Things I Know to Be True at The Wharf Theatre

 

Ever since Little Shop of Horrors, the things I know to be true about The Wharf Theatre are that, it’s a lovely, unpretentious theatre Devizes should be proud of, and it’s dedicated to bringing quality shows to our town.

Written by Andrew Bovell and directed by Freddie Underwood then, The Things I Know to Be True is their latest offering. It runs from Monday 22nd to Saturday 27 April, curtain at 7:30pm, and despite being a relatively new piece, its first UK production in 2016, it is already on the GCSE syllabus.

Claiming to be an inspirational compliment of text and movement, Things I Know to be True is as beautifully touching as it is funny, a portrait of marriage and family as seen through the eyes of four siblings, Pip, Mark, Ben and Rosie, all of whom have their own struggles and secrets.

Bob and Fran Price have worked hard to give their family all of the opportunities they never had and now, with their children ready to fly the nest, it should be their time, a time to sit back and smell the roses. But a change of season brings some shattering truths as reality is tested and lives are redefined.

Tickets (£12/under 16s £10) can be purchased from Ticketsource at:
https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/the-wharf-theatre/events or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366.

To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a new Spring/Summer brochure which is now available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

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April Warming with Asa Murphy as Buddy Holly

The Corn Exchange, Devizes most prestigious and largest venue, sets to rock n roll on April 6th when Asa Murphy and gang brings his hit Liverpool show, Buddy Holly Lives to town.

Posting a rehearsal video on Facebook this week proved a plan, it sounds marvellous. Asa also made an appearance at Devizes Books last week. Yet, the weekend may not have been the most carefully selected, the popular Long Street Blues Club hosts the Billy Walton Band, while The Melksham Rock n Roll Club are bound to pull a crowd for the Hurricanes, all on the same night. With rock n rollers spoiled it’s just to express why Buddy Holly Lives is my personal choice for the most unmissable event this April, hopeful to reach to an audience beyond rock n roll aficionados, and I base it upon the simple fact Buddy’s music was such it transcends its genre.

Timeless performers of Buddy’s level of talent and prolific drive come around one in a generation, if we’re lucky. Above all of their peers, Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the experimentalists, the pioneers who avoided rock n roll crashing out of fashion with their diverseness in musical formats. The unpretentious, simplest formulas are the backbone of every pop classic, take the ease which Buddy mastered this notion in a tune like “It’s Raining in my Heart,” or “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.”

 
But if we are to strip down a song for analysis, take “Everyday” as a prime example of what I’m attempting to get at. An out of studio rehearsal of the song, where without drums Jerry Allison tapped the rhythm with his hands on his thighs, it is Buddy’s immediate eureka moment to keep it as that, rather than use drums which represents the genius in simplicity which the Beatles borrowed, the same cognitive creative virtuoso producers like Quincy Jones, Lee Scratch Perry, Giorgio Moroder, or William Orbit would adopt to make a song into a hit, in their respective eras.

 

Do you see where I’m coming from? It is why I’d recommend any contemporary aspiring musician to take heed of Buddy’s catalogue, and also why I’d advise, if there’s one show this month you need to be at locally, it’s this homage to the utmost pioneer of pop, aside being a fan rock n roll, or not.

 
This is without the added detail it’s a celebration of the life of Bruce Hopkins, who through his music raised substantial amounts for Cancer Research, a donation will be made to charity, and Asa’s professionalism and dynamic charisma. Bought to together with Buddy’s music, with narrative, I’m not only looking forward to this, but dragging my mum halfway across the country to come see it! As a Buddy fan since early teenage, she will be a far harsher critic than me, Asa!

 
Tickets are £20, available now from Devizes Books.

 

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Modern School Class Photo; a Whinge

Remember school class photograph day? When your mum spruced your up uniform, combed every strand of hair in place until fixed like Action Man’s, prior to leaving the house, for you only to roll around the school field’s mud pit half an hour later? You’d parade into the hall with your mates, shirt tucked in but hanging out one side, tie either too stumpy or too thin and hanging past your muddy knees, one sock up, one sock down and the mop of Bob Geldof on a bad hair day atop your acne-spattered chops.

You were separated off according to size by a scrawny buffoon with a camera, insanely giggling through bucked teeth; looked like he just escaped the freak show. Made to stand next to the ropey frump whose mum dressed her like a pantomime flower girl, despite resembling the frog more; you remember that over-anxious miss who’d gnawed her fingernails to the bone, who you couldn’t stand to be within ten desk spaces of unless planning to drop a spider under her collar? Now you had to stand next to her, as if in decades to come mates will jeer at you and sneer, “and was that your girlfriend, ha-ha?”

The result would be an image of your, and twenty-six other repelled expressions, but least it was real.

Tall kids slouched randomly on PE benches, save the fatso who regimentally thrust out his chest until buttons popped, struggling to balance on the plinth. Nerds and taller girls took the middle row, beamed button smiles and prettily creased their freckled noses. Airborne dust, churned up from the fifth year’s PE lesson, gave the photo a haze, to mirror your vauge mien.

One kid was picking his nose, another his backside, and all stood awaiting the snap. Except for paranoid short persons, whose darkest fears were now confirmed; they were small, summoned to sit cross-legged in the front row. Though it may’ve been their epiphany of why they were subject to harassment, least it was actual.

For all its faults, the class photo was a classic, barely changed since the Victorian era, save fashion and décor of the school hall. You could age a person from their school photo, just by the feel of it, the ambiance, and the style of the teacher’s attire and kid’s hair. It was natural, loose and tangible, if not a circus of torment.

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Yet today, the class photo is something altogether different, have you seen them? Gone is the school hall, replaced by a dull white background, where children appear to float a round like a Chagall painting. They pose them in small groups, then photoshop them together like they were Jordan’s cleavage. One group of guys appear to be modelled on an amateur boy band, others grasp random objects bearing no relevance; one straddles an inflatable banana, others slouch over huge azure teddy bears, or else drape from a metal stepladder, wondering why.

I imagine some company figured, brokenly, that it’d be more “fun,” and the rest followed like sheep, despite having no inkling as to the shape of fun if it punched them on the hooter wearing a t-shirt saying “I Am Fun.” A twisted sardonic establishment tenet construing art, poorly. Children are not models, unless they’re model children, this isn’t a glamour photoshoot, it’s a class photo, for crying out loud into a widescreen filter.

Female pupils, sorry students, instructed to pout and perch against posts like the working girls of Kings Cross, else pose like a kingfisher balancing on a branch. Props too; a giant ruler erected, or chess pieces scattered, books left open as if someone would read one. The teacher is three-quarterly rotated on a chair, showing a tad of leg, and a smile can be added over the top of their under-paid frustrated frown with an app later.

Now you may consider I’m taking this too far, no one cares, it’s just a photo. But I quiver at these atrocities, for it’s a prime example of how plastic and clichéd our society is today, how our striving for transformation generates a manufactured philosophy where everything has to look white, and fake. I can shudder at the memories captured in my school photo, the tatty work on the walls of the hall, the dreaded PE equipment chained to it in the background, else the individual appearance of each child, reflecting their characters.

