Tag Archive: sounds around town

New directions of travel

funny-musicians-in-car.jpgThis site was mainly a vehicle for the Sounds Around Town column that I used to write for the Swindon Advertiser a way of finding it online when it had been relegated to the print only copy or hidden in a dark corner of the digital version akin to Arthur Dent’s infamous search for plans that were “on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

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10915013_855280617869941_7534680761274649572_o.jpgIt’s safe to say that it is officially cold out there now. Only this morning I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets and a couple of brass monkey’s lagging themselves, that’s how much the temperature has dropped of late. But that doesn’t mean that the fun has to end. Actually the best way to save on heating bills this winter is to turn off the boiler, wrap up warm and head out to a gig where the collective body warmth and a few pints of Rawlinson’s Old Stoat Wobbler can actually be seen as an economic saving…. sort of. And the more gigs you go to, the more money you save. A no brainer, as the youth of today might say.

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11081418_10152764261624290_7985975332801455801_nIt’s easy to forget, especially when a whole music genre seems to have developed around trying it’s damnedest to be Frank Turner, that one man with a guitar does not have to result in bullish angst or political and social calls to arms. Neither does it have to follow the Damien Rice/Jake Morley model of minimalist melancholy and wistful, fragile thoughts put to music. Between the two extremes there is a whole industry built on pop aware, chart smart, accessible acoustic music and Ben Montague fits right in the heart of it. Emotionally charged and honest but delivered in a fairly commercial package, Montague gently plucks heartstrings whilst laying out songs that have a romantic yet broad appeal and you will find him at The Victoria tonight.

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11896149_1195748840440436_2951801006062414576_nThere is so much to talk about this week that there is barely room for my usual tangential ramblings, so I guess that is the answer to folks who find my introductions a bit of a distraction. Put on loads of gigs (or at least let me know about the ones that are taking place) and I will be forced to forego the usual muddled musings and get straight on with the job at hand. Just like I haven’t done here. Oh well.

Tonight The Victoria plays host to an old favourite returning for a rare outing onto the live stage. SkyBurnsRed have forged an impressive reputation for mixing grunge-laden riffs and sweeping violin textures and they are joined by Salisbury alt-rockers middlenamekill, a late replacement for the advertised Black Elephant and opening the night is Over To You.

Something weird and wonderful is coming to The Beehive in the shape of antipodean multi-instrumentalist and beat boxer Mal Webb who deals in surreal and mindboggling songs and is joined by Kylie Morrigan who adds violin and also balances out his madness. Well, that’s the plan. Imagine Einstein, Dr Seuss and Paganini making pancakes…. apparently.

Friday brings plenty of options for rock fans with both The Rolleston and The Victoria playing the international card. The former plays host to Dobermann (pictured), an Italian rock outfit who seem to be channelling the spirit of Thin Lizzy (and why wouldn’t you?) whilst the latter features a band with roots in Bulgaria, Barcelona and…err…Birmingham. Stop Stop to be more precise, a swirling tornado of glam, sleaze and groove driven hard rock.

Riffs Bar is the place for old school punk as 50 Shades of Punk are joined by punk/rap crew Rats From A Sinking Ship and the morbidly infectious Strength in Blunders.

A more rootsy vibe can be had at The Locomotive with Billy In The Lowground, who may be a folk band on paper but live they sound like one that has been dragged through the hedge of rock backwards. Think of it this way, if the Levellers were moonshine swigging Appalachian mountain folk instead of Guinness-swilling Brighton crusties, they would probably have sounded a lot like this.

Kid Calico and the Astral Ponies begin the second leg of their “Prospect Hill Tour” by bringing their circus sideshow psychedelia and lilting warped Americana to The Beehive – a band I truly recommend you catch live.

And fans of Americana will be heading to The Rolleston on Saturday to catch Ragged Union, a twin guitar attack of country vibes and sleazy rock, a bit like if The Dogs D’Amour were from Kansas City or Steve Earle was from Dalston. Well, sort of…either way they sound great.

