Tag Archive: nudy bronque


426615_307388412659174_1530646521_nA bit of a Curates Egg for seekers of original music this week and those not familiar with Victorian satire should Google the phrase immediately. If, however, you are one of those people that are content to hear music with an already existing pedigree, then you will have a field day. But, tonight at least, there is something truly original on offer. Songs of Praise at The Victoria is always striving to bring in bands that tick boxes to do with boundary pushing attitudes, uniqueness and fresh sounds and tonight they have excelled themselves.

 

Nudybronque is a band that have built up quite a reputation over the last few years, evolving from a perfectly pleasant punk-pop four-piece to a truly mesmerising experimental indie band and the release of their latest e.p. Moondog merely confirmed them to be a band writing some of the best tunes in their field today. Tonight they are joined by Port Erin, another band who have striven to push the boundaries of their own musical development, these days plying a musical trade of space and atmospherics, subtle dynamics and an almost jazz inflected quality. Opening the show is Oui Legionnaires, a band that almost defies generic pigeonholing instead preferring to invent their own terms such as puzzle-pop and yelpcore. No idea what that means? No, me neither, may it’s best you check them out.

 

Something far more describable is at The Beehive in the guise of Robert Brown, a troubadour whose style falls on the less fey side of Nick Drake and the sweeter edge of Jimmy Page.

 

The big event for Friday is the Ocelot Magazines Eighth Birthday bash at The Victoria. Being a publication with strong connections to the local music scene, you can imagine that they are able to pull in the best bands around and this line-up is a bit of a corker. Headlining is the newly re-emerged Racket, now fully embracing their brit-pop leanings and elevated to a five piece but with all the live swagger and attitude that you associate with the band of old. Vienna Ditto offers a contrasting sheen of wild-eyed rockabilly riffs and sparse, atmospheric electronica whilst looking like collaboration between a mad scientist and a jazz chantress. Boss Cloth brings the noise, as it were, a heavy yet melodic wave of grunged rock riffs and drum dynamics. Opening the night will be Chip Daddy (pictured) a man as well known for his outrageous off stage stunts as he is for his onstage rap parody.

 

Rumbustious…that’s a good word isn’t it? Rumbustious music can be found at The Beehive courtesy of M.O.D. who play Balkan inspired folk using everything from washboards to double bass, harmoniums to clarinets and will be playing songs from last years wonderfully titled Travelling at The Speed of Cattle. If something smoother is called for, Benji Clements will be playing in full band mode at The Royal Oak and the ska and reggae creations of SN Dubstation can be found at The Liquor Lounge.

 

Other options are the rock, blues and swing standards of The Teddy White Band at The Rolleston and classic covers from Switch at The New Inn.

 

On Saturday, Level 3 features a night of music in memory of DJ, radio presenter and all round good egg, Tom Humber who sadly passed away a year ago. As a devoted rock and metal fan he would certainly have approved of the bands paying tribute; melodic trash metallers In The Absence of Light, heavy biker-rock with a dash of Southern charm from Eye For and Eye and Dodging the Bullet playing iconic rock covers. Meanwhile next door at The Rolleston Metal Gods cover similar musical ground and the music of Paul Rogers of Free and Bad Company fame, is being re-visited at The Victoria.

 

Reggae music is being celebrated by The Shocks of Mighty DJ’s at The Beehive and more pop and rock standards can be had from In It For The Money who re-launch the band at Riffs Bar and Echo at The Swiss Chalet.

Sunday sees the Lazy Sunday Afternoon Session re-locate to the bandstand in Old Town Gardens and from 5pm you can have fun in the sun (you never know) with acoustic music from Blake, Rob Beckinsale and as ever your hosts, Mr Love and Justice.

Final mention of the week goes to those dapper acoustic Latin-jazzmen, Gilmore’n’Jaz who play the Roaring Donkey on Wednesday and whom I can’t recommend highly enough.

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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.

