Tag Archive: mel hughes


30440996_1777185609007161_522701509947817984_oAnother fairly quiet week around town, musically speaking, unless I’m missing something and if I am then please let me know, this column is only as relevant as the information that is readily available, so feel free to get in touch. It does, however, leave me room to wish happy birthday to the most excellent Rosanne Cash, eldest daughter of American music icon Johnny and herself an award winning musician and writer. If your record collection doesn’t contain a copy of her fantastic album Interiors, then your life will be all the poor for it until you rectify that situation.

And talking of splendid Americans, Keegan McInroe is back in town tonight. A true wandering minstrel, he weaves old country sounds, bluesy vibes and timeless folk heritage into songs which are as poetic as they are poignant. Catch him and usually a few familiar faces from the great and good of local music, or failing that the adequate and available, at The Beehive tonight.

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1607111_577491689022522_3860118839849066474_nI will apologize in advance for the Shuffle-centric nature of this weeks scribbling but when over 40 music acts line up to play across 3 major venues and a host of additional bars, cafes and public places, it is inevitable that it will take up most of the space. So, The Swindon Shuffle is back for it’s ninth year and it seems only a blink of an eye that I was sat in the Winners Lounge (before it’s Legendary upgrade) on a Thursday night waiting for The Unforeseen to play the first ever slot. Tempus does indeed fugit! So, the first fringe events took place last night but as of today Shuffling begins in earnest.

The Victoria has long been one of the cornerstones of The Shuffle and so it is apt that we begin there. This session is one for those with a penchant for heavier music and is headlined by a band that have had a meteoric rise over the last year or so, A Way With Words. Other alt-rock acts on the bill include All Ears Avow and the dystopian vibes of Ghost of Machines. Between these you can catch the punk onslaught that is 2 Sick Monkeys and something with more of a blues spin from The Harlers.

Baila Coffee and Vinyl has always been a cool place to hang out during the day (where do you think I am writing this?) but now with the addition of a evening drinks license they have become part of Old Town nightlife with craft ales, a well selected wine cellar and quality spirits available and they join in the festival with sets from Matilda (minus drummer Emily who is probably doing headstands on a mountain in Outer Mongolia,) young, groove driven Indie from Polar Front and the captivating and heartfelt songs of Charlie Bath.

The Victoria second contribution comes on Friday, this time with a more eclectic and intriguing bill headed by the drifting ambience and trippy grooves of Colour The Atlas (pictured). Theo Altieri provides some effortlessly cool indie-pop and Super Squarecloud will be doing what ever it is they do – I’ve been writing about their mercurial, genre-hopping music and flagrant disregard for convention for 4 years now and I still haven’t found the adequate words! The early part of the night sees the welcome return of a couple of out-of-towners, Cursor Major who prove once and for all that kookiness is next to godliness and that blend of delicacy and dynamics that is Familiars.

Within easy shuffling distance of that (hence the name) is The Castle and their first session has a bit of a blues edge to it. Although main man Ian Doeser has long been a fixture of the Shuffle as a solo player this is, I believe, the first time that the full Hamsters From Hell have graced the event, so expect the usual sweary, tongue-in-cheek, bawdy humour set to an R’n’B backdrop. And if The Hamsters are a nod to the ghost of blues past, then The Greasy Slicks are very much about the ghost of blues future; slick, incendiary deliveries and killer riffs and acting as a sign post for where the genre is going. Also on the bill are Coasters, a punk vibe injected into Americana but whose songs trade Route 66 for the M4.

Elsewhere, The Locomotive, part of the Shuffle Fringe due to it’s outlying location in relation to the main focus of events, nevertheless plays a blinder by hosting Yves, one of the front runners of the new Indie crop of local bands and at The Rolleston you can catch Beatles tribute The Pre Fab Four.

On Saturday the music starts at midday at The Central Library where various acoustic acts including Neil Mercer and Stuart Marsh can be found playing throughout the afternoon.

Saturday also sees The Beehive, the only venue to have been involved in all nine years, get involved with a folk slant to their bill. Southern Harmony bring their wonderful blend of Celtic, English and Appalachian folk to the party and Ells and The Southern Wild throw in some darker folk vibes. Plummie Racket and Nick Felix will be adding a more singer-songwriter feeling to the evening.

