Sounds Around Town : 21st – 27th March

10610718_10204028129436153_5315881325549068002_nWith a couple of major music gatherings taking place this week, we shall go once more unto the breach, without further ado.

The big one for your musical diaries is that stalwart of the local listings, Riffstock. Taking place throughout this weekend and raising money for a heap of charities and worthy causes, this iconic event has too many bands playing to list them all here, so I have just given you a taster to pique your interest but the full picture can be found on the venues website. Friday night ranges between the mercurial, progressive sounds of The Listening Device and the more direct punk machinations of 2 Sick Monkeys, with a special mention going to the anagrammatic Wes Bull a set where literally anything could happen. Saturday features a rare outing for cavernous sounding art punks, Sea Mammal, the incendiary punk-Americana of Coasters and the shimmering shoegaze referencing of Sahara Heights. Sunday is billed as the family day and perennial favourites Nudybronque, The Shudders and The AK Poets are all worth checking out.

The other major gathering is to be found at The Swiss Chalet on Sunday, who will be raising money for The Prospect Hospice via raffles and auctions, stalls and food, the musical line up features all the venues favourite cover bands and original solo players, such as Broken Image, Cover Junkies, Drew Bryant and Charlie Anne. Again get the full picture at their Facebook page.

So that’s this week’s specials board, now on to the regular menu (note to self, don’t write when you are hungry, it effects the language you use.)

This weeks main Songs of Praise show, tonight at The Victoria, is a bit of a roots music goldmine with the wonderfully named Kid Calico and The Astral Ponies(pictured) delivering a combination of lilting folk, rustic Americana and psychedelic workouts. Support comes from the ever-popular, ever-chilled, underground country vibes of Case Hardin and infectious folk-pop pixie Tamsin Quin.

Weird musical explorations are on the cards on Friday, firstly with the proggy-psychedelia, instrumental meanderings and retro references of The Automaniacs at The Beehive but also from Electric Sheep whose Zappa-esque experimentations can be found at The Rolleston. Former Ocean Colour Scene man Andy Bennett brings his solo work, which leans heavily in the direction of classic English songwriters such as Ray Davis and Paul Weller, to The Swiss Chalet. Fans of cover bands can opt for classic rock with The Ray Jones Band at The Castle or indie and rock with Vice Versa at The Victoria.

The Hamsters from Hell’s work rate moves between the positively glacial to the almost frantic, currently they seem to be in the latter mode and hence popping up at venues all over the place. If you want to catch their unique brand of R’n’B then get yourself up to The Victoria on Saturday. The Rolleston is the place to be for Rockabilly Rumble, authentic rockabilly with a twist and I have yet to decide if their cover of Echo and The Bunnymen’s finest hour, The Killing Moon, is brilliant or sacrilegious. I think it maybe both!

Elsewhere it is a scattergun of genres and era’s covered by Angel Up Front at The Woodlands Edge, Alter Chaos at The Swiss Chalet and Echo at The Castle. Not that I’m an expert on such things, but if I was going to go the tried and tested route I would head to Level 3 for Kova Me Badd who place tongues firmly in cheeks and destroy many of the favourite songs of your youth. Childhood memories will be ruined, the cause of music will be put back at least five years, and somehow it will still be brilliant.

Sunday is more of the same with The Tin Shack Band at The Rolleston and Juicy Acoustic, a duo who add loop pedal and percussion into the mix and push a few boundaries along the way, at The Castle.

The final musical call to arms comes on Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey with Ed Hanfrey Et Al. This three-piece outfit explore the traditional folk experience, blowing the dust off of timeless pieces and re-interpreting them for a modern audience.

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Moonfest – In Aid of Crohn’s and Colitis UK

10978528_10206449370499975_5340061803394851914_n-1Worthy causes and great music go hand in hand on 16th May in the shape of Moonfest, an evening of music being held at The Moonrakers in Cricklade Road. About 260,000 people in the UK suffer from Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease, half of which are diagnosed before they are 29 and teenage sufferers are also common. Even though money may be scarce at the moment, £10 will get you into a great event that is raising much needed money for this charity. But it isn’t just a feeling of having done the right thing that you will gain from the night; you also get to experience 6 top musical acts.

