Sounds Around Town : 12th – 18th July

TrueStrays2_2018And so, it is time. (Cue dramatic music.) Yes, the 12th Swindon Shuffle is upon us. I will apologise in advance for the bias in the coverage but with over 40 acts to add into the mix, obviously things are going to lean heavily in its favour. And to be honest, it is the only week of the year that original music out-numbers more tried and tested forms, so I think it is only healthy to give it a fair crack of the whip.

Tonight sees the first two Shuffle Sessions take fairly opposing routes, there’s no point splitting audiences after all. The Tuppenny is the place for the more acoustic sounds, opening with Atari Pilot, who you will remember as a high-octane dance-pop outfit but here easing back in after some time away with some solo renditions of those infectious songs. Tamsin Quin will be on hand to administer to those in need of charming blues and folk infused pop music and the session concludes with the Canute’s Plastic Army, a duo who wander between intimate folk, soaring blues and occasional brooding undertones.

At The Castle things take a harder route. Flour Babies open proceedings in their mercurial art-indie-prog-alternative-avant garde fashion before things rock up somewhat with Post 12’s pop-punk, Street Outlaws delivering working class, terrace anthems and then the welcome return of Slagerij and their ska-punk masterclass.

Baila will be hosting a live band, hip-hop jam session, so those who want to showcase their skills on the mic. should head along and get involved. Of course you can mix and match and wander between the opposing dynamics of all the three venues, that’s sort of the whole point.

The Victoria plays host to festival favourites Pyrates, a Dutch folk rock outfit with a distinctly nautical, not to mention naughty nature. Drinking and dancing songs aplenty…shanty not shandy!

 Friday sees The Shuffle notch things up a gear, the second session at The Castle kicking off with Matthew Bryant’s slick acoustica, followed by the eclectic and groovesome indie of Compact Pussycat and the fluid, funky and textured sound of Basement Club. Wilding play their Bowie/Bolan-esque music before the venue explodes into the ska-dance party that is SNDubstation.

The Victoria takes a more rock direction, kicking off with the low slung street rock of Falls on Deaf Ears before new kids on the block, The Oxymora, deliver brooding and dynamically shifting alt-rock take over. Monkfish’s trademark blasted and gothic tinged Americana throws some real darkness into the session before GETRZ show us where commercially viable, indie music is heading. The night rounds off with The Harlers expert blends of blues and garage rock.

Baila is the place to round the night off with the first of their two afterparty, DJ sessions, this one featuring John Stapleton for a funk, reggae and soul set from this legend of the Bristol scene.

Away from the festival, other options come in the form of Teddy White at The Tap and Barrel who plunder the back catalogue of underground classics, revive and rejuvenate a host of songs you had almost forgotten about from a time when music mattered more than record sales and people were, quite frankly, much better dressed. The Hipkiss Band return to the Queen’s Tap, bluesy guitars and succulent saxophone make for soulful rock sound whilst at The Rolleston, Damn Good Reason go the classic rock cover route.

The Shuffle always clashes with something, The World Cup and 2000 Trees aside, there are a couple of other local gatherings to tempt you on Saturday. The New Inn has a family day with music which includes, Drew Bryant’s deft acoustica, Darren Hunt’s one man rock spectacle and the fun and frolics of Get Schwifty’s crowd pleasing set.

Back in Shuffle mode, Saturday sees three sessions take place side by side so this is where you really need to plan your route. The Tuppenny hosts the mellower corner once again, Raze*Rebuild open with an acoustic show, Sumita sprinkles her musical fairy dust around, The King In Mirrors also takes a solo route, as do Steve Cox and Sarah C. Ryan before Josh Wolfsohn rounds the session off.

The Beehive is where it all gets a bit strange. It’s great to see Illustrations back with their lo-hi outsider vibe, Grasslands will be bringing his environmentally minded progressive, alt-pop and auralcandy defy definition except to say that they are always a must watch. Sex Jazz round the session off with their heavy grooving, Zappa inspired, brilliant and odd creations.

The Victoria opens up with Moleville, dulcet and delicate piano led, film score gorgeousness before Palm Rose take things down a more driven dream-pop route. Rainy Day Fund (formerly Shore) injects some indie pop into proceedings and Fabien Darcy puts the humour and accessibility back into hip-hop before Wasuremono, a band about to tour with Flaming Lips finish off with a set of wonky pop, oriental dreamscapes, beautiful and intricate music.

Again for reasons previously given, Baila is the final destination.

Other options come in the form of Sabotage, a tribute to Black Sabbath at Level 3, whilst upstairs at The Rolleston, Useless Eaters blast through a set of punk classics and Rorke’s Drift bring classic rock covers to The Queen’s Tap.

Acoustic music at The Tuppenny’s final Shuffle session on Sunday sees The Shudder’s in stripped back mode, and Jack Moore and Emily-Jane Sheppard delivering intimate and immaculate music, just right to ease you into the final day.

The final session of the festival is always a pretty hot and wild affair, with no other sessions, for the most part, competing for your attentions, this is the last hurrah and after party all in one. Strange Tales open with their post-punk synth and bass brilliance, Richard Wileman takes time out from his usual Karda Estra interests to deliver a new set of solo songs and Cobalt Fire is the new folk-rock vehicle for Ells Ponting and her brilliantly crafted music. Sunset Service does a neat line in British-Americana, Hiproute funk up the blues and the whole thing comes to a brilliant full stop courtesy of True Strays (pictured), who sound just like raggle-taggle folk-blues wranglers playing for the dime and delight of juke joints and cowboy bars in the dustbowl days of 1930s America.

