Tag Archive: gagreflex


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1935162_454261378032105_6602445270487649865_nThey say that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. 35 years ago I was a thin, nerdy, bespectacled college kid unaware of the wealth of post-punk creativity which was about to wash over me during the next ten years but most importantly XTC’s seminal English Settlement had just hit the shops. Blimey, tempus does indeed fugit and creativity is indeed the watchword this week, as quantity and quality are both present in spades.

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408146_550765044940471_378649541_nAs Del Amitri so deftly put it, “Nothing Ever Happens” a sentiment that I hear levelled at the local music scene almost as often as I see Brian Cox on my television. Visit the usual social media haunts and you will invariably hear the metal fraternity moaning that the town hosts the same few indie bands, emerging pop acts complaining that the town is dominated by rock cover bands, the indie bands saying that the town is ruled by dance nights and acoustic players arguing that they can’t get a foot in the door as their circuit only promotes the same few acts. But is the town as locked down and staid as these voices claim. Well here is the evidence from my own personal experience over the last week.

 

On Saturday I watched Buswell, a cinematic, indie dreamscape of strings and gentle beats, swirling orchestral dynamics and reflective, poignant sentiments. With a fluid line up formed from a large pool of musicians each show is unique in that geography and availability are the deciding factors behind who plays each show and even so the band are faultless. The same night I saw The Last Box of Sparklers, Nordic indie pop that seemed built purely on atmospheres and space rather than the music and words and more mainstream but no less impressive acoustic deliveries from Matt Adey. On the way home a few hangers on and itinerant musicians who had nothing better to do ended up at Level 3 and found themselves in the midst of a raging and effortlessly cool Afro-funk night which had drawn a crowd as big as anything from the clubs alternative rose tinted heyday that everyone seems to be in such an effort to try to recreate.

 

Wednesday found me watching two acoustic players who don’t seem to be part of the “go to” acoustic set, the quiet, late night jazz vibe of Mel Hughes and contrastingly the soaring agit-folk of Coasters front man Si Hall.

 

And then last night something truly awesome happened. The Victoria played host to three acts that had to be seen to be believed. GagReflex kicked things off, a two-piece punk leviathan in the 2 Sick Monkeys mould, all solid beats and bass lines that could get paid work in the demolition industry. Their by-line quote sums it all up eloquently, “small enough to fit in a car, big enough to take your face off” Well, quite. Blindman’s Bastion followed with a bluesier, Black Keys take on things before the main event, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion. In a whirlwind delivery of white noise guitars and buzz saw riffs, screaming, visceral vocals and more energy, strut, attitude and showmanship than you could ever need, they proceeded to blow the night and almost the building wide open. A recent review summed up the shock and awe tactics of the band in the following succinct line … “what the hell just happened there?” Don’t ask me I’m as bewildered and brusied as the next man but in a world that overuses the word awesome to a blatant degree, this band truly deserve that description.

 

So nothing ever happens in Swindon. Nothing original, diverse or truly entertaining. I would suggest the opposite is true; you just have to make a bit of an effort. The only thing I will say is that what sort of town do we live in where a Nirvana tribute band can fill a room based on the bands place in rock history yet put on a band such as The St. Pierre Snake Invasion, a band in many ways a natural successor in energy and attitude to Nirvana, a band writing their own chapter in the book of rock history and 25 people turn up. I say make an effort and you will be rewarded tenfold. Or you could sit at home on-line and post Facebook banners about how we should all support live music! That will really make a difference.

1238987_718461988170775_889455153_nIt doesn’t seem too far back that I was using words like Autumnal and talking about nights starting to draw in or even discussing various summer music festival options and describing cool music to go with warm evenings. Now in what would seem just a blink of an eye we arrive at the towns Christmas lights switch on celebrations. Where has the year gone?

 

Yes, tonight you can catch all of the various festivities in Wharf Green …or Woof Green as it should be known, (just trying out my tabloid journalism techniques there) as Ashleigh and her dog Pudsey will be performing and pushing the plunger to illuminate the town with lights and fireworks. Also on offer is an Aerial Hoop performance from Emily Smith, a video message from Nigel Havers plus Swindon Dance, The Brunel Elves and Heart FM presenters Ben and Kirsten. All of which starts at 6.30.

 

Fans of rock are going to be well catered for by The Victoria in a number of forms this weekend starting tonight with an explosive Songs of Praise line up. The St Pierre Snake Invasion (pictured) has built up quite a reputation on the regional circuit and they headline tonight in a riot of energy, sarcasm and attitude channelled through a relentless flow of garage rock and punk tirades. Also recently turning a few heads alt-rock two piece Blindman’s Bastion who channel vibrant electric blues and classic rock vibes take the middle slot. Opening the show is GagReflex who have been concisely described as a two headed punk rock machine – small enough to fit in a car; big enough to take your face clean off. Sounds ominous!