What memories will our children conjure when they look at these mono-cultured, catalogue shoot- art pieces, like homogenous Bauhaus architecture, stiff, designed stances of phoney exploit? It’s so fake it’s cringeworthily, I don’t recognise my child in them, it’s absent of his character, so vague of authenticity; though I confess, it reflects modern life to a T.

 

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With A Little Help From My Friends

Tamsin Quin and Friends; Friday 22nd March at The Southgate, Devizes….

By Andy Fawthrop

 

Nothing quite warms the cockles of your heart as much as attending a local, home-town gig featuring home-grown talent, so Friday night up at the Southgate was a real treat.

Tamsin Quin has been going great guns lately, having recently supported the amazing global artist Beth Orton in Frome, and also one of this generation’s best female blues singers Kyla Brox at Long Street Blues Club. Not to mention the recent release of her new album “Gypsy Blood”.

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On Friday we were treated to a warm, intimate set in the friendly surroundings of The Southgate. Tamsin was relaxed, chatting freely to the audience, including her many friends. But there were friends up on stage too, performing in various solo slots and band combinations, in the shape of Pat Ward, Vince Bell, Jamie R Hawkins and Phil Cooper. The songs flowed, the beer flowed, and it was difficult not to feel the love in the room.

Another great gig listening to a young artist on top of her game.

Next gigs coming up @ The Southgate:

• Friday 29th March Jack Moore
• Saturday 30th March Beyond The Storm
• Friday 5th April Howlin’ Mat
• Saturday 6th April The Duskers
• Friday 12th April Broken Bones Matilda
• Saturday 13th April Fret ‘n’ Keyz

 

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Little Geneva take the Cellar Bar hostage for the Night

Little concern, Little Geneva fulfil expectations down the little Cellar Bar last night……

 

 

Awoke this morning and, on BBC Breakfast, witness middle-aged folk pulling themselves through an underground tunnel on a wheeled tea-tray, replicating the great escape on its anniversary. Unless you were there, or you’re Dr Who, you’ve no hope of comprehending the ambience of a smoky cavernous club at the eve of the early sixties British blues detonation any more than understanding the anxiety and fear to be levering through tunnel Harry to escape the prisoner of war camp.

 
Retrospective is big business, Hollywood ran out of ideas a decade ago, but replication is often forged and not without cliché. Yes, you could succumb to the paisley tribute act scene, or pay a king’s ransom for a blues legend in concert, but it’ll not capture the spirit of the era, or the artist in their prime. As generations roll genres gain acceptability, and the contemporary blues scene, though thriving, tends to centre around matured audiences, weary of intoxicating themselves and reluctant to shake a tail feather.

 
Yet if I squinted my eyes in the Cellar Bar last night, and allowed the music to flow through me, I’d be forgiven for pondering what it’d have been like to wander into a squalid nightclub in 1963 to hear The Animals, Kinks or Faces at their early stages, considering this is a close as I’m going to get.

 
I nod in appreciation that Little Geneva has simulated this, without cheesy or elderly representation. For this Bristol-based band with roots in Devizes aren’t here for pretence, this debut night is not passé, or deliberately treated with “tribute,” it is just a young band stripping back a sound to its raw roots, and thoroughly enjoying the attention it fashioned.

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It was the most crowded I’ve ever seen the Bear Hotel’s dungeon-bar, Sheer Music’s sell-out show breathes life into the promoter’s quest to retake its hometown, after successfully branching to larger towns over hill yonder. It’s like punk never happened down there, like The Who time-travelled and waltzed in, spontaneously agreeing to perform. From its off, the band chilled the expectancy in the atmosphere with a smooth vocal and percussion mallet drum solo, akin to Jim Morrison’s spellbinding moments, which hypnotised crowds of acid-tripping hippies.

 

 
Yet this had not occurred before, armed with just acoustic guitar, Jon Amor done his thing, and done his thing as proficient as to be expected by locals. The Devizes legend as support, soothing blues, acoustically covering songs from his latest album, Colour in the Sky, with residential witticisms like obtaining a 1am chicken burger from the Market Place. It is always an honour to witness Jon, as a New Jersey resident’s admiration for a Springsteen gig.

 

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This was raw, energetic blues-rock at its best, Little Geneva not covering known songs, least no classic immediately recognisable, just celebrating work done on their album, Eel Pie, in this explosive launch party; an awesome night, making the high bar prices at the Bear inconsequential, it’s a bucolic, rustic cavern of quality.

 

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If anything, I find myself reflecting on my father, for the sixties was his era, and common banter in our family that he was in an amateur band. Mocked by my mother claiming “they were rubbish anyway,” and my father’s shunning, suggesting, “everyone was in a band back then, it was just a trend,” it’s only now occurring to me if it really meant something more to him, hanging up his guitar to dedicate his time to being “Dad.”

 

 

Something I can only speculate, wishing I’d have had the opportunity to question him about his feeling towards it. Yet, it reflects the trend today, least I find locally, whereby twenty-somethings are taking to an instrument purely for the love, absent of my generation’s slouch into technology-driven repetitive beats. If there’s a growing trend for this, Little Geneva perhaps hold the belt now, and hold it under the influence of all which went before, but not in a contemptuous, plagiarising or cheesy method, but a renewed, lively manner.

 

 

So, if you missed this last night, I’d thoroughly recommend you track them down: April 14th for Record Store Day at Sound Knowledge, Marlborough, April 18th at club Thirty-8, also in Marlborough, and April 15th at St James Wine Vaults, Bath.

 

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Devizes Arts Festival’s FREE Fringe Events

A man of my word, ambiguity remains more in the “when.” Yes, I suggested last week we regroup “tomorrow” for a closer focus on the Devizes Arts Festival’s free fringe events; I can only apologise, it’s been nine days. Whatcha gonna do? It’s not until June anyway, relax!

Proudly managing the fringe events, Phillipa noted, to my surprise, “for some reason they don’t seem to attract that many people, compared with ticketed recent events.” Theorising a stigma, I commit to prove wrong could itself be wrong. Sunday being the prevalent day for these to spring up, perhaps the day of rest, of sofa slouching and dozing in the wake of Monday morning distracts. I really don’t know, all I do know is there’s some handsome events lined up here, and they’re all free; enough to motivate me from any tacky Hollywood rehash Sky care to throw at me.

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Guy Halls

Guy Halls

In fact, the only fringe event not on a Sunday is the first one, on Saturday 8th June at 1pm. An afternoon in Pizza Express apt for this self-taught but proficient guitarist, Guy Halls. Salisbury-based, but raised in Zimbabwe, Guy picked up a guitar aged six, now with thirty professional years under his belt, his repertoire fuses Latin-jazz styles rumba and bossa-nova with gypsy and nuevo flamenco.

You’ll need to reserve a table in advance with Pizza Express, assuming then a miniscule catch is you need to order lunch, twist my arm! I for one couldn’t sit in there, with its aroma of olive oil and basil without munching on a pizza, or two. Proof is always in a YouTube link, which I’ve running while I write this, perfectly setting an ambience; anyone got a glass of red wine and some churros?

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Now if this is all too traditional for you, you only need to head for the British Lion the following afternoon (1pm Sunday 9th June.) A choicest local for a pint on any Sunday without multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and beatboxer, She, Robot’s looping performance.

