Tag Archive: songs of praise (unplugged)


14449011_673379056164128_4679448363774001003_nThis week we head into the Christmas party zone, and thankfully it isn’t tinselled up to the max but more takes the form of some choice musical gatherings to celebrate and see the year out with.

At The Victoria, Songs of Praise, has their last big show for a while as they head towards a year of much reduced bookings. Before that happens though they have lined up a great night of old school rock, sleazy grooves and boogie beats to put this year’s activities to bed.

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14695459_1288012621240845_7659761123584020282_nAs usual it is the end of the working week that provides the new and original music but there is certainly something for everyone as we head into the weekend proper.

Tonight at The Victoria, Songs of Praise offer up some interesting indie sounds. Opening the show is Luckless (pictured), a solo artist who ticks enough on-trend boxes as to make her cooler than the other side of the pillow. Originally from New Zealand, based in Berlin and pushing a musical agenda of raw, guitar soundscaping that references the likes of PJ Harvey, Sparklehorse and Warpaint. How cool is that? Also on the bill you will find local indie kids Horizon playing their last gig before announcing major changes within their ranks.

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1390775_1010155912344262_2119820808637066610_nAlongside the bigger shows at The Victoria, the people behind Songs of Praise are now organising the acts every Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey. Following their usual template of mixing up the best of the local acts with some great out of town music, much of which is coming to Swindon for the first time, there is a lot to look forward to.

 

January is a great example of the scope that they cover. Starting this Wednesday (7th) the year kicks of with the funky blues, slide guitar skills and smoky voice of Jim Blair (pictured). Normally found fronting Hiproute, Jim’s solo set is no less exciting and taps a seam of rootsy southern blues and upbeat grooves.

 

Salisbury chantress Sue Hart can be found the following week (14th) mixing up Old World folk with New World country with a dash of humour and panache and a week later (21st) Tim Manning of Blind River Scare takes similar building blocks but comes out with some wonderfully different musical results.

 

Rounding the month off, folk-pop pixie Tamsin Quin (28th) comes out of hibernation and brings her honest songs and infectious stage presence to the venue and with a support from the hushed acoustic atmospherics of Andrew Burke, that show is double the value for money.

 

If you are fed up with acoustic sessions in town being dominated by the same few acts, are looking for some new, quality music to check out, or you are just after a pint in a chilled back street boozer to break the week up, this is the place to be. And you never know you may just find yourself part of something truly wonderful.

 

written for Swindon Link Jan ’15

10711063_897224513623132_5812722890028045815_nPossibly the final leg of my gigging travels around Swindon for this year took me to my usual haunts, a creature of habit I guess but some interesting sounds where encountered along the way.

 

Last Wednesday found me at The Roaring Donkey for my usual mid-week slice of acoustic music and this week it was the totally unplugged charms of Nick Tann providing the entertainment. Even though the night is billed as Songs of Praise (unplugged) like most acoustic sessions that normally implies a stripped back yet minimally amplified set up. Not so Nick, he has a theory. A pub gig is divided into two sets of people, those who want to listen to the music and those who just happened to have found themselves in the vicinity. The latter are probably going to talk over your set no matter how loud you play so why try to compete. By playing totally unplugged, those that want to listen gravitate to the front so they can hear and those that don’t…well, don’t. And to be honest I think he has a point, as that is exactly what happened.

 

Those that made the effort to be part of the gig were then treated to a wonderful set of jazz inflected, acoustica that also graced genres as diverse as Latin, folk, blues and a whole lot of unique crossover sounds. Nicks voice ranges from warm yet solid vocal salvos to quite unexpected soaring falsetto and the between song chat with the audience is both engaging and humorous. This really was music played as god intended, in it’s natural state with a roaring fire and a good beer as company.

 

Sheer Music have a reputation for bringing great music into town and their close ties with alt-Americana label Xtra Mile, the home of Solemn Sun and Frank Turner enabled them to bring two great acts to The Victoria on Sunday. Opening the night were two local supports. Charlie Bath is an artist I have enjoyed watching develop over the last, well, almost a decade. Gentle acoustic guitar forms the core but it is her voice that really demands your attention, a sensuous and evocative blend delivering honest, heart on her sleeve lyrics, I just find it amazing that in a world that hands out music awards to Ellie Goulding at the drop of a hat that we still have Charlie around to play local gigs. Surely that will all change soon.

 

Si Hall recently went into a studio to record a solo e.p. and emerged out of the other end as a fully formed band, Coasters. They blasted through a set of brilliant agit-folk and punked acoustica and left crowd in no doubt that they had just watched the best new band on the Swindon circuit. Energy and stage presence alone isn’t enough to build a career on, you need the songs, and thankfully the band has the ability to write punchy, accessible songs. Look out for these guys.

