Tag Archive: alan clayson and the argonauts


Tony Wright (6)Another busy week ahead in the music venues and pubs of this fair town, so without further ado…

Plenty to choose from for the fans of original music tonight, the biggest name being Tony Wright who comes to Level III courtesy of those awfully nice people at Sheer Music. You will know Tony as the frontman with Terrorvision and he is joined on this leg of his UK acoustic tour by former Black Spiders main man, Pete Spiby and a solo slice of HipRoute.

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156353_181984905147703_916302_nI often get the feeling that I am the protagonist in the latest Dan Brown novel. But this time instead of being a Harvard Symbologist searching for the meaning of the Holy Grail or trying to save priests from an Illuminate plot, it is set in a west country railway town and I am on a break-neck, historic quest, unravelling clues and wrestling gig information from a shadowy cult made up of venue owners and promoters who have also sent an albino sound engineer to thwart my efforts. Still if Dan Brown’s clichéd style holds true I will probably get paired up with a young, European stunner as the “will they, won’t they” love interest, so things aren’t so bad.

 

But safe guarding the descendant of Christ is one thing, I’m just trying to put together an accurate and informative gig guide and it really shouldn’t be this difficult. I would have thought that in these fiscally tricky times, venues and promoters would be putting even more effort into trying to draw punters into their shows, but if an expert gig goer (and if experience is measured in hours spent leaning on a bar, pint in hand watching local bands then I am pretty top of my game) like myself can’t root out the relevant information from websites and (anti-) social networking sites, then what hope has the casual enquirer. Come on folks, work with me here or don’t moan when the door count to your gig only just scrapes double figures. Help me to help you before more venues go out of business or stop promoting music.

 

Anyway, with the information I have been able to wrestle from elusive, mystic guardians at gunpoint, here are some things to do over the coming week.

 

The Victoria has a bit of a treat for you tonight as those splendid chaps at Sheer Music bring Brighton band of the moment, Verses, to the stage. Intelligent, hook driven, dynamic rock music is on the menu and if you like what you hear you can be amongst one of the first to pick up their debut album, Feel It Faster. Support comes from the no less talented Take the Seven and local bands All Ears Avow and Somewhat Snakes.

 

Those looking for something all together more rootsy might find what they are looking for at The Beehive as Christopher Rees weaves soulful folk around spectral blues and ends up with a wonderfully unique sound.

 

If metal tributes are your thing, then there is only one place to be on Friday, The Victoria. The Big Four Tribute Band go further than similar acts, four times further in fact, as they replicate the music of Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica. Consisting of members of UK metallers, Betrayal, and with five years behind them in this guise, you know that they will be more than capable of pulling off such a feat.

 

Meanwhile, music biographer, musician and leader of his own personal band of Argonauts, Alan Clayson (pictured) will be fronting a show at The Beehive that pretty much defies description, so all I will say is go along, watch and make your own mind up about this truly original performer. The Arts Centre has The Ben Waters Band, energetic boogie piano at it’s finest taking in rock, jive and ska, not only one of Jools Holland’s top ten piano players but trivia fans might like to know that Ben is also PJ Harvey’s cousin.

 

 

Saturday plays host to mainly covers and tributes, the music of Pink Floyd can be heard at The Victoria whilst 1000 Planets play a mix of rock, industrial and goth covers plus originals in a similar vein from this years release Pay The Price.  Rock, pop and indie covers can be found at The Swiss Chalet courtesy of Switch and original music comes from the often shambolic, always entertaining Hamsters From Hell at The Castle. If you like the idea of mixing great food with sublime music then the dulcet and exotic tones of Skins and Strings will provide the perfect musical backdrop at Asiana in Old Town.

 

The penultimate mention is for Shaun Buswell’s show on Tuesday. After setting himself the challenge to meet, write for, rehearse and gig with an orchestra of total strangers, he is now taking a Dave Gorman style presentation of the whole project to The Edinburgh Festival and you can catch a preview at The Victoria. Finally on Wednesday, stalwart jazzmen and all round good eggs, Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz play The Roaring Donkey.

311557_10150922275243207_1996043764_nAs most of you will be aware by now, the shock news of the last week is that Basement 73, the newly re-vamped, re-named, re-launched Furnace, has closed and the future of The Rolleston pub above it is still very uncertain. Whilst I can’t speak about the specifics of what brought this about, as I just don’t know the facts, I can make this very general statement. Any club, pub or music venue only exists by selling drinks and only thrives by doing so in large numbers. That obviously requires punters turning up to gigs. So every time you have taken the option of Saturday night TV or said “I’ll catch them next time” was actually a metaphorical brick knocked out of the support structure of local music, i.e. the venues themselves.  So now we find ourselves with no medium capacity venue at all in town, so for all those first album bands, rising stars and next big things, it’s a trip to Oxford, Bristol or further afield for you all.
 
