10628059_765161323523366_7975140535020360117_nIt was quite a busy week for checking out music, but it also revealed just how difficult it is to find a receptive audience. Saturday found me at The Victoria for a “two birds, one stone” type of approach. As a tribute to the late Ian “Jock” Kerr who was not only to be found on either side of the bar there but who was also a great musician and supporter of local music, there was a bill of bands which like the man himself ranged from the genially boisterous to the just plain silly. I had enough time to catch the first two bands, British Harlem turning in a cool as you like and fashionably of the moment set of instant modish indie classics and The Racket following with their trashed Brit-Pop ways. Sadly I could stick around for the tribute band parody that is Kova Me Badd as it was time to head next door to Longs Bar for the debut outing for The Tribe.

 

I must admit, it isn’t a place I really venture into, the odd lunchtime snack maybe, but I’m certainly not really part of their target demographic, but that said, apart from it being busy as hell and taking ages to get served, it works pretty well as a live music venue. The Tribe are a collection of already established musicians who mix reggae vibes and hip-hop beats into a brilliantly accessible dance groove and you can tell by the performance that they are all masters of what they do. Not only a brilliant delivery but the music seems to cater for the whole dance scene with elements of pop, rap and even the odd disco back beat finding it’s way into this heady mix.

 

And so going from a couple of nights that were wonderfully supported to the flip side of the musical coin. Wednesday night at The Roaring Donkey is becoming a slow building acoustic session, but geography and its mid-week time slot means that it is still a very hit and miss affair especially when it vies for punters with The Victoria’s Wacky Wednesday Karaoke, still horses for courses, as they say. This week’s artist was David Marx, normally found fronting AK-Poets but here in solo mode. David’s charm is a combination of his on stage banter with the audience, his ability to turn out memorable original tunes and the literary eloquence of his words and subject matter. As people and places as diverse as Caravaggio, Times Square, Augusto Sandino and Sarajevo are brought to life the mix of elegance and old school rock and roll provide two interesting extremes from which the songs are crafted. Sadly the audience for this numbered only a handful and this wasn’t helped by the fact that the second set was marred by a new intake of drinkers who found it necessary to shout over the music and even play back what appeared to be their friends doing karaoke on their phones. Not good.

 

The next day was the regular Songs of Praise show, a night that I have a vested interest in, but I will try to stay objective. Bringing original and largely unknown bands into town on a Thursday night can often be a hard sell, but I think deep down people want something more than an Iron Maiden tribute band every weekend or the usual acoustic circuit players that seem to be the easy option a lot of promoters take. First up was Cook and The Case, a London quartet who sort of defy description. With an amazing dynamic that takes the songs from pin-drop atmospheres to wailing walls of guitar sound they seem to channel Damien Rice as it does Bright Eyes heavier moments. If Paper Rose isn’t the most heartbreakingly romantic song you have ever heard (check it out before reading further – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hTK2IkSprM) then there is something wrong with you. If it had the aforementioned Rice’s name on it then it would have been a Rom-Com sound track being downloaded in its millions. And 15 people watched it being performed live, upfront and personal.

 

The middle slot was taken by local band Kitchen Sink Dramas, lyrical poignancy and social comment put to music and by now we are down to ten punters. By the time headliners The August List(pictured) took the stage the remaining 6 people just pulled their chairs across the front of the room and were treated to a very personal performance. This Oxford two-piece delivered a rousing set of old-time Americana; stompy Appalachian folk and back porch country tunes and did it with grace, humour and panache. It is a testament to how good they were that out of the small remaining audience 50% bought albums.

 

I know it isn’t always convenient to support midweek music but one day, soon, you will be looking for some new, exciting and original music to go and see and you will realise that it doesn’t actually bother coming to Swindon anymore. A sobering thought.

 

originally published at Swindon Link