Six of The Best
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I was reading yet another online article about how “Guitar Music is Dead” (again!) and whilst it made some interesting points, such as how the live music market is shored up with heritage acts and the rise of The Dark Lord Cowell is cited as being responsible for a large amount of the nails in its coffin, I think that they are missing a very big point. All these debates, along with the “rock is dead, “ dance is dead” ones are playing into the hands of those pigeon-holers, the label-ists, people who need to line up behind media defined genres.
We may be living in days when the charts are just a maths exercise for the music industry and radio 1 just caters for 9 year olds but why not just revel in the cacophony and musical gene-splicing of the post-genre world. Does it really matter if music is made on a guitar, synth, Jews-harp or banjolele? That it is Tibetan jazz, Icelandic dubstep or Tuareg blues? Enjoy the fractious, splintered nature of the modern musical landscape, support and explore the new and creative, and most of all, don’t be tribal or self-conscious in your quest. Here endeth the lesson!
And if you are looking for something to shake up any tired perceptions of what music is, then a trip to The Beehive tonight might be the answer. Zetan Spore creates music that warps full on psytrance, driving psychedelia, searing guitars and tribal beats into waves of euphoric energy and alien dance music. Try finding a label for that one. Some easier tags can be placed on the music at The Victoria with the brilliant power-pop-punk of Brawlers currently touring their debut album “ Romantic Errors of Our Youth,” they are joined by Max Raptor and Brazilian stoner-punks Water Rats.
On Friday, The Rolleston plays host to The Killertones who pay tribute to the songs of the ska two-tone revival years and at Riffs Bar a wider range of styles and time frames can be appreciated with Vice Versa but it is at The Victoria that something pretty unique takes place. On paper The Courtesans could seem to be just another rock band playing on the sexuality of the all female line up. What they actually are is a musical blend of trippy doom-pop, gothic overtones, anthemic rock deliveries and an image that lives up to their name; dark, sensual, enticing, dangerous and alluring, but never blatant. Not just your run of the mill rock band.
Shocks of Might has its regular night at The Victoria on Saturday and fans of ska and rocksteady will not want to miss this one. Intensified act as a bastion of authenticity for the Jamaican sounds they work with, not in an anti-progress sort of way but just so that the pure roots of the genre are available for fans to revel in. Joining them are local stalwarts The Erin Bardwell Collective who take a similar approach to the genre.
At The Castle, Coasters offer up a fantastic mix of punk, rock and Americana all blended into hi-octane yet perfectly formed songs, think of an M4 corridor Gaslight Anthem and you get the idea. Innes Sibun treats The Rolleston to some incendiary electric blues that rocks, boogies and soothes the audience in equal measure and at The Wheatsheaf in Old Town, Poplar Jake and The Electric Delta Revue take a more old-school slant on the genre, stripped back slide guitar that takes you right back to the banks of The Mississippi.
Rock fans are well catered for as the weekend comes to an end. On Sunday Patriot Rebel bring the alt-rock noise to The Victoria, but it is support Eva Plays Dead that I am most excited about. Having witnessed them when they were still called Bury The Ladybird I can assure you that fans of big, classic rock riffs, driving punk energy and an attitude fuelled stage swagger are in for a treat. 24 hours on at the same venue, Decade promise a no less impressive pop punk show aided by Scouts and All Ears Avow.
Something truly unique can be found at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday with Grant Sharkey (pictured). His act is a blend of humorous songs, surreal stand up interludes, up-right bass experimentation and leftfield social commentary. Try finding a genre to fit that into?
They say that variety is the spice of life and writing this week’s column has brought up a couple of thoughts relating to that. The first musing I will bring up straight away and is on the subject of gig line-ups. Question: Is it best, when putting a show together, to take the line of generic harmony, in other words to chose a series of acts of a similar style so that the whole bill appeals to fans of one genre of music, or is a more eclectic approach useful in that it the bill as a whole appeals to a wider musical outlook. There probably is no simple answer, but I do know that tonight’s Songs of Praise at The Victoria definitely falls into the latter category as their offering takes in everything from indie to pop to voodoo blues.
Theo Altieri sums up everything that is of the moment in music. His clean-limbed, indie-pop tunes, sit easily on the listener, are vibrant, fresh and punchy and as such he makes a worthy headliner for the show. Vienna Ditto (pictured) is a whole different bluesy, retro-electro can of worms. Looking like an alliance between a lounge jazz diva and a mad professor and sounding like the deal the devil would have struck with Robert Johnson had he been into homebuilt electronica and Twin Peaks, they are as strange as they are brilliant. New Indie kids on the block, The Primaveras open the night.
