Chippenham Folk Festival –-Friday – Monday 24th – 27th May

The Biggest Little Festival In Wiltshire

By Andy Fawthrop

Chippenham Folk Festival has just finished for another year, so it’s good time to round up just how good this event is, and why it’ll be worth going again next year.

The Festival, including its early incarnation at Lacock, is now in its 48th year, and always held over the Whit Bank Holiday week-end. If you’re not familiar with it and have never been, let me explain just how big and amazing this whole thing is. First of all, it takes over the whole town – every possible venue, both indoors and outdoors is used – Island Park (including a temporary Big Top and many food and other stalls), The Neeld, Masonic Centre, Olympiad, Constitutional Hall, pubs, clubs – you name it. It includes whole streams of activities for children, for music concerts, for storytelling, for folk dance, for Morris, for ceilidhs and for many other activities. There is a small shopping village selling a wide range of clothes and crafts, drinks, and street food. On Bank Holiday Monday there’s also a special market in the High Street. There are literally hundreds of formal performances and displays, open mic & busking, tutorials, workshops, interviews – which means you can either just sit back and be entertained, or you can join in and get completely involved.

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There’s extensive onsite camping facilities or, like myself, you can just drive in and park every day. Hotels and B&Bs in and around the town are booked out months in advance, so popular is the festival.

You can either buy tickets for the whole week-end (with or without camping), for single days, or just for individual events. There’s a Box Office onsite during the festival, or online via the website.

Next year’s event is already booked into the calendar from 22nd May to 25th May 2020, and early tickets are already available.

The good thing about this massive range of activity is that there really is something for everyone, no matter what you’re interested in. And not everything is ticketed. You’ll need to pay to get into the main venues, but there’s plenty in and around the town happening in the streets that’s completely free.

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This year’s event, the last to be organised by Bob & Gill Berry (who also run Devizes Folk Club), was as just as good as ever, and the crowds were out in force, packing out many of the venues. I was lucky enough myself to be MC’ing several music events, and so got to see some fine performances close up on the stages. Stand-out performances for me were from The Wilsons, Granny’s Attic, Jack Rutter, Winter Wilson, Bob Fox, Sally Ironmonger, The Often Herd, Greg Russell, Jim Causely and Keith Donnelly, but it’s genuinely hard to pick out real stars from amongst so many young and talented performers. And it was really good to see so much youthful and emerging new talent, not just the old hands and established stars.

I ran into many people I knew, several of whom had never been before, and who were amazed at how much stuff was going on across the town.

So if you’ve never been, make a note in your diary to go next year and see what all the fuss is about!

 

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The Band Plays On: Kossoff @ Long Street Blues Club

At Last – I’m All Right Now…..

 By Andy Fawthrop

 

I’d been waiting for this gig for quite a while. Bearing in mind my general antipathy towards “tribute” bands, I was feeling both excited and apprehensive. Being of, let’s say, “a certain age”, Free (and later Bad Company) had been my go-to rock bands whilst I was still learning how to grow facial hair, and what girls were for. Just hoping they weren’t going to spoil my memories….

The late Paul Kossoff, erstwhile guitar genius behind that 60s/ 70s band Free, was the inspiration behind tonight’s particular line-up. It’s now over forty years since Koss, one of Britain’s finest guitarists tragically passed away at the tender age of only 25 in 1976. The break-up of Free had been, in part, due to Paul’s ongoing battle with drugs. Only when Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke had gone off to the US to form the highly-successful Bad Company, did Paul come to his senses enough to form his short-lived band Back Street Crawler.

Terry Slesser – the voice of that critically acclaimed band, and a close friend of Koss, is now keeping alive the memory and the music of one of the greatest British Blues guitarists. Sless chose the guitarist John Buckton, of whom Simon Kirke said “If Free were to reform, John would be my first choice as guitarist ” to play this series of special dates reviving for the first time since the 70s the catalogue of Back Street Crawler songs, as well as favourite Free numbers.

And a packed Long Street Blues Club was very much the beneficiary. The night was opened with great local support act Jamie R Hawkins (sounding superb with such a great sound system at his disposal, and doing his third gig of the day!). Then two fabulous sets from the main band.

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The big advantage here was that Sless was actually a friend of Koss, and played with him back in the day, so the sets were liberally interspersed with genuine stories and anecdotes. This immediately lifted us out of the “tribute band” category, and into the realm of genuine homage. The focus was very much on early, rather than late, Free material. Whilst there was certainly time and space for such later classics as All Right Now (how could there not be??), Wishing Well and My Brother Jake, the emphasis was very much on the earlier more bluesy material with which Free originally gained their massive following. It was a real treat to hear I’m A Mover, Woman, Songs of Yesterday, I’ll Be Creeping and the stunning encore (as Free themselves used to do) of The Hunter.

 

All of this delivered with confidence and panache. But no room for anything over-polished – it was all down and dirty, reproducing that thick, squidgy bass sound, wandering round every number like a prowling wild-cat, superb screaming guitar solos and some spot-on vocals – a fruity, solid noise. Could have been in the room and all that. Nostalgia certainly – been good if Sless hadn’t kept mentioning “50 years ago” thanks very much! – but this material stood up to the test of time with some ease. Somehow the band managed to reproduce the sound of Free and Back Street Crawler with some accuracy, whilst still delivering it all in a fresh and full-on way.

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It goes without saying that they brought the house down. Ian Hopkins mentioned in his introduction that the band had been one of the more expensive he’d managed to bring to Devizes, but from this punter anyway it was a solid thumbs-up – definitely worth it! Off home happy and heading for the Free CDs on the shelf!

Another great night at Long Street Blues Club and looking forward to the next season already.

 

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Back on the Saddle!

Tipsy suggestions to those Saddlebackers at their gurt lush day festival at Devizes Sports Ground were poo-pooed from the off! With this year’s line up rolling out across social media, it’s easy to see they took my expansive notions as nonsensical dribble. A dance tent; yeah, right, circus and performing arts acts; get outta town, even a reggae stage is not to be. Feasibly, they know what they like!

With seemingly no plans to overinflate or cater for revellers outside their chosen target audience, this year’s Saddleback Festival drives surely on quality not quantity, and if good ol’ rock and blues music is what you want, and face it, it’s the most desirable around these backwaters, then it looks like Saddleback return to deliver.

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Deliver they intend to, on 20th July, at a busy time with The Full Tone Orchestra promising a free event on the Green and Melksham’s Party in the Park on the same date, Devizes Carnival, Trowbridge’s Once Upon a Time in West Fest and the Swindon Shuffle the weekend prior, the Beer Festival and Devizes’ first scooter rally at the beginning of the month, perhaps it’s a reasonable move for Saddleback to stick with the working formula of previous years.

No extra acoustic stage for local acts has been announced, like the “bolt-on” last year. While being just that, it was at least a presence for them. It’s all focus on who’s performing main stage then, and tribute acts seem to feature predominantly. The longest running, full-time professional tribute to Led Zeppelin, Whole Lotta Led headline; and we all like a lotta Led.

Significant changes to their original line-up from 1996, six years ago, has seen considerable progress with the Whole Lotta Led’s customary two- and half-hour shows, receiving international acclamation from Zeppelin fans. With over 1,300 shows under the belts, they’ve performed Stairway to Heaven more than any other band in the world, interestingly, including Led Zeppelin!

To truly dedicated fans who witnessed the real McCoy at their prime, Whole Lotta Led avoid wigs, costumes, and look-alike paraphernalia to focus on recreating the music to an astonishing level of accuracy. They’ve recreated some of Led Zeppelin’s legendary live shows; 2001 they performed the ‘Bath Festival’ set, in 2003 staged the ‘Earl’s Court’ tour, in 2005 they recreated Zep’s last shows in England with the ‘Knebworth’ set, performed the live CD ‘How The West Was Won’ in 2006 and in 2008 they completed the ‘2007 O2 Reunion Show’ tour.

In a similar fashion, Creedence Clearwater Review are the UK’s premier tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival, capturing the feel, sound and atmosphere of the short-lived late sixties American band. With audience involvement, singalongs and plenty of rousing choruses the Review promise an authentic and power packed tribute to the Creedence legacy, sticking as closely to the album tracks as possible. There’s also a nod to John Fogerty’s solo career in the show.

