Category: live review

I guess if this blog is going to pick up any significant numbers I should embrace some of the bigger names that this fair town has offered up over the years. And just as I was thinking about that, serendipitously this popped up. It was posted by Henry Priestman, then a member of The Yachts, later a Christian and these days a member of Ian McNabb’s trusted musical entourage.

Anyway, it will give the readers something to argue about until I make a scathing comment about cover bands or suggest that certain venues aren’t great at advertising their gigs.


55908395_10157181921067930_1721754210308980736_nMost of the gigs that happen at The Tuppenny tend to be artists and bands that I am already familiar with. It is to be expected being that these shows are put on by Ed Dyer, my long term musical partner in crime in Songs of Praise, and so leans to a certain degree on many of the contacts we made together over the years. But the one band who played there in recent times that was new to me was Messrs. Lawton and Howlett, Will and Weasel to their friends, who joined by their good buddy…er Buddy represented something totally new to feast me ears on.

I did play some small part in the guys getting the gig and also pointed them in the direction of Steve Cox’s wonderful Lazy Sunday Afternoon sessions. When they set up they appear to be some sort of jazz trio, piano, drums and bass being the component instruments, but what they produce is a far more complex sound one that takes in classical charm, sweeping cinematics, proggy structures, samples, intricate timings and indie cool. They are an interesting bunch to look at to. Will playing the role of normality, Weasel looking like some sort of Edwardian inventor and Buddy’s mix of sartorial uniqueness and wry asides giving the impression of a world weary children’s TV presenter!

It was nice, therefore, to be invited to a small, live recording session set in the gorgeous environments of the library of Abbey House, set in the historic part of Malmesbury in the shadow of the titular Abbey itself. And so me and my good friend Tom (Grasslands)  found ourselves watching an augmented version of the band in these plush surroundings with the great and good of the region, including rustic poet laureate, radio host and festival organiser. Brian Reid. The band were joined by Amy on guitar and some brilliantly ethereal vocals and Harki Popli on tabla drums, a musician I have known for years through a number of Swindon based bands.

In this environment and armed with a grand piano rather than the usual electronic keyboard, the set took on a more classical/jazz edge but in either format the music is a gloriously unique and brilliantly exploratory, not to mention dextrously delivered experience. A set of nine songs graced the evening…well nine and half really after a false start with one of the newer numbers but it was this informality, as well as wandering children, chats with the audience and general band banter that made the night feel even more special and intimate. A fabulous evening all round and I look forward to seeing them back in Swindon sometime soon.







51682737_2331387376912848_8750105669203394560_nThe curse of original music, in Swindon at least, means that most gigs I want to check out generally happen only on a Thursday. So with two gigs scheduled I headed out into the bracing night air. A quick pint at Baila provided a gentle start to the night before heading to The Tuppenny and my mate Tom doing a last minute acoustic slot in place of the unwell Emily Jane Shepherd.

Grasslands is often a sprawling musical affair involving guitars, synths and effects pedals   all being operated by our musical hero and always teetering on the edge of chaos. That’s half the fun. The acoustic sets are normally more focused and the quality of the songs is allowed to shine through. The charm of Grasslands is that between songs, Tom, who during the day works in environmental surveying, engages the audience in conversations in all things green with a particular relish for mosses. Somehow the banter turned darkly in the direction of Croatian attitudes towards badger culling, I may have been responsible for that but by and large it was a set of wonderfully affected, textured acoustic with sonic hints of early post-gabriel Genesis, surprisingly.

A wander down the hill to The Beehive and Matt Boulter has already on and for the next 40 minutes he delighted the modest crowd with his spacious and delicate songs. Aided and abetted by a fellow Lucky Strike on upright base the songs were as impressive as ever and I detected a lovely Paul Simon lilt in his voice that I hadn’t noticed before. The night rounded off with a nice chat before he had to pack the car up for the journey home.

Matt was playing as part of Tim Manning‘s Acoustic Buzz night, a monthly spot he has at this compact and bijou boozer. Always good to catch up with him too and before long I was wandering back through the night to a warm bed.

21761565_1619496801434833_4690403455488292990_n-2Stu Rowe has been evolving and adapting his Lighterthief project for years now. A fluid recording project spawning some truly unique music and some rare but memorable live shows, and also a recording studio which has coalesced into a record label. And indeed a record label in the old sense of the meaning, one with a set of house musicians, one that helps write, build and expand the ideas of those artists. And two of those artists were show cased in all their glory at The Arts Centre last night.

I have enjoyed watching George Wilding develop ever since Being Ragdollian dropped into the review pile three years ago and he seems to have since walked the perfect path at the perfect pace from quirky solo guy to the mercurial full band we now see before us. There has always been something vaguely Bowie-esque about his music, not the alien rock star era which made an icon of the man but more reminiscent of those first few albums where he was still threading pop commerciality through a strange fey folkiness, slightly odd, wonderfully other.

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1484719_657356970970012_2094066391_nIt’s been a while since this town has been able to wax lyrical about one of its own making good on the national musical stage. Obviously XTC spring to mind and Gilbert O’Sullivan for those with long enough memories and some of you might recall Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto who has gone on to work with the great and good of America’s alternative scene. But it is not by any means an easy or particularly long list to compile. But, if pushed to predict a future addition to such a list I would probably nominate the man you can be found at The Victoria tonight.

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11924234_1660796527491443_962314035796015284_nAs I sit down to write this I do so with the generally feeling that the music world has changed, the landscape will never be the same again and something really special has been lost. I’m sure people have been saying something similar with the passing of Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran right through to Elvis, Phil Lynott, Joe Strummer and Ian Dury. But there always seemed to be someone to follow in their footsteps. With the recent passing of Lemmy and David Bowie, it makes me wonder, as these giant figures from a golden age of rock and pop are called to the great gig in the sky, who will take their place. Who will stimulate, educate and encourage fledgling musicians, who will make an emerging youth see the world differently, who will make art for art’s sake?

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10600489_1712245359007630_5358596769109981758_nSometimes in life, you find something wonderful when you’re looking for something else entirely, but I find that in music that happens with refreshing and encouraging frequency.

I went to The Victoria in Swindon a few Thursdays ago to see Kamino, who duly delivered a cracking set, but heading the Songs of Praise bill were Rewire the time machine, who I hadn’t heard before and who proceded to blow me away.

They bill themselves as ‘riff driven alt-rock with desert blues and heavy stoner vibes’ – yes, they’re all that and more besides.

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12248048_1667345523549403_8356385418316102374_oBut why is Lee doing an Eric Morcame impression?