 

Next up was Oxygen Thief, tonight playing a solo set but wrenching sounds from a guitar that defy the laws of acoustics. Skewed, off-kilter, spikey soundscapes backed up an agenda of social comment and he came off like a one man New Model Army, no complaints here.

 

Finally The Retrospective Soundtrack Players walked out to their headline spot. These guys are sort of a multi media vehicle as they write songs about their favourite books and films. Having already released albums based on Cool Hand Luke and Catcher in The Rye, their current, timely, album is called It’s A Wonderful Christmas Carol and provided most of the material for this show. And what a show. All genres were visited as they conjured guardian angels, Christmas ghosts and all the seasons’ images. A tight set and a great performance.

 

So, a few more gigs to attend before the big day, I’ll be back to tell you about it in the New Year, have fun with whatever you are doing, musical or otherwise.

(originally published at Swindon Link)

10628059_765161323523366_7975140535020360117_nI was going to do my usual introduction based on musings and procrastination but I have even decided to put that off until another time and just as well looking at how much there is to fit in this week. Okay, lets do this.
Starting, as I usually do, with Songs of Praise at The Victoria, tonight you can catch lo-fi, roots duo The August List (pictured). Variously described as “backwards country” and “porch folk” this is a band that invoke the bleak, gothic, southern soundscape of The Handsome Family and the bucolic folk/rock of The Decemberists.  The local talent is supplied by Kitchen Sink Dramas, the musical vehicle for Steve Leigh’s hard-hitting, thought-provoking, incisive, romantic and humorous lyrical outpourings. Also on the bill are Cook and The Case a band who whether crafting gossamer thin musical atmospherics or soaring post-rock deliveries still have the ability to break your heart.
 
Meanwhile down the hill at The Beehive, the regular Acoustic Buzz night hits its 25th show in style. Hometown Show provides old time Appalachian bluegrass and Joe Kelly contributes harmonica soaked country folk. Shoot The Duke play sweet folk-pop and your host, as always, is Tim Manning from Blind River Scare with his wonderful country/folk blends.
 
The big noise for Friday takes place at Level 3 as those wonderful folks at The Reggae Garden have put together a great night. Dubwiser are a dub, hip-hop, reggae collective who mix their quirky English heritage with Jamaican influences that suggest Syd Barrett meeting The Specials in a parallel dimension. Also appearing are The Tribe, a funk, reggae, dance act drawn from familiar faces on the scene and having witnessed their debut show at Longs Bar last week cannot recommend them highly enough.
At Riffs Bar Josh Wolfsohn launches his new e.p. Dirty Concrete aided and abetted by Over To You, Break Glass To Open and Sammy Sangha and there is a second chance to catch Kitchen Sink dramas at The Beehive.
The Victoria is the scene of The Monkey Dolls 3rd Charity Bash, raising money for Uplands School and The Alzheimer’s Society. Joined by The Cover Addicts and Albatross Landing it is a night of all your favourite songs from the whole of the rock and pop history book and a worthy cause to boot.
Fans of tribute bands have the options of the music of Steely Dan at The Rolleston on Friday and on Saturday can either relive The Who at The Victoria with Who’s Next or catch Bootleg Floyd at Riffs Bar. At The Swiss Chalet, Syntronix will be tapping into the synth pop end of the eighties, so set your shoulder pads to stun, slip on a pair of legwarmers and dance the night away to the sounds of Gary Numan, Ultravox, OMD and the like.
For the full comedy/music experience then head to Level 3 for the strange world of Kova Me Badd.  More a surreal parody of a covers band than a serious attempt at the genre they will be either the best or worst band you see this year depending on how you judge such things and foregoing the usual cover band selections brace yourself for a night of murdered boy band tunes (that’s the tunes being murdered not the…well, you know,) cheesy rock and nothing less than the wholesale destruction of music as we know it. Still, could be worse.
Original music does show its face here and there. The Worried Men play incendiary rhythm and blues, mixing standards and originals at The Rolleston. If you are a fan of the likes of ZZ Top and The Hamsters then this is the band that completes the unholy electric blues-rock trinity.
But before all of that kicks off you can catch a more sedate afternoon at VuDu with music from Tom Stark and Shaun Barry but more importantly great coffee and cake on hand as well.
More acoustic offerings to end on. The Sunday afternoon session at The Beehive is the place to find the delicate blend of blues, ragtime, music hall and folk traditions; intricacy and intimacy in the style of Nick Drake and John Martyn. And finally at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday features the jazz tinged folk of Nick Tann who will be playing a totally unplugged set of soaring, expressive vocals, heart on sleeve poeticism and pin drop atmospherics.