Formed a year ago, the Devizes LGBTQ+ group have organised several meet ups, but the time is nigh for their first big event, Drag Bingo at The Exchange on Thursday 30th June.….
I know this is something the group, and Oberon, better known as Gabriella Christmas, has been trying to organise for a while now. “Yes,” he delights to tell me, “it’s awesome to finally have our first big event.”
An 18+ event, there will also be a raffle with multiple different prizes, including a canal boat trip for two. Tickets are £5, Raffle £1 a strip, £1 for an extra game. Some bingo dabbers will be available to buy on the night, if you need one.
Doors open @ 7:30pm with an estimated finishing time of 10:00pm. There is the potential for music for an hour afterwards.
To buy tickets, please contact the Facebook page or, alternatively, purchase them from Morrisons Devizes. CASH ONLY.
In July 2019, straight after the Devizes Rugby Club’s Saddleback Festival, they announced July 11th 2020 for their next festival, but we all know the rest of that sad story. Since 2017 the club organised an annual Saddleback, named after Devizes Rugby team’s nickname, and the event quickly gained an outstanding reputation for bringing some quality acts to Devizes….
If I’m honest, being they held off during 2021, with tears from the memories of a great local all-dayer in my complimentary beer cup, I thought we’d seen the back of Saddleback. For want of repeating the same gag, coordinator Rick Kibby tells me, “We thought it was about time we brought the Saddleback Festival back!” And Saturday 18th June, 2022 marks the very day, at Devizes Rugby Club from 2pm, until late.
Originally dedicated to blues, though the tag might’ve been dropped to allow more scope over the pre-lockdown years, blues is very much the mainstay, which is bound to satisfy Devizes aficionados, as local blues legends Jon Amor & King Street Turnaround, and Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue welcomingly headline; say no more.
The slightly more pop-rock acoustic, though with a definite hint of blues, Joe Hicks is also on the line-up. We love Joe here at Devizine, a true class act, prolific and generally all-round nice guy! Check out his latest offering double A-side, One More Step.
The other acts are new to me, which is all good, bit of well sourced mystery and all that. The drifting acoustic goodness of No Manz Land. Bristol’s big, stomping disco sound of Carolyn McGoldrick, retro-rock with Matt Peach, the beguiling Artic Monkey’s fashioned Public Eye, and the The Best of Ratcat, of which I’ve no info on, think of them as the wildcard!
But the real change for Saddleback is the side project, Lottiefest, as while the festival has always had a charity fundraiser base, this is the first time it has incorporated another festival in its title. “Lottiefest is in memory of Lottie,” Rick explained, “who was the daughter of one of our members who suffered from Ataxia, and the Lily Foundation raises funds for the fight against mitochondrial disease.” Lottie Rapson was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia at the age of 6, and sadly passed away aged just 27 in December last year.
“She taught us all so many things” the blurb on Saddleback Festival website reveals, “to focus on what you can do rather than worry about what you can’t, to see the good in everyone, to make the most of every day and never walk past an opportunity to do something mad!” And it goes onto explaining how much Lottie loved festivals, “often dragged to bed by her carers in the early hours of the morning.” Therefore Saddleback will be raising for The Lily Foundation and Ataxia UK.
This fitting tribute transcribes into dancing the night away in a club fashion with some carefully selected DJs, Matter, Rappo, Retrospekt, Astral Pipes, who fuse house and intelligent drum n bass into a diversity of dance music, something wholly different from anything we’ve seen at Saddleback before. A welcomed change to shake up the later hours, until 1am.
There’s camping on site, £15 for a tent, £25 for campervan.
You know, I’m so glad to see Saddleback on our event calendar again, the 2018 Battle of the Bands contest really bought to my attention the wealth of talent on our local circuit. I’d just befriended every local musician’s favourite photographer, Nick Padmore, who introduced me to George Wilding, Jamie R Hawkins, Sally Dobson, Jordan Whatley, Jack Moore and Mike Barham. Then, to have them play at the festival was the icing on the cake, really felt like I started something very worthy; they might disagree!
After that unforgettable year seems there was a little communication breakdown, Devizine was to cover the festival, but I wasn’t informed I was invited! Never mind, as now we are all informed; I’m telling you now, The Saddleback is back, and it’s going to be an amazing show right here in Devizes town!
For personal reasons Strong Lady Charmaine Childs was unable to perform her show, Power at the DOCA Street Festival this year, but came to visit Devizes as a one-off separate show in St Andrew’s Church yesterday, and it was as advertised, inspiring……
I can stagger home from a music gig already with an oven-baked opinion, and have a broad idea of what to write about it. It may take serious grammar corrections if I do jot intoxicated notes down, but the basis is there. Whereas in, as what was essentially street theatre, it takes a little time and reflection for what I just witnessed to fully sink in; that’s certainly the case with Power.
Often the fascinating world of street theatre DOCA artistic director Loz Samuels brings to us is abstract, provocative, and most importantly for our market town, completely off the wall. A Strong-Lady conjures ideas of circus, of ta-da-da…and-for-my-next-trick-type acts, of which Charmaine was keen to elucidate the roots of her talent lie there. But this was different, this was theatre, and it had an enthralling narrative.
There was no big top, crazy clown costumes, blinding stage lights, in-your-face effects, and shows of acrobatic talent were minimal, in context. There was only, at first what might appear somewhat disappointing to those in want of dazzling mainstream spectacles, just a fortysomething Australian lady in gym shorts and vest carry two tote bags of house-bricks.
I mean, yeah, props expanded to some books, planks and two wallpaper stands, but that was all you were getting. Yet, through charisma, magnetism and skill she weaved an autobiographical tapestry with audio excerpts taken from other’s personal reflections on the subject of times they felt, or didn’t feel powerful, of which she had collected on her journey, and visually created an act of tragedy, comedy, and thoughtful prose which was itself, powerful.
