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40922994_1038122389702686_5504215381138472960_oSome weeks this town is blessed with big name acts travelling through the parish boundaries, other times there are a few new and interesting options passing through from further afield and sometimes we are find wonderful blasts from the past in our midsts. This week though is mainly a real celebration of the bands that keep the local circuit alive. You will know most of the names, you have probably seen many before but as a show case of just how vibrant the local scene is and just how many great home grown bands we have, this week acts as the perfect showcase.

I say mainly as tonight offers a few options from across the county line and the most unusual of them can be found at The Victoria. Siblings of Us (pictured) are a band undergoing a transformation moving from the most mercurial and jagged two-piece synth wave band topped off with Bee Gee-esque vocals into the most mercurial and jagged three-piece electro-rock band…with Bee Gee-esque vocals. Reventure and Xadium also bring new ideas to the rock format.

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Okay, the summer hasn’t panned out quite the way we hoped it might, but this weekend there is something happening that will hopefully make you pause from those traditional summer activities (building arks, herding pairs of animals, hold surfing contests through Leicester town centre, etc.)  – Summer Breeze is upon us. Every year this gradually evolving festival manages to out-do itself and this weekend will be no exception. Running for two days at Warren Farm near Liddington, there are so many bands that the safest way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to check out their easily found website, but my top recommendations would run something like this.

The big name is that wonderful, award winning songstress, K T Tunstall (pictured), and if the Saturday crowd can’t make central Swindon bask in the words to Suddenly I See, drifting off the downs on the night air, then I will be writing to my M.P. Strange, balkanised and klezmatic, anarchic, world music mash-ups come courtesy of The Destroyers and The Congo Faith Healers offer up gypsy jive, swamp blues. The festival also sees the welcome return of a couple of old favourites, the indescribable Flipron and the rootsy, slide guitar work of Willie and The Bandits. The local crop of bands offers some treats too, such as the dulcet tones of Charlie Bath here in full band mode, dance driven anthems from Atari Pilot and there is even a brace of Morleys; the haunting and soulful Jazz and the slick acoustic pop of Jake. No sign of Paul though, shame.

Right, back into the urban environment and tonight at The Victoria, the hardest gigging punk band of them all rolls into town. Charlie Harper leads his vintage hoodlums into their fifth decade, with the same old unbridled energy and enthusiasm. Not only do they have local legends, Nobody’s Heroes in support, they have Jamie Oliver on drums. Pucker!

More rafters will be raised at The Rolleston with The Racket. To celebrate front man Plummie’s 12th birthday (I don’t know, I’m just going on the way he acts!) he brings his beautifully chaotic band along to do what they do best. With punk drum and bass maestros 2 Sick Monkeys plus a man answering only to the name Doza on the bill, it is not a night for the faint hearted.

Something more restrained can be found at The Beehive with Claude Bourbon. This virtuosic Frenchman blends everything from blues and folk to jazz and flamenco, ethereal eastern vibes and luscious Latin grooves into a real showcase of world music.

Staying at The Beehive as we kick off Fridays serving suggestions finds I See Hawks in L.A. channelling the ghosts of the old time High Lonesome sound and the vibes of the 60’s counter culture and seeing that they have come all the way from Los Angeles to play for you, the least you can do is stroll down the road to check them out.

In a battle of the big riffs, The 12 Bar goes head to head with The Furnace. UNK Industries presents a showcase of pop-punk and post-hardcore bands including Hold The Fight, When Words Fail and From Embers at the former whilst the latter plays host to local poor boys making good, The Dead Lay Waiting who are joined by various shades of metal from Silent Descent, the Mask of Virtue and Dissolute. Loads on offer for the fan of the hard and heavy, but not great planning on the part of the venues.

It may come as no shock to you if I admit that I’m not the most switched on with popular culture, so I freely admit that I had no idea who Britain’s Got Talent competitor, Alex Davis was until I checked him out on-line. Fans of Ed Sheeran will be into him, I suspect, but what they will make of the weird musical landscape that support act Super Squarecloud build around themselves is anyone’s guess. The Fixed’s brand of slick indie is also worth going for.

If you don’t make it to Summer Breeze over the weekend, alternative arrangements come in the shape of early Whitesnake (i.e. before the poodle hair, spandex and Steve flippin’ Vai ruined everything) blues guitar maestro Bernie Marsden at the Furnace on Saturday and Sunday night offers up Bob Smith at The Rolleston with a bag of Americana, folk and rocking blues.