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Library - 88Although some of the products of recent Nudybronque studio sessions have hinted at a denser, more experimental sound being part of their make up from now on, Allsorts is as much attached to the bands older persona as it is the new. Slower and more considered than their trademark frantic pop drives, it does share the same clean-limbed, straight-lined qualities that make their music so accessible and live this bittersweet tale makes for a nice breather when book ended by their usual joyous pop onslaught.  Here, instead of coming at you with a fully formed and well rounded slab of music, they step up through layers of slow burning dynamic builds to reach a plateau of screaming conclusion.

 

It seems like having spent the last two or so years writing songs according to their own defined set of rules, the (il)logical thing to do now was to break them and move on. This is as it should be and it’s a trait shared by most of my favourite music makers. In the past I have cited bands such as Buzzcocks as an (probably unintentional) influence (exhibit A – Fond of You) due to that same pop goes punk soundclash, here though something else is at work. They have ignored the proto-punk-abrasive pop-white ska stylings of some of their previous songs  (exhibit B – Movement, Bottled Blonde, Talking Pretty) and instead hardwire a Velvets paced meander on to an intelligent, underground post punk sucker punch. In an age of chart fixation and the industry’s fashionable homage to what ever skinny jeaned indie princes are flavour of the week, releasing something that in days gone by would have been a hidden gem B-side (exhibit C – Groove is in The Heart, The Model, Peggy Sue etc. etc.) or a gloriously out of character album swansong, is not only very brave but as an act of individuality is a stroke of genius.

 

It’s the same spirit that caused punk to rise as the antithesis of well rehearsed pub rock and euro-dross disco, merged 80’s dance and Indie to form a whole new baggy scene and heralded the anti-prog movement… refusenik, garage bands of the early seventies who wouldn’t take Yes for an answer. It’s what made rock and roll happen in the first place and when you are actually rebelling against yourself, so much the better. It’s growth, it’s evolution, it’s both forward thinking and backward looking and what’s more, it’s a bit of a tune!

 

Library - 53So here we are, last column of the year and for obvious reasons not a lot of original music about as venues err on the side of the festive favourites, the cheesy music and the fun time bands to accompany their Christmas parties, and that’s as it should be. But I would like to use the extra space to say a few thanks and have a look back over the year.

 

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has been supportive of my efforts to try and bring worthy, interesting and breaking bands to your attention, I know it really comes down to my, often strange, personal taste but hopefully you have checked out some of them and hopefully discovered some great new music along the way.

 

Although it has been a difficult year, especially with the news that The Big Arts Day will be no more plus the loss of the brilliant BBC Wiltshire Introducing show, not to mention the 12 Bar closing, I still think there is a lot to be proud of regarding local music. This year musicians from this area could be found supporting The Levellers and Newton Faulkner and following in the footsteps of Josh Kumra, Gabrielle Aplin (pictured), made it to the top of the charts. The Shuffle came back bigger and better this year with more venues and bands being involved, Summer Breeze managed to attract artists of the calibre of K T Tunstall and in general there are more original bands of a higher quality than ever before just waiting to burst out of the area and start making a name for themselves.

 

All sounds pretty good to me but of course these successes can only happen if there is the support from the public, so remember to get out there, keep the venues in business and thereby keep the bands in work so they can entertain, develop their live skills, evolve and reach fruition. If between all the partying, boozing, food and general shennanighins there is time to catch a band, then maybe one of these will suffice.

 

Tonight at The Victoria is The Songs of Praise/Green Man Music Christmas show. For their 25th and final show of the year they bring together two bands synonymous with their brand name, Nudybronque and SkyBurnsRed, bands that have had a brilliant year, are hallmarked by super charged live shows and neither have any understanding of grammatical spacing in their names.

 

Friday’s options have a bit of a retro feel to them. If ska is your thing then head along to the Beehive for the Nomarks in all their two-tone glory, probably just the tonic(s) you are after (geddit?) to dance away all the food and drink you have consummed this week. Also with influences rooted back in an earlier time, The Corsairs play The Rolleston. Now in their twentieth year they mix up rockabilly, punk and ska to create a unique psychobilly sound.

