Tag Archive: old colours


1380243_520908807997447_1788925937_nI have been getting quite a lot of feedback on this column of late, which is only fair; people should have an opinion on my opinion, a right to respond. One person accused me of being a failed musician…the standard go to of the creative to the critic but as I pointed out, when all is added up, I have made far more money over the years playing music than scribbling about it, so that line of argument more likely makes me a failed journalist. I was also accused of having the audacity of expressing an opinion, even a positive one, but I guess if you stick your head above the parapet, people will take pot shots. I just want to point out that, yes, obviously this is just one persons opinion (so just assume that I have written “In My Humble Opinion” at the end of every paragraph) but remember it is only and opinion and it’s only music; this isn’t meant to be a solution for uniting the middle east, a Shakespearean sonnet or The Gettysburg Address…it’s just music journalism. Discuss…

 

Whilst you are mulling that over you might like to be aware that one of my favourite popular beat combo’s is to be found at The Beehive tonight, Three Minute Tease.  Anton Barbeau not only has made a career releasing albums that sound like the acid fuelled memories of Syd Barrett as interpreted by Julian Cope, he does so alongside a rhythm section who have long been at the forefront of underground pop music via bands such as The Soft Boys, Robyn Hitchcock’s Egyptians, Squeeze and more. So expect sweet psychedelics, trippy, retro pop, space rock or even spaced rock—all packaged with wit and humour in a rich, high gloss coating.

 

For something slightly less crazy, old time Chicago blues comes courtesy of Built For Comfort at The Victoria.

 

Friday has a mix of originals and standards (see, you have even got me bowing down to The Music Police’s Trading Standards Department and calling covers by a much more user friendly name.) The latter comes with good time swing, rhythm and blues from The Teddy White Band at The Beehive and Going Underground keeping the sounds of new wave, post-punk, mod and ska alive at The Victoria. With the former you have two ends of the roots spectrum on offer. For the delicate sound of the deep south mixed with Celtic and more pastoral folk sounds then The Black Feathers (pictured) at Riff’s Bar is the place to be but if you fancy the more raucous end of things then Missin’ Rosie will be hammering home punked up booze soaked folk at The Rolleston.

The tributes keep coming on Saturday as Wizards of Oz play the music of The Black Country’s Prince of Darkness at The Rolleston and over at Riff’s Bar Johnny Warman’s Magic Bus plays a Mods and Rockers showcase highlighting the music of the mid and late sixties such as The Beatles and The Stones, The Kinks, The Animals and as this year is the 50th anniversary of the formation of The Who, expect their music to feature heavily as well.

 

For original acoustic music then head to The GW Hotel for a night featuring Nick Felix, Matt Mordak, Josh Heather, Aiden Moore, Frankie Scott, Welsh Chris and the charmingly named Douche Bags.

 

 

Sunday’s show at The Victoria is by way of a fond farewell. For the last couple of years Old Colours have blazed a musical trail of cinematic soundscapes and shimmering folk-pop but have sadly decided to call it a day. This show will be your last chance to see them and with the dreamy folk-tronica of Henry Green and the sweeping resonance of Familiars building the night, it will definitely be one to remember.

 

If something more relaxed is your cup of chai tea then the ever-popular Lazy Sunday Afternoon earlier in the day at The Art Centre Café might be the answer. Alongside the usual hosts of Mr. Love and Justice, this session features the warm, loved up acoustica of Ethemia and the eclectic and compelling song crafting of Talis Kimberley.

 

As Monday is St Patrick’s Day, The Beehive have a night of celebration which will feature such diverse elements as Swindon Samba, Jim Blair, Les Bicyclettes, Craig Huchesson and even an Irish Disco…so, hands up for a few Frank and Walters classic tunes…just me then.

Advertisements

1175726_493302250752192_659770799_nIt’s always reassuring when I do the research for this article (okay, it may seem as if it’s hastily written on the back of a beer mat at a gig, but there is an element of research) and it is obvious that there are more gigs taking place than space will allow. That has got to be the sign of a healthy scene….or an overtly verbose writer, or both! So straight down to business.

So, tonight at The Victoria, Songs of Praise brings you a lovely slice of alternative rock, headed up by that eight legged, orchestral grunge machine, SkyBurnsRed. Buzz-saw guitars and whiskey cracked vocals mix with sweeping classical lines and heavy beats to bring you one of the most original rock bands on the local circuit. Support comes from Dead Royalties (pictured), old hands in a new musical vehicle, natural successors to the Sub-Pop legacy and who have the ability to hammer home their music like a smack in the face from Cobain’s beaten up Jaguar guitar. Armchair Committee are the perfect band to kick the night off.