The Arts Festival site describe it as “Woman meets machine in a musical maelstrom that will make your head spin, your spirit lift and your feet move,” while Janice Long professed “very clever. A fine piece of loop pop.” Boss Looping UK Champion 2011, Suzy Condrad, a veteran underground performer, has self-released three albums, the latest EP, 7 Bells is produced by legendary Mike Bennett, who’s worked with The Fall, Toyah Wilcox and Ian Brown.

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The Hot Club

The Hot Club of Wiltshire

The event given me the trickiest task of researching is named The Hot Club on the Arts Festival site, which bought up all manner of web search results I’d rather not go into! It took to emailing one of this quartet, Lewis Dickenson, who explained “we play quite a lot together. Normally it’s under the name of Hot Club of Wiltshire.” One omission solved, I continue; They’re at the Three Crowns on Sunday 16th June, evoking the sound of 1930s Paris, and rooted in the style of Django Reinhardt.

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Spawned from a jam session at the Pound Arts in Corsham, Guitarists Alex Bishop and aforementioned Lewis, together with Steve Laming on clarinet and Ian Jackson on the double bass, offer us some foot-tapping gypsy jazz from the golden era of swing.

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Circu5

Drawing comparisons to Radiohead, Yes or XTC in its numerous glowing reviews, the eponymous debut album of prog-rock mavens Circu5 is a concept album of five years’ worth of dedicated sixties vocal harmonies and driving rock.

It’s the solo project of British multi-instrumentalist, Steve Tilling, guitarist and vocalist for TC&I (the new band of Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers from XTC.) Steve however, calls upon guitarist Matt Backer, bassist Mark Kilminster (ex-Tin Spirits) and drummer Greg Pringle (Roger Daltrey Band) for live performances, of which you can witness on Sunday 16th June, down the Bear’s Cellar Bar from 8pm.

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Josephine Corcoran – Open-Mic Poetry Session

So, that’s about it for the music-related fringe events, but for poets and writers, there’s more. A reading by prizewinning, Wiltshire-based poet Josephine Corcoran on Sunday 16th June, 5pm at The Vaults is followed by an invitation from Josephine to share a poem or two of your own at the open-mic session, if so inclined.

I love the interactive nature of poetry nights, I know some who’ll be there with bells on, sure you do too if you read much of Devizine, and if they’re in attendance you’ll be in for a great night, as far as poetry night go. Josephine herself has published two poetry collections, What Are You After? and The Misplaced House. Her work as a playwright has been performed on stage in London and broadcast on BBC R4. She is a Poetry Society Stanza Rep in Trowbridge and works as a writer in schools and community settings.

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Alison Knight – Creative Writing Workshop

The first Sunday of the Arts Festival, Sunday 9th June, though, writers of a younger age are invited to the Wiltshire Museum at 2pm where writer of contemporary fiction and time-travel adventures, Alison Knight, leads a workshop exploring the ‘who, what, when and where’ of story-telling.
Aimed at 14-21-year-olds, they’re encouraged to bring a notepad and pen – there will be some writing exercises from this teacher of creative and life-writing at Wiltshire College, who also works as a freelance editor and proof-reader (I need one of those in my life!)

Now, let’s not distract you from the essential ticketed events, as there’s some great nights of quality entertainment ahead, and note, becoming “a friend” of the Arts Festival for £15 annually will get you priority booking and discounts. But I think you’ll agree, the fringe events deserve your attention, and you know me by now; there’s nothing like a freebie! For more info, and to book see here.

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Over Boot Hill to the Southgate

With the distinctive odour of stodgy crusty nourishing the air, the Southgate Inn Devizes jam-packed once again, this time in anticipation of a plentiful tequila-guzzling gang, breakneck banjos, and feathery lunacy, under the banner of those Boot Hill All Stars.

 
If there’s a band in the area I’ve been meaning to check out more I’d favour you remind me of them.

 
Okay, so I’ve put these nutters on a pedestal prior to catching them play, but the perilous move paid off; they were everything I imagined they’d be, with added professional folly. A canal-type’s darlings, talk in the rain-drenched beer garden consisted of various motors, otherwise was the sort of crisp banter you’ll only receive from these waterway travellers.

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Truly the worst photos taken for Devizine; accept no subsitutue

In which case, The Boot Hills couldn’t have been more apt for the Southgate, its proprietors rightly proud of their canal culture; these guys know how to have fun by the boatload, and fun it was. One chick down unaffected the mob, but not before a duo self-titled “Dry White Bones,” astounded the tavern with a unique blend of fiery folk with guitar, bowler hat, doc Martins and claves.

 
Fast, furious but friendly, The Boot Hills squeezed into the tight space and dancers wasted no time to celebrate their inimitable sound of misfit folk-fused rockabilly, gypsy-ska and general nuttiness. Sporting banjo and quiff, Flounder, composed the group, for want of a more appropriate word, and Cerys titillated with either tambourine or fluffy stick in a sturdy corset and top hat.

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If their own compositions didn’t feverously fire the crowd enough with tales of female masturbation, a cover of Toot’s Monkey Man certainly did, but most poignant was the scorching dissolute interpretation of Dolly’s Jolene. Phew, I’m flabbergasted, it was a filthy fuelled show of dubious ethics and warped values, and with a support résumé as varied as The Damned, The Beat to The Wurzels, it’s easy to see these misfits actually do fit, and what is more, bring the party with them.

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What? They had zider….

Favourites on the festival circuit of Glastonbury, Camp Bestival, Endorse, and Boomtown, for the best part of ten years, but who’d count? They hold the Once Upon a Time in the West, a festival which adopts their insane ethos, and if last night was anything to go by, expect this to go off.

 
It’s the sixth year of this festival, with a reputation of one of the friendliest and most accessible festivals on the circuit, it offers variety as diverse as punk, dub and ska, with the likes of Urban Lions, and The Tribe, to Corky’s devious blend of agricultural hip hop, he dubs Scrumpy & Western, oh and to ensure it’s a true west country welly-fest, the Wurzels also booked. Personal favs, Train to Skaville and Phil Cooper appear too, amidst a boundless line-up. Tickets on sale now for £85 here.

 
Akin to the opening of US sitcom Cheers, The Southgate continues to be that place sometimes you need to go; where everybody knows your name and always glad you came. Celebrating a year now at the helm, Deborah and Dave have successfully given birth to a live music landmark right here in our otherwise trivial town.

 

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The Lamb gets Drum n Bass

I reminisced about Devotion at Golddiggers last week on our homage to Keith Flint, don’t intend to go there again. But, (it’s a dirty big fib, you know it is…) I’ve been contemplating once, in the early nineties, inactive in my car in the carpark, when, what can only be described as “a cheesy raver,” completely unbeknown to us, steadied himself on the rolled-down driver’s window and allowed their jaw to run a marathon. He jabberingly informed he had no intentions of going back into the club, in his own words, “it’s all that jungle music, know what I mean?”

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Pop Quiz: Who can tell me what this was, and what it was for? Showing your age now whistle posseeee!