To concentrate on original acts, most are Bristol-based, like Elles Bailey is that wonderful hard-blues chick we’ve covered on Devizine before. With a prolific and authentic blend of country and blues, Elles is the UK dynamite on the scene.

The second name to continually popup locally is Ruzz Evans, who since 2014, with drummer Mike Hoddinott and Joe Allen on upright bass make up Ruzz’s Guitar Blues Revue. The trio house a powerful, soul-injected mesh of Blues, R’n’B and Rock’n’Roll of retrospective energy. The opportunities to open for some class acts, from Rockabilly’s the Delta Bombers and the Rhythm Shakers from Vegas to Dr Feelgood and The Blockheads. Plus, the newly released studio album, Burn Out, which features Pete Gage from Dr Feelgood’s band, certainly shows enthusiasm, skill and passion; this one is going to get lively.

 

Also booked is four-piece blues/funk outfit, The Will Edmunds Band, who perform interpretations of classics from the likes of Robert Johnson, BB King, Albert King and The Meters. Their sound promises to be tight and fresh, yet retaining old-school mojo!

And that’s what we’ve been told so far. No mention of Jon Amor; surely, he’ll drop in, would’ve thought? Ah, one step ahead of you. The Friday before , 19th July, he’s at the pre-festival event at the Sports Club, where for a tenner you’ll get Saddleback favourites Innes Sibun and Jon, with Mike Hoddinott of Ruzz’s Guitar Blues Revue and what’s worth the entire weekend price-tag in my humble opinion, for all it’s worth, the awesome UK-USA blues conglomerate, Beaux Gris Gris who we’ve reviewed a night of before.

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A further tenner means you can camp for the weekend, from 5.00pm Friday 19th July, with campers asked to leave the site by 10.30am on Sunday 21st July. It may be whacking the total from £25, for a main ticket, to £45 for the whole shebang, and in all honesty the mods may have it cheaper than the rockers this year, the Scooter Rally tallying to £25 for the whole weekend with free camping, but a considerable donation of Saddleback is off to chosen charities Julia’s House and Care If, and going on the sturdy and reliable security, strategic setup and organisation that went into last year’s event, together with an awesome line-up, Saddleback will not go unnoticed, even if promotion of it seems somewhat lessened this year.

 

Here’s last year’s snaps to get you in the mood; all images by Nick Padmore

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You Can’t See the Join; Eric & Little Ern at Devizes Arts Festival

Youngsters may ponder how we survived times of yore with just the three TV channels. Certainly, children’s shows stopped at six, new-fangled video recorders were expensive commodities and presented their users with a horrendous relay, poor sound quality and the tedious labour of rewinding. Yet we had something which barely exists today, an eminence of shows designed to entertain a family; can you think of similar today?

Variety performances outclassed anything you might deem akin today. Simon’s Cowell’s amateur talent contest TV shows remained firmly in the holiday camps, professionals reigned weekend viewers which style and panache. Contemplating it, The Simpsons is perhaps the only show the entire family enjoys, as while I’ll watch Britain’s Got Talent, one eye squints.

Ant and Dec are no replacement for The Two Ronnies, arguably the only duo to come close to the sovereigns of weekend family entertainment, Morecombe and Wise. If you never thought you ever see anything like their magic again, think again.

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Ian Ashpitel & Jonty Stephens are Eric & Little Ern, a remarkably accurate tribute that has to be seen to be believed. Spotted the posters of their Devizes Arts Festival’s event on 14th June I thought “yeah, right.” But no still image can summarise the precision of “An Evening of Eric & Ern,” you have to check these videos out.

Away from my theories, do Ian and Jonty think Morecambe & Wise are still popular today?

“We have been asked, many times, over the years what is the lasting appeal of Morecambe and Wise?” says Ian Ashpitel who plays Ernie “I think that it’s a combination of many things; they grew up with each other and had an instinctive timing that is hard to replicate. They were friends first and foremost, closer than brothers. They grew up learning their craft together. Making mistakes together, finding what works and doesn’t work as they played clubs and theatres for over 20 years before being seen on TV for the first time. They were likeable and people could relate to them, to their sense of humour and their comedy. Working class gentlemen as someone once told us. Eric was one of the finest comics Britain has ever seen and, with the perfect comedy foil at his side, it was a truly magical combination. Having played Ernie, it’s made me realise just how good he was. His timing was immaculate and they had a trust in each other that flowed effortlessly through their performance.”

“Exactly” says Jonty, “They were so relaxed together on stage, so funny, that everyone felt safe in their company. They were brilliant because they appealed to everybody, all walks of life, men-women, young-old, everybody found them funny and it’s very hard to do.”

Their catchphrases now engraved in our language, the songs and gags will never fade with time. So, in their show, it’s Ian and Jonty’s aim to replicate Morecambe & Wise’s live theatre shows, with the famous songs and sketches from their TV moments, as well as a few surprises and a guest singer.

 
Ian and Jonty first met at drama school in Birmingham in 1983 where they became firm friends. Even back then people would ask ‘are you a double act?’ to which the boys would answer, in unison, ‘No.’ Jonty is a brilliant mimic; Eric was one of many impressions he would perform from an early age. He’s a self-confessed Morecambe & Wise anorak and it was his knowledge and love which proved to be the bedrock of their story.

 

Now jobbing actors and members of The Stage Golfing Society, in 2002 Ian and Jonty would put on a review/show. They performed a five-minute sketch and were instantly told ‘you must do something with this’. It has to be said by now nature had taken its course with Jonty’s hair and Ian had fully developed the short fat hairy legs!

 

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During the run of the initial show, which had moved from Richmond to the Edinburgh Festival, Eric’s son Gary Morecambe saw the show and loved it. Support and approval from the family were massively important to Ian and Jonty and continues to be so. The show then went on a hugely successful tour, which culminated in its first West End run in the Christmas of 2013 at the Vaudeville Theatre.

 

The show was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2014. Another tour and a Christmas run at the St James Theatre London followed. Devizes has a grand chance to witness it from the comfort of their own town, one of many highlights of our Arts Festival. Tickets are £21 here.

 

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Owl Fest Revealed; Bromham’s Secret Garden Party Cider Festival

The Westcountry festival circuit is Corky’s bread and butter, in a deja vu moment I uttered the last time we spoke we were in exactly the same place last year, Owlfest! In addition, Corky was attired in the same trademark Harris Tweed suit and flat cap, not the dress of your archetypal rapper. He replied the importance of Owlfest, as the first open-air festival of the year.

In that respect it’s still spring, and a gentle breeze did blow across Bromham’s sports and recreation ground, enough to force Kirsty Clinch to tie her wafting red hair into a makeshift “pineapple” which she’d jest about through her wonderful acoustic set. Yet this gathering was a welcomed occasion for villagers, and warm weather tolerable.

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None of this came before I approached the site to the instantly recognisable sound of Mr Jamie R Hawkins, freed from my short bus journey. With no real plan for getting home again, save Shanks’s pony, I knew my time was limited, perhaps scooting off prior to festivities moving inside for the final two acts, the Gentle Crows and Funked-Up. Alas, this is what I did get for my efforts.

Initial rock covers band, Homer was a well-received newcomer, organiser Adam Dempsey told of his reservations of having a full-band to kick off the afternoon, when acoustic sets would follow, but starting with a boom is never such a bad idea. Jamie did his thing, those wonderfully sentimental originals and sublime covers included his heart-warming new single, “Welcome to the Family,” a ukulele ballad to his toddling daughter. Also, on the set was Big Yellow Taxi, as I sat getting to know Kirsty, who was neither here nor there about it also being in her set. I noted this was a cider fest, they’d never notice!

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Though Owlfest, in its second year after a merger of Bromham’s cider festival, Bromfest circa 2011, and the concept of introducing musical acts who’ve been booked at the Owl prior, is free, there’s an £8 tag for a glass and tokens to explore this fine array of ten local ciders; arm twisted!

With header, Black Rat’s newly introduced Dark Fruits, to reliable Cheddar Valley, the selection was oscillating taste-buds, Lilly’s Cheeky Pig, Dog Dancer from Gwynt Y Ddraig, Sanford Orchards, Purpeck and Harry’s all appeared in conjunction with a bustling barbeque.

