Tag Archive: skins and strings


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318761_473799535965634_658808314_nThere was a time when, according to the song, all people wanted for Christmas was two front teeth, but those simpler times seem to be long gone. I blame Mariah Carey. She really raised the stakes by famously declaring that all she wanted was you. Yes, YOU (and you and you and you!) Blimey, not asking for much. It’s also a time when people “ironically” slip into novelty knitwear, words such as ‘tis and ‘twas make an annual outing and everyone suddenly thinks that Elf is the new It’s a Wonderful Life. (Over my dead body!)

 

It’s a time of year when TV sets overflow with adverts featuring stressed mums, useless dads, penguins, puppies, Christmas tables heaving under thousands of pounds worth of food, soppy, faux-indie soundtracks and perpetual snow, even though a white Christmas happens about one in 6 years and half as frequently in “that London” where these adverts are dreamed up. All I want for Christmas is some decent live music to experience; thankfully Santa seems to have delivered.

 

The Victoria has the first of two heavy rock shows, firstly tonight in the shape of Manchester trio Absolva, a band who have taken the core sound that informed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement of the eighties and brought it bang up to date. Support comes from equally hard hitting classic metallers Die No More and Control The Storm.

 

At the other end of the musical spectrum Claude Bourbon returns to The Beehive to weave an intoxicating acoustic web from a fusion of classical, jazz, folk and Latin guitar styles.

 

Friday has plenty to choose from, the big one being a fund raiser for I.A.R. that’s International Animal Rescue, not the World War Two Romanian fighter plane manufacturer. Anyway, more about that can be found elsewhere on this page. Funk and soul fans are well catered for by Felix and The Funk at The Moonrakers and blues fans have two options. Soul, Rhythm and Blues and rock all go into the mix at Riffs Bar with Bob Bowles and the Dansette Tones and at The Rolleston there is a tribute to that stalwart of American music, Bonnie Rait.

 

Fans of heavier music get a second slice of the pie with ubiquitous Iron Maiden tribute Powerslaves playing Level 3 whilst Metalhead offer a selection of classic rock and metal at The Victoria.

 

Roots Reggae gets a look in on Saturday at The Victoria with Urban Lions the new musical vehicle for classic UK roots artist Donette Forte. Also on the bill are DJ’s Bambi (aka Miss Reggae Reggae Sauce) and Stu Green (aka Mr Pop Art.) If, however, something a bit more raucous is to your tastes then The Roughnecks at the Rolleston might be more to your liking. Made up of band members from Josie and The Outlaw, The Meteors and Screaming Lord Sutch, their blend of old school rock ‘n’roll and psychobilly has been described as a Dr Feelgood meets The Meteors sound clash. A more wide-ranging musical experience can be had with the pop and rock covers offered up by Echo at The Swiss Chalet.

 

Sunday may be the day of rest but something a bit special takes place at The Victoria in the evening as those awfully nice chaps at Sheer Music offer a chance to experience the brilliance of The Retrospective Soundtrack Players (pictured). This is a band who make albums about their favourite books and films and having already dealt with Cool Hand Luke and The Catcher in The Rye, their just released 3rd album goes under the fitting title of It’s a Wonderful Christmas Carol. So it’s folk-pop with a literary bent, sounds intriguing. Also on the bill are the intense aggro-acoustic sounds of Oxygen Thief, the agit-folk of Coasters plus the mellower and captivating musical charms of Charlie Bath.

 

Rounding the week off and providing two gigs that really do offer something totally unique are Kick Ass Brass and Skins and Strings. The first is a soul-funk outfit combining steaming hot brass, an amazing rhythm section and outstanding vocals and can be found at Baker Street on Tuesday. The second is an instrumental two-piece that combines exotic eastern tabla beats with the more pastoral guitar of a western folk tradition which is to be found at The Roaring Donkey.

 

 

425603_10100168477043011_9295930_nThere has been a bit of a discussion in the on-line comments sections about how easy this article is to understand and extract the necessary information. One side of the argument is that the actual content is difficult to fathom out from my description and prose, opinion and attempted humour, that it would be better if the article was just an embellished list of pertinent information more akin to a listing than an article. My defence is that this column attempts to make the prospect of local live an exciting one through vividly painting what the bands are all about through prosaic description. Whilst I don’t profess to be a new Lester Bangs or Paul Morley, neither would I want this column to read like a telephone directory and hence the poetic license to colour what is effectively a musical menu. I also think that by suggesting that the average reader couldn’t follow my literary twists and turns is to actually undermine their intelligence. That’s my defence and I’m sticking to it.

