Tag Archive: strength in blunders


10349094_566351956803162_3626054594936056313_nAnd so the “Kanye at Glastonbury” debate trundles on with an army of armchair Foo Fighters fans getting outraged on our behalf and trying to find ever more convoluted reasons to justify the fact that they simply don’t like his music. So? Maybe they are forgetting what a festival, especially one the size of Glastonbury (no Glasto…never Glasto!) is all about. Take a road trip to the heart of the West Country, be part of a temporary city of music fans, meet some interesting people, have a drink, get a bit …err…merry (that’s code by the way but this is a family paper,) take in some Cuban Jazz, a 1940’s Swing Band or a Canadian comedian (aren’t they all these days?) head out to the fringe events and learn to juggle. The options are endless. With literally 1000’s of acts to choose from why worry about one act, on one day, on one stage! That said, I stopped going when people in designer wellies from Kent began putting picket fences around their camping area to demarcate their own suburban plot from their neighbours.

 

And our own music week kicks off in fairly eclectic style as well. Level 3 has a wonderful slice of alt-rock spearheaded by Maidenheads Hindsights, a melodic, riff driven, energetic young band and the more abrasive growl of Hereford’s Richa. Slightly at odds with the headline sound, the more wistful indie-folk of Bad News (no, not that one…a different one) play the middle slot and local bands Dreamcatcher and Sahara Heights add an element of moody indie and shimmering shoegaze to the night.

 

At The Victoria Talk In Code will be throwing stadium tunes, euphoric vibes, accessible dance-rock and a spade load of pop sensibility into the mix to deliver their trade mark cross genre fusions. They are joined by the similarly anthemic Echotape and the pop rock of The Fuse.

Meanwhile at The Beehive, The Sitting Tenants offer up English garage band psychedelia, power-pop and modish rock.

 

On Friday, again Level 3 provides the big draw of the night. The Green Gig is a fundraiser on behalf of the Swindon Green Party, but politics aside it’s a fantastic line up. The Headliners, Kid Calico and the Astral Ponies are a supergroup with ex-members from Belarus, Good Things Happen in Bad Towns and Sunday Dogs, to name a few and a neat line in Americana, music hall and raggle-taggle folk. Joining them, conjuring reflective dreamscapes and indie, pastoral sweetness is Colour the Atlas (pictured). Ian Doeser and Neil Mercer get the night underway.

 

After that original music gets a bit harder to find, though fans of classic rock and metal covers will find a lot that they like from either Kok Rok at The Rolleston and Shepherds Pie at The Victoria. All styles, eras and genres can be found at The Liden Arms courtesy of Penfold.

 

Similarly, Saturday continues to cater for the denim-jacketed brigade with more classic rock covers from Broken Image at The Swiss Chalet. If you are fans of rock and rolls most successful survivors, then The Victoria is the place to be for The Rollin’ Clones.

 

Barrelhouse will be playing vintage blues with a hard edge that takes in Chicago’s heritage and the sound of the early English blues-rock movement at The Rolleston and Riffs Bar is the place to be for something with more of a bucolic vibe to it. Rob Richings deals in vocal harmony driven folk that uses indie and pop borrowings to keep it fresh and contemporary. Joining him is Ethemia, a duo renowned for the timeless quality and sensitivity of their songs and the inspirational Leon Daye. Getting the night underway The Southern Harmony, a band featuring three ex-members of Bateleurs, will be playing their debut show.

 

Jim Reynolds takes the afternoon slot at The Beehive on Sunday, filling the room with music that taps into everything from blues to ragtime, music hall to folk.

 

If something a bit more energetic is your sort of thing then The Victoria that evening is the place to be. Stillbust give a new twist to the hardcore genre and Foxpunch blend gritty punk, ska and a thrashier edge into what they adequately describe as speed grunge. Opening that show are Strength In Blunders.

 

And finally, Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey you can catch the wonderfully upbeat and infectiously soulful acoustica of The Real Raj.

