Tag Archive: plummie racket


10525987_715675548547700_1189665388901185636_nIt was interesting to recently read that Tesco are stocking vinyl records in some of their stores as the sales of the format rise to mid-90’s levels. Admittedly the selection is limited to mainly the high volume end of the mainstream market but it is still an interesting trend. Are people getting bored with the digital world? Do they actually want something physical to show for their money? Can we expect wax cylinders to be the next retro-experiment and perhaps the return of the Pathe newsreel on our TVs? And of course the more pertinent question is will this reversal of trends cross over into support for “real time, actual live people playing music at you” type of gigs? We can only hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1604974_10205493575525344_2950299431195506125_nProwling centre stage armed with a microphone, raybans and Brit-pop service issue Parka, at the eye of the storm that is The Racket, it is easy to lose sight of just how accomplished a songwriter Plummie Racket is. The band may be the perfect vehicle to deliver a certain brand of brash, punked up, indie street anthems but solo gigs have shown that there is more thought and understanding of the craft to be found buried underneath that particular musical force of nature.

 

Two Years Ago is the teaser release from a forthcoming e.p. and is the perfect link between the two worlds. It’s a lyrical stream of consciousness rapped out using the same language as The Racket, a nostalgic catalogue of people and places, sounds and sights that have come and gone so quickly, but musically it takes a slight side step from what you would expect from the full band experience. It may end in the same raging overdrive that you would expect but the slow burning build to get there and the gradual overlaying of sounds show an eye for detail that is often lost in the live experience.

 

I still maintain that The Racket are a band that could breakthrough to bigger things at any moment, but on the strength of this song, it may just be the solo work that paves the way for that.

1012061_10151336558167168_224323729_nSo as we turn the corner from a cold and very wet January to a, probably, just as cold and wet February, at least the first buds of musical growth are starting to appear in the local venues. January is always musically slow but this week there is a lot more to tell you about than in previous weeks so I shall just get down to business, stop procrastinating, cease dilly-dallying around, quit the filibustering, postpone no longer…in short, get on with it.

Although with their roots in more conventional mainstream sounds, the Talk in Code that heads into 2014 are a sassy blend of synth washed, indie-dance and guitar driven pop sensibilities. Not a bad way to kick the week off. They are joined by alt-rock, new comers, A Way With Words and acoustic artist, Daniel James and all this happens at The Victoria tonight.

At The Beehive is Tennessee’s very own Mark Merriman, a world-renowned guitarist who has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Frank Evans and Wishbone Ash’s Andy Powell.

Lots to choose from on Friday and the birth of a new venture to help bring something new and vibrant to town. Under the direction of two of the areas most established players, The Regent is now hosting acoustic sessions and the first one kicks off in fine style with an acoustic set from the guys of False Gods and the long awaited re-emergence of The Racket main man Plummie.

The other regular Friday night acoustic session at Riffs Bar will feature the delights of Nick Tann (pictured), a jazz inflected, soaring and soulful player armed with a disarming wit and shirts whose loudness might cause a few health and safety violations. He is joined by the stripped back acoustic funk of the puntastic With Nell and I, a slick and musically elegant band with a vocal that will stop you in your tracks.

Other acoustic offerings come in the form of the furious, folk party that is Grubby Jack at The Rolleston. Traditional songs from the folk, Americana and Celtic songbooks, delivered with infectious aplomb and cheeky charm by this talented trio.

Right, if you prefer your music more fired up and electrified…as it were, you can either catch The Star Men, a tribute to all things seventies Glam at The Victoria or for something more current and original, The AK-Poets continue their tour by descending upon The Beehive for a night of razor wire riffs, raucous rock and murderous melody. It’s brash, it’s boisterous…it’s brilliant.

Although I bemoan the amount of classic rock cover bands that come through this town (lets not get on that one again though) The Victoria this Saturday night offers the chance to see, if not the fresh face, at least the hard bitten snarl and contemptuous growl of the genres current cutting edge. This double header features Stonewire and Four Wheel Drive, festival stalwarts, hard hitting classic rockers and the most exciting live show ever to pull on a pair of biker boots.

Meanwhile Reginald Road, a mix of punky ska and reggae rock, will be firing up The Queens Tap with a set of originals and classics, The Rolleston features Dickie Reed and The Royal Oak is the place for a night of fun covers with Penfold. Fans of the 80’s will want to head out to Riffs Bar for the synthy sounds and nostalgic themes of Syntronix.

More pop, rock and indie covers come courtesy of Switch at The Kings in Old Town on Sunday and those with who remember the glory days of rock will do well to get tickets for Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash at The Wyvern Theatre. Founder member Martin, not only looks back at four decades of music, faithfully reproducing all the bands classics but also offers up brand new music into the mix. If the word Argus conjures up more than a Brighton newspaper, then this is the show for you.