 

To someone so engrossed in promoting live music performance, the idea of DJ nights might seem anathema to me. But when the DJ in question is one who still scours bargain bins and backstreet music shops to find the right hip-hop, soul, funk and rock vinyl to mix live then you know you are dealing with something above the normal club DJ spinning the same old sounds. DJ Format brings his dance floor filling skills to The Victoria tonight.

 

Friday runs from the sublime to the ridiculous. The Sublime coming in the guise of Tennessee jazz-bluesman Mark Merriman at The Beehive, back in the country on a short tour of the area. At the other extreme we have a certain X-rated act whose naughty name I can’t really mention here but who is known for toilet humour, self-deprecation, smut and catchy pop-melodies. Not for the faint hearted, easily offended or completely sober. All will make sense if you head to The Rolleston.

 

Between those extremes, Riffs Bar offer the not inconsiderable talents of roots musician and slide guitarist Kevin Brown, a man who learnt his trade from none other than Son House and is held in acclaim by the likes of Mark Knopfler. The Victoria has hi-energy neo-rockabilly with Rockabilly Rumble an authentic three-piece rockabilly outfit that does just what it says on the tin.

 

Those who like a slice of nostalgia have a choice of two tribute acts. The sounds of Johnny Cash can be heard at Level 3 whilst The Arts Centre is the place to be to re-live the majesty of Phil Lynott and the gang with Limehouse Lizzy.

 

And if you like your rock music then I should mention an event taking place in Trowbridge on Saturday. I know it’s a bit off of the radar for a local gig guide but with a heavy involvement from Swindon bands Trowbridge’s Rock Diabetes Metal Festival is worth a mention. Alongside headliners Diamond Head and Skreamer (who recently played Level 3) you can find the town represented by All Ears Avow, Harmony Disorder and Burnthru as well as Kodiak Jack and Flashfires who have both played Songs of Praise nights in the recent past.

 

But there is plenty of rock in town if you wish to support the local venues. At The Rolleston, Snatch It Back will be playing psychedelic blues rock, reminiscent of The Groundhogs of whom drummer Ken Pustelnik was a member and at The Victoria, Rorke’s Drift cover classic rock such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Aerosmith.

 

Another US musician back in the area to tour their latest album is Courtney Yasmineh (pictured) and her band who between them channel the feisty female fronted glory days of Patti Smith, Sheryl Crowe and Blondie; rock chick meets country troubadour meets pop accessibility. Catch her at The Beehive. If your thing is more of an eighties synth vibe, then head out to Riffs Bar where Syntronix will act as a time machine back to the age of jumpsuits, headbands, ironic mullets and jacket suits with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, Miami Vice style.

 

And a couple of mellowing choices to end on. Sunday sees the Indian beats and pastoral acoustic guitar of Skins and Strings at The Beehive and on Wednesday you can catch classical meets Latin guitar maestros Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz at the Roaring Donkey.

10007472_597937763635813_1859564634_nI was fishing around in a box of vinyl albums I found in the attic that hailed from a time when people still thought that digital watches were a neat idea and I came across a load of those ghastly “ Now That’s What I Call Music…” compilation albums.  It struck me that the idea of a compilation album is a weird concept, one that sees a cheek by jowl mix of musicians who would not normally bother to make eye contact if they were sitting at the same table.  It also made me think about what if there was such a thing of a compilation novel.  The best bits of literature presented as a complete work.

 

It might be set in Second World War Greece when an Italian, mandolin playing artillery captain wakes up to find that he has turned into a beetle. Mrs Bennet then decides that he is no longer a suitable husband for Little Nell and in revenge for this slight he sets fire to the library of Gormenghast castle.  Heathcliff cries out “The horror, the horror” the White Whale drags Frodo under the water as he slowly comes to a stark realisation. He loved Big Brother. Have I just created a new literary concept? Hopefully not.

 

Anyway enough nonsense and cut to the chase. Those of you who missed out on Womad and the chance to catch Tibetan punk bands, Colombian jazz fusion out fits, Nepalese Hip-Hop crews and of course Billy Bragg (probably) can console yourselves with a couple of local festivals featuring bands with more pronounceable names.

 

Firstly running Friday to Sunday, Festival on The Farm takes place in the grounds of Purton House Organics and features a great mix of covers and original music, solo artists and full bands and everything from funky soul to heavy rock. Alternatively, on Saturday, The Stratton Stroll has its usual musical meander around the pubs of that area. 6 venues, twenty artists, one great day. In both cases check the website for times and line ups, there is far too many for me to detail here but rest assured there is something for everyone. I suppose festivals are a bit like compilation albums or are they boxed sets…sorry, I won’t start that again.

