Sounds Around Town : 2nd – 8th July

1012956_904802992877241_2155179617826228911_nWe need to talk about Kanye. Now I’m not saying that he is personally responsible for a decline musical creativity but he certainly is a symptom of the way the modern music industry works. If the benchmark for “creative genius” (his own words) is an autotuned, vocoder drenched, bad karaoke routine set to samples and a brief duet with Lee Nelson, then is it any wonder that truly original music is currently playing a back foot, defensive stroke? If this is what it takes to be one of the biggest, and biggest selling, acts on the planet then it makes you worry for the integrity of music in the near future. Doesn’t it?

However you could argue that the root of new musical developments comes from revolution against the mainstream. Folk music, jazz, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, punk, hip-hop, all began as the sound track to musical (and often social) revolution, so maybe future musicologists will thank Kanye for being the catalyst for change, though not in the way the self appointed musical messiah would have hoped.

But enough of the ivory tower endof the industry, what about the grassroots? Well, we are on much safer territory at The Victoria tonight when SNDubstation break out their infectious dub, reggae, and ska and fuse them into a highly energetic live show. Support comes from Conway, a band coming from similar genre-stock, so get your dancing trousers dusted off and start the weekend in style.

The big news for Friday is the launch of a new venue. The Locomotive in Fleet Street is opening its doors once more, this time as a dedicated music venue and making sure this first night goes with a bang, Interlight, one of the best cover bands on the circuit, will be providing some choice musical cuts to get the party rolling.

The Victoria will also be providing something a bit special as The Tribe (pictured) launch their new e.p. The Rise of The Tribe. Having caught their launch gig at the end of last year I can honestly say that what they do is second to none as a live experience. A solid reggae and funk core overlaid with hip-hop and dance grooves, soulful vocals and staccato rap deliveries. Add Melbourne based rapper, Lotek, into the equation and you have a gig hipper than a bearded guy with a lumberjack shirt and fedora drinking espresso from a jam jar whilst writing a food blog.

The rest of Friday takes a more cautious creative line with Bootleg Floyd over at Riffs Bar playing songs from Animals, Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here and The Killertones providing a tribute to the best of the ska and 2-Tone genres at The Swiss Chalet. For a more genre-hopping, chronologically fluid experience you have Hyperbolics at The Castle and The Great Nothing at The Rolleston.

Saturday’s original offerings cater for the rock crowd – The Damned and The Dirty and The Starkers at The Victoria offering classic and grunge centred songs respectively and At The Rolleston, Innes Sibun’s high-octane electric blues make a welcome return. Below at Level 3 you get the best of both worlds with Transmission, a tribute to the bleak but beautiful soundscapes of Joy Division with support from nu-gazers Sahara Heights whilst Distant Echoes remind us of The Jam’s past glories at The Swiss Chalet.

The second night of The Locomotive’s opening weekend plays host to Alter Chaos who pick out the best music from the last 40 years of rock to entertain you and if something of a more Caribbean origin is to your taste then the Shocks of Mighty DJ’s at The Beehive will be just what you are looking for.

Final mentions of the week are for Ray Jones at The Castle on Sunday and at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday Jack Moore performs a frenetic acoustic set, which references everything from Gogol Bordello to Queens of The Stone Age.

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Groovers on Manoeuvres (from The Ocelot July – ’15)

We read so many news items about venues closing down, that when you actually hear of one opening up it is a cause for celebration. Ladies and Gentleman I give you …The Locomotive! Located in Fleet Street, the heart of Swindon’s club and late night bar scene, it will offer something unique to the area. With most of the venues catering for fans of original music located in Old Town, the venue will bring a new musical dimension to the area. But that isn’t to say cover and tribute bands won’t also be on the cards as The Locomotive aims to deliver a wide spectrum of genres and styles, to deliver something for everyone. So what is in store for the music punter? Already at time of writing they have punk covers, rootsy blues originals, 50’s standards, pop-punk and more lined up so by the time the venue opens on 3rd July I’m guessing that they will have a pretty impressive events diary to look forward to. Of particular note is the fact that they have secured a pretty special show in November, a little way off I know, but worth mentioning. Fans of indie icons and Creation label stalwarts House of Love and Adorable will want to make a note in the diary that Terry Bickers and Pete Fij will be playing there as a duo on the 7th. That as a statement of the venues commitment to providing great music speaks volumes. Think of the new venture as a splash of real colour in an otherwise Day-Glo haze. Or a Trojan Horse smuggling culture and musical creativity past the guardians of insipid pop soundtracks and over played chart dross. Or just think of it as somewhere new and cool to hang out. Which ever your preference, any music venue bucking the trend and opening its doors in such times has got to be worth checking out. Right?