As Jamie departed to a support gig at Devizes’ Long Street Blues Club, Kirsty took over the marquee. A Westbury young singer I’ve not heard enough of, for while her celebrated YouTube channel fuses a courteously pop sound, her acoustic set shines brilliance in an acceptability for perhaps, an older crowd. Kirsty has confidence without showiness, there’s no drama nor conceited air to her, just a down-to-earth girl with love for her incredible talent.

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She did cover Big Yellow Taxi too, so suitable to her style, and executed her originals with panache, but most poignant was her take on Cash’s Ring of Fire and most divergent and improvised, Blue Suede Shoes, a witticism directed at the following act, who had arrived in said footwear to tap and us on the shoulder for a chat, George Wilding.

In fact, it was here last year when I really got to know George, as we yakked about gig aftermaths, football and all manner of unexpected tenacious links. Again, he did what he does best, with ease and unique stylishness, George belted out the Arctic’s Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor as way of introduction, and followed with a parade of awesome covers. Often improvised, George plays to the crowd with an aptitude to cover requests, appeasing Kirsty’s call for Day-Dream Believer.

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Knowing my personal favourite being The Ronette’s Be My Baby, which he makes his own, George was keen to chat about the highs and lows of Phil Spector with me afterwards. This approachable and friendly legend of local live music scene, does it every time, despite always searching for a reason not to; a slight hangover being his excuse this time, did not affect his astounding performance.

Sorry to have missed the other acts, my phone battery dying would be my only aid and torch through the Badlands of St Edith’s Marsh’s footpaths back to Rowde, if I’d left it till after dark. Yet Corky I couldn’t miss, tittering in the audience as he took the makeshift lawn stage; Bromham residents know what’s coming, despite it’d be surprising if you haven’t heard this accomplished and extremely witty, self-styled adaptions of hip hop anthems in true West Country fashion and relative themes. Ginster’s Paradise spoofs Gangster’s Paradise, what Goldie Looking Chain did for urban rap in the West Country, Corky takes rural; Your Mrs is a Nutter cover being a prime example.

Anecdotes of rural poverty, red deiseal, and the supermarket’s monopoly of underfunding dairy farmers are among the hilariously satirical themes of these raps. Though Corky’s demeanour is funny, the only yokel who could support either The Wurzzels or Beastie Boys and not look out of place.

That was it for me, an applely taste to my hiccups, I had to depart. But upon arrival I remarked to Adam, the attendance was staggeringly up from last year, and I did talk to some non-villagers. With liberal stance on camping, bringing you children, and other festival FAQ’s, OwlFest really is a promising and brilliantly staged event for any village, and residents, organisers and all should be proud of what they’ve achieved. Ack, you missed it? Never mind, The Owl has regular music nights, as well as a variety of evening’s entertainment from charity quizzes to themed nights such as a Halloween party.

Future events to bookmark; Larkin on 29th June, Drew Bryant on the 27th July, People Like Us 10th August, the Gentle Crows 28th September and those Truzzy Boys on 26th October.

 

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Reggae Inna Cellar, with Razah and Knati P

 

Can’t review your own gig, numb-nuts; see this as a reflection on our blinding reggae night down the Cellar Bar……….. 

 

Relying on public transport, our neighbouring Marlborough seems like a million miles away, a gamble you won’t be stuck in Avebury wandering the stones talking to some starry-eyed American beatnik about the wonders of crop circles.

But I thought it an idea to invite the very best Marlborough has to offer, in the genre I love the most, to our own cobble-stoned Cellar Bar last night. And boy, did it go off.

I arrived as early as my dinner would settle, to find a wall of speakers and a sound system in various stages of construction.

Ingrained, we are, of live music, one punter inquired when the band was going to play. This is sound system culture, a history richer than disco, a Jamaican ethos of music for the masses, stretching back seventy years beyond the ska sound of the sixties, to days of dub reggae, inspiring the bloc-parties of hip hop in the Bronx, and naturally, the free rave scene of the nineties.

The sound system pioneered not just techniques in amplification, but musical progression in ways the band or solo musician could never.

So, we are here, in 2019, if Devizes embraces tradition it sure took this surprise under its wing, as the Cellar Bar began to fill with our few reggae aficionados, hippies, old scooter boys, youthful passers-by and embraced a unity of all which only reggae can do.

You can sum this up with popular slogan and Marely anthem, One Love. Precisely what Razah, Knati P and crew blessed us with, giving up their time to play in aid of the homeless charity, Devizes Opendoors, under our banner of Devizine, and of which I’m forever in their debt for.

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Another bass-wobbly image by Devizine; except no substitute

A huge thanks goes out to the crew, painter and mentor, Knati P who brings the party with him, Nick, aka Razah, who technically made this work wonders, and gave me a few tips on playing on a big sound system, despite it looking like a confusing series of knobs, dials and lights to me!

I gave them a break and did a blast with my amateurish computer mix, as the crowds were yet to cotton on. Yep, should’ve publicised it better with posters, save relying on the followers of Devizine, yet Devizes should’ve heard of it by now, no excuses; help me to help you, sharing is caring, and word of mouth does wonders. Despite, as our first couple of gigs had no budget, and not wishing to dip into charity funds, was therefore experimental to see the power of the site and who pays attention to it; kind of worked, kind of didn’t. A few bods telling me they just passed by and heard the sweet music. Another notch in the idea of taking Devizine to the printers. Anyhoo, for future reference that.

With my mix from early ska to upbeat dub-ska over and done with, the professionals took control. In a blink the place was bustling. Beginning with popular reggae tunes and blending slowly towards a contemporary upbeat, jungle-like sound, only to finish where we started with Prince Buster’s One Step Beyond; that’s ska, people, please keep up!

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Christ on a bike; where are my photographers in my hour of need, huh?

No one shirked in the bottom seating area, even the dust on the old beams was jumping. Proof, I feel, reggae has a market here, fruitful and valid. Ergo, if you want to attract a crowd to your pub venue, with something differing from the norm, get in quick and book this Skanga sound system, the Knati P and friends reggae show, before someone else takes heed! My mission to force Devizes to be reggae-friendly has raised the bar, Knati, Nick and crew did an astounding job of convincing me.

A blinding, joyful atmosphere which needed no bouncer-presence; 99.9% here to party, as it should be. Mate, whoever you were to be so cheeky to ask bar-staff for a table knife, posing as a crew member with the task of taking the flags down, I’m not impressed with shadowing the good reputation growing in Devizes for our guests, who played for the love. You were only caught down the street anyway, with the spoils of a Bob Marley flag that you can buy online for £3.20; I’m not the local newspaper, and will refer to you publicly as a fucking knob-jockey.

Delighted to announce then, combined with last week we raised £225 for Devizes Opendoors, who work to provide homeless and people in sheltered accommodation comfort in a cooked breakie, takeaway lunch, wash and donated clothes, books, and importantly, a social environment with needed help and advice. The way things of going these days, this is the cold reality in our affluent town. Though minor compared with cities and larger towns, it’s real and it’s happening.

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Bugger me sideward with a barge-pole if I say I love reviewing my own gigs, I’m not here to boast, as it’s not about me. See this then as a diary-like blogpost, and tip for who I think needs greater attention on our scene. Thank you, for all the effort you’ve put in, to the attendees, Luke and staff at the Cellar Bar. Thanks to the previous Saturday’s acts; The Roughcut Rebels, The Hound on the Mountain, Gail Foster and those Truzzy Boys (hope you had a grand night at the Cons Club.) And a massive respect and one love to this week’s crew, particularly Sam, and to Razah and Knati P, who you can catch 8th June at a regular spot in the Wellington Arms, Marlborough, for the Queen’s Birthday Party. Whether the Queen will be there to skank the night away is yet unconfirmed but highly likely.

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We will prompt and notify you of future events from these guys, Devizine owes them big time. Meanwhile, I think there’s so much going on during the summer, time to concentrate on those. We are NOT an event organiser, we aim to promote those who do, but Devizine Presents does help me understand what organisers are up against. Not to say l won’t put something else on later in the year though, aiming to highlight our blossoming music scene and all that sail in her!

 

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Cuban meets African, in Devizes: All About Grupo Lokito

You know, I have my ska-reggae show on Boot Boy radio, that’s while I’m so looking forward to Barb’dwire playing the Devizes Arts Festival in June, but feel I differ from its, generally, skinhead cohorts with instantaneous love for all Caribbean styles of music.

There’s something so colourful and lively in these many styles from the islands in the sun, but in my excitement for the ska night, I’ve overlooked the other intriguing main musical booking, London-based Afro-Cuban group Grupo Lokito, and wow, they sound tremendous!

