Tag Archive: jim blair


44355478_2024555787567157_6243720230233702400_o.jpgThat marvellous chap Jim Blair kicks off this week’s live music menu, a tasty starter blended from groovy acoustica and funky blues to whet your appetite and found at The Beehive, this very evening. 

If original acoustic music is your thing then you might also be interested in a neat little show this Friday at Darkroom Espresso, that wonderful little oasis of coffee, culture and craziness, and as is their wont the show is typically left field. It sees Ravetank’s wonky coming of age stories and scuzzy tunes spearhead the night with By The Day’s similarly warped deliveries acting as the perfect companion. Opening the night is Mat Caron and his intense and often downright bleak gothic folk meets sparse acoustic-noir narratives. If you want to support alternative venues trying something very original and unique then this is one to get behind.

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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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14449011_673379056164128_4679448363774001003_nThis week we head into the Christmas party zone, and thankfully it isn’t tinselled up to the max but more takes the form of some choice musical gatherings to celebrate and see the year out with.

At The Victoria, Songs of Praise, has their last big show for a while as they head towards a year of much reduced bookings. Before that happens though they have lined up a great night of old school rock, sleazy grooves and boogie beats to put this year’s activities to bed.

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166902_250056101706651_204372703_nOkay, we are over the line, there is no stopping now. Welcome to December. From here on in things will slowly descend into the dreaded realm of the enforced wackiness of office parties, of trying to look enthusiastic through karaoke dross, of consumerism and excess. But let us not forget the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of someone whose work is an inspiration to millions and who we celebrate in song at this special time. Yes, 25th December is of course the birthday of Shane McGowan and we should remember this fact whenever we attempt the dual vocal part of Fairytale of New York.

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10525987_715675548547700_1189665388901185636_nIt was interesting to recently read that Tesco are stocking vinyl records in some of their stores as the sales of the format rise to mid-90’s levels. Admittedly the selection is limited to mainly the high volume end of the mainstream market but it is still an interesting trend. Are people getting bored with the digital world? Do they actually want something physical to show for their money? Can we expect wax cylinders to be the next retro-experiment and perhaps the return of the Pathe newsreel on our TVs? And of course the more pertinent question is will this reversal of trends cross over into support for “real time, actual live people playing music at you” type of gigs? We can only hope.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

1454601_785932734795095_2432621929046862276_nI recently found myself in a conversation with a tattooed, rock acolyte being told in no uncertain terms that heavy metal was the only genre of music that mattered and that all else failed to match up to it. Two things, however, immediately undermined his argument; firstly the fact that he was wearing a Limp Bizkit t-shirt and also the continued existence of Twisted Sister. For me the enjoyment of music comes from having a broad-minded approach to it. If you are a foodie, then surely you frequently sample many styles of cuisine, if you like travelling then your destinations are varied and many. Therefore if music has an important place in your life then is it not best to experience all of its many facets? My suggestion that he went home and listened to some Marvin Gaye was met with a derisory snort… his loss I guess. This weeks offerings are indeed varied and many, so if you like music in all its forms you have a treat of a week coming up.

 

Blues is the order of tonight. Having interviewed Elles Bailey (pictured) recently at an “in session” show on a local radio station, I already know what an incredible talent she is, the rest of you will have to head up to The Beehive to check out her sultry blues delivered with a sensuous, husky vocal and an energetic stage presence. A more funky take on the genre can be found in the top bar of The Victoria as Jim Blair breaks out his trademark slide blues and whiskey cracked vocal.

 

Friday actually continues in a similar vein with The Husky Tones at The Rolleston. This raw and energetic band mix up their own vibrant, electric guitar driven compositions with standards from some of the genres greats. At The Victoria a tribute to one of the finest southern blues acts can be found in the shape of The ZZ Tops.

 

Saturday is where things get a lot more eclectic but again a clash of bookings means that fans of the distinctive Caribbean sound will have to make a choice. At The Victoria, the Shocks of Mighty Reggae Club Night features Sidewalk Doctors, London’s finest purveyors of Rocksteady, that brief but breezy interlude that provided the link between the existing ska sound and the evolving reggae genre. It’s also the sound at the heart of support band The Erin Bardwell Collective’s music.

 

Ska and Rocksteady can  be found at The Rolleston to as Boy le Monti also revel in that glorious 60’s vibe, so expect off-beat, staccato guitars, pulsing basslines and glorious blasts of brass. Honestly, they are like busses, you wait ages for one to come along and then three show up at once. Actually a similar thing was overheard at the recent Bruce Springsteen look-alike competition. (He’s called The Boss…..think about it…no, well please yourself it made me laugh anyway.)