 

Saturday is all about the contemporary sound of rock and roll. Having caught Natural Tendency last time they played The Rolleston, I can tell you that they are well worth turning off the TV and missing out on The Only Way is Runcorn or Jeremy Spake: The Missing Years or what ever z-list celebrity dross is being offered up in the name of mainstream entertainment. This is a band that runs emotionally charged rock headlong into ambient keyboard washes and waves of frenzied synth grooves. It’s the future sound of rock music.

 

Meanwhile downstairs in The Furnace, South West Hardcore present their Dolls and Gangsters party with hardcore/metal onslaughts from The Hotel Ambush and Beyond Hurt, but make sure you catch openers Firefalldown who mix compelling punk aggression with accessible skater melodies and grooves that funk up and rock out in equal measure. Whichever of those two gigs you go to stick around afterwards for the Nightshift club night – industrial, darkwave, electronica, goth and more from the usual suspects.

 

On Sunday, again at The Rolleston you can catch a stripped back session from retro-rockers Josie and The Outlaw and after that it is all about the mayhem and madness of New Years Eve. As my distant relative, Benjamin Franklin so wisely put it “ Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” – can’t say fairer than that.

 

So that’s another year done, have a great time over the festivities and I’ll see you at a gig somewhere soon, I’ll be the one leaning on the bar clutching a handful of Antwerp scene experimental rock demos and trying to argue that The Icicle Works were the greatest pop band ever to anyone who will listen. Have a blast out there.

Library - 50So the Mayans got it wrong and we survived. Okay, to be honest unless you are some sort of deranged American prepper, zonked out Guatemalan shaman or paranoid occultist, no one expected anything different and just used it as an excuse to throw a party. The Furnace was no exception.

 

It’s been a pretty good month for me musically speaking. Firstly managing to get to a low key show in Oxford by The Everlasting Yeah, the resurfaced 4/5ths of That Petrol Emotion, thereby getting to hang out with a genuine Undertone and some really great people. (Hurrah!) I also found myself at The Barbican for the last ever Twelfth Night show, a band I had been following since 1983. I was there at …well, near the beginning and I was there at the end. (Hurrah…with lashings of echoplex, strange time changes and all the prog rock trappings) I also caught a cracking show with Super Squarecloud and Gaz Brookfield at The Victoria to mark the end of The BBC Introducing program (boo! to the BBC top brass for such a short-sighted and money driven cultural abandonment.) All in all it had already been a great month for live shows, so to line up most of my favourite locally based bands of recent times in one place was the obvious way to top things off.

 

In an unplanned addition to the night, Charlie Russell got things going with his line of punked-indie-mod acoustica, showing that if you are going to try and hold the room with just a voice and a guitar you need both the songs and charisma to back it up. This he has which is why it works. Now decamped to Brighton and still working as a part of a slightly re-jigged Dirt Royal line up it was great to see his axis of Libertines-Jam-Oasis influenced music on the bill.

 

The first full band to hit the stage were SkyBurnsRed, a band who have gone from strength to strength this year with a string of great shows, including the now legendary violin trashing slot at The Shuffle and a new e.p. as proof, if proof were needed. They are a band that really comes alive on the bigger stage and tonight they filled the room. Guitars growled, vocals rasped, violins soared, basses rumbled and drums power it all home….everything as it should be. To steal a quote from a recent review of their latest release, “It’s grunge with a classical sweep, alternative rock for the 21st century, it’s aggressive, raw and emotive, dark, elegant and sensuous, it’s the sound of SkyBurnsRed becoming the band that they have always been destined to become.” ‘Nuff said.

 

The Racket has proved that their shows are a balancing act on the part of the band. They can range from a beautiful chaos that becomes more about the spectacle than the music as everything seems to fall apart around them or tightly knit displays of gutter anthems that show their talents as songwriters and performers. With just the right amount of “influence” coursing through their blood streams, tonight,  they seemed to get it just right. Trashy anthems and a self-assured swagger (note to other bands: cocky is okay, arrogance is not so cool) – they nailed it. They are what happens when back-street punk influences inspire indie kids to take the less obvious Brit-pop sounds, mix it up with dance grooves and a large helping of attitude. They avoid the style over substance of bands like Twisted Wheel by having the songs to back it all up.

