Tag Archive: ben wain

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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eFestivalsI’m not sure if it is just a Swindon thing but it does seem that every other gig you see advertised these days features some earnest young acoustic guitar wielding wannabe aiming to be the next Frank Turner or Laura Marling. It may seem like an easy way to get into music; low overheads, no egotistical band mates to fight with, the ability to tour the country in a broken down Fiat Uno etc but the problem with so much of it going on is that for every soon to be discovered darling of 6music or Wychwood Festival there are a dozen chancers waxing not so lyrical about their recent break ups over a rudimentary knowledge of the key of A minor and clumsily rhyming June with moon.

Thankfully if you want a master class in how it should be done, all you have to do is head to The Victoria tonight when the prodigal son returns, sort of. Songs of Praise is being headlined by Gaz Brookfield, aided and abetted by his fiddle-wielding associate, Ben Wain. Fresh from another jaunt supporting The Levellers and about to share a stage with those emotionally battered, wind swept rock gods, New Model Army (yes, I’m a bit of a fan), I suggest you catch him whilst he is still cheaper than a pint of beer, because it won’t last much longer. Also on the bill is Joshua Caole, who brings a chilled Elliot Smith meets Gram Parsons feeling to the proceedings and kicking things off is the soulful, funky vibe that is Benji Clements.

Two of the musical genres that people have most problems identifying are “world” and “roots” music. If you go to The Beehive tonight you will see both genres colliding head on. Mambo Jambo are an amazing duo that mix Latin styles with bluegrass, jazz and Eastern European sounds – raw enough to sound authentic, virtuosic enough to be mesmerising.

Punks will find much to like over at Riffs Bar on Friday as legendary, urban rail punks Eastfield make a rare visit to this neck of the woods. Three chords, catchy tunes, an often tongue in cheek story and lots of smiles. What’s not to like? The Useless Eaters will be mixing up covers and originals in a tribute to the first wave punk era and opening the night with unforgettable hooks and despondent satire is Strength in Blunders, featuring a guest bassist in the form of Pete Monkey. Nice.

The other big name in town that night is former InMe front man Dave McPherson (pictured) who can be found at The Castle. At a turn uplifting, mournful, calm and soothing, whilst often being a world away from his previous musical vehicle, here is an artist that delivers something very special indeed.

At The Beehive a collection of familiar faces from the local scene, who go by the name The Sitting Tenants will be blending power-pop, new wave, psych and soul into wonderfully original creations, whilst at The Rolleston, The Dylegans take skiffle, country and old school rock and roll as their chosen musical weapons.

Saturday is all about roots music at The Victoria, as Hiproute will be laying out their trademark funked up, acoustic blues stall. Support comes from the quirky, harmony fuelled, folky, surf vibe of Willowen, who I can only describe as being what Noah and The Whale sound like in their own heads, though fall way short of in reality. Delta-esque rockers The Blue Trees and Alex Roberts also add value to the deal. More blues can be found in the guise of Built For Comfort at The Rolleston and it’s slick contemporary covers with Toxic over at The Swiss Chalet.

If you have a craving for electronic music, DJ Dust hosts Digital at Piri Piri, a night of music and videos of that ilk featuring everything from the likes of New order to Chase and Status.

If you want your final fix of music before the working week pulls you back then there are a number of options on Sunday. The afternoon session at The Beehive is taken by The Racket main man Plummie and his new solo venture,  support for that one is The Black Sheep Apprentice himself, Skiddy and the original Sweet Plum, Cat Jamieson. Old school rock’n’roll and rockabilly riffs are to be found at 20 At The Kings with Josie and The Outlaw and if gargantuan slabs of rock with grunge overtones are more your cup of tea (or should I say Seattle Coffee) then the place to be is The New Inn for Vanarin.

Rounding up on Wednesday at The Running Horse you will find bluesman Ian O’Regan and Rhys Bury providing the entertainment.

If I were looking for an analogy to sum up the performance it would be this. Remember when you were a kid and those dreaded visits from aged aunts always resulted in the comment, hasn’t he grown? Well, in a way that is a quick sound bite for Gaz’s performance tonight. Those too familiar with an artists work are probably the ones that least notice over all growth and artists rarely see, or at least acknowledge it in themselves. The last time I caught one of his gigs, to paraphrase a line from one of his songs, it wasn’t, “the right place at the right time” and about 8 months had passed even since I watched him being totally ignored by the denizens of that trendy pub full of fake tan and just the right designer labels. Tonight, however, as the support to Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls moonlighting from The Wonder Stuff, it was exactly the right crowd.

What was immediately obvious, to get back to the opening statement, was what a step up he had made, both with the recent batch of songs from the Tell It To The Beer album, but also his stage presence. Always blessed with warmth, a self-deprecating humour and the ability to communicate with an audience between songs, playing to an appreciative audience, many who had come along as much to see him as the main act judging by the amount of people singing along, proved to be the obvious confidence boost. The result was a charismatic performer hitting his stride with ease.

Accompanied by studio collaborator and occasional stage guest, Ben Wain, the violin flourishes that he brought to the song hit the musical nail on the head. I don’t want to use the L-word too readily, but at the more frantic reaches of the set the two were reminiscent of a stripped down….well, lets just say in the song writing stakes, Mark Chapman had better watch his back. Call it what you will, agit-folk, nu-folk, anti-folk, the increasing bite in his songs find him more and more heading into the Frank Turner, Billy Bragg territory, the fact that at the front of the crowd I notice both New Model Army and  Attila The Stockbroker be-shirted folk lapping the songs up is a sure sign of this.

A show doesn’t just carry on charm alone but Gaz does have the songs to back it up. Songs drawn from personal experience, songs that are wistful tales, stories with wonderful resolution and if not always exactly filled with optimism, certainly flavoured with a reflective contentment. The message – it’s as much the failings and the failures as the successes that shapes who we are.

On that note, amongst a clutch of great songs, one in particular is just brilliant. A poignant two fingers up, a real triumph over adversity, a bittersweet personal tale summed up by the title, Be the Bigger Man. This is a song that should be played at school assemblies for its positivity and message. That said, all the favourites from the previous album, Trial and Error, also get an outing, Diet of Banality, West Country Song and Thin make an appearance and the sum total is set of strong, relatable and well rounded songs, infectious choruses and meaningful storylines. Suffice it to say, the boy done good.