 

So, back in the regular haunts, there is still a lot of great music to be had. Two-piece neo-grunge outfit, Boss Cloth (pictured) have an e.p. launch tonight at The Victoria where they are joined by high-energy doom bass and drums outfit Skin Horse (see the connection yet?) Opening the night is Sea Mammal, a swirling, experimental duo (how about now?) from the people who brought you Babies vs. Rabies.

 

The other end of the spectrum is being catered for at The Beehive with Skins and Strings who play wonderful blends of table drum beats and pastoral acoustic guitar lines.

 

On Friday, The Victoria hosts its regular Bands and Burlesque nights with music from old school rock and rollers Josie and The Outlaw and at The Beehive it’s Teddy White Lite, (their spelling not mine, damned this creeping Americanisation of our language) all the usual best of blues, beats and boogie from yesteryear presented as an acoustic set. At The Rolleston, Lily B plays acoustic covers from Joni Mitchel to Aerosmith and from K T Tunstall to Pink.

 

If the idea of two, top of their game, international psychobilly bands gets your musical juices flowing then The Rolleston on Saturday is the place to be. Hailing from Hamilton New Zealand and London, respectively, The Doppelgangers and The Moonshine Stalkers both have a reputation for wild, energetic shows that fuse old time rockabilly with punk sensibilities.

 

Acoustic music is provided in both quantity and quality as The GW Acoustic session celebrates its first birthday. Playing the night is Ells and The Southern Wild, Charlie Ann, Jimmy Moore, The Wires, Andrew Paul Davis and Who Cares? Also on offer is a tribute to U2 at The Victoria.

 

Rounding the musical working week off on Wednesday is Billy Bingham at the Roaring Donkey; delicate threads of acoustic guitar over laid with heartfelt, honest lyrics, perfect music for a warm summer evening.

156353_181984905147703_916302_nI often get the feeling that I am the protagonist in the latest Dan Brown novel. But this time instead of being a Harvard Symbologist searching for the meaning of the Holy Grail or trying to save priests from an Illuminate plot, it is set in a west country railway town and I am on a break-neck, historic quest, unravelling clues and wrestling gig information from a shadowy cult made up of venue owners and promoters who have also sent an albino sound engineer to thwart my efforts. Still if Dan Brown’s clichéd style holds true I will probably get paired up with a young, European stunner as the “will they, won’t they” love interest, so things aren’t so bad.

 

But safe guarding the descendant of Christ is one thing, I’m just trying to put together an accurate and informative gig guide and it really shouldn’t be this difficult. I would have thought that in these fiscally tricky times, venues and promoters would be putting even more effort into trying to draw punters into their shows, but if an expert gig goer (and if experience is measured in hours spent leaning on a bar, pint in hand watching local bands then I am pretty top of my game) like myself can’t root out the relevant information from websites and (anti-) social networking sites, then what hope has the casual enquirer. Come on folks, work with me here or don’t moan when the door count to your gig only just scrapes double figures. Help me to help you before more venues go out of business or stop promoting music.

 

Anyway, with the information I have been able to wrestle from elusive, mystic guardians at gunpoint, here are some things to do over the coming week.

 

The Victoria has a bit of a treat for you tonight as those splendid chaps at Sheer Music bring Brighton band of the moment, Verses, to the stage. Intelligent, hook driven, dynamic rock music is on the menu and if you like what you hear you can be amongst one of the first to pick up their debut album, Feel It Faster. Support comes from the no less talented Take the Seven and local bands All Ears Avow and Somewhat Snakes.

 

Those looking for something all together more rootsy might find what they are looking for at The Beehive as Christopher Rees weaves soulful folk around spectral blues and ends up with a wonderfully unique sound.

 

If metal tributes are your thing, then there is only one place to be on Friday, The Victoria. The Big Four Tribute Band go further than similar acts, four times further in fact, as they replicate the music of Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica. Consisting of members of UK metallers, Betrayal, and with five years behind them in this guise, you know that they will be more than capable of pulling off such a feat.

 

Meanwhile, music biographer, musician and leader of his own personal band of Argonauts, Alan Clayson (pictured) will be fronting a show at The Beehive that pretty much defies description, so all I will say is go along, watch and make your own mind up about this truly original performer. The Arts Centre has The Ben Waters Band, energetic boogie piano at it’s finest taking in rock, jive and ska, not only one of Jools Holland’s top ten piano players but trivia fans might like to know that Ben is also PJ Harvey’s cousin.

