12711199_1028505133857289_4581950497514981152_oMany people think that Swindon is a bit of a back water when it comes to culture, particularly music, and that the only time you really hear much about the town on TV is when some witty, pre-scripted comedian uses it as a punch-line on Mock The Week to our aesthetic detriment. But, if you look at the listings carefully you will notice 3 international bands playing gigs this week plus the Swindon Shuffle starts its smaller fringe events as a precursor to its tenth year celebrating local, original music. That doesn’t sound like a back water to me.

And two of those musical travellers from distant lands vie for your attention tonight. At The Beehive, seasonal wanderers from the Land of Oz, Mal Webb and Kylie Morrigan, under are back in town with a show that I can only describe as…indescribable. Multi-instrumentalist, human beat-boxer and mouth-drummer (that’s right!) Mal not only explores all genres and styles but also push the boundaries of how to even approach the playing of music. It’s mad, wonderful, eclectic, brilliant and bonkers. Kylie, I should imagine, is along to help temper the madness.


At The Victoria west coast psycho-delic groovers The Vim Dicta take the spirit of The Doors and put it through the blender, driving it with dark, primordial urges and tribal beats to create an unnerving and mind-blowing musical journey. Joining them are local alt-rocker Well Dressed Thief and Socket.


A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to witness the new face of alternative pop-rock and it came in the form of two young Canadian brothers working under the name of Maybelleen. They may look like they were once members of The Byrds but their music is a fantastic blend of psychedelic pop, synth driven grooves and genre-hopping guitars. Joining them are fellow Canadians LUCI who summon a retro, Haight-Ashbury pop sound from modern equipment and to conserve space in the tour bus the two bands contain largely interchangeable musicians. That all happens at The Beehive on Friday.


Elsewhere the night is more about paying tribute than pushing new ideas, but when a band as great as The Heist are at the helm you can forgive them their comfort zones. Soul, pop, funk and other grooviness combine in a set of well-loved classics and re-worked favourites, not so much covers, more pre-owned and reupholstered sounds. If your preference is for Indie and Rock covers, you are in safe hands with Vice Versa at The Victoria.


A couple of great tributes can also be found, firstly with Genesis Connected at The Arts Centre with music from not only the titular band but Mike and The Mechanics plus Gabriel and Collins solo careers. If The Beatles are more your thing then get yourself down The Rolleston for the Pre-Fab Four.


The Locomotive’s music is now under new management so things may have changed but last I looked Humdinger were popping by to play rock covers and tomorrow it’s all about punk classics from both sides of the Atlantic with The Useless Eaters.


Saturday has plenty to offer from the “music you already know and love” department, Peloton play Northern Soul, power pop and new wave at The Victoria, The Killertones are all about ska, two-tone and reggae at The Rolleston and The Tin Shack Band offer carefully selected gems from all genres and eras at The Castle.


And then this happens….


Yes folks, the first stirrings of the Shuffle begin on Monday to ease you gently into our annual gathering of music and mayhem, booze and boisterousness, fun and frolics. On Monday the regular Beehive gathering of the Monday Evening Session Society acts as the kick off point for the whole affair. Even if you are not playing one of the main stages why not grab an instrument and join these lovely people for an acoustic-folky jam. Or grab a beer and sit and listen. Or both.


Tuesday also finds The Beehive getting its Shuffle on with a music quiz before the first gig creeps into view on Wednesday.


The Roaring Donkey is where it all begins in earnest with not only their regular commitment to quality but this time quantity too. Jamie R Hawkins is your headline act, a blend of clever narratives and dexterous guitar slinging, Phil Cooper brings his memorable songlines and poignant words whilst Oli Norman deals in more chilled but no less effective vibes. Opening the night will be Mike Barham unless someone taller can be found.