Song of the Day 4: Girls Go Ska

Hi, yeah s’me, keeping up the Song of the Day feature like dedication was as word I know the definition of!

No excuses not to, I mean I am of the generation when Roy Castle clasped his trumpet weekly, ready for the signing off of “Record Breakers.” No, it’s not a euthanasim, Google it whippersnappers.

Might also explain my fondness for brass. Brass is class, and a vital element of ska. Yep, four tunes in and I couldn’t resist sharing some ska with you.

It’s a commonly misguided notion that ska is a retrospective cult here in England. It tends to convey a bygone era of Two-Tone records, boots and braces.

Yet today, while said stereotype has a grounding, ska is an international phenomenon, particularly in South America. I did write a piece about this region’s love for ska, and how it’s roots out of Jamaica bare a different tale from our own.

To show you how fresh it can be elsewhere in the world, and it’s not a reminiscence for a
load of overweight balding pensioners as perceived in the UK, here’s all-female bar one Mexican band, Girls Go Ska, who I’m secretly in love with, (so secret they don’t even know themselves….until they use Google translate!) doing an instrumental jam.

Girls and ska; what’s not to like? Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


  • Hooch on Streaming

    Once a cover band, east Wiltshire’s rootsy four-piece Hooch have moved to writing and recording original material. Their discography goes onto music streaming sites today (Sunday 3rd July,) and if you like your country-rock breezy and uplifting, with a subtle touch of psychedelia and surf, then it’s worthy of your attention…..

    The instrumental Eagle Ray is particularly awash with this aforementioned surf-rock style, while all tracks have this sunny-side-of-the-street, retrospective feel about them. Slowburn, for instance, is good time mid-era-Beatles in nature and Voodoo Hair is outright groovy.

    Well even if you don’t do the streaming platforms you can get a listen direct from their website.Ten tunes on offer here, enough for an album, guys? An album of ten jumpy, anthemic ballads like Sweet Maria would see us fine, this one in particular is a beguiling peach I could imagine fans chanting back at them after only a few listens.

    Live is a bigger part to Hooch, I’m certain you’ll make a beeline for a gig upon hearing these well crafted tunes, they’re at the Seven Stars in Bottlesford Saturday July 16th, tickets are a purple one, I believe this includes a barbecue thrown into the bargin, and a summer mini-fest at the Horseshoe Inn, Mildenhall July 23rd.

    Expect “unusual” covers choices, they say, but I’d argue the cited Depeche Mode, Space and The Coral are apt, this upbeat melodic blend from Martyn Appleford, Nesh Thompson, Simon Dryland and Matt Ryan reflects this, with a dash more roots than perhaps, new wave mod, but with a move to electrification enhacing their acoustic roots, they weave perfect pop simplicity into their lyrics, and that’s where it is to pinning an imitatble, memorable style.

    If the name derives from the late 19th century abbreviation of Hoochinoo, a North American tribe in Alaska renowned for brewing booze, this is certainly fun time drinking music, but the sound is far more matured than its commonly associated brand of alcopop. Ha, whatever happened to that, do they still sell it? It certainly took the brunt of the blame for underage drinking in the nineties, as if they invented the concept and no kid ever tried alcohol before their ingenious bottle of wobbly lemonade came onto the market!

    Sickly sweet though, wasn’t it? Precursor to the Bacardi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice, but try the tune Aluna for size, and you’ll see, though there’s elements of the Kinks at their most comical, or subtle Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band at times, it’s a choice for grownups, with no immature persuasion; I love it, and hope they’re encouraged to perform their own tunes live, rather than an all-covers set; the difference between buying spirits and mixing it to your own taste or letting mainstream brewers decide on your sugar levels!


  • Full-Tone Stands Alone

    Full Tone Festival August Bank Holiday then, penny for your thoughts on that one……

    Five irritating wannabes handpicked for their conflicting personalities vote on each other’s dinner parties while a poor man’s Harry Hill narrator insults them in a heavily edited sham of a television show. Yet, despite this perpetual cycle of formulated garbage, Come Dine with Me attracts millions of viewers. It’s the same thing every darn episode; oh, how original, they’re looking in her knicker draw, saucy!

    Give me strength; familiarity is prevalent, between three to five million people slouch in front of The Chase daily, when face it, aside differing questions, it’s monotonous; eat, watch The Chase, sleep, repeat. Still, from a few branches of the grapevine, I’ve caught this tosh: “The Full Tone Festival is the same as last year.” Shut the front door!

    Honest, I feel like tapping them on the head, inquiring, “hello? Anybody in?!” Even if it was the same, which I’m out to conclude it’s not, so if you agree you need not read on, but even if it was, I’d reply, “yeah? Good!” for the simple reason, last year’s was absolutely, off-the-scale fantastic, and nothing, I repeat nothing, around these parts could match it.

    I sincerely hope they’re not the same substandard detractors who hypocritically whine-hole when DOCA, for good reason, change the dates or the route of carnival! I attended the astounding MantonFest last weekend, it was a similar setup as last year, because the formula works, regulars flock to it safe in the knowledge they know what they’re getting, and if it’s not broken…. Face it, most events are samey. Glastonbury might host some different acts annually, but even they have the same stages in the same fields year after year; fresh cowpats, same mud!

