Tag Archive: old town bowl


11244578_1668237160071991_5434254339853004958_nSo there is good news and bad news. I was just reading about a new national radio station, Radio X, which is being launched dedicated to new music and particularly guitar-based bands. Great, but surely there has to be a catch. Of course there is and that catch is that spearheading the programing will be not only Vernon “absolutely amazing” Kaye but also Chris “let’s just talk about me rather than play any music “ Moyles. So if you like the idea of twenty-minute ramblings about his celebrity mates at an award show before the indulgence is broken by the latest attempt by Kasabian to sound like a Primal Scream studio outtake, then this is the station for you.

But if you really are looking for emerging, guitar-based bands then look no further than The Victoria tonight as Yves play with Coco Esq in support. Both bands represent the frontline of a current local creative upsurge plying a trade in tight and melodic indie and proving that the future of local music and hopefully beyond, is in safe hands.

The Beehive plays host to one of its regular favourites. Whilst normally fronting his own eponymous blues-rock band, Keith Thompson as a solo act is just as impressive, the stripped back, raw and honest sound making for a vary intimate connection between player and audience.

And talking of blues, Friday sees the first outing for Level 3 Live, a regular blues night and this inaugural session features the man who none other than Alexis Korner described as “ The best white blues harmonica player in the world, ” Rod Garfield and his band. High praise indeed. Blues is also on the cards at The Beehive, this time with Bob “famous in Swindon” Bowles, a soulful voice, effortlessly slick, bluesy tunes and a bagful of great songs.

Although mainly a venue for cover bands The Castle occasionally takes a punt on trying originals and you can’t get much more original than Kid Calico and The Astral Ponies. Variously described as a “Mercurial and biscuit obsessed blend of lilting, music hall Americana and psychedelia” and “If I’d kidnapped Radiohead or the Floyd & forced them to work as a mid-west American Circus band during the 1970’s, they’d sound just like this.” I’ll just leave it at that then.

For those who already know what they like, there is a wide range of more familiar options available. Classic punk from the iconic to the underground can be found at The Rolleston courtesy of The Useless Eaters, Dire Streets at Riffs Bar who pay tribute to Mark Knopfler and his band who helped launch the CD/MTV age, as well as Peloton playing mod, soul and power pop at The Victoria. At The Locomotive, Don’t Speak cover pop and rock but seem to have a very select ear for music, so expect The House Martins, The Beautiful South and Natalie Imbruglia in place of some of the more usual selections.

The big event for the weekend can be found at The Old Town Bowl on Saturday in the form of this year’s Reggae Garden. Top names such as Channel One Soundsystem, 10 piece nu-wave roots/reggae band Roots Ambassadors, Dubwiser and The Tribe provide the music plus there will also be stalls and soul food all combining to make this the party of the year. If you want that party to continue into the evening then re-locate to The Victoria for the official after party with Jah Jah Sounds and guests spinning reggae, dub, lovers rock, ska, rocksteady and everything in between.

Continuing it’s mission to bring new and original bands to an area infused with nightclub culture and more mainstream tastes, The Locomotive really pushes the boat out with IDestroy (pictured), a Bristol all girl three piece who reference Riot Grrrl, grunge, garage rock and straight out rock ‘n’ roll and who are gearing up to support ex-The Runaways singer Cherie Currie shortly. Support comes from the no less uncompromising Molotov Sexbomb a band that is in many ways their male equivalent.

If you fancy some dirty, sweary R’n’B then a trip out to The Globe in Highworth will deliver just that in a Hamsters From Hell shaped package and at The Rolleston, French blues band Nico ZZ play originals and standards and show why they have made such a big impact on the blues circuit.

Finally at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday, Jamie R Hawkins plays emotionally charged, poignant and witty acoustic pop-rock that reminds you of Crowded House or even Del Amitri, which is fine by me.

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1911895_10152290934490225_884172200_nA quick look around the music history archives reveals that on this day in 1969 we lost one of the coolest and most influential guitarists of recent time, Brian Jones. As the founder member of the Rolling Stones he helped fuse American blues with the evolving pop music scene and as a consequence helped define the sound and attitude of the sixties and in many ways laid foundation stones for the development of future music culture. Brian would have been 72 today. As if to balance the loss of such an icon, today also marks the birthday of Kevin Hearn of Canadian band Barenaked Ladies, without whom we wouldn’t have the theme tune to The Big Bang Theory. Swings and Roundabouts!

 

Well, plenty of music to sink your teeth into this coming week, starting tonight at The Victoria, where those Songs of Praise chaps bring you something a bit special. After a number of critically acclaimed gigs in Swindon, particularly a much talked about set at last years Shuffle that blew collective minds …not to mention socks off of the audience, Dead Royalties are back with another dose of slightly mathy, grungy, alt-rock. They are joined by Vault of Eagles (pictured) who mix the Neolithic groove of The Bad Seeds with the warped beauty of P J Harvey to great effect. Opening up is Si Hall.