Up the hill at The Castle, the younger set have their moment with Balloon Ascent’s accessible indie-folk creations, the shoegaze and post-punk referencing Sahara Heights building to a night of ska, reggae and infectious dance grooves from SN Dubstation, not a band that you want to miss, believe me. At The Locomotive, The Roughnecks will be blasting out their incendiary R’n”B and old-school rock and roll to entice and astound the Fleet Street crowd.

Non-Shuffle related gigs can also be found at The Victoria with Going Underground, Strictly Dan a tribute to Steely Dan at Riffs Bar, classic rock covers at The Rolleston from Bad Obsession and all your favourite songs from a new line-up Echo at The Swiss Chalet.

Sunday sees The Shuffle round off at its now traditional last day party at The Beehive. A string of solo players, Mel Hughes, Tamsin Quin and Steve Leigh get things underway before Bruce St. Bridges, the socially aware, psychedelic folk-pop of Mr Love and Justice and the sonic pick’n’mix of auralcandy move things up a gear. Last year The Shudders almost destroyed the venue with their final set of the festival and they have been given the task of attempting to do the same this year with another headline slot.

If you want something to help easy you out of the festival, the perfect gentle step back into normality comes at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday with those dapper jazz aficionados Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz.

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.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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311557_10150922275243207_1996043764_nAs most of you will be aware by now, the shock news of the last week is that Basement 73, the newly re-vamped, re-named, re-launched Furnace, has closed and the future of The Rolleston pub above it is still very uncertain. Whilst I can’t speak about the specifics of what brought this about, as I just don’t know the facts, I can make this very general statement. Any club, pub or music venue only exists by selling drinks and only thrives by doing so in large numbers. That obviously requires punters turning up to gigs. So every time you have taken the option of Saturday night TV or said “I’ll catch them next time” was actually a metaphorical brick knocked out of the support structure of local music, i.e. the venues themselves.  So now we find ourselves with no medium capacity venue at all in town, so for all those first album bands, rising stars and next big things, it’s a trip to Oxford, Bristol or further afield for you all.
 
That said, if you venture up to The Victoria tonight, you will be able to see a band who may very well soon be found filed under “next big thing” The Lovers. Four seasoned musical veterans of the female persuasion join forces to make enchanting and sophisticated, indie pop, drenched in sumptuous harmonies. Support comes from the alt-country and rock blends of The Blue Trees plus the welcome return of Mel Hughes to the live arena.
 
Something decidedly different is to be found at The Beehive. Alan Clayson, devoid of his usual musical backing, The Argonauts (gedit?) puts on a show of Chanson, a  lyrical French song form and something that fits neatly with his recent authorship of a Jacques Brel biography. Whilst Time Out thought his performance was one of “cult status”, The Independent had to admit, “it is difficult to explain to the uninitiated what to expect.” Make of that what you will.
 
Two big names arrive on Friday, those pioneers of dub, reggae and folk fusion, Dreadzone, are at The Victoria, if you haven’t already got a ticket or know someone you can mug to get one, then best opt for the second option as the show has sold out. The second option is to be found at Riffs Bar in the form of Soft Ground. Who? I hear you cry. Well they are only the current musical vehicle for organist Verden Allen of Mott The Hopple fame. But more than that the band also features former Tigertailz drummer Matthew Blakout and Jamie Thyer, normally found leading The Worried Men.
 
Staying with Riffs Bar and Saturday sees another Secret Chord gig, this time featuring The Shudders pictured) in the headline spot. This eight legged groove machine mix up alt-country, lo-fi pop, folk and rock into the perfect party soundtrack. In support you will find the wonderfully subtle playing and hushed vocal tones of Rumour Shed and opening up is Stead, a London based troubadour of the old tradition whose songs are filled with an understated intensity and musical economy.
 
 The Sunday afternoon session at The Beehive will be filled with the sound of vintage acoustic music and echoes of The Great American Songbook. Lisa Wiship and Andy Mathewson specialise in pre-war blues and ragtime, pop along for your own musical time machine.
 
Fans of jazz will want to get a good seat at Baker Street on Tuesday as The Craig Milverton Trio set out their musical stall. Craig is one of the countries top jazz pianists, often rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paul Jones and Scott Hamilton and he even played with Van Morrison and Buddy Guy…not a bad pedigree you have to admit.
 
And finally we come to our usual jumping off point, The Running Horse on Wednesday which features Drew Bryant and Michael Hennessy.