 

Of interest to the gig goers at the two shows I have just mentioned, The MECA have a night of DJ’s spinning Northern Soul and Motown, going on until 2am so you know where to go for the after party.

 

Imagine Vic Reeves leading a band. Okay, forget that just head up to The Beehive on Saturday and catch Bill Smarme (king of the social club crooners, love guru, connoisseur of fine wines and marmalades and building contractor) and his band The Business. I will say no more, but do catch them.

 

Cover band fans can catch all their favourite tunes from Penfold who celebrate their birthday bash out at Riffs Bar, those with a penchant for the heavier sounds should head to The Swiss Chalet and tuck into a bit of Shepherds Pie.

 

The Sunday afternoon session at The Beehive features the pop vibes of James Cottriall, a man who won the Austrian version of The Voice in 2009. Now I know that sounds like me setting up a joke and you are waiting for a witty punchline, but in this case it happens to be true.

 

And finally Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey is the place to find Ells and The Southern Wild a wonderful trio who weave folk, pop and rock together to deliver delicate, accessible and memorable songs.

10660316_950663001627508_5975732848885781704_nSo the first week back in the swing of things, organising, going to and writing about live music in the area has got off to a slow start with the only two gigs I attended being ones that I was organising. Biased? Maybe, but it is all I have to tell you about at the moment, but there was still an interesting point to be made.

 

The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday featured one of the most popular solo acts on the circuit, Jim Blair, normally found fronting Hip Route but no less potent on his own. Jim’s music is a wonderful blend of funky grooves, driving bluesy Americana lap, slide, fingerpicking and conventional styles. Add to that and easy on stage style and a voice that sounds like it is the product of a cocktail of honey and razorblades and you have a winning combination.

 

Over the weeks that I have been involved in booking the acts there a gradual change has been taking place. Early gigs seemed just background noise, a live jukebox largely ignored by those on their way to more boisterous establishments or getting a bit of bar space before heading over the karaoke hell that is Wacky Wednesday. Gradually thought, the amount of familiar faces returning solely for the music has increased to the point where last week the room contained only those who were there to appreciate the music. These Wednesday sessions seem to be becoming a legitimate, contemporary acoustic and unplugged music session. Try it one evening, you may just find something that you like.

 

On Thursday at The Victoria our big show of the week was also of a more chilled nature. The mercurial George Wilding (pictured) kicked things off, a young solo acoustic player, quintessentially English in style and looking like a cross between Syd Barrett and Mark Bolan, being made seemingly of hair, scarves and a sequined jacket. Wonderfully observant lyrics mixed with dexterous guitar action and a youthful charm made for a great opening slot.

 

Little Red took the middle slot, two guitars and three voices mixing in ever shifting measures to create a wonderfully pastoral sound that hid a darker lyrical undercurrent. This is a band that even from their stripped back starting point understand restraint allowing the dynamic to fade right back before launching an unexpected salvo of passionate vocals or the slightly unexpected retro twang of Ben Gosling’s electric guitar. And if front man Ian Mitchell isn’t the long lost brother of BBC Wiltshire stalwart Will Walder, I’ll eat my hat. (It’s okay, I don’t have a hat!)

 

And finally to the main event. The Black Feathers have gained a great reputation over what seems like the implausibly short three years they have been together and we were about to see why. Maybe it is the fact that they are husband and wife, maybe it is their constant trips across the pond to immerse themselves in American roots music, maybe they just work a lot harder than most other acts. Whatever is they gave the audience a master class in vocal harmony and song arrangement that was second to none. They have a wonderful and wonderfully self-deprecating stage charisma and as a focal point are mesmerising to watch. And when one critic described them as Britain’s answer to Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlins, I can’t imagine anyone would have argued with such a description.

 

And the point I mentioned I wanted to make? We get so used to gigs being loud and flashy affairs, selfie taking hipsters celebrating their own presence, laddish bores talking over the music and adoring fans trying to outdo each other for the status of superfan, that it comes as a breath of fresh air to go to two gigs in a row where the audiences are mostly seated, respectful of the performers to the point of pin-drop atmospherics and content to sit and soak up every word, musical phrase, every move and nuance of a show. I’m not saying that’s however show should be but it does make a refreshing change.

1390775_1010155912344262_2119820808637066610_nAlongside the bigger shows at The Victoria, the people behind Songs of Praise are now organising the acts every Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey. Following their usual template of mixing up the best of the local acts with some great out of town music, much of which is coming to Swindon for the first time, there is a lot to look forward to.