Rhumba down to Corn Exchange on Saturday 15th June, where Grupo Lokito fuse contemporary Congolese and Cuban; I leave a few videos here, certain to wow you as they have me. In addition, we’re lucky enough to have Lokito’s manager and keyboardist, Sara McGuinness to enlighten.

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Keen to scoop some background, I asked Sara about managing a number of Cuban groups in London, Grupo Lokito being just one, and if they were Cuban by birth.

“I have played Cuban music and salsa for most of my life, as a piano player on the UK Latin scene,” Sara tells me. “In the mid-2000s I decided I wanted to investigate Congolese music, found a, at that time, vibrant underground Congolese music scene and started playing keyboards in a Congolese band. Congolese music is one of the few styles that is popular pan- Africa. The fact it has a modern but distinctly African sound is often cited as one of the reasons. It’s vibrant, fantastic music. What became clear to me the minute I started working with Congolese musicians within their community was that the music the African audience, the ‘home’ audience if you will, liked was quite distinct from the music favoured by the world music audience. The Congolese liked the old and the modern stuff, whereas the tastes of the world music audience stopped in the 60s. I loved the modern music that I was playing with the Congolese bands. Furthermore, I could see many similarities in performance practice and musical structure between that music and Cuban music. So, together with a Congolese singer, I wrote some tunes and we brought together musicians from the two traditions.”

“We were lucky as, working within both scenes, we had insider knowledge about who to work with. What was striking was that the two groups of musicians had never met each other or mixed at all before we brought them together in this band. Together in the band we worked hard to absorb each other’s musical styles. I was determined not to have a ‘fusion’ group which played a pastiche of the two styles. Grupo Lokito have a large original repertoire which combines different elements of Congolese and Cuban music. All of the band are dedicated to playing the music well and with an amazing groove.”

I asked Sara to breakdown the band’s origins.

“I’m the bandleader, born in the UK. The two lead singers, the lead guitarist and, on this occasion, the drummer are from the Democratic republic of Congo. The bass player and the percussionist are from Colombia and the trumpet player who is guesting with us on this occasion, is Cuban. What is more important than our origins are we are all Londoners, we have all chosen to make London our home and contribute to the rich cultural fabric of this great city.”

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This Cuban/Congolese fusion, I had to ask; are African fusions common in Cuba’s contemporary music scene, or something unique to Lokito?

“Absolutely not. My experience of Cuba is that most Cubans know very little about contemporary African music. Yes, there are many African derived musical traditions in Cuba but these hark back to an imagined Africa and African of 200 years ago. My experience is that initially the Congolese musicians I involved in the project had more idea about Cuban music, albeit a little old fashioned, than the Latinos did about Congolese music. The band is unique.”

The idea of an “imagined” Africa of yore is interesting, I think akin to all Caribbean music, particularly reggae. On Cuban styles though, I can’t believe it’s been over 20 years since the Buena Vista Social club album when, Ry Cooder popularised the genre. I wondered what Sara thought about this, does she think it’s been good for Cuban bands in the UK, as it’s probably the only album the masses would recognise from a bucket of “world music” albums.

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“The Buena Vista Social Club project certainly was part of the opening up of Cuba and popularity of Cuban music in the world,” she explains, “It is often said to be a Ry Cooper project, but was actually a consortium of Juan De Marcos Gonzales, Nick Gold (World Circuit) and Ry Cooder. They decided to bill it as Ry Cooder in order for the project to gain wider popularity and not just end up in the world music bin; it worked!”

“In terms of it being good for Cuban music in the UK there are positive and negative consequences. On the positive side; many people became interested in Cuban Son and there was more call for Cuban bands to play old style, Cuban Son. On a negative side, it did create a nostalgic, polarized image of what Cuban music is and created a standard repertoire that bands were required to play. In fact, the island of Cuba has a huge number of musical styles which have come out of the island, a product of the mix of cultures on the island: Mainly European and African but also Chinese, and other.”

My research suggested Cubano Son is the style associated with an African and Latin fusion in Cuba, which has been around since the 1920s. So, is Grupo Lokito similar? But does Sara think this wouldn’t be popular in Cuba today.

“I don’t agree Son is the style associate with African and Latin in Cuba,” Sara corrected me, I’m here to learn! “There are definite African and European roots to son,” Sara continues, “Son has been constantly developing since the 20s and, as you point out most people are not listening to son in the style of the 20s. Cuba has definitely opened up to the world and there is a lot of music coming out of Cuba now, from Jazz to Hip hop, timba, son.”

But Grupo Lokito brings together contemporary musicians from two musical traditions, okay, similar more so to Soukous, a popular dance music from the Congo Basin derived from Congolese rumba, or better still, stop pigeonholing Worrow! Grupo Lokito write their own original tunes: stories of life ranging from love tales, reflections on the trials facing musicians trying to make a home away from home, the wisdom of the elders, to the simple joy of dancing, and sounds awesome!

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To return this fascinating and enlightening chat to the beginning, what of reggae and ska, surely the most popular forms of Caribbean music in the UK, due to the Windrush generation. I asked Sara, what she thinks African, or Cuban styles would have to do to become as ingrained in our culture as them, is that even possible does she think, and is it something to aim for?

“I think it depends who ‘we’ are,” Sara replied. “There are many second, third and more generation British people of African descent and for them, the music of home is embedded in their culture. Latin-American music, in cities such as London, where there are large Latin American communities, particularly Colombian and again, second and third generations have Colombian musical styles ingrained in their culture. I definitely think that multi-cultural society is something we should be proud of. I do realise the London is a cultural bubble and the rest of the UK, particularly outside the large cities, is far less multi-cultural. If you look at some of the new music being created in the UK cities it will all be in there.”

Ah, but this be Devizes me lover! I’m extremely grateful for Sara’s time in chatting with us, must say, it’s a great example of the diversity on offer at this year’s Devizes Arts Festival, and something exotic and exciting for us bumpkins!

 

Tickets to Grupo Lokito are on sale now at £18.

 

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De Novo; New Beginnings for Claire and Mark

 

What’s all this about then, another invitation to “like” a Facebook page? I was glad to catch up with Claire Gilchrist yesterday, as she announced a new venture with other former People Like Us originator, Mark Povey…….

The fresh electro-acoustic duo dubbed, De Novo, promises to “create something frickin’ stratospheric!”

Bassist Mark left People Like Us after a sell-out New Year’s Eve gig at the Three Crowns, Devizes back in 2017, while Claire left towards the end of last year. Let’s not dwell on details, I wanted to press Claire for what we can expect from this silver lining, for does she see it as thus? “Quite,” Claire agreed, and informed me, “De Novo is Latin for New Beginning.”

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But is De Novo something dreamed up on a whim, this Sunday afternoon in a beer garden? “No. Mark and I have been toying with the idea of a duo for a while now,” Claire explained, “but I was far from ready to sing again after last year.” The split from People Like Us left Claire disheartened, so we are pleased to hear she’s found her feet again, and that wonderfully punctual and expressive voice too, obviously.

But, what kind of music can we expect?

“We will be producing our own take on chart and album songs, old and new,” she explained.

How far do you plan to go back? I inquired, requesting them to give us some eighties!

“Foo’s,” Claire namedropped, “Beach Boys, Adele, Guns & Roses, The Police…” Then Erasure, The Human League, and Simple Minds were also cited.

A broad pop mix, “choosing your favourites?!” I asked.

“The One and Only!” came a knee-jerk reaction, I hope in jest! “Yes, but also songs that people won’t necessarily recognise.” The blurb on De Novo expresses: Anyone who knows either of us already will not be surprised to read that our duo will not be that of the ‘every day’ kind.

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Original People Like Us line-up, Andy, Nicky, Claire and Mark

Claire agreed with my belief, that it’s fascinating to cover songs, when putting your own stamp on them. But what about originals, has the duo their own compositions up their sleeves?

“Yes, Mark and I are songwriters.”

“Together?”

“Yes.” Claire was keen to open up to a little of her history, “I had a record deal with an independent label when I was in my early twenties. My song-writing partner and I had songs that were put forward to artists in Nashville, at the time.” Yet she sings and plays by ear, “I always need an ‘actual’ musician to realise stuff properly.”

