neo-rockabilly with Rockabilly Rumble an authentic three-piece rockabilly outfit that does just what it says on the tin.

 

Those who like a slice of nostalgia have a choice of two tribute acts. The sounds of Johnny Cash can be heard at Level 3 whilst The Arts Centre is the place to be to re-live the majesty of Phil Lynott and the gang with Limehouse Lizzy.

 

And if you like your rock music then I should mention an event taking place in Trowbridge on Saturday. I know it’s a bit off of the radar for a local gig guide but with a heavy involvement from Swindon bands Trowbridge’s Rock Diabetes Metal Festival is worth a mention. Alongside headliners Diamond Head and Skreamer (who recently played Level 3) you can find the town represented by All Ears Avow, Harmony Disorder and Burnthru as well as Kodiak Jack and Flashfires who have both played Songs of Praise nights in the recent past.

 

But there is plenty of rock in town if you wish to support the local venues. At The Rolleston, Snatch It Back will be playing psychedelic blues rock, reminiscent of The Groundhogs of whom drummer Ken Pustelnik was a member and at The Victoria, Rorke’s Drift cover classic rock such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Aerosmith.

 

Another US musician back in the area to tour their latest album is Courtney Yasmineh (pictured) and her band who between them channel the feisty female fronted glory days of Patti Smith, Sheryl Crowe and Blondie; rock chick meets country troubadour meets pop accessibility. Catch her at The Beehive. If your thing is more of an eighties synth vibe, then head out to Riffs Bar where Syntronix will act as a time machine back to the age of jumpsuits, headbands, ironic mullets and jacket suits with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, Miami Vice style.

 

And a couple of mellowing choices to end on. Sunday sees the Indian beats and pastoral acoustic guitar of Skins and Strings at The Beehive and on Wednesday you can catch classical meets Latin guitar maestros Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz at the Roaring Donkey.

Sounds Around Town : 2nd – 8th October

thSome weeks things just seem to fall into place and the local music diary features four…yes, four, amazing events as well as the usual selection of regular gigs. So without further ado…

 

Sheer Music is one of the leading lights of music promotion in Wiltshire. Under the leadership of that awfully nice chap Kieran Moore, they have brought acts such as Frank Turner, Foals, Ben Marwood, Gnarwolves and many more to a venue near you and tonight they celebrate 10 years in the game with a show at Level 3. Headliners are the aptly named Decade (I see what you did there) a band who show you what pop-punk can do once it stops sniggering at it’s own in-jokes and graduates from college. Their songs are infectious and bouncy and their stage show is one long adrenaline rush. Also on the bill are Light You Up, With Ghosts and Hey Vanity.

 

If that isn’t your musical cup of tea then why not try some chilled harmonies, dreamy acoustica and ambient folk. Heading an all female line up, The Cadbury Sisters bring their tour to Songs of Praise at The Victoria. Theirs is a half forgotten dream world that evokes childhood memory, otherworldly harmonies mixing the fragile and fey with darker themes, Swallows and Amazons meets The Wickerman perhaps. Adding to the nature of the night is the delicate songs of Faye Rogers and a rare outing for the sublime Emily Sykes.

 

If blues is more your thing then head to The Beehive for Georgia guitarist Kent DuChaine a player who authentically delivers the spirit of all those wonderful old bluesmen from Robert Johnson to Son House and all three Kings – BB, Albert and Freddie!

 

A real melding of artistic disciplines can be found at New College on Friday as Chicago poet, Don Share, is joined on stage by local live musicians as part of the Swindon Festival of Poetry. In this unique and improvised show, Don is joined by Barry Andrews, Jon Bucket, Brendan Hamley and Catherine Shrubshall. Barry sums it up best when he explains “(Don) gets off the plane, steps on stage and then what happens, happens. And it will never exist in that way again.”

 

More conventional but no less exciting shows also can be found around town. The Rolleston plays host to funky, lap steel, blues maestros HipRoute with support from Stone Donkey Pilots. Out at Riffs Bar the Acoustic Session features the dexterous acoustic guitar work and subtle lyrical touch of David Waddington but if you want something a bit more loud and shouty then head to The Victoria for Slam Cartel, a band who distil the essence of rock ‘n’roll in the same why that bands such as The Cult and The Four Horsemen did in their heyday. Joining them are local sleaze-metallers The Damned and The Dirty.