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Sounds Around Town – 25th June – 1st July

10628059_765161323523366_7975140535020360117_nIt’s a bit of a quieter than normal week ahead, either that or more venues and promoters than usual have gone into stealth mode to try and slip under the punters radar, after all you don’t want just anybody turning up, paying entrance fees and buying drinks, I mean where would it end? A blossoming musical community? Bands earning a decent wage? Promoters staying at their jobs for more than six months? No-one want’s to see that, do they? That said, looking into the future it looks like the next few months are going to see an upsurge in live gigging opportunities with at least one new venue opening (as mentioned last week) plus I also picked up on some online scouting for bands to play a yet undisclosed live music night. We have always been a town where the band to venue ratio was seriously off kilter so maybe the next few months will see this addressed. The question is do we have the right bands to maintain the levels of quality and indeed the punters to fully support this possible creative bloom. Time will tell.

Okay, lets start out at Riffs Bar for a change and a show tonight aiming to raise money for two very worthy causes, Younite Outreach Project and Teenage Cancer Trust. The bill includes bands – Westways, Misfires, The Primaveras, a more stripped back set from Abbie Sims and Chris Stone plus Kate Musty and a number of other performers from the Academy of Music and Sound.

At The Victoria, Dredded Vyrus Promotions continue their quest to bring you the best in rock and metal with a show featuring the down tuned brutality of Old Boy and the progressive metal intricacies of Ursus. If that isn’t your cup of tea then Claude Bourbon’s wonderful mix of blues, jazz, folk, classical and flamenco guitar, at The Beehive, offers a more chilled alternative.

Friday sees one of Swindon’s prodigal sons return for a hometown show. After starting his musical career in a number of dodgy (didn’t we all?) punk-pop outfits he eventually found his musical identity in the more aggressive end of the burgeoning nu-folk movement and now is just as likely to be found opening for the likes of The Levellers or New Model Army as he is playing the regional venue circuit. Gaz Brookfield returns with his brilliant, trusty fiddle player Ben, a bag of great tunes, the on-stage energy of a teenager and a new album up for grabs. Joining him is The August List (pictured), a duo trading in stripped down roots and raw Americana plus Jake Martin and his punked up country vibes.

The Castle opts for the poignant social observations and insightful tunesmithing of Steve Leigh ‘s Kitchen Sink Dramas, music very much in the mould of Squeeze, Crowded House and the Bard of Barking himself, Billy Bragg. Music with a message in an age of commercialism and banality, very rare indeed.

The music of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robben Ford and the like is on the menu at The Rolleston with The Mike Hoddinott Blues Allstars but if something more in a rock, ska and punk vein is to your tastes then the answer will be found at Riffs Bar with RSvP.

Saturday is surprisingly quiet, (unless my opening joke about stealth gigs is actually ironically correct) but two top tributes are presented for your delectation. At The Victoria Before The Dawn pay tribute to Kate Bush’s mercurial musical career, a totally theatrical affair, as you would expect, backed up with flawless musicianship and that WOW factor…gedit?

And if that wasn’t enough, The Rolleston also has something a bit special with The First Raitt Band. Pun aficionados will have worked out that this is a tribute to legendary, flame-haired, bottleneck blues wizard Bonnie Raitt. A tough choice to be made that night for music fans.

And finally, mentions must go to The Hippie Club playing The Castle on Sunday and at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday it is the welcome return of David Marx and his animated and engaging performance of emotive and lyrically astute songs.

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Sounds Around Town : 18th – 24th June

10990686_965393156804499_8305294043980686088_nI’ll start this week with a bit of a heads up, as they say in the sort of circles where they say such things. We are so used to seeing articles about music venues closing, it will come as a wonderful shock to the live music aficionado to note that there is a new music venue arriving in town. The Locomotive in Fleet Street will be opening its doors on 3rd July and will cater for fans of original and cover bands of all styles. Without going into too much detail, upcoming events and news of the refurbishment can be found at their Facebook page but a new venue for live music has to be something we can all get behind.

One thing I love about the summer is the influx of international musicians who arrive on our shores to catch the festival circuit and to take advantage of those three weeks when the rain is slightly warmer, and many of them head for The Beehive. Statistics that I have just made up show that a high percentage come from Australia or Germany, so it makes sense for the venue to book a Berlin based artist originally from Western Australia. Prita blends acoustic soul and folk together, utilises looping pedals and then ices the musical cake with a captivating vocal. Do not miss this one.

The Victoria opts for something just as interesting with a wonderful indie line up spearheaded by The King in Mirrors and their post-punk referencing rough and ready guitar pop. Joining them are The Hi-Life Companion, currently touring their second album of chiming underground pop, Our Years In The Wilderness and opening proceedings will be the heroes of yelpcore (their words not mine) Oui Legionnaires, a bizarre collision of pop, punk and angular indie that has to be seen to be believed.