To be honest, I didn’t, it was the first time I’d heard it called by this name. Although, breakbeat had taken over acid house and techno “bleep,” the “hardcore” label was preliminarily splitting. X-L Recordings, albums like The Rebel MC’s Black Meaning Good and Ragga Twins, Reggae Owes me Money, were providing the hardcore scene with reggae-inspired beats which would assist the divide. Generally, many white youths headed for crashing pianos, hi-hat loops and sped up eighties pop samples, defined as “happy hardcore,” while the urban minority bought us a shadier, serious arrangement of sparse beats and deeper basslines, we now know as drum n bass.

 

 
At the time we considered ourselves maturing ravers, (oh, the irony!) The upcoming generation separated the two, we buried into a new wave of plodding house. Yet with one eye on the divide I appreciated the lunacy of happy hardcore, enjoyed its merry ambience, but couldn’t help feeling drum n bass held the future. It was the more creative and experimental; proved right in the space of only a few years; A Guy Called Gerald, Goldie, and LTJ Bukem were pushing its boundaries into concept albums like it was 1975 space-rock. They prepared the stage for Roni Size, and mainstream acceptance of the genre.

 
So, I had to chuckle at the premise of the blurb on the Facebook event page, where Vinyl Realm stages a drum n bass night at The Lamb, Devizes on the 23rd March with DJ’s Retrospekt, Rappo and Harry B. “We at Vinyl Realm feel there is nothing in town for young adults to do. So, to fix that we have a night dedicated to the local producers creating heavy DnB, deep House and banging Jungle music.”

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Hey, what about us middle-aged old skool ravers? I can still shake a leg yer know, still got it mate! And when I say old skool, I don’t mean like on Kiss FM when they blast a club anthem from 2006 and think they’re retrospective; we were there, at the beginning pal, stomping in the mud! We fought an oppressive government so you kids can rave!!

 
But yeah, you’re probably right, I’d only be panting disproportionately and holding onto the wall for dear life, or else chewing some kid’s ear off about how we used to do it, like Uncle Albert on a love dove. Best leave it to the younger crew. All jokes aside, I know Devizes D&B DJ Harry B has posted to Facebook in the past, attempting to gage interest into such a night.

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I fully support the notion, good on the organisers of this, they’ve hit the hammer on the head; there’s nothing of this genre in Devizes, and not a lot for young adults; fair play, I hope it goes well and spurs others to provide entertainment for this age group. Seems like it will, limited to fifty tickets, with forty showing interest on the Facebook event page, this will be an exclusive return of D&B in Devizes which you better get in quick on, if you’re a playa. A snip at a fiver, tickets are on sale now at Vinyl Realm.

 
I just hope the old pub can hold up under the pressure of devastating basslines! I put my concern to Harry. “I’m going to have a test run up there this week with the speakers,” he confirmed; storming!

 

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Feeling the Force of The Devizes Arts Festival

If there’s a stigma among the typical denizen surrounding the Devizes Arts Festival that it’s all rather pompous and geared toward the elder generation, all walks and organ recitals, and that sounds like you, then I bid you look closer at this year’s newly announced line-up.

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Devizes Arts Festival has pulled a colossal rabbit out their hats for this June’s festivities; really, I don’t know where to begin. Yes, some of it conforms to the customary Arts Festival bookings, such as an audience with international journalist and veteran reporter John Simpson (Corn Exchange. Friday 31st May) and an organ recital by the Sub-Organist at Durham Cathedral, Francesca Massey (1st June St Johns.) There’s even a two-hour festival walk; Historic Devizes (2nd June. Devizes Town Centre,) guided by experts from the Wiltshire County Archaeology team, and a Civil War Battlefield walk at Roundway Down on 9th June.

 
Now, don’t get me wrong, while there’s no bad about any such events, and chatting with organiser Phillipa Morgan, who is keen to point out, “we had fifteen sold-out events last year,” there’s many-a darn good reason to cast off this erroneous label.

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I assure, many acts are set to blow some interest in the direction of those who’d not considered the Arts Festival before. Ska, for instance, (you know me, fancy picking on this one first!) with Skamouth favourites, Coventry’s (the home of Two-Tone) Barb’d Wire (1st June Corn Exchange) who boast legendary and original rude boy himself, Trevor Evans, combined with local songwriter/singer Lloyd Mcgrath. This is certain to raise a few eyebrows; perfect for the 40th anniversary of Two-Tone.

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You can zip your soul boots too, for seventies pioneers in funk, The Real Thing are confirmed, (8th June. Corn Exchange.) Known for legendary hits “You to Me Are Everything” and “Can’t Get by Without You,” Devizes is sure to feel the force!

 
Wiltshire’s own Nick Harper is at The Exchange, 13th June, contemporary Congolese and Cuban music 15th June at the Corn Exchange with Grupo Lokito, and experimental prog-rock with CIRCU5 (16th June. Cellar Bar.)

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The brilliant radio, television and stage comedian Ed Byrne (12th June. Corn Exchange) was the other to immediately catch my eye. Joined by special guests, David Haddingham and Sindhu Vee, this one promises to “have you rolling in the aisles.” With sold-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, and the West End, it reminded me of a conversation I had with some organisers last year, about how they travel to Edinburgh to source acts for the Arts Festival. This dedication has paid off, it seems, and we’re set for an explosively good year.

 
I asked Phillipa if this stigma was something the committee addressed, as it certainly is a line-up of variety. “Classical music is still there but we’ve tried to broaden the appeal. I think we’ve just moved in that direction as a result of an awareness that the requirement is changing and we’re trying to be more inclusive.”

 
So, what else is up for grabs this year? Children’s author Clive Mantle will be entertaining youngsters with illustrated readings from his time-travelling, Himalayan adventure and talking about his writing and his own travels in Nepal (1st June. Devizes Town Hall 2:30pm.) Although familiar as an actor to audiences of Holby, Vicar of Dibley and Game of Thrones, Clive Mantle is also now a successful children’s author: his first book “The Treasure at the Top of the World” was short-listed for the People’s Book Award and a second book in the series is due out in June. This is suitable for eight-year-olds and above.

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Also, for young-uns, Blue Peter Award winning author and performer, Gareth P Jones presents Aliens in Devizes! (8th June. Town Hall) Pet Defenders, a secret organisation of dogs, cats, rabbits and rodents dedicated to keeping the Earth safe from alien invasion. Suitable ages from six to nine, but sounds like fun to me!

 
The best jazz violinist in the country, Christian Garrick and John Etheridge, one of the most stunningly versatile guitarists, presents Strings on Fire (3rd June. The Exchange.) Meanwhile, two siblings that make up the exceptional violin and viola duo, String Sisters, Angharad and Lowri Thomas String Sisters are at St. Andrews Church on the 5th June. Multiple award-winning musicians, who’ve played with Alfie Boe, Michael Ball, Paloma Faith, Marc Almond, Boy George and Robbie Williams.

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2nd June at The Bear Hotel Ballroom, there’s a quirky, funny and poignant award-winning solo show about Nick Drake; a celebration of music, photography, life, coincidences and the legacy of one of the most influential singers/song-writers of the last fifty years.

 
Competitive improv as you’ve never seen it, The Shakespeare Smackdown (4th June. The Exchange,) is from the creators of Olivier Award-winning “Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.” Britain’s favourite celebrity organic gardener and Gardeners’ Question Time star panellist, Bob Flowerdew has An Audience with on the 5th June at Devizes Town Hall.

