Sounds Around Town – 27th August – 2nd September

10689766_10152707734848635_6927821135632681923_nWith the Bank Holiday Weekend ahead of us there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy some family events around town, events that go way beyond just being about the music. At the time of writing though I am looking out of the window at torrents of rain lashing down so lets just pray to the powers that be for a break in the precipitations and a flood of sunshine and blue skies as the back drop to these gatherings.

The regular gigging circuit is going to pay dividends for fans of rock and metal this week starting tonight at The Victoria where Roads To Nowhere drag metal kicking and screaming into a bright and rowdy future with it’s brutal blend of riotous riffs and brutal backbeats, extreme vocals and a periphery of electronic trimmings. Not for the fainthearted. The windswept ambience that can be heard behind Homeland’s music make them the perfect support and opening up the night is Solace in Nightmares who are fronted by ex-The Dead Lay Waiting vocalist Luke Lucas.

A complete contrast can be found at The Beehive as Lionel Lodge brings his Americana Gypsy-folk outfit into town and blends music that sounds by turns like a roots version of Springsteen or Petty, like The Rainmakers or The Hooters (Remember them? No? Really? Just me then) in their more mercurial moments or long forgotten songs from The Band.

Friday sees the first of the family fun I mentioned earlier with the start of the Brunel Centre Streetfest, three days of street creativity from music, dancing and pavement art, workshops and story telling, loads to do for kids and adults alike.

Also on Friday The Locomotive has the first of two mellower shows, mellower that is compared to the recent run of noisier acts it has hosted, with a stripped back performance of Brother From Another. Funk and Soul standards from the 60’s to the present day – effortlessly cool and eminently listenable, what more could you ask for?

Retro rock comes to The Rolleston in the form of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue who cover old school rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, r’n’b all with a powerful drive, swinging groove and a soulful edge, think Wilko Johnson meets Brian Setzer if you need any more persuading. If you would rather have something more familiar as the sound track to the start of the weekend then head up to The Victoria for Toxic, a ten-legged party machine who play all your favourite songs from all eras and all genres.

And talking of familiarity, fans of rock tributes will have to decide between The Doors Alive at The Victoria and the glory days of Ozzy Osbourne with Wizards of Oz at The Rolleston. Something very original is on the cards down at The Locomotive as Keegan McInroe (pictured) is back in town. Based in Fort Worth, Texas, but just as likely to be found wandering the length and breadth of Europe peddling music built from strands of country, old blues and folk, his last appearance, a stripped back set at The Roaring Donkey, proved to be something a bit special so catch him with a local pick up band whilst he is in town. If anyone is not totally satisfied I will personally give them back the cost of their entrance fee.*

Outfall play rock covers at The Rolleston on Sunday but elsewhere the focus is on broader events. The Swiss Chalet is hosting one of it’s already established Family Days with a hog roast, karaoke, kids entertainment and music from Peleton, Echo and Operation 77, whilst at The Victoria their Sausage Fest focuses on putting the humble sausage back on the map plus a selection of quality ales and ciders and live music from skiffle maestro’s Ode and the Be-Bops.

Ending as we always do at The Roaring Donkey and you can catch a selection of covers and originals courtesy of Leon Daye and his acoustic guitar.

*Please note that all shows at The Locomotive are free entry, but that’s not the point.

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Echo Boom Generation, Flowerpot and Gelato at The Victoria, Swindon – 20th Aug ‘15

11870933_488084031366179_9122912349955513731_nGetting people out to watch original music on a Thursday night in Swindon is always a challenging proposition and doing it with a bill entirely of bands who are all from out of town might be seen as irresponsible. But the ethic behind the Songs of Praise promoters, whose night this is, is one of “it’s the show I’d want to go to so maybe there are enough like-minded people around who feel the same to make it work.” Debatable.

As openers Gelato, kicked into their set, it quickly became obvious that there was a phenomenon at work here known as The Callum Green Factor. Normally found drumming with the headliners but tonight also sitting in for their London mates, the fact that Callum is originally from Swindon had brought quite a few people along which meant that the normally sparse first band crowd looked pretty healthy.

Gelato sit at a musical crossroads, or more likely the point of impact in a collision between punk and grunge, stoner and garage rock and as such weave between big desert rock anthems and short, sharp, incendiary shocks, subtle pulsing bass led post punk and anything that lies between, peppered with the always entertaining between song chat of Drew constantly trying to sell us on the idea that the more reserved bassist Phil was the star of the show. As a fellow bassist of course I am going to agree with that.

