Tag Archive: shapes (the)

The recurring theme of the last run of gigs I have attended seems to be, sadly, a woeful lack of attendance. A paranoid man might see himself as the lowest common denominator, thankfully I’m not that paranoid and happy to place the blame elsewhere.  At a recent Goldray gig, new musical vehicle of Reef’s Kenway House and Andy Treacy, the man behind the relentless beats of Faithless, the musicians were pretty much on par numbers-wise with the audience, but at least I was introduced to the brilliant psychedelic groove machine that is Ulysses, possibly my new favourite band. The visual and musical delight of The Baronesques was also a pleasant bonus.

A more recent and rare jaunt down to The 12 Bar in Swindon saw an even more extreme turn of events. You have to question the decision to host two Oxfordshire bands; largely unknown in Swindon with almost no advertising at a venue that most people seem to have forgotten even exists. Whilst The Shapes and Mammoth and The Drum rose to the occasion, the audience numbers hardly rose at all, mid way through the main act I think the non-band related segment of the audience hit the dizzy heights of four people. I would have put this to the promoter but sadly they didn’t show up at the gig either.

In 1983, two impressionable music fanatics found themselves at Reading Festival and witnessed a band that were to become a small part in the soundtrack to both their lives. Twelfth Night was the obvious band for slightly awkward, borderline nerds. Their music was complex, the songs long and the lyrics were something that you could obsess over and test each other’s knowledge with. Yes, prog-rock was back on the menu. By the late eighties the band had run it’s course but in 2007 began a series of re-union shows with various line-ups to popular acclaim but now the decision had been taken to call it a day on even that and these same two friends found themselves heading down to Mr Kyps in the unfashionable end of the Bournemouth/Poole conurbation for one last time. We may not have quite been there right at the start but we would be there at the end. But it was more that just about Twelfth Night.

Opening the night was Alan Reed, ex-Pallas front man (and Abel Ganz for those who remember) and now ploughing a furrow under his own name. Joined by the infectious Mark Spencer on keyboards, a man who will loom large in the evening’s proceedings, a mix of tracks from his new album and some wonderful rendition of Sanctuary, one of the first songs he co-wrote on joining the band. Even more interesting was a chat with him at the merchandise desk afterwards. My learned colleague, Mark, put the question of his leaving the band after 25 years as the front man, having already heard guitarists Niall Mathewson version that ran along the lines of “it was all very amicable.” Well apparently it wasn’t. Not only was Alan clearly sacked, by telephone, the band had been working with an alternative front man for 6 months and still using him to play the live shows until the new man was up to speed. Charming! As a foot note he added that it’s not safe for him to set foot in Aberdeen, the hometown of Pallas, but describes not being part of the latest album as “ a lucky escape.”

Marking the 25th anniversary of the cracking IQ album, Nomzamo, ex-front man Paul Menel was on the bill to play the album in its entirety and what a great show they turned in.  A mix of his current band, ex- IQ keyboard maestro Martin Orford (note white, middle class, middle aged men should not sport baseball caps, it makes them look like they should be in a mini bus heading for Disneyland Paris if you know what I mean) and Clive Nolan, another icon of the keys normally found with Pendragon ran through a long but faultless set, clearly having a great time along the way.

Now with a limited time available to play in and clearly annoying bassist Clive Mitten who made a number of references to the fact, Twelfth Night took the stage. Well, billed as The Cryptic Clues, with Andy Revel, looking more like Sean Pertwee everyday, Brian Devoil and the aforementioned Mitten, it’s a rose by any other name. Leaving the Virgin years behind them and running through early material only, the part of front man Geoff Mann was taken by Mark Spenser, who not only did a brilliant job got many people thinking that he night have been the better option for the job when it fell to his old flatmate Andy Sears. Not that I had anything but respect for Andy but seeing Spenser prowl and pose in the limelight, he just seemed to be a better prospect. Sequences was attacked with its usual military precision, Creepshow as twisted and poignant as ever, We Are Same, The Ceiling Speaks and Love Song, all expected and all delivered by a band bowing out on a high. Thank you guys; it’s been an interesting journey.

I bet by know you are wondering what the title of the piece has to do with anything. Well, as prog fans will admit if pushed, gigs are predominantly the bastion of a certain type of male, imagine The Big Bang Theory for music and you get the idea. It’s with this in mind that you can spot the fans from the bands family members that have been coaxed into coming along and you can guarantee that the cool or even remotely presentable looking ones fall into the latter category. It therefore came as no surprise that the slick looking lass with the long dark hair who stuck out like a sore yet very attractive thumb was later seen arm in arm with one of the musicians. It’s just one of the games you can play at these types of gig.