Something altogether more classy this way comes, well it does if you are in The Beehive tonight, as Ruba Tempo return with their elegant and soulful , late night jazz sounds.

Chuck Berry may have famously got his kicks on Route 66, well, the younger element can get theirs this Friday on the B4534, or more accurately at Riffs Bar as Teenage Kicks brings together the best of the emerging local talent. This show will feature I Am The Sea, Out of Time, Who Cares? Emily Jones and headlining the ethereal voice and delicate musical creations of Faye Rogers. And apparently it is Pirate Music night, though I’m not sure if that means you have to dress like Jack Sparrow or that bloke who sold me a bootleg Stone Roses DVD last week.

Also with quite a piratey feel to them, Missin’ Rosie will be filling The Beehive with punked up Celtic anthems, wonky sea shanties and all manner of mayhem and shenanigans, image The Pogues on speed and you get the picture.

All manner of rock covers can be found at The Rolleston with Angel Up Front, now with a new singer and at The Victoria it’s time to put on the distress flares, tank tops, glam accoutrements and go “crazee” as Slyde Alive relive the heady days of Slade.

Saturday brings you one of the last outdoor gatherings on the local calendar as The Running Horse bring a whole heap of their favourite acts for The Acoustic Garden. Not only is it the best of the local selection but top names such as Rachel Austin and Josh Kumra will feature. Just pray for good weather.

Two breaking bands can be found at The Victoria that evening. Stylish, anthemic indie comes courtesy of British Harlem and opening up is the heady mix of floaty, cinematic,  dream pop and occasional rock urgency that is Old Colours, in many ways a Warpaint for the English market. It’s also a line up that sums up neatly where the contemporary music scene is heading.

It’s maximum electric blues at The Rolleston with Innes Sibun and nostalgia trippers are catered for with The Illegal Eagles at The Wyvern Theatre and Chris  “ Handbags and Gladrags” Farlowe at The Arts Centre.

Two Sunday afternoon options look like this. David Bristow plays relaxed, old school blues at The Beehive and the Lazy Sunday Afternoon show at The Arts Centre sees hosts Mr Love and Justice joined by Alice Offley and Jane Allison.

Monday sees some great ska driven, pop rock hit The Victoria as Robbie Sea’s short tour stops off to deliver a lesson in how to make music that is both cool and accessible, that will drive both a cult following and radio play. A great trick if you can pull it off, and he does.

The battle for Wednesday’s music punters takes place in the usual venues and pits The Teddy White Band at the Roaring Donkey with The Black Feathers at The Running Horse.

By the way, my records show that this is the 200th time you have had to suffer my inane ramblings and weird recommendations via this column. Doesn’t time fly when your having…deadlines!

mrcatandthejackal_arno-krugerSo, another year, another Swindon Shuffle done and dusted. I hope everybody had a great time, discovered some new bands, took in some of the new cultural diversities that were included and maybe made a new friend or two along the way. (Due to the nature of deadlines, at the time of writing this I am currently only mid festival, which feels a bit like being in some bizarre, Terry Gilliam time travel movie, but we will have to assume all went well and the space time continuum, not to mention the reputation of local music is still in tact.)

 

If you still haven’t had your fix of music, the place to be this weekend is SN1Fest Summer Ball at The Old Town Bowl for a celebration of all things dance music. Saturday is spearheaded by the twisted minimalist disco sounds of Simian Mobile Disco and just added to the line up, Dismantle, the pioneering young DJ who effortlessly blurs the lines between house, dubstep and Dutch techno. Add to that over a dozen dance acts and DJ’s and you have the perfect day of contemporary and cutting edge music. If Saturday celebrates dance as a genre, Sunday is more about dance as a concept with an eclectic mix of live bands designed to get you in the party mood, from Old Colours, 2 Sick Monkeys, British Harlem, The London Underground Orchestra and all topped off with a set from Radio 1 DJ and Indie guru, Huw Stevens.

 

Back in the regular haunts there is still a multitude of great music to be deliberated, cogitated and digested, sorry went a bit Loyd Grossman then, and it doesn’t come better than Mr Cat and The Jackal (pictured) at The Victoria tonight. An experimental acoustic folk band reveling in blues, gypsy, tango, balkan and celtic themes via the medium of handmade instruments and an amazing live show…sounds worth checking out if you ask me. Support coming from punked up celtic folksters, Missin’ Rosie just adds to your reasons for going.

 

Also on the menu tonight, at The Beehive, Andre and The J-Tones mix up original and retro classics with an R ‘n’ B and soul flavour.

