Tag Archive: darren hodge


10850275_1508642422743307_3346557062355699842_nTomorrow is one of those days that resonate throughout history. On May 8th, 70 years ago, the world woke up to a Europe finally at peace after the ravages of war. Sixteen years before that The St Valentines Day Massacre made world headlines and more latterly, completing the cycle of world shaking deeds, in 1972, Ian “H” Watkins of Steps infamy was born, so it is obviously a date which is tied in with important historical events. Also tomorrow we will wake up to learn the fate of the next five years in the running of this country. But tonight we party. Thankfully, this weekend whether celebrating the result or drowning your sorrows there is no shortage of great sounds to do it to.

 

Those opting for a bit of a shindig should look no further than The Victoria tonight as Bite The Buffalo bring their “stomping, coffin blues” to town and show just why recent years have seen them play such festivals as SXSW and supports to none other than Robert Plant. Fresh out of the box, 2 piece The Harlers continue to re-connect with dirty blues-rock memories and openers The Johnstown Flood add grunge and warped guitars to the blues template.

 

At The Wheatsheaf, Darren Hodge deals in a gentler but no less mesmerising take on the same genre; an ear for tradition and some outstanding finger-picking dexterity are the order of the day and he is joined by the loved-up folk harmonies of Ethemia plus the elemental imagery and sounds of Drew Bryant. Sitting between the two, a funky blend of acoustic and gritty blues is Jim Blair who can be found at The Beehive.

 

And if Thursday had a heavy blues undercurrent, Friday takes a folkier stance. Firstly at The Beehive with Calico Jack (pictured), a band whose distinctive canal boat-folk blends gypsy jive, carnival chaos and shanty shenanigans to create twisted fairy tales and worlds of dark enchantment. For a punkier take on the genre, Mick O’Toole can be found at The Rolleston. Theirs is a howling banshee of a show in the tradition of Flogging Molly or Greenland Whalefishers, so if the idea of a sonic wall of aggressive accordion, mutilating mandolin lines and belligerent banjo forming the front line of a folk-punk onslaught sounds like your cup of cider, then this is the show for you.

 

At The Victoria, Buswell’s brand of indie-pop meets chamber folk will be providing the venue with sweeping majestic sounds not to mention some logistical headaches as the orchestral wing of this band often pushes the stage set up into double figures. Support comes from the lush dynamics and dark atmospherics of White Lilac and opening the show is the man known as Last Box of Sparklers and his hushed and fleeting, Nordic indie sounds. Incendiary blues-rock classics are delivered with spellbinding dexterity at The Queens Tap courtesy of The Lewis Creaven Band.

 

As usual, Saturday is the bastion of nostalgia, reminisence and the tried and tested (all of which could actually be names of cover bands themselves) but that doesn’t mean that they rock any less. In fact, out at Riffs Bar, the hardest partying band in town take the stage. Enjoy their set of rock, pop and indie classics, just don’t try matching them drink for drink at the bar afterwards.

 

Also rocking out like a good ‘un, The Sex Pissed Dolls, pun their way into level 3 to deliver a set of rock, ska and punk standards and at The Brookhouse Farm (moved from The Woodlands Edge) it’s the last chance to catch The Beat Holes before they return home to Italy. Imagine if The Beatles had formed out of the punk melting pot of 1976’s London squat scene and also liked to listen to heavy metal. Intrigued? Check them out, they are brilliant.

 

Other options are 1000 Planets punk, goth and alternative sounds at The Rolleston, power-pop, mod and soul from Peloton at The Swiss Chalet and vintage classic rock from Mid-Life Crisis at The Queens Tap.

 

There is just enough room to mention Peter Jagger and his political tinged folk songs at The Beehive on Sunday afternoon and David Marx’s poetic and poignant music at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday.

Advertisements

10622848_701261516623318_3187721206277794022_nI suppose that I have to accept that the public perception of me is someone who spends all of his time bemoaning the state of original music in the town, stopping only briefly to sleep, eat cheese and play the B-sides of rare New Model Army records I have collected over the years. Whilst that is sadly not that far from the truth, it does mean that I am thrilled to notice that this weeks gig offers are almost exclusively original music and even the few tributes on offer appear to be something a bit off the beaten track. It may not please everyone but it does make at least one aging, music hack very happy.

 

Billy Bingham has been a familiar, unkempt face on the acoustic circuit for longer than his boyish looks would suggest, now he can be found fronting the dystopian rock soundscapers Ghost of Machines (pictured) who headline at The Victoria tonight. Support comes from Brit-pop two-piece Carnival and guitarist Edward Witcomb.