Flowerpot found themselves in the difficult position of having booked a tour and then lost their lead vocalist but from the way guitarist Louisa Baker took on the extra duties you wouldn’t have guessed that this three-piece version wasn’t the regular set up. And these girls can rock it with the best of them, like Gelato before them, shifting with ease between genres – spikey riot grrrl aggression, intricate classic rock solos and 90’s college rock inspired alt-indie melodies.

It was during their set that an incident, which showed the problem new music, faces in towns such as Swindon, took place. Having nipped to the top bar to replenish my drink I was talking to a couple of lads who had picked up on the fact that Flowerpot had just launched into a cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit and were thinking of going down to check the music out. Two things in their minds, however, seem to be an issue. Firstly they were unsure if they wanted to see a band that did original music and were hoping for some Foo Fighters covers (it does seem that David Grohl may have recently overtaken Buddhism as the 4th largest religion in the world) and secondly they wouldn’t believe me that it was three young girls making such a wonderful racket. (Viv Albertine would be spinning in her grave, if she weren’t of course very much alive.)

It is also worth noting that during Louisa’s calls for a dance competition down the front the hardest grooving participants were actually Emma and Linda from Echo Boom Generation, no pre-gig solitude or stoic rituals for them, just an attitude of “let’s get the party started, right here, right now.” It’s a party that they took to even greater heights when they took the stage.

It’s a sad fact that rock music in a culturally narrow town such as this is often limited to classic rock tributes and NWOBHM era cover bands and there are normally very specific criteria for people attending. 1. They are related to or work with one of the band members. 2. They know they are going to get a murdered rendition of Breaking The Law or worse…Sex On Fire. 3. They are the sort of people who say things such as “ music was better when I was younger” “ I know the music I like and stick to that” or “I don’t have time to listen to any new music.” But surely there was a time when all of those bands and all those records were new to you and you were hungry for more? Where did it all go wrong?

Echo Boom Generation are quite simply the future of rock and roll. It’s a cliché I know but if you want a high octane show of killer tunes, big riffs, bigger beats, audience participation choruses and dirty grooves then it’s all there. Isn’t that rock and roll in a nutshell? And whilst taking and re-using all the things that traditionally made rock so great, they do so in forward looking, of the here and now, sort of way. They may tip their hats to the past but they are racing into the future. It also helps that they are three of the most watchable performers ever to grace the stage. Admittedly Callum on his second gig of the night might be flagging a bit but the ear-to-ear smile is still in place and he is still giving it his all. Then again you would be smiling if you were keeping beat for the hottest front line on the circuit…performance wise, musically, in terms of cool and any other way you want to interpret it.

Singer/guitarist Linda Buratto is all hair and rock pose, a whirling dervish of attitude and swagger, everything you want your bands focal point to be whilst bassist Emma Hughes is all lace and barefooted boogie, joining in often ironically on the rock ‘n’ roll theatrics but holding down some tight and dexterous bass runs whilst constantly jiving away, both girls continuing the party they started in the audience during the support acts.

The set ends and it almost feels that there is a void left in the room, an implosion after all that energy has dissipated, the house music kicks in with some cool track, but it isn’t the same. This is how you should feel after a gig, used, abused, put through an emotional meat grinder and spat out the other side to be re-assembled but never quite the same, slightly lost and totally elated. Still there is only one thing to do…go and have a few drinks with the band and count the days until you do it all again.

For all those people who say that nothing ever happens in town, or are just happy to follow the same few tried and tested local circuit bands out of habit, misguided loyalty or laziness, I will say this. Something great did just happen, something very fucking great, a taste of the future of rock music …but if you prefer to sit at home with your Game of Thrones box set or go to watch your brother–in-laws cover band for the 18th time, the future isn’t the place for you anyway. Boom!

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Sounds Around Town : 20th – 26th August

11870933_488084031366179_9122912349955513731_nAll I seem to be reading this week is that it is twenty years since the epic battle for chart supremacy between Blur and Oasis, a battle that had people recording the heady days of the The Beatles and The Stones rivalry. If you took the pitting of the two bands at face value it looked like a bitter battle between working class upstarts from the north and art college hipsters from the South. The reality is that it evolved from a drunken pub strategy meeting between the relevant label bosses at Creation and Food Records but will forever go down in history as an epic replay of that 60’s rivalry that also never really existed. But that’s the power of PR for you and a mythical, class led, musical dust up sells more papers than the minutes of an inspired business meeting. Maybe I should start a rumour saying Nudybronque hate Super Squarecloud and see if that helps sell more tickets and albums.