    Bottom line is, I’m unsure if it’s possible to improve on the sound, stage and pyrotechnics from last year, unless we forward-wind technology a few decades. The acoustics on that stage were mind-blowing, and if the price-tag is another niggly issue, you could see where your dollar was offloaded. It looked like something out of The Jetsons, didn’t it?! And I hope its shape will become iconic symbolism as to what can be achieved right here in Devizes. As an inimitable annual party, it’s one of a kind around these waters, it’s our ravey-davey Last Night of the Proms! The Full Tone Orchestra toured Bath Abbey, Marlborough College, the Wyvern in Swindon and beyond this year, but what they return home to produce is something really superior, something to congratulate and celebrate.

    Musical director and conductor, Anthony Brown tells us he’s “been looking forward to this year’s festival from the moment I put my baton down last year, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share what we do with so many people. There’s something here for everyone, no matter what your musical tastes are, and I guarantee that even those who have never experienced orchestral music before, will leave wanting more!” Summing my angle up nicely; far from a restrictive Proms, last year it opened doors to those otherwise sceptical of the magnificence of an orchestra and changed their preconceptions of them, and that’s a glorious achievement.

    But the biggie still remains, what can we expect from this year’s Full-Tone Festival on August Bank Holiday weekend (27th & 28th August)? The family-friendly music festival promises to be even bigger and better than ever, with two full days of back-to-back music, performed by this spectacular 65-piece orchestra conducted by Anthony Brown, we know and love as the Fulltone Orchestra.

    The programme divides into six orchestral concerts providing the ultimate variety of live music from popular classics, opera and big band to movie themes and huge nineties hits. The grand finale on Sunday evening will see The Green at Devizes transformed into its very own Studio 54, with the orchestra and singers performing a full two hour set of seventies inspired disco classics; oh, that can ring my bell, have I got time to grow an afro?!

    So, if it is as I suggested, impossible to improve on the sound, stage and pyrotechnics, enhancements in the line-up are the logical steps, which has been done. Special guest artists performing on stage include the formidable voice of Jonathan Antoine. A classically-trained tenor, Jonathan rose to fame after appearing on the sixth series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2012, as half of the classical duo Jonathan and Charlotte. He went solo and his debut album, Tenore, was released in 2014, and subsequently followed with a further two albums.

    Wiltshire’s own presenter and skateboarder, DJ James Threlfall also appears. James works radio for the BBC, and hosts football platform, 433. With a 95K Tik-Tok audience, Full Tone Festival also welcomes trumpeter Oli Parker, local legendary rock n rollers, Pete Lamb & The Heartbeats, and I’m delighted to see the most amazingly talented country-rock star Kirsty Clinch added to this fine bill; surely the icing on the cake.

    Talking cake, food and drink will be available from local vendors, and t-shirts will be on sale and raising funds for Dorothy House. And that’s that, Bowie said it best, ch-ch-ch-changes. All you need to do is grab a ticket, from Ticketsource, or Devizes Books. While children under 14 go free, it’s going to set you back forty quid, yet you can guarantee its money well spent, for this unmissable entire weekend show right on your doorstep.

    And for anyone casting a shadow of “samey,” I’d argue only in as much as everything is formulated; Albert Einstein had seven of the same suits, so he didn’t have to decide which one to wear! What are you expecting from them, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, digging up Beethoven? One ponders if they even attended last year, and I don’t mean the unofficial gathering on the little green, because they didn’t receive the benefit of being encased in the incredible acoustics of that Jetsons stage, they had not one iota of the splendour, the all-encompassing effect of it. But to say, if you were there, you’d surely take the “if it isn’t broken,” opinion and want nothing more than to do it all again.

    Of course, it’s your prerogative to stay home watching Come Dine with Me on an endless cycle of repeats while everyone else is having a truckload of fun! For more information about the Fulltone Music Festival on The Green, Devizes, and to purchase tickets, please visit the Fulltone Orchestra website.


  • REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival 2022

    A Great Festival – Now What About The Future?

    Andy Fawthrop

    Well, the 2022 Devizes Arts Festival has now drawn to its successful close.  Thanks to a very determined and hard-working committee, this jewel in the D-Town crown was finally shining again.  Along with DOCA-led events like the International Street Festival, Carnival, Colour Rush, Lantern Parade etc, The Food & Drink Festival, the two Beer Festivals, and The Fulltone Music Festival, we are truly spoiled for the cultural life in our town.  We certainly punch way above our weight.….

    This year the DAF ran from 9th to 25th June, a fortnight full of great entertainment – I counted 23 events at ten venues across town, showcasing a wide variety of the arts – jazz, classical, rock and country music, comedy, talks, walks.  Most, if not quite all, were well supported and I know that the organisers were pleased overall with ticket sales.  Bearing in mind that this Festival was effectively originally planned in 2019 and meant for delivery in 2020, it finally emerged blinking into the light of a post-Covid world in 2022.  A great job was done in rolling forward as many planned acts as possible, but there were inevitable casualties – some artists previously booked had understandably moved on and taken other bookings in the meantime. So, for the DAF Committee, it must have seemed a little bit like Groundhog Day in getting this thing finally done.