 

The big show for Friday is to be found out at Riffs Bar where great music and a worthy cause go hand in hand as a host of younger acts, including The Fixed, The Eberdeens, Abbie Sims and Lucy Gray will be raising money for The Stroke Association. The Rolleston is offering up The Sitting Tenants, a brilliant power-pop, psych and soul band from the 208 Records stable and The Beehive has a young touring German rock three piece that goes under the name of Patrick McCrank.

 

The Victoria start the first of two days of elated sun-clasped dance grooves tonight with the wonderful funky dub sounds of Backbeat Sound System and support from the multi-genre mash up kings, SN Dubstation. The following night the regular Reggae Club Night is visited by the legendary DJ Amma who has virtually played for every band, radio session and live event that matters.

 

Also on Saturday, fans of rock classics should head to The Rolleston for Fly on The Wall who do a neat line in covers by the likes of The Stones, Thin Lizzy, T-Rex and Blink 182.

 

The Sunday afternoon session at The Beehive is filled by The Senile Delinquents, a brilliant little cowgirl jazz, country outfit, imagine The Dixie Chicks with a european bias and you will be halfway there. The Sun Inn has one of it’s al fresco sessions (posh for outside) which this time will feature The Costellos, a band with a ska-reggae heart but musical arms enough to embrace a whole range of other styles and genres.

 

 

As is often the case we have to fast forward to Wednesday for our final slabs of music which come in the guise of Billyjon, a romantic balladeer who seems to be these days slipping into slightly darker and edgier musical waters, at The Running Horse and Sumita Majundar’s fresh and honest piano stories at The Roaring Donkey.

578857_263154153794867_1084347348_n

In many ways today can be seen as the anniversary of the birth of the rock and roll era. It was sixty years ago today that a Tennessee truck driver payed $3.98 to go into a Memphis studio and record a two track disc as a present for his mother. This may have been a footnote in the annals of music history had that truck driver not been Elvis Presley. Five years later an even more significant event occurred in Manchester, England when Nigel Twist came kicking and screaming into the world, presumably already sporting aviator shades and back combed hair. Significant as he went on to drum for The Alarm and record Sixty Eight Guns! I guess it’s all relative but in my world a much more important event, I mean Elvis Presley…what ever happened to him?

Anyway back in the modern age we seem to have a week of quality over quantity when it comes to live music options. Tonight a quite bizarre selection is on offer at The Victoria as Three Minute Tease (pictured) pay a return visit to Songs of Praise. Formed around Sacramento musical oddball Anton Barbeau and featuring a rhythm section made up of post-punk royalty in the form of Morris Windsor and Andy Metcalfe (former Robyn Hitchcock bandmates in The Soft Boys and The Egyptians) this band are a must see for fans of Julian Cope, Syd Barrett, XTC and psychedelic, underground, power-pop in general. Add to that the equally left field Schnauser who sound like The Bonzo Dog Band re-writing Pet Sounds and the more accessible but no less brilliant 8 Minutes Later providing the filling in this strange musical sandwich and you have something a bit special.

Also a bit special is Kent DuChaine at the The Beehive, who delivers a taste of the Delta through his authentic slide blues sound drawn from his “beat up 1934 National Steel guitar.” You can almost taste the mint julep!

On Friday, again it is The Victoria that offers something a bit special. Anyone who caught The Lovers play their stripped down set their back in April will know how great this band is, this time they are back fully amped up, no holds barred. They are a band that prove that rock can have good melody or pop can have attitude and drive, depending on which angle you look at it from. And I also managed to get through that description without resorting to the lazy journalistic fall back of pointing out that they are an all girl band. Damn!

Also on the bill are the ever popular Shudders who seem to be moving from strength to strength with their ever evolving brand of folk meets alt-country meets lo-fi pop meets…anything they can think of really. Plummie Rackett in solo mode opens up the nights proceedings.

At The Beehive, masters of the cross-generic set, Kola Koca, make a welcome return. Freely mixing styles as diverse as folk and jazz, blues and pop to drive some great social observations, kitchen sink dramas, politics and humour, this is a band that you really need to see.

After this the weekend switches away from original music but that’s not to say that there isn’t some great music to be had. (I know I do have a bit of a reputation of not favouring cover and tribute bands so much but it’s probably time to come clean that my favourite song of all time is Kirsty McColl’s 12” version of A New England – not only a cover but an extended re-mix, there I said it.) Friday is all about a range of covers from The Great Nothing at The Rolleston and on Saturday a couple of tributes might take your interest, Green Day at The Victoria and Ian Dury and The Blockheads at The Rolleston.

Original music comes back on the radar on Wednesday with Louise Latham at The Running Horse. Dealing in heartfelt and painfully honest lyrics, driven by wonderfully understated piano, and for this gig accompanied by her sister on guitar, if you are fans of the likes of Sarah MacLachlan, Tori Amos or the more sweeping end of The Indigo Girls, then this is for you. The Beehive are at the other end of the musical scale with Loonaloop and their genre hopping, cosmic electronica.