 

More intricate sounds can be found at The Beehive as The John Langan Band bring their tour to town. Traditional folk vibes are re-packaged as high energy, slightly unhinged and musically extravagant pieces and launched on the audience with a wilfully punk abandonment. Other acoustic sounds come from AK-Poets (unplugged,) this stripped back presentation of their music can be found at The Wheatsheaf in Old Town, all the energy, songcraft and stage presence in a slightly less in your face package. If an old school fifties rock and roll vibe is your sort of thing then head to 20 At The Kings for the first hometown show from 58 Shakes.

 

Friday is going to act as a bit of a conduit for musical time travel. The Victoria has Spanish 80’s metalers Stop Stop, so expect the hair to be as big as the guitar riffs and the bands look to be as glammed up and as brash as the music. Support comes from a rare appearance of the beast that is known as Vinyl Matt. If the idea of Steel Panther warms the cockles of your…err, cockles, then this is the show for you.

 

Electric blues standards can be found at The Rolleston courtesy of Barrelhouse. Influenced by the golden age of Chicago and early British blues scenes, they put a hard-edged spin on the genre and if their pedigree is in any doubt bear in mind that the man behind the kit is none other than former Ataraxis Vibration beat keeper Dave Growcott. More blues can be found at The Beehive, this time in the form of elegant slide playing from The Kevin Brown Trio. Also doing some retrospective referencing is London Calling who pay tribute to The Clash at Level 3.

 

Saturday offers the regular covers and tribute options with the music of AC/DC at The Victoria and Blondie at Riffs Bar. At The Swiss Chalet you can experience a range of covers from The Jam to The Foo Fighters with Happy Accident. Original serving suggestions come from two of the towns’ best-loved bands. The Erin Bardwell Collective play their trade mark retro edged reggae, ska and rocksteady at The Rolleston and The Hamsters From Hell inflict their raw and riotous rhythm and blues on The Queens Tap.

 

Last mentions come for The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday as Songs of Praise (unplugged) has the funky, rappy, poppy, soulful acoustica of A.Koustiks.

28922_10150174875560344_135658_nIt’s not often that you get the offer to time travel, well, a Delorean and a mad scientist are hard to come by these days. Okay not time travel more like nostalgia surf as a friend of mine was trying to persuade me that the idea of an 80’s retro party might be something I might like. There was then a description of how they would all be in day-glo garments, jumpsuits, shoulder pads, leg warmers and the like. I may be of the right age but that really isn’t the eighties that I lived through. Whilst  the denizens of such a gathering may have a rose tinted hankering for Wang Chung’s Everybody Have Fun Tonight or Chic’s Boogie Wonderland, I spent a lot of that time in muddy fields and Student Union bars surrounded by people in donkey jackets, DM’s and Cole Not Dole T-shirts! I suspect that the DJ on the night wouldn’t take kindly to requests of Bauhaus’s Bela Lugosi’s Dead or The Specials dystopian classic, Ghost Town.

I don’t get this odd recollection of the eighties being about throw away pop and brash costume.This was a decade when The Smiths had 15 top 30 hits outgunning the quintessentially 80’s acts like Go West four times over. Bands such as ABC, Bananarama, Ultravox and Toyah all failed to hit the number one spot, a feat achieved by a quartet of socialist oiks from Hull called The Housemartins. Nostalgia isn’t what it use to be…quite literally.

Okay, enough of the past, lets bring it bang up to date with what live music you can experience this week. Tonight the Beehive have something that couldn’t be more “of the now” in the shape of Fatmagic, a band who make electronic music and mix it with the usual live instruments but also cello and violin. The result is an ever shifting sound that meanders through pop, dance and dubstep but with folky hooks and classical phrases. Now that’s how you move music on.

More traditional but equally great music can be found also in the top bar of The Victoria with Albion and their new take on timeless English folk music.

Roots driven music also features on Friday as Batelers grace the stage of The Rolleston with their joyous blend of celtic rhythms, pastoral folk and old time americana but elsewhere fans of the noisier end of the spectrum are well catered for as well. Firstly over at Riffs Bar, The Secret Chord is offering up a line up of the best noise merchants in the business. Gloriously ranty, often offensive and superbly tight 2 piece punk band, 2 Sick Monkeys is the main draw but added muscle comes in the shape of Headcount, a punk-metal collision who channel the raw and confrontational energies of the likes of Therapy? and Killing Joke. The night opens via the welcome return of GagReflex,(pictured) who have been described as  “ A two headed punk rock machine – small enough to tour in a car; big enough to take your face clean off.” Charming!