 

Bluesier options come in the shape of roots guitarist Gwyn Ashton at Riffs Bar, a wonderful blend of the sounds of The Delta and southern juke joints, New Orleans vibes, jazz and country and if that isn’t well travelled enough for you Kangaroo Moon are at The Beehive to deliver cosmic blends of pastoral, otherworldly vibes, haunting washes of timeless sound, hypnotic folk, dance and psychedelia. In the words of a wise man…well, Forrest Gump…you never know what you are going to get.

 

Culture Vultures may want to take notice of the fact that as part of The Old Town Festival, acclaimed pianist Paul Turner will be playing a lunchtime recital of the music of Debussy at Christ Church.

 

Friday sees the first of two shows this week from Sheer Music, a promotional team well known for bringing top class bands into town and their show at The Victoria doesn’t disappoint as they usher in The Computers. This is a band who are equally at home with the power of punk and hardcore as they are with pop melody and the result often comes off like Black Flag covering Elvis Costello. Intrigued? You should be. Support comes from All Ears Avow and Scout Killers.

 

If for no other reason than they have gigged with one of my favourite bands, Citizen Fish, you should try to catch Mad Apple Circus who are at The Rolleston playing a brilliant, tight and original blend of ska/hip-hop/jazz/reggae fusion. Another non-musical reason to watch is to see just how this, often 10-piece ensemble, are going to all fit in. Miss these guys at your peril.

 

More chilled sounds can be found at The Beehive as Swindon’s favourite Canadian music migrant, David Celia returns with his unique brand of witty pop and oft surreal visions whilst The Regent Acoustic Circus this month plays host to Nick Felix (also catch him at The Royal Oak on Saturday), Paul Griffin and Ells Ponting’s new musical vehicle, The Southern Wild.

Saturday is the usual nostalgia trip. At Level 3 Syntronix play the big hits of the eighties (and I didn’t even bang on about The Smiths and New Model Army once…damn,) and at Riffs Bar, In It For The Money play a range of covers. Rock fans have either the music of Guns ‘n’Roses at The Victoria or KoK Rok playing classic rock and metal at The Rolleston. Reggae and ska fans will probably opt for The Shocks of Might DJ’s at The Beehive.

 

However you can support your local community at The Bowl as The Old Town Festival hosts music from 1 o’clock with acts including The Undulations, The Corsairs, Darren Hunt, Zing and Get Carter.

 

The Lazy Sunday Afternoon Session at The bandstand in the Old Town Gardens is another show for David Celia plus country tinged folkster Rachel Gittus and as ever, hosts Mr Love and Justice.

 

Final shout goes to the other Sheer Music organised show which brings Cornish punk exiles Gnarwolves to The Victoria on Wednesday aided and abetted by 2 Sick Monkeys, The Rebecca Riots and With Ghosts.

 

 

 

 

 

936668_10151582452128891_1408839903_nIt seems a bit of a quieter week all round, but then I have had a bit of a problem gathering information as of late. Without going into specifics, here is a radical idea for venues, promoters and bands – tell people about your event! Better still, tell people like me who can get the information out to thousands of people, In the words of Werhner von Braun, “it’s not rocket science” (pause until the sound of a wave of people googling him dies down.)

 

Tonight sees the very welcome return of an artist that Swindon has taken to it’s heart, Louise Latham. Blending an ethereal voice with emotive piano lines, the result is a wonderful dream pop soundscape and a collection of songs that already sound like classics. She is joined by the soulful acoustica of Benji Clements and Friends and the delicate and heartfelt creations of Drew Bryant. All that takes place under the Songs of Praise banner at The Victoria tonight.

 

A couple of people have told me that I need to check out The Darwin Republic, so I did, well, I tried to. Unfortunately, as if to ram home the point of my opening paragraph, at the time of submitting this article there was no information about them on the venue website and they appear to have no on-line presence, though I can’t decide if that is a clever campaign of deliberate mystique and anti-marketing or just lack of promotion. Though I can say that if you go to The Beehive tonight you will almost definitely….find them there.

 

No questions about the calibre of the band playing The Beehive on Friday though. Port Erin are one of those bands that genuinely challenge the listener to pigeon hole them, which is something I admire in a band. They manage to meander through jazz vibes, trippy funk workouts, rock drives and wrap them up in a chilled, unified groove. The Rolleston offers rockabilly in the form of The Corsairs and elsewhere it is covers and tributes all the way with Peleton playing mod, ska and soul at The Victoria and The Floydian Doors at The Castle paying tribute to…well, I’m sure you can work it out.