A bit of a birthday bash is happening at Riffs Bar, music from John Coghlan’s Quo, the authentic sound of Status Quo courtesy of the original drummers live vehicle and cake and drinkies for the man himself. And more rock is to be had at The Locomotive with Leader, anthemic rock with a ton of riffs and liberal dosing of pop sensibility. Support comes from The Harlers, a snarling 2-piece blues –rock outfit with a sound that could curdle Cream! (See what I did there?)

Psychobilly and retro-rock’n’roll can be found at The Woodlands Edge thanks to The Corsairs and if you are looking for tributes to some more established bands you have the option of Bootleg Floyd at Level 3 or The Manic Street Creatures honoring the finest bunch of agit-punk meets stadium rock miscreants to ever cross the Severn Bridge at The Victoria.

On Sunday a whole collection of bands line up to raise money at the Rock 4 Radio Therapy fundraiser at Swindon Rugby Club. Music from 1pm by Alter Chaos, Broken Image, Post 12, Echo, Metson and many more plus food, stalls and activities to keep the kidlings occupied.

Finally, on Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey, the mid week session features alt-folk acoustica, which takes in both minimalist atmospheres and percussive deliveries from Matt Midgley plus the folk-pop pixie herself Tamsin Quin.

11136623_1075378065812677_4177056680896296978_nThey say old punks never die, they just stand at the back of the gig these days but there will be plenty of opportunity to recapture some of the vim and vigour of those past times via a string of gigs at The Victoria this week. The punk wars may be long over and it seems that they didn’t change the world, X-Factor, Clarkson and tweed wearing Daily Mail readers are the evidence of the defeat, but the survivors can take a break from discussing whether Oi bands was actually punk or not or the chances of a Newtown Neurotics reunion for a short while and recapture the spirit of their formative days.


And the first spikey slice is served up at The Victoria, tonight, in the form of a night of drum and bass….. as in a string of 2 piece punk bands musically armed with just bass guitar and drums. The charge is lead by local heroes 2 Sick Monkeys who mix frenzied music with even more frenzied between song rants. Joining them are art-noise merchants, Ghost of The Avalanche,(pictured) plus Gag Reflex and Downard.


If something a bit subtler is to your tastes then a trip to The Beehive might be on the cards as they host their monthly country and Americana flavoured Acoustic Buzz night. Having caught The Rosellys as a duo earlier this year, I can tell you that the prospect of a full band show is something you don’t want to miss. Forget the rhinestone and line-dancing image of country music, this band are the real deal. The local part of the bill comes courtesy of The Incredible Disappearing Boy – imagine Wilco having grown up in the M4 corridor plus your host Tim Manning’s celtic-country fusions.


Staying at The Beehive, on Friday you can catch The Jake Meeking Trio a musically schizophrenic, emotionally charged blend of blues, jazz and alt-rock. The second helping of The Victoria’s punky pie has a more ska-punk flavour and looks a lot like Slagerij. After supporting legendary US punk pioneers Dead Kennedys on their recent UK tour, this indomitable three piece bring the party back to their home turf. Joining them are thrash pop-punksters The Splash and the hard hitting Red Light Rebels.


Shades of Blue bring blues with a hint of rock to The Rolleston, think Robben Ford, Matt Schofield, Walter Trout and the go to reference of the moment, Joe Bonamassa – dynamic blues from a tight, experienced band.


Popular covers from across all genres and eras and a total party vibe are the order of the day at The Locomotive as The Shadow Monkeys roll into town. Get your dancing trousers on; it’s going to be a ball.


Saturday sees Sahara Heights take the stage at The Locomotive with their blend of shimmering indie and shoegaze references this is certainly a band who are blazing interesting trails so make sure you catch them so you at least have the “I remember them when…” anecdotes covered for when they make it big. Opening the show is Charlie Baxter who combines dance and indie music and deftly smashes them into each other in a big neon rave explosion…apparently. Sounds interesting.