    So what was so good about it?  Obviously tastes and opinions are going to differ, but attendances and ticket sales have to be a good indicator.  We saw some nationally-known stars – Lesley Garrett, Simon Calder, Adam Frost, Tankus The Henge, and Darius Brubeck making their way down to this part of rural Wiltshire.  For me, the personal highlights were The Scummy Mummies and Alfie Moore on the comedy side, and Tankus and Darius Brubeck on the musical front.  The spread and variety of events was impressive, the venues were well set up and organised, and the advertising was spot-on.

    The things that might need a little further thought about were that some events/ venues weren’t sold out, that there were not more “affordable” events in the mix, and that there were only two Free Fringe events (although both were excellent and very well attended).  Perhaps these factors, and the lack of very much aimed specifically at a much younger audience, did lead to a preponderance of an (ahem) “older demographic” at quite a few events.  Clearly there were a couple of exceptions (Tankus and The Scummies spring to mind), but certainly something I couldn’t help but notice.

    But, to be honest, a lot of this is minor quibbling.  The Festival overall was clearly an artistic success, and the DAF committee and volunteers deserve a hell of a lot of praise for getting off their arses and delivering a very high quality event in our town.  Hats off to the lot of them!

    So what of the future?  What should we expect?  Already, as the dust settles on this year’s event and all the analysis starts, change is afoot.  The DAF organising committee itself is changing and evolving, as the Chair (Margaret Bryant) and Vice-chair (Vivienne Cuckow) step down from their roles.  Discussion and planning for 2023 and beyond will start shortly, with Vince McNamara and Jean Edwards stepping up to jointly fill the role of Chair.

    The broad thinking at the moment is that, now that the “old” Festival has been (finally) delivered, 2023 can start with an almost completely blank sheet of paper.  The decks have been cleared, and the DAF committee are back in the saddle, raring to go.  Is that too many metaphors? – probably, but you get the drift.

    There are (hopefully) new venues to think of – the Palace cinema, St. Mary’s, the Vaults and other pubs.  There is the possible prospect of conversations and more co-operation with other music venues in the town, and other Festival organisers – hopefully to mutual benefit.  There might well be more Free Fringe, especially on days/ times that don’t conflict with or overlap the more marquee main events.  Perhaps some choirs or singing events?  Perhaps more to appeal to a younger audience?  (But probably not children’s events – these have been tried several times in the past, but have not succeeded).   Because, whilst it’s important to have an open mind, it would clearly be foolish to completely ignore the hard lessons that have been learned in the past.  Experience has to be blended with innovative thinking.  It has to be a sensible and commercial balance between the completely experimental – bringing in the exotic, the different, unexpected – and the tried-and-trusted popular bankers.

    Equally, whilst it’s always good to support artists from our local cultural scene, there needs to be a heavy sprinkling of national/ international stars that audiences in D-Town would never normally get to see at affordable prices.  Frankly, it’s the latter that sells most of the tickets, and the acts that look good on the posters and the advertising!

    So it’s going to be a real tightrope walk for the new committee to get this just right.  I don’t envy them, but I do sincerely wish them the very best of luck!

    Does this make you feel that you’d like to contribute your ideas and/ or your energy?  If so, I’m pretty sure DAF would like to hear from you – there’s plenty of work to be done to develop and shape a successful festival.  And/ or you can become a Friend of the Festival, volunteer, and – most importantly of all – buy those tickets! For more information see the Devizes Arts Festival website at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk/


    Editor’s note: well, that kept our roving reporter Andy out of trouble for a fortnight! A massive thanks to you, Mr F, you’ve done an astounding job covering the Devizes Arts Festival. As opposed to me who danced my socks off at the fantastic Baila La Cumbia night. Here’s to 2023!


  • Timid Deer; back with more Melodies for the Nocturnal

    Salisbury may be a grey area for us, we don’t get to hear a great deal about the music scene there. I guess they have their own media, magazines and blogs covering it, but it is something I realise I must work on. For all I know, Timid Deer could be huge there, but they should be widely known, everywhere, in my honest opinion. So even if this is erroneous, I stand my ground when I’ve said in the past, they’re one of the most underrated bands around these parts, and this follow-up EP to vol one of Melodies for the Nocturnal proves their worth…….

    If, like me, you find it hard to come to terms with the notion the melodic Bristol-led trip hop scene for the matured raver is a generation past, and cannot get over how luscious Portishead, Massive Attack and, particularly, Morcheeba were, or if your indie side still relishes in the mellowed ambient soundscapes of Celtic goth, of Clannad, or All About Eve, this sits comfortably, somewhere in the middle, yet, for all the random comparisons I’m flinging, it’s unique for not applying the electronica “dope beats” of trip hop or the often gloomy outlook of goth. It is, in essence, uplifting indie.

    Uplifting because Timid Deer captures your mood and whisks it away on a smooth airborne expedition across a fantasy realm, akin to Enya or Evanescence, or which seems to be trending recently, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill.

    Unsure quite why every kid is listening and every mainstream radio station is playing Running up that Hill at the moment, but I’m happy it has, going on the grounds it makes those little hairs on the back of your neck stand up, Timid Deer has the same effect.

