It’s easy to forget, especially when a whole music genre seems to have developed around trying it’s damnedest to be Frank Turner, that one man with a guitar does not have to result in bullish angst or political and social calls to arms. Neither does it have to follow the Damien Rice/Jake Morley model of minimalist melancholy and wistful, fragile thoughts put to music. Between the two extremes there is a whole industry built on pop aware, chart smart, accessible acoustic music and Ben Montague fits right in the heart of it. Emotionally charged and honest but delivered in a fairly commercial package, Montague gently plucks heartstrings whilst laying out songs that have a romantic yet broad appeal and you will find him at The Victoria tonight.
If you were looking for a polar opposite to that show, perhaps one built on hypnotic tribal beats, soaring electro-dynamics and energetic, euphoric vibes, then you should head to The Beehive for a return visit by Cornish psy-trance ravers Zetan Spore.
And Friday’s options are no less eclectic. SN Dubstation at The Victoria is the place to be to catch ska and reggae grooves laced with dance beats, a soundclash of past traditions and future horizons and the perfect party. Having recently caught their set in a less salubrious part of town, I can honestly say that The Heist are one of the slickest and most musically eloquent bands I have seen for a long time. Purveyors of soul, funk and pop covers from underground classics to some more obvious hits (go along for their rendition of Paul Simon’s Graceland classic “You Can Call Me Al” alone) and you’ll find them at The Beehive.
Things take a turn towards a late night music bar vibe at The Locomotive with the long overdue return of Nick Tann and The Real Raj. Accomplished songwriters and solo artists in their own right, Nick plays on a haunting, jazzy, blues club vibe, whilst Raj takes a more buoyant, folk-pop direction, put them together and throw in a bit of instrument hopping and you have a great show.
A quandary for fans of electric blue raises its head at this point with The Castle and The Rolleston vying for the same crowd. The former has The Ray Jones Band, the latter Jamie Thyer’s Worried Men, both purveyors of exciting, incendiary blues rock, though a brisk walk halfway through the night will result in you catching both.
Devotees of punked up, cider-delic, storming folk will find the newly re-launched line up of Mick O’Toole to their tastes, play your Dropkick Murphys, Pogues and Greenland Whalefishers (no? just me then…) albums whilst you are getting ready and then head down to Level 3.
Saturday sees Songs of Praise really deliver the goods with two exciting shows. Firstly, at The Castle, Cook and The Case return with a bag of folk-rock, indie and blues which they blend into the most dynamic music ranging from soaring post rock crescendos to hushed atmospheric tones. Support for that comes from 2 piece bluesmen of the moment The Harlers. The second show is at the Locomotive and pairs technical heavy rockers The Manic Shine (pictured) with Bristol’s Lionface, twisted and innovative pop-rock-electronica who’s latest video was described as “Hellraiser meets Scooby Doo.” Intriguing, no?
Ska comes to The Victoria courtesy of The Killertones, Kok Rok bring a dose of classic rock and hair metal to The Rolleston and at Level 3 Johnny Warman’s Magic Bus presents Mod’s and Rockers, a tribute to an musical golden age, everything from Toots and the Maytals to The Small Faces, The Kinks to The Stones and of course The Who.
On Sunday The Victoria plays host to a very worthy cause, an all day show to raise funds and awareness for Swindon-Calais Solidarity and Hand in Hand for Syria, two brilliant causes aiming to bring help and hope to the displaced and dispossessed. Craft stalls, raffles and music from the likes of Super Squarecloud, Polar Front, Ethemia, Swindon Samba and many more from 2pm.
You can also break up the event by taking a breather at nearby Baila for some guest DJ’s spinning vintage vinyl from around the world or catching Tennessee bluesman Mark Merriman at The Beehive.
Finally at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday you can catch the sensual and soulful sounds of singer/songwriter, composer, session vocalist, part time Roman Goddess and voice to be reckoned with Anna Neale.