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Mark and Claire are at “the very beginning of our musical journey together,” and we wish all the best for this promising duo, but are they ready?

“Not quite yet, we’re honing our act. We don’t want to go out and perform without being 100% happy and ready,” she explained, “but we’re hoping to pop up over the summer to give people a free taster and be gig-ready by September. Like flash-mob, out of the blue, street kinda stuff.”

“Buskers,” I jest, though Claire professed the importance of busking, informing me her idol KT Tunstall started as a busker. So, track their progress by giving the De Novo Facebook page your “like,” and we look forward to hearing from them soon.

 

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Happy Gypsy Birthday Blood!

Some years ago, I walked into the Moonrakers, keen to hear a young singer called Tamsin Quin perform. It was a time when I had reservations about the rant column I was writing for Index; Wiltshire. While popular, and mostly when I did rant on a subject, I tended to become more interested in highlighting the positive things about Devizes.

 
Devizine born from this notion, but not before I heard our Tammy sing, as while it made me a fan of her music, it also opened me up to our local music scene. Our first post outside reposting the No Surprises Living in Devizes column, was the crowdfunding campaign for Tamsin to produce an album.

 
The album, Gypsy Blood now celebrates it’s first birthday. Check our review here, a year ago. Just a quick one from me them, to say a big happy birthday to Gypsy Blood, and advise you to follow this event, which celebrates the occasion with a live stream of Tamsin performing the album, and all from the comfort of your armchair; the show starts at 8PM: https://www.facebook.com/events/2036120543358867/

Devizine Presents #1; Presented

All Photos used with the permission of Gail Foster, except the one of Gail herself!

 

Gimme a samba band, throw me an avant-garde minimalist techno breakbeat and then chastise me with a euro-pop grunge fusion played by an antelope on a washboard, I couldn’t give a donkey’s kidneys, all music is better than no music; shit, imagine a world without music.

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Perhaps my taste too eclectic. I respect my supervisor’s dedication to one particular band, it’s borderline obsession; but me, see, I couldn’t reduce my tastes to a particular genre or era, let alone group. Bite the bullet, I can hold a conversation once tuned to wavelength, yet cause angered debate if I venture off your playlist. Bollocks, I say, any modern popular musical genre has been wired from the same machine, track the branch you sit on beyond the earth, and you’ll find the same roots.

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For me, last night was a learning curve, as I staged our first “Devizine Presents” evening at the Cellar Bar. In communication with all these event organisers it helps me to comprehend the issues they face, and it’s not so simple as propping up the bar all smug, though I attempted to! All said, we had a great night I feel, but refrain from giving my own gig a review, treat this as a diary-fashioned blog post, but compulsory to give you the heads up on the guys who did all the real work.

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Diverse the line-up may have been and contradictory to each other in style, I knew that, these acts slung together by an inexperienced promoter, me, under a banner of kindness to freely give their time and effort, for which I and Devizes Opendoors are both extremely grateful for. What the acts did bring was their own inimitable panache, and from Saturday Night at the Palladium to Britain’s Got Talent, variety is the spice.

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Local, the Roughcut Rebels have been on the circuit a while, playing mod-rock and indie classics from sixties to today, however with major changes to the line-up, including Jamie, the new frontman it was a chance for them to showcase their modifications. Regrettably, I’ve never caught the original group, but confirm now the alteration is a transformation; they rocked with confidence, panache and flair through Animals, Small Faces and Kinks sixties blues-rock classics to benchmark eighties mod, resting particularly on The Jam, and progressing to Britpop anthems including a sublime take on Wonderwall.

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Ha, I ain’t making no money writing this crap, so just cos the gig has our tag doesn’t mean I’m here to flatter, you know I’ll tell it as it is. The Roughcut Rebels are highly bookable, would make a great band for a lively pub, scooter club, indie night or even are diverse enough to satisfy the multiplicity a wedding reception would crave.

With the moderate crowd building, (I need YOU at these nights, you know you bring the party, you little party-head, you!) and roused, having a poetry interlude could’ve been a mistake, as you could hear a penny drop; who was unaware that Gail Foster would charm and entertain with poignant verse and witty interims? Because I had no doubt, having do exactly this at our birthday bash back in November, and she did this time with equal appeal.

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Now the cobblestone stage was set for the dreadlocked guy parading around attired bizarre, for Jordan Whatley is his own, is the wildcard and as noted in our interview (here) will bring something curious, peculiar to the show, but shine with original brilliance. Armed with just electric guitar, the ambience he set was spellbinding as he went through a set from his new works, previous tunes from his EP …… such as The Forest, to making Pink Floyd’s Another Brick his own.

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The Hound is truly back on the Mountain, appearing alternative but positive, he’s the character you cannot deny his talent and showmanship, as his expressive spectacle sends him to the floor in an intense display of vivid gothic splendour.

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Then it’s all change akin to the circle line at Edgware Road, as after a poignant Brexit verse from our Gail, The Truzzy Boys are raring to stamp their brand of acceptable pop covers on us. Speaking to Finley about his partner in crime under the Larkin banner, Sam Bishop, who unfortunately couldn’t make it, the DIY ethos of being unsigned means they’re not tied to their namesake. A contract would detail it’s Larkin or nothing, split or together, but Larkin continues albeit while Sam is away studying it’s on the backburner, they still hailed a welcomed night at the Southgate recently.

What Finely’s grouping with cousin Harvey Trusler brings to the show is contemporary pop-indie covers and floor-filling anthems with wide appeal, which did exactly that in the most practical means possible. Confident and harmonious they performed a set more than adequate for any age-ranging function, like a wedding. To boot, the musical family’s prodigy would also supply a disco set-up to complete any such function. This is industry, yes, but within the commercialism of it the boys maintain a positive love of performing, and this shines across the audience, sparking them with equally good vibes.

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You can catch the Truzzy Boys this Saturday (18th May) at the Devizes Conservative Club, where for a mere three quid you’ll witness just what I mean; it’s catchy pop fun, with enjoyment throughout and the expertise not to meander into cliché pop mush.

Though I could tell you nothing else is going this coming Saturday, being we’re back at the Cellar Bar, Devizine exists to inform all of local events. It will not and does not favour any category or genre, will treat a church jumble sale and a four-day mud-fest gypsy rave with equal affection. Suitable then is my aforementioned eclectic tastes, or it would be bias, and that wouldn’t do. I aim to cast variety for these charity gigs, using the various venues at hand, if it’s to become a thing now.

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Starting same time, same place this coming Saturday, is my “for instance;” Knati P, renowned on the international reggae scene with right-hand man, Razah I-Fi will be stacking up a sound system down that Cellar Bar, bringing us a dynamic dub party, something of a rarity here in the Vizes. They say, they might even let me operate the controls as a warm-up, where you can expect a set of original Jamaican ska, as my favoured palate, which will wind into lively ska inspired dub; that’s the plan at any rate. You will dance, you can be sure of that young fellow-me-jig.

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But again, I’m asking for donations, preferably a fiver, as I’m not out to hang myself on the music promoter vocation, not with the wonderful experienced ones we already have locally, from Mr Moore of Sheer, The Blues Club, Scooter Club, and Dean of Dead Kool now at the Cavy, to namedrop a few. I do however, ask for a contribution so we can hand it to our chosen charity, this time the homeless aids, Devizes Opendoors, who work towards making life that tad nicer for our rough sleepers and those in sheltered accommodation. I’m not here to get political on your ass, but with the way the country is going, this is more in need than ever.

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So, delighted to say, Saturday night’s musical jaunt has raised £140 which will be banked along with takings to next weeks and handed to the charity. That in itself is a grand job, and I thank the Cellar Bar for having us, and to Harvey, Finely, Gail, Jordan, and The Roughcut Rebels; Doug, Jamie, Mark and John for giving a diverse and amazing night; cheers guys!

 

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Up the Mountain to Chat with the Hound;

Jordan Whatley on his new EP, illness and influences.

 

If chat between songs on Tamsin Quin’s live CD commending the local music scene prompted me to an awakening, Saddleback’s Battle of the Bands in February last year opened my eyes and ears to exactly what she was extolling. A decade of parenting undermined my mindfulness of any such scene, yet I was to be inaugurated.

Bowled over by this acoustic assortment and now befriended Jamie, George, Mike, Sally and Jack, Jordan Whatley was one I never did get to greet. A distanced performer, masquerading under the pseudonom The Hound on the Mountain, he lay out on his knees before the panel of judges in a Hendrix screeching guitar moment. If there was an award for showmanship, he’d have owned it.

