Tag Archive: starkers (the)


149371_10152435420009290_5033964773938942595_nWith a record number of, mainly, original music gigs taking place this week, I am going to forego the usual meandering introduction and just jump straight in. And I’ll start at The Victoria, the main cause of such a glut of new music descending on the town. Tonight is the first night of Vic-Fest, a four-day celebration of original bands, each night curated by a different local promoter and varying in its target audience.

 

Laura Kidd aka She Makes War played for Songs of Praise as a solo act getting on for a year ago and now as part of her national tour she brings the full band show back into town. Her breathtakingly honest gloom-pop, distils a creative punk spirit and is the perfect headline for this night of alternative sounds. Tour support, Forgery Lit add a dirty, grunge blues to the night and the alt-country punk of Coasters will be lapped up by fans of such bands as The Gaslight Anthem.

 

Whether you catch Robert Brown fronting Smouldering Sons or solo, as he is tonight at The Beehive, there is so much to enjoy in the blends of Americana, blues rock and folky vibes that dance around this musical creations.

 

Friday at The Victoria and Fairview Promotions take us down a reggae path. Backbeat Soundsystem take a traditional reggae vibe, inject it with funk, dub and ska and then kick it up into a higher gear to create a bass driven party groove. Festival favourites Dub The Earth and King Solomon Band deliver fresh takes on the genre and openers The Nomarks offer a more ska based set to kick off the night.

 

Back at The Beehive and the folk ‘n’ roll of The Model Folk, a beautiful cacophony of wheezing harmonium, scratchy washboard, throbbing double bass and various acoustica, create a very different, but just as brilliant, party soundtrack. Midway between those two venues, some wonderful singer-songwriter sets can be had at The Regent courtesy of Drew Bryant and Nick Felix and if classic rock and metal standards are more your thing, then Bad Obsession at The Rolleston is the gig for you.

 

Day three at The Victoria, or Saturday as the rest of us call it, really steps things up a gear and showcases the best new bands at the harder end of rock. It’s always a pleasure to watch The Manic Shine (pictured) not just for their technical expertise and the sheer infectiousness of their songs, but also because they manage to give a lesson in stage performance than many bands would be wise to take note of. They are joined by Vault of Eagles who play a wonderfully primal brand of twisted rock that falls somewhere between The Bad Seeds and P J Harvey. Punk and metal fuse together in The Graphic’s warped art attacks (check out their video The Kid….do it now!) and local support comes from local rising stars, Ghost of Machines and stalwarts The Starkers.

 

It is quite apt that in a week that marked 15 years since we lost the lyrical genius, singer, artist, actor and madman, Ian Dury, that The Blox, a tribute to his years fronting The Blockheads, are playing at The Rolleston. Expect all the caustic wit and kitchen sink wisdom, not to mention exceptional musicianship that made the original band so…well, original.

If you are after something altogether more funky then, Funk’daMental play funk and disco classics at The Swiss Chalet and the after party tunes can be found at Level 3 as Beats and Bars mixes live acts with DJ’s to showcase the best of the current wave of hip-hop acts.

 

Sunday at The Victoria rounds off with a night of metal courtesy of Dredded Vyrus. Main act Skreamer manage to combine the grandeur and pomp of classic metal with the primal growl and speed of its current direction whilst Antoinette offer a more contemporary post-metalcore sound. Belial and Ursus open the night’s proceedings.

 

It’s blues and R’n’B (the boogie guitar sort not the lip synched, dance routine sort) all the way with Built For Comfort at The Rolleston and punk, ska and new wave covers are to be found at The Swiss Chalet with Operation ’77.

 

At The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday hosts ex-Haiku frontman Phil Cooper and his Neil Finn comparable musical earworms with a rare, short set from the mercurial Adam Crosland to kick the night off.

Gig of the Week – Vic-Fest

149371_10152435420009290_5033964773938942595_nNot so much a gig of the week but a whole mini festival. Over the Easter weekend The Victoria will be running four days of original music, a perfect blend of local and out of town, that showcases the emerging talent and circuit stalwarts in a number of genres, as chosen by a variety of local promoters.

