I occasionally wander through the on-line pages of the NME just to check out anything new and intriguing (obviously I don’t pick up the print version anymore just in case someone sees me…the shame of it!) I knew things were bad, but I didn’t realise just how bad. In their top stories I learned that Barbara Streisand has asked Apple to correct Siri’s pronunciation of her name, Justin Bieber has been miming at his gigs and Arctic Monkeys are still not recording a new album. ( What…no Antony Burgess Arts Journalism Award nominations?) Remember the days when you could read a 10,000 word Clash expose or a witty character assassination of the latest new-wave darlings by the likes of Charles Shaar Murray. Even Paul Morley’s dense diatribes would be a welcome break from these lower sixth form warbling’s. Does an unchallenging music scene result in boring reportage? Discuss.
The best trick that Lewis Clark and the Essentials pull off is walking that fine line between adhering too closely to their influences and missing the point of what made those reference points so great in the first place. It’s a delicate balancing act but they are deft enough to pull it off and the result is music that carries all the fresh vibrancy of a new listening experience yet is shot through with timeless references to iconic folk, blues and soulful acoustica.
I bumped into a young guitarist the other day whose opening line upon seeing me was, “Hey man, were you at my last gig?” to which I replied, “I really hope so.” Geddit? It’s a joke. No? Okay…tough crowd. Nothing else for it but to jump right in then, pay attention there is a lot to get through.
With the rise of the Pokémon Go madness, I’ve had a great idea of how to invigorate the local music scene. Pokeband Go. Same concept but the avatars of the local bands and artists that you have to capture can only be found in the bar or venue that they are playing in. You can then take them to a “gym” – normally a music or record shop – to battle with other players. You get awarded candies for buying band merchandise and stardust signing up to their mailing list. What do you reckon? If imaginary Japanese cartoon creatures can become a worldwide phenomena, surely this has a chance. Right? Maybe not.
Okay, it isn’t exactly local but Charlton Park does have an SN postcode so I guess it is okay to remind you that WOMAD kicks off today. You may not have heard of many of the acts or even be able to pronounce some of them but if ever there was a celebration of culturally diverse and globally reaching music then this is it. Whether you have a hankering for Kurdish folk or British hip-hop, New Orleans brass or Malian vocal groups, transcendental raga or gypsy jive, it is all here and more besides. In the grand scheme of things, it is right on your doorstep, which means you can just pop down for the day or do the full-on festival experience with the minimal of travelling.
Now that the clamour of the Shuffle has died down, the rattle of charity buckets has faded and the smell of spilt booze and sweat has been washed out of your favourite gig trousers, it is time to get back into the day-to-day mode of gig going. Happily, Thursday provides a couple of real crackers to let us down gently, starting with something pretty unique tonight at The Victoria.
Given my penchant for original music, for championing bands most people haven’t even heard of and then banging on about them to anyone who will listen, you can imagine this week is like my birthday, Christmas and that moment when Victoria Coren donned a pair of teddy bear ears during Comic Relief all rolled into one. Yes, it is The Swindon Shuffle and not only that it is year 10 (cue Looks Like We Made It by Barry Manilow playing in the background,) that’s a decade of celebrating local, unsigned, original music, so I apologize that this column will be very Shuffle biased but with over 50 acts playing 13 different official musical sessions happening in 6 different venues, I think my excitement is justified.