I will apologise in advance if this week’s column is biased towards The Swindon Shuffle, but as the town’s premier, unsigned, original music event plus the amount of live music that it will be featuring over the coming weekend, I think it is only fair to put it not just on a pedestal but to actually shout it from the rooftops at every opportunity. Having kicked off last night in fine style at The Running Horse, this years Shuffle (the 7th) takes a slightly different form from previous years. Due to the lack of availability of many bigger stages to host the loud and more boisterous end of the spectrum, instead the event has smaller, more botique and more diverse set of events over a longer period of time.
Tonight for example there are two Shuffle events up for grabs that illustrate this point. The Queens Tap has an open mic night, featuring the likes of Si Hall, the long overdue Tommaso Galati and your host Matt Chipperfield, rounding off with Ali Finneran and his musical sidekicks. New to the event this year is The Core, Swindon’s only juice bar and holistic lounge which features a mixture of music and poetry, not to mention a range of exotic and healthy beverages.
If you are after a more traditional gig experience, The Victoria plays host to The Sitting Tenants, who blend power pop, folk, mod, soul and psychedelia to brilliant effect.
Friday sees the festival really shift up a gear. Anyone who was at Piri Piri last year will need no assurance that they really know how to throw a party and this year will be no exception. Again, opening up with a street show from Swindon Samba, it will then feature everything from americana, folk and latin jazz and is rounded off by legendary DJ Bobby The Persuader. The Castle is the night to indulge in pure rock and roll, with the trashy grunge-pop of The Starkers, the indie-punk intensity of The Vooz and the soaring and epic creations of False Gods kicking it all off.
Riffs Bar, in conjunction with the 105.5fm Late Show, also join the fray and mix it up wonderfully with the guitar dexterity and intricate noodling of Jimmy Moore right up to the rock-metal onslaught that is Burnthru. Outside the Shuffle those legends of ska-punk Slagerij play The Victoria, aided and abetted by Dorset punks Escape from 98.
The big gathering for The Shuffle Saturday takes place at The Rolleston as Green Man Music offer up with their traditional all day session. Kicking off with a set from Ian Doeser…well, you can’t break with tradition can you? the day builds through folky and acoustic offerings from the likes of Nick Felix, Si Hall and Rumour Shed, before driving home with the infectious melodic alt-folk of The Shudders, the raucous grunge-pop of Dead Royalties and finally leaving you in the crazy warped pop world of Nudybronque.
The Shuffle then shuffles off leaving you in the capable hands of Going Underground and a wealth of classic ska, mod and punk covers. So where does it shuffle off to, I hear you ask? Well, two options are open for the evening session. The Beehive have their usual eclectic line up. Cindy Stratton will be headlining with her exquisite folk deliveries, The Automaniacs, The AK Poets and Plummie Racket providing support.
Just up the hill at The Castle other options come in the form of premier alt-country/celtic folk outfit, Bateleurs and the wonderful acoustic machinations of Billyjon and Ben McDanielson. Plan wisely and you can meander…nay! shuffle between the two venues to great effect.
Sunday may be the day of rest but there is no let up in the relentless roll of great music. Riffs Bar have their family day, music from Jughead Rockers and Party Pulse, plus weather permitting a bouncy castle and barbecue, bring the kids, chill out in style. The Beehive is making a full day of it. Big Casino are a great example of what this event is all about. Having played a reunion stage at The Shuffle a couple of years ago, the band have got back together as a regular gigging outfit and can be found here in the wonderful company of Kitchen Sink Dramas, Anna Page, Jim Blair, Stressechos and the inimitable Jen Olive.
The final stage takes us back down to The Rolleston for Gig Monkeys traditional big finish. British Harlem take the swan song spot of the weekend with Armchair Committee, a full band outing for Marky Thatcher, plus Boss Cloth, Tamsin Quinn and a stripped down Black Sheep Apprentice.
Sorry there wasn’t more room for other things going on in town but I think you will agree that I have at least given you lots of music to consider over the next few days.