Final mention is for the show at The Victoria which sees Old Colors bringing back their cinematic folk pop to brighten up your mid-week slump support comes in the form of the ambient pop of The Sea,The Sea and the gentle balladry of Billyjon.

Library - 176Another one of those musical embarrassments of riches weeks, so it’s straight on with the show for a change.

Songs of Praise at The Victoria tonight plays hosts to two of its favourites. Headlining are Witney’s Black Hats and if you have ever wondered what a band like The Jam would be doing today given the new musical fashions and technology they would have absorbed and embraced, then these guys might just be the answer. Support comes from chaps of the moment Nudybronque who make the sort of disposable underground pop that you will want to keep forever.

More rootsy offerings can be found at The Beehive where duo, Two Man Ting, an offshoot from Afro-dance favourites La Cod Afrique, mix bright, looping guitar with djembe rhythms to make wonderous world-pop creations. If blues is your thing, young electric blues rockers, Retramantic are at The Rolleston.

The word legend is banded around far to readily these days, but in the case of The Victoria’s Friday night booking it really does apply. Still regarded as the number one sixties soul man, Geno Washington (not a tribute, your actual, real Geno Washington) still knows how to put on a great show, and anyone who inspired a Dexys Midnight Runners song has got to be a legend in my book, even Jocky Wilson, who also heavily influenced the band Darts. Possibly.

The Furnace is playing hosts to a group of bands who are shaping the current face of rock. SkyBurnsRed don’t even have time to type the spaces between the words in their band name but play grunge meets alt-rock with a classical sweep, raw, emotive, aggressive, elemental, dark and sensuous. The Manic Shine also return armed with a second album just brimming over with great tunes and infectious grooves, think classic rock guitar icons being mixed with sub-prog, indie-dance and techno and all delivered with an intensity that has made their live shows legendary. Middlenamekill and Tides of Change kick the night off.

Elsewhere The Great Nothing offer The Rolleston a different take on retro-rock classics or you can opt for old-school rock and roll with Josie and The Outlaw at The Beehive  – miss this show and you can catch them at The Rolleston on Sunday.

Something to shout about again on Saturday at The Furnace as Old Colours bring their gorgeous, cinematic pop-folkiness to bear and if their last show there is anything to go by then it is going to be a real treat. Dub vibes come courtesy of Salisbury’s Badrat and opening the night are Armchair Commitee and Charlie Bath.

I’m resorting to using the “L-word” again as new-wave pioneer Wreckless Eric rocks up at the Rolleston aided and abetted by his wife Amy Rigby (pictured). The combination of the Stiff Records stalwart and the New Yorkers effortless pop (just check out Dancing With Joey Ramone from her back catalogue) makes for a finished sound that is as wonderful as it is unexpected.

It’s covers at Riffs Bar with the Hi-fidels, but my tip is get out there early enough to catch support act NewQuay Times who mix covers and originals in a set that conjures the likes of Lone Justice, Tom Petty and even Throwing Muses.

It’s Sunday and its time for: Warning, warning, gross nepotism alert!! Right you have been warned. At the Beehive afternoon session Driftwood Fairy have popped all the way over from Berlin to deliver some quality folk-rock. The nepotism bit comes when I tell you that none other than Rich Millin, ubiquitous drummer, tutor, connoisseur of three for a tenner wines, friend and twit is at the kit. Not only will you get some great music, I’m sure it is going to be a messy sort of re-union.

Fans of more traditional folk music will want to keep Tuesday night free as Jamie Smiths Mabon bring original Celtic folk to the Arts Centre. On Wednesday there is a bit of a tussle going on for the acoustic fans. The ever-popular Running Horse Sessions will be playing host to Ethemia, a brilliant duo, with an effortless stage presence reminiscent of the recently defunct Civil Wars. Meanwhile, almost every other acoustic act in town is at The Furnace for Teenage Kicks Acoustic Spring Break, no space left to list them all, I’ll leave that up to you.

Library - 99There was an interesting debate on line the other day, mainly from a promoters point of view and centred around the age old problem of getting people out to watch live music. I have written about it extensively elsewhere but it is worth just recapping on the main thrust of the arguments here. One side seemed to want to lay the blame of poor attendances at the feet of the punter in a fairly sanctimonious line that went something like “ we are putting these gigs on for you and you are not attending them, therefore you are failing as a music fan” The usual clichés, use it or lose it statements and the one-upmanship of who’s most passionate about music followed in its usual dreary inevitability.