 

If something more dance driven is your preference then the Zetan Spore mother ship will be landing once more at The Beehive. A truly psychedelic, full on psytrance rave mixing electronica and guitars, tribal dance and the sounds of deep space to deliver an energetic even euphoric experience. A more traditional sound comes in the form of the Crowdys Hill School Ceilidh at The Moonrakers. As a school fundraiser this dance features The Cowshed Ceilidh Collective complete with live caller, so put on your dancing trousers and prepare to Strip The Willow or get stuck into a Dashing White Sergeant (steady on!)

 

Friday is one for the folk and acoustic types with plenty of contemporary sounds on offer and not a Fair Isle sweater or finger in the ear singing style to be found. Promoting his latest album, Human Herdings, Marc O’Reilly can be found at The Victoria blending fragile folk and emotive blues reminiscent of the likes of John Martyn or Bon Iver and with a string of major festivals and the weight of the national radio tastemakers behind him, this is obviously going to be a bit special. However, not to be outdone, Riffs Bar Acoustic Session has a bit of a coup in Darren Hodge. I first saw Darren as a semi finalist at the Radio 2 Young Folk Awards and when you experience his mesmerising blend of old time blues, bluegrass picking, vibrant jazz and folk you will realise that this is a chap with a bright future ahead. Support comes from fellow acoustic troubadour Sophie Curtis.

 

If that wasn’t enough a bonafide musical legend rolls into town as Steeleye Span’s legendary fiddle player Peter Knight leads his new musical vehicle, Gigspanner, through acoustic music that flirts with everything from eastern European, French, Cajun, African and even Aboriginal sounds. This is roots music, world music, global folk…call it what you will, at its finest.

 

Another emerging singer songwriter can be found at The Beehive. Robert Brown is a collector of world music styles with which he infuses his brilliant song crafting and virtuoso finger picking style, the result a cross between Nick Drake and Jimmy Page with a well stamped passport. More established sounds can be found in the inimitable electric blues selections of The Mike Hoddinott Blues Allstars at The Rolleston and Talon, a tribute to The Eagles at The Wyvern Theatre. Also of note you can catch ska covers and originals with the No-Marks at The Castle.

 

On Saturday Buswell will be subjecting The Victoria to it’s lush orchestral pop and given the recent self-imposed challenges of their erstwhile leader, expect there to be an element of surprise and spontaneity in the bands line up. Support comes from ex-Flaming Moes frontman Erik Nyberg now trading in mellow Nordic-indie pop as Last Box of Sparklers, guitarist Matt Adey and DJ Bobby The Persuader spinning tunes into the early hours.

 

At The GW, Jimmy Moore will be playing a show to launch his debut album The Good Times, so if a cross between The City and The Colour and Frank Turner sound like your thing, this is the party to be at plus there is a chance to pick up a limited special edition version of the album.

 

The rest of the week very briefly. Sunday at Riffs a host of artists, including Emmy Fearon, Josh Heather and Young Wilson line up to raise money for Children in Need, and The Swamp Marshalls play Celtic bluegrass at The Beehive.

 

Finally Songs of Praise Unplugged at The Roaring Donkey features the soaring acoustic punk of Si Hall and the more considered and delicate tones of Mel Hughes.

10_Spiers__BodenI don’t really like to name drop. I was saying as much to Fiona Bruce when we were over at Liam Neeson’s place only the other day waiting for Noam Chomsky to turn up. So without naming names, suffice it to say that through my musical travels and via the people I meet on the local arts and music show I’m involved in, I get to talk to a lot of the people who actually make things happen in this town, everything from music and art, dance and film, to debating societies and underground media. And the common themes that come up in conversation are how much creativity there is in this town at the moment and how your average resident probably doesn’t realise it. Swindon has long had a bad press from lazy comedians looking for a convenient cliché but also, ironically, from the people who live here, creating something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I tell you what, Swindon is starting to hit a real ground swell of creative energy, things seem to be falling into place, Swindon is becoming, dare I say it…cool. We just need to get behind our town and show the rest of the country what we have here.

Helping to pave that good reputation we have a week of great and varied music on offer. Tonight at The Victoria, after a couple of recent mellower shows, Songs of Praise is going all loud and shouty with 50 Shades of Punk, a band definitely keeping their genre alive with high octane music and a hyperactive live show. Support comes from another local favourite, 2 Sick Monkeys, a frantic punk drum and bass 2 piece known as much for their between song rants as their relentless musical style. Opening the show is Parva Hinton, a London based, future punk, synth sound clash.

If you prefer something less likely to upset the neighbours and spill your beer then maybe an evening of Chicago blues at The Beehive courtesy of Built For Comfort is more your thing.

