The Swindon New Nu-gaze revolution.

16761_431631416987699_3056823681859735426_nI did my musical basic training in the early eighties (yes, I’m that old) a time of amazing musical progress as the barricades that had been kicked down by punk were truly trampled into the dust. Now they say that music is cyclical, I believe them as a lot of the sounds that made up my record collection from back then can be heard in a new crop of Swindon bands.


I guess young musicians often find music that is new to them in the record collections of their parents, one of the advantages of the aging process is that, being a similar age, the bands of my youth are being referenced once again.


The obvious one is Sahara Heights, an ambient drifting sound anchored with just enough backbeat to give it structure and reminding me a lot of Power of Dreams, a band I was fanatical about as the eighties came to an end. White Lilac (pictured) has been an interesting band to watch develop. Faye Rogers, in a brave, year zero attitude, has turned her back on her previous pastoral, innocent, folk-pop sound, re-launching her band under the new name and delivering a brooding raft of ethereal beauty, chiming guitars and Cocteau Twins style atmospherics.


Coco Esq similarly incorporate sonorous washes of guitar as textures behind the more solid building blocks of their music. Dynamically clever, broodingly post-punk in their references and a wonderfully passionate stage presence means that they are another to watch out for.


Music is sometimes like a Rubik’s cube, turn it in the right sequence and all the colours line up and suddenly you have your own little scene of associated bands and ideas. Welcome to the new, nu-gaze revolution.

originally published in The Ocelot March ’15

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Sounds Around Town – 26th February – 4th March

1454601_785932734795095_2432621929046862276_nI recently found myself in a conversation with a tattooed, rock acolyte being told in no uncertain terms that heavy metal was the only genre of music that mattered and that all else failed to match up to it. Two things, however, immediately undermined his argument; firstly the fact that he was wearing a Limp Bizkit t-shirt and also the continued existence of Twisted Sister. For me the enjoyment of music comes from having a broad-minded approach to it. If you are a foodie, then surely you frequently sample many styles of cuisine, if you like travelling then your destinations are varied and many. Therefore if music has an important place in your life then is it not best to experience all of its many facets? My suggestion that he went home and listened to some Marvin Gaye was met with a derisory snort… his loss I guess. This weeks offerings are indeed varied and many, so if you like music in all its forms you have a treat of a week coming up.


Blues is the order of tonight. Having interviewed Elles Bailey (pictured) recently at an “in session” show on a local radio station, I already know what an incredible talent she is, the rest of you will have to head up to The Beehive to check out her sultry blues delivered with a sensuous, husky vocal and an energetic stage presence. A more funky take on the genre can be found in the top bar of The Victoria as Jim Blair breaks out his trademark slide blues and whiskey cracked vocal.


Friday actually continues in a similar vein with The Husky Tones at The Rolleston. This raw and energetic band mix up their own vibrant, electric guitar driven compositions with standards from some of the genres greats. At The Victoria a tribute to one of the finest southern blues acts can be found in the shape of The ZZ Tops.


Saturday is where things get a lot more eclectic but again a clash of bookings means that fans of the distinctive Caribbean sound will have to make a choice. At The Victoria, the Shocks of Mighty Reggae Club Night features Sidewalk Doctors, London’s finest purveyors of Rocksteady, that brief but breezy interlude that provided the link between the existing ska sound and the evolving reggae genre. It’s also the sound at the heart of support band The Erin Bardwell Collective’s music.


Ska and Rocksteady can  be found at The Rolleston to as Boy le Monti also revel in that glorious 60’s vibe, so expect off-beat, staccato guitars, pulsing basslines and glorious blasts of brass. Honestly, they are like busses, you wait ages for one to come along and then three show up at once. Actually a similar thing was overheard at the recent Bruce Springsteen look-alike competition. (He’s called The Boss…..think about it…no, well please yourself it made me laugh anyway.)


Of interest to the gig goers at the two shows I have just mentioned, The MECA have a night of DJ’s spinning Northern Soul and Motown, going on until 2am so you know where to go for the after party.


Imagine Vic Reeves leading a band. Okay, forget that just head up to The Beehive on Saturday and catch Bill Smarme (king of the social club crooners, love guru, connoisseur of fine wines and marmalades and building contractor) and his band The Business. I will say no more, but do catch them.


Cover band fans can catch all their favourite tunes from Penfold who celebrate their birthday bash out at Riffs Bar, those with a penchant for the heavier sounds should head to The Swiss Chalet and tuck into a bit of Shepherds Pie.


The Sunday afternoon session at The Beehive features the pop vibes of James Cottriall, a man who won the Austrian version of The Voice in 2009. Now I know that sounds like me setting up a joke and you are waiting for a witty punchline, but in this case it happens to be true.


And finally Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey is the place to find Ells and The Southern Wild a wonderful trio who weave folk, pop and rock together to deliver delicate, accessible and memorable songs.