If there were feminine connotations, they were subtle, the message was neutral on every level, open to all. The idea we all have it within ourselves to overcome mental obstacles and have the power to continue, was prominent, though other angles like attaining power through success was touched upon, as Charmaine opened up her story, and related the recorded ones accordingly. And for the times when she did perform acts of strength and agility, they were backed with reason and relation to the monologue. She is one strong lady indeedy, yet while there was wasn’t the crowd counting along and drum rolls, these shows of strength were incorporated in such a way as not only to impress, but to provoke an emotion; there is no circus act which does this.
It was indeed something entirely different, and unable to pigeonhole, and for that alone, deserves recognition and commendation. The result was apparently, to leave the audience “energised and hopeful,” and it was indeed a positive catalyst, but more so, it was inspirational, conjuring your own stories of times you were powerful. I reminisced upon two occasions immediately afterwards, and while I could reveal them in interminable yarns, I think you’d rather me get directly to the point. You don’t want me to get all Uncle Albert on you, not on a Friday at any rate!
Needless to say, the stories differ in two basic elements, one was a time when due to a personal tragedy I had to undertake tasks I’d rather have not, nor ever expected I’d need to, whilst retaining a plastic smile, and it was, I guess, the power in me and my love for that person, to have managed. The other is less abstract and more physical, but I did once, in my younger years have one of these massive super-heroics shows of ability, accomplishing a feat I’d never even contemplate attempting, if it hadn’t been for the fact if I didn’t, I could’ve died. Now I know, if you know me, you’re thinking, na, mate, get out of town, but it is true. Now I find myself contemplating which one was more relevant to Power, which show of power was the Strong Lady getting at, mental, physical, or both? But it doesn’t matter, what matters is it got the cogs revolving, it got me mulling it over, and in turn, it evoked personal reflection in its narrative; hence I rightfully call it inspiring.
Charmaine Childs is a Strong Lady touring internationally as an independent artist since 2002. She trained in theatre at university, before focusing on outdoor arts festivals and circus/variety shows; if you get the opportunity to see this show, don’t argue with a strong lady, just go!
Been a while since I’d been to our town’s lovely little theatre, and it was a joy to go back again.…..
The occasion was the staging of Abi Morgan’s “Lovesong”. Now I happen to be a fan of Abi Morgan’s writing, and anyone who watched the recent BBC1 three-series drama “The Split” will know exactly what I’m on about. Her catalogue of work in TV, film and live theatre has won plenty of much-deserved critical acclaim. Accordingly, I was very much looking forward to this production, about which I’d heard many positive comments (and which we briefly previewed here at Devizine recently).
The play, directed by the talented Freddie Underwood, no stranger to Wharf productions for a few years now, is a tight emotional drama. Starring only four actors – Imogen Riley, Adam Ball, John Winterton and Tor Burt – “Lovesong” tells the story of one couple from two different points in their lives, both as young lovers in their 20s, and as older companions looking back on their lives. Their relationship is reviewed by their past and present selves, blending youthful yearning and optimism with more worldly experience. The start of a youthful relationship blends with an impending death.
I found the production quite mesmerising, captured by the verbal and physical choreography of the piece. The tactile interactions of the two couples (being really the same couple) was offset by their inability to talk to their future or past selves, only their contemporaneous partner. It made for some interesting debates, particularly in the second half, about whether time (and space) is linear, or whether the past, present and future are somehow all fused together. Life events happen, they come and go, but emotions and feelings are far more complex than that.
The two younger members of the cast – Imogen Riley and Adam Ball – gave confident and assured performances, looking quite at home on the stage as the younger version of the couple. But it was the elder version of the couple – played by John Winterton (in a rare appearance in front of the audience), and the talented and evergreen Tor Burt – that edged it for me. It may be an age thing, but I found the way that they inhabited their roles quite fascinating. Their concerns, their issues and their undoubted love for each other were conveyed in an utterly convincing performance.
I won’t spoil the ending (and you can see it coming a mile off) but it was pretty heart-wrenching, and there were plenty of weepy eyes in the auditorium to prove it.
For me, this was an ideal type of production to run at the Wharf, given its tight space restrictions on stage. A cast of only four had enough room on a sparsely-dressed stage to actually move and to breathe, and therefore you could concentrate on the words and the action, without your eye being distracted any purely physical/ practical stage constraints in productions with a larger cast.
I found the music in the first half slightly distracting, but the balance felt much better in the second half. That minor quibble aside, this was overall a superb production. Starting with Abi Morgan’s tautly-scripted prose, Freddie Underwood’s assured direction, working with four very good actors on stage, and we had the recipe for success. Very highly recommended.
There are still a few tickets left for tonight (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday), so get along to see it if you possibly can. You won’t regret it. Box Office – 03336 663366 or www.wharftheatre.co.uk
Future productions at The Wharf Theatre:
23rd – 26th June The World Under The Wood 19th – 24th September Hedda Garbler 1st October The Lesson (Icarus Theatre Company) – one night only 7th October London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra – one night only
Yes – we know it’s not in Devizes, but it’s just up the road in Chippers – a quick trip in the car or on the exciting ride that is the 33 bus. And Chippenham is one of the biggest (and oldest) folk festivals on the national circuit, and it’s right here in Wiltshire.
Well, it’s been two years since the last proper Chippenham Folk Festival (due to You-Know-What), but at last it’s back again this year. This time it’s been shortened from its traditional three and a half days to just two and a half days, starting on Friday night, a necessary and prudent economic step to keep the event on a sound financial footing for the future, as the traditional audience begin to peek their heads out of their tents and caravans. So we’ve lost the traditional Bank Holiday Monday big parade and street market, so the rest of the programme has been carefully pruned and trimmed to try and fit everything in. Nevertheless there’s still plenty going on.