Keen to catch him again months later, in the group setting of The Compact Pussycat, I felt the shebang somewhat disjointed, the band proficient, Jordan spirited and acute too, but the combination fragmented. Later in the week Jordan and the Compact Pussycat went separate ways. This Melksham prodigy, feeling alienated, opened up about a mental illness to his Facebook followers, but returns to supplement his 2016 solo EP, Cernunnos with new material, and a live album from his recent gig at Bristol’s highly regarded Fleece.

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We hope to witness it when he arrives Saturday at the Cellar Bar for our charity-based Devizine Presents debut gig. Time to catch up with this hound methinks, for he is more hound than pussycat, and rap about this progression, dealing with his affliction, and investigate his influences.

Cernunnos is a roller-coaster of gothic ballads, fiery blues-rock psychedelia and indie-come-Britpop elevations. If the opening tune, The Forest astounds in goth traipse, building to an enraged frenzy, Ghosts of Your Past is the hauntingly psychedelic blues of Steppenwolf awash with Lewis Carroll references.

While Porcelain Trees perhaps the most emotionally drafted and executed, a gothic gradient of Bauhaus, Tin Can alleviates with a Britpop danceable anthemic riff. Yet the finale staunch punk into archetypical goth. Through diverse stimuli though it’s unified and uniquely Jordan. The passion to be himself and not deviate an attraction to his art, I was keen to engage him into what we should expect next. “So,” I asked, “you’ve a new EP coming, the years between occupied by working with the Compact Pussycat I take it?”

“Yeah sure thing, dude!” was the reply, “The EP was created in 2016 with Nine-Volt leap, put the project on hold due to the Compact Pussycat and getting back on it now. And yep, the live recording is finished, just editing it. Also, I’m starting new EP production next month.”

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But how does Jordan think it differs from Cernunnos?

“This next EP is gonna have a lot more creative process behind it,” he informed. “Beforehand, Cernunnos was made just after me leaving my acoustic scene behind, so was fairly vanilla, using basic structure and minimal instruments. This new album is gonna feature a lot of progressive structures, more electronics and I’m developing a story to run through it. I want this to be my saucer full of secrets; it’s gonna be complex and hopefully be something to show how much I’ve changed, musically and mentally, over the last few years.”

“A tune like Ghosts of your Past has complex narrative relating to Alice in Wonderland, it’d be good to hear a flowing theme right through the EP,” I observed. “Any similar cultural references, could I delve for a hint at a synopsis, or is it secret?!”

“I guess a lot of the psyche behind this is the concept of, almost, wicker man-esque cult themes; the kind of closed-end community’s dealing with their own myths and stuff. Alice in Wonderland will feature again, that’s more about the mental illness-based ideas of it, as someone who has dealt with mental illness it’s kind of weird, since describing it more as a being, prowling over you more than an invisible disease is something I’d like to put into words. To be honest, it’s gonna have a few themes that I’m hoping I can finetune together. Gonna have some other musicians working with me on it too.”

“Yes,” absorbed with his openness about psychological impetuses clearly portrayed in his writings, “you publicly spoke about depression/mental illness on Facebook a few months ago. Do you think it can be part-and-parcel with the creative mind; the bleeding hearts of artists and all that?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s the whole damaged soul thing,” Jordan replied, “I feel it’s more that it just makes you a bit more open to ideas, and sort of a little more comfortable with expressing certain topics.”

I pressed on this, “I often think it’s what separates the true artist from the media whore, just in it for the money. Not mental illness necessarily, but a wilder, crazy side is no bad thing provided it’s channelled into art.”

I thanked Jordan for his time, touching on the, perhaps, incoherent ambience surrounding the final Pussycat gig, despite all being accomplished and talented musicians. “Yeah,” he explained, “I enjoy working on music that I would like to watch live more than something I think will be popular; I’m doing it for me after all!”

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In a nutshell that’s what I like about Jordan, I was a window-shopper of goth, something I never popped into purchase, but winked at the cute and curiosity shop-worker garbed in black gown and eyeliner; knowing Robert Smith’s lyrics in school was the difference from getting a snog, or not. Yet, The Hound on the Mountain turns my eclectic taste simply because he is who he is; “never try to be anything other,” I offered.

Previously I’ve mentioned the Doors comparison, as Morrison could hold that audience spellbound; probably easier for him as his audience were all tripping, but still, Jordan has a similar presence. So, who does he cite as influences? Does he describe his music with the “goth” label?

“Yeah,” he tended to agree, “this is showing off more influences, from the kind of Joy Division, Nick Cave, Bauhaus and Portishead side! The kind of Jim Morrison frontman still comes out, but you know I can’t be too ordinary, ha-ha; and yeah kinda, alt-gothic shoe gaze rock!”

Devizine welcomes this Madhatter Hound on the Mountain on Saturday 11th May, at the Cellar Bar Saturday 11th May, at the Cellar Bar with the Roughcut Rebels and Truzzy Boys also gratefully agreeing to contribute their time to raise some pocket money for worthy homeless charity, Devizes Opendoors; please do come along!

 

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Greatest Love Themes: Andrew Hurst Joins Devizes Town Band

Ten years study at the Royal College of Music from the age of twelve, exceptionally talented local musician, Andrew Hurst joins the Devizes Town Band for Saturday’s spring concert, titled Greatest Love Themes.

 
The Band announce their delight that Andrew is to join them. He has many years of performing and teaching experience, and his sensitivity to atmosphere and huge variety of repertoire makes him highly sought after on both guitar and lute.

 
Also, wonderful and talented local actress and singer, Laura Deacon, has agreed to be compere for the concert at The Corn Exchange, Devizes. Laura has had a variety of lead roles with Devizes Musical Theatre, for which some of the Band perform the music. Laura has wowed audiences with her beautiful voice and her incredible portrayal of a wide variety of characters, ranging from a harlot to a powerful politician.

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The concert raises money for Wiltshire charity, Alzheimer’s Support, who have an office and Day Club in Sidmouth Street. In a change from the traditional black, band members will be wearing other colours to make the concert more dementia friendly.

 
Some people living with dementia see a black mat or flooring as a bottomless black hole, which is understandably very scary. They can also see people wearing black as floating heads, because they cannot identify black clothes.

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Babs Harris, CEO of Alzheimer’s Support said: “People’s perceptions can change when they have dementia and it is fascinating to hear from some of them how they now see colours. It is so heartening that Devizes Town Band have taken this on board for their concert and taken this extra step to make their performance truly inclusive and dementia-friendly. It promises to be a wonderful evening of music and the bright colours will only add to the celebratory atmosphere.”

 
“As an organisation Alzheimer’s Support is committed to listening to the voices of people living with dementia. We are very grateful to the Band for taking the initiative to make this happen.”

 
Greatest Love Themes is on Saturday 11th May, 7:30pm. Tickets are £7.50 from Devizes Books, or online via www.devizestownband.com

 

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Daydream Runaways Light a Spark

“Somethings end just for others to start. Some begin are just the lighting of a spark.” Recurring loops of life the theme of Daydream Runaway’s debut single, “Light the Spark.” Self-reflecting, perhaps, as this emotive, Killers-styled, smooth danceable indie harmony rings with poignant guitar breaks akin to Simple Minds, and the expressive vocals of U2.

 
There’s optimistic Talking Heads echo in the song too; declares newly-formed Daydream Runaways will indeed light a spark on our local music scene. Devizes based vocalist, Ben Heathcote has that definitive holler of sentiment and passion, complimented with an imperturbable accompaniment of Cam Bianchi on Guitar, Nath Heathcote on Bass and drummer, Brad Kinsey.

This is a breezy and confident introduction to a band only formed in January, and if its an overview, Daydream Runaways is definitely one to watch. The song is released on Wednesday, the 8th May, so spare a “like” on their Facebook page, as this is a very likeable and promising start. Nice one guys!

 

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Twit Twoo: Owl Fest Announce Line Up

Breaking and brilliant news as Adam Dempsey pings over the line up for this year’s Owl Fest on Saturday May 25th in Bromham’s social club, The Owl. Chained to that kitchen sink again, I dried my hands on a tea towel quick as I could to reply what a fantastic line up, I reckon it is. He thinks it’s their best yet.