What better booking to headline this night than local boy made good, Josh Kumra? After breaking out of the local circuit he made a name for himself in London and found himself one half of the number one single Don’t Go, with rapper Wretch 32. Likened to a young Ray Lamontagne or Ben Harper he is worth your entrance fee alone.

Joining him are White Lilac who reference the likes of Joy Division and The Cocteau Twins to create wonderful atmospherics and shimmering soundscapes and Zero Return who give a contemporary twist to classic rock.

The Summits, Oscillator and Natures can also be found doing their bit, so why don’t you do yours too, all you have to do is turn up, have a drink and take in some of the best acts on the local, and not so local, scene.

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Sounds Around Town : 14th – 20th May

10384282_524686984329584_2829732092505597701_nThis week’s contentious offering goes like this. Has music lost its voice? Performing music and releasing records is a wonderful platform, which has been used since time immemorial to communicate information. From Dark Age Sagas and Medieval troubadours right through to the modern folk, hip-hop and punk movements, music has always had the power to be political, to spread social commentary and advocate change. Now in a society seemingly more ill at ease with itself than ever before music makers should be reminded of the power they hold. Songs such as Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding, The Special’s Ghost Town, John Lennon’s Imagine and Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddam have stood as important rallying points; so the question is, what will you do with your platform? Recycle the glories of the past, write throwaway tunes in the quest for fame or actually use it as a vehicle to exchange ideas? Why try to smash through physical barricades when with music you can smash through perceptions and apathy. Anyway, enough of the Ben Elton type rhetoric, on with the show.

And there are countless options to connect with live music this week, unless you do count them in which case there are about 15, starting tonight at The Beehive. Keegan McInroe seems to spend more time touring Europe than he does in his at his Texas home and tonight is the first of two opportunities to catch his finely woven threads of country, blues, folk and roots Americana; he is aided and abetted by various great and good of local music.

Friday sees the first of three gigs at The Castle, a venue that has consistently upped it’s game over the last year or so to become an integral part of the local circuit, with The Roughnecks bringing their incendiary brand of gritty, old school rhythm and blues.

If you are looking for familiar sounds then you have the options of either ska covers at The Victoria with The Killertones or the genre hopping Corduroy Kings at The Rolleston.

Going against the normal flow, Saturday sees a real spike in creativity as two of Swindon’s most prominent bands have record launch shows taking place. Colour The Atlas have made a name for themselves creating wonderfully cinematic, hazy trip-hop and although they have managed to secure some impressive tours and support some big name artists, when it comes to launching new material they are real home birds which means that you can catch them showcasing their new e.p. Amethyst at The Castle. If something more driven is your preference then Level 3 plays host to popular and dynamic alt-rockers A Way With Words, who are launching their own e.p. Reflections the very same night.

Two fundraisers also take place, firstly to raise money for a humanitarian trip to Kenya. Music for this evening comes from Kate Musty, Meghann Newcombe, Westways, Misfires and Sahara Heights. The other worthy cause to get behind is Moonfest and more about that can be found elsewhere on this page.

Rock tribute acts go head to head, Wizards of Oz (Ozzy Osbourne) are at The Rolleston and Hot Red Chilli Peppers (do I really need you spell this one out?) entertain The Victoria.

Mr Love and Justice host their usual Lazy Sunday Afternoon at The Central Library, joining them this time is Southern Harmony, who splice Americana and Celtic folk musical genes to impressive effect and hard hitting tribal funk-folk duo Insitu. If you still have a thirst for music after that you can continue into the evening at The Castle with Cristian Perugino.