 

January is a great example of the scope that they cover. Starting this Wednesday (7th) the year kicks of with the funky blues, slide guitar skills and smoky voice of Jim Blair (pictured). Normally found fronting Hiproute, Jim’s solo set is no less exciting and taps a seam of rootsy southern blues and upbeat grooves.

 

Salisbury chantress Sue Hart can be found the following week (14th) mixing up Old World folk with New World country with a dash of humour and panache and a week later (21st) Tim Manning of Blind River Scare takes similar building blocks but comes out with some wonderfully different musical results.

 

Rounding the month off, folk-pop pixie Tamsin Quin (28th) comes out of hibernation and brings her honest songs and infectious stage presence to the venue and with a support from the hushed acoustic atmospherics of Andrew Burke, that show is double the value for money.

 

If you are fed up with acoustic sessions in town being dominated by the same few acts, are looking for some new, quality music to check out, or you are just after a pint in a chilled back street boozer to break the week up, this is the place to be. And you never know you may just find yourself part of something truly wonderful.

 

written for Swindon Link Jan ’15

10325159_553057161469541_2419765703768719527_nA quieter week all round, especially compared to the tsunami of gigs that I was able to report last time, but I guess with the guaranteed matches coming to an end in the World Cup, venues and promoters are no longer cashing in…I mean, celebrating our national sides efforts. In fact by tonight it could all be over. Sport in many ways is a transient thing where as music endures (blimey, that was deep) and although there isn’t masses to choose from this week, there are still a few gems to be had.

 

Something a bit special is happening over at Riffs Bar tonight, especially if you are fans of hip-hop flavoured acoustica with a funky edge as De’Vide roll into town. Those of you who are avid followers of The Voice will have already seen them competing under Jessie J’s patronage in the battle rounds and after a run of major gigs supporting the likes of JLS and Union J and fresh back from tour of Russia, this Ipswich two piece can be found right on your doorstep.

 

Get there early, as the local support slots are a bit special too. Benji Clements will be bringing soulful vocal and funky acoustic guitar work to the table and Charlie Baxter, a man normally found tearing around the stage as part of puzzle-pop band Oui Legionnaires, will be performing solo with what he describes as electro-hippity-hoppity-poppity-rock. If you say so Charlie!

 

It’s Songs of Praise at The Victoria tonight as well (hurrah) and it will be starting later due to some sport on the telly box that people seem to be keen on (boo.) Sadly the wonderful James Warner Prophecies have pulled out of the show but there are still two great bands to be had. Headliners British Harlem remind us what great indie guitar bands should sound like, the perfect blend of drive, melody and charisma. Openers Cavalier (pictured) are an alternative rock band up from Guildford and to my mid have a touch of vintage American college rock about them, such as The Gin Blossoms and even the home grown “back of a transit van, cider festival punk” of Mega City Four. What ever it is they sound great.

 

For something a bit more rootsy, Hip Route main man Jim Blair will be entertaining The Beehive with his trademark funky, acoustic, slide guitar blues.

 

Staying at The Beehive for Friday and Port Erin are back. One of the most consistently unique, slick and entertaining bands of recent times, their blend of chilled psychedelia, jazz infused rock and slightly proggy meanderings are a must for anybody looking to hear a truly original band.

 

The acoustic session over at Riffs Bar is filled by Adam Sweet one of the best purveyors of groove laden blues on the circuit today and Leon Daye whose inspirations are taken from a myriad of sources and styles move effortlessly from folk to rock and everything in between.

 

Fans of cover bands have the choice of 50’s standards as Rockabilly Rumble relive the music of Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and the like whilst at The Rolleston is The Mike Hoddinott Blue Allstars, a collective of blues-rock players who have worked with virtually everyone in the music business who matter.

 

Rhythm ‘n’ booze legends The Hamsters From Hell at The Rolleston is the place to be on Saturday if you like the idea of punchy, punky blues rock, drunkenness, chaos and ironically some of the finest musicianship around.

 

Reggae fans will want to be at The Victoria for Urban Lions followed by The Shocks of Mighty DJ’ s Erin Bardwell and Jason Hughes spinning classic era ska, reggae and rocksteady.

 

Final options for Wednesday are acoustic troubadour Steve DeGutis who plays The Roaring Donkey but if you are a fan of the “Piano man” himself then head up to the Arts Centre and catch Elio Pace playing the Billy Joel Songbook.