 

Thursday is curated by Songs of Praise and is typical of their alternative and slightly underground slant on things. Having played about a year ago as a solo performance, She Makes War, the musical nome de plume of Laura Kidd, returns with the full band show. Her wonderful DIY ethic and offbeat style mixes gloom-pop with a punk spirit and her song writing shows just why she is sought after by the likes of New Model Army, The Levellers and Viv Albertine. Her tour support, Forgery Lit, add a wonderful slab of dirty, grungy blues to the night and opening are local rising stars, Coasters, with a blend of punk-acoustica meets alt-country that is reminiscent of the likes of The Gaslight Anthem.

 

Day two, Friday, and Fairlight Promotions provide a walk through reggae territory with festival favourites, Backbeat Soundsystem, Dub The Earth and King Solomon Band all offering contemporary takes on the traditional sounds of the genre and The Nomarks get things underway with a more ska based party.

 

Saturday is when the big guns are brought out. The Manic Shine (pictured) has been building up a reputation for alt-rock anthems that are based on amazing musicianship, an embracing approach to technology and infectious riffs. The fact that they can deliver all this whilst leaping around the stage like things possessed is an added bonus. The main support is from Vault of Eagles a three-piece hybrid of P J Harvey and The Bad Seeds who offer up a strange sort of primal beauty wrapped up in thunderous tunes. Also on the bill is The Graphic, new to me but having checked out their recent video, The Kid, I can tell you that you are in for a punk-metal fusion treat. The local end of things is provided by Ghost of Machines and The Starkers.

 

The last night of the event is the heaviest, thanks to Dredded Vyrus Promotions and sees post-hardcore and metal bands Skreamer, Antoinette, Belial and Ursus providing an onslaught of brutal beats and razor wire riffs.

 

1 venue, 4 nights, 16 bands. Sounds good to me.

1016976_10151955957771467_5293699458571862155_nAt a time when many of the great and good seem to be shuffling off this mortal coil, I was saddened today to read of the demise of another icon of our times. The Hipster.  It is being widely reported that the sleeve tattoo, too cool music taste, sawn off and overly complicated hair cut, backwoodsman beard and predilection for drinking out of jam jars has now passed on and these sockless evangelists of fickle fashion are a dying breed.

 

But like any other youth tribe, did they actually exist outside the pages of style magazines? Did punk or goth for that matter? Maybe all of these tribes without leaders, codes without rules, loose collections of ideas and ideology can only be seen from the outside and after the fact. Maybe.

 

Could this be just another twist in the scene that never existed, for if something never existed…how can it actually die? Maybe they just wised up and realised that Youth Lagoon were just The Bravery in tighter trousers or that wearing a monocle doesn’t make you look as cool as you think.

 

Anyway, there will be none of this hipsterish nonsense at The Victoria tonight as it’s all about the rock fraternity making a bit of a stand with three of the linchpin bands of that genre appearing on the same bill. Headliners, The Damned and The Dirty effortlessly blend classic rock, grunge and dirty blues whilst Vanarin and The Starkers opt for a more Seattle sound, the latter with a healthy dash (excuse the ironic word play) of Libertines-esque garage indie.

 

The Beehive opts for another stalwart, this time with a blues grounding as Bob Bowles cooks up soulful vocals and dexterous guitar work.

 

A bit more to chose from on Friday and staying at The Beehive for a moment it’s the return of well loved king of the social club crooners, love guru, connoisseur of fine wines and marmalades and building contractor, Bill Smarme and his band, The Biznes, for some cheeky re-workings of well known songs and a real party show.

 

Out at Riffs Bar, the acoustic session features two great singer songwriters, Sam Lewis who has crossed musical genres and state lines to build a story and style that sits comfortable between the likes of Van Morrison and Willie Nelson. Sam Eason has a sound more home grown: sultry and tender, sometimes fractured, always optimistic. This is a couple of chaps that you really should catch live.

 

The raw edge of the Delta mixed with gritty rock and roll vibes can be found courtesy of The Blue Trees pictured) at The Rolleston but if you are looking for a night of familiar favourites then Penfold at The Victoria might be what you are looking for.

 

And whilst we are talking of covers and standards, Going Underground is playing as part of The Old Town Festival at The Lawn. The set will be ska and reggae hits and entry price includes a hog roast and a punch…err, I mean a glass of punch.