 

Enter Nudybronque. Okay, I raved unashamedly about their new three-piece format, when I first saw them at this same venue and I have to say that this show justified and even enhanced my thoughts. Some sort of transformation has taken place, particularly in front man Aiden. Faced with a crisis of how to continue after the departure of sibling Mike from the band, the work that they have put in has really paid off. Still based on really accessible pop grooves their music is now filled with a previously missing intensity. Vocally they seem to now have replaced their often-innocent sound with a post-punk ferocity, darker and more mature. The old songs are still as punchy and danceable as ever and their newer material points out interesting new areas of exploration. I flippantly commented of these newer influences that they had been hanging around with Super Squarecloud too much, but as a starting point that isn’t too far from the truth. Moving away from the straighter pop lines of their earlier work they are evolving into something really interesting as the songs get more involved, more exploratory, more complex. As long as they don’t stray too far away from the melodic groove and danceable backbeats that make up their core sound, they have got it made.

 

What can I say about The Rhubarbs? Nothing, as for at least the third time this year they failed to show up for a Swindon booking.

 

If the overall thread so far has been how far all these bands have moved on in the last year, The Street Orphans hit their stride a while ago – it’s pretty much two years ago that I bigged up their self titled e.p. –  and continue to deliver the goods. Plying a trade of a more accessible brand of indie but still able to blend in other genres, they manage to mix quality musicianship with clever songs and a wonderful understanding of dynamics. They might not display the intensity of the bands that have gone before but they are probably the one that will find an easier root into the more mainstream outlets of radio and album sales.

 

The story running round the room was that The Fixed had been elevated to headline due to their bar restrictive age, none of the other bands feeling that they would be in a fit state to play by the time the headline slot was due. If that was partly true, The Fixed didn’t seem out of place topping the bill. Last time I saw them their show seemed a bit forced and overly cocky. Foot on the monitor stage antics are fine if you are wearing beaten up leathers and Raybans and have the back story to go with it but when the reality is that you got a lift to the gig with you mum and tomorrow is all about finishing that English essay that is due on Monday, maybe I felt that they hadn’t paid enough dues to adopt such theatrics. But then again as an aging rocker I’m hardly their target audience so what should they care what I think? Tonight however they seemed to just get on with the business of playing the music. There was enough show to make them interesting but this time it seemed natural and didn’t detract from what they were here to do. This was a band I could take seriously, a band that doesn’t need to be followed around by tag lines relating to their age and potential. Just keep doing this and they will do just fine.

 

I also had an epiphany, a Damascene moment…well a thought.  After the show had finished I wandered upstairs to The Rolleston to catch the tail end of Metalhead, as the name implies a metal covers band. And as great as they were, in terms of showmanship and musical ability, it suddenly dawned on me why, for me, this was no comparison to what I had just witnessed. It’s a nostalgia thing and I’m not really into it. For me I’m not one for dwelling on the music of the past, of course I still play my old records, but as a live performance it brings nothing to my table. I’m more interested in seeing where music is going, picking up on new music through chance meetings at gigs, receiving demos by bands who are moving things forward, looking for the next new thing to excite me. Hearing AC/DC covers is all well and good, but I have been there, done that, bought any number of t-shirts that sadly no longer fit me. Even though I may have looked the part in their audience, I felt like I didn’t belong there.

 

Maybe the Mayans got it right after all. In a way. Maybe the world did end. The world of Swindon bands being also-rans, of our scene being the poor relation to Oxford, Bristol …anywhere for that matter. Tonight proved that a whole group of local bands have, after a learning curve of a couple of years, really hit their stride and are ready to get out their and hold their own against all comers. Let’s think of this as year zero, the hard work is done, the rough edges have been beaten off, or grafted on in some cases and it is time to show the rest of the country what we have got, and what we have got is a whole bunch of bands that are ready to go out their and create their own name, their own career, even their own mythology.

