So that is another Swindon Shuffle done and I have to say that just how much diversity and originality it brings to our local music community can be seen when this, a typical week, is held up in comparison. Now I know my expectations may be a bit unrealistic for what is essentially a quiet, ex-railway town still struggling with its own cultural identity, I am aware this isn’t Ladbroke Grove in the 60’s or even Bristol in the 90’s, I know this ain’t the Garden of Eden and this ain’t the Summer of Love …sorry, been listening to too much Blue Oyster Cult again. But after 5 days of ambling between acoustic soloists and ska ensembles, indie fashionistas, ambient soundscapers, close harmony groups and established bluesmen, folk bands, alt-rock warriors and everything in between, it seems that as soon as the fat lady has sung (or in this case The Shudders have played the last chord of Rockin’ In The Free World) the town returns to a formulaic round of predominantly rock standards as if nothing had happened. Surely as a town we can be more demanding than this? Please?
That said, Thursday offers up one of the most original, some might say downright odd, musical characters on the folk circuit today. Head down to The Beehive and you will find Ash Mandrake (pictured), who just may be a troubadour from a warped version of Middle Earth come armed with music, loop pedals, stories, humour, homemade guitars and strange hats…though some say that he is actually from Manchester.
At The Victoria Running Man play “aggressive progressive heavy rock” and substitute set-lists for battle plans where songs are not played but attacked…apparently. They will be raising money for Swindon 105.5, our local radio station that does so much sterling work within the community.
By Friday we have settled into a less adventurous groove, though The Chaos Brothers at The Locomotive is worth consideration. On paper they may just be another punk and rock covers band but the live reality is one of incendiary deliveries and industrial levels of mucking about, blistering guitars and a belligerent attitude…that’s a good thing right?
Tributes seem then to be the order of the day with The Toxic Twins at The Victoria bringing Aerosmith’s music to life, Strictly Dan doing the same for Steely Dan at The Rolleston and T.Rexstacy at The Wyvern, which I’m guessing, needs little explanation.
The Victoria continues into Saturday with more of the hard and heavy from Sleep Inertia. This band is much more than “what The Dead Lay Waiting did next” and the title of their ep “Growth, Decay, Transformation” might even be an apt description of their career path so far, the transformation resulting in a tight, energetic and brutally heavy live band that even non-metal fans can appreciate. Edenfalls and Solace in Nightmares join them.
At the other end of the spectrum and indeed the other end of town you can find White Lilac at The Locomotive. In a short space of time this band have crafted a brilliantly unique sound that references the dark atmospheres of Joy Division and the dreamscapes of The Cocteau Twins within it’s swirling, sonorous musical creations and are, for my money, one of the most original bands treading the boards at the moment. The fact that their music is also some of the most beautiful is just a wonderful bonus. Support comes from Andy Oliveri whose fragile disposition and heart-on-sleeve conviction make him perfectly placed.
A group of musicians including members of one-time baggy scene front runners Scorpio Rising and neo-prog rockers Credo might not be the obvious foundation for a punk covers band but that is exactly what One Chord Wonders are and you can party like it’s 1977 to their first generation, predominately brit-punk classics at The Swiss Chalet.
More rock covers are on the menu courtesy of Dodging The Bullet at The Rolleston, with Shred guitarist Darren Hunt at The Jovial Monk and from Down And Dirty at The Castle.
Wednesday puts something a bit different back on the map as a solo set from Blind River Scare main man Tim Manning provides wonderful blends of celtic folk and Americana at The Roaring Donkey.