TrueStrays2_2018And so, it is time. (Cue dramatic music.) Yes, the 12th Swindon Shuffle is upon us. I will apologise in advance for the bias in the coverage but with over 40 acts to add into the mix, obviously things are going to lean heavily in its favour. And to be honest, it is the only week of the year that original music out-numbers more tried and tested forms, so I think it is only healthy to give it a fair crack of the whip.

Tonight sees the first two Shuffle Sessions take fairly opposing routes, there’s no point splitting audiences after all. The Tuppenny is the place for the more acoustic sounds, opening with Atari Pilot, who you will remember as a high-octane dance-pop outfit but here easing back in after some time away with some solo renditions of those infectious songs. Tamsin Quin will be on hand to administer to those in need of charming blues and folk infused pop music and the session concludes with the Canute’s Plastic Army, a duo who wander between intimate folk, soaring blues and occasional brooding undertones.

At The Castle things take a harder route. Flour Babies open proceedings in their mercurial art-indie-prog-alternative-avant garde fashion before things rock up somewhat with Post 12’s pop-punk, Street Outlaws delivering working class, terrace anthems and then the welcome return of Slagerij and their ska-punk masterclass.

Baila will be hosting a live band, hip-hop jam session, so those who want to showcase their skills on the mic. should head along and get involved. Of course you can mix and match and wander between the opposing dynamics of all the three venues, that’s sort of the whole point.

The Victoria plays host to festival favourites Pyrates, a Dutch folk rock outfit with a distinctly nautical, not to mention naughty nature. Drinking and dancing songs aplenty…shanty not shandy!

 Friday sees The Shuffle notch things up a gear, the second session at The Castle kicking off with Matthew Bryant’s slick acoustica, followed by the eclectic and groovesome indie of Compact Pussycat and the fluid, funky and textured sound of Basement Club. Wilding play their Bowie/Bolan-esque music before the venue explodes into the ska-dance party that is SNDubstation.

The Victoria takes a more rock direction, kicking off with the low slung street rock of Falls on Deaf Ears before new kids on the block, The Oxymora, deliver brooding and dynamically shifting alt-rock take over. Monkfish’s trademark blasted and gothic tinged Americana throws some real darkness into the session before GETRZ show us where commercially viable, indie music is heading. The night rounds off with The Harlers expert blends of blues and garage rock.

Baila is the place to round the night off with the first of their two afterparty, DJ sessions, this one featuring John Stapleton for a funk, reggae and soul set from this legend of the Bristol scene.

Away from the festival, other options come in the form of Teddy White at The Tap and Barrel who plunder the back catalogue of underground classics, revive and rejuvenate a host of songs you had almost forgotten about from a time when music mattered more than record sales and people were, quite frankly, much better dressed. The Hipkiss Band return to the Queen’s Tap, bluesy guitars and succulent saxophone make for soulful rock sound whilst at The Rolleston, Damn Good Reason go the classic rock cover route.

The Shuffle always clashes with something, The World Cup and 2000 Trees aside, there are a couple of other local gatherings to tempt you on Saturday. The New Inn has a family day with music which includes, Drew Bryant’s deft acoustica, Darren Hunt’s one man rock spectacle and the fun and frolics of Get Schwifty’s crowd pleasing set.

Back in Shuffle mode, Saturday sees three sessions take place side by side so this is where you really need to plan your route. The Tuppenny hosts the mellower corner once again, Raze*Rebuild open with an acoustic show, Sumita sprinkles her musical fairy dust around, The King In Mirrors also takes a solo route, as do Steve Cox and Sarah C. Ryan before Josh Wolfsohn rounds the session off.

The Beehive is where it all gets a bit strange. It’s great to see Illustrations back with their lo-hi outsider vibe, Grasslands will be bringing his environmentally minded progressive, alt-pop and auralcandy defy definition except to say that they are always a must watch. Sex Jazz round the session off with their heavy grooving, Zappa inspired, brilliant and odd creations.

The Victoria opens up with Moleville, dulcet and delicate piano led, film score gorgeousness before Palm Rose take things down a more driven dream-pop route. Rainy Day Fund (formerly Shore) injects some indie pop into proceedings and Fabien Darcy puts the humour and accessibility back into hip-hop before Wasuremono, a band about to tour with Flaming Lips finish off with a set of wonky pop, oriental dreamscapes, beautiful and intricate music.

Again for reasons previously given, Baila is the final destination.

Other options come in the form of Sabotage, a tribute to Black Sabbath at Level 3, whilst upstairs at The Rolleston, Useless Eaters blast through a set of punk classics and Rorke’s Drift bring classic rock covers to The Queen’s Tap.

Acoustic music at The Tuppenny’s final Shuffle session on Sunday sees The Shudder’s in stripped back mode, and Jack Moore and Emily-Jane Sheppard delivering intimate and immaculate music, just right to ease you into the final day.

The final session of the festival is always a pretty hot and wild affair, with no other sessions, for the most part, competing for your attentions, this is the last hurrah and after party all in one. Strange Tales open with their post-punk synth and bass brilliance, Richard Wileman takes time out from his usual Karda Estra interests to deliver a new set of solo songs and Cobalt Fire is the new folk-rock vehicle for Ells Ponting and her brilliantly crafted music. Sunset Service does a neat line in British-Americana, Hiproute funk up the blues and the whole thing comes to a brilliant full stop courtesy of True Strays (pictured), who sound just like raggle-taggle folk-blues wranglers playing for the dime and delight of juke joints and cowboy bars in the dustbowl days of 1930s America.

And there you go, 55 bands, 2 DJ nights and a jam session! Can I stop writing now please?