    I’ve fondly reviewed the first two tracks, Crossed Wires and Run upon their single release in March and December last year, respectively, but the EP contains two more beautiful songs, Wrapped Around Your Heart, and Promises. I said of Run, at the time; “a grand piano opening, their evocative part-indie-part-trip hop ambience is accomplished to a new standard here, with Naomi Henstridge’s both soothing yet haunting vocals embracing howling strings and, wow, this rolling piano. It’s reflective of nineties nu-cool, the brilliance of Morcheeba or Portishead, yet without so much inspired of acid jazz or trip hop to make it cliché, rather it’s owning this refreshing edge to appeal to the more guitar-laced indie fans, too.”

    And I described Crossed Wires as, “An uplifting piano three-minute masterwork, engulfing your soul and building layers with smooth electronic beats. Evocative as Enya without the orchestrated strings, as expressive as Clannad without the folk roots, and closer to Yazoo via electronica, rather than the aforementioned influences of Portishead and Morcheeba. Ticks all my boxes.”

    These two new tunes follow suit. The rolling piano, is blissful and lyrics beguiling, Wrapped Around your Heart is another winner, perhaps a smidgen more marketable than the previous two. The four-track EP ends with the ballad Promises, exemplifying everything that’s gorgeous about the sound they’ve captured, the strings and piano work in harmony, entreat the euphoric mellifluousness. It’s the standing motionless mouth aghast kind of music which reaches the soul.

    I discovered Timid Deer supporting the Lost Trades’ launch night at Trowbridge’s Pump, a gig I unfortunately had to miss but despatched a roving reporter to in my absence, and upon checking out their slight recorded output I was shocked as to why Timid Deer doesn’t have greater recognition. Perhaps a clue in the band name, they play Swindon Shuffle but rarely we see them gig otherwise; it’s a sound to relish, a sound for home comforts, for “chilling in your crib,” and Melodies for the Nocturnal Pt. 2, showcases that brilliance. Absolutely enrapturing…..


  • Weekend Roundup: 30th June – 3rd July 2022

    Full throttle into July, then; here’s what the weekend looks like around these parts. These parts of cultural void, so it’s claimed, we say otherwise…. You want proof?

    As usual no links here, the only link you need is here, our event calendar. Have a great weekend whatever you do!

    Ongoing from Wednesday until Sunday the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon has got Shrek the Musical. Thursday and Friday, Devizes Musical Theatre presents their Summer Concert, Miss Fortunes at The Wharf Theatre, see the poster, always see the posters!

    I’m delighted to hear Devizes LGBTQ+ group’s first big event, Drag Bingo at the Exchange has sold out on Thursday 30th; well done to them and here’s hoping for some similar events in Devizes in the future.

    One of folk music’s greatest innovators, Martin Carthy is at Trowbridge Town Hall Thursday, Paul Jones Live in Concert at Christ Church, Swindon while Swindon Arts Centre has a play called Blithe Spirit, running until Sunday.

    Friday is pinch punch. Chippenham Comedy Festival at The Old Road Tavern, starts, running all weekend. Limited Weekend Tickets £60, individual shows are all £7 each. Friday 1st July: 7pm Sam Michael & John Matthews: Cister Act, 8.30pm Juliette Meyers: Passport Face,10pm James Dowdeswell: Beers of a Clown. Saturday 2nd July: 5pm Jo Caulfield: Here Comes Trouble, 6.30pm Sooz Kempner: Playstation, 7.45pm Katie Mitchell: She Festers, 9pm Andrew O’Neill: We Are Not In The Least Afraid Of Ruins; We Carry A New World In Our Hearts, 10.15pm Wil Hodgson: Barbicidal Tendencies. Sunday 3rd July: 5.30pm Jessie Nixon, Dannie Johns & Millie Haswell: Dumb Belles,7pm Joe Wells: I am Autistic, 8.30pm Beth Black.

    Devizes School Summer School Concert in the main hall. Minety Festival kicks off for the weekend. Melksham’s One Love reggae night has been moved from the Assembly Hall to Spencer’s Club on Beanacre Road, I just haven’t changed the poster, so forget all I said about paying attention to the posters!!

    The Ukey Dukes play The New Inn, Winterbourne Monkton. Ska punkers head to The Barge at Honeystreet, for Slageri J headline there, and surfers should wipe-out at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, where they’ll find the highly recommended Palooka 5. Rorke’s Drift play The Vic, Swindon, and fresh(ish) from Glasto, Jo Whiley plays 90s Anthems at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

    Saturday 2nd, Longleat continues showing off; those who don’t mind standing for hours, with a bottomless wallet and advance planning can see Tears for Fears, the rest of us are not left without options…. like Salisbury Pride at Queen Elizabeth Gardens.

    Arts Together fundraise with a day painting at Bowood, see the poster for real this time!

    Six O’clock Circus headline The Vale of the White Horse Scooter Rally at The Cooper’s Arms, Pewsey. While there’s a reggae day at The Wheatsheaf, Calne; the Bee Skas play at 3pm!

    The Seven Stars in Bottlesford has a Burger BBQ for twenty quid, but you do get The Reason playing.

    The amazing Jack Grace is at Southgate, and popular covers band Paradox are down the Cellar Bar in Devizes; yes, I did say The Cellar Bar, glad to see this venue back on our listings.