 
So, no more suspense, and in no particular order, it’s that five-piece classic rock covers band, Homer. Citing influences as wide as The Undertones and Buzzcocks to Thin Lizzy, Steppenwolf and Red-Hot Chili Peppers to AC/DC, Homer’s been on the local scene since 2012. Frontman Pete Pig, Danny Silvers on drums and backing vocals, guitarists Paul “Winger” Weinling and Les Vegas, with Graham the crazy bassist, are sure to rock Bromham.

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Devizine favourite Jamie R Hawkins will be there, with acute and sentimental storytelling brilliance, Jamie never fails to impress.

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Everyone’s favourite, Mr George Wilding will also do his stuff. With natural ability and ease, astounding originals solo and with Wilding, George is surely Wiltshire’s imminent legend.

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And you must love tiny country-pop princess, Kirsty Clinch with her bountiful talent and energy.

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Malmesbury’s Corky also returns with his hilariously original brand of acoustic “scrumpy and western” agricultural hip hop, had me in fits of laughter before the cider even took its natural course at last year’s.

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My wild card, The Gentle Crows appear; not heard of these guys, I confess, but acclaimed rock covers they promise with great reviews online to date.

 
Topped off with Trusler senior’s Funked Up duo with Mark Colin Jones, with their brand of eighties funky-pop-rock, not forgetting the great selection of ciders on offer, food, I’m sure you’ll agree, The Owl is worthwhile heading towards on May 25th. See our review of last year’s here, and see you there, I hope!

 
The day is FREE, but if you want to use the Cider bar, you’ll need a wristband and plastic glass which sets you back a whole £8, and includes two tokens; why wouldn’t you?!

 

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Barb’d Wire and Corn Exchanging; Reggae Finds a Home at Devizes Arts Festival

Never content with what contemporary music thrust down our throats, even as a youngster, the easiest and sneakiest place to hunt for origins was Dad’s record collection. It would be years before he discovered the shortfall of vinyl and confronted me. Sixties Merseybeat and blues-pop standard, I recall the intriguing moment I unearthed a shabby cover of a girl’s naked torso, “Tighten Up Vol 2” was inscribed on her abdomen in lipstick. So, when he did, I inquired why he bought this, Trojan Record. More concerned where his Pink Floyd gatefold had vanished to, he half-heartedly explained, “it was something different,” as if he didn’t wish to divulge too much, “and cheap.”

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The estate of Bob Marley is still argued over, he never understood how to handle the royalties of rock star. Other than a BMW he had no extravagance, the house on Hope Road a gift from Blackwell, in which he lobbed a single mattress in the corner of a bedroom. What you see of the Jamaican music industry in the movie, “The Harder they Come,” is staunchly realistic; peanuts a too expensive commodity to compare to payments made to singers and musicians.

Poor wages triggered a prolific industry, hundreds of hopefuls jammed Orange Street awaiting to be ripped off. Trojan Records was founded the year after Bluebeat dissolved, 1968. The reasoning both English labels sourced Jamaican music was originally to supply the Windrush generation with the sounds of home, it is doubtful either realised the legacy they would leave. The underpaid nobodies singing on these records meant Bluebeat and Trojan could lower the price tag when compared to what upstarts like Bowie or Clapton would require, and price was everything for white British kids attempting to amass vinyl for house parties; as my father summed up.

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Though the attraction may’ve been the price, the enticement of these records came when the needle hit the groove; these rhythms were insatiably beguiling and exotic. I felt that ambiance too, and fell head over heels. But my palette had been preconditioned without comprehending it. Slightly too young to have immersed in the youth cultures of the late seventies, the sound bequest our pop charts.

Whether it was Blondie or the Police, or Madness, The Beat, or Piranhas, the charts of pre electronica eighties was inspired by the two youth cultures of punk and skinhead, and until the day I discovered a Bluebeat 7” of Prince Buster’s Madness, exposing Suggs and his Nutty Boy’s embodiment, I had no idea. Jerry Dammers’ Two Tone Records only had six years, an insecure contract with a get-out clause after one single, saw the acts achieve acclaim and jump ship.

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But if we celebrated Trojan’s fiftieth last year, we must do the same for Two-Tone’s fortieth, as it engraved its hometown, Coventry, as firmly on the ska map as Kingston. Within its short run Two Tone defined an era and reintroduced the roots of the dub reggae scene that punk spurred to white British youth; ska. The nonchalant rudimentary street-styled design of Two-Tone’s corporate identity is today considered standard ska practise; Dave Storey’s chequered monochrome background with Walt Jabsco, a character based upon a Peter Tosh image.

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It may have challenged punk with chicness akin to mod, but today, these subcultures are inconsequential, we can bundle it all into one retrospective burlesque, select whatever element of any of them and fuse them without pretence or offense; one reason why a group like Barb’d Wire is fresh and electrifying.

Though hailing from Two Tone’s home, Coventry, drummer and vocalist, Trevor Evans, a.k.a. ET Rockers, having begun his sparkling career as roadie turned DJ for The Specials, and with a brass section arrangement by Jon Pudge, ska is only an element of Barb’d Wire’s sound. Guitarist Ryan Every, Fingers Aitken on bass, and Mark Bigz Smith commanding the keys, blend influences as far and wide as punk to orchestral and blues into a melting pot of reggae. Fronted by the spiralling, gospel-inspired vocals of Cherelle Harding, their unique sound drives a heavy dub bassline, while not divulging on its preconditioned instrumental ethos. What we’re left with is a genuinely contemporary reggae lattice landing the group as firm favourites on the dynamic Coventry scene and festival circuit such as Skamouth.

 

While tracks like Duppy Town and Et Rockers Up Town, on their 2017 debut album, Time Has Come, rely on dub, a stepper’s riddim thrives throughout, but incorporates aforementioned influences. The only recognisable cover, for example, is the classic Latino-inspired Rockfort Rock of which the Skatalites perfected a ska-rhumba amalgamation. Produced by Roger Lomas, who also handles Bad Manners and The Selecter, again, Barb’d Wire pride themselves with Two-Tone influences, yet unlike the standard ska cover band you’re likely to get on our local scene, who all have their place in maintaining a clandestine but welcomed scene here, Barb’d Wire will be a fresh and welcomed gig, when they arrive at Devizes Corn Exchange on Saturday 1st June as a feature of Devizes Arts Festival.

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For me, and any reggae/ska/soul aficionado, this is simply unmissable, but for the Arts Festival it may be a risky move, breaking their typical booking in search for newer audiences. While organ recitals, poetry slams and theatre noir have their place, we owe it to ourselves to support this event in hope it will spur future events at the festival of an alternative and contemporary genre. That is why you’ll see our Devizine logo proudly on the posters for this particular appearance, as though we plan to bring you more in-depth previews and reviews of this year’s stunning line-up, I’m most excited about this one!

 

Saturday 1st June: Tickets available now, £18

 

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What a May Day! Things to do This Month; Part 2

Hark, the darling buds of May. Already looking quite blossomy isn’t it? Well, blossoming too is stuff to do in and around our local neighbourhood, and a few weeks ago I presented you with a lengthy look at what’s on during the first fortnight; see here.

Now though, sit down and brace yourself for some shocking news. I have, actually produced the second part of the monthly preview, and here it is! Though promised with previous months, I tend to side-track, or just plain scatter-brain and not carried it through. Not so this time, you don’t have to thank me, unless you have a choc n nut Cornetto.

Week 3: Mon 13th – Sunday 19th May

Regular sing-a-long at Devizes Folk Club in the Lamb, Devizes on Monday, similar on Tuesday if your go to the Bradford Folk Club, 8pm in the Cellar Bar of the Swan Hotel. Meanwhile, St James Wine Vaults in Bath where Radical Westie Productions presents Daisy, Television Villain, Ravetank and Devizine favourites Nerve Endings; £3 door tax.

Wednesday 15th, and Peter Vaughan does pasta at Vaughan’s Kitchen Cookery School, later don’t forget the acoustic jam at The Southgate, Devizes.

There’s Bach Suites by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment: Young Artists Anima Fidis Quartet at the Wiltshire Music Centre Bradford on Avon.

