No Surprises Living in Devizes: Ode to Tea and Showbiz

I like tea, full stop. You pamper to taste; a “milky builder,” others like it as black as the ace of spades, or some like the teabag to stew for exactly one minute, twenty-seven seconds. No, don’t dare add milk before taking out the teabag or they’ll spoon your eyeballs and wear them as earrings; that kinda subtle specification.


Me, I’m impartial; I’ll drink any tea made any way. As long as it is tea and not warmed mud from the farmer’s welly, I’ll drink it; desperate enough I’d even consider the mud.


I’m eclectic in my taste for most things, treat food, books and music just like tea; provided it’s of quality. I don’t worship any particular genre, pigeonhole or dedicate my life to one style. Some do, s’alright, that’s fine, but it’s not my cup of tea, so to speak.


City life can be diverse; you wander a street to find a-la-carte Benin vegan cuisine next door to a Tasmanian tarantula burger stall, you could host a night of minimalist Cambodian folk synth-pop techno and still fill the Albert Hall. But here in deepest darkest Wiltshire, often you have to make do with the conventional; a Chinese takeaway considered exotic.


When someone dedicates themselves to bringing us diversity it deserves our full support, but it comes at a cost; the rural event promoter’s dilemma. Example; country & western music, not really my cup of tea, but what exactly is my cup of tea anyhoo?


Give it, I’ll drink it, ta; where we left off last week, I’m at the doors to the Conservative Club on a Sunday evening, to check out Devizes diversity in action. Hand it to them, the Cons Club offers variety, last Saturday it was skanking to the sounds of Swindon’s two-tone band The Killertones, courtesy of the Scooter Club, and this Saturday it turned all Blues as the Long Street Blues Club bought us Carvin Jones.


Alternative Sundays are the turn of the Devizes CMC; it’s going country & western all the way. There are elements to this genre I do love; the creative plots of songs, and twangy banjos and the whole Americana atmosphere; however there’s a clear label of “Achy Breaky Hearts” and line dancing which, well, puts me off to be Frank.


Sheriff of the CMC, Dean Czerwionka is keen to highlight his efforts to break this stereotype, and brings diversity in the genre to local venues. His Dead Kool Country Promotions operate not only in Devizes, but at the Owl in Bromham and Trowbridge too. He explained to me that while some bands he books are traditional Country styles, he often books ones which are more experimental and assorted in styles.


So, generally American theme occurs in the Club, Dean tipped his Stetson at the bar where we chat, but there’s also something quintessentially English about the event; I order a cider rather than a bourbon, there’s no hog-roast but ham and cheese rolls sold on the bar, and while within the crowd are a sprinkling of those dressed the part, there’s others dressed more conventionally, it’s informal.


There are no cowboys having a farting contest around a campfire, but a fun and friendly atmosphere, which is endearing. Even the performer Trey Jackson, who was booked last minute due to a cancelation, speaks with a Geordie accent.


I felt comfortable and not out of place, a surprise in Devizes; I reckoned I needed to cast my labels aside and enjoy the music and atmosphere, for it was homely and warming; I like it here, you would too.


Dean explained to me that specialist magazines cater towards the American scene and the big names when they visit, rather than focus on home-grown talent. Here then is the dilemma, can he wipe the stereotype and bring people through the door when it’s Sunday in a narrow-minded market town like Devizes?


No easy task, Dean tells me many local C&W clubs have closed, there’s no club like this left in Swindon, and punters willingly travel to visit his Dead Kool nights; this doesn’t surprise me, they’re clearly worth the effort.


We break off our conversation for a moment, while Dean sells raffle tickets. The marvellous thing about these nights is each one is dedicated to raising funds for local schools.


Everything Dean tells me is spritely, an enthusiasm dedicated to his passion for Country and bringing it to the good folk of Wiltshire. On 12th November, for example, when Peter Donegan, son of the ‘Godfather of British Rock n Roll’ and ‘King of Skiffle’, the late Lonnie Donegan, visits the club.


So we chat about Johnny Cash and Dolly, of the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou, and my love for the music of Woody Guthrie. We talk about bluegrass and the various styles of country music, which Dean celebrates and books artists who cross those borders and fuse said styles. So there really isn’t anything to dislike about these nights, no matter how much you care for the music.


There’s a good mixture of age here, yeah there’s older folk but there’s girls in short skirts (it’s the little things I notice) and while we chat, people get up and start dancing the night away. Trey has an authentic voice and the whole scene is entertaining. It’s this kind of diversity which keeps Devizes from being so narrow-minded.


Similarly Saturday night when I shipped out to Market Lavington to see Los Palmas 6, the Madness tribute band, these events are endearingly good but it’s often difficult for promoters like Dean and the delightful character of Ted Osborn of the Market Lavington Music & Comedy Club to continue, bands don’t come cheap, bums need to be on seats and in a village or small town it’s no easy task, unless we support them.


So I highly recommend these nights to you, without compromise and pray these decent guys will persevere so we’re never in doubt that #nothingeverhappensindevizes and the surrounding villages, is ironic banter.


So, yeah, Saturday at the Market Lavington Music and Comedy Club was a top, top night, but I’m running out of space here, I’ll write a separate review of the night, and of Ted’s hard work, equal to Dean’s, in hope you’ll take heed and support these guys in their quest.


For Dead Kool Country Promotion’s future dates, check Devizine’s event calendar, or visit their website here, and like their Facebook page here.

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