    Band X at the Three Horseshoes Bradford-on-Avon, Siren at the 12 Bells, Trowbridge, with Hatepenny rocking the Town Hall. @Fest mini-festival at the White Hart in Attsworth. Down & Dirty at The Vic, Swindon.

    Swindon’s Midlife Krisis sound system was due to setup at The Barge at HoneyStreet, however, due to issues with their secondary camping field it is unfortunately cancelled. We wish the Barge all the best with this issue, and hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.

    Sunday 3rd July is DOCA’s Picnic at Hillworth Park. British Blues with Trevor Babajack Steger from 12pm, from 1pm, find some jazz-tinged klezmer and old-world Yiddish folk, from Mozzle Brocha, branch of the collective, Chai for All, who we tried to get to play a Ukraine fundraiser at St Mary’s, but it unfortunately fell through. It will be good to meet you, guys.   

    Eastern European folk traditions follow that with East of Eden at 2:40, South African at 4pm with Otto & The Mutapa Calling, finishing off your Sunday entertainment. Also look out for Rose Popay, the “Art Tart,” sounds hilarious, and various carnival workshops, suitable for all ages; see the DOCA website.

    Elsewhere, People Like Us headline free live music for Inspire Warminster, preview here. The Cosmic Sausages play The Bell, Bath, The Lost Hills play The Tap & Barrel, Swindon. Blues legend Andy Fairweather Low plays The Cheese & Grain, Frome, with Ruzz Guitar in support, and oh, it’s Aldbourne Doggy Day!

    That’s your weekend wrapped up, unless I missed anything? Did you let us know? It’s not too late, I can edit our event calendar, if you’re nice and send cake!


    Through the week you can catch a Live Art Demonstration by the wonderful Caroline le Bourgeois at Devizes Conservative Club on Monday 4th, meanwhile David Olusoga presents A House Through Time at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

    Tuesday sees carparks in Devizes closed for the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay; for a whole half-hour! Heaven help us! Keyboard warriors, I’d advise you walk or bus it into town to get your garibaldi biscuits!

    The New Forest Folk Festival starts Wednesday, while there’s a bit of Shakey at Bath’s Rondo Theatre, Macbeth; all proceeds go to Marie Curie. Best of luck to the two Devizes actors appearing in this, Lucy Upward and Ian Diddams; break a leg!

    Next weekend you need tickets for a fundraising concert for Devizes GAC’s chosen charity, Julia’s House Children’s Hospice, at Devizes School Hall, on Friday July 8th at 7.30pm. Special guests at the concert will be the Pewsey Belles Ladies Choir. Tickets are priced £8 and available from 01761 472468.

    Both Readipop Festival and Cornbury Festival, next weekend, and of course, Devizes Carnival and Trowbridge’s ParkFest, both on the Saturday 9th. I believe I’ll be painting the whole village purple at Bishop’s Cannings mini festival at The Crown; please come and support this too. And on Sunday, give our Essex country-rocker favourites, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective a warm Devizes welcome at the Southgate.

    And if you’ve read this far I salute you; people like you who pay attention really need to grab up tickets to the Full-Tone Festival August Bank Holiday, AND Devizes Scooter Rally, AND Devizes Beer Festival too!


  • REVIEW – Tamsin Quin & Vince Bell @ The Southgate, Devizes – Sunday 26th June 2022

    300 and still counting!

    Andy Fawthrop

    Is it really (not that) long? Debs suddenly realised over the weekend that this was the 300th gig that she and Dave had put on in The Southgate since taking over in 2018. That’s only four years, and we had a pandemic in the middle when all the pubs were necessarily closed anyway, so that’s a pretty remarkable record! No-one has done more to support live music in D-Town that Debs and Dave, with virtually every weekend supporting at least one gig, sometimes two or three. I do remember one night when there were (for complicated reasons that need not detain us now) two gigs on at exactly the same time – one inside the pub, and one in the skittle alley!

    There have been acts from all over the country, and indeed from several other countries. There has been just about every style of music you can think of – rock, prog, psychedelia, blues, funk, soul, folk and every combination thereof that you can think of. Most of it worked too!

    So it was really good, albeit perhaps just a lucky coincidence, that gig number 300 should be one of those relaxed Sunday afternoon sessions featuring a couple of the best of our very local singer/ songwriters – Tamsin Quin and Vince Bell. The atmosphere was, as usual, warm and supportive right from the start.

    Tamsin was up first, shorn of her Lost Trades buddies, for an occasional solo performance. I’ve known Tamsin since some of her early gigs back in the mists of time at the now-defunct Seend Acoustic. Back then she was chatty, nervous, a little scatty, but clearly a great songwriter and performer. Since then, and I’ve seen her perform many times, she has clearly developed. She’s stronger and more assured in front of a microphone, her singing style is more gentle, and her song-writing has developed in leaps and bounds – intimate, sincere and with a new depth and maturity.

    Vince followed her onto the singing stool and showed us, yet again, what a great singer/ songwriter he is. And it was one of those gigs where, instead of being reduced to the “folkie in the corner” everybody (including the dogs) was properly listening. Again we had strong, deep songs, with some occasional Spiderman-pyjama whimsy thrown in, and a captivating performance.

    Unfortunately, I had to skip the very last bit where they got to sing some songs together (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was calling and I didn’t want to get put “on hold”), so as they used to say in The News Of The World “I made my apologies and left”, which was a damned pity because it was such a lovely, homely gig.