The festival, if you’ve not been before, runs right across the town and features over 20 venues (from the large Constitutional Hall, the Neeld Hall, the Olympiad, The Town Hall and The Cause through to various pubs and cafes), over a hundred timetabled events, and several streams of entertainment (concerts, ceilidhs, dance, Morris, displays, children’s entertainment, workshops and tutorials, meet-the-artist) – so there really is something for everyone. All the formal events and concerts are entry by ticket (available online or at the Box Office), but there’s plenty of events that are via “the hat” on the day, and many free fringe events too. There’s poetry, there’s story-telling, there’s music of many types. The streets will be filled with Morris Dancers, display teams, musicians and other performers.
Headliners are Belshazzar’s Feast, 3 Daft Monkeys, Sean Fitzpatrick and Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, ably supported by folk veterans such as Tom McConville, Keith Donnelly, Si Barron, Bob & Gill Berry and many, many others. With so much going on, it’s definitely worth the trip up the road from D-Town – you’re bound to find something you like! It’s great value for money – whether a day ticket, or the whole weekend. So go on – get your inner Morris on, and get up the road!
The full timetabled programme, together with plenty of other information, and tickets are all available on the Festival’s website at www.chippfolk.co.uk
Andrew Hurst appears at St Johns House in Devizes this Saturday, 27th May, courtesy of Devizes Rotary, for a Ukraine fundraiser, the same day he releases the solo piano album, Cookie Cutter Island [Do you know the way to], of which we’ve taken a sneaky preview of…….
I go to gigs, where the archetypal though talented acoustic musician prior to a headlining full band is kind of diluted by the memory of the band. Such is power in numbers, the combination and bearing of a band, or more so, an orchestra. Yet it takes a special someone who can hold you spellbound in the same manner, solo. But if you’re going to attempt it, piano is your friend.
Akin to a Scott Joplin recital, which you can envision ragtime of yore, of boxcars and trams running through New York’s bustling 19th century streets, Andrew Hurst undoubtedly has that skill to paint a masterpiece with sound.
Another textbook example is film-scoring, though the image is pre-nourished. There was a fascinating series of social media videos where renowned movies had the score taken away, and suddenly the impact is lost; the horror is hardly horrific at all, there is no thrilling suspense in that thriller. Shows how important the music is in film, and in turn the influence music has over us in general.
Andrew Hurst appears at St Johns House in Devizes this Saturday, 27th May, for a Ukraine fundraiser, where multi-instrumental goodness is promised. Yet while Andrew can make a guitar sing, whether filling a concert hall or busking in the Brittox, I’ve a sneaky peek at his strictly piano-based album Cookie Cutter Island [Do you know the way to], which, double-whammy, is released on the same day.
It’s as captivatingly emotive as a film score, and in a way, kind of is. This album is a sketch of music for a potential anime film Andrew has in mind. Now, I’m going to find it somewhere between difficult and impossible to write customary comparisons on this, my knowledge on classical piano is limited, but I know what I like, and that’s my angle! Cookie Cutter Island paints such a picture in one’s mind; a musical dreamcatcher, surreal, pensive and evocative, lingering in suspense and mood.
Andrew describes his vision similar to Disney’s Fantasia, I could argue against this, being Fantasia uses established classics, while Andrew has created his own. “Music first,” he explains, “and the plot came from the owner of Chard Bookshop, who sent a bizarre message; ‘do you know the way to cookie cutter island?’ My reply to her was the flow of the plot, that since has crystallised. Thenthe music was a case of arriving at the studio every two weeks with “I’ve no idea what I’m doing” but leaving that day with a track I wasn’t “allowed” to revisit: a sort of “enforced creativity” …. though each week later on I couldn’t stop preparing stuff once impetus caught up!”
This bout of when inspiration strikes, has the concentrated oriental narrative of Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West, with a fantastical and childlike expedition synopsis, involving Mitsuki, following her grandmother’s conspiratorial message to meet on “Cookie Cutter Island.” The tracks follow her progress, as she journeys to this mysterious place.
A fable filled with place-names associated with her mood, which also act as track listings, Temple of Regret, Tower of Fallen Heroes, or Sanctuary at Galaxywatch, the story is awash with samurai folklore, brimming with morals of love and honour. Such is the refined concept, it is an ambitious project, and animation is such a tedious process. Even if this vision doesn’t materialise, you can use the narrative in the sleeve notes, and almost see the animation flowing behind closed eyelids. The music commands this of you; as if I could reach out and immerse in it, at least how I would interpretate the music if I only had the artistic skill it warrants.
If forced to make comparisons, I’d offer movie themes, the Tangerine Dream fashioned Krzysztof Penderecki adaption for the Exorcist Theme immediately springs to mind, though Cookie Cutter Island is more graceful mood than chilling, and shards of Chopin, Schubert and particularly Debussy come into play. It ends on a high note, Bulls of Triangle Bridge is uplifting, and the finale Sanctuary at Galaxywatch precisely as the title suggests. Overall, it needs no visual stimuli, it’s enchanting and inspiring.
How strong is strong lady Charmaine Childs? Strong enough to be a circus strong-lady of Strong Lady Productions, and that sounds strong enough for me not to dispute the claim. The good folk of Devizes have the opportunity to find out for themselves, this Thursday, 26th May when Charmaine brings her latest work, Power to St Andrews Church, courtesy of Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts.…..
Australian-British artist Charmaine has internationally toured her solo, highly physical circus shows for over twenty years, describing her show as “a playful mix of muscle, comedy, optimism and elegance that invites audiences to reflect on their own strength.” I can confirm now, mine just so happens to be, smell!
“I am passionate about the development of physical, mental and emotional strength,” her bio, which exhausts me just to read, explains, “and the ways they impact on each other. All my work is dedicated to uplifting and empowering people, creating connection and celebrating diversity. This has led me to a delightfully wide-ranging arts practice that also includes: creative engagement projects (Stories of Strength), event speaking, teaching and workshop facilitating and producing.”