 

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10568792_671452159600192_7578462626234394886_nIn an effort to keep this column hip and groovy I have adopted a new tactic. I could have grown a beard that makes me look like an American Backwoodsman, bought some plaid shirts and started drinking espresso out of a jam jar but that wouldn’t make much difference in the medium of print. Instead I thought I would get on board with the parlance of a Buzzfeed type article to really show that I’m down with the kids. (Do people still say that?) So….

 

This music journalist sat down to write a gig guide and what happened next will blow your mind. No? How about…Here’s 11 gigs that only real music fans will attend. Or, When I saw what this guy had written I cried. Nah, it’s not really me, is it? What about, get off your sofa, turn that TV off and go and support some real live music before I send a cultural hit squad round to sort you out! That’s more my style.

 

And for all of you concerned that the rotation of the same few bands around town is getting a bit predictable, Riffs Bar have a real treat for you tonight. All the way from San Diego, Black Market III mix soulful blues with red hot Americana, Clash style street punk with old school rock ‘n’ roll and are touted as a real “one to watch” band on the international circuit. Support comes from the doom-rock and art-punk experimentation of Sea Mammal and the soaring, grunge-scapes of D.I.R.T.E.

 

 

More hard, electric blues can be found at The Victoria in the shape of John Fairhurst whose band freely mix music traditions from the Mississippi shoreline to The Ganges Delta with bottle neck blues and psychedelia sitting cheek by jowl with Indian Raga and exotic eastern flavours. Think Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits jamming in a Kolkata teashop. Also on the bill are Cook and The Case and personally it has been amazing to watch them evolve through solo singer-songwriter and chilled indie folk genres into a band of unbelievable dynamic shifts and extremes of light and shade. Their music is both reckless and refined but always beautiful. At The Beehive you can catch the Afro-pop and roots sounds of Two Man Ting.

 

By Friday original music gets harder to track down but you can catch Tin Spirits at The Victoria who channel the sound of 70’s progressive rock with their current writing but often treat the audience to some of guitarist Dave Gregory’s XTC back-catalogue. Support comes from Steve Grimmett’s fundraising, classic rock side project Sound Bites.

 

Tributes can be found aplenty going into the weekend, Beatles fans should head for The Rolleston whilst next-door in Level 3 Jilted Generation return to evoke the glory days of The Prodigy. On Saturday you can catch the music of The Stranglers at The Victoria and Iron Maiden at The Rolleston whilst out at Riffs Bar Hot Flex play a range of classic rock covers with support from rock parody outfit Vinyl Matt.

 

A nice slice of punk history rolls into Level 3 on Saturday as ex-Adverts front man TV Smith (pictured) joins the bill for this years Mick Love Memorial Gig. Since the demise of The Adverts, Smith has carved out a highly respected solo career as well as touring with Amen and Die Toten Hosen, anyone who has heard of either of those bands needs to catch him live. The night opens with the Nu-wave, Bowery street punk from Strength in Blunders and goes out with a bang from Charred Hearts, over thirty years in and still fighting the punk wars on their own terms.

 

Sunday has some great acoustic offerings. The Lazy Sunday Afternoon at The Arts Centre Café features Light Falls Forward a band whose EP Sleeptalkin’ I can honestly say is one of the most gorgeous new musical offerings I have heard in a while. They manage to capture a very emotive vocal sound and layer it over a cinematic soundscape that combines a lush ambience with enough drive to keep it in the realms of reflective and dreamlike rather than melancholy. The equally elegant Faye Rogers and your hosts Mr Love and Justice are also to be found there.