    There were lots of friends in the audience, and a lot of love in the room. I’m pretty sure I’m right in thinking that both performers enjoyed it as much as we audience did in listening. Wonderful.

    So, as I said, a great gig to celebrate 300 and counting. Let’s hope for many more great gigs, and let’s hope that the good folk of D-Town keep on supporting quality live music.

    Future gigs at The Southgate:

    Saturday 2nd July Jack Grace Band
    Sunday 3rd July Jon Amor + Friends


  • REVIEW – Fulltone Strings @ Town Hall, Devizes – Sunday 26th June 2022

    Four Seasons In One Day

    Andy Fawthrop


    There’s no respite if you’re into your culture in D-Town these days. Fresh off the back of the wonderful Devizes Arts Festival, I headed on a beautiful sunny Sunday evening to a sold-out Town Hall to hear The Fulltone Orchestra in full musical flight. This was FTO’s “taster” event, and an advert for the big event over the August Bank Holiday weekend (Fulltone Music Festival) to be held on The Green on 27th and 28th August….

    Anthony Brown (“Our Tone”) had gathered an almost 40-strong string orchestra, with only a very short time for rehearsals, and moulded them together to provide us with a short, but very satisfying musical repast.
    To start with, our amuse-bouche if you like, was the short but sweet Adagio in G Minor by Tomaso Albinoni. This 18th Century composer, who was quite famous in his day, and a contemporary of Vivaldi, is less well-known these days. The piece was light and airy, and played with some panache by a clearly enthusiastic orchestra, a perfect Baroque accompaniment to the sunshine flooding in through the open windows, and a piece absolutely suited to the surroundings of the splendid room in which were sitting.

    Next up, the real starter, was Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on A Theme By Thomas Tallis. Still light but a little more substantial, this was one English composer’s interpretation of an earlier English composer’s work, and is perhaps more recognisable, having been recorded and performed many times over the last century.

    And finally, after a short interval, we were onto the main course and, I suspect, the key reason for this concert’s obvious popularity – Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, his violin concerto written roughly 300 years ago in the period 1718-20. For this piece, conductor Anthony willingly ceded the leadership of the strings to guest Russian concert violinist, Elizaveta Tyun. Elizaveta has performed all over the world, and her appearance in Devizes was a real coup for the FTO.

    The Four Seasons (“Le quattro stagioni” in Italian) is, by far and away, the best-known of Vivaldi’s works, and is a group of four linked violin concertos, each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. At the time when they were first performed, they were a revolution in musical conception: in them Vivaldi represented flowing creeks, singing birds, a shepherd and his barking dog, buzzing flies, storms, drunken dancers, hunting parties from both the hunters’ and the prey’s point of view, frozen landscapes, and warm winter fires. Also unusual for the period, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying sonnets (possibly written by the composer himself) that elucidated what it was in the spirit of each season that his music was intended to evoke. The concerti therefore stand as one of the earliest and most detailed examples of what would come to be called “program music” — or in other words, music with a narrative element. Vivaldi divided each concerto into three movements (fast–slow–fast), and, likewise, each linked sonnet into three sections. I’m not going to pretend that I knew all of that, but I Googled it and I thought you ought to know! I did it before I listened, and it certainly helped me to understand much better what I was listening to!

    What can I say? It was absolutely wonderful, thrilling, inspiring, and emotional stuff. It was live orchestral music at its very best. Elizaveta played with enormous passion and enthusiasm, attacking the faster, trickier passages with great energy. And the strings of the FTO, probably inspired by such skill in their midst, followed her lead and supported her to great effect. It’s an absolutely fabulous piece of music. No matter how many times I’ve heard it played, it never ceases to amaze me. Despite being used in (literally) hundreds of film soundtracks, adverts, and the inevitable telephone on-hold theme, it always comes through as fresh and original. And it was so good to listen to it properly, all the way through, played by a set of musicians who clearly wanted to play it. Hats off to the lot of them – it was absolutely superb!

    Well done to Jemma and Anthony Brown for pulling this concert together, well done to Elizaveta for a stirring rendition of the lead violin role, and well done to the scratch group of musicians who came together to deliver an excellent performance. Oh, and well done to the crowd who came out on a Sunday night to support such great live music and gave the performance exactly what it deserved – a long standing ovation and rapturous applause. Absolutely brilliant!

    So – don’t forget to buy your tickets for The Fulltone Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday 27th & 28th August on The Green – available from Devizes Books, and online from www. www.ticketsource.co.uk/fulltone


  • Miracle at MantonFest!

    Ah yeah, Paul McCartney whisked Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl out of his hat at Glasto, and no one can top that, no one dare try, but on the other side of the west country The Fab Four were rejuvenated on stage, and miraculously commanded the weather!

    Okay, allow some exaggeration for artistic licence, but being the only sour point about MantonFest last year was spates of torrential downpour, and the forecast foreboding a repeat, note it tried its uppermost to drizzle, but on the one occasion the crowds thought, “this is it,” Nottingham’s fantastic Beatles tribute, The Fab Four broke into George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun and lo-and-behold, the sunshine returned, to a rapturous applause.