Friday brings lots of opportunity for you to get behind your live music scene. At The Royal Oak, The AK-Poets mix great melodies with an uncompromising rock and roll delivery and a charismatic stage presents whilst at The Beehive The Blue Tree’s take rock and roll on a southern road trip.

A couple of acoustic options also pop up on the radar. Riffs Bar acoustic session features Leicester songster Paul McClure and Southern Folk who as their name suggests play a range of rootsy Americana flavours. The Regent plays host to Darren Hodge who you may have seen recently shortlisted in the Young Folk competition at the recent BBC Folk Awards. Also appearing is Ethemia, makers of lush dream-folk music who also featured recently on BBC radio as guests of Gaby Roslin.

Covers can be had either at The Rolleston with Humdinger playing contemporary rock standards or if you prefer a band with a sillier take on the idea, Kova Me Badd at The Victoria parody the pop classics.

Saturday continues largely in the same vein with tributes to Bon Jovi at The Victoria, Steely Dan at Riffs Bar and Rory Gallagher at The Rolleston plus party covers from Breeze at The Royal Oak. Classic rock is supplied by Rorke’s Drift at The Swiss Chalet. If however you are feeling stout of heart, reckless or just know no better then a trip to The Castle will find you in the dubious company of rhythm and booze legends, The Hamsters From Hell. Loud, in your face, no holds barred riotous pub rock flavoured with beards, beer, blasphemy and a bad attitude.  What could possibly go wrong?

If you need something less abrasive to wind the weekend down then The Beehive afternoon session features Kola Koca, a band renowned for a mix of eclectic styles, social commentary, politics and humour.

Jazz fans can catch The Wayne Elliot Trio at The Plough that evening and then on Tuesday at Baker Street The Graham Taylor Quartet. Meanwhile just along the road at The Arts Centre, Spiers and Boden (pictured) , better known as Eliza Carthy sidekicks and founders of folk super group Bellowhead, are playing what they have announced will be their last show in duo format for the foreseeable future. So, definitely one to catch.

Finally The Crown at Stratton on Wednesday features the delicate sounds and considerable song craft of Louise Latham.

600x600In an effort to keep up with the mainstream side of the music industry I tentatively watched the BRITs last week. I know that I’m far from the target audience but dear me what a disaster. Firstly, how can James Corden, a man who could teach Robbie Williams a thing or two about being smug, be the best presenter available? Not only did he look so far out of his depth, his interviews came across like a petulant college kid talking to inarticulate show-offs against the background chatter of an audience too busy taking “selfies” to pay attention. And why was Ellie Goulding singing backwards…in Finnish? The most edgy thing to happen was Alex Turner dropping the microphone, a feat that twitter users seemed to find on par with Keith Moon blowing up his drum kit (and himself and Pete Townsend) at their US TV debut. How times have changed.

This was, however, balanced by the watching of the BBC folk awards later that night, a genre inhabited by rugged, real ale drinking blokey blokes and flame haired Celtic beauties. Throw in Mark Radcliffe hosting, some virtuosic live music and a general feeling of celebration, decorum and mutual support and you actually got to see what an award ceremony should be about.

And if you are looking for something cool as folk, then The Victoria tonight is the place, as Rob Heron and The Tea Pad Orchestra blend the genre with gypsy jazz, Cajun, ragtime and country roots. Support is from the ever popular Missin’ Rosie…heads down, no nonsense, mindless folk music! And if you want a more Euro-centric take on the genre then The John Langan Band (pictured) at The Beehive provides the answer – high energy, extravagant and slightly unhinged acoustic playing of a joyous mix of polka, klezmer and Celtic folk traditions.

If you fancy making your own music then pop along to The Patriots Arms in Chiseldon for an open mic. night hosted by Jimmy and Aidan Moore (no relation.)

Friday delivers more of the tried and tested rather than the boundary pushing but you won’t find a better classic rock cover band around than Bad Obsession who play The Rolleston. Tributes are also on the cards with the music of ZZ Top at The Victoria and Boot Led Zeppelin at Riffs Bar delivering an acoustic take on the legendary band.

If you didn’t catch them at their open mic. earlier in the week and you want more of Moore and Moore (no relation) then they are part of a fundraising evening at The GW on Saturday which also features the soulful acoustica of Benji Clements and the sweet moreish sounds of Remedy. Need I say more?

If high energy music is your preference then catch guitarist Jamie Thyer as he leads his Worried Men through R’n’B standards at The Rolleston on Saturday whilst at The Castle, it’s time to grab your Crombie and pork pie hat for The Nomarks and their ska and reggae originals.  You could even combine this with the short walk down to The Beehive where the Shocks of Mighty DJ’s will be spinning similar genres.