 

Not a lot of original music to be had on Saturday, maybe Russell Brand can come and preach a musical revolution on it’s behalf, talking very quickly in vague terms using words that haven’t been heard since Chaucer was knee high to a printing press. Maybe not. So apart from The Erin Bardwell Collective playing organ driven, 60’s ska and reggae styles at The Bandstand in Old Town and The AK-Poets playing the first of two shows this weekend at The Curriers Arms in Wootton Bassett (the other appearance being at The Moonrakers on Sunday) it’s all about old favourites and nostalgic musical jaunts.

 

The most interesting of the bunch for my money, not that you need money to get in as it’s a free show, is All Cramped Up at The Rolleston. Channelling the music of The Cramps, one of the bands that helped coin the term Psychobilly, they liberally plundered rockabilly, glam, garage rock, punk, blues and horror genre b-movies. Now that does sound worth a go.

 

Back to The Old Town Festival and you can catch classic rock from Broken Image and top function band Echo. More rock comes in the guise of State of Quo…no explanation required I hope, at The Victoria and rock and metal classics from Shepherds Pie at The Royal Oak.

1069239_10151727020735498_1537498607_nThere have been some really awful band names throughout history. After a local disaster left a band’s rehearsal space a watery mess, the inspired name change didn’t result in something eloquent, such as Missouri River Flood but instead the god awful Puddle of Mudd! The pretentiously named The The sounds like an up date on that classic Abbot and Costello routine and then we have The Sultans of Ping F.C. I mean, what sort of a name is that and who cares where their jumper is?

 

There have been some great names too, such as Camper Van Beethoven, Mary Tyler Morphine and the brilliantly named Kathleen Turner Overdrive. Aside from being clever, some are just wonderfully evocative… The Velvet Underground, Drive By Truckers, Throwing Muses and you can add to that list Troubadours of Divine Bliss pictured) who play at The Beehive tonight. This lusciously titled duo fall roughly into the Folk Americana genre, with all the camaraderie and vocal harmony of The Indigo Girls but with a neat sideline in weird Vaudeville and sultry narratives. A more English take on similar vibes can be found in the top bar of The Victoria in the shape of Elliot Hall and Rapunzel and their alt-country meets boho-folk.

 

If prog-rock is more your thing then a trip out to Riffs Bar is on the cards. Credo take the classic sounds of the eighties neo-progressive bands such as Marillion and IQ and blend it with the more peripheral sounds of the genre such as Magnum and Asia and drive the whole lot kicking and screaming into the modern age.

 

Friday sees the return of Anglo-Swedish wunderkinds We Ghosts to the Beehive, taking elements of pop, jazz, folk and blues and blending them up into eerie and atmospheric songs.  The Victoria has it’s semi-regular gathering of roots bands, spearheaded by local funky, lap guitar bluesmen, HipRoute and the return of a band that last time really impressed me, The Sam Green Band. Opening the night are Grizzly and The Grasshopper who sound like a funky take on Del Amitri. Always a winner in my book.

 

The Rolleston takes the brave step of hosting a fairly controversial act who’s name is even too risqué for such a newspaper as this. Let me just say that this act has the perfect billing alongside 2 Sick Monkeys and Ian Doeser and you should get an idea as to the nature of the beast.

 

On Saturday, David Marx’s brings his current musical vehicle to Riffs Bar. Marx has a long history of making music in this town but has been away for a number of years, so the chance to catch him on his current tour is recommended. The songs neatly blend depth and delicacy with high octane rock and roll and explosive melodies. Support comes from acoustic balladeer, Billyjon and all the way from Toronto and normally found fronting indie-punks Dead Letter Dept. Rob Moir steers his first solo tour your way.

 

Something a bit different can be found at The Wootton Bassett Academy with a “Later with Jools Holland” style show featuring the best in roots genres with Ian O’ Regan, Blues Reviewed, Vapor, Alan Pettifer and Hilary Pavey Mills, all helping to raise money for worthy causes.

 

 

At the Victoria the Four Fighters pun and perform the music of The Foo Fighters, The Starkers will channel the music of Nirvana and at The Rolleston Bad Obsession play classic rock and metal covers.