Thursday’s is acoustic night at The Royal Oak, Corsham. Hannah Rose Platt and Black Sheep Apprentice at The Tuppenny, Swindon or tribute night with The Quo Experience at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

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There’s a barn dance on Friday 17th at the West Lavington Hall. Usually wouldn’t make a song and dance out of such, but all proceeds go to the wonderful charity Arts Together; read about my visit, and the great work they do, here. Please support Arts Together, they’ve music, buffet, bar and raffle, see the poster for details. Future Devizine Presents nights will also like to donate to Arts Together.

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Sheer Music is back in Devizes, the Cellar Bar has Smokin’ Donuts; one-part Carter USM and t’other festival cult hero, Doozer McDooze. Brilliant indie-pop Talk In Code and the talented Jezilyn Martyn support. £7 advance from Sheer Music, a tenner on the door.

But if you thought Devizes was a one-gig Friday town, you’d be very much mistaken. There’s Johnny 2 Bad, an eight-piece boasting to be the UK’s number one UB40 tribute at The Cavalier Community Hall. Except the reggae train-spotter in me upheaves that Johnny Too Bad is actually by The Slickers and only covered by UB40, eh? Bit of reggae in the Vizes, though; never going to knock it. £10 in advance and should be great night.

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It’s rather retrospective in the Southgate too, with sixties garage and Mod band, Absolute Beginners at The Southgate playing a debut in the town. Three-piece playing covers of songs by The Who, The Small Faces, The Kinks, The Eyes, The Creation, The Jam, Secret Affair, Squire, and The Purple Hearts.

Without a cinema, the Assembly Hall in Melksham shows movies, The Favourite is on Friday. Break Cover are at The Talbot, Calne. An Open Mic at The Pump, Trowbridge. Comedy Night at the Boat House, Bradford on Avon. Tensheds live at the Rolly in Swindon and amusingly named Antarctic Monkeys at the Cheese & Grain, Frome.

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Back on reggae for Saturday, although other events are available, it’s Devzine’s second gig of the month, a reggae and ska night at the Cellar Bar with Knati P and Razah and I’ll be warming up for them with a ska show live. Look, again I’m asking you to come along, listing door damage as a fiver but as long as you give us what you can, that’s good enough. For all the proceeds go to homeless charity, Devizes Opendoors. For want of a quieter evening Opendoors also have a Quiz Night from 7pm at Nursteed Community Centre.

Those Truzzy Boys play the Conservative Club in Devizes, £3 on the door, Drew Bryant at The Southgate, and Sound Affects support the Dusk Brothers at the Cavalier’s Ameripolitan Music Club. Meanwhile, The Wharf Theatre welcome back Hancock clone, James Hurn, with new scripts.

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Brother from Another at the Woodbridge Inn, Pewsey, and Woodborough Social Club has Humdinger. Blues Bros & The Commitments at Melksham Assembly Hall. Còig at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon while the Neeld Chippenham has medium Derek Acorah.

Fresh from Montreal LG Breton and drummer Marco Dionne joins Phil Cooper for his Vise-Versa tour, closet to us is Saturday at the Village Pump, Trowbridge, other dates here: http://phil-cooper.co.uk/tour-dates

Sunday 19th sees the Chippenham Soap Box Derby and John Etheridge’s Sweet Chorus is at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon.

Week 4: 20th -26th May

 

Devizes Folk Club down The Lamb on Monday, An Evening with Graham Gooch at the Neeld, Chippenham on Tuesday. Acoustic Jam at The Southgate, The Royal Ballet’s Mixed Triple Bill at Wiltshire Music Centre, and The Waterboys @ Bath Forum on Wednesday.

Thursday is Acoustic Oak night at The Royal Oak, Corsham. Boxing Day and All Better play Level III in Swindon, and Carus Thompson is at The Beehive. But if you ever doubted summer is on its way, the bank holiday truly kicks off festival season, with Bearded Theory’s Spring Gathering in W. Midlands, or most fruitfully funky and stunningly popular dance fest, Shindig starts in Bruton. Shindig Festival is a glorious mash up of a gig, a house party, circus show, comedy night, a wellbeing retreat and kid’s party. No main stages, just an arrangement of stretch marquees, so you can be in amongst it, or chill on the grass. Kids can learn to DJ, breakdance and urban art.

This crazy weekend sees Chippenham Folk Festival starting Friday, as does Lechlade Festival. With Salisbury Live beginning, and Frome’s R&B festival with Frankie Miller’s Full House at the Cheese & Grain, you’re spoiled for choice.

Back in Devizes, Friday 24th, Bob Drury pays tribute to Neil Diamond at The Wharf Theatre. Adriano Adewele, Gwilym Simcock and Jason Rebello are at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon. While in Swindon, the Wyvern Theatre presents The Rolling Stones Story, Sheer Music has Press To Meco at Level III and there’s a Ska’mageddon at the Vic with SN Dubstation and King’s Alias @ The Vic, but for real roots adventurers, try RDK Hi-Fi meets Roots Inspiration @ Black Swan, Bristol. I’m steering clear of Bristol as there’s too much to list, but that one will go off.

Saturday then, the 25th. Long Street Blues Club celebrate the music of one of rock’s best-loved icons Paul Kossoff, with May Kossoff the band. A chilled but robust night is promised at the Southgate, with Nick Tann’s British folk take on Americana heartland traditions.

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It’s also time for Bromham to host the second combined cider and music extravaganza, OwlFest at the Owl, obviously. Did this last year, loved this last year, although I’ve no line-up info for you, you can bet your Bromham dollar this’ll be great. Another to watch is Marland’s showpiece, Gladstonebury at the Gladstone Arms, Chippenham, expect Steve Morano, the Sweet Swing Trio, The Chicken Teddys and Burbank.
Loud soulful, happy vibes will come from The Pilot, Melksham where Big Mama’s Banned play. The Gimme Gimme Gimmes and Devizine favs, The One Chord Wonders are at St James Wine Vaults, Bath, Frome’s R&B Festival continues at the Cheese & Grain with Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band.

The old English spelling of Savernake Forest, Safernoc inspires an intriguing event in Marlborough on Saturday too; “violin, voice and banjo music from the 16th century to the present day, world premiere of Paul Elwood’s Safernoc; a series of compositions for mezzo soprano Alice Simmons and violinist Tam Coates by composer Paul Elwood. Both Simmons and Coates live near the forest and both have found inspiration in the shadows of that ecosystem. The text by the composer is a play on trees and an imagined impression of Savernake taken from Dante, Bernini’s sculpture of Daphne transforming into a tree, and Mexican painter (Sister) Juana Beatriz de la Fuente’s, “The Tree of Life.” Admission £10, email contactamitytrio@gmail.com for tickets.

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Alex Roberts Live at The Southgate on Sunday 26th, the wonderful Sugar Motown returns to the Three Crowns. While Dr Feelgood plays the Frome R&B Festival at the Cheese & Grain.

End of May, Mon 27th – Friday 31st

Proper West Country, it’s the Coopers Hill Cheese Roll at Brockworth on Monday, Frome’s R&B Festival has Nick Lowe & Los Straightjackets.

With Bandeoke at Chippenham’s Neeld and Jackie & Felix Byrne at the Bradford Folk Club, that makes up Tuesday, while Wednesday it’s the World Music Club at The Beehive in Swindon, and of course, an acoustic jam at The Southgate, Devizes.

You can Meet the Gruffalo at Hillworth Park in Devizes on Thursday 30th, for his 20th birthday, Devizes Books bring the books, with a trail around the park, a prize draw and guest appearances, should be fun for kids of all ages.

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Acoustic Oak at The Royal Oak, Corsham and Jonathan James is Discovering Music at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon, while tribute The Commitments Experience are at the Neeld, Chippenham and Gaz Coombes is at the Cheese @ Grain.

That’s the month of May done, Friday 31st the Brodsky Quartet are at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon and Salisbury Live continues. Other than this, seems like a quiet Friday, save for the fact it’s time for the opening of the Devizes Arts Festival, I think it’s the best line-up yet, starting with An Audience with John Simpson at Corn Exchange. Check our preview of the festival here, and I will be highlighting some of the separate events as the month goes on.

More details of all events here are on our event calendar which makes up Devizine’s busy home page, but bear in mind this is not a exhaustive list, the calendar is updated (nearly) every day, so keep checking for updates; too much of it to continuously post to Facebook, you need to check in every now and then, or you might miss something you need tickets for.

Have a grand and blossoming May, it’s building up to a great summer ahead!

 

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