Wednesday is surprisingly busy this week. It is the second chance to catch Texas blues man Keegan McInroe as he joins the bill at The Roaring Donkey along side ex-Snakes guitarist Richard Davis and new roots-pop duo, Bruce Street Bridges (named after an old time Chicago music hall crooner I believe.)   Also roots collective S’Go ( pictured) can be found at The Gluepot and at Level 3 things get heavy with punks Bob Malmstrom and metallers Bludger, Harmony Disorder and Belial.

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Sounds Around Town: 7th – 13th May

10850275_1508642422743307_3346557062355699842_nTomorrow is one of those days that resonate throughout history. On May 8th, 70 years ago, the world woke up to a Europe finally at peace after the ravages of war. Sixteen years before that The St Valentines Day Massacre made world headlines and more latterly, completing the cycle of world shaking deeds, in 1972, Ian “H” Watkins of Steps infamy was born, so it is obviously a date which is tied in with important historical events. Also tomorrow we will wake up to learn the fate of the next five years in the running of this country. But tonight we party. Thankfully, this weekend whether celebrating the result or drowning your sorrows there is no shortage of great sounds to do it to.

 

Those opting for a bit of a shindig should look no further than The Victoria tonight as Bite The Buffalo bring their “stomping, coffin blues” to town and show just why recent years have seen them play such festivals as SXSW and supports to none other than Robert Plant. Fresh out of the box, 2 piece The Harlers continue to re-connect with dirty blues-rock memories and openers The Johnstown Flood add grunge and warped guitars to the blues template.

 

At The Wheatsheaf, Darren Hodge deals in a gentler but no less mesmerising take on the same genre; an ear for tradition and some outstanding finger-picking dexterity are the order of the day and he is joined by the loved-up folk harmonies of Ethemia plus the elemental imagery and sounds of Drew Bryant. Sitting between the two, a funky blend of acoustic and gritty blues is Jim Blair who can be found at The Beehive.

 

And if Thursday had a heavy blues undercurrent, Friday takes a folkier stance. Firstly at The Beehive with Calico Jack (pictured), a band whose distinctive canal boat-folk blends gypsy jive, carnival chaos and shanty shenanigans to create twisted fairy tales and worlds of dark enchantment. For a punkier take on the genre, Mick O’Toole can be found at The Rolleston. Theirs is a howling banshee of a show in the tradition of Flogging Molly or Greenland Whalefishers, so if the idea of a sonic wall of aggressive accordion, mutilating mandolin lines and belligerent banjo forming the front line of a folk-punk onslaught sounds like your cup of cider, then this is the show for you.

 

At The Victoria, Buswell’s brand of indie-pop meets chamber folk will be providing the venue with sweeping majestic sounds not to mention some logistical headaches as the orchestral wing of this band often pushes the stage set up into double figures. Support comes from the lush dynamics and dark atmospherics of White Lilac and opening the show is the man known as Last Box of Sparklers and his hushed and fleeting, Nordic indie sounds. Incendiary blues-rock classics are delivered with spellbinding dexterity at The Queens Tap courtesy of The Lewis Creaven Band.

 

As usual, Saturday is the bastion of nostalgia, reminisence and the tried and tested (all of which could actually be names of cover bands themselves) but that doesn’t mean that they rock any less. In fact, out at Riffs Bar, the hardest partying band in town take the stage. Enjoy their set of rock, pop and indie classics, just don’t try matching them drink for drink at the bar afterwards.

 

Also rocking out like a good ‘un, The Sex Pissed Dolls, pun their way into level 3 to deliver a set of rock, ska and punk standards and at The Brookhouse Farm (moved from The Woodlands Edge) it’s the last chance to catch The Beat Holes before they return home to Italy. Imagine if The Beatles had formed out of the punk melting pot of 1976’s London squat scene and also liked to listen to heavy metal. Intrigued? Check them out, they are brilliant.

 

Other options are 1000 Planets punk, goth and alternative sounds at The Rolleston, power-pop, mod and soul from Peloton at The Swiss Chalet and vintage classic rock from Mid-Life Crisis at The Queens Tap.

