Tag Archive: neil mercer


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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.

10349094_566351956803162_3626054594936056313_nAnd so the “Kanye at Glastonbury” debate trundles on with an army of armchair Foo Fighters fans getting outraged on our behalf and trying to find ever more convoluted reasons to justify the fact that they simply don’t like his music. So? Maybe they are forgetting what a festival, especially one the size of Glastonbury (no Glasto…never Glasto!) is all about. Take a road trip to the heart of the West Country, be part of a temporary city of music fans, meet some interesting people, have a drink, get a bit …err…merry (that’s code by the way but this is a family paper,) take in some Cuban Jazz, a 1940’s Swing Band or a Canadian comedian (aren’t they all these days?) head out to the fringe events and learn to juggle. The options are endless. With literally 1000’s of acts to choose from why worry about one act, on one day, on one stage! That said, I stopped going when people in designer wellies from Kent began putting picket fences around their camping area to demarcate their own suburban plot from their neighbours.

 

And our own music week kicks off in fairly eclectic style as well. Level 3 has a wonderful slice of alt-rock spearheaded by Maidenheads Hindsights, a melodic, riff driven, energetic young band and the more abrasive growl of Hereford’s Richa. Slightly at odds with the headline sound, the more wistful indie-folk of Bad News (no, not that one…a different one) play the middle slot and local bands Dreamcatcher and Sahara Heights add an element of moody indie and shimmering shoegaze to the night.

 

At The Victoria Talk In Code will be throwing stadium tunes, euphoric vibes, accessible dance-rock and a spade load of pop sensibility into the mix to deliver their trade mark cross genre fusions. They are joined by the similarly anthemic Echotape and the pop rock of The Fuse.

Meanwhile at The Beehive, The Sitting Tenants offer up English garage band psychedelia, power-pop and modish rock.

 

On Friday, again Level 3 provides the big draw of the night. The Green Gig is a fundraiser on behalf of the Swindon Green Party, but politics aside it’s a fantastic line up. The Headliners, Kid Calico and the Astral Ponies are a supergroup with ex-members from Belarus, Good Things Happen in Bad Towns and Sunday Dogs, to name a few and a neat line in Americana, music hall and raggle-taggle folk. Joining them, conjuring reflective dreamscapes and indie, pastoral sweetness is Colour the Atlas (pictured). Ian Doeser and Neil Mercer get the night underway.

 

After that original music gets a bit harder to find, though fans of classic rock and metal covers will find a lot that they like from either Kok Rok at The Rolleston and Shepherds Pie at The Victoria. All styles, eras and genres can be found at The Liden Arms courtesy of Penfold.

 

Similarly, Saturday continues to cater for the denim-jacketed brigade with more classic rock covers from Broken Image at The Swiss Chalet. If you are fans of rock and rolls most successful survivors, then The Victoria is the place to be for The Rollin’ Clones.

 

Barrelhouse will be playing vintage blues with a hard edge that takes in Chicago’s heritage and the sound of the early English blues-rock movement at The Rolleston and Riffs Bar is the place to be for something with more of a bucolic vibe to it. Rob Richings deals in vocal harmony driven folk that uses indie and pop borrowings to keep it fresh and contemporary. Joining him is Ethemia, a duo renowned for the timeless quality and sensitivity of their songs and the inspirational Leon Daye. Getting the night underway The Southern Harmony, a band featuring three ex-members of Bateleurs, will be playing their debut show.

 

Jim Reynolds takes the afternoon slot at The Beehive on Sunday, filling the room with music that taps into everything from blues to ragtime, music hall to folk.

 

If something a bit more energetic is your sort of thing then The Victoria that evening is the place to be. Stillbust give a new twist to the hardcore genre and Foxpunch blend gritty punk, ska and a thrashier edge into what they adequately describe as speed grunge. Opening that show are Strength In Blunders.

 

And finally, Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey you can catch the wonderfully upbeat and infectiously soulful acoustica of The Real Raj.

 

544560_586659531391273_2070667669_nAs time goes on music seems to get more and more compartmentalised, ever more exotic labels and terms seem to come into play to create demarcation between music styles. Now, I grew up musically in the 80’s and things were quite tribal then, in any given pub the mod would be glaring at the punk, the metaller would be chatting to the glam rocker out of solidarity, the new wave kids would be geeking over the forthcoming Bunnymen album and the two goths would be sipping cider and black in the shadows. That was a world that made some kind of sense to me. Recently I have had to struggle which such subgenres as Djent apparently not a village in Tunisia (recycled joke alert!) Math-core, Gyp-hop, Vedic Metal, Sadcore, and a host of other niche scenes. Where will it end?

 

One band that can be found in a very small genre, possibly its only inhabitants, are those glorious purveyors of Puzzle-pop…for want of a better description, Oui Legionniares, a soundclash of the best bits of pop, indie and punk reassembled in strange and intriguing ways. They can be found tonight at The Victoria sandwiched between shimmering, shoegazing vibes of Sahara Heights and headliners Yves equally exotic soundscapes.

 

Another wonderful fusion of styles can be found at The Beehive as Mambo Jambo weave together the distinctive sounds of bluegrass, Latin, Caribbean, New Orleans, Balkan, jazz, folk and more besides into a sunny and vibrant feast of music.

 

And in the “if you like that, you’ll like this” department, and staying at The Beehive for a moment, on Friday you will find Grubby Jack the renowned local fast folk trio who mix fiendish banjo with high velocity fiddle-breaks to deliver classic celtic and Appalachian styles.

 

Other options will suit rock fans but they will have to choose between the hard-rocking electric blues of The Lewis Creavan Band at The Rolleston or the classic metal showcase of Metalhead at The Victoria.

 

One of the most important bands of my formative years can be found at Level 3 on Saturday as The Men They Couldn’t Hang provide the headline act to celebrate Charred Hearts front man, Dermot Fullers 50th Birthday bash. This is a semi-private affair with entry by ticket only but how often do I get to talk about the outfit that made me want to join a band in this column? (Yes, they have a lot to answer for!)

 

Similarly raucous folk and roll can be found with celtic, cider punk, party animals Mick O’Toole in The Rolleston, think The Pogues meet The Clash and prepare to dance the night away. And talking of “the last gang in town” you can catch a tribute to them in the guise of Radio Clash at The Victoria.

 

 

So with the old punk posse well catered for we can cast our eyes out towards Riffs Bar and a bit of an old boys reunion. Blueprint’s heyday may have been around 15 years ago but that hasn’t stopped them dusting off the instruments and hitting the stage once more. Support comes from 80’s underground pop referencing The King In Mirrors and indie rock stalwarts Rocket Box.

 

Fans of slick, 70’s pop should head along to The Swiss Chalet as vocal duo Abbaholics relive the hits of…well, I’m sure you can work out where they are coming from.

 

Things get a bit quiet until Wednesday when you can catch two solo acts at The Roaring Donkey whose bands have played a major part in local music over the years, Neil Mercer (Rumour Shed, Dacoits, Seven Years on) and Dave Corrigan (good Things Happen In Bad Towns, Spacehopper.)

 

And to end on a real bang, at the same time Gnarwolves return to The Victoria courtesy of Sheer Music. Infectious, abrasive, sing-along punk at it’s finest. Support comes from the equally punchy Boxkite and opening the night is the more saccharine pop-punk of As The Sun Sleeps.

 

 

 

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