    Coincidence, or should these guys try a Paul Daniels tribute next, is besides the point; there were numerous memorable happenings at MantonFest this year, the Beatles tribute controlled clement weather was just the tip of the iceberg.

    For eleven years strong MantonFest has been Marlborough’s little gem, punching well above its weight. It’s both communal and friendly, but professionally executed too. If Glastonbury is a city of tents, this day festival is a village of gazebos. Picnicking families return year-after-year, and MantonFest prides itself on a loyal fanbase.

    Nit-picking, the focus is entirely on the music, but kids seem unperturbed by any lack of facilities aimed at them. They naturally make their own entertainment, organise a game of football in the ample surrounding fields, more so join the already extensive age demographic and genuinely enjoy the music. Perhaps why The Fab Four were so apt, the Beatles’ early music is the eve of bubble-gum, beguilingly simple for the masses, which makes it timeless.

    Talking to them backstage they delighted in the notion they’re a platform introducing Beatles music to a new generation, and in that, plus the fact they are an archetypical four-piece rock band setup without strings and effects, they blasted out the earlier, simpler 45s such as Love me Do and Hold my Hand as a baseplate. And they did it fantastically, with a nod to later Beatles creations such as Yellow Submarine and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but perhaps most absolute to exposing their skills in ballads, such as Something the aforementioned, Here Comes the Sun, and a grand finale of Hey Jude, this was a very entertaining package.

    Take a Beatles tribute as red, my mum, caught up in Beatlemania, thrust it willingly down my throat, so I’m bound to enjoy, but the real surprise of MantonFest 2022 was the second tribute, Jean Genie. As it suggests, accomplished musician and writer in his own right, John Mainwaring becomes David Bowie, more so in sound than appearance.

    You can rough me up for this, but note while I fully recognise and accept Bowie’s importance in the progression of pop, and understand why he is idolised, I’m a smidgen too young to have been caught up in the fanaticism surrounding him. But this guy wowed, as simple as; assessment is this is way up on my best tributes leader-board, forcing me to view Bowie in a new light. I mean, the guy toured with Bowie’s own band The Spiders from Mars in the nineties, explaining to me backstage the gradual progression to this career point was, as he sounded so much like his influence, through his own original music, he was persuaded first to attribute the fictional persona Ziggy Stardust, “as Bowie killed him off anyway.”

    This performance was truer to the definition “tribute” than the standard tribute act, it was part John Mainwaring, being himself hugely inspired by Bowie, but it was also part Bowie, sublimely, his voice and showmanship as close as you could possibly get, and as Starman echoed out, it was a totally mesmerising performance, my highlight of the day.

    Unfortunately, while professional and accomplished, I have to say, I don’t think the headliners The Animals topped this. Maybe it was just me, feeling the strain of not drinking myself stupid, of which, looking back on, I’m proud, but at the time at tad niggly! I’d say the line between a real act and a tribute act are blurred, when a man like Mainwaring, with such experience and close relationship with the act he’s attributing is a tribute, but a band with only one original band member is considered the genuine article. I mean, yeah, it’s labelled as The Animals and Friends, but grammar comes into play somewhat. It’s not plural; The Animal and Friends. A rather plodding show, a bit meh in comparison with what went beforehand.

    Between the two tributes stood the testament to MantonFest, Marlborough’s pride, Barrelhouse. With bassist Stuart Whant as artistic director, MantonFest is the Barrelhouse fan club’s annual beano, but they’ve the knack to make their show something watchable on repeat. If you ever figured the timeworn blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley,or even when they slip into bluegrass, couldn’t enthuse teenagers today, you need to bear witness to the enduring methods of Barrelhouse, with the growling mysterious frontman Martin Hands, his proficient band, and the reaction of their loyal fans at the one place they’ll guarantee to rule the stage, Manton Grange.

    But if Barrelhouse are guaranteed goodness, The Fab Four were what they said on the tin, fab, and Jean Genie was a sublime homage, there was an equally talented act upon my arrival. Rocking up a bit late to catch previous performances, Southend-on-Sea’s Rosalie Cunningham was all I needed as confirmation this was going to be a great day for live music. Program a hundred personas of legendary rock heroines into a computer, from Patti Smith to Suzi Quatro and Debbie Harry to Alanis Morissette, and ask it to compute something analogous, it’d likely create Rosalie Cunningham. She looked the part, she sounded like the part, and in all essence, she was the part.

    At first it came across prog-rock, all King Crimson type, but there were riffs to punk, nods to rock n roll, and the band explained they liked it like this, prevented it getting tedious for them. For an audience it was astutely performed, original rock, steady, flowing; the like you’d think you knew already.

    All-in-all, Mantonfest is a credit to Wiltshire, but as I said last year, absent are the faces of our own live music aficionados, just a stone-throw away. Marlborough is not the Upside Down from Stranger Things, Devizions, yet those rolling downs seem to divide us into little circuits.

    In fact, the only connection to my hometown I made was thinking about my stomach! Yes, amico, that trusty airstream caravan, The Italian Job, usually parked upon the Green in Devizes, was pitched at MantonFest, the wonderful aromas of basil and garlic were as alluring as the seating inside, and for want of a cup of Rosey-Lee, I came bundling out with gorgeous homemade lasagne, garlic bread and rocket, and slouched in a chair below the beautiful slopes of Treacle Brolly; now that’s festivaling Marlboro’ country, something you’re really missing. I’d highly recommend you etch MantonFest 2023 into your must-do-list.


