Tag Archive: emily and the dogs


Beans on ToastWell, after a couple of weeks of gig listings that were quite literally an embarrassment of riches, things have calmed down a bit, but there is still a decent selection to be found on the musical menu this week.

 

Starting in our usual kick off point, the entrée on our acoustical a la carte offer, if you want to take the restaurant analogy to its illogical conclusion, Songs of Praise at The Victoria has a wonderfully intimate, seated show. Known the length and breadth of Old Town, Emily and The Dogs have been cooking up a veritable broth (enough of the culinary references now. Ed) infused with folk, gypsy jazz, blues, emotional resonance and late night reflections. Not a bad way to kick the weekend off. Joining them will be Hennesea –  imagine an acoustic Fleetwood Mac turning on to dream pop and Oliver Wilde who blends acoustica with shimmering technology to make wonderfully woozy experimental pop. And to think I used to play support to his dads band back in the day. Small world.

 

Rustic delights of the Americana variety can be found at The Beehive with this months Acoustic Buzz, featuring home grown bands Blind River Scare and The Open Secrets and all the way from San Antonio, Texas, is Rachel Laven touring her debut album, Unwind.

 

On into Friday and our good friends at Sheermusic are putting on a bit of an alt-folk treat. These days Beans on Toast (pictured) may rub shoulders with nu-folk royalty like Emmy the Great and Olympic warm-up act Frank Turner, but you can catch the man along with Oxygen Thief and Jimmy Moore at The Victoria.

 

Something a bit special at The Castle, all the way from Italy come The Sunny Boys, part Beach Boys part bubblegum punk though not to be confused with the Sydney post punk outfit of the same name. Theirs is a sound that will appeal to fans of Blink 41, Sum 182 and any number of North American bands with long shorts and numbers after their name. Jokes aside this is one of the slickest bands you will hear in town this year.

 

And that last sentence would carry a lot more weight if Dave Gregory’s current musical vehicle, Tin Spirits, weren’t also playing that night over at Riffs Bar. Dave, once part of the cutting edge of new-wave underground pop with XTC, these days revels in the myriad sounds of progressive rock.

 

Saturday at Riffs Bar is still about the rock, but this time, something less subtle, more primal. Anyone who hasn’t experienced Lord Bishop Rocks before really should do themselves the favour of catching this brilliant trio who alchemise Beatles melody, Sabbath’s oppressive weight and James Browns funk, the man is a musical shaman, you have to see it to believe it. Support includes the grunge-metal of Burnthru; trash rockers White Knuckle Bride and Latvian metal crew Burned in Blizzard.

 

Pop Quiz: What do Jay-Z, One Direction, Taylor Swift and Dizzee Rascal have in common? Answer: They have all had their songs ritually murdered by Kova Me Badd. If you want to witness the antithesis of good taste, musicianship and decorum, but do enjoy watching people who should know better make fools of themselves whilst brilliantly ruining chart covers, get up to The Victoria. A more serious offering comes with Grubby Jack and their upbeat and vibrant Celtic and American folk at The Tap and Barrell.

 

If a mix of alt-country, rock and folk sounds like your sort of thing, then Bob Collum and The Welfare Mothers at The Beehive is the place to head to, later that same day the voice of Dr Hook, Dennis Locorriere can be found at The Arts Centre and the jazz-heads will want to be at Baker Street for the potent and graceful piano led Dave Newton Trio.

 

More jazz on Tuesday, again at Baker Street this time with the gratuitous sax of the Kevin Figes Trio and Wednesday, The Running Horse plays host to singer-guitarist Ben Cipolla.

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Library - 192Review by PfalzDxii

Well I remember the day I clutched a few shillings and climbed up the stairs to see my first band. I remember the sense of anticipation and awe.

I was nearly late on Thursday for the evening’s entertainment; I hurried into the Vic and bought myself a drink. As I clutched my £3 and descended the few steps into the darkness, I was surprised, yet gently pleased, that I once again felt that same sense of anticipation and awe, I had felt, so long ago.

The reason for this strange and unexpected emotion was that fact that I was again to see “Emily and the Dogs”. This band could so easily have be called, “The Emily Drake Trio”. In my day, they would have been. Emily was once in “The Sunday Dogs”, as were both Lee Moulding, and Cinzano Taylor. I like your style, Em.

“Emily Sykes and Friends”, started off the evening’s revelries. Emily S. played rhythm-guitar whilst singing, with Phil on bass-guitar. Amy, Polly, and Rebecca, sang harmonies most wondrous to the ear. All four ladies sat together in a row. Phil, once more, sat behind and to the side. The stage was beset with strings of colourful petals. Were they perchance, artificial? Regardless, the effect was magical. So was this group of friends….. magical.

“Matilda” were on next. Phil left the stage. The four ladies went to their instruments. Emily Sykes to the drums. Amy, sax. Polly, bass-guitar. Rebecca to the keyboard, and her role as main singer. The other three, too, sang harmony as well as playing. The audience was enjoying themselves, as indeed was I.

“Excited-Nervous-Excited-Nervous-Excited-Nervous-Excited-Nervous……” quote from Emily Drake, the morning of the gig. It warmed my heart to read it. When an artist of Em’s abilities is that anxious, it means they intend to give their all. Emily Drake always does. This band of hers is still relatively new. They have played a few gigs together, and they have matured into a band to be reckoned with. Lee Moulding on drums and Cinzano on bass-guitar are a wonderful rhythm section. They compliment Emily; playing and singing to perfection. They have all been friends for a very long time, and know each others’ musical talents, intimately. And what singing! Razor sharp lyrics of much intelligence. Em uses her voice, at times, as an extra instrument, bending them to her will. It seemed to me that as each song finished, the applause grew ever louder. Yes, some of that was due to me, but I was certainly not alone. “Emily and the Dogs” appear to be a musicians’ band. The Vic was full of wonderful musicians. This added to the occasion. They seemed as awed by Emily’s pure talent and quality, as was I.

Emily, I love your art, all of it. For those that don’t yet know, Emily Drake is also an artist of fantastic imagery and imagination. The evening had been beautiful, and so full of warmth and love. Many did not want it to end. After-gig celebrations moved on to another local music pub, where a marvelous band was still playing, even I went. I too simply wanted the magic to continue. In a crowded pub near midnight, with a band in full flight, I ordered, and was served with, a cup of tea. Sometimes, I just love Swindon.

One thing is for certain. I love “Emily and the Dogs”.

Library - 187So sang Justin Currie on Del Amitri’s finest musical moment. Well Justin, this time you were wrong  (though the line “American businessmen snap up Van Gogh’s for the price of a hospital wing” is genius.) I suppose it’s bad enough that our neighbouring towns, Bristol and Oxford, like to think of Swindon as a musical backwater, but it’s so much worse when the people of this town seem to be taken in by that self-fulfilling prophecy. Well this little musical musing is just to draw your attention to the brilliant musical odyssey I have been on over the last couple of weeks in an effort to restore your faith in the artistic capabilities and achievements of this town. Not my faith, I’m totally aware of how far above our image we metaphorically punch, and if you go to a few gigs you will be as well.

Chapter I – The Secret Chord

 

It all started a couple of weeks ago at Riffs Bar, where I had been asked if I would be interested in running a couple of shows a month along the lines of Songs of Praise, a well established night at The Victoria. With more out of town bands asking for gigs than ever, I saw this as a great opportunity to bring even more new music into town and so The Secret Chord was born.

As a bit of a launch party before the gigs started in earnest a bill of local singer-songwriters was put together, start with something familiar to get peoples attention. First up was Plummie Racket, a great front man when in full punked up- indie trash mode but in my opinion even better solo where his songs get breathing space and can be better explored and appreciated. Even by his own admission being slightly worse for wear and opting to take the opening slot, he played a blinder.

Si Hall used to be a stalwart of the music scene, from early punky days with Buzztone and later with one of the best band names ever “Blind Dogs For The Guides,” it was great to have him back playing again.  Still sporting an exceptionally powerful voice, well crafted songs and an easy stage presence it was like he had never been away.

The phrase “silenced the room” is banded about too often but let me tell you when Faye Rogers played one guy was thrown out for dropping pins, the noisy sod. Ethereal is also an over used word, mainly by me, but that is also a suitable description. Spellbinding, fragile…I could go on, but I need to save some of those descriptions for later on in the article.

All that was left was for Nick Felix; someone who I must admit has only just appeared on my radar (well you can’t be everywhere can you) to weave his intricate guitar style around his cleverly penned words and the night was done. A good turn out, considering the geographical hindrances of the venue and the appalling weather, a good time was had by all and a bit of money was also raised for Strummerville, the chosen charity of these new nights. As of April there will be two nights of new, unsigned and off the radar bands so check the usual places for details.

Chapter II – Praise Be!

Just under a week later and it was the turn of my regular night, Songs of Praise, to supply the goods. Only two bands instead of the usual three but quality certainly made up for quantity. Opening the night were Nudybronque, a band more normally found in the headline slot, such was the strength of the line up. They are a band that I have watched with interest, not to mention amusement, occasionally amazement and often for all the wring reasons. Having grown from an also-ran pop band they have flowered into a much more interesting proposition. Fuelled by underlying post-punk influences they now weave a darker thread through their music without losing the power, effective delivery and stage presence of their former selves. Infectious, addictive, charismatic and self-deprecating, all elements that will stand them in good stead.

Headlining were the awesome Black Hats, a band that I have been bringing into Swindon for shows for a couple of years now and gradually we are seeing a bit of a increasing turn out for this Witney three piece. Imagine if The Jam were still going, had embraced the technology and changes in musical fashion but had held on to that fire that lay at the heart of their songs. That is Black Hats. Punchy, atmospheric and able to throw amazing hooks, grooves and powerchordery (that is a word honest) in equal measure.

Chapter III – But Where Were You? (Incorporating supply and demand for the undemanding)

One band that played Songs of Praise last year that I couldn’t fit into this years schedule was The Manic Shine, the logical thing to do was to find them another venue in town to play so the following night I found myself at The Furnace in the capable hands of that awfully nice chap, Gig Monkey, and a four band line up of no small merit.

Through the turn out wasn’t great, but that is the lot of original music at the moment, all four bands played as if they were at Glastonbury. Tides of Change played an animated set of alt-rock, and I mean animated. There were moves going on there from bassist Doug Statham that I hadn’t seen attempted since Hanoi Rocks called it a day. Up from Salisbury, middlenamekill play a hard hitting, consistently solid set that seems to defy any obvious pigeon-holeing, except to say that it is great. Even better is their attitude towards marketing themselves. Wandering the audience giving away free albums is a great way to get your message across, not only do you put your music into the CD players of people who might not have otherwise bought the album, it’s the sort of thing people remember.

Being an out of town band, The Manic Shine played next and delivered a lesson in how to put a show on. A complex rock sound that incorporates funky grooves, Byzantine heavy deliveries, prog workouts and more riffs than you can shake a Jimi Hendrix at, all underpinned by triggered synths-sounds and chaos boxing. And they never miss a beat, entertain and enthral in equal measure and have a stage presence that is mesmerising. Young, talented and having the time of their life, it would be easy to hate them if they weren’t such lovely people to be around. Follow that SkyBurnsRed.

Somehow they did. I did initially feel a bit guilty putting SBR on above The Manic Shine but in an effort to avoid the usual “I’m only here to see my mates and not sticking around for the bands I’ve never heard of” scenario it was an obvious way to play things. SkyBurnsRed always seem to up their game when you put them on a big stage and tonight was no exception. They seemed to grow in all aspects, more sweepingly classical, gruffer and grungy, more bass and beat driven, a perfect way to round up the night.

One foot note comes with stopping for a couple of drinks in The Rolleston upstairs. Having struggled to get a significant numbers in for new and original music, it is slightly disheartening to see the place rammed and singing along to Queen covers. And before the usual defenders of the faith try to hoist me with my own words, let me lay it out one more time. It’s all about supply and demand, give the audience what they want and that is exactly what the Rolleston do, and do well. I’m not in anyway having a go at their policy; it’s a business after all. I think I just wish people would be more demanding of their music, but that said and done I doubt if any of the people currently fist punching to We Are The Champions are the target audience for the gigs I’m putting on, so I will leave it at that. Accept to say that people who support cover and tribute bands at the exclusion of original music remind me of people who go on holiday to wonderful overseas destinations and instead of embracing the local culture, instead hunt down the place that does English breakfasts, has the big screen TV showing the England game and try to order a pint of Tetley’s at the local bodega. Rant over…brace for verbal impact.

Chapter IV – Ladies and Germans I give you The Driftwood Fairytales

 

It was lovely to witness the return of Rich Millin, local drum legend, music teacher, friend and twit! His reason for being here was in the role of stand in drummer for a wonderful Berlin based band called The Driftwood Fairytales (pictured), a band I had the please of witnessing at The Beehive one Sunday afternoon. Theirs is a blend of folk-rock and anthemic Gaslight Anthem-esque big singalong choruses. So enthralled was I by their music that I immediately purchase both of their albums, which I can’t recommend highly enough and a t-shirt (which obviously I took a pair of scissors to – too many sleeves for my liking.) After the gig, drink and tour stories flowed and international relations were put on a solid footing.

Chapter V – Some Enchanted Evening

 

And so we come to the final gig in this wonderful musical odyssey a night at The Victoria of rare outings by less testosterone fuelled bands than what had largely gone before. Opening the night was Emily Sykes fronting a band that provided bass and sumptuous backing harmonies to her fragile and vulnerable songs. Not the most ubiquitous of musicians these days, it was great to see her fronting her own music again, her previous band, The Julia Set, seems a long time ago now.

Matilda came next, a lovely blend of laid back lounge jazz, Amy Hedges clarinet often giving it a sort of chilled, New York klezmer edge, Alison Kraus style country, dream-pop and folk. Upping the stakes slightly in the area of punch and dynamics came Emily and The Dogs and enchanting and seemingly effortless blend of jazz, folk and rock and skirting around the realms normally inhabited by the likes of Ani De Franco and Polly Harvey.

Have you ever tried to get a dozen people to leave one pub at the same time? Impossible. So once the decision had been made to head down The Beehive to round the night off, all I could do was make my way there and see who actually followed in my wake. Surprisingly everybody, I think, and the night continued onwards to a sound track of lilting folk and fired up Celtic rock courtesy of Missin’ Rosie. I would tell you more about it, but my memory goes a bit hazy at that point. Suffice it to say stocks of Nurofen are in short supply in Swindon this morning.

Chapter VI – That was the (2) week(s) that was.

 

So, nothing ever happens in Swindon. Do me a favour!

Why have X-factor, when you can watch and meet real musical heroes, why have Facebook friends when you can spend time in the company of actual friends.  You can keep reality TV, I’ll stick to reality.

Library - 185The world of music was stunned this week after the shock announcement that Girls Aloud have split up the day after their tenth anniversary tour ended (almost as if it had been planned that way). And worse than that they have fallen out with Nadine Coyle who publicly tweeted that the split was nothing to do with her, giving rise to speculation of rifts and backstabbing in their ranks. Surely not, they seem so mild mannered and balanced and not at all hungry for media attention. The group who rose to fame after a successful punch up with a washroom attendant have left a string of timeless hit, the name of which escapes me at the moment. I for one hope that the girls make it up, as the thought of them being angry at one another is too much for me to bear.

Anyway, from the ridiculous to the sublime, as The Victoria tonight has a female bias in its running order. You will be able to catch a rare live outing by Matilda, a wonderful cocktail of country, classical and dreamy lounge jazz, an even rarer solo outing by Emily Sykes who does a neat line is seductive acoustica and Emily and the Dogs who I must warn you contains a hairy, all male rhythm section, but they do scrub up nicely.

Out at Riffs one of the truly unique musical visitors to these shores, Bob Log III (pictured), pops over from Tucson, Arizona to subject the place to a lesson in trash blues, helmets, scotch drinking and assorted naughtyness! Another blues offering comes in the more normal form of Bob Bowles at The Rolleston and if you have a hankering for fired up Celtic folk, then head to the Beehive for some high octane shennanighins with Missin’ Rosie.

Friday sees the MECA get on board the music scene with an under 18’s Popcorn and Chocolate Party. Those of a slightly older persuasion, or with chocolate allergies might like to try the following. There are a couple of tributes in town; nineties kids might want to experience a bit of grunge nostalgia with Earl Jam at The Rolleston, those who appreciate the “Man in Black” should walk the line up to The Victoria for Cash, a show that I can’t recommend enough.

Original music can, however,  be found in abundance at Riffs Bar with the fairly odd pairing of Cold In Berlin’s delay drenched, bleak, brooding and animalistic musical shamanism and The Shudders melodic lo-fi indie meets country rock, a tapestry threaded from Crazy Horse, Bright Eyes and Wilco for those weaving enthusiasts out there.

Originality takes a bit of a back seat on Saturday, so you might want to opt for classic rock covers at The Rolleston with Lonesome Crow, though if Burlesque is your thing, then head out to Riffs Bar, with music from Ghost Trail.

Sunday sees the best/worse cover band in history take the stage at The Victoria. Kova Me Badd are local legends who should really know better but if you imagine a live parody of every Now… compilation album ever made, that’s at least a starting point.

Washboards and shakers at the ready at The Rolleston for a bit of skiffle madness and audience participation courtesy of Ode and The Bebops who may once and for all be answering the age old question about the lasting flavour properties of chewing gum left on bedroom furniture. Aiden Moore will be playing a mix of covers and originals at The Sun Inn at Coate Water and the Beehive afternoon session features Jim Reynolds who taps into blues, ragtime, rhythm and blues, music hall and folk. That’s followed by the Soul Box dj’s and a selection of Soul, Tamla and Ska tunes to see the weekend round off with a nice vibe.

Last but not least, the regular Wednesday session at The Running Horse sees none other than Nick Tann return to its hallowed domain. Nick not only does a neat line in slightly jazz edged, acoustic folk but also is a blogosphere hero, podcaster and promoter and as such deserves your support in return. With him this time is Anna Neale, whose songs explore and resonate from such depths as Roman Literature and ancient religious texts through mediums as diverse as gentle ballads, arabesques, frantic acoustica to slow burning anthems. I’d say that ticks all the boxes.

And now the News. In light of recent events I now find my position as writer of Sounds Around Town no longer tenable and have therefore decided that the only proper course of action is to step aside and spend more time with my record collection and re-runs of Time Team. As a replacement I have appointed myself to the position of Acting Dave Franklin as an interim solution until the matter is resolved. So as to avoid any lengthy negotiations I have also asked the paper to consider me for a £450,000 golden handshake but have, as of yet, received no reply. Apparently questions have been raised in the House about the situation, not my house, you understand, someone else’s house, but the windows were shut and I couldn’t hear what they were saying.

 

So on with the show. It’s Songs of Praise at The Victoria tonight again the tables and subdued lighting is out to welcome the dulcet tones of Emily and The Dogs. Mixing jazz, folk and rock and coming off somewhere between Polly Harvey and Ani Di Franco, this trio of highly experienced musicians are something a bit special. A slight change to the plans sees historically aware, baroque-pop stalwarts Mr Love and Justice take the middle spot with Nick Felix opening up the evening. Meanwhile jazz is on the menu at The Beehive with the guitar and vocal combo Ruba Tempo.

 

Friday night is all about the Children in Need show out at Riffs Bar. Burnthru bring their rock hybrid – part metal, part sleaze, part grunge to the party and joining them are The Dark Sinatra’s, a band whose ability to mix groove driven bass lines, rocked out jazz junkie drum fills and Byzantine heavy guitar work into something dark, experimental yet accessible and danceable is unprecedented.  Scud Penguin and 5 Lives Left are also helping this most worthy cause.

 

Over at The Furnace it’s all about old school rock. Out of the flatlands of the windswept east, otherwise known as Lincolnshire, come Nightvision, blistering classic rock, razor wire riffs and thunderous rhythms will be the order of the day. Dead By Friday? and Wreckoning provide more of the same, but if you like your rock a bit more Sunset Strip, a bit more sleaze-boogie and street-smart, then make sure you catch Rough Cut.

 

In a week with an already heavy rock bias, then The Victoria will provide a roots music oasis on Saturday night. The funky grooves and lap guitar blues of Hip Route are the musical destination of the evening but first you will have to negotiate a wonderful journey through soulful acoustic jazz vibes of The Andy Grant Trio and the smorgasbord of southern sounds that tumble from Pignose (pictured).

 

The Royal Oak plays host to The Erin Bardwell Collective, old school ska, reggae and rocksteady all go into the mix and whilst you are there make sure you pick up a copy of their cracking new album, Bringing The Hope.

 

Back into the maelstrom of the heavy sounds that are dominating this week and a perfect pairing washes up at The Furnace. Both Godsized and Eye For An Eye revel in thunderous riffs and colossal beats without losing their ear for melody. The result is a biker metal mix of the best of old school British such as Sabbath and the southern swagger and groove of ZZ Top turned up to eleven. From Ruin play the role of the perfect opening act.

 

The 12 Bar also get in on the act as Newquay hardcore outfit, Envy The Fallen play a tribute set to Australian metalcore band, Parkway Drive. More metal is also forthcoming from Make No Mistake and the modest Dissolute who’s website states that they are “way ahead of their time in terms of talent.”

 

Sunday afternoon is a bit more chilled out. When they cried Go West! one native of Tulsa, Oklahoma came east, and you can hear the anglicised, alt-country and Costello-esque delivery of Bob Collum at The Beehive for the  afternoon session. Alternately you can head for the Arts Centre and another outing for the west-coast jangle meets West Country lore of Mr Love and Justice. They are joined by Albion, a folk duo in the Greenwich Village coffee shop style.

 

Wednesday evening has it’s usual musical barrier against mid week boredom. Missin’ Rosie deliver rocked out Celtic folk at The Running Horse, a wonderfully charismatic and joyously upbeat support comes courtesy of The Real Raj. There is a Bluegrass jam over at Riffs Bar or you can catch the new line up of The Blue Trees at The Victoria.

Review by PfalzDxii

I know some stalwart Shuffle goers who did their utmost best to be everywhere over the three day shuffle, they are heroes. I know of one musician now resident in Berlin who on being asked if he felt like a drink, jumped on a plane, and was at the shuffle. He is a legend. I though, had mainly highlighted “Matilda”, and “Emily and the Dogs” as two bands not, not to be missed. I have seen them both before and was very happy they didn’t clash with one another. Where does time go? As I write this, I realize that the Shuffle was two weeks ago. But the memories!

Where indeed does time go? I am from the generation that thought punk should have been given its own BBC programme rather than invade The Old Grey Whistle Test. Not to be too prejudiced however, I went with my then wife (yes I did have one) to see XTC at the Oasis. This was in about 1978 when Barry Andrews was still in the band, and before Dave Gregory joined. Standing at the front though was a mistake. Gobbing was still in full swing. This was the quaint custom of the band spitting from the stage, onto the heads of their fans below. I was not enamoured of this, but do remember that the music was excellent. For one reason and another, I stopped going to local bands and became a cultural recluse. Thirty years later, friends and relatives dragged me against my will to the Vic. I treasure that act of kindness. On stage that evening (13/11/08) were the Sunday Dogs and Matthew Kilford. What had I been missing? That was the first time I saw Emily Drake, she was playing violin in the Sunday Dogs, and singing vocals. Such wonderful music. I very soon discovered many other fabulous bands including “Matilda”. It was all such a revelation. I had lost thirty years.

A buzz went around the Beehive, one of “Matilda” couldn’t make it and they weren’t coming. Well, yes and no. Just as we got this piece of sad news, Emily Sykes walked in with guitar. She is the drummer in “Matilda”. Amy and Polly came in without any instruments. So it was Rebecca (singer and keyboard player), who was missing. Emily and the others found stools. Phil Hamer (with electric bass guitar) sat as far back in the corner of the room as possible with his head down, he had joined an all girl band. Except that now the line-up was “Emily Sykes and Friends”, a new and exciting line-up in which Emily is the lead singer. Someone shouted out “what’s the name of the band?” Emily replied with “Matilda mark II”. Phil did his best to hide. Emily has such a wonderful voice for folk and for harmonizing with the others, and did this whilst playing rhythm. Phil was playing the softest bass possible. There were songs accompanied only by clapping and seated stomping. This was all so harmonious and beautiful. As with Matilda, the humorous banter and laughter, was joyous.

“Emily Drake and the Dogs” were up next, I was glad I didn’t have to change venues. Emily Drake having turned the tables, now has some of the same musicians she played with in The Sunday Dogs. This time it was Ian Taylor on bass, and Lee Moulding on drums. This band is another newly formed wonder. They play Emily’s songs with such vitality and love. The songs are superb. Threatening, poignant, sharp, loving. Emily was playing rhythm guitar, will her talents never end? I stood next to her husband during their set, he was taking photos. Emily introduced new material. Songs that held me spellbound. I became aware that the audience was filling up with the great and good of the local music scene. “Emily Drake and the Dogs” are rapidly making a name for themselves, and rightly so. Afterwards, outside on the pavement, Emily Drake’s music was a subject of much conversation, all of it good. Some were surprised just how good she is. I though, already knew that. She is brilliant! As I walked away from the Beehive, a badger ran across my path. A rare and memorable evening indeed!!

Review by Joy Bells

Let the battle continue…

Day 2 of the shuffle! Saturday and Apollo’s polished up the chariot. The sun is officially out! Yesterday’s lesson learnt I slip on my Converse and cadge a lift on the Triumph Bonneville, courtesy of Mr Mick. Yesterday’s early evening soda drinking jamboree has left me hang over free and that’s good as I anticipate a busy day fitting in shedloads of talent at 4 different venues. My shuffle will see me doing more hopping than a cockney vacation to Kent!

The Rolleston is my first stop and Doeser, Swindon’s punk age prototype pits his raw vocals against Mike Nee’s sleaze blues harmonica. This is half of ‘Hamsters from Hell’ – with the staying power of Stonehenge they’re part of Swindon’s musical archaeology. Billy Jon follows; all rich vocals, unbuckled charm charting thoughts mined in moments of clarity and thrills spilt in bright guitar flashes of light. The benches outside begin to empty as Shufflers forego the sunshine for this acoustic set and shoppers gripping Sainsbury’s carrier bags pop their heads round the door to see what the fuss is about. Fresh faced Faye Rogers takes over, engaging and vulnerable her clean, lilting voice has a Bjork like ebb and flow wrapped up with pretty guitar melodies. Here’s a really promising talent…and what a cracking pair of red Doc Martens. But I need a pick me up and the thought of Starbucks and The Bateleurs playing at Rise Records in Swindon’s Brunel Plaza prompts us to head into town.

Caffeine quaffing we arrive at Rise as Buswell play their last few numbers. Reduced to 7 or 8 members there’s still a disparate musical dialogue delivering unyielding country/folk vibes less Mumford and Sons and more Buswell (as in Shaun) and friends. There are musicians from Anchor and the wolf, Missing Rosie, The Shudders and God knows how many other bands, which reminds me why the Swindon music scene is worth its weight in grand piano’s! Ego isn’t as important as creating music; from sound engineers to bass guitarists, roles overlap like tectonic plates holding this musical world together.

A sizeable crowd have gathered outside the shop and Brunel ‘security’ informs management that they need the people watching to move inside. There’s a great atmosphere and when The Bateleurs start playing at the back of the shop, sure enough a few people decide they’ll throw their lot in with the devil and shuffle (see what I did there) uncertainly in.

Having missed the silky folk smoked rock of The Bateleurs last night I soon start tapping my feet and nodding my head. I love Sean Amor’s voice, like gravel in a thick milkshake and the fiddle, plaintive and restrained. What a wicked way to buy your books and CDs.At the end it was hard to drag ourselves away and in an attempt to maintain our stamina we force feed ourselves pasties from Greggs while discussing ‘endurance between venue’ tactics for the night ahead. But as Steve Martin says, ‘Talking about music is like dancing about architecture’ – so we made our way back to The Rolleston for the real thing.

Adepto Futui were just setting up and they did not disappoint. This is a 4 man funky, hunky package tied up with groovy, twangy strings, with keyboard notes flying like bullets through cymbals crashing like Atlantic waves in a storm. Believe me, that’s a very good thing. West Coast Americana bubbling under the grill of the Swindon Town shuffle. Don’t mind if I do…They’re quickly followed by the technically excellent Blowbacks. I’ve seen them before and will see them again. They’re melodic, articulate with a dash of Blur-ish Britpop rock and cool as cucumbers to boot. Eight or nine songs later and they’re making way for the next band.

The musical tapas continues in the form of Nudybronque. Mike Sheehan sounds like Morrissey (if Morrissey ate meat and liked people) and the rhythms and beats are bouncier than Jordan’s breasts, but they also entertain with on stage wrestling, drum kit demolition, infectious smiles and songs about real life…’she says she’s pregnant’. The drum kit is quickly reassembled for Super SquareCloud, all innovative melodica, percussion driven, keyboard frisson, guitar risen from the dead and octave changing vocals pared at times into ethereal bars of flighty lyrical fancy. Super SquareCloud need some absorption, but osmosis is my middle name!

A few songs from the end we stand outside wondering if we can get to 12 Bar in time for Plummie Racket’s acoustic set with Dan. Fortunately Alan Holmes of Holmes Music appears. He’s checking the equipment on a quick trip out from The SOLAM festival at Riffs and offers us a lift. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, or anywhere else come to think of it, we hop in his van and are at 12 Bar before you could say ‘The Black Hats Rock!’

There’s only a couple of people in the venue, so Frankie and I pull our chairs to the very front and treat it like our own personal show. Affably sweary and constantly updating his repertoire with songs he writes a few hours before going on stage, he and Dan perform like they’re engaging with a Glastonbury crowd. As the first song ends I’m surprised by the clapping and hooting behind me. The venue has filled up and the rest of his set is met with loud and good humoured appreciation.

Farewells done we leave and pop into the Chinese take away on Faringdon Road for a bag of chips. Shuffling is no good for your health; I’m going to have to run every day next week to combat one day’s pastry and potato combo. We hear a horn beep and look up to see Mr Holmes four-way flashing on the road side. He’s fast becoming our taxi service and whisks us up to The Beehive. The pub is heaving. People aren’t standing outside to enjoy the balmy evening they simply can’t get in. Melodious tendrils of delicate harmony filter through the cheery babble. Matilda are in full swing.  (with Becky called away Matilda actually became Emily Sykes and friends instead – Ed) By the time we actually push through to the back they’ve finished and Emily and the Dogs are setting up.

I’ve been meaning to check out this band for ages, everyone’s talking about them and from the moment they begin I know why. The guitars and drum fit like well-crafted jigsaw pieces around the most emotionally weighted voice, all Dion Washington washed with Winehouse; there’s depth and resonance, jagged edged pain and joyous melody. It’s all here, soul, jazz and folksy charm playing beautifully together and sharing musical jewels.

It’s been a long day and we nip out to Fratello’s on Victoria Road for a pick me up coffee. On the way we’re startled by a badger running hell for leather down a back ally. An animal contingent of music lovers must have heard that Emily and the Dogs are live at the Hive and want to play!  We bump into Plummie (again) on the way back and he’s still promising Racket badges. At the Beehive the 3 man acoustic collective Mr Love and Justice are filling the place with easy listening folksy nostalgia, all long served musicians highly respected on the Swindon music scene. What a great way to wrap up the night.

But it doesn’t end there. Talking politics with Steve Cox of Mr L and J, playing darts and winning – that combination of alcohol and live music again and making a detour on the way home to say ‘Happy Anniversary’ to Dave and Anna who were partying up at The Victoria all added to The Shuffle experience. One more day to go…can I do it? Is the Pope Catholic?

Shuffle Pod Cast

Those splendid chaps at The Ladder Factor have put together a Shuffle special podcast featuring interviews and music relevent to the forth coming festival. Find it on their home page below and let us know what you think.

http://www.fromtheladderfactory.com/_…from_the_Ladder_Factory/Home.html

music from Street Orphans, Buswell, Emily and the Dogs, The Shudders, Plummie Racket and Nudy Bronque and interviews with MIke (Nudy Bronque) Sean (Buswell) and Ed and Dave from The Shuffle.

Big thanks to Sean at The Ladder Factory.

So, last week there may not have been too many gigs going on, but this week, you can’t move for tripping over some earnest young chap thrashing a guitar, a laid back blues dude grooving the night away or a band of frantic folkies jigging and reeling their hearts out. And what has caused this tsunami of live music that wil play havoc with my carefully scrutinised word count? It’s only the first of the season’s indoor local festivals. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Riffstock! Running from Friday to Sunday the “Biggest Little Music Festival in the West” at Riffs Bar (the clue is in the name) will be raising money for three very worthy causes.  Over the course of the weekend you can experience music as diverse as the, in your face punk, drum and bass of 2 Sick Monkeys, the long awaited return of pirate fixated alt-folkies, The Shudders, effervescent, fired up pop from Nudybronque, the warped, musical terrorism of Mr Hello and His Honesty Club, The Fixed, Emily and the Dogs ( a real must see), Guitar Stools and Cigarettes, Vynal Matt and so much more. For the full story go to their website or Facebook event page.

And as if that wasn’t enough, there is still plenty to choose from musically back in the less rural venues.  Dance music for the 21st century will be on the menu tonight as the Zetan Spore mothership descends on The Beehive for a night of psy-trance, hard dance grooves and alien beats.

More conventional music can be found at The Rolleston in the form of Sam Eden, a singer-songwriter whose style occasionally borders on the likes of Brian Kennedy and David Gray but who mainly creates unique and delicate musical structures from intricate playing and brilliant vocal deliveries.

At the Victoria, there is a showcase for Bath College’s HNC music students, featuring the insanity of Maribou Stalk, the soul power of Tallis and The Pride, the hi-octane loops and sax of Mossyband, the voodoo tunes of Dr Elephonte and much more besides.

Friday is built around a triumvirate of great gigs…. err, that means three for you non-classical scholars. The Furnace sees a rare hometown outing for the southern groove, biker metal of Eye For An Eye. Expect industrial strength riffs, thunderous beats, growling vocal attacks, hair, beards, blood, sweat and beers. If young bands need a lesson in how to put on a rock show…let this band be your guide.

At The 12 Bar, Out of Towner’s is a night showcasing, as it says, out of area bands headlining with the contradictory Doll Rats – powerful yet ethereal, raw but delicate, raucous and enigmatic. Sounds pretty good to me. Other visiting acts are Peyote who sound like the Jim Jones Revue writing the sound track for a David Lynch road movie and the one I’m looking forward to, The Peasant Kings, historically aware and with one or two old school Celtic rock ghosts looming large over their music.

Talk in Code has undergone a major change in the last year or so. They are no longer the band that your dad might listen to, now their new dance fuelled vibe means they are more the CD that your sharp-dressed, musically savvy, cool older brother refuses to lend you. However you can catch them at their CD launch show at The Victoria. Three Letter Agency and Oli Hill support.

Creatures of the night will find something to raise a rare smile at The Furnace on Saturday as Sarah Jezebel Deva rocks into town. Best known as long-serving backing singer in Cradle of Filth, she has also graced such bands as Mortiis, Therion and The Kovenant. Expect well-executed,  dynamic, dark, sweeping, symphonic metal.

At the opposite end of the musical spectrum, The Warsaw Village Band will treat the Old Town Bowl to music that is both ancient and hauntingly pagan in its folksy form yet as driven and trancey as any modern “dance” music. More roots music, though this time of a delta-blues nature with helpings of country, swamp-blues, jazz, soul and folk, can be found at The Rolleston in the form of Gwyn Ashton.

My tip for Sunday is catch the afternoon session at The Beehive courtesy of the blues grooves, jazz vibes, soulfulness and sheer energy of The Fraser Tilley Trio…(yes they are a four piece but lets not get into all that again) and end up at The Rolleston that evening for the acoustic delights of Ben Fletcher. Well, you don’t have to but it’s just a thought.