Category: live music


imageIt seems to me that there are two sorts of people in this here parish. There are those who spend their time on-line moaning that, musically speaking at least, nothing ever happens in Swindon. And there are those who don’t have the time for all of that nonsense as they are out supporting all the fantastic, musically speaking at least, things happening in Swindon.

I will make a prediction. Fassine heading back into town for a double header at Level 3 with local prog infused, alt-rockers Circu5 will be one of the defining gigs of the year. It may be a bit early to start with such hyperbole, but unless Hope Sandoval finally gives in to my almost daily requests to play a solo show in my front room, I can’t imagine there will be much to beat such a line up. Not for me anyway.

It’s safe to say that my love of Fassine’s music has lasted longer than most of my relationships but that’s music for you. I think the key is to love it from afar, keep the mystery alive, enjoy it for what it is. I remember hearing Sunshine for the first time, it seemed like a cheeky wink across a crowded room, and in the five years since, that has how things have remained. I don’t need to know too much about the people behind the sound, that would spoil the allure and despite seeing them trying to articulate their admiration for XTC as a set of talking heads in the documentary This Is Pop and that time the small one from the band with the penchant for military style caps tried to get me to dance at a TC&I gig, that’s the way things have remained.

I was lucky enough to see Fassine at Level 3, a gig which has since become a bit of a Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall moment, as I have personally met at least 400 of the 98 who attended that night. And that’s how I know how great this gig is going to be, made even more of a draw by the fact that they share the stage with Circu5. Any one who saw the TC&I shows will recognise a couple of the faces in this popular beat combo, but don’t expect there to be too much of musical similarity. This isn’t pop, this is rock. Circu5 began life as a labour of love for Steve Tilling, a set of ideas looking for a musical outlet, then a bunch of songs in search of an album to call home, an album in search of a live band, and finally a live band in search of a stage.

Thankfully, no one from Circu5 has ever tried to make me dance but that is not to say that you shouldn’t when they bring their weighty yet intelligent rock to town. They seem to be picking up favourable coverage in the printed prog world but do not expect people dressed as wizards singing songs about Charlemagne over 13 minute keyboard solos. This is prog for the 21st century, if prog it even is and I for one am doubtful and even with Steve’s often strange sartorial choices you can banish all worries of being subjected to any unpleasant Rick Wakeman-esque moments.

The two bands make for oddly perfect musical bedfellows. One a drifting blend of ambience and alternative dance beats, the other a heady mix of intelligent narratives and rock and roll swagger, opposites which attract, ones yin to the others yang…and a third analogy which I can’t think of at the moment.

Nothing ever happens Swindon! Wanna bet?

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imageMy friend Tom, ecologist, model builder, board game enthusiast, sonic wizard and all round good egg, has been doing a thing called Jamuary as a bit of a musical divergence from his usual Grasslands hymn book. The premise, as you may have already guessed, was to record and film one loose jam session per night throughout the month with friends and fellow makers of mad music or failing that to jam with himself via this increasing collection of synths and samplers and sonic witchery.

I was lucky enough to be asked along to do a bit of spoken word to work as the basis of one of these sessions. On the trip over I realised that he wanted me to narrate something from Urban. Urban is a concept I have, a multi-worlds, pan dimensional story line which is in various unfinished states. A novel which never quite shapes up, a set of RPG rules which is still under construction, I have even flirted with it being a TV or radio script. Whatever it is, it now has the first sketches towards a soundtrack.

So we recorded me reading the introduction…after much mirth from Tom and then set about putting some music behind it. I haven’t picked up the bass for about 5 years and I have never made music with Tom before so it was great to finally have a jam with him. What ensued was a sort of drifty, arabesque, Blade Runner type piece, my verbose and pretentious twaddle at its heart and the two of us creating skittering, bass-synth soundscapes around it. I think we were both pretty happy with the result.

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November’s Musical Musings

Lucy SpragganNow that the seasonal chill is setting in, the big coat has been taken out of mothballs and evenings no longer lend themselves to outdoor entertainment, thoughts naturally turn back to live gigs taking place in the warmth and hospitality of the proper music venues. And for those looking to reap the obvious rewards which come from checking out the original portion of the sonic menu, there is plenty to choose from this month.

Kicking off at The Tuppenny on the 7th, The Astral Ponies bring together a wonderful blend of Victorian music hall, Americana, psychedelia and folky tunes. But it is their quintessentially English eccentricities which mark them out from the crowd, their strange sartorial choices and their biscuit fixations. Come for the music, stay for the Viennese Whirls….and possibly cravats. And in the “if you like that you’ll love this” department ,on the 9th, The Rolleston will play host to blues, bluegrass and country infused roots delights of Lost Eleven.

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59832831_2835369863156182_5602576901085331456_nA couple of weeks back those awfully nice people at Songs of Praise put on a bit of a blinder of a show. Ex- Case Hardin main man Pete Gow was the headline draw aided and abetted by a band garnered from the great and good of the Clubhouse Record’s roster and a 5-piece string section. In a church! On a Saturday Night! With a bar!

Now, I would have thought that this would be seen as being something a bit special but apparently not. Despite features in The Adver, Ocelot, Swindonian, SOMR and the like, it failed to pull many at all. It was up against some stiff competition with The Radioactive Zombie Mutant Bikers From Hell in town to play loose approximations of tired classic rock songs and Fred Spode offering his take on Joe Bonamassa numbers – so, covers of covers of covers. And what is it with Joe Bonamassa? Apart from blues aficionados, no one had heard of him 5 years ago and now he is touted as some sort of minor diety by cover bands!

Anyway, I digress. So basically you weren’t there, and I have the maths to prove the probability of this sweeping statement. And because you weren’t there you not only missed a glorious set from the aforementioned Clubhouse posse, you missed a elegant and eloquent opening set from Tamsin Quin, helped by Jamie R Hawkins, no slouch as a singer-songwriter himself. It looked a lot like this….

There were plenty of “gutted I missed it,” comments and Instagram hearts after the fact, which is either lovely or annoying depending on your viewpoint, and of course, the lesson learned is that shows like this don’t happen often and when they do they need to be supported. “I’ll catch the next one” doesn’t work if the promoter decides that there is no point doing the next one.

I was just going to post the video and leave it at that, but I do get annoyed at what I perceive as apathy for shows which really bring something new and add a new dimension to an already struggling live circuit. Rant over, I’m off to eat cheese and listen to Mazzy Star, enjoy your Sunday.

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