Where are you all from?
Six of The Best
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Now it has to be said that a packed and happily noisy pub in downtown Swindon on a Saturday night is not a finger-style guitarist and singer/songwriter’s natural habitat, but Andy Oliveri goes about his craft with a mixture of great professionalism and dogged determination.
His recent debut album ‘Pay Your Respect To The Rose’ is one of the finest things I’ve heard this year and amid earnest and animated discussion of whether Swindon Town are a ‘selling team’ (they had to discuss that?) and the serious business of getting hammered with your mates, he lays it out in front of us.
The guitar technique is excellent and the voice rich and melodic – difficult to pick highlights out of a set so full of quality, but for me the recent single, ‘A Heart That Sings Can Never Bleed’ probably topped everything tonight, it is an exquisitely lovely song.
He’ll have more receptive audiences – make sure you’re one of them – he’s a very, very good performer.
The images, which were taken in available light, are Copyright Geoffrey Head 2015. Please do not reproduce without permission and a credit. Thanks everyone, it’s important.
We’re gathered in The Locomotive for the latest in a series of original music gigs curated by Songs of Praise. It’s a small and neat pub with a stage that covers a good half the available interior space, but when the 70’s disco lighting starts up, I realise that we’re actually looking at a huge dance floor…
The young guy standing next to me is, not putting it too finely, hammered. “What’s this band’s name, mate?” he asks. I tell him and he says “They any good?” I tell him that I think we’re about to find out, one way or another – and we certainly do.
The amount of people who have told me that I should be watching tonight’s headliners, White Lilac has reached such a level that I turn to Bristol music luminary Mustafa Mirreh of The Flux for his opinion and when he gives a resounding thumbs up, I’m there.
I do a few minutes’ YouTube research to familiarise myself with the style, but nothing, absolutely nothing, prepares you for the power of this band. And I don’t mean they’re loud – aided by an excellent sound tech, they’re only using sufficient volume to rise above the hubbub – they’re just forceful, the music simply hits you in a wave. Imagine the most coruscating parts of Abjects colliding head on with the most blissful parts of Light Falls Forward and you might be getting close.
The band is a four-piece, but the pretty constant swapping of instruments to produce different configurations and soundscapes is an impressive feature of the performance. The one fixed point though is drummer Tom Counihan, who unobtrusively lays down a wide variety of different beats through the night with great craft and subtlety – an essential anchor when a band plays a good chunk of its set without a bass player.
Much of the coverage the band has received centres around singer Faye Rogers glorious, soaring voice, which is much in evidence as they jump straight in with their latest single, the mesmerising “The Girl Who Stole The Eiffel Tower”. Clearly not a band to keep their powder dry. Rogers also plays very smooth sax and can more than handle her lush teardrop Vox.
It’s clear after about one and a half tracks that this band has got something very special going for it, and a further recent effort, the breathtaking ‘Night Visions’, long and elegant, firmly reinforces this.
Much of this band’s elegance is produced by Emma Thornton’s cello, which has the dual role of providing a deeply melodic backdrop to some tracks while acting as a substitute bass on the tracks where two guitars are being used. She also switches over to bass for the more rocking tracks, of which there are several of differing degrees of violence, topped by the brutal ‘Dog Meat’, a three(ish) chord post-Punk thrash of immense power, with an instrument-free Rogers showing that not only does she do the Siren call but she can also growl one out as well – it’s my favourite of the night – it could strip paint at a hundred paces and produces a tremendous crowd reaction.
Guitarist Curtis Warner also comes right to the fore in this one, crashing out the chords to add to the bell-like clarity of his fine soloing during the evening, he also adds very fluent bass to a couple of tracks.
They do just under an hour, which goes very, very fast. I turn to the bloke next to me, who’s still, miraculously, standing and ask him what he thought. “They’re [expletive deleted] brilliant, mate – what are they called again?”
The band is called White Lilac and you’re going to be hearing a lot about them.
(images used by kind permission of Geoffrey Head)
Punk may have been a very short-lived phenomena but it stormed the barricades, turned the music scene on it’s head and completely changed the way we thought about what music could accomplish. Tonight you can relive those times through the songs, the attitude and the sheer live energy as Useless Eaters lead us through a set of iconic songs from both sides of the Atlantic – https://www.facebook.com/events/1670576679842991/
Sometimes a bit of a moan does some good. After pointing out a distinct lack of diversity and originality in last weeks live music options, I’m pleased to report a complete turn around in the situation. Still very rock and metal heavy orientated but with plenty of options, a nice mix of genres and a high percentage of people playing their own songs. Just the sort of thing to keep an aging, music scribe happy. It could be that the music Gods heard my frustrations, re-aligned planets and orchestrated a change. It could be that people read this column and heed my advice or it could be mere coincidence. If this was the “ask the audience” part of the show I bet you all just hit option three but I know you are just toying with me.
Fans of heavier music might want to consider camping out at The Victoria this week as they offer 4 shows that are going to appeal to that ilk, starting tonight with the first of two bills courtesy of Dredded Virus Promotions. Live Rounds play a dense and tight blend of rock that can be best summed up with the acronym NWOBHM and if you have to Google that then it probably isn’t for you. A more extreme and technical sound is offered by Kinasis and I heavily suggest (gedit?) that you get there early enough to catch Homeland, whose more drifting soundscapes are, for my money, the most interesting prospect of the three.