It would seem that the booking of bands is a very tricky business, the slippery little devils. Often getting a confirmed and stable line up for an evening of music can be like trying to stuff a string bag full of freshly oiled eels. Still, if it was that easy, I guess everyone would be at it. Tonight’s show at The Victoria is a classic example of this. Having succumbed to more chopping and changing that a choppy changey thing and bearing little resemblance to the advertised gig, Songs of Praise still offers you some cracking, if fairly unexpected bands. The one constant in the whole maelstrom of changes is headline act The Racket. Delivering a riot of attitude and swagger, gutter anthems and punked out indie cacophony, it’s easy to see why they are becoming regarded as the musical rough diamonds of the local scene.

Support comes from slick Bristolian alt-rockers Mind Museum and not the Rhubarbs as originally billed and jumping into the opening slot at the eleventh hour are Quantum rock, jazz junkified, music warping, Super Squarecloud. Turned out all right in the end then.

At the Beehive it’s the welcome return of The Roving Crows.  They may look like just another folk band but in reality they are a much more interesting prospect, taking a Celtic folk musical core and flavouring it with everything from blues to jazz and ska to kleizmer and delivering it with infectiousness, energy and blinding virtuosity.

Friday has a very eclectic range of musical offerings. In fact if you look up eclectic in the dictionary you will see a photograph of this very paragraph. (No, I don’t know how they did it either!) Anyway, over at Riffs Bar those lovable buffoons nudy bronque, Nudybronque, Nudy Bronque…whatever (no ones sure of the exact grammatical form, not even the band!) steer their seemingly constant touring schedule towards Riffs Bar. This band have been one of the real success stories of local music over the past eighteen months and it has been a joy to watch they grow from a tentative band of musicians with rubbish dancing into a slick and confident, punky-ska-jangle-pop band…with rubbish dancing. Support comes from The Debuts and relative newcomers, The Starkers, but again not The Rhubarbs as originally advertised.

A great treat for progressive rock fans awaits at The 12 Bar in the guise of Tinyfish, one of the bands responsible for updating the face of the genre, from the flaky, fantasy fixations of the past into something relevant and cutting edge, from Genesis to revolution, if you like. Ok, maybe not. The Furnace is playing host to Swindon Academy of Music and Sounds Charity Show. As well as students showcasing their not inconsiderable talent, the night will be rounded off by the brilliant reggae/funk/hip-hop ten-piece A&T.

Having reformed for a one off gig at last years Shuffle festival, Big Casino decided to stay together and will be playing at The Beehive with the promise of new material.

The big event for the weekend happens on Saturday and though it is a little way out of town, I thought it deserves a mention. After the success of the recent Avebury Rocks, the Love Hope Strength Foundation has added another date to help raise money for local charities. The daytime itinerary includes walks around the area and refreshments and the evening boasts a show featuring an acoustic set by punk-folk legends, The Levellers (pictured) , one time Alarm front man Mike Peters, local lad Nick Harper and more besides. A stunning line up – if only there was a venue in Swindon capable of securing acts of this calibre!

Meanwhile, high-energy folk garnered from Celtic and American traditions will be on the menu at The Running Horse courtesy of Grubby Jack and the hardest working local punk-pop outfit, Disclosure can be found at The Royal Oak. Cinematic vibes, dance grooves and soulful jazz-folk can all be found at The Victoria with Matilda, Atari Pilot and Old Colours.

It’s not often a genuine living legend hits town, but on Tuesday, Louisiana blues king, Lazy Lester will be playing at Riffs with support from Good Things Happen in Bad Towns. And finally Wednesday sees Diversion, The Screaming Gypsies and Mike Bezzer play Wacky Wednesday at The Victoria.

Laid low by a mystery bug over the weekend I found myself lifeless, crashed on the sofa and in my less than lucid state, watching Britain’s Got Pop Factor, or whatever the current re-hashing of Opportunity Knocks is called. Whilst the acts themselves left little impression, I seem to have picked up one of the most annoying habits of the modern TV age……The Unnecessary Dramatic Pause. You know, when they pause for no reason before delivering their verdict, to heighten the tension and/or lengthen the show. I have been trying to shake it off but will apologise in advance if it creeps into this weeks run down. Right……on with the column. (Sorry.)

Tonight at The Victoria is a show for all the fans of upbeat and intricate indie with the return to Songs of Praise of Bristol’s Hello Lazarus. Merging pop-punk, indie and math elements, they are seen by many as a worthy successor to Biffy Clyro and with support from Russian Blue, which contains ex-members of Sailors, and Lucy T it’s sure to be a night of great music. For those after something funky, bluesy, laidback and groovy, then Hiproute are just the band you are looking for and they can be found down at The Beehive.

One band that I have been meaning to catch for ages  is……(tension, tension, tension) …..False Gods, so I shall probably be making my way up to The Victoria again on Friday. False Gods exist in a swirling generic whirlpool fed in equal measure by torrents of punk, indie, rock and grunge, the fact that they have more than a hint of early Manics about them is just an added bonus. Support comes from the euphoric dance fuelled rock aficionados, Atari Pilot and the eclectic Oscillator.

