As Del Amitri so deftly put it, “Nothing Ever Happens” a sentiment that I hear levelled at the local music scene almost as often as I see Brian Cox on my television. Visit the usual social media haunts and you will invariably hear the metal fraternity moaning that the town hosts the same few indie bands, emerging pop acts complaining that the town is dominated by rock cover bands, the indie bands saying that the town is ruled by dance nights and acoustic players arguing that they can’t get a foot in the door as their circuit only promotes the same few acts. But is the town as locked down and staid as these voices claim. Well here is the evidence from my own personal experience over the last week.
On Saturday I watched Buswell, a cinematic, indie dreamscape of strings and gentle beats, swirling orchestral dynamics and reflective, poignant sentiments. With a fluid line up formed from a large pool of musicians each show is unique in that geography and availability are the deciding factors behind who plays each show and even so the band are faultless. The same night I saw The Last Box of Sparklers, Nordic indie pop that seemed built purely on atmospheres and space rather than the music and words and more mainstream but no less impressive acoustic deliveries from Matt Adey. On the way home a few hangers on and itinerant musicians who had nothing better to do ended up at Level 3 and found themselves in the midst of a raging and effortlessly cool Afro-funk night which had drawn a crowd as big as anything from the clubs alternative rose tinted heyday that everyone seems to be in such an effort to try to recreate.
Wednesday found me watching two acoustic players who don’t seem to be part of the “go to” acoustic set, the quiet, late night jazz vibe of Mel Hughes and contrastingly the soaring agit-folk of Coasters front man Si Hall.
And then last night something truly awesome happened. The Victoria played host to three acts that had to be seen to be believed. GagReflex kicked things off, a two-piece punk leviathan in the 2 Sick Monkeys mould, all solid beats and bass lines that could get paid work in the demolition industry. Their by-line quote sums it all up eloquently, “small enough to fit in a car, big enough to take your face off” Well, quite. Blindman’s Bastion followed with a bluesier, Black Keys take on things before the main event, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion. In a whirlwind delivery of white noise guitars and buzz saw riffs, screaming, visceral vocals and more energy, strut, attitude and showmanship than you could ever need, they proceeded to blow the night and almost the building wide open. A recent review summed up the shock and awe tactics of the band in the following succinct line … “what the hell just happened there?” Don’t ask me I’m as bewildered and brusied as the next man but in a world that overuses the word awesome to a blatant degree, this band truly deserve that description.
So nothing ever happens in Swindon. Nothing original, diverse or truly entertaining. I would suggest the opposite is true; you just have to make a bit of an effort. The only thing I will say is that what sort of town do we live in where a Nirvana tribute band can fill a room based on the bands place in rock history yet put on a band such as The St. Pierre Snake Invasion, a band in many ways a natural successor in energy and attitude to Nirvana, a band writing their own chapter in the book of rock history and 25 people turn up. I say make an effort and you will be rewarded tenfold. Or you could sit at home on-line and post Facebook banners about how we should all support live music! That will really make a difference.