 

And if you like the sound of that gig, you are going to love this one. On Saturday Level 3 opens its doors for the Swindon Alternative Festival Volume 3, a celebration of the best of local rock, punk, grunge, hardcore and metal. It’s an all-dayer and there is too much going on to mention all the bands but a few that caught my eye are Sleep inertia, SkyBurnsRed and headliners Skreamer, but check out the event page on Facebook for the full details.

 

The last of the big events to get a mention this week and one that will have all you proggies champing at the bit is Pendragon’s Megadaze (pictured) event at Riffs Bar. This two-day event includes a first hearing of the new album, Men Who Climb Mountains, 2 unique Pendragon live shows, food, quizzes and a chance to hang out with band and fans alike. A crucial date for all prog-rock diary’s.

 

Elsewhere you can catch a Dire Straights tribute at The Victoria or Going Underground paying tribute to post-punk, ska and mod classics at The Rolleston.

 

The Moonrakers is the place to be on Sunday as The AK-Poets play a stripped down, early evening session. All the usual great song writing and live presence but presented in a manner more fitting for the Sabbath day.

Sounds Around Town : 25th Sept – 1st Oct

10568792_671452159600192_7578462626234394886_nIn an effort to keep this column hip and groovy I have adopted a new tactic. I could have grown a beard that makes me look like an American Backwoodsman, bought some plaid shirts and started drinking espresso out of a jam jar but that wouldn’t make much difference in the medium of print. Instead I thought I would get on board with the parlance of a Buzzfeed type article to really show that I’m down with the kids. (Do people still say that?) So….

 

This music journalist sat down to write a gig guide and what happened next will blow your mind. No? How about…Here’s 11 gigs that only real music fans will attend. Or, When I saw what this guy had written I cried. Nah, it’s not really me, is it? What about, get off your sofa, turn that TV off and go and support some real live music before I send a cultural hit squad round to sort you out! That’s more my style.

 

And for all of you concerned that the rotation of the same few bands around town is getting a bit predictable, Riffs Bar have a real treat for you tonight. All the way from San Diego, Black Market III mix soulful blues with red hot Americana, Clash style street punk with old school rock ‘n’ roll and are touted as a real “one to watch” band on the international circuit. Support comes from the doom-rock and art-punk experimentation of Sea Mammal and the soaring, grunge-scapes of D.I.R.T.E.

 

 

More hard, electric blues can be found at The Victoria in the shape of John Fairhurst whose band freely mix music traditions from the Mississippi shoreline to The Ganges Delta with bottle neck blues and psychedelia sitting cheek by jowl with Indian Raga and exotic eastern flavours. Think Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits jamming in a Kolkata teashop. Also on the bill are Cook and The Case and personally it has been amazing to watch them evolve through solo singer-songwriter and chilled indie folk genres into a band of unbelievable dynamic shifts and extremes of light and shade. Their music is both reckless and refined but always beautiful. At The Beehive you can catch the Afro-pop and roots sounds of Two Man Ting.

 

By Friday original music gets harder to track down but you can catch Tin Spirits at The Victoria who channel the sound of 70’s progressive rock with their current writing but often treat the audience to some of guitarist Dave Gregory’s XTC back-catalogue. Support comes from Steve Grimmett’s fundraising, classic rock side project Sound Bites.

 

Tributes can be found aplenty going into the weekend, Beatles fans should head for The Rolleston whilst next-door in Level 3 Jilted Generation return to evoke the glory days of The Prodigy. On Saturday you can catch the music of The Stranglers at The Victoria and Iron Maiden at The Rolleston whilst out at Riffs Bar Hot Flex play a range of classic rock covers with support from rock parody outfit Vinyl Matt.

 

A nice slice of punk history rolls into Level 3 on Saturday as ex-Adverts front man TV Smith (pictured) joins the bill for this years Mick Love Memorial Gig. Since the demise of The Adverts, Smith has carved out a highly respected solo career as well as touring with Amen and Die Toten Hosen, anyone who has heard of either of those bands needs to catch him live. The night opens with the Nu-wave, Bowery street punk from Strength in Blunders and goes out with a bang from Charred Hearts, over thirty years in and still fighting the punk wars on their own terms.