For the big, and slightly risqué, rock show, then it’s over to Riffs Bar for New York’s infamous Lord Bishop Rocks. If groove driven, funked out, sleazy and suggestive, rock and roll is your sort of thing then arrange an audience with the big man.

More sedate sounds wait for you at The Beehive. If you remember Ross Darby from his occasional solo shows some years ago, you may be interested to know that he is now out and about with a full line up. The Fallows are a great sounding band that manages to fuse quintessential English folk, Celtic fringe vim and Appalachian vigour. Nice. Meanwhile at The Arts Centre, Buddy Whittington will be putting on a show of contemporary blues and showing why he was named as one of Guitarist Magazines top 100 unsung heroes.

Saturday has much on offer in the way of original music.  At The 12 Bar, The Racket continues to spread their beautiful cacophony, imagine grunge mugging Britpop in a back alley, whilst Madchester holds its coat. (Don’t worry; I don’t really know what that means either). Something truly unique takes place out at Riffs Bar as Jenny Haan and Dave Pushon play chilled and re-interpreted versions of songs by the band that made them famous in the seventies, Babe Ruth.

Great guitar work is two-fold; you can either go for white-hot blues from Lewis Creavan at The Rolleston or folk legend Martin Simpson at The Arts Centre. Nostalgia trippers and alt-scene freaks will be heading down to The Furnace for a tribute to it’s former days as the infamous Level 3 and a chance to recapture their youth, or more simply put, hip music and hip dancing probably resulting in hip replacements. I can hear the opening bars of a certain Soul Asylum song even as I type. Is this going to be a winner…… a million percent yes!

The big gig for Sunday is rapper Example at The Oasis and at the time of writing this, tickets are still available.

As usual Baker Street has the Jazz fans interests at heart, this Tuesday with The Alexander Hawkins Quartet whose improvisational leader manages to evoke past masters such as Theolonius Monk as easily as he beats a path into a jazz future horizon.

On Wednesday, A&T Live bring their eclectic funky, brassy, hip-rock, jazzbeat sounds to The Victoria but the one I’m excited about takes place at The Running Horse. Up from the south coast are two songwriter guitarists I got acquainted with last year. Amongst Nick Tann’s (pictured) vast and versatile vocal range, elements of Colin Verncombe, Chris Difford and many others are hinted at, whilst The Real Raj has a hushed majesty that immediately conjures thoughts of John Martyn.

Is this a great week for music?……it’s a yes from me.

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Looking back into the annals of history it turns out that today is a landmark anniversary. In 1954 a young man called Bill Haley went into Pythian Temple Studios in New York and recorded a song that was the jumping off point for all other contemporary music genres. Rock Around The Clock is where it all began, as radical in its day as psychedelic, punk, rave, baggy, post rock, grime and every musical development since. It is also interesting to note that 26 years later, to the day, Bryan McFadden of Westlife was born. Coincidence… or the Gods of Music playing their games? It’s probably just coincidence.

 

It would be interesting though to get Mr Haley’s take on tonight’s gig at The Victoria featuring two bands who blend rock with the latest technology. Talk in Code have been through an interesting evolution, leaving the more predictable territory of drive time rock behind them they now inject their music with dance beats and keyboard washes, something support band Atari Pilot are equally adept at.

 

Down at The Beehive, the jaunty tones of Bateleurs will be filling the air, but more than that if you get there early enough, you may find yourself an extra in their video shoot. Another acoustic option comes in the shape of Gaz Brookfield, who will be dishing out the charm, humour and infectious tunes at Baker Street.

 

Friday is one for those with youth on their side (damn them) as The Furnace opens it’s doors to the under 18 crowd. The main drawer is the mathy-electro-pop sounds of With Felix and the post punk/contemporary indie clash  of The Debuts, but add to that The Canary Club and dubstep/drum ‘n’ bass DJing from Miasmix and you have a great night.

 

The Sharpees at The Beehive will be in the more tried and tested blues field, but with their punk attitude towards the genre and rock influences, they are flying an altogether different blues flag for the 21st century.

 

Staying roughly in the genre, further up the hill, Hiproute will be laying out their funky, acoustic blues wares before The Victoria at The UK Roots Night. If scintillating slide guitar and groove driven backbeats are your cup of Darjeeling, then this is the place to be. Alex Roberts will be adding his quite brilliant observational acoustic songs and Stone Donkey Pilots open with a set of rootsy, country blues inflected tunes. If you prefer something more in the pop-punk vein then head up to The Royal Oak for Disclosure.