The Rhythm Bombers hit The Rolleston to deliver rockabilly, dirty blues, psychobilly and old school rock ‘n’ roll, mixing originals with iconic covers and the last punk offering from The Victoria is Straighten Out, a tribute to The Stranglers. Their place in the punk canon can be debated until the cows come home but they created music that ran from the challenging and crude to supreme pop delicacies.


The Woodlands Edge and The Swiss Chalet both opt for the cover band option with In It For The Money and Cover Junkies respectively both playing a wide range of pop and rock classics.


And finally jumping to Wednesday and The Roaring Donkey, Neil Morris plays glorious acoustic folk-punk very much in the Frank Turner vibe and he is joined by Heartwork who adopts a gentler, hazy, late night approach.

freelance-article-writingPeople may have picked up on a slightly frustrated tone that runs as an undercurrent through my Sounds Around Town column these days, mainly to do with readily available gig information. What ever you think of the paper, my writing or even myself, a good promoter will play the numbers and get their gig or band mentioned in as many places as possible,  albeit flyers, posters, listings, journalism (even as low brow as mine!) So with that in mind I thought I would clarify how I operate and should you wish to, what the best way of getting mentioned in the column are.

  1. Firstly there is the issue of time frame. My piece goes out in the Thursday edition and is submitted to the paper normally over the previous weekend. That means any information not readily available to me by about a week before that issue, is possibly too late to be acted upon.
  2. If you run a venue, then have an up to date website, that’s not just for my benefit as it is also the first port of call for anyone checking out what bands are playing at your venue. If gig says “the best local acts” or “TBC” then obviously there is no way it can be mentioned. Similarly if you do list the bands name, a bit of information goes a long way as punters what to know about genres etc and writers are basically lazy and maybe don’t have the time to go crawling around the net to find out the specifics. You booked them after all, you should know a bit about them. Also bear in mind that new bands and even less internet friendly established acts might not even have a web presence. If I can’t let people know something about the band then there is little point writing the gig up.
  3. Promoters normally advertise via Facebook event pages but the same rules apply. Also if you have an event why not add me to the invite list, I probably won’t turn up but it is another way of flagging up the gig details to me.
  4. Feel free to e-mail or message me directly about a gig though bear in mind that due to the nature of my work I receive hundreds of e-mails a day about music releases, tour dates, gig details so it is best if you only let me know about things happening in the next couple of weeks. Quarterly e-mail listings will end up in a massive archive and get forgotten about, next weeks gigs will end up on a note pad and stay on the desk next to the Mac.
  5. Also bear in mind that some of the information going into that weeks column will also be broadcast  the day before on Live and Local on Swindon 105.5…so even more exposure.
  6. Bands feel free to contact me directly, even if you expect your gig to be promoted by the venue or promoter, better I get the information three times than not at all.
  7. Despite popular perception, if you play in a cover band or tribute act it doesn’t mean I won’t mention your gig, it might mean I have less to say about the gig…after all if you go and see an Oasis tribute or a punk cover band, you know what you are getting for your money, but you just have to look through recent columns to see that all genres and types of band get featured.
  8. Okay, I may have an odd sense of humour sometimes and not everyone will judge the tone of my work in the same way, but I assure you I am not out to make enemies but do hope people have the ability to take some good natured ribbing on occasion and generally laugh at themselves and the world around them. If they can’t, does it really matter what I think?
  9. If you don’t get mentioned, don’t take it personally. I am limited to a certain word count and my not mentioning your bands shows is more likely down to the fact that I didn’t have room for everyone. Also bear in mind that it is a recommendation article and therefore the bottom line is that there is no obligation to mention any or every show, though I assure you I do my best to put as much information in as I can.

Okay, I hope that clarifies how things work and how you can use my gig guide as a promotion extra for your gig.  Happy promoting people!