That said, if you venture up to The Victoria tonight, you will be able to see a band who may very well soon be found filed under “next big thing” The Lovers. Four seasoned musical veterans of the female persuasion join forces to make enchanting and sophisticated, indie pop, drenched in sumptuous harmonies. Support comes from the alt-country and rock blends of The Blue Trees plus the welcome return of Mel Hughes to the live arena.
 
Something decidedly different is to be found at The Beehive. Alan Clayson, devoid of his usual musical backing, The Argonauts (gedit?) puts on a show of Chanson, a  lyrical French song form and something that fits neatly with his recent authorship of a Jacques Brel biography. Whilst Time Out thought his performance was one of “cult status”, The Independent had to admit, “it is difficult to explain to the uninitiated what to expect.” Make of that what you will.
 
Two big names arrive on Friday, those pioneers of dub, reggae and folk fusion, Dreadzone, are at The Victoria, if you haven’t already got a ticket or know someone you can mug to get one, then best opt for the second option as the show has sold out. The second option is to be found at Riffs Bar in the form of Soft Ground. Who? I hear you cry. Well they are only the current musical vehicle for organist Verden Allen of Mott The Hopple fame. But more than that the band also features former Tigertailz drummer Matthew Blakout and Jamie Thyer, normally found leading The Worried Men.
 
Staying with Riffs Bar and Saturday sees another Secret Chord gig, this time featuring The Shudders pictured) in the headline spot. This eight legged groove machine mix up alt-country, lo-fi pop, folk and rock into the perfect party soundtrack. In support you will find the wonderfully subtle playing and hushed vocal tones of Rumour Shed and opening up is Stead, a London based troubadour of the old tradition whose songs are filled with an understated intensity and musical economy.
 
 The Sunday afternoon session at The Beehive will be filled with the sound of vintage acoustic music and echoes of The Great American Songbook. Lisa Wiship and Andy Mathewson specialise in pre-war blues and ragtime, pop along for your own musical time machine.
 
Fans of jazz will want to get a good seat at Baker Street on Tuesday as The Craig Milverton Trio set out their musical stall. Craig is one of the countries top jazz pianists, often rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paul Jones and Scott Hamilton and he even played with Van Morrison and Buddy Guy…not a bad pedigree you have to admit.
 
And finally we come to our usual jumping off point, The Running Horse on Wednesday which features Drew Bryant and Michael Hennessy.

By Joy Bells

First impressions…Well, The Beehive’s a small backstreet pub and the sound check is like take-off at Houston. Instruments piled up like presents round a rich kids Christmas tree block the top end of the bar and a guy who later that night I come to revere as the Lawrence Olivier of rock flounces around tossing his white locks like some Druidic magician. This is Alan Clayson and he’s performing with his incredibly talented band of Argonauts.

They’ve experience near mob-lynching’s, punch ups and car chases as well as women AND men jumping on stage to tear off their clothes. They’ve headlined at The Marquee, the 100 Club, the Roundhouse and Amsterdam’s Melkveg, so I wonder what they’ll make of the Beehive audience. There are men on the stairs wearing more makeup than Alan, and the dance floor (the walk through from the bar to the toilet) sees a good deal of close up gyration as the night unfolds. For Argonauts everywhere the Beehive is a port in the storm.

The opening salvo is the song ‘Superman’. A voiceover announces ‘Germany Calling’ while a siren blares and music indicative of impending attack ensures no one nips to the loo. Into the furore of battle steps the lead player in this theatrical bombardment, – Mr Alan Clayson, all Freddie Mercury stance mixed with wistful Elvis hip thrust, Frankie Howard expressions and Shirley Bassey gesticulation. On top of which we quickly realise he isn’t fronting the band because he can sing in tune, – but he holds the trump card; he has CHARISMA as well as something pertinent to say about practically everything! I scan the audience as he performs…no one can take their eyes off of him.

Effusive lyrics are narratives of other times and places, like the battle for the skies in World War 2 where ‘every passing plane is whispering your name’. I shiver as Young England/The Landlocked Sailor progresses. It sounds like the 60’s and I almost expect a few droogs to march in the door, order pints of milk and demand Beethoven! It combusts into a hornpipe and suddenly we’re all singing along to the chorus of ‘rock and roll me over’.

The influence of Roger Waters seeps through the story telling, the progressive key changes and trampolining tempos, the stops and starts, the fast and slows. As if to confirm their allegiance they play Arnold Layne, Pink Floyd’s 1967 hit, which turns into a psychedelic discord fest that reassembles into robust rock. We’re also treated to a swing version of the ‘50’s hit ‘On the Street Where you live’, and experience some of Alan’s harmonica hocus-pocus in ‘Sol Nova’  – it’s all over – not the most optimistic of The Argonauts repertoire, but lugubriously atmospheric.