10462732_578185338961043_2884624458629214826_nMaybe this is the calm before the storm; I guess a week sandwiched between two great local music festivals, the recent Stratton Stroll and the imminent Swindon Shuffle is going to be a bit light on gigs. So it’s all about quality and not quantity and therefore perfect timing to have one of the most interesting bands of the festival circuit roll into town, the wonderfully named Formidable Vegetable Sound System (pictured). Hailing from Melbourne, Australia and featuring the familiar face of frequent musical visitor Mal Webb, this band combine the vintage sounds of the speakeasy, brazen brass and wonky ukulele sounds with the principles of permaculture, into what they describe as ecological electro swing. A very niche market yes, but you have to admire a band who put out a whole album on the subject of sustainability but which doesn’t require you to buy a djembe, tie die a shirt and knit your own yogurt. Catch this amazing band at The Beehive tonight.

 

Those looking for a more rock and roll experience will find what they need at The Victoria with The Brompton Mix. Mentored and managed by Rick Buckler from The Jam, which probably tells you a lot about their sound and style, this Woking four-piece mix up all the best bits of punk and rhythm ‘n’ blues; from The Clash to The Stones to Elvis and everything in between. Local support comes in the shape of Burnthru.

 

Fans of acoustic music have a treat waiting for them at The Regent with their regular Acoustic Circus which this month features Sumita Mujumdar and her magical blend of poetic dream pop, the wit and wisdom of Nick Felix and Billyjon and the Brosephs.

 

Elsewhere you can catch a tribute to the mercurial music of David Bowie at The Victoria and The Rolleston has rhythm ‘n’ blues standards with Shades of Blue.

 

If you are into your punk, then you have a choice of gigs to be at on Saturday as two sets of great bands are to be found in town. Healthy competition? Bad planning? I don’t know but either way there is more punk on offer than you can shake an eighteen-hole Doc Martin Boot at.

 

At The Victoria first generation punks 999 deliver their high energy, highly infections, no nonsense, snarling melodies and remind us why they have lasted so long. Support comes courtesy of a rare reunion from psychedelic, deranged, swamp-fuzz outfit, The Chaos Brothers. Just when you thought that it was safe to go out….

 

The other punk serving suggestion can be found at The Rolleston in the form of 2-piece legends, 2 Sick Monkeys; incendiary punk with a between song banter to match, circuit stalwarts 50 Shades of Punk and the sharp-edged, Strength In Blunders who always sound as if they should be hanging around at CBGB’s in about 1978…New York punk the day before it evolves into New Wave.

 

Reggae and ska fans also have a couple of options. Vintage ska and rocksteady can be had live at The New Inn as The Erin Bardwell Collective play their Caribbean Day festivities and The Shocks of Mighty DJ’s will be spinning some great music at The Beehive. If you prefer a musical nostalgia trip then Going Underground will be playing post-punk, ska and mod at The Swiss Chalet.

 

The big event for Sunday is a fundraiser at The Victoria. Kit Off For Cancer is an all day fundraiser with events and activities, a raffle and music from Banjovi, the areas number one banjo ensemble.

 

At The Bandstand in The Town Gardens, Lazy Sunday Afternoon features Ells Ponting and her new musical vehicle, The Southern Wild the amazing young talent that is Rory Evans, plus your regular hosts Mr Love and Justice. Go and work on your tan and listen to some great music.

 

Talking of great music, if you haven’t yet managed to take in a show by Jim Reynolds then do so at The Beehive also on Sunday, a wonderful blend of

vintage blues, ragtime, music hall and folk, not to mention an amazing musician.

 

Finally, if classic blues-rock is your thing than spend the last evening of the weekend at The White Hart in Wroughton with The Lewis Creaven Band providing incendiary blues and righteous, not to mention riotous rock.

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January is always a difficult time to try to get people along to gigs, well, at least the sort of gigs that I go to. But it got me thinking about just how important a crowd is to a musical event. Sure, everyone wants their band to be able to pull in the numbers but really, as with many thing…size doesn’t actually matter. You can still make history without an audience. How many people saw The Sex Pistols at The Lesser Free Trade Hall, the gig that took punk beyond its London art college roots….about 40? (Although I have personally met about 120 people who claim to have been there.) There were only 12 people at the last supper, well, thirteen to begin with. Half that number witnessed the Wright Brothers first flight and Archimedes was alone in his bath when he made his greatest discovery. No, not soap on a rope!