And there you go, 55 bands, 2 DJ nights and a jam session! Can I stop writing now please?

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Sounds Around Town : 5th – 11th July

18195037_10155309848293308_5220412152281987086_nIn some respects this week is the calm before the storm, the deep breath before the plunge, the prawn cocktail before the chicken in a basket…okay, that one is a bit dated, a quieter week before next weekend’s annual Swindon Shuffle hoves into view. But there is still enough to whet your musical appetites and it isn’t every week that a music venues gets given a new lease of life and a major league act rolls into town.

The current wave of younger, local indie bands shows no sign of losing momentum with three of the finest bands of the moment taking the stage at The Victoria tonight. Basement Club make accessible, textured and fluid music based around funky grooves and nuanced guitar work, Xadium take a harder-edged route into the indie-rock sound and Kaleido Bay juggle some sumptuous and psychedelic sonics to make their sound.

A real slice of old school Americana and outlaw country comes to The Beehive in the form of Christopher Rees who delivers tales of optimism and consolation with a dash of whiskey wisdom via a passionate and memorable voice and deft rootsy songs.

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Sounds Around Town: 28th June – 4th July

30762906_2098286093774535_3079476132299407360_oSo, we have spent weeks waiting for this news to become a reality. We’ve all deliberated, cogitated and digested, and finally we have arrived. Friday night sees the re-opening of The Rolleston. In the first of two nights of music to usher in the new era, Innes Sibun will be taking time out from the European summer festival circuit to bring his new incendiary, electric blues outfit, The Malone Sibun Band (pictured) to play this opening event.

Also putting a bluesy twist on a range of well known classics and pre-loved songs,  all genres from funk to rock to reggae and of course blues itself, The Blind Lemon Blues Band can be found at The Queen’s Tap. If you want something seriously funky then Felix and The Funk, the clue is in the name can be found at Swiss Chalet with a plethora of dance, soul, disco, pop and funk. It looks like serious groove is back on the menu.

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Sounds Around Town – 21st – 27th June

33143351_787165064808179_3296224109318373376_o 16.32.28Tonight sees the return of a favourite to the local original circuit with Lewis Clarke and The Essentials striding the boards at The Beehive. Although on paper you would have to describe them as an acoustic folk and blues fusion, in reality they are much more than that. They are soulful, dexterous, effortlessly cool and musically economical, they make every note and lyrical line count and are the perfect band to restore your faith in creativity and originality. Not to mention a great way to kick the weekend off.

If you are looking for something more in a rock and roll vein, then The Victoria is the place to be as three sets of hard-rock, guitar slingers in the form of Fall From Ruin, Punishment Due and up from Watford those most excellent street rockers The Wicket Jackals can be found. It will be loud and groovesome, hard and heavy, just like rock and roll used to be.

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Sounds Around Town : 14th – 20th June

12111930_1683865851881044_3972085343232098947_nOne of the great things about the diverse and eclectic nature of the Swindon live circuit is that it has something for everyone. Take this week for example, everything from international swing bands, rock legends, national tribute acts, local covers and grassroots jobbing musicians can be found somewhere along the line. Not bad for a town which is usually seen as playing second fiddle to the more established music scenes of Oxford and Bristol. Personally, I’m a big fan of those ever touring, solo guitar acts, it’s a real reminder that once you strip away the glitz and glamour, musical hi-jinx and technological enhancements, it all comes down to two things. Good songs and personal charisma. Two great purveyors of such an approach can be found in town tonight.

You may have caught Chris Webb in any number of guises, gigging with Lonely Tourist, Gentleman Nick Parker or that Gaz Brookfield fellow, or as part of Plume of Feathers, but tonight at The Tuppenny you can catch him in solo mode delivering up-tempo, finger style, modern acoustic folk songs filled with wit and wisdom.

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Sounds Around Town : 7th – 13th June

9280Apparently there is some sort of soccer tournament on (right, that’s another local demographic alienated) but whilst a few of the regular musical haunts have given themselves over to big screen TV coverage and people shouting “go on my son” …I assume, I’m not an expert, there is still plenty of live music to catch around and about.

One of the more interesting musical visitors to these parts can be found at The Tuppenny tonight. Grant Sharkey is on a one man mission to record and release forty albums in twenty years and he is out and about playing songs from album number eleven, Thoughts and Prayers. He not only does strange things to an upright bass but threads social commentary, environmentalism, avant-garde view points, wit, wisdom, warmth and humour through his songs. Support is from Kitchen Sink Dramas who come from a very similar place and I don’t mean Southampton.

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Don’t Be Alarmed  –  Olivia Awbrey (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

546499e7-45f7-4b18-b796-61e0a4b7686b.jpgThe real charm of Olivia Awbrey’s music is the multi-tasking that goes on. It is enough that she deftly hops genres – alt-rock, psychedelia and punked up folk all going into the mix as well is shouty gang vocals, pop infectiousness, indie cool and college rock wonkiness – but lyrically she is typically mercurial too. Don’t be Alarmed mixes wit, wisdom and whimsy taking in everything from political machinations, climate change, social commentary, particularly the creeping gentrification of her Portland base, not to mention bacon…all in just over five minutes. That’s quite a full itinerary.

Long associated with a more folk sound, this single is the perfect stepping stone between those more considered sonics and what next year’s sophomore album promises to be about. Over the next few months she will be playing both the  Pacific North-West as well as a run of shows in Colorado before heading to the UK in September.

As for local shows you can catch her at The Lamb in Devizes on 14th September.

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