On Friday, with the exception of The Teddy White Band’s (pictured) swath of swing, beat and R’n’B at The Beehive, the rest of the town seems to be catering for the rock fraternity (come on guys didn’t we talk about avoiding diary clashes like this?) Metal Gods treat The Rolleston to 80’s and 90’s rock covers and at The Castle, The Lewis Creavan Band will be running through a set of electric blues from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King and Pat Metheny.

The original end of the spectrum comes in the guise of All Ears Avow who launch their debut album Get In The Game at The Victoria. Blending pop-punk, alt-rock and progressive metal, they serve up killer riffs and sing along choruses and back it up with one of the most energetic stage shows around. Joining them are self-described “nerdy neo-rock” band Double Exposure who come all the way from Ottawa, Canada plus intelligent pop-punksters, With Ghosts.

Saturday seems to have all the bases covered generically speaking. Purveyors of virtuosic folk, Grubby Jack, put their spin on traditional tunes from the Old World and the New, via fiddle, banjo and guitar, but if you want to see what the young indie scene is up to then head to Level 3. Polar Front is a new band that effortlessly blends Indie atmospherics, R’n’B grooves and electro beats, and I have to say that they sound pretty damn good to me. Joining them on the bill is Coco Esq, Westways, Sahara Heights and Yves…if you want to see the future movers and shakers of the local (and not so local) scene, this is the place to be.

The Victoria will be grooving to the reggae and ska sounds of the Trench Town born Troy Ellis and his Hail Jamaica Band who are joined by local guardians of the rocksteady flame, The Erin Bardwell Collective. And the perfect way to round off a night of such glorious sounds can be found at The M.E.C.A. and their Northern Soul and Motown DJ’s playing into the early hours.

Covers come in all shapes and sizes….if music can have a shape or size, Alter Chaos and Broken Image play rock and metal at The Queens Tap and Swiss Chalet respectively and a more scattergun delivery of genres and eras can be found with Toxic at The Castle and Paradox at Riffs Bar.

The final mention is for Skins and Strings at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday, a wonderful collection of exotic tabla beats and acoustic guitar lines that can groove and soothe in equal measure.

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Sounds Around Town : 11th – 17th June

426330_472706166084333_342403751_nThere is a lot going on this week so I’m going to cut to the chase straight away but let you into a little secret that there is a theme running through this piece, the prize for spotting it is the knowledge that you have sound musical taste, which is better than any prize I could afford to offer up anyway.

Starting at the top of the hill, at The Victoria good music and worthy causes go hand in hand as bands gather to raise awareness, not to mention money, for Sue Ryder and the great work they do at The Leckhampton Hospice. Although known for a big, alt-rock sound, A Way With Words will be all stripped down and playing an acoustic set and are joined by local troubadour Ben Wiltshire and the chilled musical vibes of The Dirty Smooth.

At The Beehive the monthly Acoustic Buzz night continues to bring together the best of folk and roots music, this time featuring Boss Caine, who conjures up Tom Waits singing Ryan Adam tunes and Iron and Oak who blend vocals, guitar and violin into wonderfully melancholic folk music. Your host Blind River Scare get the night underway.

Level 3 has a night called Beats and Bars, a hip-hop showcase with DJ’s and live sets from Los Angeles resident Esko plus support from the best home-grown talent the genre has to offer, including DJ Triksta, Citizen Kane and BGenius.

Friday gives you the chance to catch another set from A Way With Words, this time in full, unchecked rock show mode as they play Riffs Bar and are joined by reggae, dub and ska fusion experts SN Dubstation to raise money for Goldenhar and Swindon Women’s Aid. Ska is also on the menu at the Castle with The Nomarks and other options are power pop, mod and soul with Peloton at The Victoria, soul and funk standards from The Heist at The Beehive and some stomping folk rock at The Rolleston courtesy of Flash Harry.

And so we head straight into the heart of Saturday night and one of the most unique bands you will ever see. Dirt Box Disco (pictured) are a blend of trashy garage rock, and glam punk who’s chaotic, theatrical and often bizarre stage show is something to behold, so head over to Riffs Bar and catch them along with local punk stalwarts Charred Hearts plus Borrowed Time and The Setbacks.

More raucousness can be found at The Castle with those riotous rhythm and blues boozers, The Hamsters from Hell. Expect uncompromising music, sweary interludes, beards and general mayhem.

If you are looking for something a little mellower, less likely to give you a heart-attack and fine (you must have got the theme by now surely?) for general consumption, maybe a night of vintage reggae and ska from The Shocks of Mighty DJ’s at The Beehive is a more palatable option.