 

The big show for Sunday can be found at The Victoria. Spectres are a wall of noise extravaganza, pneumatic guitars and pounding bass all put to relentless beats, if you like to see where rock music is going, this is one possible destination. Support comes from those mad scientists of pop, Super Squarecloud and band of the moment, Dead Royalties fire off an opening salvo of Seattle grunge meets post punk art school dynamics.

 

Over at The Sun inn, Crows Parliament pay a visit, an amazing sounding band a bit like The Pixies doing scuzzy Americana after spending to long listening to Doors albums. Do check these guys out.

 

The rest of the week still has some great music on offer, particularly the soulful, dream pop of Jazz Morley at The Victoria on Tuesday and Sebastian Craig at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, the Acoustic Session in it’s new home of The Rat Trap (formerly at the Running Horse) features the dulcet tones of Rumour Shed and the americana/folk blends of Bateleurs.

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I read with some amusement today that “Nasty” Nigel Lythgoe has come out of retirement to host a new show. In keeping with the current trend of making everything into reality TV, he travelled to Birmingham with the Archbishop of Canterbury and famous born again Catholic Tony Blair to judge Popestars, a competition designed to decide the next pontiff. Thousands of hopefuls queued at the door, including Fiona Brat-Actress whose experience extends to having appeared in Cliff Richards Mistletoe and Wine video. The audition tasks will include singing Ave Maria, Tarmac Kissing and Meeting Bono and pretending to know who he is. One hopeful, Derek Cleanliness, 89 from Rugby, has already caught the judges eye, “He’s definitely got the look we are after” said Lythgoe, “It’s a sad fact that in the cut throat world of the Vatican, image does matter”

Still, enough pontificating and on with the show. Songs of Praise at The Victoria tonight features a mix of both old, new, local and from further afield.  The Starkers are a collision of grungy density and Libertines-esque melodies, whilst up from London, Hitchcock Blonde take the form of an explosive, raging alt-rock beast, laced with accessible melodies that both kick arse and cut the mustard. Opening the night, The King in Mirrors are a new band made up of familiar faces and if you get their titular reference then their rough and ready, post-punk, underground pop will be right up your street.  By contrast you can catch the superb acoustic folk guitar and sun kissed vocals of the far too young to be this talented, Jenna Witts.

Loads happening on Friday, The Furnace being a great place to spend it with a wonderful line up of younger indie types. Chaps of the moment Nudybronque headline, a band on a wonderful trajectory that has so far taken them from innocent, speed-freak pop to bittersweet, underground indie and are poised for a future that looks even more beguiling. Support comes from The Two’n’ Eights, The Racket and The Rhubarbs.

Whatflag at The Beehive are a fascinating world rock, jazz band with its roots in Gaza and Tel Aviv and a drive to break down borders and unite communities through their music. The Victoria goes for a night of acoustic acts. These days despite rubbing shoulders with the likes of The Levellers and New Model Army, which in my world is about as good as it gets, Gaz Brookfield still finds time to play his old haunts and his mix of wit and wisdom set to infectious tunes is not to be missed. Support comes from alternative folk duo, Julesbury, musical magpie Jimmy Moore and the soulful stylings of Benji Clements.

Blues fans have a hard choice to make, torn between Larry Miller at The Arts Centre and Innes Sibun at The Rolleston.

The big one for Saturday is at The Furnace with top tribute The Faux Fighters. Personally I have never really seen the reason that Grohl and the gang are held in such high regard, after all if Sean Moore had jumped ship from The Manics in 1995 and returned with an inoffensive, mainstream version of the same, would anyone have batted an eyelid? Still if The Foo Fighters are your thing, this is the place to be. Other things that might take your interest are The Nomarks playing ska at The Castle and 1000 Planets doing choice cuts of classic rock, industrial, goth and punk at The Rolleston.

Some lovely acoustic comes your way on Sunday. In the afternoon you can catch Beehive favourite Juey and her gentle blends of folk, country, bluegrass and Cajun, after which heading up to The Rolleston will enable you to revel in Rumours of Spring who bring a vast array of instruments to bear on a set forged from rock, blues and folk.