 

It’s not the size of the crowd, it’s the power of the event, so do something brave, original, extravagant, boundary pushing and truly entertaining. Something that people will take notice of. Write your own footnote in the music history book. Do something new; don’t just copy what has gone before. Who wants to live in a world that runs on plagiarism?  You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…errr, hang on!

 

Anyway, a quiet week but here it is.

 

Songs of Praise at The Victoria tonight has a bit of a vicious edge. Strength In Blunders headline, a three piece sitting on the cusp of punk traditions and new wave experimentation, more Husker Du or Magazine than first wave Brit punk. Support comes from Honesty a band evolved from Frome’s riotous assembly, Haters…remember them? And opening up the night are local alt-rockers Tides of Change.

 

A couple of wonderfully original shows are on offer on Friday. Firstly at The Victoria, The Shudders grace the stage with their musically eloquent combinations of alt-country, lo-fi rock and wonderfully melodic and infectious tunes.  Support is from El Born (pictured), an evocative, heart on sleeve, London, alt-rock band just heading out on a UK tour and offering a Café Nero style loyalty card leading to free gig entry. Interesting! Opening the night is looping, electric guitarist Johnny Lucas who you may remember from his summer anthem Lilo, a song that would even have the most stalwart Goths taking off their nu-rocks and playing Frisbee on the beech.

 

Over at Riffs Bar Benji Clements will be playing his trademark mashed up and funked out standards and originals, an artist who does a neat line in sassy soul and bluesy acoustic grooves. Also on the bill is Ella Martini a young singer with an equally soulful pop vibe.

 

The next part of the column is what I call the “that was then…and this is then as well” section, as everything on offer is a cover of or a tribute to something that you are probably already familiar with. So in brief, also on Friday at The Rolleston regular fixtures The Great Nothing offer a wide range of iconic rock tracks from across the years, followed by Dodging The Bullet the next day who play classic rock covers.

 

At The New Inn on Saturday you can catch punky-ska classics from Operation 77 and at The Victoria there are tributes to Hendrix and Cream.

 

And that is it apart from a solo appearance from David Marx (minus his regular AK-Poets) at The Roaring Donkey on Wednesday. A wealth of songs that you might not get to hear from the full band show, interspersed with stories and humour. Not a bad way to round the music week off if you ask me, and in a way by reading this article you did ask me. So there!

eFestivalsI’m not sure if it is just a Swindon thing but it does seem that every other gig you see advertised these days features some earnest young acoustic guitar wielding wannabe aiming to be the next Frank Turner or Laura Marling. It may seem like an easy way to get into music; low overheads, no egotistical band mates to fight with, the ability to tour the country in a broken down Fiat Uno etc but the problem with so much of it going on is that for every soon to be discovered darling of 6music or Wychwood Festival there are a dozen chancers waxing not so lyrical about their recent break ups over a rudimentary knowledge of the key of A minor and clumsily rhyming June with moon.

Thankfully if you want a master class in how it should be done, all you have to do is head to The Victoria tonight when the prodigal son returns, sort of. Songs of Praise is being headlined by Gaz Brookfield, aided and abetted by his fiddle-wielding associate, Ben Wain. Fresh from another jaunt supporting The Levellers and about to share a stage with those emotionally battered, wind swept rock gods, New Model Army (yes, I’m a bit of a fan), I suggest you catch him whilst he is still cheaper than a pint of beer, because it won’t last much longer. Also on the bill is Joshua Caole, who brings a chilled Elliot Smith meets Gram Parsons feeling to the proceedings and kicking things off is the soulful, funky vibe that is Benji Clements.

Two of the musical genres that people have most problems identifying are “world” and “roots” music. If you go to The Beehive tonight you will see both genres colliding head on. Mambo Jambo are an amazing duo that mix Latin styles with bluegrass, jazz and Eastern European sounds – raw enough to sound authentic, virtuosic enough to be mesmerising.

