Tag Archive: secret lives


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I have worked out my problem with cover bands. Whilst watching the incredible Super Squarecloud last week, a Damascene moment occurred. We live in an age where music seems hell-bent on a nostalgia trip. In a previous column I pointed out that the 60’s had psychedelia, the 70’s had disco and punk, the 80’s hip-hop and the 90’s rave, but since then what? If contemporary music is content to plunder the past to a lesser or greater degree, then cover bands are a pure slice of well worn déjà vu. Fine if you want to live in the past, and we all need to visit our youthful memories from time to time but it doesn’t really further the cause of music. What we need is the opposite …err, avant verrais? Jamais vu? I don’t know, I’m still struggling with English! That is why bands such as Super Squarecloud and Crash and The Coots are so important to the local scene, wonderful slices of forward thinking weirdness that push boundaries and create unique yet accessible music along the way. So it’s vive la difference as they say across the channel and here’s to creativity.

And if you ever thought that everything that could be done with rock music has been, then you need to be at The Victoria tonight. Up from that London, The Manic Shine infuse their music with the influences of their diverse cultural heritage and the result is a glorious blend of punch and panache; classic rock riffs, atmospheric dynamics, driving back beats and a bunch of great songs. Support comes from Ataraxis Vibration, the natural successor to the likes of Hendrix, Cream and Free plus Streetfight Silence’s more pop-punk vibe.

In The Beehive’s continuing quest to become a Canadian colony, yet another of its musical emissaries takes up residence there tonight. David Celia is a frequent visitor to the place and his elegant and humorous brand of songmanship is always well received. The Divine Comedy with maple syrup!

Two options for the loud jumpered, knit your own yoghurt brigade…or folk fans, as they prefer to be called. Folk in the Bar at Riffs is a open mic session, for a more formal experience the Urban Folk Quartet will be mixing British traditional themes with global influences at The Arts Centre.

The big noise for Friday is at The Furnace with their Halloween special, which will be powered by the sound of Swindon’s finest indie rock. Infectious, groove driven pop comes courtesy of Nudybronque, with Secret Lives and The Fixed playing the part of perfect support bands.

The 12 Bar also goes for the younger and brasher end of the musical market, but as usual are not big on information. Whilst I can tell you that headliners Days on Juno are a must for anyone who likes hook laden pop-punk in general and Fall Out Boy in particular, all I can tell you about support band The 39 Steps is that I read John Buchan’s classic novel of the same name many times as a kid. Riffs Bar also opts for the pop-punk with Running From Zombies and All Action Hero but again there is no information on the website. (Come on guys, meet me half way!)

Saturday sees a bonfire party at Riffs Bar with yet another Burlesque show to go alongside rock covers from Chiller. Some of you are too young to remember the days before the by-laws were changed to ensure that at least three burlesque shows were held in the parish each week, I some times miss those days, or as we used to call it…last year.

The Arts Centre offers up another inspired booking with the bluesy, folk-pop of Lotte Mullan, imagine the delicacy of Janis Ian mixed with the nouse of Joni Mitchell, gorgeous stuff. At the Rolleston “theatrical” cover band The Atomic Rays will be covering the classics and they come with an endorsement from Radio 1 DJ Edith Bowman, make of that what you will.

Global journeyman, Renny Field, will be impressing The Beehive on Sunday with his trademark uplifting and lyrically engaging songs for the afternoon session and that evening The Rolleston has the Mason-Dixon line colliding with the M4 corridor to shape the inimitable mix of southern blues, R’n’B and gospel that is Pignose.

Pignose’s Pete Cousins can also be found at The Victoria on Tuesday supporting Grandpa Banana. As guitarist with seminal San Francisco Bay Area folk rockers, The Youngbloods, Banana is rightly considered an icon of California bluegrass and old time rock and roll, to catch him playing a free gig is something not to be missed.