 

Sunday has some great acoustic offerings. The Lazy Sunday Afternoon at The Arts Centre Café features Light Falls Forward a band whose EP Sleeptalkin’ I can honestly say is one of the most gorgeous new musical offerings I have heard in a while. They manage to capture a very emotive vocal sound and layer it over a cinematic soundscape that combines a lush ambience with enough drive to keep it in the realms of reflective and dreamlike rather than melancholy. The equally elegant Faye Rogers and your hosts Mr Love and Justice are also to be found there.

Sounds Around Town – 18th -24th September

1908007_709700309072398_6221285779546836118_nI have to start this week with a bit of an apology. In last weeks article I mentioned that the players in prominent local folk band, Noah’s Ostrich, were all members of The National Front. Obviously what I meant to say was that they were all members of The National Trust. I apologize for any inconvenience caused and hope that the cost of the replacement windows wasn’t too expensive. Moving swiftly on…

 

Tonight sees local boy made good, Gaz Brookfield, return to his musical roots at The Victoria for Songs of Praise. He brings with him The Company of Thieves to make this a full band show that features a few familiar faces amongst its ranks. Expect the usual display of wit, panache, poignancy and brilliant, observational lyrics. Joining him on this great bill is Lonely Tourist who describes himself as trading in Beard-pop, Pub-step and Malternative music…well, why not? Opening the show is the dark and lush tones of Luke De-Sciscio.

 

Level 3 has a rare musical treat for you on Friday, a cornucopia of young, emerging Indie bands, no less. Sounds will range from the soaring, slightly post-rock informed sounds of Sahara Heights to the street-punk indie of The Corfields and from the bedroom psychedelia turned indie-thrash of The Illustrations to the eclectic sound mix of The Primarveras. I would like to tell you more about Coco Esq but their on line presence is decidedly vague.

 

If you are not one of the skinny jeaned young groovers with complicated hair, there is still plenty of music to be had. At The Victoria everything heads a bit south of the border as Pignose and The Blue Trees channel the sounds of the bayous, desert highways, illicit stills and truck stops, the former through a dash of old school rock and roll and the latter through a more bluesy medium.

 

Riffs Bar Acoustic Session features Salisbury based troubadour Sue Hart, a charming mix of wit and wisdom put to folky Americana tunes and she is joined by Nick Tann who does a neat line in soulful and introspective, late night jazz tinged acoustica. For a more frantic folk sound catch Grubby Jack at The Beehive; fast fiddling, blinding banjos and great guitars. (I can’t think of a suitable alliteration for vocals…vibrant maybe?)

 

If you are going to The Rolleston then grab your brogues, Fred Perry shirts and set your Pork-pie hat to a jaunty angle as The Nomarks will be serving up original ska and reggae with a distinctly old school feel.

 

As is often the case classic rock is well catered for on Saturday with Shepherds Pie playing an Iron Maiden tribute set at The Victoria and Broken Image being much more adventurous and covering a whole gamut of rock music from Judas Priest to The Scorpions at The Rolleston. If NWOBHM era rock isn’t your thing then why not head next door to Level 3 where Echo will be playing covers ranging from Lady Gaga to The Kaiser Chiefs.

 

Original music can be found in spades at this month’s GW Hotel Acoustic Showcase in the form of A.Koustics, Daniel Seath, Emmy Fearon, GPS, Barney Kenny, Aiden Page and Dylan Q.

And if you liked The Blue Trees earlier in the week, you may also want to catch Barney Newman at The Beehive on Sunday afternoon. His is a sound that channels the blues of the Mississippi shoreline and blends in the warm folk tones of the likes of John Martyn to make for a wonderfully traditional roots guitar sound.

 

The town may be sorted for rock covers but if you want to know where the genre is heading then The Victoria is the place to be on Monday as Fox and The Law (pictured) roll into town from Seattle. Part fresh faced punks, part old soul songwriters, part incendiary blues, part Sabbath-esque heaviness, this is a band who both kick-arse and cut the mustard. And as if that wasn’t enough, opening the show is The Greasy Slicks a mix of Zeppelin’s grunt and Burning Tree’s panache. Gig of the week for me and it’s a Monday!