 

I see the scenario the other way around. The public know what they want and if promoters and venues are suffering from ill attended gigs, maybe their “product” and a gig is just as much a product as Tesco sausages, just isn’t that appealing. In short maybe they are just booking the wrong bands; wrong as in over played, limited appeal or just plain boring. Last week in particular showed that if you tap into the right vibe people will respond and bands such as Young Kato, Portia Conn, Old Colours, Spyglass, SkyBurnsRed and even old faithfuls like The Hamsters from Hell played to decent crowds. It can be done, but if people aren’t turning up to your shows, maybe the answer to the problem lies closer to home than you think.

 

Right, I’ve deliberated, cogitated and digested enough and come to the conclusion that these are the gigs that you might like to go to. In the name of fairness and to avoid the usual backlash, I must point out that other gigs are available and door prices can go up as well as down.

 

Interesting proposition in the top bar of The Victoria tonight, Normally to be found performing with Toupe, Grant Sharkey is a brilliant mix of upright bass, live humour, improvised lyrics and audience participation all of which makes for a brilliant live experience.

 

Friday seems to be the night when it’s all happening, starting in Old Town and working our way down the hill it goes like this. The Arts Centre has the legendary Colin Blunstone, a name associated with bands such as Argent and The Alan Parsons Project but most famous for being a member of The Zombies and co-writing the hit She’s Not There.

 

Round the corner at The Victoria, after too long away from the scene, The Shudders (pictured) are back spearheading a cracking night. Not only do you get their lo-fi, folk-pop, Americana shennanighins, but you also have Alex Taylor who channels the ethereal acoustic vibe of the likes of Damien Rice and John Martyn, plus the funkier, rootsy acoustica of The Right Hooks.

 

By the time you get down to The Beehive, something very interesting and unexpected is afoot. Whilst certain venues at the more boisterous end of town have been hosting various X-Factor contestants, here you will find Dorka Shodeinde, who was well placed in the Hungarian version of the contest performing with her guitarist Roland Polyak, the result is something altogether more soulful and palatable. If you want to play the nostalgia card, The Rolleston plays host to The Nomarks who are keeping the sound of the late seventies two-tone/ska revival alive and kicking.

 

Although Swindon is never short of metal bands, Riffs Bar has taken the interesting slant of getting some of the top bands of the genre, namely Eye For An Eye, From Ruin and Mortdelamer to play acoustic versions of their songs. Also note that this is Mortdelamer’s last ever gig, so I think it is only fitting that all you metallers support this and give them a great send off.

 

On Saturday at the same venue you can catch John Coghlan’s Quo, touring as a warm up before the much talked about classic line up Status Quo reunion. Not normally one to tout the tribute set but as it’s Transmission, who recreate the glorious sounds of Joy Division, I can’t not give it a quick mention. That’s at The Victoria and support is a Killing Joke set from 1000 Planets. If country music is your thing then you need to be at the Arts Centre for the iconic Hank Wangford and The Lost Cowboys.

 

And finally we jump to Wednesday when you have the options of a Bluegrass jam session at Riffs Bar or some wonderful joyous and sweeping acoustic folk from Antoine Architeuthis at The Running Horse. Support comes from Alice Offley, genre-hopping pianist who is  equally at home knocking out brash pop, delicate other worldly dreamscapes and everything in between.

Library - 97There was an interesting debate online the other day that centred around the age old problem of punters not supporting gigs, the same “use it or lose it” clichés being thrown around as well as the usual one-upmanship of how some people want to be seen as being  more passionate about music than others. One thrust of the argument tried to lay the blame squarely on the punter along the lines of “we are putting these gigs on and you are not attending, it’s your bad” (as they say in US teen comedies.) However, this if we build it they should come argument is, in my opinion, all arse about face (as they say in UK radio farming dramas.) Even in financially tough times, if you put on a gig that is attractive enough to the punter, then people will turn up. The point I think that was being missed by the opposing camp was that a lot has changed since they were young, finger on the pulse, gig goers. People don’t access their music in the same way anymore; there are so many free alternatives available in the comfort of your own home to actually going out to a gig. Music is all over the TV, sites like Spotify gives you free access to a lot of music, the internet allows cottage industry bands to get their music directly to the punter (hence the demise of HMV, who, to be fair, must have seen it coming) maybe attending live gigs just isn’t that important to a lot of people as it was ten or twenty years ago. Maybe it’s as simple as the people moaning about no one attending the gigs they are putting on, are simply billing the wrong bands! Does Tesco attack the man in the street for buying Sainsbury’s products? No they do some research and try to create a more appealing product.