Library - 48So, it’s coming to that time again, the race for the coveted Christmas number one spot is upon us, or as it should be known, the inevitable public pedestal for Cowell’s latest crooning cash cow. You almost feel sorry for Joe McElderberry, being usurped by those nasty Rage Against The Machine fans and their shouty, sweary anarchist sentiments. You could argue that all these “let’s stick it to Simon” campaigns designed to overturn his god given right to be the Christmas number one puppet master, is just as orchestrated and convoluted as the thing it is protesting against. Maybe, but this year there is a really good alternative.

 

Gaz Brookfield has released a special version of his song Diet of Banality in an attempt to add a bit of spice to the race for the top spot. Imagine if this years Christmas number one was a rant against all those previous style over substance tunes and their dance routines, skimpy outfits, gimmicky rap-middle eights and the like. Oh the irony! Well if you all head over to Gaz’s website, Amazon or iTunes you could be part of the best piece of seasonal satire and festive japery the charts have witnessed in a long time. Do it!

 

Talking of japes, The Victoria has three less than serious acts for you tonight. Dole queue hero and anti-PC rapper Devvo headlines with the boy racer Chip Daddy and the best/worst cover band of them all, Kova Me Badd, also on the bill.

 

The Beehive hosts Sophie’s Xmas (as opposed to  + vent Sunday or E-ster, I suppose) Charity Bash which in the usual eclectic style of the venue will feature fire jugglers, street magic and music from Doeser, Missin’ Rosie, Erin Bardwell Collective to money for Swindon Sands.

 

Younger fans are being catered for at The Furnace in the form of Teenage Kicks Christmas Special (part 1), which has a wonderfully experimental undercurrent. Tides of Change deliver alt rock with a pop punk vibe, Sasquatch Walk does a neat line in jazzy punk disco and With Felix adds in some ambient electro-indie. Make sure you check out openers The Weekend Effect, I was really impressed with their rapped up indie groove. Interestingly enough there isn’t going to be a Teenage Kicks Christmas Special (part 2) but then I guess if the world is ending there really isn’t much point.

 

To celebrate our imminent doom on Friday (unless the Mayans got it wrong…my, won’t we look foolish?) There are a couple of Apocolyto-parties going on. At The Victoria, party band Breeze will be providing the soundtrack whereas The Furnace has one amazing line up for you. Briefly it goes like this, The Racket – elegantly wasted gutter anthems, Nudybronque – intelligent, intense and fired up pop, The Rhubarbs  – The Beatles on Speed, The Street Orphans – slick, sophisticated indie, SkyBurnsRed – searing and dark alt-rock with a classical sweep and The Fixed – exuberant indie.

 

Other parties come in the form of Slagerij’s very messy Christmas at TP’s; ska-punk mayhem from one of Swindon’s success stories and taking Hell Death Fury, Escape From ’98 and The Useless Eaters into oblivion with them.

 

The Beehive goes down a slightly more sedate path with the fiddlesome roots rockers State of Undress. If our are a fan of The Albion Band, Fairport Convention or even The Strawbs then this is for you.

 

Saturday brings along the annual musical curveball at The Victoria, The 12 Bands of Christmas. Each band gets to do two covers; the more out their usual comfort zone the better. Previous years have seen the Blowbacks turning Cliff Richard’s Devil Woman into a feedback-drenched tribute to Sonic Youth. Matt Kilford abandoning his usual restrained approach and screaming, “Lick my legs!” when covering PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid of Me’ and Si Hall somehow matching the stratospheric range of La Roux. Need I say more?

 

 

After the bizarre offerings of that you may want to find some nostalgic, late night comfort at The Furnace when DJ Dust will be hosting one of his irregular Level 3 reunion nights. Party like its 1993 all over again, Kurt is still alive and Strictly Come Dancing is still eleven years in the future.