 

 

Saturday plays host to mainly covers and tributes, the music of Pink Floyd can be heard at The Victoria whilst 1000 Planets play a mix of rock, industrial and goth covers plus originals in a similar vein from this years release Pay The Price.  Rock, pop and indie covers can be found at The Swiss Chalet courtesy of Switch and original music comes from the often shambolic, always entertaining Hamsters From Hell at The Castle. If you like the idea of mixing great food with sublime music then the dulcet and exotic tones of Skins and Strings will provide the perfect musical backdrop at Asiana in Old Town.

 

The penultimate mention is for Shaun Buswell’s show on Tuesday. After setting himself the challenge to meet, write for, rehearse and gig with an orchestra of total strangers, he is now taking a Dave Gorman style presentation of the whole project to The Edinburgh Festival and you can catch a preview at The Victoria. Finally on Wednesday, stalwart jazzmen and all round good eggs, Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz play The Roaring Donkey.

1488783_10152289534731684_309147990_n….so then I said to my editor, “So what are you going to do, not edit out a whole 170 word introductory paragraph just because you don’t agree with it’s sentiment? As if! And anyone reading the previous paragraph will surely agree with me anyway. Right, enough controversy and on with the musical recommendations and there is lots on offer this week.

 

Songs of Praise at The Victoria, tonight, is a bit of a deconstructed, alt-pop, leftfield, difficult to describe…thingy, of a show. Vienna Ditto is a two-piece outfit that veer between mesmerising sci-fi blues and dance-rock riffs with added atmospheric and ambient electronica, a bit like Portishead writing a Tarantino soundtrack. Also on the bill are Super Squarecloud, purveyors of warped pop and strange adventures in time signatures, plus The Clementines a newish musical vehicle driven by a whole bunch of people who used to be called Crash and The (Bandi)Coots.

 

More dance vibes emanate from The Beehive when Zetan Spore land their mothership  to spread their cosmic message through the medium of Psy-trance music, an intoxicating blend of psychedelic dance, searing guitars, tribal breaks and a tsunami of energy and positivity.

 

There can’t be many people around that haven’t heard about Shaun Buswell’s Underground Orchestra Challenge, which saw him hire, rehearse and write the music for a full orchestra recruited from commuters on the underground. Before the show heads off to the Edinburgh Fringe you have a chance to experience his PowerPoint style presentation of the whole project at The Wyvern Theatre. You also get free entry into the Indisposition of David Philips which is showing directly afterwards as part of Madame Renard’s Mini Fringe Festival.

 

Friday brings in a couple of acoustic offerings, firstly at Riffs Bar where the sometimes floating, sometimes buoyant, but always impressive music of Rob Lear is sharing the night with the similarly joyous, spiritual and absorbing Real Raj. If you prefer to stay in the heart of town then The Regent’s Acoustic Circus will feature Jimmy Moore, Benji Clements and The Crown Jewels.

 

Elsewhere NewQuay Times bring low-slung Americana to The Queens Tap and Ode and The Bebops will be attempting to answer the age-old question “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour on The Bedpost Overnight?” through the medium of audience participation skiffle at The Victoria. Louder options come in the shape of slick ska from The Nomarks at The Beehive and the masters of mayhem, riotous rhythm and boozy blues, The Hamsters From Hell will be laying waste to The Rolleston and it’s near vicinity.

 

If you are of the heavy rock and metal persuasion then there is only one place for you to be on Saturday as a host of bands line up for an all-dayer at Basement 73. Metal is the main order of the day with Malefice, Sleep Inertia, Harmony Disorder and many more satisfying the needs of the pure metalhead whilst some variation comes from the dark, post-punk of Strength in Blunders, the grungier edge of Burnthru and Boss Cloth, the cross genre blends of The Damned and The Dirty and impressive alt-rock of All Ears Avow.

Apart from that it is all slightly less boundary pushing with The Victoria hosting a tribute to AC/DC, The Ashford Road Club featuring the songs of Adele, The Great Nothing playing rock covers at The Queens Tap and Built For Comfort treating The Rolleston to some Chicago blues classics.

 

If you want to get out and get some fresh air on Sunday then a stroll to the bandstand in the Old Town Gardens will reward you with something a bit special. Skins and Strings (pictured) are a two-piece instrumental set up who mix the exotic sound of tabla drums with pastoral acoustic guitar, the perfect musical blend of orient and occident.

 

Similarly exotic sounds can be found at The Check Inn in Wroughton with the Latin infused, acoustic jazz of Gilmore’n’Jaz. If something more “in your face” as the youth of today might say, is required then the fired up, electric blues standards of The Lewis Creavan Band at The White Hart might be the answer.

 

Finally the musical week ends in perfect fashion at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday with another outing for Benji Clements whose skilful and soulful blends of groove-laden and funky standards and originals is a great way the to take your mind off of the midweek blues.