So what happens if you put the right bands on? Well quite a lot. My own night, Songs of Praise had a pretty good turn out considering the weather and the post Christmas financial crash that most people are feeling. Original music on a Thursday night is always tricky round here so to get 30-40 people in was very pleasing. Rock music might seem to have been done to death but there are still some great bands putting a different edge on things. Openers Adepto Futui (pictured), now  playing in a classic three piece formation managed to mix self-deprecating between song banter with some blistering raw electric blues that would sit quite happily alongside your Jon Spenser Blues Explosion collection. Up all the way from Cardiff, Spyglass played a polished set of alt-rock that married the density of grunge with some aggressive classic rock grooves and headliners SkyBurnsRed did their usual line of effortless rock, classical sweeps, dark and atmospheric songs and funky leggings.

The following night The Furnace also proved that if you do it right, then people will take notice. I got into a bit of bother a while ago when I suggested that the venues break with its old associations is both painful for some and totally necessary. In fact what I said exactly was:

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.

 

A barrage of abuse followed mainly from people trying to defend their rose-tinted image of Level 3. You don’t have to tell me about those days, I was there. A lot! Yes it was great, yes it was busy but the important word if WAS. If you want to re-capture those days you have to re-create it with the tools available and that’s what tonight was all about. The new tools in this case lay largely on the pop side of indie. Two local openers set the scene, Salute The Magpie who channel the spirit of The Smiths via more recent Indie sounds such as The Maccabees, and the wonderful cinematic folk- pop blends of indie soundscapers, Old Colours played to the biggest crowd of the whole night. The headline acts have just come to the end of a national tour and even though they are not the biggest names to have passed through the venue since the change of management, they still managed to keep a reasonable amount of the crowd after the local interest had left the stage. Pop used to be a dirty word but Portia Conn and her band play the sort of pop that easily dispels the generic travesties of the past, auto-tuners and clichéd dance routines. Instead we are reminded that pop can produce soulful and fresh music played with style by wonderfully charismatic live bands. Whoddathoughtit?

Young Kato splice rock and pop and create the best of both worlds with the attack, attitude and drive of the former and the fun and melody of the latter. And although the crowd had dwindled somewhat by then, those that remained were there to have a good time and bounced along to their effervescent tunes, in fact it was a capsule moment of what had been taking place all night as the gig had attracted a slew of hip popsters and cool indie kids out to have a good time. A sea of funky hats, ironic knitwear, skinny jeans and future-retro styles flitted about the room, a splash of fun and colour where not so long ago you would only have seen an ocean of black. It also became the focal point for a gathering of the great and good of Swindon and muso spotting from bands old and new became the order of the day. In my i-spy book of ligging and name checking, I managed to tick off a couple of  The 211, a Youngblood, an Off Chancer and even got extra points for a good chat with the boy racer himself, Chip Daddy.

To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park “Music finds a way” Even in these difficult times, the audience is out there. There was a time when maverick promoters could afford to run the line, I’m giving them what they didn’t know they wanted, fine when there is an excess of disposable income and people turn out in larger numbers. For now it’s all about giving the punter what he wants and understanding that if people aren’t turning up to shows that you are putting on, the answer to the problem might lie closer to home than you realise.

Library - 91Had Good King Wenceslas looked out of my window, far from seeing snow that was deep and crisp and even, he would have seen un-gritted roads and snow sculptures that either look like something out of a Tim Burton movie or designs that are too unsavoury to be discussed here. And looking at the snow it got me thinking that unlike the cheesy results when Christmas is used as the subject of a song, the topic of snow has generated some wonderful results. Underground classics such as Driven Like The Snow by obtuse grumps The Sisters of Mercy, the hauntingly beautiful Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow by Nick Cave (although the underlying message is about something far darker of course) and in typical humour Frank Zappa’s, Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow.

 

Well hopefully the snow related chaos that has caused so many gig cancellations over the last week are behind us, especially as one of the bands playing Songs of Praise at The Victoria tonight are coming all the way up from Cardiff. Spyglass mix up heavy alt-rock grooves with a melodic grunge density and will be playing the support slot to SkyBurnsRed, a band who incorporate classical grandeur, raw, dark and emotive rock, sensuous violin and an aggressive delivery. Also taking their chosen genre to new heights is opener Adepto Futui, a band that captures the feeling, vibe and voice of traditional blues but who manage to twist it into interesting, Byzantine heavy and original shapes.

 

Meanwhile down at The Beehive an interesting local proposition is taking place. Having grown out of the Lazy Sunday Afternoon Sessions at the Art Centre, Fieldfare is the combined acoustic guitar and vocal arrangements of local stalwarts, Steve Cox, Paul Griffiths and Tim Sawyer reworking each other’s songs.