 

Finally Sunday afternoon at The Beehive brings a wonderfully pairing of bands and not just because they share a drummer. Rumour Shed plays music that is wonderfully chilled, reflective, richly poetic and quietly majestic. Accompanying them are The Shudders, a band just beginning to get back into their stride after too long away and guaranteed to make you want to bop, boogie and booze in equal measure. And it’s all free.

Library - 25Another week and yet more bad news on the music front. Last time I reported that The 12 Bar had shut it’s doors, possibly for the last time as a music venue; this week it was announced that after three very successful years, the biggest cultural event in the local calendar, The Big Arts Day, is also calling it a day. A sign of the times no doubt, but maybe such things are a signifier of major shifts in our habits. Like the transition from physical formats to digital downloads, maybe the live experience itself is no longer seen as an particularly relevant experience. People seem more and more inclined to engage with music via the celebrity stacked medium of television in the comfort of their own homes rather than make the effort to go out and watch bands performing at the grass roots level, the place where every band, no matter how big, originated. So it sort of begs the question, where now for live music?

Whilst you ponder that you can still catch some good music around the town. Tonight (Thursday), for example, sees the welcome return of Witney’s finest yob savants, Black Hats. Imagine what The Jam might sound like if they had carried on evolving through the breakthroughs of modern technology and changing pop fashions, visit The Victoria tonight for a glimpse of that possible scenario. Support is the raw, visceral and unadulterated rock and roll of Nymph and kicking things off is Babies vs. Rabies who having risen from the ashes of Mr Hello and His Honesty Club are sure to throw a musical curve ball. For something more sedate, Claude Bourbon will be at The Beehive delivering his trademark weaves of folk, blues, and jazz, classical and eastern acoustic vibes.

On Friday, Riffs Bar have The Sanity Days, Severenth and Twisted State of Mind gigging in aid of International Heavy Metal Day, which is confusing because not only is heavy metal the one genre that there is no shortage of in Swindon, but also the official day is actually on the 12th. Still time to set up a Tibetan Acid Jazz day to rival it. No? Pity! The Victoria are hosting its annual tribute to John Lennon and The Beatles with the likes of Nudybronque, Aural Candy, The Suspicions, Mr Love and Justice and The Starkers providing their renditions of his songs.

The Furnace is celebrating all things youthful, indie and slightly experimental around the edges. Headliners The Debuts, despite their age, have a wonderful washed out and slightly cinematic post-punk feel mixed with more contemporary markers. The Jefferson Brick are the sound of indie exploring some of it’s more warped undercurrents whilst Korim Miah and With Felix push the night’s sounds into some interesting guitar-electro-pop territory.

If you have been anywhere near the internet in the last 4 months you must be aware that Kiss tribute, Dressed to Kill are playing The Furnace on Saturday whilst upstairs in The Rolleston Missin’ Rosie will be doing what they do best. For those not in the know, what they do best is mix high energy Celtic folk with a driven rock sound, sort of a West Country Flogging Molly if you like.

In aid of Help for Heroes charity and more specifically to honour the memory of Paul Dolphin there is a twin venue music event taking place, firstly at the MECA and then going on till 6am at SUJU. 10 hours of music in the form of 30 live acts and DJ’s and all for a very good cause.

The Beehive offers something a bit more old school for its Sunday afternoon session. Jim Reynolds is fine purveyor of blues, ragtime and old-fashioned ballads and is at turns, laconic, wistful and pensive and tongue in cheek.

More acoustic music in the form of The Stripped Back Sessions at The Victoria on Tuesday featuring Kitchen Sink Dramas, Nick Parker and Reichenback Falls, who is often compared to Sparklehorse, Iron and Wine and Bonny Prince Billy, three acts that surly must pique the interest of any music fan.

Finally the week rounds out at The Running Horse on Wednesday with the vocally gorgeous, dark sonnets of The Black Feathers and funkier acoustic sounds of The Right Hooks.

How do you get what is officially the busiest week in Swindon’s musical history into just 700 (ish) words? Let me demonstrate.