The Running Horse on Wednesday has two amazing acts for you. Louise Latham (pictured) combines honest, heart on the sleeve emotions with room silencing vocal delivery that resonates with beauty and wistful reflectivity. The other half of the bill (that really should be considered as a double headline show) is The Black Feathers, an acoustic duo that combine English folk, Celtic traditions and Americana into what is almost this country’s answer to The Civil Wars.

Also on Wednesday, Teenage Kicks takes us out in fine styles at The Furnace with a riot of indie and alt-rock with The Fixed, City Lights, The Eberdeens and Written in Words (errr….as opposed to?)

Library - 25Another week and yet more bad news on the music front. Last time I reported that The 12 Bar had shut it’s doors, possibly for the last time as a music venue; this week it was announced that after three very successful years, the biggest cultural event in the local calendar, The Big Arts Day, is also calling it a day. A sign of the times no doubt, but maybe such things are a signifier of major shifts in our habits. Like the transition from physical formats to digital downloads, maybe the live experience itself is no longer seen as an particularly relevant experience. People seem more and more inclined to engage with music via the celebrity stacked medium of television in the comfort of their own homes rather than make the effort to go out and watch bands performing at the grass roots level, the place where every band, no matter how big, originated. So it sort of begs the question, where now for live music?

Whilst you ponder that you can still catch some good music around the town. Tonight (Thursday), for example, sees the welcome return of Witney’s finest yob savants, Black Hats. Imagine what The Jam might sound like if they had carried on evolving through the breakthroughs of modern technology and changing pop fashions, visit The Victoria tonight for a glimpse of that possible scenario. Support is the raw, visceral and unadulterated rock and roll of Nymph and kicking things off is Babies vs. Rabies who having risen from the ashes of Mr Hello and His Honesty Club are sure to throw a musical curve ball. For something more sedate, Claude Bourbon will be at The Beehive delivering his trademark weaves of folk, blues, and jazz, classical and eastern acoustic vibes.

On Friday, Riffs Bar have The Sanity Days, Severenth and Twisted State of Mind gigging in aid of International Heavy Metal Day, which is confusing because not only is heavy metal the one genre that there is no shortage of in Swindon, but also the official day is actually on the 12th. Still time to set up a Tibetan Acid Jazz day to rival it. No? Pity! The Victoria are hosting its annual tribute to John Lennon and The Beatles with the likes of Nudybronque, Aural Candy, The Suspicions, Mr Love and Justice and The Starkers providing their renditions of his songs.

The Furnace is celebrating all things youthful, indie and slightly experimental around the edges. Headliners The Debuts, despite their age, have a wonderful washed out and slightly cinematic post-punk feel mixed with more contemporary markers. The Jefferson Brick are the sound of indie exploring some of it’s more warped undercurrents whilst Korim Miah and With Felix push the night’s sounds into some interesting guitar-electro-pop territory.

If you have been anywhere near the internet in the last 4 months you must be aware that Kiss tribute, Dressed to Kill are playing The Furnace on Saturday whilst upstairs in The Rolleston Missin’ Rosie will be doing what they do best. For those not in the know, what they do best is mix high energy Celtic folk with a driven rock sound, sort of a West Country Flogging Molly if you like.

In aid of Help for Heroes charity and more specifically to honour the memory of Paul Dolphin there is a twin venue music event taking place, firstly at the MECA and then going on till 6am at SUJU. 10 hours of music in the form of 30 live acts and DJ’s and all for a very good cause.

The Beehive offers something a bit more old school for its Sunday afternoon session. Jim Reynolds is fine purveyor of blues, ragtime and old-fashioned ballads and is at turns, laconic, wistful and pensive and tongue in cheek.

More acoustic music in the form of The Stripped Back Sessions at The Victoria on Tuesday featuring Kitchen Sink Dramas, Nick Parker and Reichenback Falls, who is often compared to Sparklehorse, Iron and Wine and Bonny Prince Billy, three acts that surly must pique the interest of any music fan.

Finally the week rounds out at The Running Horse on Wednesday with the vocally gorgeous, dark sonnets of The Black Feathers and funkier acoustic sounds of The Right Hooks.