The Victoria has Syntronix, a tribute to eighties synth pop and at the other end of the scale it’s all about bringing Pearl Jam back to life Riffs Bar. Support to that comes from a re-union show from Tiryth, a metal band who must have been away from the scene for a decade at least.

Proving that Sunday doesn’t have to be the day of rest, more heavy music is to be had from two South Wales post-hardcore bands When We Were Wolves and Set To Break at The Victoria.  Not your thing? Why not head to The White Hart for a slick slice of soul grooves and funky R’n’B with Otis Mack and The Tubby Bluesters maybe after catching the 3am porch blues picking of David Bristow at The Beehive afternoon session.

Baker Streets regular Tuesday jazz offering comes in the form Portuguese guitarist Miguel Martins who delivers a neat line in contemporary playing mixed with a more traditional jazz legacy. For this show the regular quartet is augmented by renowned tenor sax player Brandon Allen.

Final acoustic offerings on Wednesday come in the form of Drew Bryant at The Roaring Donkey and bluesman Ian O’Regan and Darren Hodge at The Crown, the latter who you may also have spotted on the aforementioned BBC folk awards.

Seamlessly full circle or what?

1185071_656401631049473_470672266_nA New Year, a new start. Time to select a blank canvas and start sketching a fresh picture or more relevant to this column, pick up a new instrument and play a new tune. T.S. Elliot put it well when thinking of New Year and fresh starts when he so eloquently said,

 

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice”

 

But then on the same subject of celebrating the start of a new year, Paris Hilton slightly less eloquently said,

 

“ I get half a million just to show up at parties. My life is, like, really really fun”

 

Which to me says something about how society is spiraling out of control.

 

So, in this quieter time of the year there is room to stop and reflect on what you want from the local music scene this year. It has been a time of belt tightening and cut backs, musical austerity if you like but that is not to say that we can’t do something about that. Austerity is about money, supporting music…or any art form is not, it’s about cutting your coat according to your cloth as they say. If you can’t get gigs in the few venues left operating, put your own on in alternative locations, play cafes, basements, churches, parks, house parties or art spaces. You might even consider hitting the streets and busking! Old School. Music must find a way.This year is going to be about thinking outside the box as the music scene takes the time it needs to get back on it’s feet. But remember, wherever the gig takes place, it still needs to be supported, so lets have none of the old excuses. If you are feed up by music being represented by a twerking twerp like Ms Cyrus, Nickleback (probably the worst Pearl Jam tribute band in the world) or anything that is the product of a TV show, from X-Factor to Glee, then get involved with grass roots music, whilst there is something still to get involved with.

 

Right, it may be a quiet week, but there are still a few choice cuts to be dined on. At The Victoria tonight, Secret Chord Records have a showcase of just some of the acts that they have handpicked to work with throughout the coming year, so the quality control has been done for you. Headline are the band who’s recent album seems to be as popular in Japan and New York as it is in Swindon, Super Squarecloud (pictured). A wonderful alchemizing of skewed pop, mathy interludes, time signatures that have more to do with quantum physics than music, the result is some of the most original sounds you will hear in ages. Support comes from Bristolians, Armchair Committee a band who combine the howling blues riffs of the Jack White school of cool with monumental stoner riffs and a impressively joyous noise. Opening the night Faye Rogers delicate folk palette is very much the calm before the storm.

 

Friday is the night for acoustic music, The Victoria has  Pirate Joe, a wonderful collection of improvisation, looping effects, comedy and multi-instrumentation. Support comes from the brilliant Jimmy Moore, the enigmatic Zackie Chan plus local stalwarts Hiproute.

 

At Riff’s Bar the first of the new Acoustic Sessions kicks off with Darren Hodge, who I can find almost no information about on the internet and Adam Sweet who plays bluesy acoustic rock.

 

For something a bit more rock and roll, now re-patriated with the land of his birth, David Marx brings his AK-Poets back to The Rolleston, a riot of raucous riffs and manic melodies…not to be missed.

 

Saturday sees the welcome return of Iron Hearse to The Victoria, a wonderful mix of kick-ass rock, doom infused anthems and old school metal. Warming up the crowd for them are Hot Flex and a bag of suitable covers.

 

 

And finally The Rolleston features one of the youngest and most talented electric bluesmen on the circuit, Laurence Jones who takes influence from legends such as Albert Collins and Tony McPhee. This is a player who is keeping the genre alive and fresh and marching into the 21st Century.

 

So there we go, welcome to 2014.