1238974_708248452536051_260016646_nAs the last of the Halloween greasepaint has been scrubbed from the costume that you need to return to the shop; the final whiff of bonfire smoke and the cordite of smoldering fireworks have been blown away on autumnal gusts and those once a year “I’m so much more pagan than thou” types have ceased posting their burning martyr updates to their fellow Buffy fans on the various anti-social networks to which they belong, we can finally put such things behind us and get on with the task at hand. Supporting live music. There are not so many opportunities to do so this week as I would like to be able to report, but it seems to be a week of quality not quantity so pick a show and get behind the live music scene.

 

The cream of the acoustic crop is in town tonight at Songs of Praise at The Victoria as local lad made good, Gaz Brookfield aided and abetted by his violining sidekick, Ben Wain,    spearhead the best of the regional and national circuit. Hard work is really paying off for Gaz and supports to the likes of The Levellers and New Model Army are finally pushing him into the spotlight of the acoustic – new folk – crusty – festival circuit…call it what you will, so catch him before he is whisked away to bigger things. Support comes from the looping acoustica and Buckley-esque tones of Alex Taylor, Joe McCorriston all the way down from Morecombe and wise words and romantic ballads from the enigmatic Stead to start things off.

 

Something a bit more rooted in rock and roll is to be found at The Beehive as Josie and The Outlaw dig up some old school grooves and rockabilly backbeats to kick the weekend off early.

 

More contemporary sounds can be found at Riffs Bar on Friday as The Secret Chord brings in some amazing bands from around the south for your delectation. Kernow’s finest, Even Nine (pictured) make a welcome return to headline the night, a slicker, more energetic band you couldn’t wish for, delivering music that is stuck between a rock and a ….well, wonderfully melodic and totally infectious place, as the saying goes. Alt-rockers A Way With Words provide the local interest and Dorset four-piece Patchwork Native kick the night off.

 

At The Rolleston, meanwhile, there will be original music blended from the building blocks of mod style lines, power-pop drive and psychedelic wigouts courtesy of The Sitting Tenants. Super!

 

Saturday night is the traditional slot for the big tributes, not normally my thing but you could do a lot worse than Still Marillion, a tribute to one of my favourite neo-prog bands from back in the day. If you want to re-live the Fish era years, that heady blend of poetics and passion, technical ability and emotive songlines, then this is the show for you. Support comes from original progressive rockers Spiral Key, so real value for money all round.

 

Riffs Bar is offering a night of Burlesque accompanied by music from Ghost Trail and at The Rolleston it’s The Worried Men. Although the event page for this show describes the band as “Chance of Rain 11C” they would be better described as the last word in fired up, white hot, electric r’n’b. Jamie Thyer leads a band that are in the same mold as The Hamsters, not as well known as the likes of Gary Moore, George Thorogood or ZZ Top, but every bit as good.

 

Sunday afternoon at The Beehive is a elemental blend of dark ballads, protest songs, slow airs, jigs and reels, courtesy of Tattie Jam who reinterpret songs from the Scottish folk tradition and give it all a fun and contemporary twist.

 

Final offering of the week is to be found at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday as Plummie Racket picks up his acoustic guitar to entertain with his gritty tales of urban life.

 

Just the two puns this week, must be losing my touch!

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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.

eFestivalsI’m not sure if it is just a Swindon thing but it does seem that every other gig you see advertised these days features some earnest young acoustic guitar wielding wannabe aiming to be the next Frank Turner or Laura Marling. It may seem like an easy way to get into music; low overheads, no egotistical band mates to fight with, the ability to tour the country in a broken down Fiat Uno etc but the problem with so much of it going on is that for every soon to be discovered darling of 6music or Wychwood Festival there are a dozen chancers waxing not so lyrical about their recent break ups over a rudimentary knowledge of the key of A minor and clumsily rhyming June with moon.

Thankfully if you want a master class in how it should be done, all you have to do is head to The Victoria tonight when the prodigal son returns, sort of. Songs of Praise is being headlined by Gaz Brookfield, aided and abetted by his fiddle-wielding associate, Ben Wain. Fresh from another jaunt supporting The Levellers and about to share a stage with those emotionally battered, wind swept rock gods, New Model Army (yes, I’m a bit of a fan), I suggest you catch him whilst he is still cheaper than a pint of beer, because it won’t last much longer. Also on the bill is Joshua Caole, who brings a chilled Elliot Smith meets Gram Parsons feeling to the proceedings and kicking things off is the soulful, funky vibe that is Benji Clements.

Two of the musical genres that people have most problems identifying are “world” and “roots” music. If you go to The Beehive tonight you will see both genres colliding head on. Mambo Jambo are an amazing duo that mix Latin styles with bluegrass, jazz and Eastern European sounds – raw enough to sound authentic, virtuosic enough to be mesmerising.