Retro fans have two options to juggle on Friday as The Runaway Boys bring their tribute to Stray Cats to the Rolleston. So break out the crepes and drapes and jive the night away. But if instead of a tribute to US East Coast rock ‘n’ roll, you are looking for the real thing, then Boston’s Jittery Jack are back at Riffs Bar, authentic rockabilly and swinging grooves and with support from Josie and The Outlaw. Always a sell out, I would advise buying a ticket in advance.
Rock is again on the menu, firstly with band of the moment A Way With Words who bring their big riff driven anthemic rock to The Victoria. Their shows are always great but the fact that they have the brilliant, dark, slow burning sounds of Scout Killers (pictured) and the alt-rock goodness of Over To You makes this a very special gig indeed.
Other serving suggestions are Alter Chaos who play rock covers at The Castle and who throw in a few songs that you won’t be expecting and Useless Eaters at The Locomotive who deliver an explosive set of classic punk from both sides of the Atlantic.
And staying at The Locomotive, on Saturday Backdrop Promotions have their first show in the new venue, in the shape of two young indie bands on the rise. If impulsive and energetic indie pop, shoe-gazing soundscapes and a fired up live show is your sort of thing then Coco Esq and Westways have it all in spades.
Back at The Victoria’s week of rock and Cold Harbour and their emotive hardcore provide the headline for this line up with the brutally technical and technically brutal Belial, From Dusk Till Dawn (never pick a film title as a band name if you want to be found on social media easily) Heriot and Ursus also on the bill.
Sloe Train play blues classics with a heavy dose of go to guy, Joe Bonamassa at The Rolleston, it’s acoustic covers at The Castle with Stripped and at The Beehive the Shocks of Mighty DJ’s will be spinning ska, rocksteady and reggae tunes.
One final dip into the world of guitar shredding, posturing and schlock–shock is found at The Victoria on Tuesday with The Mammothfest warm up show which after a few changes has settled on Hell Puppets, Annero and Antoinette.
And if after all of that you are looking for something a bit on the mellow side, on Wednesday, Jim Chorley at The Roaring Donkey offers something more along the lines of Ralph McTell or James Taylor, with songs about such things as romantic meetings on the cobbled streets of a midnight city and the magical, mystical, mysteries of love and nature.
So that is another Swindon Shuffle done and I have to say that just how much diversity and originality it brings to our local music community can be seen when this, a typical week, is held up in comparison. Now I know my expectations may be a bit unrealistic for what is essentially a quiet, ex-railway town still struggling with its own cultural identity, I am aware this isn’t Ladbroke Grove in the 60’s or even Bristol in the 90’s, I know this ain’t the Garden of Eden and this ain’t the Summer of Love …sorry, been listening to too much Blue Oyster Cult again. But after 5 days of ambling between acoustic soloists and ska ensembles, indie fashionistas, ambient soundscapers, close harmony groups and established bluesmen, folk bands, alt-rock warriors and everything in between, it seems that as soon as the fat lady has sung (or in this case The Shudders have played the last chord of Rockin’ In The Free World) the town returns to a formulaic round of predominantly rock standards as if nothing had happened. Surely as a town we can be more demanding than this? Please?
That said, Thursday offers up one of the most original, some might say downright odd, musical characters on the folk circuit today. Head down to The Beehive and you will find Ash Mandrake (pictured), who just may be a troubadour from a warped version of Middle Earth come armed with music, loop pedals, stories, humour, homemade guitars and strange hats…though some say that he is actually from Manchester.
At The Victoria Running Man play “aggressive progressive heavy rock” and substitute set-lists for battle plans where songs are not played but attacked…apparently. They will be raising money for Swindon 105.5, our local radio station that does so much sterling work within the community.
By Friday we have settled into a less adventurous groove, though The Chaos Brothers at The Locomotive is worth consideration. On paper they may just be another punk and rock covers band but the live reality is one of incendiary deliveries and industrial levels of mucking about, blistering guitars and a belligerent attitude…that’s a good thing right?
Tributes seem then to be the order of the day with The Toxic Twins at The Victoria bringing Aerosmith’s music to life, Strictly Dan doing the same for Steely Dan at The Rolleston and T.Rexstacy at The Wyvern, which I’m guessing, needs little explanation.
The Victoria continues into Saturday with more of the hard and heavy from Sleep Inertia. This band is much more than “what The Dead Lay Waiting did next” and the title of their ep “Growth, Decay, Transformation” might even be an apt description of their career path so far, the transformation resulting in a tight, energetic and brutally heavy live band that even non-metal fans can appreciate. Edenfalls and Solace in Nightmares join them.
At the other end of the spectrum and indeed the other end of town you can find White Lilac at The Locomotive. In a short space of time this band have crafted a brilliantly unique sound that references the dark atmospheres of Joy Division and the dreamscapes of The Cocteau Twins within it’s swirling, sonorous musical creations and are, for my money, one of the most original bands treading the boards at the moment. The fact that their music is also some of the most beautiful is just a wonderful bonus. Support comes from Andy Oliveri whose fragile disposition and heart-on-sleeve conviction make him perfectly placed.
A group of musicians including members of one-time baggy scene front runners Scorpio Rising and neo-prog rockers Credo might not be the obvious foundation for a punk covers band but that is exactly what One Chord Wonders are and you can party like it’s 1977 to their first generation, predominately brit-punk classics at The Swiss Chalet.
More rock covers are on the menu courtesy of Dodging The Bullet at The Rolleston, with Shred guitarist Darren Hunt at The Jovial Monk and from Down And Dirty at The Castle.
Wednesday puts something a bit different back on the map as a solo set from Blind River Scare main man Tim Manning provides wonderful blends of celtic folk and Americana at The Roaring Donkey.