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From Atila singing the Nat King Cole Story (6th June. Town Hall) to the dark comic and eclectic music of Moscow Drug Club (7th June Corn Exchange) and from An Audience with grand dame of English literature, Fay Weldon (8th June. Bear Hotel) to Elspeth Beard, the first British woman to motorcycle around the world (8th June. Bear Hotel) no one can deny the quality and variety is extraordinary this year. Talks on Sci-Fi influences on evolutionary linguistics, a homage of renditions of Eric and Ernie, author Clare Mulley’s on her third book, “The Women Who Flew for Hitler”, open mic poetry session with Josephine Corcoran, in fact there’s too much here to list in one article, my wordcount exploding and I fear you’ll be bedazzled by it all.

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So why don’t we regroup tomorrow, when we’ll highlight, in particular, the free fringe events? Phillipa, in charge of the fringe events, notes surprisingly, that although “the fringe events are subsided, for some reason they don’t seem to attract that many people, compared with ticketed recent events such as Rick Wakeman at £45, which sold out.” I think this is down to the aforementioned stigma, and here at Devizine I’m dedicated to prove it wrong. So, same time tomorrow then?

 

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Stone Mountain Sinners at Dead Kool’s Final Night at The Cons Club

Returning favourites, The Stone Mountain Sinners pulled a sizable crowd to Dead Kool Promotion’s final hoedown at the Devizes Conservative Club last night. The accomplished Worcestershire country-rock six-piece belted out some dazzling country riffs fused with energetic rock n roll/blues nods. It was just how I suspected it’d be as drafted in our preview piece, that’s why I took the opportunity to drop in.

 
While stereotypically the genre admittedly not to my usual tastes my eclectic toe was tapping, here’s perfect example of the cross-over Dean pushes for, to appease both regular country aficionados and newcomers. For a sprinkling were Stetson-wearing adherents, but the bulk in attendance were everyday local music lovers.

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Covered in our preview was the harmonies of the two vocalists, Neil and Sarah, and they certainly took full advantage of this, as fronting a professional and tightly accomplished band, they shared the session uniquely and wonderfully, though I note while Neil took lead on the more country angled songs, Sarah had that poignant strength to twist some seriously grinding rock elements. After the first instance of this I felt the need to capture it on one my wobbly videos, but the following song lowered the tempo again to country, nevertheless, here it is!

 

Ah, king of the wonky sound-crackling video, they never do justice to the acts, you have to use a heap of imagination to note it was far better than it may sound here!

It sure was one grand performance, producing a night celebrating all that is good about the club, it’s balance between archetypical country and the diversity of its backlash.

 

Bringing in Devizes best singer/songwriter Jamie R Hawkins as support being a fine example. Jamie gave us his masterworks, expressed a fondness of country and mollified the audience with his own more-country inspired songs, such as Man of Simple Means.

 
Chatting outside he told me of his roots as a family band playing the country music circuit and we discussed his fondness of song-writing. I noted the narrative in his writing, a complete story, often with a twist is something all-together country; a skill Jamie rightly prides himself on.

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The night was prodigious, yet the arrangement of seating in the venue acts somewhat as a barricade between audience and artist, I feel, if left open for dancing it takes a while to encourage this. I note while the other clubs arrange this differently, Long Street Blues pushes seats up to the stage for optimal intensity, whereas The Scooter Club do the opposite, leaving a wider dancefloor, as the nature of its genre is more danceable. For this sole reason I welcome the venue change for the Country Club to the Cavalier on Eastleigh Rd for future events. It’ll be more imitate, engaging the audience more.

 
I look forward to seeing how this development progresses, for the Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts gig it’ll be perfect, for the Family Club tribute nights, a pub location rather than function hall will give it the community feel and closeness it craves. And if the club pulls in bands as good as The Stone Mountain Sinners, well, boom!

 

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Decatonics to take Devizes to Skaville!

Designing the posters for the Devizes Scooter Club came to the peak of absurdity with this one for the latest event on the 30th March, and I feel I may need tone down the experimentation a tad. Still, I think it stands out from the run-the-mill event poster; in the words of Mike the Cool Person, “I never stand on convention, it never stood on me.”

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But I cannot deny, with a bombardment of highly anticipated local gigs this coming month, I’m looking forward to this one perhaps, the most. We’ve seen a few Northern Soul and Motown nights of recent from the Scooter Club, and while my eclectic taste appreciates these along with the plethora of other gigs lined up on my calendar, you still can’t, in my opinion, beat a bit of ska.

This will reflect well against the forthcoming Scooter Rally, as while a weekend-long event will provide scope for the club to parade all relevant genres, there’s a truckload of ska to be heard. Orange Street headlining will be one to watch, while Swindon’s The Tribe mesh ska with hip hop beats, and other local outfit The Erin Bardwell Collective will simmer in some rock steady. Essex’s finest, The Start are not averse to playing ska, and I’m sure, given the nature of the event that the Day Breakers will blast a two-tone classic or three. Of course, Bad Manners tribute Special Brew take as red.

Confident in the statement international third-gen ska is regenerating the old Two-Tone scene here in England, is evident in the success of groups like the Dualers. Call it cliché, say yeah, diehard skins don’t know when to give it up, but there’s something in that joyous offbeat which makes you want to jump and skank.

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So put your braces together, your boots on your feet, and allow me to introduce this prodigious booking, Dorset’s eight-piece ska band, The Decatonics. It promises to be a blinding night at the Devizes Conservative Club. The band, formed in 2012 have indeed supported the aforementioned Dualers, along with The Skatelites, The Neville Staple Band and Bad Manners.

An established 8-piece female-fronted ska band, The Decatonics are constructed of bassist Rowan, two Steves, one on keys and the other on drums, an energetic backline and powerful horn section of Mike on tenor sax, Harry on trumpet and alto sax, and Ian on trombone. They’re fronted by two adept vocalists who compliment one another; Shaun, also on lead guitar and Sally, who I’ve been chatting with. I started by asking her how long they’d been together and if the members were the same original line-up.

“The bass and I, and the lead brass, are original, with our drummer being with us for five years,” she explained, “but as with any large band, changes are inevitable along the way.”

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“Is it all covers, or have you any original songs recorded?” I asked Sally.

“We do just cover songs,” she sustained, “but try and give our own little flair, and being female-fronted we get to play a more diverse set than your standard ska covers band.” No issue there, in retrospective glory, cover songs make the night at the Scooter Club. Not forgoing, Sally mentioned that since 2017, The Decatonics have been part of a Specialised Project, recording tracks for a CD. I saw my opening, boasted of my newfound show on Boot Boy Radio and blagged two tunes to play on the show next week!

The first song a Trojan hit in the UK, Bob & Marica’s up-tempo Pied Piper, proves their ability to sprinkle a joyous contemporary ska riff to a boss reggae classic, but the second hoists up that skill, with a concentrated ska adaption of the Jam’s Standards.

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The Decatonics draw influences from both original Jamaican ska, bluebeat, and its new-wave Two-Tone, but also from successors rock steady and reggae. They even accommodate soul in the melting pot, bringing a vibrant live show which has built up a great reputation with the entire mod/scooter scene rather than just ska aficionados. Do not expect third generation punk experimentation, but a suitable English ska sound popularised by Madness and The Beat.