For a live take on modern ska and reggae, Level 3 is the place to be as Brixton based Mangoseed blend funk guitar, rock bass and hip-hop deliveries to create a fresh and eclectic new direction for the genre. Joining them are the infectious, dance floor fillers Conway, ska-punksters The Larry Fish Experiment, inventor of opera reggae and soul ukulele aficionado Nakisha Esnard, plus another chance to catch SN Dubstation. Bop till you drop and tango till they’re sore.

Jamie Thyer brings his Worried Men to The Rolleston for some high-octane blues-rock, it’s rock, punk and pop covers at The Swiss Chalet with The Hyperbolics and Bon Giovi play at The Victoria.

Finally a last mention for Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey and the featured artist, Joe McCorriston. Joe spends all his time on the road and whether supporting the likes of Gaz Brookfield, playing big festivals or intimate gigs like this one, his brand of genre hopping folky-pop-punk always goes down a storm with the audience.

So there is more than enough there to keep the most demanding of music consumer satisfied. And that’s closing time.

NB: This week’s column was held together by plundered Tom Waits song titles. And why not…

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Sounds Around Town: 4th – 10th June

11040172_827700267312775_341274658678156230_nThirty-one years ago today, one of the biggest and most misrepresented albums in history was released; Springsteen’s Born in The USA. Although on the surface the title track seems to be a gung-ho anthem to the American dream, ironically misappropriated by Reagan’s Republican party, it is actually an indictment of American foreign policy and deals with the disillusionment and heartache of a returning Vietnam veteran trying to fit into a society that has rejected him. It was the song that truly made The Boss a global phenomena but if this is your only point of contact with his music I would urge you to delve into his earlier back catalogue for a series of albums about small town hustlers, blue collar scepticism, shattered dreams and the quest for a better life.

But, if your musical slant is one for the big anthemic rock sound, tonight’s Songs of Praise show at The Victoria has everything you need in the guise of Ghost of Machines (pictured). Currently pushing their second single, Fall of Empires, this local four piece meld a progressive edge with sky-scraping, dystopian alt-rock and have the image and delivery to back it up. Joining them is the stoner rock meets swamp blues of Armchair Committee and the rampant melodicism of Kernow’s finest, Even Nine.

Seemingly always the venue thinking furthest outside the box, The Beehive, brings you the gloriously named Garance Et Les Mitochondries who seem to need to invent their own unique labels to describe themselves, such as tramp-jazz, progressive gypsy and dirty tango and who sound like the music to a long lost fairground ride or an otherworldly cabaret act. I urge you to check these guys out.

Friday shows the lack of communication that hampers the cause of music in this town as two very similar bands vie for the same slice of the audience. At The Queens Tap, The Erin Bardwell Collective will be blending reggae, ska and rocksteady into a wonderful celebration of Jamaica’s musical heritage via original compositions. Train To Skaville at The Rolleston will be covering the same territory via all of the iconic songs from those genres. One audience into two bands doesn’t go, or doesn’t go far at least!

Remember a time before mainstream music became the bastion of auto-tuners, dance routines and a fast track to TV panel show fame? Well, you can re-live such an era at The Arts Centre tonight with the still gorgeous Judie Tzuke and her incredible vocal talents. (If anyone uses the term “poor mans Stevie Nicks they will have me to deal with!)

There are more rustic, rootsy revelations at The Beehive with State of Undress, a “fiddlesome” band who run the gamut of folk music from mellow and thought provoking to shamelessly riotous and do so with passion and a theatrical bent. Rorke’s Drift will be treating The Victoria to a night of classic rock from AC/DC to ZZ Top.

On Saturday the problem of more careful programing raises it’s head again as Broken Image at The Rolleson and Whole Lotta DC at The Victoria will be splitting the classic rock audience. The former play everything from AC/DC to Iron Maiden and the latter AC/DC to….well, that’s it; just AC/DC really, the name sort of gives it away I suppose.

58 Shakes bring a mix of standards and originals to The Queens Tap, specialising in 50’s rock ‘n’ roll, swing, surf and pop and guaranteed to have all you “hep” cats getting down, flipping your lids, cutting a rug and other such vintage phrases…Daddy-o! Meanwhile Karl Brookes will be taking a more acoustic indie-pop route up at The Castle.

On Monday The Academy of Music and Sound students will be raising money over at Riffs Bar for The Donkey Sanctuary charity with a night of live music that goes under the puntastic title of Slam-Donk!

And finally, talking of Donkeys, Mark Chilvers brings his wonderful blend of folk and acoustic pop to The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday. (I wasn’t implying Mark was a donkey!)

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This months Songs of Praise offerings.

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