Tag Archive: rhubarbs (the)


Library - 131

I read with some amusement today that “Nasty” Nigel Lythgoe has come out of retirement to host a new show. In keeping with the current trend of making everything into reality TV, he travelled to Birmingham with the Archbishop of Canterbury and famous born again Catholic Tony Blair to judge Popestars, a competition designed to decide the next pontiff. Thousands of hopefuls queued at the door, including Fiona Brat-Actress whose experience extends to having appeared in Cliff Richards Mistletoe and Wine video. The audition tasks will include singing Ave Maria, Tarmac Kissing and Meeting Bono and pretending to know who he is. One hopeful, Derek Cleanliness, 89 from Rugby, has already caught the judges eye, “He’s definitely got the look we are after” said Lythgoe, “It’s a sad fact that in the cut throat world of the Vatican, image does matter”

Still, enough pontificating and on with the show. Songs of Praise at The Victoria tonight features a mix of both old, new, local and from further afield.  The Starkers are a collision of grungy density and Libertines-esque melodies, whilst up from London, Hitchcock Blonde take the form of an explosive, raging alt-rock beast, laced with accessible melodies that both kick arse and cut the mustard. Opening the night, The King in Mirrors are a new band made up of familiar faces and if you get their titular reference then their rough and ready, post-punk, underground pop will be right up your street.  By contrast you can catch the superb acoustic folk guitar and sun kissed vocals of the far too young to be this talented, Jenna Witts.

Loads happening on Friday, The Furnace being a great place to spend it with a wonderful line up of younger indie types. Chaps of the moment Nudybronque headline, a band on a wonderful trajectory that has so far taken them from innocent, speed-freak pop to bittersweet, underground indie and are poised for a future that looks even more beguiling. Support comes from The Two’n’ Eights, The Racket and The Rhubarbs.

Whatflag at The Beehive are a fascinating world rock, jazz band with its roots in Gaza and Tel Aviv and a drive to break down borders and unite communities through their music. The Victoria goes for a night of acoustic acts. These days despite rubbing shoulders with the likes of The Levellers and New Model Army, which in my world is about as good as it gets, Gaz Brookfield still finds time to play his old haunts and his mix of wit and wisdom set to infectious tunes is not to be missed. Support comes from alternative folk duo, Julesbury, musical magpie Jimmy Moore and the soulful stylings of Benji Clements.

Blues fans have a hard choice to make, torn between Larry Miller at The Arts Centre and Innes Sibun at The Rolleston.

The big one for Saturday is at The Furnace with top tribute The Faux Fighters. Personally I have never really seen the reason that Grohl and the gang are held in such high regard, after all if Sean Moore had jumped ship from The Manics in 1995 and returned with an inoffensive, mainstream version of the same, would anyone have batted an eyelid? Still if The Foo Fighters are your thing, this is the place to be. Other things that might take your interest are The Nomarks playing ska at The Castle and 1000 Planets doing choice cuts of classic rock, industrial, goth and punk at The Rolleston.

Some lovely acoustic comes your way on Sunday. In the afternoon you can catch Beehive favourite Juey and her gentle blends of folk, country, bluegrass and Cajun, after which heading up to The Rolleston will enable you to revel in Rumours of Spring who bring a vast array of instruments to bear on a set forged from rock, blues and folk.

The Running Horse on Wednesday has two amazing acts for you. Louise Latham (pictured) combines honest, heart on the sleeve emotions with room silencing vocal delivery that resonates with beauty and wistful reflectivity. The other half of the bill (that really should be considered as a double headline show) is The Black Feathers, an acoustic duo that combine English folk, Celtic traditions and Americana into what is almost this country’s answer to The Civil Wars.

Also on Wednesday, Teenage Kicks takes us out in fine styles at The Furnace with a riot of indie and alt-rock with The Fixed, City Lights, The Eberdeens and Written in Words (errr….as opposed to?)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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