I bumped into an old friend at a gig the other day. Oddly enough the resulting conversation didn’t revolve around what each other had been doing in the decade since we had last seen each other, but in the quirky way we have, it turned to the subject of mondegreens, or in layman’s terms, misheard lyrics in songs. Such questions were raised as  – did The Stone Roses really “Wanna Be A Door?” Why was Creedance Clearwater Revival telling us “There’s a Bathroom on the Right?” How did The Stranglers get it so wrong when predicting “Never A Frown, With Gordon Brown” and oddest of all, what did Roberta Flack actually mean when she said “Tonight I Sellotape My Glove to You?” Yes, we had been drinking!

 

Talking of confusing lyrics, not to mention more than a few “oh la la la’s”, “shubba-dubbas” the occasional “ha!” and other strange utterances, Crash and The Coots are playing The Victoria tonight. Theirs is a strange and beguiling world of lateral thinking, experimental pop, but one that you all need to visit at least once. Supporting them are Port Erin a band who have swapped some of the early complexities of their music for balance, space and atmosphere and now ably mix pop leanings with mature musicianship. Three Letter Agency get the night started.

 

Blending folk with rock, accessibility with intelligence and kicking into touch the fey, hippyness often associated with her field, Thea Gilmore is blazing a path towards classic status songwriter, catch her at The Arts Centre tonight. Similar folky undercurrents can be found at The Beehive as Ron Trueman-Border brings his band, Perfect Strangers along for some vivid, punchy lyrics and infectious tunes.

 

Staying at The Beehive for Friday and Pignose will be offering up some Old Town Blues for your delectation. This very narrow genre is a blend of gospel, rhythm and blues, country and rock, songs of the south if you like and if it wasn’t for all the road works in that part of town would have probably made a break for the border a long time ago. Offer them a Mint Julep, make them feel at home.

 

The noisy brigade will find their home out at Riffs Bar for  a gig spearheaded by Severance a band very much in the spirit of the NWOBHM era and making their first visit to the place. And if you thought Stoner Rock had died out in the infamous flannel shirt famine of the mid nineties, then The Ashun might come as a welcome surprise. Optimal Prime is also on the bill.

 

More rock on Saturday this time at The 12 Bar and headed by the metal-grunge hybrid that is Burnthru, with Toadstool filling that space between metal, blues and southern rock: kick arse four, four grooves just like the old days. The Starkers continue their pop-grunge fixation…think Nirvana having a fight with The Libertines.

 

The Rolleston plays host to the one cover band I can handle, Kova Me Badd. What sets them apart from the norm? Their music selection is awful, delivery questionable, professionalism in serious doubt and antics not suitable before the watershed. In short, everything a cover band should be. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it will change your life. Well, one out of three isn’t bad.

 

Something a bit special comes to The Victoria on Sunday. Back on the menu is old school hip-hop from Long Beach underground vigilantes, Ugly Duckling; outsiders who like The Beastie Boys and Run DMC before them take humorous swipes at more commercial elements of their genre. And on into Monday, the names keep coming. Uli Jon Roth(pictured) made his name filling the shoes of guitarist for Michael Schenker in The Scorpions but over the years moved into more experimental pastures and today his style encompasses neo-classical, heavy metal, blues and psychedelic, all of which can be seen, again, at The Victoria on Monday. For something a bit more sedate, middle of the road even, Paul Carrack is at The Wyvern Theatre.

 

Staying at The Victoria for Tuesday, those lo-fi, folk-rock, indie-pop, Celtic-bop, pirates, The Shudders make a welcome return and we round off on Wednesday at The Running Horse. Nick Tann is becoming a bit of a regular fixture and his jazz inflected 12 string tunes and soaring vocals are always welcome. He brings with him Marvin B Naylor a man who blends folk, prog, the surreal and wonderful lyrical drives to create something truly unique.

Review by Joy Bells

Victory is in sight

We meet at Mr Moks for a 1 o’clock all you can eat for a tenner blow out! Four women and a bloke with a back pack.  Sushi sustenance is the order of the day as we engage with other Shufflers who have the same idea, notably Rich Millen, who drummed for Black Sheep Apprentice and The Decoits and who is arguably the most dedicated shuffler, taking a round trip from Berlin to show us how it’s done! The sun comes out (again), and we stroll to The Rolleston to begin the third day of shuffling shenanigans.