 

There are a few big shows at The Furnace this week; the first comes in the form of Cheltenham’s Young Kato on Friday. Pop may be a dirty word these days but along with LAB label mate Portia Conn, they will be proving that there is a lot more to the genre than dance routines and auto-tuners. Pop beats, warm atmospherics and infectious melodies collide with confident guitar-work to re-establish the credibility of the genre. Also on the bill Old Colours continue to ply their trade of fragile, cinematic, otherworldly indie creations and Salute the Magpie open the show. If something more raw, lewd and beardy is to your taste then check out The Hamsters From Hell in The Rolleston next door.

 

Back at The Beehive and another Cheltenham band, Stressecho indulge the venue with a wonderful angst-folk set, beautiful, understated music to accompany poignant and open story telling.

 

More big noises at The Furnace on Saturday, this time taking a much more aggressive format with hard edged pop-punk from south coast trio, Hold The Fight and local, upbeat, post-hardcore champions When Words Fail. Back upstairs in The Rolleston there is a bit of a paradox. Metal Gods claim to “try and bring something fresh to the scene” which is obviously commendable but then state that they play classic rock covers from the 80’s/90’s. Not sure what to make of that, still that’s not to say it won’t be a good night out for those still proudly holding on to their patched denim jackets and Let It Rain tour shirts.

 

 

Riffs Bar play the acoustic card and have a collection of acts both local and otherwise  playing in a very stripped down fashion, including the 50’s rock and roll vibe of Josie and The Outlaw, the wonderful harmonies and intricate guitar blends of Ethemia and the joyous and upbeat creations of The Real Raj.

 

Missin’ Rosie seem determined to invoke the wrath of the folk police (they do exist, I checked with the Home Office) by taking folk music and rocking it up to a point where those people who denounced Dylan for going electric in ’66 would be jumping off of tall buildings. Catch their mix of standards and originals at The Sun Inn on Sunday.

 

And so we end in our usual mid week oasis of music and two options. If you haven’t had enough of the loud and shouty, then Teenage Kicks at The Furnace has a Headbanger Special on Wednesday with music and neck ache courtesy of Twisted State of Mind, Dissolute, Wreckoning and Stands To Reason.  A more mellow listening experience can be had at The Running Horse with the wonderful Rosellys whose British-American ranges from acoustic country to stomping bluegrass, from gentle balladry to barn dance hoedowns. Not what you expect from the M4 corridor on a chilly midweek evening.

 

It sometimes seems that these days there are as many sub-genres of rock music as there are bands themselves, as a music writer it takes a lot of keeping up with. To know your Gypsy Punk from your Krautrock, your Doom Metal from your Shoegaze or your Riot Grrrl from your Neo-Prog requires no small amount of homework. Tonight’s Songs of Praise show at The Victoria, however, can be summed up very simply, old school rock and roll, a trio of bands that both kick arse and cut the mustard. White Knuckle Bride revel in the sort of street rock that you associated with The Sunset Strip of the mid 80’s, big riffs, big choruses and a live performance charged with aggression and attitude. They are aided and abetted by current tour buddies, Burnthru and coming down from Derby to join them are sleaze merchants Bury the Ladybird (pictured). Rock and Roll it would seem is back on the menu.

 

If that doesn’t take your fancy then maybe some tongue in cheek country and/or western, for The Badass Cowboys play both types, might appeal. This ever-popular band will be at The Beehive and rather than try to describe the band I will let their album titles speak for themselves. Take Me Home Randy Rhodes; Born in the KFC and the truly inspired Portaloo Sunset, I think you get the idea of what they are about.

 

Friday can be summed up in the phrase “ from the sublime to the ridiculous.” For the sublime you should head up to the Arts Centre where violinist Miranda Dale and pianist Paul Turner will be performing not only that most quintessentially English piece, Vaughn Williams The Lark Ascending, but also music by this country’s other big names, Walton, Britten and of course Elgar.

 

At the other end of the spectrum we find ourselves back at The Beehive for Bill Smarme – king of the social club crooners, love guru, connoisseur of fine wines and marmalades, building contractor…apparently.

 

On a more even keel, The Victoria has a cracking line up featuring three of the bands to watch at the moment. The Icarus Youth do a neat line in alchemizing rock, urban and alternative sounds into a slick and quite brilliant final product and if bands such as The Post War Years or Two Door Cinema Club are your thing, then this is the place to be. But as if that wasn’t enough The Blood Choir bring their atmospheric and bleak soundscapes to life and the cinematic folk meets indie pop of Old Colours kicks the night off. Now that is one hell of a line up.

 

The big event for Saturday takes place at The Running Horse where they have gathered together their favourite acts from the past sessions to create The Acoustic Garden Festival, which does pretty much what it says on the tin. There are far too many bands to mention them all but with Faye Rogers, Alice Offley, Bateleurs, Coach and Billyjon on the bill, you can get an idea of the pedigree involved here.