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Sheer brilliance!

tourflyerwebI just wanted to draw your attention to a wonderful article written by that awfully nice chap Kieran Moore of Sheer Music and possibly Maoam adverts fame (okay it isn’t him but it makes me laugh) about the state of the local music scene at the moment. Take a minute or two to read it, take on board what he is saying and get involved.


Read Here

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Sounds Around Town – 19th – 25th February

544560_586659531391273_2070667669_nAs time goes on music seems to get more and more compartmentalised, ever more exotic labels and terms seem to come into play to create demarcation between music styles. Now, I grew up musically in the 80’s and things were quite tribal then, in any given pub the mod would be glaring at the punk, the metaller would be chatting to the glam rocker out of solidarity, the new wave kids would be geeking over the forthcoming Bunnymen album and the two goths would be sipping cider and black in the shadows. That was a world that made some kind of sense to me. Recently I have had to struggle which such subgenres as Djent apparently not a village in Tunisia (recycled joke alert!) Math-core, Gyp-hop, Vedic Metal, Sadcore, and a host of other niche scenes. Where will it end?


One band that can be found in a very small genre, possibly its only inhabitants, are those glorious purveyors of Puzzle-pop…for want of a better description, Oui Legionniares, a soundclash of the best bits of pop, indie and punk reassembled in strange and intriguing ways. They can be found tonight at The Victoria sandwiched between shimmering, shoegazing vibes of Sahara Heights and headliners Yves equally exotic soundscapes.


Another wonderful fusion of styles can be found at The Beehive as Mambo Jambo weave together the distinctive sounds of bluegrass, Latin, Caribbean, New Orleans, Balkan, jazz, folk and more besides into a sunny and vibrant feast of music.


And in the “if you like that, you’ll like this” department, and staying at The Beehive for a moment, on Friday you will find Grubby Jack the renowned local fast folk trio who mix fiendish banjo with high velocity fiddle-breaks to deliver classic celtic and Appalachian styles.


Other options will suit rock fans but they will have to choose between the hard-rocking electric blues of The Lewis Creavan Band at The Rolleston or the classic metal showcase of Metalhead at The Victoria.


One of the most important bands of my formative years can be found at Level 3 on Saturday as The Men They Couldn’t Hang provide the headline act to celebrate Charred Hearts front man, Dermot Fullers 50th Birthday bash. This is a semi-private affair with entry by ticket only but how often do I get to talk about the outfit that made me want to join a band in this column? (Yes, they have a lot to answer for!)


Similarly raucous folk and roll can be found with celtic, cider punk, party animals Mick O’Toole in The Rolleston, think The Pogues meet The Clash and prepare to dance the night away. And talking of “the last gang in town” you can catch a tribute to them in the guise of Radio Clash at The Victoria.



So with the old punk posse well catered for we can cast our eyes out towards Riffs Bar and a bit of an old boys reunion. Blueprint’s heyday may have been around 15 years ago but that hasn’t stopped them dusting off the instruments and hitting the stage once more. Support comes from 80’s underground pop referencing The King In Mirrors and indie rock stalwarts Rocket Box.


Fans of slick, 70’s pop should head along to The Swiss Chalet as vocal duo Abbaholics relive the hits of…well, I’m sure you can work out where they are coming from.


Things get a bit quiet until Wednesday when you can catch two solo acts at The Roaring Donkey whose bands have played a major part in local music over the years, Neil Mercer (Rumour Shed, Dacoits, Seven Years on) and Dave Corrigan (good Things Happen In Bad Towns, Spacehopper.)


And to end on a real bang, at the same time Gnarwolves return to The Victoria courtesy of Sheer Music. Infectious, abrasive, sing-along punk at it’s finest. Support comes from the equally punchy Boxkite and opening the night is the more saccharine pop-punk of As The Sun Sleeps.




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Gig of The Week – Mick O’Toole @ The Rolleston, 21st February.

10898065_874182165967926_9216773324815699506_nFollowing in the footsteps of such bands as The Pogues, Flogging Molly and The Greenland Whalefishers (no? Just me then!) comes Mick O’Toole a five-piece Celtic, cider punk party. Hailing from Calne (the same town that gave us The Boys From County Hell), theirs is a sound that channels the spirit of every drunken wedding, every lock-in, every campfire gathering, Fleadh festival, Ceilidh and party there has ever been.


Combining Banjo, accordion and mandolins with the more standard modern rock band instrumentation, they may sound like another boozy bar band but there is a spark at the heart of the music that suggests that someday they will write their very own Sally MacLennane or Fairytale of New York and the rest, as they say, will be history. Catch them at The Rolleston 21st February whilst they are still a local phenomenon.

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Port Erin In The Area…


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Review of White Lilac, Familiars and Coco-Esq at The Victoria, Swindon – 13th Feb ’15

937 FamiliarsA wonderful review of the recent Songs of Praise show by musical archivist and gig-goer extraordinairre David Rose can be found at the link below.

David Rose Gig Diaries


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