We arrive about half way through Alice Offley’s set. This woman is gorgeous and gifted. She put in a powerful performance at last year’s shuffle and she just goes from strength to strength. Her versatile voice gives you goose-bumps stretching effortlessly through notes at different ends of the scale and her ballerina hands dance around the piano keys with ease. She writes from the heart and I love her song ‘Black Dog’ filled with the passion of a survivor.

Antonio Lulic is a story telling singer from ‘up North’, sharing intimate moments between his songs to relate how and why he wrote them. In ‘The City of Austin Texas’ he imparts the miseries of breaking up with his girlfriend, in ‘Sobering Up’ he remembers the turning point that prompted him to make the transition between poor, drunk musician to rich, drunk musician. If he were washing powder he’d be concentrated non bio with his gravelly voice and bright guitar stripping down his life’s laundry on the wash board of experience to dry in the sun.

Starlight City quickly follows. They give a practiced, high energy performance; this is The Undertones partying with Big Country from four guys who work well casting a pop punk spell. They keep the late Sunday afternoon audience awake despite Siesta’s calling. I have to admit I’m beginning to flag and apologise to Browfort for not staying to listen to what I’m told is a brilliant set.

 

Frankie lets me sleep on her settee for a couple of hours. I’m out like a light and come round with the sound of children playing in the street and the brain cell lubricating smell of coffee. Batteries charged we freshen up and head back down town; this time to The Furnace for the last leg of the Swindon Shuffle Showdown. We’re nearly there and I’m half wishing there was another day to go. The Light Grenades, a funky four piece with an electronic beat infusing competent guitar and laid back vocals are playing when we arrive. People filter into the Furnace as behind the scenes lighting and sound are being fine-tuned and hello, Swindon’s very own events archivists, Swindon Viewpoint arrive and start filming the whole event. It’s all turning into something really rather special. That and the £2 shorts offer, that’s spirits not Bermuda! Salute the Magpie are five lads from Trowbridge bringing new meaning to the Old Wives tale of hailing Magpie’s to avoid bad luck. They remind me of The Strokes, strong vocals and anthemy guitar riffs surfing an indie sound.

There’s a lot of music to get through tonight and we’re already running late when The Starkers take to the stage. This is a dynamic performance by three brazen boys loving what they do and wanting you to love it too. Jingly guitar jumps out of honey harmonies and a grungy bang of anachronistic, modern/old completely brilliant music emerges, smashes itself against the dark Furnace walls and bounds about in my brain a bit. Fab! Fab! Fab!  

Like the increasingly amazing fireworks that explode as the countdown to Midnight approaches on New Year’s Eve, the bands on tonight’s line up are some of the best bands in Wiltshire (and Witney). The Street Orphans pick up their instruments and suddenly complex rhythm changes are waging war on mediocrity. Their perky EP is on my iPod and their classic rock pop blending an indie beat saw me complete the Reading half marathon this year. It’s 10.30 and there are still three more bands to play.

I’ve been a fan of SkyburnsRed for a while and their layer cake of delicious sounds feature orchestral rock and savvy fiddle sandwiching garage and grunge and squashing it down so that it squirts out the sides. Blimin’ good stuff! So excited by their performance are they that they engage in a little Luddite like instrument destruction, ending their set with a stage littered with bits of broken violin…but it keeps them off the street!

Following on quickly are Plummie and The Racket. Wearing my newly acquired Racket badge, I feel decidedly fan like and am pretty impressed by how much better they are than when I saw them a few months ago. Effing and C**nting are par for the course and anyway didn’t DH Lawrence go to court to give us the right to swear in a creative context? Whatever…the raw riffs of the guitar slam into the vocals like a steel ball into a block of flats along with a few pints of beer giving the band a sticky impromptu shower. The Furnace is living up to its name. It’s hot down here!