 

Saturday is a mix of the big names or tributes to big names.  The former comes in the shape of Cher Lloyd at The Oasis touring in support of her album Sticks and Stones, an album that went to number 31 in the New Zealand album charts, no less! The younger fans are catered for again; this time at The MECA with Captured, a night featuring the best in new R’n’B, hip-hop and grime with Fugative, Encore and former Nu-Brand front man, Saskilla. (“Flick, flick, pose” and all that sort of thing.)

 

Bristol’s Metalhead will be paying tribute to all things classic rock in what seems like their weekly visit to Swindon; catch them at Riffs Bar. Alternately Led Zeppelin fans need to be at The Victoria for The Black Dogz.

 

The one bastion of original music is to be found at The Royal Oak. The Jess Hall Band mix up sublime pop vibes with an acoustic alt-folk sensibility to make songs that reek of charm, infectiousness and that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. If it doesn’t then you have no soul and might as well be at The Oasis after all.

 

And in the “if you like that you’ll like this department” more sublime soulful, folk-pop comes courtesy of The Sound of the Sirens (pictured) at The Rolleston on Sunday, support is a solo outing for Hiproute main man Jim Blair. And if you want to make it a day of brilliant music, head up to this gig after first catching the afternoon session by Good Things Happen in Bad Towns at The Beehive.

 

Baker Streets Tuesday Jazz offering is a bit special this week, as rising star, jazz history aficionado and award winning tenor saxophonist Simon Spillett pops in to entertain and entrance in equal measure.

 

And finally Ester (spot the catch phrase) on Wednesday you can catch the world vibes and soulful pop-rock sounds of Coach at The Running Horse with support from The Racket front man, Plummie.

There had been much chopping and changing in the opening slot of this Songs of Praise night with bands Imageas diverse as Atari Pilot, Nudy Bronque, Blackwaters and Headlights being briefly pencilled in only to have things change. The best laid plans of mice and…music promoters? So it was with a great relief that SkyBurnsRed jumped into the slot at the eleventh hour.

SkyBurnsRed are just one more reason for me to keep banging on about what a brilliant local music scene we have at the moment. In the cyclical world of highs and lows, we are definitely heading up to a high point with bands such as this, as well as Crash and The Bandicoots, The Racket, Super Squarecloud, Old Colours, Young Blood and the aforementioned Nudy Bronque forming the vanguard of the younger bands.

Testament to their popularity, they played to the busiest room I have seen for an opening band at Songs of Praise, opening bands playing original music kicking off at nine o’clock on a damp Thursday are always going to have their work cut out. Having recently coined a phrase for their music, I think I shall give it a bit of a test drive –  SkyBurnsRed play Gypsy Metal. To clarify, dynamically intelligent alt-rock, laced with dark almost gothic overtones, peppered with eastern grooves (I’ll say it again, I love Paralysed Lullabies) and violin that wanders between lilting gypsy riffs, punchy staccato jabs and classical washes. And live they really put on a show. Whilst the drums and guitar take the music down the rock route it is the four stringers, the bass and violin, who add a lot of the flavours with clever interplays and arabesque vibes. It’s rock meets classical with out the pomp and pretensions of what that has meant in the past.

Up from Bristol, the Chimerical are a much more straightforward affair. Matching the power of grunge with the immediacy of Brit-pop they ran through a set of charged songs that played around with ska rhythms, post rock onslaughts and slightly Libertines inflected sleazed out indie. If the vocal side of things did let them down to a degree, their rhythm section coupled with the nonchalant guitar style and a lively show more than made up for it.

There are only two types of person in the world. Those who believe that The Black Hats are the next big thing and those who haven’t seen them play live.  Tonight they proved exactly why I know that to be true. A couple of years ago I vowed that I would continue setting up gigs for The Black Hats in Swindon until the punters started to get it. Tonight there were the first signs that the town is finally starting to see the light.

The most obvious thing about this band is the simple truth that they know how to write a good song, songs that pop back into your head days later and find you unexpectedly singing “we write things, we write things down…” for no good reason, to the amusement of the other people in the bank queue. Once that is quickly established it is followed up by their consummate musicianship and understanding of song structure. Effortless beats and intricate bass grooves allow the guitar to weave high end riffs or drop out all together without there being a hole in the music. To paraphrase front man Nick, they sound like The Jam might if their career had continued unabated to the present day. They share the same energy and passion, have a slightly modish punk edge to what are essentially melodic yet fairly aggressive indie-pop songs and they remain quintessentially English.

Whilst comparisons to The Young Knives and Stars of CCTV era Hard–Fi are conclusions also easily jumped to by the younger listener, I think that The Black Hats have enough of their own musical identity to brush such observations aside. As their PR campaign builds towards the release of the forthcoming album, Austerity for The Hoi Polloi, I think this is one band that are going to find themselves hot property as the year progresses.