And if that doesn’t cover enough musical bases, then maybe The Open Secrets brand of modern country meets old time mountain music at The Beehive is to your liking.
Friday takes more of a soul and blues journey, initially at least. The Soul Strutters at The Rolleston do pretty much what it says on the tin as they select the best of the golden era of funk, soul, disco and rare groove. Made up of consummate musicians with a musical pedigree second to none, this is the tightest and funkiest band you will experience for a long time. Riffs Bar is the setting for the launch of a new blues band. Featuring a few familiar faces and leaning heavily towards a Joe Bonamassa feel, Sloe Train are one for blues enthusiasts to keep an eye out for.
If covers are more your idea of a musical night out then you have to options of acoustic pop and rock at The Castle with Stripped or an altogether wilder experience with Toxic at The Victoria.
Looking for something all together more hard and heavy? Look no further than Level 3 and Essenone’s regular night. Kremated lead the charge with their collision of thrash metal, punk and hardcore, imagine Venom’s tour bus crashing into an Exploited gig and you have some sort of starting point. Joining them are Sumer who sound like Tool re-writing Ok Computer plus high-octane metal-heads From Dusk Till Dawn and Powercake.
And this brings me on to my second point regarding the condiment of existence (spice of life…gedit?) and that of clashing shows. For whilst The Victoria hosts The Big 4, a tribute act specialising in the music of stalwarts of thrash metal – Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, The Rolleston has opted for Shepherds Pie who offer a wider selection of music from loosely the same territory. So effectively over just two days, there are three shows, which are aimed at the same audience. Surely that just divides the fans who probably can’t afford to go to every show and who certainly can’t be in two places at once. Just saying.
More rock, indie and funk covers are to be had at The Swiss Chalet with The Shadow Monkeys and up at The Castle, The Hamsters From Hell will be treating (?) the punters to some blustery, raucous and sweary r’n’b as only they can.
That wonderful monthly fixture, Lazy Sunday Afternoon is at The Central Library and as well as featuring your hosts, Mr Love and Justice and their blend of West Coast meets West Kennett folk-pop, has the velvet tones of Emily Davis and the celtic, folk, American, southern harmony infusions of The Black Feathers.
And finally Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey is a showcase of young singer-songwriters. Headlining is George Wilding whose songs encompass Nick Drake, David Bowie, Dickensian vaudeville and Lewis Carroll. Also on the bill are Rhys Bury and Matthew Bryant.
The F-word has been raising its head again, favouritism that is. Of course it is only natural that I have more to say about the bands and venues that I see as moving music forward and this article is based around my personal recommendations for gig goers, but in an effort to provide what some would see as hopefully a more balanced piece I have widened the scope this week to include some of the venues who don’t always make it into the column and to show a broader view of the wide and varied array of music taking place right across town.
Before I do so though I just want to go off on a slight tangent and give a mention to Madame Renards Mini Fringe Festival, which is underway in venues across town. Although a theatrically centred event some of its shows do wander into more musical realms, as well as dance, cabaret and even some slightly surreal territory. Do check out their schedule, as there really is a lot of amazing underground entertainment to be found.
So, at The Beehive tonight Bob Bowles performs delivering bluesy and accessible guitar, a soulful vocal and showing why he is one of the most popular local bookings. With all the talk of politics in the run up to the general election, Kitchen Sink Drama’s who play there the following night are a very apt booking. A vehicle for Steve Leigh’s poignant songs; expect sideswipes at politicians, thought provoking takes on the attitudes of modern society as well as dexterous playing, all proof that the protest song isn’t completely dead.
Also on Friday, all things eighties can be found at The Victoria courtesy of Syntronix. A tribute to the day-glo, synth-pop era of music and a good excuse to get the leg warmers, shoulder-pads and jumpsuits out one more time and dance like a loon to everything from Duran Duran to Flock of Seagulls. At The Rolleston it’s covers from the seventies to the present day with The Great Nothing.
Saturday is usually the day when the bigger tribute bands roll into town and this week is no different. Formed from the ashes of previous Black Sabbath tribute bands Blag Sabbath and Snowblind, Sabbotage offer one of the best renditions of the music and performance of the Ozzy Osborne era. They can be found at The Victoria. The Secret Police, the longest running Police tribute band will paying similar homage to their own musical heroes at Riffs Bar.