One show that is really going to sell itself, if people know what is good for them, is the one found tonight at The Victoria. It may be three out of town acts but each one could take the headline slot. Top of the pile in this instance is Echo Boom Generation (pictured), a band who represent where rock music is going at the moment. Big, classic rock swagger meets grunge riffs, a vibrant energy and forward looking attitude proving that the rock is in safe hands. Fellow Londoners, Gelato, open the night with their punked up indie/stoner rock vibe and sandwiched between is Bristol’s Flowerpot, a band who hark back to the days of the Riot Grrrl movement whilst blurring the grunge, rock and indie boundaries. Any rock fans not checking this out will have their membership cards cancelled.

Something much mellower can be found at The Beehive in the form of U&I, which sees Hip Route main man Jim Blair join forces with vocalist Raye Leonard for a night of folk and rootsy covers and originals.

Things take a turn for the surreal at The Victoria on Friday as Nudybronque bring their rock extravaganza Graffiti and Her Friends: Against The Never Ending Sadness to their hometown. If you thought they did a neat line in bizarre before, this is the band taken to the extremes of its strangeness. Having gone down a storm at Larmer Tree festival and with Flashfires and Plummie Racket also on the bill, this may just be the weirdest show you will catch for a long time. It may also be the most brilliant.

Also ticking the strange box, Oui Legionnaires bring the punky, angular indie that they describe as Yelpcore to The Locomotive as support to Strength in Blunders, a band who manage to blend punk riffs with New Wave accessibility and an edgy, threatening vibe that makes them sound like they where hanging around New York’s Lower East Side in 1979.

Out at Riffs Bar bands of a more folky nature gather as a tribute to Terry Hunt and to raise money for The Prospect Hospice. Grubby Jack provide a mix of celtic and Appalachian style tunes armed with fast fiddle breaks and hypnotic banjo, Southern Harmony mix folk and Americana and Ali Finneran recalls the folk revival movement of the 60’s.

Other options are The Teddy White Band playing blues, beat and R’n’B at The Beehive, searing blues rock from Lewis Creaven at The Rolleston and three decades of indie-rock with Vive Versa at The Castle.

Fans of original music should be heading down to The Locomotive on Saturday for a night with Hip Route and Friends. A whole night of music from a band with a great reputation for raw and bluesy slide guitar and funky grooves with the addition of The Barefoot Horns, tabla drums, beatbox and possibly much more.

Elsewhere music follows more tried and tested lines with 80’s revivalists Syntronix playing the best of synth-pop and new romantic, underground pop and chart hits at The Victoria, classic and contemporary covers from all genres from The Hyperbolics at The Queens Tap and iconic rock and metal standards at The Rolleston courtesy of Shepherds Pie.

The final mention is Jim Johnston at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday. Trading in albums which combine psychedelia and post-punk experimentations, with fractious guitar lines and a bluesy undercurrent it will be interesting to see how that translates to a solo show.

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Girl power!

11807260_1197012160325302_9130956301987742330_oSo tomorrow folks we maintain a heavy female presence for the songs of praise show. Featuring ex-members of Kate Nash’s backing band, Echo Boom Generation have the ability to take all that is good about rock’s past high points – big riffs, gurney grooves and hi-octane performance and send it off into a bring future. Flowerpot have been likened to such riot grrrl acts as Sleater-Kinney and the token boy band, GELATO, are a smouldering mess of garage rock and pinked up indie vibes. If something fresh, loud, vibrant and forward looking is your thing then this is the show for you. Intelligent rock? Who’s have thought it?.

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Jim Johnston hits town


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Got My Ticket Out of Here – MOSAIC

11214190_1639133509703387_3526501432105327802_nMosaic have been making odd, experimental demos for the past year, but put them together recently and accidently turned out this low-fi mini masterpiece about being lost youths in a souless concrete town. No autotune or sonic smoothery in earshot and it’s a challenging but at times extraordinary listen. Proudly dissonant and cacophonous one minute, dreamily ambient and mumbly the next, then punkishly bolshy and cinematic. It’s brilliantly original and ambitious stuff. Imagine Eno and Steve Reich sharing methCider with Bjork and Mark E Smith as teenagers hanging round desolate West Country bus stations and making a racket. You’re almost there. Very proud of them.

reviewed by Stonepoem.

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