Tag Archive: willowen


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.

This week might seem like a lull in the tsunami of musical delights that has engulfed the town of late, but believe me it is just a chance to get your breath back (and save up some more drinking money) before the summer really kicks in with a vengeance. But that’s not to say that amongst this week’s small but perfectly formed list of recommendations there aren’t a few real gems.

Such as at The Beehive tonight were the combined efforts of John Lewis and Jah-man Aggrey, better known as Two Man Ting, weave a magic tapestry of acoustic afro-pop and reggae rhythms which often includes a cover of Willi Williams classic Armagideon Time (punk fans with long memories or their parents record collections will recall this being the B-side to The Clash’s London Calling.)

More roots music farther up the hill with Roots Night at The Victoria with Jim from Hip Route heading the bill, which also contains the acoustic, harmony-fuelled, surf vibe and folk twist of Bournemouth trio Willowen.

The rock option to ease you into the weekend comes at STFC’s The Legends Lounge with an appearance from Limehouse Lizzy. I normally don’t big up the tribute acts but as this is one of the finest re-visits to the classic days of one of my all-time favourite bands – Thin Lizzy, it had to be done.

On Friday in support of their recent album release, The Blood Choir will be playing in Rise Records. Part Portishead atmospherics, part The National’s slow burn grooves and many parts literary references and poetic explorations, this is a great band. And if you like that then you might want to head up to The Victoria that evening for some more truly original bands. I managed to see the headline, Will and The People (pictured), when they were just getting going and they were great then, all reggae vibes youthful exuberance and brilliant moments of vocal harmonics that are shot through with the spirit of Teenage Fanclub or even The Beach Boys. Imagine how good they will be three years on from that.

Support is from Old Colours, cinematic, fragile, windswept and brilliant. In fact, find them online now, play the song Centre Line and try telling me it’s not only the most wonderfully fractured and beautifully layered soundscape you have heard in a long time…unless you actually have no soul.

Having dabbled with everything from space–rock to old-fashioned bogie blues, not to mentioned being touched by the hand of Hawkwind; it’s difficult to know what The Michael Burro Band will have on the menu. The only way to find out is to head along to The Beehive.

Saturday sees something for the young and the …err, not so young down on the corner of commercial road. Downstairs at The Furnace, Teenage Kicks will be offering up the best of the younger element. Rock and metal played out in the form of Wreckoning, Without Consequence, Brink of Reason and making their Swindon debut, The Faint and The Fallen. Meanwhile upstairs in The Rolleston it’s quiffs set to stun and time to dust off the brothel-creepers as psychobilly legends, The Corsairs hit town.

Something a bit more cultured takes place at the M.E.C.A. in the form of a two-course meal and entertainment by The Three Degrees, a group as big as they ever were despite having not boasted an original member since 1976.

One man who has really explored the roots of blues music is Ramon Goose. Having grown up on pre-war Delta Blues in 2010 he turned his attention to it’s West African origins spending time playing with musicians in Dakar and Senegal. The results of that trip and the album that captured its essence can be heard in The Beehive Sunday afternoon.

That evening back at The Rolleston, punk-popsters Disclosure will be mixing up the covers and original tunes in their own brilliant fashion and you never know if you talk to them nicely you might even bag a job as their new bassist.

Finally, Tuesday night Jazz at Baker Street will feature The Kevin Figes Quartet and guitar improviser extraordinaire, Mike Outram.