Imagine if you will that The Beatles had formed in the mid seventies amidst the punk boom. Okay, got that? Imagine that they are also partial to classic rock. Throw in the idea that they are based in Turin. Put all that together and you have The Beat Holes. Iron Maiden riffs driving McCartney’s finest creations, John Lennon re-imagined as a Motorhead fan, The Beatles as a scuzzy garage rock band. It’s all at The Rolleston on Saturday.
As mentioned earlier going slightly off the usual path reveals a wealth of other options. At The Queens Tap, Alter Chaos will be playing across the genres , everything from 70’s to the present day and new covers band Capella can be found at The Ferndale Club. Zing can be found at The Swiss Chalet armed with a select musical arsenal including classics from the likes of Kings of Leon, Killers and Stereophonics whilst at The Castle, Monkey Dolls offer a scattergun of great indie, rock and punk selections and Penfold will be bringing their eight-legged party machine to The Royal Oak, so something for everyone there.
On Sunday the gorgeous sound of Mississippi Delta comes to The Beehive courtesy of Barney Newman whose banjo and guitar salvos will have you convinced that you can taste mint julep in the air and hear the great river in the distance. This is authentic roots blues at it’s finest.
At to wrap up in our usual location, the final mention of the weeks is for Lucy Kitchen (pictured) at The Roaring Donkey. Self confessed “folky-bird” her music conjures words such as enchanting, ethereal, delicate and beautiful and it is no surprise that she has made it to the final eight to play the Emerging Talent Stage at Glastonbury this year. I can’t recommend her music highly enough.
With a record number of, mainly, original music gigs taking place this week, I am going to forego the usual meandering introduction and just jump straight in. And I’ll start at The Victoria, the main cause of such a glut of new music descending on the town. Tonight is the first night of Vic-Fest, a four-day celebration of original bands, each night curated by a different local promoter and varying in its target audience.
Laura Kidd aka She Makes War played for Songs of Praise as a solo act getting on for a year ago and now as part of her national tour she brings the full band show back into town. Her breathtakingly honest gloom-pop, distils a creative punk spirit and is the perfect headline for this night of alternative sounds. Tour support, Forgery Lit add a dirty, grunge blues to the night and the alt-country punk of Coasters will be lapped up by fans of such bands as The Gaslight Anthem.
Whether you catch Robert Brown fronting Smouldering Sons or solo, as he is tonight at The Beehive, there is so much to enjoy in the blends of Americana, blues rock and folky vibes that dance around this musical creations.
Friday at The Victoria and Fairview Promotions take us down a reggae path. Backbeat Soundsystem take a traditional reggae vibe, inject it with funk, dub and ska and then kick it up into a higher gear to create a bass driven party groove. Festival favourites Dub The Earth and King Solomon Band deliver fresh takes on the genre and openers The Nomarks offer a more ska based set to kick off the night.
Back at The Beehive and the folk ‘n’ roll of The Model Folk, a beautiful cacophony of wheezing harmonium, scratchy washboard, throbbing double bass and various acoustica, create a very different, but just as brilliant, party soundtrack. Midway between those two venues, some wonderful singer-songwriter sets can be had at The Regent courtesy of Drew Bryant and Nick Felix and if classic rock and metal standards are more your thing, then Bad Obsession at The Rolleston is the gig for you.
Day three at The Victoria, or Saturday as the rest of us call it, really steps things up a gear and showcases the best new bands at the harder end of rock. It’s always a pleasure to watch The Manic Shine (pictured) not just for their technical expertise and the sheer infectiousness of their songs, but also because they manage to give a lesson in stage performance than many bands would be wise to take note of. They are joined by Vault of Eagles who play a wonderfully primal brand of twisted rock that falls somewhere between The Bad Seeds and P J Harvey. Punk and metal fuse together in The Graphic’s warped art attacks (check out their video The Kid….do it now!) and local support comes from local rising stars, Ghost of Machines and stalwarts The Starkers.
It is quite apt that in a week that marked 15 years since we lost the lyrical genius, singer, artist, actor and madman, Ian Dury, that The Blox, a tribute to his years fronting The Blockheads, are playing at The Rolleston. Expect all the caustic wit and kitchen sink wisdom, not to mention exceptional musicianship that made the original band so…well, original.
If you are after something altogether more funky then, Funk’daMental play funk and disco classics at The Swiss Chalet and the after party tunes can be found at Level 3 as Beats and Bars mixes live acts with DJ’s to showcase the best of the current wave of hip-hop acts.
