By Ed Dyer

Wet and cold Thursdays in Swindon are a tough gig. Especially if you are a band playing original material, and even more so if you happen to be one from out of town.  However, not ones to shy away from a challenge and continuing our mission to inform the people of Swindon what they should really be listening to, Songs of Praise plunged head first into the dangerous waters marked “it shouldn’t work”. Presenting a bill with 2 bands from the Midlands and a headliner who is only classed as local-ish should have been a suicidal move, however two of the bands were SOP veterans and acknowledged class acts, so we viewed it more as an educated punt.

Openers Go Lazarus had trekked down from Nuneaton, got lost in the process and became completely baffled by The Magic Roundabout when they did finally get to Swindon. But they made it in time, and although breaking their SOP cherry, they were still an experienced and skilled trio with a set of well-crafted songs.  Stylistically occupying the same space as Green Man favourites Hello Lazarus, melodic yet heavy riffs and vocals that follow suit, like indie rock on steroids, they ripped into their set with gusto and poise. It was great stuff and they will be back I am sure.

Derby’s The James Warner Prophecies are Green Man veterans, although this was the first time I had the pleasure of seeing them. And it was well worth the wait. They turned out to be one of the best live acts I have seen, with a commanding stage presence, a frontman with real character and song’s that were an amazing blend of influences. Rock, metal, indie, pop, punk, glam all gets bundled up into compositions that are melodic, motivating and muscular. And despite the variety of styles being input it all blends together perfectly to create a fairly unique and distinct sound. If I was told my life depended on making a comparison I think the best I could suggest would be Queens Of The Stone Age, with their heavy, melody driven diversity of tunes.

The night’s headliners were the reasonably local Street Orphans. A more straightforward act, they have been getting better and better over the last few years and are now a highly polished band with an armoury of pop-infused indie-rock tunes with contagious melodies. They occupy the stage with real authority, throwing themselves around and looking like they really enjoy being up there. Frontman Matt Jopling made a valiant stab at out “frontman-ing” James Warner Prophecies’ Joe but wisely settled on letting the songs carry most of the show.

A show like this being put on as the X Factor TV juggernaut hits cruising speed and becomes topic of choice around the office water cooler presents an opportunity to illustrate an inequality in the music business. Any one of these bands has the necessary ability and personality to “make it” and are a classic example of the quality that exists in the murky world of the local gig circuit. Bands that play week in and week out, earning their stripes playing in small venues to small and select crowds, doing things the hard way, learning and developing as they go along. All the acts you hear on the radio and read about in the gossip magazines had to start somewhere, had to learn their trade and hone their skills, had to suffer the ignominy of playing to no one, losing money on road trips to distant and empty venues. So get in early on their careers, come along to a show and check out music that may make you think, may challenge you. Music that isn’t repetitive, sterilised and safe. That ultimately may be the Glastonbury headliners of the future.