We meet at Mr Moks for a 1 o’clock all you can eat for a tenner blow out! Four women and a bloke with a back pack. Sushi sustenance is the order of the day as we engage with other Shufflers who have the same idea, notably Rich Millen, who drummed for Black Sheep Apprentice and The Decoits and who is arguably the most dedicated shuffler, taking a round trip from Berlin to show us how it’s done! The sun comes out (again), and we stroll to The Rolleston to begin the third day of shuffling shenanigans.
We arrive about half way through Alice Offley’s set. This woman is gorgeous and gifted. She put in a powerful performance at last year’s shuffle and she just goes from strength to strength. Her versatile voice gives you goose-bumps stretching effortlessly through notes at different ends of the scale and her ballerina hands dance around the piano keys with ease. She writes from the heart and I love her song ‘Black Dog’ filled with the passion of a survivor.
Antonio Lulic is a story telling singer from ‘up North’, sharing intimate moments between his songs to relate how and why he wrote them. In ‘The City of Austin Texas’ he imparts the miseries of breaking up with his girlfriend, in ‘Sobering Up’ he remembers the turning point that prompted him to make the transition between poor, drunk musician to rich, drunk musician. If he were washing powder he’d be concentrated non bio with his gravelly voice and bright guitar stripping down his life’s laundry on the wash board of experience to dry in the sun.
Starlight City quickly follows. They give a practiced, high energy performance; this is The Undertones partying with Big Country from four guys who work well casting a pop punk spell. They keep the late Sunday afternoon audience awake despite Siesta’s calling. I have to admit I’m beginning to flag and apologise to Browfort for not staying to listen to what I’m told is a brilliant set.
Frankie lets me sleep on her settee for a couple of hours. I’m out like a light and come round with the sound of children playing in the street and the brain cell lubricating smell of coffee. Batteries charged we freshen up and head back down town; this time to The Furnace for the last leg of the Swindon Shuffle Showdown. We’re nearly there and I’m half wishing there was another day to go. The Light Grenades, a funky four piece with an electronic beat infusing competent guitar and laid back vocals are playing when we arrive. People filter into the Furnace as behind the scenes lighting and sound are being fine-tuned and hello, Swindon’s very own events archivists, Swindon Viewpoint arrive and start filming the whole event. It’s all turning into something really rather special. That and the £2 shorts offer, that’s spirits not Bermuda! Salute the Magpie are five lads from Trowbridge bringing new meaning to the Old Wives tale of hailing Magpie’s to avoid bad luck. They remind me of The Strokes, strong vocals and anthemy guitar riffs surfing an indie sound.
There’s a lot of music to get through tonight and we’re already running late when The Starkers take to the stage. This is a dynamic performance by three brazen boys loving what they do and wanting you to love it too. Jingly guitar jumps out of honey harmonies and a grungy bang of anachronistic, modern/old completely brilliant music emerges, smashes itself against the dark Furnace walls and bounds about in my brain a bit. Fab! Fab! Fab!
Like the increasingly amazing fireworks that explode as the countdown to Midnight approaches on New Year’s Eve, the bands on tonight’s line up are some of the best bands in Wiltshire (and Witney). The Street Orphans pick up their instruments and suddenly complex rhythm changes are waging war on mediocrity. Their perky EP is on my iPod and their classic rock pop blending an indie beat saw me complete the Reading half marathon this year. It’s 10.30 and there are still three more bands to play.
I’ve been a fan of SkyburnsRed for a while and their layer cake of delicious sounds feature orchestral rock and savvy fiddle sandwiching garage and grunge and squashing it down so that it squirts out the sides. Blimin’ good stuff! So excited by their performance are they that they engage in a little Luddite like instrument destruction, ending their set with a stage littered with bits of broken violin…but it keeps them off the street!
Following on quickly are Plummie and The Racket. Wearing my newly acquired Racket badge, I feel decidedly fan like and am pretty impressed by how much better they are than when I saw them a few months ago. Effing and C**nting are par for the course and anyway didn’t DH Lawrence go to court to give us the right to swear in a creative context? Whatever…the raw riffs of the guitar slam into the vocals like a steel ball into a block of flats along with a few pints of beer giving the band a sticky impromptu shower. The Furnace is living up to its name. It’s hot down here!
Finally, taking to the stage at 11, when in reality the whole show should be winding down are The Black Hats. Guitars with attitude, drums smashing through in your face vocals, brilliantly crafted songs with articulate lyrics. At the end all I and everyone else could do was whoop for more. And yes that was me screaming for ‘We write things down’. Thank you for playing it! And that was it, well almost…we finished our shorts, well £2 was too tempting and started home. The streets were deserted although we did see two members of SkyBurnsRed walking by the Town Hall. ‘SKYBURNSRED’ I shouted excitedly, they waved back in the distance. Swindon has so much talent.