Sunday at The Victoria rounds off with a night of metal courtesy of Dredded Vyrus. Main act Skreamer manage to combine the grandeur and pomp of classic metal with the primal growl and speed of its current direction whilst Antoinette offer a more contemporary post-metalcore sound. Belial and Ursus open the night’s proceedings.
It’s blues and R’n’B (the boogie guitar sort not the lip synched, dance routine sort) all the way with Built For Comfort at The Rolleston and punk, ska and new wave covers are to be found at The Swiss Chalet with Operation ’77.
At The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday hosts ex-Haiku frontman Phil Cooper and his Neil Finn comparable musical earworms with a rare, short set from the mercurial Adam Crosland to kick the night off.
Last month I waxed lyrical about the up-swell of new bands that seem to be fashioning, not only a small but well proportioned new movement, but a post-punk, shoegaze referencing one to boot (shoe…boot?…worth a go!). But a healthy music scene needs the right mix of home cooked creations and also visits from bigger bands to sustain its momentum, so this time I want to cast my focus a bit wider and look some more established names coming your way.
Right off the bat, Laura Kidd aka She Makes War returns to The Victoria on 2nd April, this time with a full band set up and Forgery Lit as tour support. Stalwart of supports with The Levellers and New Model Army, hers is a pacifistic yet provocative mission, her weapons, breathtakingly honest music and a unique brand of doomy, melancholic, garage pop. Later that month (23rd) Brawlers rock into town (surely I’m too old to use a phrase like that…) a wonderful blend of pop-aware lo-fi punk that heavily references the 90’s heyday of college rock. The guy in the corner of the pub with the GBH t-shirt will still moan that this isn’t real punk and that he once lit Joe Strummers cigarette but this represents punks logical evolution and it rocks like a…well, you know.
In the same part of town, The Roaring Donkey’s Wednesdays acoustic night also promises some great out-of-area acts. Not only the dulcet, folky tones of Lucy Kitchen and the mercurial pop of George Wilding are on the cards, but also the inimitable Grant Sharkey is in the diary for 29th April. His act is a mix of humorous songs, surreal interludes that Milton Jones would be proud of, upright bass experimentation and leftfield social commentary. Imagine Jim Tavare (remember him?) if he had lost the dinner jacket, taken a few ‘shrooms and become an anarchist.
So all in all, the Swindon scene seems to be heading somewhere exciting, why not tag along and see where it takes you.
from The Ocelot April ’15
Not so much a gig of the week but a whole mini festival. Over the Easter weekend The Victoria will be running four days of original music, a perfect blend of local and out of town, that showcases the emerging talent and circuit stalwarts in a number of genres, as chosen by a variety of local promoters.
Thursday is curated by Songs of Praise and is typical of their alternative and slightly underground slant on things. Having played about a year ago as a solo performance, She Makes War, the musical nome de plume of Laura Kidd, returns with the full band show. Her wonderful DIY ethic and offbeat style mixes gloom-pop with a punk spirit and her song writing shows just why she is sought after by the likes of New Model Army, The Levellers and Viv Albertine. Her tour support, Forgery Lit, add a wonderful slab of dirty, grungy blues to the night and opening are local rising stars, Coasters, with a blend of punk-acoustica meets alt-country that is reminiscent of the likes of The Gaslight Anthem.
Day two, Friday, and Fairlight Promotions provide a walk through reggae territory with festival favourites, Backbeat Soundsystem, Dub The Earth and King Solomon Band all offering contemporary takes on the traditional sounds of the genre and The Nomarks get things underway with a more ska based party.
Saturday is when the big guns are brought out. The Manic Shine (pictured) has been building up a reputation for alt-rock anthems that are based on amazing musicianship, an embracing approach to technology and infectious riffs. The fact that they can deliver all this whilst leaping around the stage like things possessed is an added bonus. The main support is from Vault of Eagles a three-piece hybrid of P J Harvey and The Bad Seeds who offer up a strange sort of primal beauty wrapped up in thunderous tunes. Also on the bill is The Graphic, new to me but having checked out their recent video, The Kid, I can tell you that you are in for a punk-metal fusion treat. The local end of things is provided by Ghost of Machines and The Starkers.
The last night of the event is the heaviest, thanks to Dredded Vyrus Promotions and sees post-hardcore and metal bands Skreamer, Antoinette, Belial and Ursus providing an onslaught of brutal beats and razor wire riffs.
1 venue, 4 nights, 16 bands. Sounds good to me.