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It makes a change to have some good news to report in this, a most difficult time for live music, so you will be pleased to hear that The Rolleston opened up again last weekend in pretty much the same shape that it left us in. With Status Promotions still the driving force behind the bookings you can expect the same mix of covers, tributes and originals, obviously with their trademark leanings towards the heavier end of the musical spectrum, but as they say, “if it ain’t broke, put the damn lump-hammer down.” Normal service, it would seem, has been resumed.


First though, tonight at The Victoria and a first outing for something very interesting. Spiral Key sit somewhere on a breaking wave where prog and metal collide. Channelling both classic era influences such as Rush and more recent bands such as Tinyfish the result is both big and clever, not bad at all for a two-piece! Alternately you can head down The Beehive for the wonderfully lazy, sax-led, rocksteady groove of Count Bobo and the Bullion.


Things get a bit busier as we move into the weekend proper.  Starting out at Riffs Bar, this might act as the perfect wind down to last weeks Riffstock Festival as The Secret Chord brings you a night of drum and bass with a difference. It’s true all the bands are made up of just, what is normally the rhythm section, but generically this night of four-legged foolery offers something a lot heavier. Spearheading the musical onslaught is 2 Sick Monkeys, fast, aggressive punk from the No Means No school of no messing about, complete with Pete’s legendary between song rants, GagReflex; simple, defiant, brave and obtuse (pictured) and as they put it “small enough to tour in a car, big enough to take your face clean off!” and up from Cornwall, Monolithian, a tsunami of doom and black metal intensity.


Those who don’t feel that they have the constitution for that still have plenty to choose from. Josie and The Outlaw will be giving it some old school rock’n’roll vibes at The Queens Tap, Dan (of Ocean Colour Scene fame) and Adam will be at The Rolleston and for those who want to break out the spandex and suede fringe jackets, Bon Giovi are strutting their stuff at The Victoria.


Probably the most interesting band of the night is to be found at The Beehive in the guise of Harry Bird and The Rubber Wellies. These travelling folkies are based in Bilbao and Dublin, create a cabaret of sing-a-long choruses, encourage audience participation and inhabit a world of pirates, lizards, cracks in the wall and Basque cycling songs. Sounds wonderfully bizarre.


Saturday is a good day to be a blues fan. At The Arts Centre, Head, Hands and Feet main man and sparing partner of the likes of Eric Clapton, Albert Lee and his backing band Hogan’s Heroes, bring their brand of high octane, invigorating blues-rock into town. Not to be outdone, The Rolleston is showcasing the best of the new breed in that field with the welcome return of The Laurence Jones Band.


Other serving suggestions are Reginald Road playing mainly originals in a rock, ska and punk vein at The  Tap and Barrel and the Destination Anywhere Dj’s will be getting their Motown, Northern Soul and Reggae groove on at The Victoria.


The Sunday afternoon slot at The Beehive is filled by Keith Thompson so be prepared for some of the best unplugged style, acoustic soul-blues you have heard in a long time. If you are still in the mood for mellow music after that, head up to Baker Street for some piano led, smooth trad jazz standards with The George Cooper Duo. More Jazz can be found here again on Tuesday with swinging jazz from trombonist Ian Bateman and his Quartet.


And so we arrive at our usual final destination, it’s Wednesday and we are at The Running Horse. The last hurrah comes in the form of folk and funk blending together courtesy of Withnail and I, plus the wonderful, tongue in cheek, “Scrumpy and Western” creations of Corky.

Write On!

thJust a quick message to tell you that as part of the Swindon Advertiser’s reshuffle of their entertainment guide, it has been proposed that local music will be getting more space. As part of this expansion, as well as my regular Sounds Around Town gig guide column, I will be writing a 300-400 word column that will take the form of a short interview, a band profile or a CD review. If you wish to be considered for this please get in touch, especially if you are a new band in the SN area. Please note that my interests lay in original music and sending me a CD does not guarentee inclusion.