With a strong following through regular pub and club gigs, and festivals such as the Big One Weekender Festival, Dorset Volksfest, The Dorset Steam Fair and Teddy Rocks under their belt, I’m certain they’ll transport their astounding party atmosphere to our already lively Devizes Scooter Club nights.

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Tickets are a tenner, by messaging the Devizes Scooter Club Facebook page, from Vinyl Realm, Jefferson’s Café, or from the Devizes Cons Club direct. As usual there will be a raffle, and I believe it’s me warming up the crowd on the wheels of steel, like a musical fluffer; but don’t let that put you off! The club ascertain everyone is welcome, not just members. Think of this as an opportunity to taste what you might bear witness to at the forthcoming Rally in July, oh and to have a good knees-up too!

 

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MY SCIENCE FAIR 2019

By Ryan West

 

Last weekend (Sunday 3rd March), Wiltshire Music Centre’s free annual event, My Science Fair, brought 850 people through the doors of the professional and community music venue for a day of family fun inspired by Music and Movement. Run by the Centre’s Creative Learning department, who engage around 5,000 young people each year in musical and artistic activities, the day was spread throughout the Centre and teaching rooms of St Laurence School.

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The aim of the day was to engage young minds in science, with a musical twist, and at its core was the culmination of the My Science Fair project competition, for which 36 students from 14 primary schools across Wiltshire and Bath devised their own exciting experiments exploring music, movement and science. Experiments were exhibited throughout the day and were judged by an expert panel, including scientists from the University of Bath, University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, as well as automotive-test specialists AB Dynamics, the Ministry of Defence and Unilever.

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Cressida ‘Chemical Cress’ Bullock started the day with a bang as nearly 400 people filled the Auditorium.

 

She engaged the audience with visually stimulating experiments including bowls bubbling with bicarbonate of soda, unravelling polystyrene polymers with nail polish remover and a hair-raising experience with a Van de Graaf generator! Music leader David Garcia then took to the stage with a new way of practising the chemicals of the periodic table – samba! Using percussion instruments and tuneful ‘boomwhacker’ tubes, he got the young visitors on their feet playing out rhythms to the beats of the elements of the periodic table.

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Elsewhere there was an enthralling light and music experience from Colourscape and three fun-filled and educational LEGO robotics workshops which gave young visitors the opportunity to create their own robot and programme its movements on a tablet. There was also a demonstration from students from the University of Bath who showcased an extraordinary sonic invisibility cloak made from soundwaves, and portable 3D printer pens, which provided children with a great chance to create their own objects with a stencil. There was more cybernetic fun to be had at the Bot Club, and the virtual reality headset proved popular with intrepid explorers wanting to enter a digital world.

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The afternoon saw a performance from electronic composer Duncan Chapman, along with raga singer Supriya Nagarajan and Theremin player Charlie Draper, who sampled sounds from throughout the day to create a lullaby soundscape in the main Auditorium. With swirling lights and dancing shapes on the screen, it was the perfect way to relax after a busy day!

 
At the end of the day, Wiltshire Music Centre’s Head of Creative Learning, Karl Bevis, presented the Young Scientists with their prizes which included learning sets of scientific games, chemistry sets, robotics kits and a melodica as the star prize for the best experiment combining Music and Science.

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The following prizes were awarded at the end of the day:
• Best in Class: Reception-Year 2 – “How do plants grow in brick walls?”, pupil from Widcombe Infants School aged 7.
• Best in Class: Year 3-Year 4 – “How does mould grow on bread?”, pupil from Westwood with Iford School aged 9.
• Best in Class: Year 5 – “How does sound affect how I feel?”, pupil from Saint Edmunds Catholic Primary School (aged 10)

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• Best in Class: Year 6 – “Fantastic Flood Defences”, pupil from Christchurch Primary School (aged 11)
• Most Eye-Catching Presentation – “Are bramble leaves bigger in the shade or the light?”, pupils from Stowford Manor Farm (aged 8 and 9)
• Most Innovative Project – “How could Stowford Farm be more sustainable?” pupils from Stowford Manor Farm (aged 8 and 10)
• The AB Dynamics Prize for Mechanical Engineering – “Magnet Trains”, pupil from Bellefield Primary School (aged 7)
• The Music & Science Prize – “Can you make music with water?”, pupil from Christchurch Primary School (aged 6)

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Speaking on the day, Karl said: “This year’s My Science Fair has seen more fantastic young scientists with some really interesting projects. Having the Music Centre so busy with robotics, virtual reality, samba music and even rocket-launching was just so much fun. We are looking forward to even more next year as we continue to provide an inclusive environment for people of all ages to explore, create and discover.”

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My Science Fair was generously supported by the Bradford on Avon Area Board, the Jack Lane Charitable Trust, NFU Mutual and Wiltshire Music Connect, as well as Wiltshire Music Centre Season Sponsor AB Dynamics.

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Wiltshire Music Centre plays host to around 160 concert events a year, including family events such as My Science Fair, the Big Family Music Day (22nd June 2019) and the Bradford Roots Music Festival. More information can be found online at: www.wiltshiremusic.org.uk/whats-on.

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You’ll be Broken-Hearted to miss Hannah Johnson

Howdy; yeah, it’s me, riding back to the crossroads on a horse with no name to convince you, once again, that your preconceived ideals about country music are not made of Spanish leather. Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts stroll into town on the 23rd March to cast this caboodle out to the desert. Not that we have a desert, but in a way, that’s my point.

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It’s easy to tire of the cliché of the modern country scene and arrive at the conclusion it’s not for you. Agreed, if you screech much of the music coming out of Nashville today denotes watered down country-pop, or stylistically pretentious Americana; same old chanted choruses and stomping drums, country music aficionado Dean Czerwionka, of Wiltshire’s Country Music Scene, Dead Kool Promotions aims to set the record straight.

Keen to promote and bring us all that is great about the scene, rather than the standardised churns of the industry machine, Dean hosts Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts at the Cavalier, Devizes on the 23rd March, with one of Devizine’s favourites, the Celtic-based acoustic duo, Sound Affects as support.

 

Surprisingly, it’s our homegrown artists reacting against this notion, and Hannah Johnson is of no exception, she’s from Birmingham. This award-winning (UK Country Artist of the Year 2018 – UK Country Music Awards and Most Successful British & Irish Single 2017, Hotdisc Country Music Awards) Brummie girl began her artistic career working in theatre and television as a child, participating in an unabridged version of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, playing Puck, aged 11, part of a Central Television actors’ workshop, and acting in national children’s TV shows. But ‘tired of being someone else on stage’ and hailing from a musical home, she began singing, and initially studied the clarinet, but switched to guitar in her teens; realising she couldn’t use the clarinet to back up her vocals.

She soon found a home with the country music genre, through its “humility, simplicity and ability face emotionally complex topics,” not forgoing fifteen years touring extensively in the UK, Europe and the USA as lead in her family band, The Toy Hearts. Hannah’s composition The Captain remains the biggest hit for her family band, the song a testament to both her song-writing ability, and her fierce independence.