Starting tonight out at Riffs Bar, neo-progressive rock royalty will be making a two-pronged attack on your senses in the form of Credo and Landmarq. Fans of the likes of Pendragon, Marillion and IQ should make no plans to be anywhere else. The name Larry “Mud” Morganfield might not mean much to a lot of people, but if I tell you that he is the son of blues icon Muddy Waters, is virtually indistinguishable from his fathers sound and that he is playing the Art Centre tonight, you may just want to pop along and catch a what will undoubtedly be an amazing show.

At the Beehive, the regular Acoustic Buzz Session brings you the best in roots music, this time headlined by the Bluegrass influenced Rosellys. English folk meets sumptuous Americana vocal harmonies comes courtesy of The Black Feathers and the hosts, Blind River Scare will be kicking the night off in fine style.

On Friday The MECA also gets in on the folk vibe with Foster and Allen (not to be confused with Mulligan and O’Hare) purveyors of broad appeal crossover Celtic folk and gorgeous ballads. Also to be found filed under “musical legend” Amen Corner founder Andy Fairweather-Low is at the Art Centre with his band The Low Riders. And whilst we are dealing with the town’s bigger venues, it pains me to have to tell you that Rizzle Kicks are at The Oasis.

The Beehive continues it’s tradition of booking supremely unique bands, with a return visit from Clayson and The Argonauts, a baroque and roll phenomena who, in a parallel universe, should have been bigger than the Beatles. At only 19 Laurence Jones is being hailed as the head boy of a new blues breed, rocked up sounds imbued with optimism, showmanship, feeling and groove and all free at The Rolleston, whilst next door in The Furnace, Betty and The Page will be dishing out rockabilly, old school rock and roll, swing and skiffle. Quiff-tastic!

Saturday is where a difficult choice has to be made as two of the town’s most popular bands have launch gigs for new releases and unless you believe Erwin Schrödinger, you can’t be in two places at once. Maestros of Quantum glock-rock, Super Squarecloud (pictured), are at Riffs Bar to promote their latest weird and wonderful collection of sounds that goes by the name of The Stanford Torus e.p. (highly recommended) which pushes them equally into strange experimentalism and pop accessibility at the same time. They are supported by Nudybronque, now a three-piece and more fired up and edgy than they ever were, plus a rare local outing for The Listening Device. For those not in the know, and if not, why not? The Listening Device is a wonderfully ambient, progressive rock band displaying all the technical ability that that implies and an unexpected Waitsian vocal growl on top.

Whilst that takes place, SkyBurnsRed will be launching their new music at The Furnace. Violin fueled grooves, big guitar riffs, eastern vibes and punchy memorable songs, what’s not to like? And remember, the last time they played The Furnace people were picking bits of violin out of the walls for days to come! Not to be missed. Add to that The Street Orphans will be supplying driven, dynamic indie anthems as only they can. Also on the bill, up from Portsmouth is Yours Truly, a rock band who manages to do that rare thing of combining brains with brawn, melody with muscle, rock and roll the way God intended. (I know because, he told me!)

Other options are, rhythm and blues mayhem from The Hamsters From Hell in The Rolleston, David Lynch’s new musical vehicle, The Labradors at The Fox and Hounds in Haydon Wick and any prog fans who didn’t satisfy their musical thirst earlier on in the week should head to The Victoria for  a tribute to the Fish era of Aylesbury’s favourite sons with Still-Marillion.

If ska-inspired rap/rock sounds your cup of Darjeeling then it’s The Victoria again on Sunday. Having just toured supporting Sonic Boom Six, Imperial Leisure are one hell of a party –  big tunes, an energetic live show and one of the best front men in the business. Support comes from home-grown ska-punksters Slagerij.

Final mention of the week is for The Elijah at the 12 Bar on Monday; brilliantly atmospheric, ambient post-rock that surprisingly works in screamo vocal delivery and old school shoegaze indie. Can you imagine that? No? Best go down and check them out. Similar contradictory collisions work wonders for support band If Heroes Should Fail, whilst Homeland take the more expected but no less well executed melodic hardcore route.