 

Rock fans are going to be like kids in a sweet shop, as they have to choose between, original Status Quo drummer, John Coghlan at Riffs Bar, tributes to Muse and Iron Maiden at The Victoria and The Furnace respectively and some good old R’n’B at The Rolleston with Dickie Reed.

 

The Sabbath kicks up a couple of more chilled options. The aptly named Lazy Sunday Afternoon at The Arts Centre is hosted by Mr Love and Justice, probably one of the most popular bands of the thriving “historical, socio-political, agri-folk, jangle- pop” scene. They are joined by the Jansch-esque Tim Graham and the soothing and ethereal tones of one of my favourite bands of the moment, Rumour Shed.

 

Other laidback serving suggestions are available at The Beehive under the enigmatic title of Incarnations of Matilda. Presumably this will be not only the usual Matilda display of harmony driven blends of folky piano jazz, but after a quick game of musical chairs will feature songs by Emily Sykes and Friends also. Two bands for the price of one, what a bargain.

It would seem that the booking of bands is a very tricky business, the slippery little devils. Often getting a confirmed and stable line up for an evening of music can be like trying to stuff a string bag full of freshly oiled eels. Still, if it was that easy, I guess everyone would be at it. Tonight’s show at The Victoria is a classic example of this. Having succumbed to more chopping and changing that a choppy changey thing and bearing little resemblance to the advertised gig, Songs of Praise still offers you some cracking, if fairly unexpected bands. The one constant in the whole maelstrom of changes is headline act The Racket. Delivering a riot of attitude and swagger, gutter anthems and punked out indie cacophony, it’s easy to see why they are becoming regarded as the musical rough diamonds of the local scene.

Support comes from slick Bristolian alt-rockers Mind Museum and not the Rhubarbs as originally billed and jumping into the opening slot at the eleventh hour are Quantum rock, jazz junkified, music warping, Super Squarecloud. Turned out all right in the end then.

At the Beehive it’s the welcome return of The Roving Crows.  They may look like just another folk band but in reality they are a much more interesting prospect, taking a Celtic folk musical core and flavouring it with everything from blues to jazz and ska to kleizmer and delivering it with infectiousness, energy and blinding virtuosity.

Friday has a very eclectic range of musical offerings. In fact if you look up eclectic in the dictionary you will see a photograph of this very paragraph. (No, I don’t know how they did it either!) Anyway, over at Riffs Bar those lovable buffoons nudy bronque, Nudybronque, Nudy Bronque…whatever (no ones sure of the exact grammatical form, not even the band!) steer their seemingly constant touring schedule towards Riffs Bar. This band have been one of the real success stories of local music over the past eighteen months and it has been a joy to watch they grow from a tentative band of musicians with rubbish dancing into a slick and confident, punky-ska-jangle-pop band…with rubbish dancing. Support comes from The Debuts and relative newcomers, The Starkers, but again not The Rhubarbs as originally advertised.

A great treat for progressive rock fans awaits at The 12 Bar in the guise of Tinyfish, one of the bands responsible for updating the face of the genre, from the flaky, fantasy fixations of the past into something relevant and cutting edge, from Genesis to revolution, if you like. Ok, maybe not. The Furnace is playing host to Swindon Academy of Music and Sounds Charity Show. As well as students showcasing their not inconsiderable talent, the night will be rounded off by the brilliant reggae/funk/hip-hop ten-piece A&T.

Having reformed for a one off gig at last years Shuffle festival, Big Casino decided to stay together and will be playing at The Beehive with the promise of new material.

The big event for the weekend happens on Saturday and though it is a little way out of town, I thought it deserves a mention. After the success of the recent Avebury Rocks, the Love Hope Strength Foundation has added another date to help raise money for local charities. The daytime itinerary includes walks around the area and refreshments and the evening boasts a show featuring an acoustic set by punk-folk legends, The Levellers (pictured) , one time Alarm front man Mike Peters, local lad Nick Harper and more besides. A stunning line up – if only there was a venue in Swindon capable of securing acts of this calibre!

Meanwhile, high-energy folk garnered from Celtic and American traditions will be on the menu at The Running Horse courtesy of Grubby Jack and the hardest working local punk-pop outfit, Disclosure can be found at The Royal Oak. Cinematic vibes, dance grooves and soulful jazz-folk can all be found at The Victoria with Matilda, Atari Pilot and Old Colours.

It’s not often a genuine living legend hits town, but on Tuesday, Louisiana blues king, Lazy Lester will be playing at Riffs with support from Good Things Happen in Bad Towns. And finally Wednesday sees Diversion, The Screaming Gypsies and Mike Bezzer play Wacky Wednesday at The Victoria.