 

If you want to get out into the fresh air on Saturday (weather permitting) and take in some great music then the place to be is at The Old Town Bowl where The Reggae Garden brings you the best of the genre from midday. Macca B, Solo Banton and Murray Man all front their respective bands plus you can catch local rocksteady outfit, The Erin Bardwell Collective and a host of other acts.

 

The Arts Centre has a bit of a treat for you as no less than ex-Yes guitar shaman Steve Howe pays a visit. But prog fans be warned, this isn’t going to be a  note perfect rendition of Tales From Topographic Oceans, although some of the back catalogue is revisited, as the band explore jazz and country swing alongside the more expected numbers.

 

Pretty much at the opposite edge of the spectrum, dirty rhythm and blues is on offer at The Queens Tap. Looking like a cast of villains from The Sweeney and sounding like Dr Feelgood and The Blockheads fighting in a back alley, The Hamsters From Hell have become local legends for their ability to entertain and offend in equal measure. Crimes against songwriting are also being considered.

 

The rest of Saturday comes in the shape of Hypermused, a tribute to Teignmouth’s most famous alt-rock trio and at The Rolleston, Kok Rok will be setting their tongues firmly in their cheeks and performing the best of classic rock.

 

If harp driven Chicago R’n’b is your sort of thing then get down to The Beehive on Sunday for the afternoon session with Built For Comfort. (Note to younger readers – a harp is what bluesman call the harmonica and r’n’b was a sub-genre of rock and roll before it was applied to lip synching girl bands wiggling to landfill pop tunes, so don’t turn up expecting Little Mix with a classical string section.)

 

And finally on to Wednesday and the usual great offerings from the two midweek acoustic shows. The Running Horse goes blues with established local blues guitar aficionado Ian O’Regan and uber-talented new kid on the block Adam Sweet.

 

 

Meanwhile The Roaring Donkey has the wonderful Chalice, a folk band that brings the sound of the 60’s folk revival bang up to date. Imagine the Albion Band with Court and Spark era Joni Mitchell guesting and you get an idea of why you need to check this band out.

p01c318fApparently everyone remembers where they where when Kennedy was assassinated. Similarly everyone remembers where they were when they first heard of the attack on the World Trade Centre. On a more parochial level, everyone with at least a passing interest in Swindon’s music scene remembers where they were when they heard that Dave and Anna were selling the Victoria. But after months of speculation (for a while people almost had me convinced that I had bought it!) it appears that not only is the venue in safe hands under the captaincy of Darren and Violet, but it is very much business as usual.

I’m sure I speak for pretty much all of the local music scene when I say a very big thank you to Dave and Anna for making The Victoria the success story that it is, supporting all genres of music, from local to international, original, covers and tributes (we’ll gloss over the karaoke bit!) and generally making the place one of the corner stones of the town’s music scene. On a more personal note, thank you for giving ideas such as Songs of Praise and The Swindon Shuffle a chance back when they were the mere ramblings of a drunken promoter on the back of a cigarette packet. (Not me, another rambling, drunken promoter.) See you guys at the bar sometime, there’s a few drinks on me, or you…whatever!

Right, to business. Tonight provides a wealth of acoustic acts across a couple of venues. The regular Acoustic Buzz night at The Beehive  has the world weary, heartfelt, country laments of Boss Caine, the more perky upbeatness (that is a word, I looked it up) of Jane Allison plus your regular host in the form of Blind River Scare.

Meanwhile back at the aforementioned Victoria the top bar has some very strong competition from the musical dexterity and diverse sounds of Nick Felix, Ben McDanielson, Benji Clements and Jimmy Moore.

Bit of a bluesy edge going in to Friday, firstly with Gwyn Ashton at The Beehive, a man that not only reproduces the sounds of pre-war delta blues with authenticity and attention to detail but who probably has Mississippi mud flowing through his veins instead of the usual red stuff. Jim Blair’s trademark funky blues lap guitar playing and whiskey cracked vocals can be found at The Rolleston. Coldplay fans can get their fix at The Victoria with Coolplay (I see what they did there) plus The Sleeves who will get the night started with a selection of modern indie classics.

Saturday brings a bit of a treat and it’s nice to see original, local, contemporary music being given an airing at The Old Town Bowl’s Garden Party, not that I have anything against Tight Fit and Modern Romance but …no, let’s not open that can of worms again! The line up provides another outing for the soulful acoustic groove of Benji Clements, Billyjon’s smooth balladry, see’s Jim Blair in full band mode with Hip Route, has the soaring, anthemic rock of False Gods and is topped of with AJ Live and A & T. Definitely something for everyone there.

Back indoors there is more great music to be had. At The Rolleston in a last minute substitution for Hot Flex, ex-pat, David Marx brings in his latest incarnation of The AK Poets, playing melodically explosive, high octane, rain ‘n’ napalm licks; a rock and roll band that does what it says on the tin.