Apologies to the dozen or so gigs that there wasn’t room to mention, I guess this week the music scene just became a victim of its own success. Who’d have thought?

 Local music can feel pretty smug with itself of late. If you see it walking through town with a self satisfied look and a cocky spring in its step, forgive it, it has a lot to be pleased with itself about at the moment. It isn’t enough that we have great bands, both local and from further afield tripping over themselves to be part of our little musical back water, acts as diverse as Jazz Morley, Ugly Duckling, The Manic Shine, Thea Gilmore and even ex-Scorpions supremo Uli Jon Roth bringing his eldritch musical dabbling to our very doors. Also of note recently was the remarkable step up that has been gained by Quantum rockers (or Quantum glockers even) Super Squarecloud, with the addition of a new member to their ranks. Somehow with out losing the off kilter, weirdness that has always been their hallmark, they have gained a more coherent pop sensibility, dare I say it, a more accessible sound that should open them up to a whole host of new listeners without alienating those who already get their lateral thinking, warped musical trip. But the main point of this scribbling art attack is another band who have changed their tack and come out fighting.

I’m glad to see that The Furnace is getting its act together again. More gigs seem to be taking place and more diversity within those bookings is most welcome. Gradually shaking off  its creatures of the night association has not been easy on the DJ’s and promoters who have been driving the change, but hopefully those Buffy The Vampire Slayer fixated, pretend pagan, narrow minded, goth-metalers who bemoan the loss of their lair, but who in reality never supported in particularly great numbers anyway, will now be relegated to the chat rooms and forums where they can ritually curse the new direction and bitch about the old days viewed through blood-tinted spectacles.

But tonight it was all about another transformation. When Nudybronque guitarist, Aiden, had told me that even though their front man had abruptly left but they were going to honour existing gigs as a three piece, I knew it would still work, the question was, would it work well enough.

Opening band, The Fixed, is a name that is always accompanied by disclaimers and subtexts regarding their age, but music like any art form is all about the finished product and ifs and buts have to be dropped if they are to be taken seriously. There is no under 18’s section in the record shop and bands between eight and eighty have to compete on a level playing field. Whilst on record they are decent enough indie fare, the obvious product of some obvious influences, live their boisterous “ how wacky are we” approach, the choreographed impromptu antics and the constant “how are we all doing” aimed at three friends down the front also doing their best to be wild and wacky, hides the fact that they don’t yet have the songs. A bit less show and a bit more tell is in order, they play okay but it’s all about style over substance for now.

Secret Lives, normally a band I enjoy were marred with so many sound issues that I will just gloss over their set which brings us to the crux of the matter. Can Nudybronque cut it as a three piece?

When they were a four piece, having a charismatic, clowning, focus in the form of Mike at the front often detracted from the fact that the other three were really producing something a bit special musically, tonight with nothing to obscure the fact, it became obvious to everyone. Even though Aiden always did the lions share of the singing, now filling that vacant front of band spot, not only has he risen to the occasion but the band seems to have become much more than the sum of it’s parts. Wielding his guitar like a chainsaw massacre, he has become everything he need to be, the reserved confidence of before has evolved into in-your face aggression, not just getting the job done but doing so with a wild flair, their punked up pop is now music with menaces.

I love three piece bands, there is a sort of musical economy about them, everyone has a job to do and has to be good at it for it to work, be it Luke gleefully skipping around whilst building melodic basslines that are so essential to the Nudybronque sound, or Wolfman hammering away at the back, like all good drummers the unsung hero of the hour and the musical foundation to any good band. If you doubt the drummer’s importance, just look down at your feet and consider what you are dancing along too.

People often try to argue that there is a difference between the local music scene and bands from out of town, make a point that they are happy to support outsiders in the same way that people latch on to acts that have made it on to TV as if that imbues them with some cool that they didn’t have before. It is why if you see any hipsters in the street you should always point and laugh at them for perpetuating this idea. The only difference between touring and home-grown bands is geography. Tonight Nudybronque showed just how fallacious that idea is, they may have been playing their home patch, but they are now ready for the big leagues.