On a more general note, I also write a spotlight piece for The Ocelot Magazine every month and often run local band reviews on my main website – http://www.greenmanmusic.biz/. As I say, no guarentees, but I do endeavour to find an outlet for as many of the bands who get in touch with me as possible, sometimes leading to gigs as well.

If interested you can find my postal address in the top right hand corner of the website listed above, or you can pop along to either a Songs of Praise or a Secret Chord gig, I’ll be the one looking at his watch and fretting about running times, but come and say hello, I don’t bite….unless I’m on the absinthe, but that’s another story.

Library - 84If you look through the history books you will see that the pages are littered with high profile failures. Franz Berliner, Captain of the Hindenburg, the man who flew the worlds biggest balloon into the worlds biggest needle; The Decca Records executive who in 1962 auditioned and rejected the Beatles saying that “guitar bands have had their day;” Russell Crowe’s voice coach for the film Robin Hood or any number of post-Spice Girl solo careers! Well, one person who has made a successful career out of being a failure (and thus creating a paradox in the process) is playing at The Victoria tonight.


Having almost two hits in over forty years as a musician may back up this idea of being a failure, but that is to overlook one important fact. John Otway, the artist in question, is a musical legend, a comedy genius and a live performer second to none. Tonight he appears with his (not so) Big Band line up, which the more discerning of you will know contains Murray and Adam from that sublime bloke rock outfit, The Sweeney. So if you like the idea of silly singalongs, forward rolls, stylophone solos, head butting microphones, self-deprecation, Bob Dylan singing Gloria Gaynor classics and a whole slab of surreal madness, then get on up there.


If you want something a bit closer to sanity then maybe The Beehive is the place to be for Sons of The Delta. This duo of awesomely talented bluesmen will be mixing up all the usual blues sub genres as well as throwing in some gospel, hillbilly, bluegrass Cajun and texmex influences along the way.


Friday sees punk well and truly back on the menu as Nobody’s Heroes and Useless Eaters descend on The Rolleston and if that isn’t enough for you then afterwards at The Furnace the Kaos Klub DJ’s will be weighting their playlists heavily toward the genre as well.


On a slightly lighter note, up at The Victoria you can revel in the joyously retro musical plunderings of The Teddy White Band, stalwarts of the local scene breathing new life into rock and roll, r’n’b and swinging blues standards. They are joined by The Blue Trees, now with a new singer but still the same dedication to raw, stripped back, roots rock.


For a change, Saturday happens to be a veritable cornucopia of great music, so plan your night carefully. Starting at the most cultured end of things, the Arts Centre features pianist Adriana Beaumont-Thomas who will be paying tribute to the romanticism of Chopin’s music, including the Raindrop Prelude, which I’m sure many of you will know from…Halo 3. Heathens! Pretty much at the other extreme at Wroughton Bowls Club, not a venue that features in this column much, you can be part of The Wroughton Wassail, food and drink, fun and games, stories and songs, the latter being provided by Talis Kimberley a folk singer with suitably medieval and pagan undercurrents who deftly mixes the magical with the mundane and the poignant with the whimsical. Sounds like it’s going to be a great party.


Talking of parties, Riffs Bar is throwing a birthday bash for Brian Keen, well known around town as a sound engineer, promoter and the man behind the very successful acoustic sessions at the Running Horse. You can join in the revelry and enjoy music from The Rolling Zones (some sort of Beatles tribute I think,) rock covers from A Fist Full of Foozy and original music from two enchanting folk dues, The Black Feathers and Ethemia.


Blues fans can find everything they need at The Rolleston in the form of The Worried Men, righteous, fired up blues-rock for fans of Moore, Thorogood and (Wilko) Johnson. That might sound like a firm of solicitors but believe me it’s all you need to know about quality guitar work and bandleader Jamie Thyer deserves to be mentioned in the same breath.