Punks will find much to like over at Riffs Bar on Friday as legendary, urban rail punks Eastfield make a rare visit to this neck of the woods. Three chords, catchy tunes, an often tongue in cheek story and lots of smiles. What’s not to like? The Useless Eaters will be mixing up covers and originals in a tribute to the first wave punk era and opening the night with unforgettable hooks and despondent satire is Strength in Blunders, featuring a guest bassist in the form of Pete Monkey. Nice.

The other big name in town that night is former InMe front man Dave McPherson (pictured) who can be found at The Castle. At a turn uplifting, mournful, calm and soothing, whilst often being a world away from his previous musical vehicle, here is an artist that delivers something very special indeed.

At The Beehive a collection of familiar faces from the local scene, who go by the name The Sitting Tenants will be blending power-pop, new wave, psych and soul into wonderfully original creations, whilst at The Rolleston, The Dylegans take skiffle, country and old school rock and roll as their chosen musical weapons.

Saturday is all about roots music at The Victoria, as Hiproute will be laying out their trademark funked up, acoustic blues stall. Support comes from the quirky, harmony fuelled, folky, surf vibe of Willowen, who I can only describe as being what Noah and The Whale sound like in their own heads, though fall way short of in reality. Delta-esque rockers The Blue Trees and Alex Roberts also add value to the deal. More blues can be found in the guise of Built For Comfort at The Rolleston and it’s slick contemporary covers with Toxic over at The Swiss Chalet.

If you have a craving for electronic music, DJ Dust hosts Digital at Piri Piri, a night of music and videos of that ilk featuring everything from the likes of New order to Chase and Status.

If you want your final fix of music before the working week pulls you back then there are a number of options on Sunday. The afternoon session at The Beehive is taken by The Racket main man Plummie and his new solo venture,  support for that one is The Black Sheep Apprentice himself, Skiddy and the original Sweet Plum, Cat Jamieson. Old school rock’n’roll and rockabilly riffs are to be found at 20 At The Kings with Josie and The Outlaw and if gargantuan slabs of rock with grunge overtones are more your cup of tea (or should I say Seattle Coffee) then the place to be is The New Inn for Vanarin.

Rounding up on Wednesday at The Running Horse you will find bluesman Ian O’Regan and Rhys Bury providing the entertainment.

Library - 48By Joy Bells

‘The finest fury is the most controlled’ said controversial journalist Christopher Hitchens. He could have been talking about Strength in Blunders whose fire in the belly, smack in the face spontaneity is amplified by discipline, dedication and talent. Paradox rocks!

 

Here we have Jaseph York, vocals/guitar and Sam Fuller on drums. Between them they skin the fat pig of rock, crisscrossing the epidermis of their swine-punkery with melodic guitar and skewering the raw meat of their music with warp drive capability. The creative petri dish from which this EP was cultured produces expressive strands of musical bacteria which like all good germs spread quickly. Expect to be infected sometime soon.

 

 ‘The Hell I am’ filled with fluid, grammatically correct guitar throws mortars of sound like devices of battle, showering the air with sparks  and arrows that burn into the mind. If this was mathematics Jay’s guitar would show all the working out! Sam’s drumming drives through this lyrically ballsy number like an F1 Ferrari on Red Bull negotiates the corners of chorus and energetically heads for the finish line. ‘Won’t stop until you’re in the ground’ could be more prediction than comment.

 

Ditto the second song ‘No sequel for you’. A little bit Buzz Cock pop riven with a firmed up, more hard core ‘Atari’s’ sound. It’s a deftly dealt hand of melody that goes from a light rain to a cloud spearing hailstone frenzy, stabbing the ground and leaving a calling card of scattered ice; these songs stay with you after you’ve pulled the plug. Jay’s vocals haven’t lost the Jake Burns edge I detected last time I saw SIB play and given there’s only two of them they’re following the great Swindon tradition of Two Sick Monkeys!  (Though I hear that Blunders are now looking for a bassist if you’re interested)

 

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