The Argonauts are tighter than a fat girl’s girdle. The saxophone integrates then stands alone, reaching in and out of the compositions, and keyboard, guitars and drums all move around Alan’s songs like the well-oiled articulated joints of a fully wound automaton. I loved the backing vocals in Pagan Mercia, which he likes to call ‘The Anglo Saxon Blues’, – see what this guy does? He dips into any subject and colours it with musical subtleties and the colours are violets and azures, not your plain old primaries.

Clayson leads his Argonauts holistically, familiar phrases are turned inside out, (‘what a difference a ‘decade’ makes’), interweaving wisdom with hammy, artifice with truth and serving up poignant plates of powerful imagery and folk-like balladry as in ‘Days in Old Rotterdam.’

Would I see this band again? Hell yes, and hire a coach to take my mates. This was multi-layered entertainment and I couldn’t believe it was all for free! Any songwriter who has one of his songs sung by the winner of the Indonesian version of Pop idol has to know something about universal appeal. What was I saying about Druidic Magician?

If you want to find out more about this loaded gun of fun theatricals then go to

www.alanclayson.com

How do you get what is officially the busiest week in Swindon’s musical history into just 700 (ish) words? Let me demonstrate.

Starting tonight out at Riffs Bar, neo-progressive rock royalty will be making a two-pronged attack on your senses in the form of Credo and Landmarq. Fans of the likes of Pendragon, Marillion and IQ should make no plans to be anywhere else. The name Larry “Mud” Morganfield might not mean much to a lot of people, but if I tell you that he is the son of blues icon Muddy Waters, is virtually indistinguishable from his fathers sound and that he is playing the Art Centre tonight, you may just want to pop along and catch a what will undoubtedly be an amazing show.

At the Beehive, the regular Acoustic Buzz Session brings you the best in roots music, this time headlined by the Bluegrass influenced Rosellys. English folk meets sumptuous Americana vocal harmonies comes courtesy of The Black Feathers and the hosts, Blind River Scare will be kicking the night off in fine style.

On Friday The MECA also gets in on the folk vibe with Foster and Allen (not to be confused with Mulligan and O’Hare) purveyors of broad appeal crossover Celtic folk and gorgeous ballads. Also to be found filed under “musical legend” Amen Corner founder Andy Fairweather-Low is at the Art Centre with his band The Low Riders. And whilst we are dealing with the town’s bigger venues, it pains me to have to tell you that Rizzle Kicks are at The Oasis.

The Beehive continues it’s tradition of booking supremely unique bands, with a return visit from Clayson and The Argonauts, a baroque and roll phenomena who, in a parallel universe, should have been bigger than the Beatles. At only 19 Laurence Jones is being hailed as the head boy of a new blues breed, rocked up sounds imbued with optimism, showmanship, feeling and groove and all free at The Rolleston, whilst next door in The Furnace, Betty and The Page will be dishing out rockabilly, old school rock and roll, swing and skiffle. Quiff-tastic!

Saturday is where a difficult choice has to be made as two of the town’s most popular bands have launch gigs for new releases and unless you believe Erwin Schrödinger, you can’t be in two places at once. Maestros of Quantum glock-rock, Super Squarecloud (pictured), are at Riffs Bar to promote their latest weird and wonderful collection of sounds that goes by the name of The Stanford Torus e.p. (highly recommended) which pushes them equally into strange experimentalism and pop accessibility at the same time. They are supported by Nudybronque, now a three-piece and more fired up and edgy than they ever were, plus a rare local outing for The Listening Device. For those not in the know, and if not, why not? The Listening Device is a wonderfully ambient, progressive rock band displaying all the technical ability that that implies and an unexpected Waitsian vocal growl on top.

Whilst that takes place, SkyBurnsRed will be launching their new music at The Furnace. Violin fueled grooves, big guitar riffs, eastern vibes and punchy memorable songs, what’s not to like? And remember, the last time they played The Furnace people were picking bits of violin out of the walls for days to come! Not to be missed. Add to that The Street Orphans will be supplying driven, dynamic indie anthems as only they can. Also on the bill, up from Portsmouth is Yours Truly, a rock band who manages to do that rare thing of combining brains with brawn, melody with muscle, rock and roll the way God intended. (I know because, he told me!)

Other options are, rhythm and blues mayhem from The Hamsters From Hell in The Rolleston, David Lynch’s new musical vehicle, The Labradors at The Fox and Hounds in Haydon Wick and any prog fans who didn’t satisfy their musical thirst earlier on in the week should head to The Victoria for  a tribute to the Fish era of Aylesbury’s favourite sons with Still-Marillion.