More cool vibes on Sunday as Frazer Tilley blend jazz-funk guitars with grinding blues grooves and a sweet splash of soul to top it off. That’s at The Rolleston.


And as is becoming tradition we end at the aforementioned Running Horse for the Wednesday session which this time features the “far too young to be that talented” sound of Charlie-Anne Bradfield and Paul Farrar.

Library - 77As is the cyclical nature of local music, we seem to be at a bit of a low ebb at the moment. Economical considerations have seen various established support mechanisms disappear, from festivals to radio to venues. But what can you do about it? Well, everything. We have been here many times before and as the musical vehicles that we have taken for granted no longer provide that safety net then it is time for the grassroots of the music scene to take up the slack. In a past time it would have been called the punk ethic, the D.I.Y approach, maybe it is a time to return to such a way of working.

So what can you do to make things happen on your music scene, and remember it is you scene, it doesn’t belong to the bands, the venues, the promoters, it belongs to everyone. Firstly, you can set up your own gigs, have a word with venues and arrange to use one of the quieter nights in the week to put a show on or even put on a gig in an unusual place, a youth centre, a back garden or even your own basement.

Technology means that it is reasonably easy to produce your own podcasts broadcasting local bands or fanzines that advertise the underground scene I propose. As the total antithesis of spoon-fed, couch potato media and the commercial world of cash flows that venues have to operate in, I’m sure it appeals to a certain type of (slightly anarchic) creative mind. The question is, do you have the will and energy to make it happen or are you going to just bemoan the loss of your scene. It’s up to you.

Whilst you are thinking about that, here are a few gigs you might want to go to.  Tonight at The Victoria, auralcandy and friends are at The Victoria. Those purveyors of pick and mix, guerrillas of genre and lyrical libertines, auralcandy (a band so poor that they can’t even afford a capital letter) are joined by Minnie Birch and David Bowmer. Minnie describes her style as “dreary folk pop music” though this is music that has enabled her to open for the likes of Joan Armatrading so I suspect a certain amount of self-deprecation is at work. Dave Bowmer plays a strange device called a Chapman Stick and through this, live looping and percussion from David Holmes they create wonderful dance driven surf soundtracks. Intriguing!

Anglo-Swedish blues maestro, Krissy Matthews just goes from strength to strength. Having played festivals the length and breadth of Europe and in places as iconic as The 100 Club and The Cavern, the fact that you can get to watch him for free at The Beehive is a chance not to be passed up.

Friday is the busy one this week but with a wide range of genres up for grabs there is something for everyone. In the name of balance I should mention that the human six-pack, Peter Andre, is at the Oasis playing a selection of his hit! X-Factor fabrication The Risk and Sam Gray support. (Can you tell I typed that through gritted teeth?)

If you do want a proper live experience that is all about the dance floor groove then a better option is The Funk’daMentals at The Victoria an awesome and accomplished band playing the funkiest tunes from James Brown to Jamiroquai and from Rose Royce to The Sugarhill Gang.

In the worthy causes department, The Furnace are hosting The Empower and Swindon Street Pastors Charity Gig. Music comes in the form of The Graham Mack Rock Band, Starlight City, plus Gambian drummers and acoustic sets. Meanwhile returning after more than a week away, Josie and The Outlaw will be treating The Rolleston to their trademark rockabilly, R’n’B and old school rock and roll.

Forget The Black Keys, The White Stripes and The Kills, the only two-piece band that matters are in town on Saturday. If drum and bass driven punk, shouty vocals delivering lyrics that wander between poignant and just plain dumb are your thing, then get up to The Victoria for 2 Sick Monkeys (pictured), the best thing to come out of Wootton Bassett since the 55A bus service. Headlining are The Nomarks – maximum ska!

Ending, as we often do, at The Running Horse on Wednesday and I highly recommend you check out the reflective, dark and bittersweet melodies of Ells Ponting and the raw, funky acoustic blues of Jim Blair, a real mid-week oasis of talent.