Yet, intriguingly Power sounds more than circus act, through voice-over soundtrack it has narrative, stories recorded by people talking about their experiences of feeling strong and powerful. These stories are the heart of the work. Their stories intersect with the autobiography of a Strong Lady wrestling with uncertainty.
Initially striving to feel powerful, by being invincible and in control, the show finds its way to accepting the mess of uncertainty and finding strength in the places where we wobble. Trading invincibility for resilience, it celebrates the power we have to choose the next step through the mess. Apparently, this leaves the audience “energised and hopeful,” which is just as well, as I have work early next morning!
Power starts at 7pm and runs without an interval until 8:10pm, giving you twenty minutes to arm-wrestle any gorillas which may be passing by St Johns Street, before a post-show conversation at the Lamb Inn commences at 8:30pm. Tickets are just £5, online, or cash only on the door. See you there, if you think you’re hard enough!
It was only a whistle-stop for me at Devizes’ best pub for original live music on Saturday, but long enough to sink a cider and assess; James Hollingsworth is fantastic….
Our roving reporter Andy informed me James is a blessing on the folk circuit, but this occasion, armed with enough loop pedals to make The Southgate’s alcove resemble the Millennium Falcon, he summoned his inner “progness” to embark upon a journey beyond three chords.
A captivating solo show, where pre-recorded backing tracks were not welcome, Frome-based James worked steadily and proficiently through his own compositions, as well as some covers, with complex arrangements built via hand percussion, voice and guitar effects.
Prominsing classics from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Yes, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Kate Bush, The Beatles, Roy Harper, Jeff Buckley, Marillion and more. If I couldn’t stay for long, because I’m as not as omnipresent as I need to be, I picked out Hendrix’s Castles Made of Sand, and it was sublime.
So, only a quick note to say, for any music lover from folk to prog-rock, from the era of mellowed Flyod-eske goodness, James Hollingsworth works some magic. I’ll be making a bee-line next time he arrives at The Southgate, and so should you!
There’s still time to suggest your ideal sandwich filling fit for the Queen! Devizes Food & Drink Festival are hoping for seventy sandwich fillings…..even I couldn’t eat seventy butties, but I never refuse a challenge, if they need a judge!
“Lots have been suggested,” they say, “and BBC Wiltshire’s Sue Davies was suitably horrified by Jenny’s favourite smoked mackerel and banana.” I’m with Sue on this, see, I love banana but not as a sandwich filling, no, no, no, let alone with mackerel; Jenny walks on the wild side of delicatessens… what about you?!
Though, it has to be said, banana is already a major component of the King’s sandwich. Yep, The Elvis Sandwich really is a thing, a thing of banana, peanut butter and bacon; I’ll leave the building.
They need more, to come up with a list of 70 before judging. It can be exotic, weird, or just plain delicious. Personally I say don’t overthink it, simplicity is key here, Queeny is probably sick to the back teeth with truffle and foie gras, escargot caviar et al. What she craves, I’d wager, is a good ol’ fish finger butty!
Winners receive a prize from the wonderful Jack Spratt sandwich bar in Devizes, and all you got to do is post your suggestion on the Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Facebook or Instagram pages, to be automatically be entered into the competition. Plus, your sandwich will be made and sold at Jack Spratts, over the Jubilee celebrations.
The grand finale of popular local covers band, Indecision stormed Devizes Corn Exchange last night, Saturday 21st May, for one last hoorah. A hugely successful turnout in the-hard-to-fill Ceres Hall……
From Seend Beer Festival to Potterne Cricket Club’s, Indecision has been a firm favourite for many-a-year now, playing across the south west from Bromham’s long lost Owl community centre to as far away as Portsmouth, the six-piece Potterne-based band have demanded many to the dancefloor, but last night the time was nigh to say farewells.
Keyboardist Martin Spencer, who also owns Potterne’s Badger Set studio, gave me a never-say-never shrug when I asked him if it was really the end, but for now, he assured me it was.
They came out all guns firing, kicking off with Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle, and preceded to knock out every timeless classic you could name, weaving from Johnny be Goode to The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary as if they were recorded in one session! There were nuggets of phone torch waving, particularly adroit was The Stereophonics’ Dakota.
Here is, essentially, a function covers band, but if you had them at your function it’d make it night to remember. Proof of this was evident in the huge crowd, with such a wide demographic, it seemed like everyone who had ever attended a function or event where they had played descended upon Devizes’ Market Place, and in knowing what was coming, flooded the dancefloor in anticipation. That’s one mighty accolade.
Yes, they smashed the predictable, and cliché covers apexes at Wonderwall, a point lovers of original compositions will no doubt sigh at, but for a covers band, it sure was accomplished, and they stood confident and experienced, raising funds for the Fatboys Charity and Wiltshire Rescue.
For me personally, my impressed expression didn’t falter, at times though I felt this collective had the skill and ability to create some tunes of their own, but in this consider they know their audience and give them what they want; they came here to dance the night away to the tunes they love, and who am I to deny them their enjoyment?
But I confess, I slipped out for a short while, for a pint down the Gate, because my focus and first love is the creativity of an original act, and there’s only so much disco swinging classics I can handle, no matter how skilfully handled. This, coupled with the fact I knew no one there, astonished as to how they can ram such a vast venue and not see one recognisable mug of town’s usual live music aficionados.
The audience reaction was upstanding, as if the Beatles were on stage, ergo my dilemma is to rate this highly upon the tenet just because it wasn’t wholly my cuppa, Indecision do what they say on their tin. Disgruntled at what appeared to me to be a village-fashioned clique with some audience members, upon trying to take an empty seat for the temporary moment I wished to sit, as this was so danceable, I was waved off with a warning the seat was reserved, despite the fact no one was obviously sitting on it, as if I was going to take the chair with me; bit weird and uncalled for, an eighties cheesy nightclubber come of age?! No, kind sir, I didn’t look at your girl!