By virtue of this being their hometown, Galahad headlined the night and sadly the crowd was now at an all time low, driven probably by the fact that a lot of people had probably travelled and had headed off early to catch trains or begin a long trek home. I’m not sure what the capacity of Mr Kyps is but with the place less that a fifth full I suspect that there is a promoter somewhere with a big whole in his bank balance. Galahad was the one band on the bill that I was not familiar with, although a third appearance by Mr Spenser on bass gave it a somewhat familiar edge. That said, they didn’t really gel with me. If prog-rock is just headbangers with A-levels, as the saying goes, these guys were probably re-sitting. Somehow it all seemed a bit disjointed and proof that great musicianship doesn’t always translate into great songs. I appreciate the punkier edge to their sound and lively stage show, but somehow it didn’t grab me. Then again it may just be a case of I had seen what I had come to see and wasn’t ready to take on anything new that night. Still the local crowd loved it and that’s all that counts.

It is always great to connect with the music of your youth, re-live the music that formed your musical tastes for years to come. As you get older and more stuck in your ways new music often means less on an already formed musical mind. What was nice about the gig was that I fell in love with those songs all over again. Oh to be a youngster again, good work prog.

Lao Tzu famously thought that “when the wise man looks into space he knows there is no limited dimensions,” but I bet he didn’t have to get a whole weeks worth of gig recommendations into a space as small as ….well, as small as this!  So, Chinese philosophers aside, lets get down to business.


Tonight the first of many Halloween celebrations kick off at the Victoria in the form of The Bands and Burlesque Halloween Spook Ball.  The Filthy, Dirty, Blues Band provides the music, Li Laudanum, the gory stories and a whole host of Burlesque dancers provide the welcome distractions. Costumes are a must, for the audience that is, not so much the dancers.


Also seemingly in a strange fantasy world of his own, Ash Mandrake brings his strange blend of prog-folk meets Icelandic Saga with extra millinery supplies and homemade guitars to The Beehive.  If that isn’t “Good Enough” you might like to head up to The Arts Centre to catch nineties power-pop trio Dodgy (see what I did there?)


More big names at The Furnace on Friday with Hadouken (pictured) – new rave, dance-punk, call it what you will and the equally unpigeonholeable (it’s a word, honest) Monsta adding tech-soul, trip-hop and melodic synth washes to make a night of gloriously original, very now, music. Hopefully this is the start of the venues break from its tedious love affair with goth and metal over the last few years. With no competition for bands of this size in Swindon, this may be the start of a change of direction and a bright future.


It’s all a bit more traditional elsewhere. The 12 Bar is going for the folk thing with The Shapes, a band spawned in the same neck of the woods that produced Stornaway and The Epstein, good company indeed. Support is the mix of morose and mirth that is Mammoth and the Drum plus Benji Clements and Aaron Heap.


There was once a young girl from Hullavington…. hang on this is turning into an Edward Lear limerick. Try again. Many years ago there was a young local artist treading the boards who had a voice that could make audiences go completely silent. Now after stints at The Albert Hall, touring the States and glowing reviews, Dani Wilde brings her amazing acoustic blues to Riffs Bar, a sort of homecoming show if you will. The Beehive also plumps for soulful acoustica with Anglo-Swedish trio, We Ghosts.


Fans of Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae are catered for at The Victoria on Saturday night with The Erin Bardwell Collective. Not only do they have a new record out, Bringing The Hope, but also the gig acts as a sort of reunion night as both Erin and members of the support band, The Nomarks, can trace their roots back to local legends The Skanksters.


More nostalgic vibes can be found at The Rolleston with the 50’s rockabilly vibes of Josie and The Outlaw or the 40’s swing of King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys at The Art Centre.


A couple of more sedate options for Sunday afternoon look like this. Mr Love and Justice host their regular Lazy Sunday Afternoon session at The Art Centre, this time they are joined by the dulcet tones of Jess Vincent as recently heard on Mike Harding’s Radio 2 show plus the wonderful Ethemia. At The Beehive you can catch R’n’B and swing grooves, courtesy of The Teddy White Band.


Later that evening and continuing with suitably subtle Sabbath song, Buswell play an stripped down show in the top bar of The Victoria, though if the band merely number in single figures it is probably considered low key. Also on the bill is Steve Poltz who when not co-writing hit ballads for Jewel can be found singing, ranting, storytelling, guitar shredding and generally being mesmerising with his own body of work.


Ed Sheeran pops into the Oasis on Wednesday but if you like the acoustic troubadour approach then why not watch Gaz Brookfield at The Running Horse instead. Great songs blended with wit, wisdom and charisma plus you can also find out about his Christmas No 1 Campaign. Whilst you are there pick up a copy of his current album, Tell It To The Beer, I can’t recommend it highly enough.