 

There is just enough room to mention Peter Jagger and his political tinged folk songs at The Beehive on Sunday afternoon and David Marx’s poetic and poignant music at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday.

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Sounds Around Town – 30th April – 6th May

10624615_912882142057049_8368981823717551461_nThis week a slight change from the usual rambling introduction designed to enflame the on-line trolling music community to bravely yet anonymously level such original witticisms as “failed musician” or “do you even listen to music?” in my direction. Instead I thought that I would use the space to talk about a band that have been at the heart of Swindon’s music for more years than they probably care to remember.

 

Mr Love and Justice is a band drawn from a fluid pool of well-known musicians and acts as a musical soapbox for Steve Cox’s social, and sometimes socialist, commentary. The music is a unique blend of pastoral acoustics and west coast 60’s jangle and tonight you will find them at The Victoria to launch their latest album News From Nowhere. It is an album that sees them embracing their more psychedelic references, an album of songs about love and Haight, if you like, but still with a dash of the usual down to earth, acid-folk feel, political and literary references. With their fairly glacial paced approach to putting albums out, an album launch from them is something you won’t want to miss. Support is from Ells and The Southern Wild.

 

Some people are of the opinion that TV talent shows benefit the program makers and judges more than those pouring out their hearts onstage before them. Well, in 2009 James Cottriall took part in The Voice (Austrian version) and won. And tonight he plays The Beehive! Dreams do come true. Sorry, cynicism aside, in his defence he does do a neat line in euphoric, upbeat pop, so get your dancing trousers on and check him out.

 

On Friday a Caribbean vibe is in the air. Firstly in a very obvious form from Boy le Monti who play old school ska and rocksteady. Expect brass drenched tunes, infectious grooves and sweet harmonies from them at The Rolleston. Ska vibes can also be found in the music of Reginald Road but theirs is wrapped up with a punk drive reminiscent of the exotic seventies infusions that resulted when London punks took refuge in the city’s dub and reggae clubs. They play The Beehive.

 

More retro sounds can be found at The Windmill as The Corsairs, long established psychobilly-ska-punk outfit bring the madness and Riffs Bar plays host to The Plucking Different Ukulele Band who rework well known songs for massed ranks of….well, you work it out.

 

At The Victoria you can relive the sounds of the 90’s as tribute acts Oas-ish and Stereotonics act as your own musical time machine and at The Swiss Chalet it’s party covers from Mojo, a band who, according to their website have worked with no less than Keith Chegwin!

 

I will mention that rhythm ‘n’ booze favourites, Hamsters From Hell are playing at The Globe in Highworth on Saturday because they are the only original music I could find but if you like your music tried and tested then you can chose from Cash, a tribute to The Man In Black at The Victoria, Heavy Weather playing rock, soul and funk standards at The Rolleston, Friday Feeling playing undisclosed covers at The Woodlands Edge and Vice Versa laying out a musical stall of indie-rock standards at The Swiss Chalet.

 

Something funky comes to The Victoria on Sunday in the form of genre-hoppers Land Of The Giants. Breezy brass salvos, reggae and hip-hop grooves and indie and blues vibes all collide to make infectious dance floor fillers and with SN Dubstation in support it looks to be a great night. A second chance to catch Vice Versa can be had at The Rolleston and fellow covers band Penfold are at The Swiss Chalet.

 

Want something really different? How about an Italian blues duo that plays dressed as robots and who have opened for the likes of Springsteen and Deep Purple. The Cyborgs (pictured), odd band, great music. The Victoria. Tuesday. That is all.

 

 

And finally Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey, Jimmy Moore will be breaking up the working week for you – dexterous picking, beats, taps, slides and good time tunes that go far beyond the usual “guy with guitar” expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Goon but not forgotten

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Sounds Around Town – 23rd – 29th April

11046864_1103279833031869_8996770204076538641_nI 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?

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