Punks will find much to like over at Riffs Bar on Friday as legendary, urban rail punks Eastfield make a rare visit to this neck of the woods. Three chords, catchy tunes, an often tongue in cheek story and lots of smiles. What’s not to like? The Useless Eaters will be mixing up covers and originals in a tribute to the first wave punk era and opening the night with unforgettable hooks and despondent satire is Strength in Blunders, featuring a guest bassist in the form of Pete Monkey. Nice.

The other big name in town that night is former InMe front man Dave McPherson (pictured) who can be found at The Castle. At a turn uplifting, mournful, calm and soothing, whilst often being a world away from his previous musical vehicle, here is an artist that delivers something very special indeed.

At The Beehive a collection of familiar faces from the local scene, who go by the name The Sitting Tenants will be blending power-pop, new wave, psych and soul into wonderfully original creations, whilst at The Rolleston, The Dylegans take skiffle, country and old school rock and roll as their chosen musical weapons.

Saturday is all about roots music at The Victoria, as Hiproute will be laying out their trademark funked up, acoustic blues stall. Support comes from the quirky, harmony fuelled, folky, surf vibe of Willowen, who I can only describe as being what Noah and The Whale sound like in their own heads, though fall way short of in reality. Delta-esque rockers The Blue Trees and Alex Roberts also add value to the deal. More blues can be found in the guise of Built For Comfort at The Rolleston and it’s slick contemporary covers with Toxic over at The Swiss Chalet.

If you have a craving for electronic music, DJ Dust hosts Digital at Piri Piri, a night of music and videos of that ilk featuring everything from the likes of New order to Chase and Status.

If you want your final fix of music before the working week pulls you back then there are a number of options on Sunday. The afternoon session at The Beehive is taken by The Racket main man Plummie and his new solo venture,  support for that one is The Black Sheep Apprentice himself, Skiddy and the original Sweet Plum, Cat Jamieson. Old school rock’n’roll and rockabilly riffs are to be found at 20 At The Kings with Josie and The Outlaw and if gargantuan slabs of rock with grunge overtones are more your cup of tea (or should I say Seattle Coffee) then the place to be is The New Inn for Vanarin.

Rounding up on Wednesday at The Running Horse you will find bluesman Ian O’Regan and Rhys Bury providing the entertainment.

Library - 189 Review by PfalzDxii

The Sunday afternoon of 24th March 2013 was always going to be good. Rich Millin was back in town. Rich, having left Swindon (where he is a musical legend), to live in Berlin with his new family, was back. He had returned to celebrate his birthday, and to play in the German band, The Driftwood Fairytale. Yes, he brought the band with him.

The afternoon started with a great set from Plummie Racket. Plummie has garnered for himself an enviable reputation as a writer/performer. He puts in so much of himself, and the audience loves him for it. As soon as he had finished, his trademark hood, was pulled down.

Next up was Black Sheep Apprentice…. Known throughout the…. Enough said…. You know ‘em. If they have slipped under your radar, I suggest you look up this fine band, and see for yourself. All good friends of Rich Millin (wonder drummer), Black Sheep Apprentice were short one member. Their drummer was missing. “The good looking one” (as was shouted out), wasn’t there. Millin was asked if he wanted the seat. “I’ll do one at the end”, he said. So, can a three guitar band play a decent set? Well, Black Sheep Apprentice can. They did. They even introduced new material, as did Plummie, beforehand. They played a fine set, with much energy and style. Millin sat in for the final few numbers, and reminded us all, as if it was needed, just how good a drummer he is.

The Driftwood Fairytales. A name I was not familiar with. I am now though! The classic rock band line up. Three guitars and drums. Most of the audience, here in Swindon, had come to see Millin. The band knew that, and mentioned it. We though, all know that Millin will only play in a band if he wants to…. and, if he rates them. There was a deal of good humoured banter as the band began to realize they were amongst friends, and music lovers. As soon as the band began to play, it was obvious we were in for a rare treat. The first few numbers were not too fast, but Millin was. He was playing relatively gently in keeping with the guitars, but I was awed by the sheer speed and accuracy of the drumming. A veritable master-class. As the songs became faster and louder, it became ever more clear that the musicianship from all, was absolutely top notch, as was the singing. All the songs were sung in English for our benefit, can you imagine us returning the favour? The band was loud, but musical. Every instrument was clear. The band meshed as one, and the songs were varied. The whole place was rocking, and it was all such incredible fun. What a fantastic band. What an incredible afternoon.

The Driftwood Fairytales commented favourably on the make-up of the audience. Of how we were of all ages. I wish he hadn’t been looking at me at the time, though. He seemed amazed we were treating the afternoon as a wonderful social event. Well, we do…. especially when the music has been that good. Would I see them again? Oh yes, try to stop me!

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.