Still I intended to return, but when I did the band had finished and a DJ was spinning Tiffany and other terrible pop mush, but they liked it, and that’s what’s important here, sadly I winced and escaped! Which was a shame, Indecision certainly tore the house down, were professional and beguiling, and I hope raised some serious wonga for the charity. Ah, the fault isn’t there’s, it’s all me! A massive congratulations to Indecision for staging a vibrant evening, of which the delight of their audience reviewed itself.
Okay, I confess, that’s a clickbait title, forced to make you shout, pantomime style, “oh yes it was!” On this, the thirtieth anniversary of The Castlemorton Free Festival I’m predicting vast quantities of media coverage, hailing its significance in the counterculture of the nineties, and indeed it was the largest illegal gathering in the UK, comparable with the Stonehenge Free Festivals a decade prior.….
And indeed, due to the knickers of a local Tory councillor getting in a twist, it heralded an act of law to prevent so much as four pixies gathering and listening to “repetitive beats,” a desperate last stand from fraying Thatcherism.
But arriving on the scene Friday, dusk had already befallen and we hadn’t a clue just how much it had blossomed. From its epicentre it seemed like just another, typical weekend for us, and in personal reflection, it was not my most memorable rave at all.
In the late eighties acid house was a secret, an exclusive collective no more than a couple of thousand strong. Pyramid promoting, predominately via word-of-mouth, but also by media overexposure, had created a monster; a burgeoning culture trend, an apolitical rebellion whose only ethos was carefree dance. But authorities could neither control it nor let it be. No one made any money from it, that infuriated them, so government made it political, the aftermath of Castlemorton was their Empire Strikes Back.
What was more important to me this weekend thirty years ago, was I finally passed my driving test; a catalyst to seeking raves easier than our only previous methods of blagging lifts or hitchhiking, both of which had unpredictable results. Devastating irony was this particular weekend would be the last of the great raves!
I had my Ford Escort, which I hadn’t fully paid my mum for, so it was legally still hers, and we headed off to Malvern in it; no motorway lesson nor taking-it-steady-on-local-roads starter kits for me!
This legendary party line phone message the Beeb published this week I never heard. On this occasion the usual method of a reliable source phone call was not needed; HTV broadcasted a bulletin about it, they made it too easy for us!
The common was positively buzzing, as more sound systems bolted on and revellers flocked to explode the population to city status. Just how many attended is the query for great debate, safety in numbers was our philosophy, but when we staggered up the hillside at sunrise, our rural chillout zone, the penny dropped.
I recall duly and rather dully contemplating, “they’re never going to live this one down, they’ll never let us get away with it,” it didn’t take Nostradamus, as this sprawling linear development metropolis of o’ bangers and hippy buses expanded like a Sim City game along across a single country track.
Yet the first evening proved unsuccessful in purchasing “rave necessities,” we were ripped off with duff “red & blacks,” soon to be aptly dubbed, “Dennis the Menaces.”
Financially this put us in deficit, and while the upside wasn’t so up, the downside seemed to be equally as prominent, as if the upside had of happened. Supply and demand reduced the potency, these were changing times. But we did it to ourselves, our own worst enemy in so effectively promoting this new way of life. Such was the effect of ecstasy, coming complete with an uncontrollable desire to share the experience, as standard. In this much, that is why we had come to this final kaboom; Castlemorton was the rave to end raves in the UK, least on the same scale.
Second downer for me was when a friend of a friend was badly injured, hanging off the side of a bus which was being pursued by police. The deep graze on her leg needed medical attention, a clean dressing, but the only car available was sporty without adequate room on the backseats. I was in no fit state to drive, so in a flash of unnerving planning, a friend had whisked away to an accident & emergency ward, in my car. We were stranded here for inestimable period. The sun was blazing with little shade, I couldn’t contemplate straying too far, eager to see my little red car returned safely.
I needn’t have worried, but understandably I did, I was a naïve 18-year-old, laughable now that I considered myself grownup. Feelings of doubt haunt the intoxicated teenage mind, but to give this story a happy ending, the car returned with injured passenger in fine fettle, and I was rewarded a gift for my assistance, the pick-me-up I sorely needed. So, because my friends didn’t receive a similar package, I had no choice but to temporarily abandon them, and head to the DIY tent for a dose of their celebrated trancey house grooves.
And for that moment it was an amazing experience, yet I’d argue no more than previous raves, like Lechlade the previous weekend, and so, so many others. Every time it just got bigger, but not necessarily better, Castlemorton was the breaking point, and for this, it deserves to be the one historically recorded and remembered. Though in turn we should use the anniversary of it to reminisce on the era as a whole, and the “happy daze” of our youth.
Rave continued regardless of the Criminal Justice Bill, albeit it took a shot in the leg, dispersing the scene into localised events, or, more agreeable to society, the great pay raves. But the most important factor of the importance of Castlemorton was the international media exposure, and the new ruling forcing sound systems to exile into Europe, for this only caused Britain’s enthusiastic tenet and attitude toward rave to go global.
In turn its effects on musical progression, the aesthetics of festival design, fashion, politics, and resurgence of counterculture are undeniably prominent today, and for those who attended this particular eruption, they’ll always make some fucking noise about Castlemorton; a raver’s Mecca; deservedly.
In the words of the great Suggs, “but I like to stay in, and watch TV, on my own, every now and then,” after three gigs on the previous weekend, I opted a weekend off, albeit I was with the family, and succumbed to Britain’s Got Talent for my entertainment, one little part of me wishing I’d headed down the Southgate.….
To rub salt in the wound, Swindon-(I think)-based Cobalt Fire, who were providing the sounds at Devizes most dependable pub for original music last Saturday, also released a debut album called Butterfly, so naturally I wanted to hear what I missed.
Self-defined as a fusion of “the retro sound of 90’s grunge and post-punk with a modern take on folk,” I can see where they’re coming from, and it’s no new thing for them, formerly known as Ells and the Southern Wild, the band developed their fresh sound from acoustic roots, and yes, there’s tinges of this still in them. Though their bio suggests they formed in 2103, I gather there’s either a typo or a gothic timelord in there! But in their switch to electric they strive to retain the core features of the songs, “creating a more muscular beast in the process,” they put it.
