Given my penchant for original music, for championing bands most people haven’t even heard of and then banging on about them to anyone who will listen, you can imagine this week is like my birthday, Christmas and that moment when Victoria Coren donned a pair of teddy bear ears during Comic Relief all rolled into one. Yes, it is The Swindon Shuffle and not only that it is year 10 (cue Looks Like We Made It by Barry Manilow playing in the background,) that’s a decade of celebrating local, unsigned, original music, so I apologize that this column will be very Shuffle biased but with over 50 acts playing 13 different official musical sessions happening in 6 different venues, I think my excitement is justified.
The Victoria doesn’t join the proceedings until Friday but tonight they have something rather special. Damh The Bard, as the name implies, is a modern day bard, a musical storyteller who channels the world of mythology, magic and paganism and delivers music just as nature intended.
Then there’s two options for your Shuffle antics. At Baila Coffee and Vinyl you can catch The Shudders, purveyors of fantastic British-Americana stripped back to an acoustic format with Jim Blair’s funky, blues lap and slide guitar sounds also on the bill. An eleventh hour change now sees the wonderful acoustica of Emily-Jane Sheppard opening up that session.
The Castle, although one of the newer Shuffle venues, has been the scene of some of the busiest and maddest sessions in the events history and tonight will be no different. Solo acoustic guy Gaz Brookfield is back to headline, a decade after he opened the first ever event as he took his first steps down a solo path. Incendiary street anthems, poignant, honest and energised acoustica, his is a set that you don’t want to miss. Also on the bill is George Wilding with a rare, full band outing to do full justice to his brilliant recent release, Lunatic, plus old favourites of the Swindon circuit, Familiars, bring their cinematic, piano driven soundscapes along. Opening the night is Fake Walnut Dash, a bunch of funky as hell, blues groovers and the most entertaining Shoop-Shoop section I have ever seen.
On Friday you can catch Saints of Sin who return to The Rolleston for another dose of high velocity hair metal, 80’s tinged music excesses where the egos are big, the guitar solo’s are big and the hair even bigger. Sunset Strip here we come.
Elsewhere The Shuffle really hits it’s stride. The Victoria is on board with a fantastic slice of alt-rock. All Ears Avow rightly take the top spot, infectious yet powerful music with dynamic twists and dexterous deliveries and stalwarts of the event 2 Sick Monkeys rock up with some lewd and loud punk drum and bass shennanhigans. Raze*Rebuild add a slice of punky Americana to the bill and although a Bristol band, IDestroy are favourites on the local circuit with their pop-aware, riot grrrl antics. Opening the night is the almost indescribable Martyrials. Imagine synth driven psychedelic punk and just let your ears do the rest.
The Castle session is one where the younger indie bands show there metal. Break Glass To Open and The Misfires play a straighter indie bat before the atmospheric sounds of Polar Front and then the heavy shoe gaze influences of Rain are unleaded. This one will be busy so get there early or be prepared to fight your way through.
Saturday sees a real conflict of interests, but with so many festivals and events in the area this summer it was always going to happen. This weekend Stratton Festival takes place at Grange Leisure and as well as all the usual community events on offer they have a pretty solid bill of music too. Kicking off at midday all genres and styles are covered from the classic rock of Down and Dirty to the four stringed fun of The Uke D’ukes; Charlie-Anne and George Wilding add a touch of acoustic glamour and Sloe Train bring the blues groove. Covers and originals, young and…not so young all make up the musical DNA of this gathering.
The Rolleston has covers from all eras with No Middle Ground whilst downstairs at Level 3 fans of Rammstein can catch Rammlied paying tribute to their dramatic and intense industrial gloom-metal.
Saturday is also the day where The Shuffle hits its crescendo with 5 venues all getting in on the action. A gentle start to the day can be found at The Central Library with acoustic action from auralcandy, Oli Norman, Jordan Marvel and Bradley Cowtan in courtyard from midday.
The Beehive finally join the fray with the sky scraping sounds of Luke DeSciscio, the long awaited return of the new line up of Black Sheep Apprentice, a new band comprised of some familiar faces of the local circuit Spida Sense and the ska-punk meets agit-folk of Dead Pheasants rounding the night off.
Just up the road, The Castle has a wonderfully eclectic offering of rock bands. A Way With Words provide the solid melodic alt-rock part of the night with Rewire The Time Machine bringing a blasted, desert blues meets grunge sound. The Harlers are a two-piece blues outfit with a huge sound and Horizon join the bill late in the day for some brooding indie. Opening the night is The King in Mirrors and apparently this is their swansong show, so make sure you are there to help them bow out in style.
And if you want to cut a rug, show your moves or bop till you drop or however the yoof of today might put it, The Victoria is the place to be. SN Dubstation lead the charge with their ska-dance tsunami and a full band set up for Ruby Confue is certainly not to be missed. Add to that The Hat Club, Chaney and DREUW’s chilled opening set and you have one hell of a party.
And that just leaves Sunday. Chilled acoustic sets from Nick Felix, Ruby Confue and Canute’s Plastic Army plus the hip-hop experimentations of The Mutant Kids can be found at Baila whilst the traditional event wrap party is at The Beehive. Music builds from solo acoustic with Tamsin Quin and George Wilding (that boy gets all over the place), trad. folk from Splat The Rat, psych-folk and strange experimental meanderings from Mr Love and Justice and auralcandy before Kid Calico and The Astral Ponies wind things up with their bizarre and brilliant psychedelic -music hall-Americana.
And that’s how you put on a music festival, hold my pen, I’m going in…..