If ska-inspired rap/rock sounds your cup of Darjeeling then it’s The Victoria again on Sunday. Having just toured supporting Sonic Boom Six, Imperial Leisure are one hell of a party –  big tunes, an energetic live show and one of the best front men in the business. Support comes from home-grown ska-punksters Slagerij.

Final mention of the week is for The Elijah at the 12 Bar on Monday; brilliantly atmospheric, ambient post-rock that surprisingly works in screamo vocal delivery and old school shoegaze indie. Can you imagine that? No? Best go down and check them out. Similar contradictory collisions work wonders for support band If Heroes Should Fail, whilst Homeland take the more expected but no less well executed melodic hardcore route.

Apologies to the dozen or so gigs that there wasn’t room to mention, I guess this week the music scene just became a victim of its own success. Who’d have thought?

This may not be the busiest week for music but it is certainly one that pound for pound (can we still say pound and not be fined by the grey suited autocrats of Brussels?) carries a lot of clout. So we will start as we mean to go on with a band all the way from Milwaukee, a city famous for good beer, a life-sized statue of The Fonz and Direct Hit! who play The Furnace tonight. Part Ramones, part Andrew WK it’s raucous punk pop at it’s finest. Who better to support such an act as our own ska-punk superheroes, Slagerij, the almost unpronounceable Priceduifkes from Belgium and intense local hardcore super group, Scythes.

 

And if you think that’s good, wait till you get a load of what’s going on further up the hill. The Victoria plays host to a band who seem to be quickly rising through the ranks and it’s easy to see why. SkyBurnsRed (alloneword!) manage to mix the majesty and sweeping grandeur of the violin with raw alt-rock guitar and complex, eastern vibed rhythms. If that isn’t enough then support comes in the guise of The Naturals, up from Bristol and sounding like a collision between My Bloody Valentine and Sigur Ros, if you can imagine such a thing and The Playmakers who also have more than a touch of the post punk guitar swagger about them and who will be a playing a lunchtime gig at Rise Records before kicking this all off.

 

Middle Earth comes to The Beehive with the story telling meets folk-prog strangeness of Ash Mandrake.

 

Pun of the week must go to Fridays Beehive booking, the legendary Alan Clayson and the Argonauts…geddit? a strange and quintisentially English mix of John Otway style R’n’B, Tom Robinson song crafting and the camp and quirk of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

 

A bit out of town but a gig so good it really deserves a mention, The Bell on The Green in Devizes has a great slice of old school rock, headed by ex-Terrorvision man Danny Lamberts current musical vehicle, Hellbound Hearts, a three piece forged of an industrial strength rhythm section and buzz saw guitars. Support comes from White Knuckle Bride, a band who I can’t recommend highly enough and Burnthru.

 

Saturday has something for every one. Back at The Victoria and Cheltenham’s finest alt-country punks Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun who sit somewhere between the agit-folk of Frank Turner and the anthemic rock of The Gaslight Anthem breeze into town. If that wasn’t enough, Support comes in the shape of the haunting and haunted, sweeping and cinematic Old Colours and new kid on the block Mike Bezzer.

 

Teenage Kicks at The Furnace will cater for the young pop-punksers in town with a cracking line up headed by Beyond The Break and Hands Down with Year of The Thief and Post 12. For the really heavy serving suggestion however, the place to be is at The 12 Bar. South West Hardcore celebrate their first anniversary of running the heaviest sounds in town and as is only fitting they have an all-dayer where you can experience Rising From Death, Lifeline and Sleepwalkers to name just a few.

 

 

For the laid back Sunday lunchtime vibes, you can either head up to The Arts Centre to catch Mr Love and Justice and their blend of retro-pop melodies, folky vibes and socially aware lyrics or The Beehive for Cole Stacey, who not only matches skilful folk arrangements with heartfelt soaring lyrics, but who also comes with Steve  “Show of Hands” Knightley‘s seal of approval. More rootsy music can be found that evening at The Rolleston with the welcome return of ex-Alarm guitarist, Dave Sharp and his brand of blue-collar bluesy Americana.

 

 

In a week of originality, the best is left to last. Detroit popsters, Johnny Headband (pictured), blend synth driven space pop jams with soaring atmospherics and alluring warped disco grooves. It’s as much about the theatricality as it is about the dancebility and if one of the guys on stage at The Victoria looks familiar it’s because he used to be in Electric 6, though for some reason has changed his name from the very reasonable Smorgasbord, to the more unlikely Keith Thompson. Hardly the stuff of rock and roll!