Finally, taking to the stage at 11, when in reality the whole show should be winding down are The Black Hats. Guitars with attitude, drums smashing through in your face vocals, brilliantly crafted songs with articulate lyrics. At the end all I and everyone else could do was whoop for more. And yes that was me screaming for ‘We write things down’. Thank you for playing it! And that was it, well almost…we finished our shorts, well £2 was too tempting and started home. The streets were deserted although we did see two members of SkyBurnsRed walking by the Town Hall. ‘SKYBURNSRED’ I shouted excitedly, they waved back in the distance. Swindon has so much talent.

Wondering home I look up at the sky and see a shooting star. My wish…well let’s just say it has something to do with music and next years shuffle…

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!

It would seem that the booking of bands is a very tricky business, the slippery little devils. Often getting a confirmed and stable line up for an evening of music can be like trying to stuff a string bag full of freshly oiled eels. Still, if it was that easy, I guess everyone would be at it. Tonight’s show at The Victoria is a classic example of this. Having succumbed to more chopping and changing that a choppy changey thing and bearing little resemblance to the advertised gig, Songs of Praise still offers you some cracking, if fairly unexpected bands. The one constant in the whole maelstrom of changes is headline act The Racket. Delivering a riot of attitude and swagger, gutter anthems and punked out indie cacophony, it’s easy to see why they are becoming regarded as the musical rough diamonds of the local scene.

Support comes from slick Bristolian alt-rockers Mind Museum and not the Rhubarbs as originally billed and jumping into the opening slot at the eleventh hour are Quantum rock, jazz junkified, music warping, Super Squarecloud. Turned out all right in the end then.

At the Beehive it’s the welcome return of The Roving Crows.  They may look like just another folk band but in reality they are a much more interesting prospect, taking a Celtic folk musical core and flavouring it with everything from blues to jazz and ska to kleizmer and delivering it with infectiousness, energy and blinding virtuosity.

Friday has a very eclectic range of musical offerings. In fact if you look up eclectic in the dictionary you will see a photograph of this very paragraph. (No, I don’t know how they did it either!) Anyway, over at Riffs Bar those lovable buffoons nudy bronque, Nudybronque, Nudy Bronque…whatever (no ones sure of the exact grammatical form, not even the band!) steer their seemingly constant touring schedule towards Riffs Bar. This band have been one of the real success stories of local music over the past eighteen months and it has been a joy to watch they grow from a tentative band of musicians with rubbish dancing into a slick and confident, punky-ska-jangle-pop band…with rubbish dancing. Support comes from The Debuts and relative newcomers, The Starkers, but again not The Rhubarbs as originally advertised.

A great treat for progressive rock fans awaits at The 12 Bar in the guise of Tinyfish, one of the bands responsible for updating the face of the genre, from the flaky, fantasy fixations of the past into something relevant and cutting edge, from Genesis to revolution, if you like. Ok, maybe not. The Furnace is playing host to Swindon Academy of Music and Sounds Charity Show. As well as students showcasing their not inconsiderable talent, the night will be rounded off by the brilliant reggae/funk/hip-hop ten-piece A&T.

Having reformed for a one off gig at last years Shuffle festival, Big Casino decided to stay together and will be playing at The Beehive with the promise of new material.

The big event for the weekend happens on Saturday and though it is a little way out of town, I thought it deserves a mention. After the success of the recent Avebury Rocks, the Love Hope Strength Foundation has added another date to help raise money for local charities. The daytime itinerary includes walks around the area and refreshments and the evening boasts a show featuring an acoustic set by punk-folk legends, The Levellers (pictured) , one time Alarm front man Mike Peters, local lad Nick Harper and more besides. A stunning line up – if only there was a venue in Swindon capable of securing acts of this calibre!

Meanwhile, high-energy folk garnered from Celtic and American traditions will be on the menu at The Running Horse courtesy of Grubby Jack and the hardest working local punk-pop outfit, Disclosure can be found at The Royal Oak. Cinematic vibes, dance grooves and soulful jazz-folk can all be found at The Victoria with Matilda, Atari Pilot and Old Colours.

It’s not often a genuine living legend hits town, but on Tuesday, Louisiana blues king, Lazy Lester will be playing at Riffs with support from Good Things Happen in Bad Towns. And finally Wednesday sees Diversion, The Screaming Gypsies and Mike Bezzer play Wacky Wednesday at The Victoria.