And they’ve certainly achieved this, Butterfly, usually more bug than beast, is a boom of emotional overdrive, as grunge commands, with echoes more of Evanescence than Nirvana, what with Ells Chadd’s haunting vocal range. It packs punches from beginning to end, the finale of which, Another Round, particularly poignant to this nod to acoustic roots, middle tracks like His Words Lie Heavy breath an air of eighties post-punk, ah, goth tinge, Siouxsie Sioux style, while it begins strictly grunge, with those rising and falling echoes of emotive authority.
The magnum opus, though, is three tracks in, Crimson Red summarises everything great about this potent four-piece, it’s dynamitic, driving.
It’s basically ten professionally executed, blindingly touching three-minute heroes, in a fashion not usually my cuppa. But if I sing praises for a genre more me, that’s easy work, for music to make me consider oh yeah, I like this though pigeonholing obligation says I shouldn’t, the result is even more impressive, and with Butterfly I’m near to breaking out some multi-belt buckle platform boots, growing my hair and dying it black!
This is a powerful and emotive creation, indulgent of all rock subgenres, yet beguiling grunge, and it never strays from its unique sound. See now, I’m sorry I missed you guys, another time and I’m beeline; embarrassingly for BGT too, though I’ve given my best cat ate my homework excuse, and though I doubt you’ll turn Simon Cowell’s frown upside-down, going on this album, you’d have got my golden buzzer.
Ah, it’s all lies, anyway; not sure my hair will grow back!
To deal with my forgetfulness I have a to-do-list. The only issue with my to-do-list is I forget I started it; Billy Green released a new single last month, it’s a poetic stonker of indie-rap, with his usual nod to Britpop, and still it fell through the floodgate. Apologies to Bill, but it’s a convenient time to bring it up, as he gigs at Trowbridge’s Pump next Friday, May 27th, for Sheer Music.…..
What makes it even more exasperating for me, is that I was gossiping about the man himself, with Pip Phillips of People Like Us at Long Street Blues Club, what was it, just last week?! All good things, reminiscent of when they were in the nineties indie band, Still, together. Because Billy Green has a history, and it’s savoured in a nimble and accomplished style of the time; zip your tracksuit jacket up to the chin and hide your swirly pupils under a Kangol bucket cap!
The impression of Still remains a forefront for Bill, who named his 2020 album after the band, and followed it with a preceding collection of lost demos, made with the band mid-nineties. Tales of musical happenings in times of yore, before I landed on planet Devizes, always fascinate me, and I never tire of hearing about the blues bands of an era long past, with good folk like Exchange-owner Ian James. Yet Billy echoes out his antiquity, The Pump gig will incorporate his songs from the Still album, which relish in this bygone fashion, adroitly.
Surprised I was to note the quasi-rap poetry of this new tune, Garden, but twas a pleasant one. Teetering with his Geordie mockery it holds an ironic slate against the charade of social media embodiment, “people posting inspirational memes in one post, and ruining people in the next,” Bill describes it to me; I know that sentiment, probably a smidgen guilty myself, Bill, you bloody stickler!
Though hints of the everyday rap style of The Streets, it’s wrapped rather in the upbeat jaunty attitude of Blur, awash with Britpop influences of acts like James, for example. But don’t take my word for it, ere, have a listen yourself mate, and you’ll be mad-for-it too; sorted.
Dad’s taxi drops off, and the driver impatiently awaits his off-spring to exceed the bluetooth boundary; ha, I’ve got of my car stereo back. It’s not all bad, just a majority of my daughter’s playlist is, coupled with her insistance it’s played; control freak!
Yet we can agree on somethings, the acoustic genius of George Ezra is perhaps the most mutual. Thanks to Marlborough record store, Sound Knowledge, I’m more than happy to go gigging with her and her mates.
He’ll be playing a short, intimate set to promote the release of his highly anticipated third album ‘Gold Rush Kid’ at 8pm on Thursday 16th June at The Civic in Trowbridge, Sound Knowledge’s first event in the venue.
The Brit Award-winning singer-songwriter first played Marlborough back in 2014 before the release of his debut ‘Wanted On Voyage’, his first chart-topping album. Its follow-up ‘Staying At Tamara’s’ hit No. 1 on both the Albums and Singles Chart with the mega track “Shotgun“. His new album was written and produced entirely in London with longstanding collaborator Joel Pott. “The Gold Rush Kid? That’s me,” says George, reflecting on the title of his third record, a twelve-strong suite of marvellous, transporting, elevational songs, that more than anything “sound like me. That’s what ties them together.”
‘Gold Rush Kid‘ is released on 10th June. Tickets and bundles are available exclusively online from Sound Knowledge RIGHT NOW, from 10am on Friday 20th May.
If you have any queries about the event, you know, prone to overthinking, please contact them in-store or over the phone on 01672 511106 but please note that tickets and bundles can only be purchased via the website.
CD & ticket bundle – £19.50 LP & ticket bundle – £25 Blue LP & ticket bundle – £28 Ticket-only *max 1 per customer* – £16.00
Sound Knowledge has become renowned for these instore events, while it’s great promotion for new releases from the artists, they’re also an affordable opportunity for locals, particularly younger, to get to meet, greet and hear them play, which would usually involve trekking to a festival or city-based gig. Though while Sound Knowledge have hosted all manner of artists in the past, George Ezra has top the lot, hence a larger venue is needed. Of course, this puts something of a tag on Trowbridge too, and I’m hopeful it’ll really lift an already blossoming reputation for the town’s live music scene, of which Kieran Moore and others has worked so tirelessly to attain.
And afterwards, perhaps my daughter and I can slip his CD in my car stereo and finally find some common ground!
Central at The Parade, Swindon Hub, an accessible, friendly community space which opened in October are aiming to host regular Saturday jamming sessions, to promote local artists and give them a platform where they can perform……
The Hub is a comfortable volunteer-led centre trying to bring the community together. They’ve an affordable café where they invite you to relax in their “snug,” read and share books in their bookshop, browse items for sale from local retailers and upcycled furniture by Renew Men’s Shed. The profits of any surplus of stock items donated from shops for sale go to Swindon Night Shelter.
They are currently building a calendar of regular events including a monthly craft market, weekly knitting circle and writer’s club, as well as art workshops and regular music jams on the weekends. They’ve just hosted Swindon ZineFest, which I’m sorry to hear I missed, and from a Women’s History Month exhibition or a Ukraine fundraising jumble sale to Dub in the Hub sessions, the last one by Suitcase Sound System, there’s something for everyone here, especially those who like cake!
Music last Saturday came from The Thieving Magpies, but it was far from the be-all-and-end-all of activities at the Swindon Hub, as well as the aforementioned zine festival, there was a kid’s comic workshop too; it really caters for all.
“The Jam is a Community project as much as a Music one,” organiser Claire told me.
“It focuses on confidence building, teamwork, social interaction and collaboration.
The Jam has been running already since September last year and there have been hundreds of people who have taken part.
There are loads of people who take part who have no background in music or performing to an audience and it creates an opportunity for people to get involved with music without the traditional barriers that stop so many people from taking the first step.
That said there are also many talented musicians who take part and it creates a wonderful mix of experience and enthusiasm that allows people of all experience levels to have a meaningful musical and emotional experience.
The key to creating a successful jam is building a relaxed atmosphere with little pressure or expectation that allows people to share without fear of criticism, ridicule or humiliation.
The Hub has a great atmosphere for this kind of activity due to the warm, friendly and supportive nature of the volunteers and visitors to the space.
There are already some fantastic success stories of people who have had their confidence built up by attending the event.“
Post lockdown has seen a real boost in community spirit, and such volunteer-based projects like this are a lifeline, in rural areas and debatably more crucial in urban areas too; the larger the population doesn’t necessarily mean the large scope for friendships to occur, in fact it can be harder. So, a massive congratulations to the good folk at Swindon Hub, this looks like an amazing space doing some amazing work, and I might add for a wide-spanning age demographic.
They always need volunteers, if you want to join and help shape the future of communities in Swindon, and any musicians interested in performing for their day sessions should contact them. Facebook Page here.
On Saturday 2nd July 2022, there will be an exclusive chance to paint en plein air at Bowood House & Gardens in aid of Arts Together….
The Bowood Estate has previously never allowed members of the public to paint in the gardens, but we are delighted to announce that this year, Arts Together has been granted exclusive access to host a Landscape Painting Competition.
Set within 100 acres of beautifully landscaped ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland Bowood House and Gardens sits in the heart of Wiltshire between Derry Hill and Chippenham. An Italian-inspired Terrace Garden surrounds the Grade I listed Georgian House and a magnificent lake stretches out into the distance creating many opportunities for the landscape painter in this unique event.
The competition will be judged by Lady Lansdowne, High Sheriff of Wiltshire and Jen Gash, Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018.
Jen Gash ‘Macedonia’ – commission for Sky Landscape Artist of the Year 2018.
The winner will receive an award at the event prize giving and a £50 voucher from ARTWAY art supplies.
Tickets are strictly limited and must be booked and paid for in advance through Arts Together.
The deadline for ticket sales is 20th June and no tickets will be sold after this date.
Admission time 12pm July 2nd Judging 4pm (prize giving 4.30pm)
Cost per entrant £25- this includes admission to Bowood House & Gardens and entry to the competition.
Friends and family who are accompanying a competitor can purchase entry tickets at the standard admission rates, these must be purchased via Arts Together to allow access to the painting arena and prize giving event. Tea, coffee and cakes will be available exclusively to entrants and their friends and family at the Gardener’s Bothy. -Cream teas can be pre-booked at cost of £5 per person.
All competitors will need to bring their own art supplies (unless pre-booked via Arts Together) and any easels or foldaway seating they require. These must be transported by the competitors on foot from the car park unless alternative prior arrangements have been made directly with Arts Together.
Kindly note: this is an open-air event, and the weather is out of our control. Competitors will need to dress appropriately for the unpredictable summer weather. Come prepared for rain or shine!
If competitors would like to have art materials ready on arrival it is possible to purchase one of two ARTWAY kits from Arts Together at the time of ticket purchase. Further details on the artway kits can be found here
For any further information or to purchase tickets, Bowood House kindly request that all enquiries go via Belinda at Arts Together. Thank you for supporting this charity event.
Next time you’re in Devizes town centre look out for the postcards in various shops and pubs. They’re not a wish you were here, more so a wish you can help, with updating the historic landmark which is the Crammer……….
All we need you to do is add your postcode, no names or contact details are needed, to the postcard, a petition, if you will, to send to Devizes Town Council expressing your wish that the Crammer needs bringing into the 21st century, it needs biodiversity. Since the van fire spilt contamination into the town’s pond at the beginning of the year, it has been realised it needs a few basic improvements to make it safe and effective for the wildlife living there.
A Facebook page, Crammer Watch (do please click here to like it) was set up to highlight the issue and gather support, the postcards, we hope, will emphasis the interest by local people and have some sway in convincing Devizes Town Council to act as a matter of urgency.
So, if you feel the Crammer isn’t as it used to be and you miss the wildlife that has vanished of late, please consider adding your postcode to these postcards. When full the postcards will be handed to Devizes Town Council to illustrate wide-ranging support for a good quality wildlife habitat and a showcase for Devizes.
There are two main issues detected which need improving, pipes flow into the Crammer directly from the road, polluting it and making in dangerous for wildlife, this should be redirected and a freshwater solution implemented. The second is what Swan Support informed us of when they rescued the poor swans drenched in oil spillage; they need a natural food source, having relied on handouts for so long the swans which were there had become reliable on them.