  • REVIEW – Sarah C Ryan Band @ The Southgate, Devizes – Saturday 25th June 2022

    Another Great Find

    Andy Fawthrop

    Ah – you never know what life is going to throw up at you till it smacks you right in the face.  Coming off the back of two weeks’ worth of fare from Devizes Arts Festival, I poked my head in to The Corn Exchange to catch their very last act – Absolute with their Celtic Party Night.  I managed to stay for the first half (and very it good it was too as the crowd began to thaw and fill the dance-floor), but to be honest, there’s only so much diddley-diddley music that one man can take.…..

    And so it was, as a late call, I decided to head up the hill to The Southgate to check out the Sarah C. Ryan Band.  And boy am I glad I did.  These guys were a new band to me, despite being quite local (they even rehearse in Devizes), and I couldn’t believe that I’d never run into them before.

    In short they were beltingly good – several notches above most pub bands.  But that judgement is kinda unfair – they were much more than a mere “pub band”.  They played mostly self-penned numbers, with just the occasional leavening of covers.  Being a five-piece, and including three guitars, drums, keyboards and the occasional woodwind, gave them a depth and a richness in their sound.  The songs were clean, sharp, unfussy.  Sarah’s singing in particular lifted the performance with her sweet, clear voice, but the whole thing was a complete pleasure to listen to.  Number after number rolled off their set-list, each one bringing huge applause from a very enthusiastic audience.  Their versions of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and the Cranberries’ “Zombie” were absolutely spot-on, working with the crowd and feeding off their energy.

    Really good band – best I’ve seen in ages.  And really nice folks to talk to as well.  They told me that they don’t actually gig very much, but I really can’t understand why – they’ve got the right package – good songs, good playing, good sound and an ability to connect with their audience.  Let’s hope we see much more of them in the future!

    Well done to Debs for another great booking, and a good night at The Gate.

    Future gigs at The Southgate:

    Saturday 2nd July                               Jack Grace Band

    Sunday 3rd July                                  Jon Amor + Friends


    Editor’s Top-Secret Information! I’m sorry to have missed this gig at our trusty Southgate, for although I’ve not had the chance to catch The Sarah C Ryan Band live, yet, I can leak some top-secret information, or, at least, procrastination being the reason I’ve not mentioned it sooner: I’m fully aware how absolutely awesome The Sarah C Ryan Band are, as they’ve kindly donated a tune called A Woman in White, to the forthcoming second volume of our Julia’s House compilation. And you HAVE to hear it!

    We just need a few more songs to make this happen; don’t make me beg!

    We want your band name on our desk!
    You can download the first Volume here!

  • Inspire Warminster; Free Live Music on Sunday

    Skewered, the adverse replies to my Facebook post a month ago, asking for suggestions on how to kill a few hours in Warminster; it was as if I’d wandered into the outback! Skewered by banter, neighbouring rivalry, perhaps, but I also have to take into account the town’s proximity to funky freewheeling Frome, and the fact any town name with the word “war” in hardly connotes an approachable kind of place..but, is it?

    But what’s in a name, military links aside? I set about a little research project to suggest Warminster is not a cultural void, and any accusation it is, is obscured by ignorance, surely? They probably say the same about us; all’s fair in love and war, minster….see what I did there? A little Sunday pun to break the ice! Okay, I’ll get my coat.

    Already aware both the Rose & Crown and Prestbury Sports Bar host a regular live music programme, supporting local live music, I also came across a group aptly titled Inspire Warminster. Coincidently, they’ve a free community festival happening Sunday 3rd July from 1-7pm in the town park. I suggest if you suffer from Warminster-phobia you check it out, overcome your negative presumptions!

    The brainchild of Pete Bartley and Doug Halls, Inspire Warminster started out in 2013, when their Town Council approached them with their idea to put on an annual live music event in the park to showcase local talent, and more specifically to encourage young people to take up a musical instrument. Doug and Pete wanted to put on a daytime family event where parents could bring their children and enjoy a family day out listening to the music, which is precisely what they did!

    Okay, so there’s a guy clearly scratching his butt in their featured Facebook photo, what of it?!

    I spoke to Tom of the group, whose job it is to organise the bands. “We’ve nine very diverse bands booked for this year,” he tells me, “All of whom local to Warminster, so it really will be a wonderful showcase of the talents in the town.” This is exactly what I was after, evidence!

    Coyote Country starts the music at 1pm, followed by Wade Merritt, Junkyard Dogs, Grumpy Dog, and Brakelight. Then the Warminster Community Choir are on at 4:20, followed by Dr Alibi, The Frontman and our good friends, People Like Us headline at 6. “With the amount of talent on during the course of this event,” Last playing Inspire in 2017, People Like Us announced, “we are stunned, thrilled and humbled to be headlining this brilliant community event.”

    Old stock photo of PLUS, knocks a couple of years off, guys!

    “PLUS were instrumental in reuniting our community,” Inspire explains, “as we emerged from lockdown, reigniting our spirits and reminding us that good times could exist again. All that remains is to let them do their thing, so come, dance and sing!”


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