Live and Local on Swindon 105.5

swindon105_5logo-300x186This week we have Bren Haze who came down from Hereford to chat and play some songs and wicked guitar. Also music from Shrine, Laimi Bite, Jittery Jack, Sam Bates, Manic Shine, Yellow Fever, Wire Birds, Beneath the Reef, Antoine Archteuthis, The Corfields

 

Listen to the edited podcast version here

Sounds Around Town – 11th – 17th September

10349094_566351956803162_3626054594936056313_nWith the exception of Tibetan Jazz aficionados and fans of the burgeoning Polynesian trip-hop scene, most musical tastes will be catered for this week. Variety, as they say is the spice of life and this weeks musical offerings prove to be a particularly fine condiment of existence.

 

Acoustic buffs should head to The Victoria tonight for a rather special triptych of players, headed by Darren Eeddens, a bluegrass and honky-tonk folkster as at home on the banjo as he is the guitar. A story telling troubadour in the truest sense, he describes himself as an old soul with the imagination of a child. Local support comes in the form of the elemental sounds of Drew Bryant and the atmospheric endeavours of Andrew Burke.

 

The newly revamped Beehive will be echoing to the sounds of Built For Comfort who channel the sound and the vibe of a late night, smoky, back room Chicago blues club.

 

And Friday, it would seem, is the new Saturday judging by the amount of gigs you have to choose from, a myriad of styles and genres running from the sublime to the ridiculous. Representing the sublime is Faye Rogers at Riffs Bar. Hers is a sound that has grown gracefully from an innocent, “girl with guitar” solo spot to a band that soundscape around the tunes with shimmering guitar riffs, sensuous cello washes and less is more beats. Joining her is Antoine Architeuthis who mixes Celtic jauntiness with sweeping English pastoral folk sounds and just a splash of eastern spiritualism to weave an exotic musical tapestry.

 

Representing the ridiculous (only joking chaps) is The Hamsters from Hell, rhythm and booze experts whose talents at wrapping a risqué lyric around a grinding r ‘n’b groove is exceeded only by the speed at which they can run up an impressive bar tab. Catch them at The Queens Tap.

 

It’s folk Jim, but not as we know it. Actually it’s The Model Folk. Forget finger in the ear, bearded, jumper wearing folk police who still harbour a grudge over Dylan going electric, this is Balkan inspired, punked up gypsy folk with a fixation for railways, soviet farming machinery and 1930s drag queens…apparently. Catch them at The Beehive not least because they use the word rumbustious in their band biog’ and you have to admire a band who keep such words in circulation.

 

Level 3 continues in its mission to throw off the gothic imagery and nu-metal fixations of the past (I can see the music forums ablaze already over such a comment) and embrace a broader musical sensibility by hosting a night of reggae. Empower the Gambia, a charity that aims to improve conditions in rural Gambia brings you cool reggae sounds from Bobo Blackstar and The Tribe.

 

Something more familiar can be found at The Victoria with Fleetwood Bac (I’ll let you work out what they are all about) and at The Rolleston where The Dark Eyes will be playing covers through the ages from the sixties to the present.

 

In a change from their usual Thursday slot, those awfully nice people at Songs of Praise have a Saturday show at The Victoria. The top slot is taken by Colour the Atlas (pictured) a band whose chilled, cinematic and atmospheric brand of trip-pop (if such a term is allowed) has seen them lauded by critics and touring with the likes of Newton Faulkner. Check out their brilliant new single “That Sound” now and then watch them live, right on your doorstep. Also clutching a new release is Alex Rainsford, who creates a sound that embraces the drive of rock and the dexterity of folk and throws in soaring vocals and heartfelt sentiments. And opening the night is Charlie Bath a singer-songwriter who needs no introduction to the discerning local music fan. If a crystal clear yet warm vocal, emotive lyrics and wonderfully crafted songs are your sort of thing, then make sure you get to this gig on time.

 

If you are after something more visceral, then The Rolleston may have the answers, as The Keith Thompson Band will be firing off salvos on incendiary blues-rock in the style of Moore and Gallagher.

 

And finally the Sunday afternoon session at The Beehive has what can be best described as “3 in the morning, porch blues” courtesy of David Bristow.

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