Category: swindon shuffle


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?

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13510793_10154349708688336_4108217032984453493_nGiven 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.

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1607111_577491689022522_3860118839849066474_nI will apologize in advance for the Shuffle-centric nature of this weeks scribbling but when over 40 music acts line up to play across 3 major venues and a host of additional bars, cafes and public places, it is inevitable that it will take up most of the space. So, The Swindon Shuffle is back for it’s ninth year and it seems only a blink of an eye that I was sat in the Winners Lounge (before it’s Legendary upgrade) on a Thursday night waiting for The Unforeseen to play the first ever slot. Tempus does indeed fugit! So, the first fringe events took place last night but as of today Shuffling begins in earnest.

The Victoria has long been one of the cornerstones of The Shuffle and so it is apt that we begin there. This session is one for those with a penchant for heavier music and is headlined by a band that have had a meteoric rise over the last year or so, A Way With Words. Other alt-rock acts on the bill include All Ears Avow and the dystopian vibes of Ghost of Machines. Between these you can catch the punk onslaught that is 2 Sick Monkeys and something with more of a blues spin from The Harlers.

Baila Coffee and Vinyl has always been a cool place to hang out during the day (where do you think I am writing this?) but now with the addition of a evening drinks license they have become part of Old Town nightlife with craft ales, a well selected wine cellar and quality spirits available and they join in the festival with sets from Matilda (minus drummer Emily who is probably doing headstands on a mountain in Outer Mongolia,) young, groove driven Indie from Polar Front and the captivating and heartfelt songs of Charlie Bath.

The Victoria second contribution comes on Friday, this time with a more eclectic and intriguing bill headed by the drifting ambience and trippy grooves of Colour The Atlas (pictured). Theo Altieri provides some effortlessly cool indie-pop and Super Squarecloud will be doing what ever it is they do – I’ve been writing about their mercurial, genre-hopping music and flagrant disregard for convention for 4 years now and I still haven’t found the adequate words! The early part of the night sees the welcome return of a couple of out-of-towners, Cursor Major who prove once and for all that kookiness is next to godliness and that blend of delicacy and dynamics that is Familiars.

Within easy shuffling distance of that (hence the name) is The Castle and their first session has a bit of a blues edge to it. Although main man Ian Doeser has long been a fixture of the Shuffle as a solo player this is, I believe, the first time that the full Hamsters From Hell have graced the event, so expect the usual sweary, tongue-in-cheek, bawdy humour set to an R’n’B backdrop. And if The Hamsters are a nod to the ghost of blues past, then The Greasy Slicks are very much about the ghost of blues future; slick, incendiary deliveries and killer riffs and acting as a sign post for where the genre is going. Also on the bill are Coasters, a punk vibe injected into Americana but whose songs trade Route 66 for the M4.

Elsewhere, The Locomotive, part of the Shuffle Fringe due to it’s outlying location in relation to the main focus of events, nevertheless plays a blinder by hosting Yves, one of the front runners of the new Indie crop of local bands and at The Rolleston you can catch Beatles tribute The Pre Fab Four.

On Saturday the music starts at midday at The Central Library where various acoustic acts including Neil Mercer and Stuart Marsh can be found playing throughout the afternoon.

Saturday also sees The Beehive, the only venue to have been involved in all nine years, get involved with a folk slant to their bill. Southern Harmony bring their wonderful blend of Celtic, English and Appalachian folk to the party and Ells and The Southern Wild throw in some darker folk vibes. Plummie Racket and Nick Felix will be adding a more singer-songwriter feeling to the evening.

Up the hill at The Castle, the younger set have their moment with Balloon Ascent’s accessible indie-folk creations, the shoegaze and post-punk referencing Sahara Heights building to a night of ska, reggae and infectious dance grooves from SN Dubstation, not a band that you want to miss, believe me. At The Locomotive, The Roughnecks will be blasting out their incendiary R’n”B and old-school rock and roll to entice and astound the Fleet Street crowd.

Non-Shuffle related gigs can also be found at The Victoria with Going Underground, Strictly Dan a tribute to Steely Dan at Riffs Bar, classic rock covers at The Rolleston from Bad Obsession and all your favourite songs from a new line-up Echo at The Swiss Chalet.

Sunday sees The Shuffle round off at its now traditional last day party at The Beehive. A string of solo players, Mel Hughes, Tamsin Quin and Steve Leigh get things underway before Bruce St. Bridges, the socially aware, psychedelic folk-pop of Mr Love and Justice and the sonic pick’n’mix of auralcandy move things up a gear. Last year The Shudders almost destroyed the venue with their final set of the festival and they have been given the task of attempting to do the same this year with another headline slot.

If you want something to help easy you out of the festival, the perfect gentle step back into normality comes at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday with those dapper jazz aficionados Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz.