Tag Archive: emily sykes


thSome weeks things just seem to fall into place and the local music diary features four…yes, four, amazing events as well as the usual selection of regular gigs. So without further ado…

 

Sheer Music is one of the leading lights of music promotion in Wiltshire. Under the leadership of that awfully nice chap Kieran Moore, they have brought acts such as Frank Turner, Foals, Ben Marwood, Gnarwolves and many more to a venue near you and tonight they celebrate 10 years in the game with a show at Level 3. Headliners are the aptly named Decade (I see what you did there) a band who show you what pop-punk can do once it stops sniggering at it’s own in-jokes and graduates from college. Their songs are infectious and bouncy and their stage show is one long adrenaline rush. Also on the bill are Light You Up, With Ghosts and Hey Vanity.

 

If that isn’t your musical cup of tea then why not try some chilled harmonies, dreamy acoustica and ambient folk. Heading an all female line up, The Cadbury Sisters bring their tour to Songs of Praise at The Victoria. Theirs is a half forgotten dream world that evokes childhood memory, otherworldly harmonies mixing the fragile and fey with darker themes, Swallows and Amazons meets The Wickerman perhaps. Adding to the nature of the night is the delicate songs of Faye Rogers and a rare outing for the sublime Emily Sykes.

 

If blues is more your thing then head to The Beehive for Georgia guitarist Kent DuChaine a player who authentically delivers the spirit of all those wonderful old bluesmen from Robert Johnson to Son House and all three Kings – BB, Albert and Freddie!

 

A real melding of artistic disciplines can be found at New College on Friday as Chicago poet, Don Share, is joined on stage by local live musicians as part of the Swindon Festival of Poetry. In this unique and improvised show, Don is joined by Barry Andrews, Jon Bucket, Brendan Hamley and Catherine Shrubshall. Barry sums it up best when he explains “(Don) gets off the plane, steps on stage and then what happens, happens. And it will never exist in that way again.”

 

More conventional but no less exciting shows also can be found around town. The Rolleston plays host to funky, lap steel, blues maestros HipRoute with support from Stone Donkey Pilots. Out at Riffs Bar the Acoustic Session features the dexterous acoustic guitar work and subtle lyrical touch of David Waddington but if you want something a bit more loud and shouty then head to The Victoria for Slam Cartel, a band who distil the essence of rock ‘n’roll in the same why that bands such as The Cult and The Four Horsemen did in their heyday. Joining them are local sleaze-metallers The Damned and The Dirty.

 

And if you like the sound of that gig, you are going to love this one. On Saturday Level 3 opens its doors for the Swindon Alternative Festival Volume 3, a celebration of the best of local rock, punk, grunge, hardcore and metal. It’s an all-dayer and there is too much going on to mention all the bands but a few that caught my eye are Sleep inertia, SkyBurnsRed and headliners Skreamer, but check out the event page on Facebook for the full details.

 

The last of the big events to get a mention this week and one that will have all you proggies champing at the bit is Pendragon’s Megadaze (pictured) event at Riffs Bar. This two-day event includes a first hearing of the new album, Men Who Climb Mountains, 2 unique Pendragon live shows, food, quizzes and a chance to hang out with band and fans alike. A crucial date for all prog-rock diary’s.

 

Elsewhere you can catch a Dire Straights tribute at The Victoria or Going Underground paying tribute to post-punk, ska and mod classics at The Rolleston.

 

The Moonrakers is the place to be on Sunday as The AK-Poets play a stripped down, early evening session. All the usual great song writing and live presence but presented in a manner more fitting for the Sabbath day.

Library - 68The one gig that everyone seems to be talking about is talking about is Pete Doherty’s show at Riffs Bar tonight. Always a divisive figure, the marmite man of under the counter-culture music has been the source of much debate amongst music forums and bar room banter. To some a flawed genius to others just a normal guy who got lucky. Well, for me he’s both, neither and everything in between, but all this controversy does beg the question, what do you want from your musical heroes? That the Libertines debut album contains some real musical gems goes without saying, but had the band that put him on the map not been born of such chaos, would the music press had given them the coverage that brought them to mass attention? No.

 

Also imagine if you threw out all the music you own that was made under the influence, by mavericks, wasters and hedonists, you’d be left with a Donny Osmond album at best, not even The Bay City Rollers would survive that purge. I like my music icons to be contrary, articulate, dumb, genius, obtuse, broken and unpredictable and they don’t come more so than Pete Doherty. That said, if you don’t already have a ticket, then you have lucked out.

 

If you prefer something a bit more sedate then maybe The Victoria is the place for you to be. After much to-ing and fro-ing (such is the fickle and mutable nature of live music promotion), the night is now headlined by Nick Tann and The Real Raj who will be mixing and matching their individual styles into a wonderfully unique performance. Due to logistical constraints Emily Sykes and Friends will now take the middle slot so make sure you get there early enough to catch her sumptuous and sensuous music. The elegant creations of acoustic troubadour Nick Felix will get the night started.

 

Stiff competition comes from Violentango at The Beehive. Back in their South American homeland this band deliver their tango/progressive rock fusion to audiences of 20,000 and upward, to catch them in the compact and bijou environs of such a quirky back street pub is something of a steal.

 

On Friday fans of tributes in general and Thin Lizzy in particular will want to be at The Victoria as not only do one of the finest re-enactors of Irelands most famous rock and roll sons take the stage, but also the quite brilliant Port Erin (pictured)  and their trippy, funky workouts, chilled jazz vibes and rock drives open up proceedings. At the Rolleston, Celtic folk picks up a baseball bat and delivers tunes with menaces as Missin’ Rosie rock out like an English Flogging Molly or a punk Levellers.

 

The Big noise on Saturday will be coming from The Victoria as those awfully nice chaps at The Ocelot invite all and sundry to The Ocelot’s 7th Birthday Bash. Not only can you come along and meet the team that put together this strange little magazine, you also get the forward thinking, backward looking, pop craziness of Nudybronque, the intense punk and rock collision of The Vooz, the shimmering post rock of Deer Chicago and the orchestral tinged alt-rock of SkyBurnsRed (no spaces.) And as a bonus if you go up to Jamie Hill and say, “you are The Ocelot Editor, I demand my prize” he will probably just look at you oddly, but it might be fun.

 

Other options are blistering electric blues from the young and far too talented Krissy Matthews at The Rolleston or some Stones action courtesy of The Rollin’ Zones at Riffs Bar.

 

And as if you hadn’t had good reason enough to go to The Victoria so far, on Sunday I honor of the fact that local folk/alt-country legends Bateleurs and the bearded, blues and sandals king, Jim Blair are playing Glastonbury this year, The Gig Monkey has arranged a bit of a celebratory show case. Joining them will be those purveyors of smooth Americana, Case Hardin,’ the exquisite folk of Charlie Bath and singer songwriters Luke de Sciscio and Tamsin Rosie Quinn.

 

The week comes to its logical conclusion at The Running Horse on Wednesday with Leon Daye and Ben Cipolla.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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?

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a festival in possession of large ticket sales must be in want of good weather. Well, that’s what Jane Austin meant to say, but as it was 158 years before the invention of the modern music festival, as we know it today, she obviously had to wrap the message up in the social conformities of the day. And what a summer it has been to test such a statement. With festivals such as 2000 Trees resembling the Somme in the late autumn of 1916 and The Big Arts Day valiantly struggling through with a much reduced turn out, you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe the antidote to the British summer would be to hold a music festival indoors, maybe over three days, perhaps in multiple venues. Well, more on that in a few weeks.

 

Still, until then it’s not all bad news. Although the cancellation of Rowdyfest has just been announced, Festival on The Farm has run for cover and can be found lurking in warmth and security of Riffs Bar throughout this weekend, albeit in a reduced, bands only capacity. In brief, Friday is acoustic night; Saturday is tributes and cover bands and Sunday a mix of bands from The Graham Mack Band to Echo and from Penfold to Rocket Box.

 

Right, back to regular in-door matters. Tonight at The Victoria trash pop aficionados, The Starkers, will be unleashing their mix of melody, discord, harmony and mayhem on the unsuspecting public. We are all in the gutter and some of us like it there! Support comes from the driven, mathy sounds of Oui Legionnaires and kicking things off, eleventh hour booking, Secret Lives.

 

Down at The Beehive, Kola Koca will be mixing up any genres that cross their paths into smooth, jazzed out, folked off, rocked up, lyrically poignant masterpieces. More eclecticism can still be found at The Beehive on Friday with The Parlour Kats, whilst down at The Rolleston the Mason-Dixon line collides with The M4 corridor to shape the inimitable southern blues, rock and gospel sound that is Pignose.

 

More old time revivalism at The Victoria, this time with the skiffle, audience participation and general mayhem of Ode and The Bebops. If you can’t shake your moneymaker then a plastic bottle with some stones in it will do just as well.

 

Something wicked this way comes (these literary references are just flying out today) to The 12 Bar as local Hip-hop/Rap icon, AJ descends with a full band to bring to life his latest album, Tangle Your Cassette. The MECA, meanwhile,  has another of it’s trademark roller discos.

 

Saturday is all about the big guns as the 12 Bar plays host to another Southwest Hardcore event.  Pop Punk meets Hardcore, as MaLoKai, Snap Back, Go Out With a Bang and Starlight City bring the noise. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in Faringdon Park there is The 2012 Children’s Fete. All ages entertainment from maypoles and circus workshops, storytelling and dancers, fairground and live bands, but more importantly…free cake.

 

Sunday’s Beehive afternoon session is ably filled by Mr. Love and Justice and if the idea of historical, socio-political, agri-folk appeals then this is the band for you. Imagine Richard Jefferies fronting The Byrds  – Sweetheart of the Roundway Down perhaps? Or Thomas Hardy writing for the Beatles; Hey, Jude (The Obscure?) Best just go along and work it out for yourselves. Farmers for fifteen minutes? Ok, enough.

 

The evening sees Charlie Bath and The City Marshals launching her new e.p. The Good Fall. Expect seductive melodies, understated music and emotive atmospheres to be the order of the day. Support comes from Phil King and Emily Sykes and it all happens at The Victoria. Meanwhile at the Rolleston, Ash Mandrake will be weaving his prog-folk, story telling magic through the use of twisted mythologies, home made guitars and strange hats. Both bizarre and utterly spellbinding.

 

And it remains a good week for rock fans as Monday at The 12 Bar; the mighty Mortdelamer will be building their wonderfully mellifluous yet often threatening soundscapes. Also on the bill are the darkly epic Scythes and the atmospheric and luscious slow burn majesty of IX.

 

And the final quote comes from Michael Fish.” Reports of a hurricane are unfounded” Yeah, right!