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An Alumni of the prestigious IBMA Leadership Bluegrass program, Hannah returns to the UK after a whirlwind tour of Austin, Texas, with shows in London, York, Doncaster, of course her beloved Birmingham, and Devizes. Her debut album, Shaken rinses of country and honky-tonk of yore, with characteristic twangy telecaster riffs and a singing style to make Tammy Wynette blush. With a slight smoky element of Patsy Cline to her voice, the standout tracks are her own compositions, receiving warm reviews.

An event then to warm country fans, and perhaps, ideal to introduce newcomers; you may be the broken hearted of her band title if you miss this one. This event is FREE, waddies, rustlers and cowgirls.

 

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Charley Says, Farewell…….

It was a long time coming but we finally made it. It was dawn now, a fog fell upon the disused airfield at Enstone, Oxfordshire. My best friend skipped out of the car milliseconds after it parked in the thick, dew-filled meadow. I looked over to him. “This is the one I was on about!” he yelped, and wasted no time waiting for me to react, but dived straight into the eye of the sound system, where, due to the fog, an incalculable number of ravers were dancing like madmen on a day out of the funny farm.

Throughout the journey he had been consistently bashing on about this track which sampled the early eighties public information cartoon, Charley Says. And it had been a long journey, from the Green Dragon in Marlborough, blagging a lift from a random old school friend, who was adamant he’d not succumb to the trend, to the tip-off point, Enborne near Newbury. Only to find other cars of confused ravers, some conjecturing we needed to head up the A34 to Oxfordshire. Our driver, now aggravated by us, stamped his foot and announced it was the end of road for him.

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The second section of the journey then, saw us thrown out on the M4 junction, and thumbs prepared, three of us danced a pledge for a lift from the multitude of beaten up cars and vans beeping horns and waving from windows over-enthusiastically.

 

Eventually picked up, we now found ourselves at Pear Tree services, where police closed us in, threating to search every vehicle attempting to leave. But with the garage under siege and cars queuing up as far as the eye could see, from every junction, the police knew they were outnumbered, and eventually gave up, allowing passage down the A44 to Enstone. Until we were left to go about our business, a temporary mock-up rave had developed at the service station, as crowds gathered on the embankment, dancing and blowing horns to a fusion of a thousand plus naff car stereos; it was 3am, eternal.

 
If it all sounds implausible by today’s standard weekend, note that this was spring 1991, and we had become fully-fledged illegal ravers, living for the weekend. A time when the breakbeat sound was in its infancy, when corny rave tunes were welcomed; the hardcore posse blew whistles at taking themselves seriously. I nodded my approval, recalling the Charley Says cartoons, and smirking at its humorously converted connotation, if only for a brief second, before headlonging feet, and maybe juddering jawbone first, into the party.

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Forward wind like an Easygroove spin a year, we’re attired in blankets in the carpark of Golddiggers in Chippenham, the band who’d created the Charley Says tune fully known to us now. They’d just played a blinding set of bonkers breakbeat and cheesy rave, full of reggae breaks and nonsensical samples. At a time when the burgeoning youth culture was vacant of a sovereign, as rock n roll had Elvis and reggae had Bob Marely, it was a question of how much an artist was willing to sell-out to claim the crown. Perhaps egotistically, The Shamen were among the nominated, targeting shamelessly at the pop charts. But the raver knew this was futile, rave was a faceless folk music, an epoch of anonymity, and if there had to be a king of rave, it would be the ones constantly pushing new boundaries. If there was ever a need to debate this, while it did, the Prodigy remained quiet and reserved.

 

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Yes, the Prodigy played Chippenham in 1992!

A Glastonbury Festival, don’t ask me what year, time just an illusion now, but I remember after this quiet period, the Prodigy burst on stage at a time when dance culture was incarcerated to a blanket stall or concealed hippy sub-festival the raver took all weekend to locate. Expecting to dance to cheesy rave, a blessing being the hardcore had split into happy hardcore and drum n bass, and we’d retired to the somewhat mature house/garage scene, I stood aghast at what I heard.

 
Promoting “The Music for the Jilted Generation,” The Prodigy took, not only the festival to new limits, but what dance music could be. I recall scratching my head, trying to decide if I liked it. Keith Flint bounded around the stage with a duo of green spikey Mohicans on either side of his head, a kind of Johnny Rotten of our era. The once dancer of the group, now bellowed out grinding vocals. It was punk-rock, not post-punk, but raw, energetic viciousness, yet retained rave, in some small way.

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Many cite the following album, The Fat of the Land as their magnum opus, yet it only progressed the ethos of The Jilted Generation to the next stage, and gave the sound prestige in NME followers and the mass media. In a world aware of the Jilted Generation’s influence, which bought us outfits who fused indie back into rave; The Chemical Brothers, Monkey Mafia and Fatboy Slim, it became acceptable to both sides of the indie/rave divide, a non-man’s land not intruded since the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses.

 
If Liam Howlett was the brains behind the group, Keith Flint was the showman, and for the reasons stated above, I’ve felt the sad news of his suicide today harder than that of the passing of Bowie, of Michael Jackson or James Brown, because though it may’ve been one foggy morning on Enstone Airfield in 1991, the memory is crisp in my mind, the first time we heard the kings of rave.

 

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Hot Blues on a Cold Night

Kyla Brox Band – Saturday 2nd March @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes

Andy Fawthrop

 

Back up the road to the Con Club for Long Street Blues Club’s latest presentation – The Kyla Brox Band. And it was definitely worth the hike.

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Yet again Ian Hopkins had managed to get one of Britain’s top blues & soul bands in front of a Devizes audience on a Saturday night, and the crowd lapped it up. Winner of the 2018 UK Blues Challenge, Kyla’s reputation preceded her. And we were not to be disappointed -an outstanding performer with an incredible pair of lungs on her, knocking out some soulful, smoky and gritty lyrics. Her voice covered all the bases, from the cool, sexy drawl, belting through the mid-range rock chick style, to the high-end screaming wail of soulful pain. And the band behind her were as tight as a tourniquet.

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The three-piece featured the fluent guitar work of Paul Farr, some inspired bass playing by Danny Blomeley and tight drumming by Mark Warburton. Farr, in particular, impressed with some of his inspired solos, drawing wild applause from the crowd.

The absolute highlight for me was the final number in the first set – one of the best versions I’ve ever heard of the classic Etta James song “I’d Rather Go Blind”, with Kyla pulling out all the stops to press every emotional button. To say that she completely nailed this number would be something of an under-statement – worth the entrance money on its own. The material throughout varied from up-tempo, high-energy blues through to low and slow, crooning soul, and it was great to hear these different textures through the two sets. The band’s ability to turn up the burners, and then cool right down, number after number really demonstrated their versatility. k2

The only time I felt that the band put a slight foot wrong was the choice of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” for the first encore – can this song that has been one of the most-ever covered pieces still having anything else left to give? – the answer, sadly, was a No from me. Fortunately there was a great up-tempo number to finish the evening off, and the minor damage was thus quickly repaired.

All-in-all another beltingly good gig, and a great night out.