Other noisesome options are 1000 Planets playing punk, goth and alt-rock covers at The Beehive and a double header tribute at The Victoria to the music of Rammstein and Metallica. Retro-pop fans will find what they are looking for at The Arts Centre as Voulez Vous relive the heady days of Abba.

Saturdays contribution to original music is best found at The Victoria with The Blue Trees and their rootsy americana with a distinctly southern feel, Jon Trowbridge and his driven yet soulful piano grooves and back on the scene after a bit of a hiatus, Marky Thatcher. Fans of classic rock and metal covers will be congregating at The Rolleston for Shepherds Pie.

Sundays offerings will take you to more formal venues. You can catch Whole Lotta Led  (Led Zeppelin) at The Wyvern Theatre though culture vultures might want the more chilled experience of the saxophone and piano of Sarah Markham and Paul Turner kicking of the 20th Anniversary Season of The Swindon Recital Series at The Arts Centre.

Wednesday rounds the musical week off with a David Marx in solo mode, minus his fellow AK-Poets at The Running Horse and those latin jazz legends Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz at The Roaring Donkey.

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It makes a change to have some good news to report in this, a most difficult time for live music, so you will be pleased to hear that The Rolleston opened up again last weekend in pretty much the same shape that it left us in. With Status Promotions still the driving force behind the bookings you can expect the same mix of covers, tributes and originals, obviously with their trademark leanings towards the heavier end of the musical spectrum, but as they say, “if it ain’t broke, put the damn lump-hammer down.” Normal service, it would seem, has been resumed.

 

First though, tonight at The Victoria and a first outing for something very interesting. Spiral Key sit somewhere on a breaking wave where prog and metal collide. Channelling both classic era influences such as Rush and more recent bands such as Tinyfish the result is both big and clever, not bad at all for a two-piece! Alternately you can head down The Beehive for the wonderfully lazy, sax-led, rocksteady groove of Count Bobo and the Bullion.

 

Things get a bit busier as we move into the weekend proper.  Starting out at Riffs Bar, this might act as the perfect wind down to last weeks Riffstock Festival as The Secret Chord brings you a night of drum and bass with a difference. It’s true all the bands are made up of just, what is normally the rhythm section, but generically this night of four-legged foolery offers something a lot heavier. Spearheading the musical onslaught is 2 Sick Monkeys, fast, aggressive punk from the No Means No school of no messing about, complete with Pete’s legendary between song rants, GagReflex; simple, defiant, brave and obtuse (pictured) and as they put it “small enough to tour in a car, big enough to take your face clean off!” and up from Cornwall, Monolithian, a tsunami of doom and black metal intensity.

 

Those who don’t feel that they have the constitution for that still have plenty to choose from. Josie and The Outlaw will be giving it some old school rock’n’roll vibes at The Queens Tap, Dan (of Ocean Colour Scene fame) and Adam will be at The Rolleston and for those who want to break out the spandex and suede fringe jackets, Bon Giovi are strutting their stuff at The Victoria.

 

Probably the most interesting band of the night is to be found at The Beehive in the guise of Harry Bird and The Rubber Wellies. These travelling folkies are based in Bilbao and Dublin, create a cabaret of sing-a-long choruses, encourage audience participation and inhabit a world of pirates, lizards, cracks in the wall and Basque cycling songs. Sounds wonderfully bizarre.

 

Saturday is a good day to be a blues fan. At The Arts Centre, Head, Hands and Feet main man and sparing partner of the likes of Eric Clapton, Albert Lee and his backing band Hogan’s Heroes, bring their brand of high octane, invigorating blues-rock into town. Not to be outdone, The Rolleston is showcasing the best of the new breed in that field with the welcome return of The Laurence Jones Band.

 

Other serving suggestions are Reginald Road playing mainly originals in a rock, ska and punk vein at The  Tap and Barrel and the Destination Anywhere Dj’s will be getting their Motown, Northern Soul and Reggae groove on at The Victoria.

 

The Sunday afternoon slot at The Beehive is filled by Keith Thompson so be prepared for some of the best unplugged style, acoustic soul-blues you have heard in a long time. If you are still in the mood for mellow music after that, head up to Baker Street for some piano led, smooth trad jazz standards with The George Cooper Duo. More Jazz can be found here again on Tuesday with swinging jazz from trombonist Ian Bateman and his Quartet.

 

And so we arrive at our usual final destination, it’s Wednesday and we are at The Running Horse. The last hurrah comes in the form of folk and funk blending together courtesy of Withnail and I, plus the wonderful, tongue in cheek, “Scrumpy and Western” creations of Corky.