Getting people out to watch original music on a Thursday night in Swindon is always a challenging proposition and doing it with a bill entirely of bands who are all from out of town might be seen as irresponsible. But the ethic behind the Songs of Praise promoters, whose night this is, is one of “it’s the show I’d want to go to so maybe there are enough like-minded people around who feel the same to make it work.” Debatable.
As openers Gelato, kicked into their set, it quickly became obvious that there was a phenomenon at work here known as The Callum Green Factor. Normally found drumming with the headliners but tonight also sitting in for their London mates, the fact that Callum is originally from Swindon had brought quite a few people along which meant that the normally sparse first band crowd looked pretty healthy.
Gelato sit at a musical crossroads, or more likely the point of impact in a collision between punk and grunge, stoner and garage rock and as such weave between big desert rock anthems and short, sharp, incendiary shocks, subtle pulsing bass led post punk and anything that lies between, peppered with the always entertaining between song chat of Drew constantly trying to sell us on the idea that the more reserved bassist Phil was the star of the show. As a fellow bassist of course I am going to agree with that.
Flowerpot found themselves in the difficult position of having booked a tour and then lost their lead vocalist but from the way guitarist Louisa Baker took on the extra duties you wouldn’t have guessed that this three-piece version wasn’t the regular set up. And these girls can rock it with the best of them, like Gelato before them, shifting with ease between genres – spikey riot grrrl aggression, intricate classic rock solos and 90’s college rock inspired alt-indie melodies.
It was during their set that an incident, which showed the problem new music, faces in towns such as Swindon, took place. Having nipped to the top bar to replenish my drink I was talking to a couple of lads who had picked up on the fact that Flowerpot had just launched into a cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit and were thinking of going down to check the music out. Two things in their minds, however, seem to be an issue. Firstly they were unsure if they wanted to see a band that did original music and were hoping for some Foo Fighters covers (it does seem that David Grohl may have recently overtaken Buddhism as the 4th largest religion in the world) and secondly they wouldn’t believe me that it was three young girls making such a wonderful racket. (Viv Albertine would be spinning in her grave, if she weren’t of course very much alive.)
It is also worth noting that during Louisa’s calls for a dance competition down the front the hardest grooving participants were actually Emma and Linda from Echo Boom Generation, no pre-gig solitude or stoic rituals for them, just an attitude of “let’s get the party started, right here, right now.” It’s a party that they took to even greater heights when they took the stage.
It’s a sad fact that rock music in a culturally narrow town such as this is often limited to classic rock tributes and NWOBHM era cover bands and there are normally very specific criteria for people attending. 1. They are related to or work with one of the band members. 2. They know they are going to get a murdered rendition of Breaking The Law or worse…Sex On Fire. 3. They are the sort of people who say things such as “ music was better when I was younger” “ I know the music I like and stick to that” or “I don’t have time to listen to any new music.” But surely there was a time when all of those bands and all those records were new to you and you were hungry for more? Where did it all go wrong?
Echo Boom Generation are quite simply the future of rock and roll. It’s a cliché I know but if you want a high octane show of killer tunes, big riffs, bigger beats, audience participation choruses and dirty grooves then it’s all there. Isn’t that rock and roll in a nutshell? And whilst taking and re-using all the things that traditionally made rock so great, they do so in forward looking, of the here and now, sort of way. They may tip their hats to the past but they are racing into the future. It also helps that they are three of the most watchable performers ever to grace the stage. Admittedly Callum on his second gig of the night might be flagging a bit but the ear-to-ear smile is still in place and he is still giving it his all. Then again you would be smiling if you were keeping beat for the hottest front line on the circuit…performance wise, musically, in terms of cool and any other way you want to interpret it.
Singer/guitarist Linda Buratto is all hair and rock pose, a whirling dervish of attitude and swagger, everything you want your bands focal point to be whilst bassist Emma Hughes is all lace and barefooted boogie, joining in often ironically on the rock ‘n’ roll theatrics but holding down some tight and dexterous bass runs whilst constantly jiving away, both girls continuing the party they started in the audience during the support acts.
The set ends and it almost feels that there is a void left in the room, an implosion after all that energy has dissipated, the house music kicks in with some cool track, but it isn’t the same. This is how you should feel after a gig, used, abused, put through an emotional meat grinder and spat out the other side to be re-assembled but never quite the same, slightly lost and totally elated. Still there is only one thing to do…go and have a few drinks with the band and count the days until you do it all again.
For all those people who say that nothing ever happens in town, or are just happy to follow the same few tried and tested local circuit bands out of habit, misguided loyalty or laziness, I will say this. Something great did just happen, something very fucking great, a taste of the future of rock music …but if you prefer to sit at home with your Game of Thrones box set or go to watch your brother–in-laws cover band for the 18th time, the future isn’t the place for you anyway. Boom!