Next gigs coming up @ Long Street Blues:

• Saturday 6th April Billy Walton Band – electric blues & Memphis soul
• Saturday 4th May Shemekia Copeland – passionate Americana roots & soul
• Friday 10th May Tom C Walker – young virtuoso guitarist
• Saturday 25th May Kossoff…The Band Plays On – fine, high-calibre tribute band

 

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Snakes in a Museum

Yes, it’s a cross between Night at the Museum and Snakes on a Plane, except neither Samuel L Jackson or Ben Stiller will be there, neither any real snakes, which may be no bad thing. This is Devizes, home to the wonderful Wiltshire Museum, where two snakes have slithered up the outside of the Museum building! The snakes were made by Wiltshire Young Carers at a workshop held in the Museum during February half-term.

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This Secret lives of Snakes, family-friendly exhibition opened yesterday. No real snakes, but the exhibit contains lots of interesting facts and details about these fascinating creatures. There’s lots of wonderful photographs, skeletons and taxidermy to highlight the world of these secretive creatures.

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Interactives for children include a snake trail around the Museum. Also, relating to the exhibit, the Saturday morning club for 7-14-year olds, Young WANHS have, “Sssnakes …” – snake-themed craft activities for on 9 March, from 10.15am – 12.15pm. There’s no annual fee, but pre-booking is essential to help the Museum plan the sessions. Each session costs £5 per child.

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Then, on Tuesday 16th April, there’s a Jonathan’s Jungle Roadshow for younger children, suitable for age 4 and over. Children will have the amazing opportunity to find out about, handle and touch a diverse selection of fantastic live animals, including snakes. There are two sessions, 10.15am or 11.30am, each one lasts an hour and is again, £5. Accompanying adults free. Booking is essential as it’s only 15 children per session.

snakes2x533h3The exhibition runs until 28th April, normal Museum admission charges apply, but children and WANHS members are free. The Museum is now open Monday to Saturday – 10am to 5pm and Sundays – noon to 4pm. Bank Holidays may vary, check their website.

 
Yes, there’s stuff for the grownups too, such as lectures; Identity and Ideology during the Beaker period, by Chris Carey, University of Brighton on 30th March, is the only one not sold out. But none of them have got snakes in them! Where’s the fun in that?!

 

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The Yirdbards @ The Cellar Bar, Swan Hotel, Bradford; Original Multi-media Entertainment – In A Folk Club?

by Andy Fawthrop

 

What else are you going to do on a Tuesday night if you’re after some top-notch musical entertainment? There was nothing happening (musically) in Devizes that night, so a venture out into the wild and woolly West into the splendid old town of Bradford on Avon was called for.

The venue was the Cellar Bar in the Swan Hotel, right in the middle of town. The place is now a regular haunt for all types of music – jazz, folk, blues, poetry, Irish traditional, with each one settling into a regular weekly or monthly slot. James Sullivan-Tailyour has been the landlord here for a few years now, and has done much to support and promote regular musical (and other) events in the pub/ hotel, and in the town generally. The beer’s not great (it’s a Greene King place) but they do excellent Thai & fusion food in the restaurant.

Tuesday nights are given over to Bradford Folk Club, but don’t be fooled by the title. Whilst there is certainly some traditional and contemporary folk stuff performed, it’s more of a general Acoustic Club where pretty much anything goes. Three or four Tuesdays a month it’s an Open Mic affair, but once or twice a month there’s a guest act. The great thing is that it’s FREE to get in (although they do charge you an arm and a leg to get out!) Joking aside, they pass round the glass half way through the performance for contributions. What that means in practice is that you only pay what you think the music’s worth. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, people tend to very much like what they hear, going by the average amount that they put in. “Playing for the door” is still very much alive and well.

But to the music – last week it was the turn of local group The Yirdbards. Yes I did spell that right, and it may just be deliberate. The “Yirds” (as everyone knows them) consist of some pretty damn fine musicians – Iona Hassan on fiddle, Verity Sharp on fiddle and cello, Patrick Randall on guitar/ mandolin/ accordion/ whistle and the irrepressible Paul Darby on guitar and vocals. You might recognise Verity in particular, as she’s a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

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Whilst the Yirds can knock out some damn good traditional folk songs and tunes (some great jigs and reels), they also tend to showcase quite a bit of contemporary writing from such songsmiths as Paul Metzers and Peter Please, and they’re not above writing and arranging their own material.

Last Tuesday they presented a complete show (the acoustic equivalent of a triple-disc concept album) entitled “Great Clattinger.” It chronicled the seasons and the farming year of that place, the wildflower meadows, the people and the traditions. Surprisingly it was a multi-media affair, featuring tapes, songs, spoken word, and instrumental passages. Many of the words were taken from the writer Elspeth Huxley (who lived there in the 70s) and Joan Ody (who farmed there for nearly 40 years in the earlier part of the 20th century) describing country ways & customs, and the resistance to those who wanted to exploit the land for commercial gravel extraction.

Thanks to their efforts, Clattinger Farm is now owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. All very “worthy” of course, but the music had to speak for itself, and it soared way above that. The Cellar Bar was packed out and the whole performance went down a storm – superb musicianship, well sung and well presented by four great performers.

It wasn’t rock n’ roll, and this music wouldn’t be for everyone, but if you’d been there you would have been amazed at the variety and quality of the performance. Simply stunning.

Next gigs coming up @ Bradford Folk Club:

• Tuesday 26th March Reg Meuross – singer/ songwriter/ story-teller
• Tuesday 30th April Lightgarden – Eastern influences, Mongolian overtone singing
• Tuesday 28th May Jackie & Felix Byrne –contemporary & tradition folk

 

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Wiltshire Council Welcome Proposed Road Signs

Since a Wiltshire Council highway engineer advised Devizes Town Council that a sign at the High Street junction with Long Street is not big enough or in the right position last week, the highway engineer has been around our area suggesting other improvements which must be enforced for safety purposes.

 
Devizes Town Councillors were warned people might not spot the present ‘No Entry’ sign, and that it needs to be 600 CMs wide, wider than the road itself. “Maybe even larger, the bigger the better,” said a Wiltshire Council spokesperson, the one who really has the mentality to grasp simple English. “If it means we have to knock down a few historic buildings to make room, then we will.”

 
“We’d really favour,” the spokesman continued, “that the sign is lit with flashing neon letter-lights and overhead floodlights, twenty-four hours a day. Perhaps, it could also repetitively play a Bonnie Tyler song, or even the soundtrack to Rocky 4, to raise awareness of it too.”

 
“Devizes Town Council is clearly not accounting for the prerogative of speeding businessmen in BMWs belting through Devizes without a finger of fudge to road safety. They may have important calls to make on their phones, be preoccupied trying to locate a Starbucks, or generally too busy eyeing up totty to notice the clearly one-way street has standard no entry signs.”

 
The Wiltshire Council spokesperson, who cannot be named because their nametag fell out of their work jumper, because their mum didn’t iron it on well enough, stated, “those who think there’s no accounting for stupidity are wrong. One blast of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or ‘Holding out for a Hero’ will alert the most insensitive arsehole; it’s certainly one of my favourite songs.”

 
With this apparent compete lack of competence of town councils to identify these issues, the Wiltshire Council highway engineer has proposed a new selection of signs be erected in obvious danger areas, using visual aids rather than a report, as he can only write in emoji.

 
Devizine has received these exclusive graphic representations for residents to swoon over in delight. I asked the Wiltshire Council spokesperson if he thought they were slightly aesthetically intrusive. “No,” he replied, “I think athletes will love them too.”

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