That dapper chap about town, Gig Monkey has a bit of coup in bringing Bite The Buffalo (pictured) to The Victoria. Fuzzy, heavy grooved rock ‘n’ roll that immediately transports you to a smoke hazed, backstreet drinking dive in Ladbrook Grove at 3am sometime in 1968. Support comes from Tommaso Galati and his punk attitude, acoustic guitar attacks and 2 piece grunge noise merchants Boss Cloth.

Sunday brings you something a bit more suited to the day of rest. Tim Graham and Robin Grey set out again to combine their love of folk music and cycling to bring Pedalfolk back to The Central Library for a second time. If you like innovative yet unfussy acoustic music this is the place to be. It is also the place to be to experience the quiet majesty of Rumour Shed and the retro folk jangle of Mr Love and Justice.

As usual the week jumps along to Wednesday and the twin acoustic session that now vie for your beer money. At The Running Horse is Ali Finneran and Rachel Austin and the Roaring Donkey provides a second opportunity to catch the romanticism and dark lyrical undercurrents of Billyjon.

Whilst I was clearing out some old text files from my computer the other day I came across my very first Sounds Around Town submission and realised that I have been ensconced in this particular ivory tower for just about 3 years now. Quick calculations put that are around 100,000 words of recommendation for Swindon’s gig going cognoscenti, many of those words spelt correctly and in a logical order. Three years! To paraphrase Sandy Denny, had she been writing in Latin, where does the tempus fugit indeed?

 

So, enough of ancient history and on to the music of the moment. It’s certainly one of the quieter weeks, but that is probably to be expected with the amount of local festivals and busy schedules we have had through the summer. Still, there is good stuff to be had if you know where to look.

 

There is no better place to kick off your search for original music than at The Rolleston tonight with Optimal Prime, made up of members of Dodging The Bullet, Deep Thought and Snaggletooth and delivering hard hitting rock that takes in the more proggy reaches of the genre. Support comes from the ubiquitous Plummie Racket touting his solo acoustic set.

 

If you miss the main act though you can catch them on Friday over at Riffs Bar supporting Steve Grimmet’s Grim Reaper. His is a tasty slab of British classic rock and all in aid of raising money for Children’s Leukemia. Great music and a worthy cause. And if the heavier end of the musical spectrum is your cup of Earl Grey, then you might want to consider a tribute to Rammstein at The Victoria as Rammlied bring all the industrial grind, pomp and dark majesty of the original to your doorstep.

 

And still the options in the loud and shouty department roll on. The Furnace hosts it’s regular Teenage Kicks night, showcasing the best in local bands, this time with the melodic hardcore of The Pursuit and Natures, the eclectic alt-rock of Tides of Change (who replace Route 101) and the frantic drive of The Doss who sound like a collision between The Buzzcocks and Nirvana.

 

A different serving suggestion comes courtesy of The Erin Bardwell Collective. Late sixties style rocksteady and ska originals, driven by that classic organ sound and an infectious energy and all for free at The Rolleston.

 

Saturday has a fair bit to offer in the way of music, though sadly not much of it in the original category. The Rolleston offers the only oasis in a desert of tribute acts,  in the guise of Gwyn Ashton. Not only does he do a neat line in pre-war Delta blues flavoured with cool country, jazz vibes and swamp rock earthiness, but this show will also feature ex-Magnum drummer Mickey Barker. Those into their music trivia might be interested to note that the Magnum connection also extends to Gywn’s latest album, Radiogram, which features, amongst other stalwarts, iconic piano man Mark Stanway. (I have One Sacred Hour playing in my head even as we speak)

 

Tributes can be found at The Victoria with Fleetwood Bac, featuring a Christine McVie who looks a lot like Alice Offley, Bjorn Again being ABBA at the Old Town Bowl and Syntronix playing the synth-pop hits of the eighties at Riffs Bar. And if you are still in the mood for partying after all that then Reboot club night at The Furnace playing indie, rock and alternative is the place to head for.

 

Juey is at The Beehive for the Sunday afternoon session; soft Americana and folk songs with a traditional, storytelling form, employing guitar, harmonica, mandolin and banjo.

 

Wednesday provides a welcome stepping-stone to get you through the working week with a couple of interesting options. The Running Horse continue to bring in quality acoustic music, this week it’s The Black Feathers (pictured), a band whose ear for melody and amazing harmonising have to be witnessed live to be believed. Ben Maggs is also on the bill.

 

The Victoria is playing host to Shakespeare, Rattle and Roll a show looking at the life, loves and language of The Bard and setting much of it to music in a more contemporary style, such as Beatles, Elvis and Bob Dylan. Sounds pretty original to me.