The week rounds off on Wednesday with even more Bluegrass this time in the form of Riffs Bar’s weekly jam and at The Running Horse more acoustic goodness courtesy of Sam Eden and the vocally harmonious Ethemia.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a festival in possession of large ticket sales must be in want of good weather. Well, that’s what Jane Austin meant to say, but as it was 158 years before the invention of the modern music festival, as we know it today, she obviously had to wrap the message up in the social conformities of the day. And what a summer it has been to test such a statement. With festivals such as 2000 Trees resembling the Somme in the late autumn of 1916 and The Big Arts Day valiantly struggling through with a much reduced turn out, you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe the antidote to the British summer would be to hold a music festival indoors, maybe over three days, perhaps in multiple venues. Well, more on that in a few weeks.

 

Still, until then it’s not all bad news. Although the cancellation of Rowdyfest has just been announced, Festival on The Farm has run for cover and can be found lurking in warmth and security of Riffs Bar throughout this weekend, albeit in a reduced, bands only capacity. In brief, Friday is acoustic night; Saturday is tributes and cover bands and Sunday a mix of bands from The Graham Mack Band to Echo and from Penfold to Rocket Box.

 

Right, back to regular in-door matters. Tonight at The Victoria trash pop aficionados, The Starkers, will be unleashing their mix of melody, discord, harmony and mayhem on the unsuspecting public. We are all in the gutter and some of us like it there! Support comes from the driven, mathy sounds of Oui Legionnaires and kicking things off, eleventh hour booking, Secret Lives.

 

Down at The Beehive, Kola Koca will be mixing up any genres that cross their paths into smooth, jazzed out, folked off, rocked up, lyrically poignant masterpieces. More eclecticism can still be found at The Beehive on Friday with The Parlour Kats, whilst down at The Rolleston the Mason-Dixon line collides with The M4 corridor to shape the inimitable southern blues, rock and gospel sound that is Pignose.

 

More old time revivalism at The Victoria, this time with the skiffle, audience participation and general mayhem of Ode and The Bebops. If you can’t shake your moneymaker then a plastic bottle with some stones in it will do just as well.

 

Something wicked this way comes (these literary references are just flying out today) to The 12 Bar as local Hip-hop/Rap icon, AJ descends with a full band to bring to life his latest album, Tangle Your Cassette. The MECA, meanwhile,  has another of it’s trademark roller discos.

 

Saturday is all about the big guns as the 12 Bar plays host to another Southwest Hardcore event.  Pop Punk meets Hardcore, as MaLoKai, Snap Back, Go Out With a Bang and Starlight City bring the noise. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in Faringdon Park there is The 2012 Children’s Fete. All ages entertainment from maypoles and circus workshops, storytelling and dancers, fairground and live bands, but more importantly…free cake.

 

Sunday’s Beehive afternoon session is ably filled by Mr. Love and Justice and if the idea of historical, socio-political, agri-folk appeals then this is the band for you. Imagine Richard Jefferies fronting The Byrds  – Sweetheart of the Roundway Down perhaps? Or Thomas Hardy writing for the Beatles; Hey, Jude (The Obscure?) Best just go along and work it out for yourselves. Farmers for fifteen minutes? Ok, enough.

 

The evening sees Charlie Bath and The City Marshals launching her new e.p. The Good Fall. Expect seductive melodies, understated music and emotive atmospheres to be the order of the day. Support comes from Phil King and Emily Sykes and it all happens at The Victoria. Meanwhile at the Rolleston, Ash Mandrake will be weaving his prog-folk, story telling magic through the use of twisted mythologies, home made guitars and strange hats. Both bizarre and utterly spellbinding.

 

And it remains a good week for rock fans as Monday at The 12 Bar; the mighty Mortdelamer will be building their wonderfully mellifluous yet often threatening soundscapes. Also on the bill are the darkly epic Scythes and the atmospheric and luscious slow burn majesty of IX.

 

And the final quote comes from Michael Fish.” Reports of a hurricane are unfounded” Yeah, right!