We accept what we are asking Devizes Town Council is a costly operation, and we’re not expecting miracles overnight, just the assurance the matter is still on the agenda. As Brian, heading the campaign says, “we need a positive action plan, with proper expertise assessment and a management strategy to deal with issue.”
The postcards are already filling up, please consider adding your postcode to them. They can be found at these outlets below, and thank you to everyone for showing your support.
Without certified limitations on Devizine, I freestyle the boundaries of listing events upon the ethos if it’s conceivable and practical to drive to from our Devizes base, then what the hell, I’ll list it. While it’s laborious, and often impossible to include every Wiltshire pub with a man with a guitar yodelling Wonderwall in, I try my upmost, but the wider we journey the vaguer it obviously gets; I’m not flipping omnipresent.
I’m partial to listing events in Frome, though, despite it bordering my ruling, for two reasons; 1: The Cheese & Grain; the non-profit, community led, all-purpose venue, punches well above its weight, booking the quality of acts you’d expect to trek to a city for.
And 2: I get this overall perception of Frome being this little Somerset haven of alternative arts and culture; like a West Country Brighton, without a pier. But in all honesty, it’s hearsay; it could have a pier for all I know, for other than dropping in on my previous employment as a delivery driver, and to navigate its bypass on my way further west, I confess, I’ve never actually explored the centre of Frome; what-cha gonna do? I don’t do urban rambling, and deplore the mechanical façade of orthodox window-shopping.
In a weekend where I decided to bunk gigging, as previous weekends I’ve golloped three apiece, realise I’m addicted to writing and have to knock some-waffling-thing up for the sake of my sanity, even if it comes across school holiday assignment. Up until Sunday options were slim, Britain’s Got Talent the epicentre of entertainment ingested, followed by a surprisingly tricky quiz show hosted by the Not Going Out comedian, in which questions might’ve been easier if BGT hadn’t previously fried my cranium.
So, with Dad’s taxi booked to Longleat Forest with an approximate three-hour interval, I start contemplating how to kill said three hours. With strict satirical nonstarters like “keep driving,” “catch the first bus out of there,” and “end it all now!” being the responses to a Facebook post requesting ideas of how to kill three hours on a drizzly spring Sunday morning in Warminster, I made a note to reconnoitre why it’s considered so dismal and cultureless, other than its discouraging namesake relating to war, which is never much fun, coupled by my discovering a Warminster community hub website which, when you click their event guide comes up “page not found,” and perhaps sought to rectify this if possible, another time.
It was a no-brainer, head to Frome, Sunday mid-mornings aren’t the liveliest of times anywhere, so if I could find some hippy-chick knocking up a bowl of humus barefoot on the street, at least it’d be something. Noted I’d crossed state line as drystone walls envelope fields, hills get that bit steeper and road systems are purposely designed to ward off, or merely confuse the shit out of grockles.
To save diverting in circles, I implored myself to dump the car at the next available carpark and pray it was walking distance to the town centre. Cliché mainstream shop Marks & Sparks Food Hall and the Frome Job Centre provided clues, unimpressively. I mean yeah, they’ve got the archetypical charade of chain stores, though the borderline acceptable Subway being the only fast-food joint, if Greggs is endurable, and yay, they robbed me two quid to park on a Sunday to ascend vertical cobblestoned streets like Dale Winterton mountaineering, only to browse closed shops wondering why I didn’t slouch in the car playing WordLots on my Samsung.
What upped my spirits, other than a bakery sign saying Cornish pasties for £2.50 (I mean, who does that? Have I slipped through a wormhole to the nineteen-nineties, or is this the Isle of Wight?) was a window display of an arty emporium sardonically mocking Brexit and the travesty of the Conservatism regime through decorated mugs and other handmade merchandise. I smiled at the audacity of a shop which would be petrol-bombed by our knuckle-dragging majority of Daily Fail readers back in Devizes before it opened; I’d fit in here.
For want of getting lost, I wobbled back down the hill, locating The Sun Inn, one watering-hole with a Tardis for a door I’d noted for holding the odd live music event; perhaps that was my route back in time but without a rainbow scarf I couldn’t gain access, ramming the door only woke the dog and I assessed I was too early. Though by the time I’d detoured once more, governed by a broken compass, found another closed boozer I’ve listed as a music venue, uninventively named 23 Bath Street, I went on a hunch the side road by The George would be the way to my mecca.
Sure enough, over a bridge in a carpark a visage appeared, the golden wooded entertainment cathedral of The Cheese & Grain. With a café, The Grain Bar, on the side it was lively already, as a regular children’s clothes market, Little Pickles was just closing, allowing me to sneaky peak at the impressive venue. I could just imagine some great acts playing, who have in the past graced this stage. It was no Albert Hall, it was functional, yet in by modernism standard it was chic, alluring nonetheless.
I considered my tummy, at the café, but wandered off as on the way over to it, I’d seen another attraction beckoning me. Black Swan Arts is another point of interest, and I sheepishly entered, as a stranger does in a gallery shop. With some lovely art, you usually browse the circuit, make your excuses and go the way you came in, cos as much as I adore art, my wallet doesn’t.
Yet this was such a charming gallery, hosting plenty of workshops, it just fizzled into the Frome life already blossoming from its slumber outside. But I didn’t go out through the out-door, I sauntered to the rear of the shop to appear next in queue for the café, The River House, conveniently.
Handsomely expedient and adorably unpretentious, they kookily handed me a mini-figure of Batman’s Robin, rather than a spoon with a number on (which I secretly wanted to keep,) and proceeded to knock me up a hunky-dory mug of tea and perfectly toasted sausage ciabatta for a mere seven quid.
That’s when I got the bat-signal, sadly, my time was up and Dad’s taxi was back on call; just as I was getting into sharing my table with middle-aged beatniks far cooler than me. I pondered upon my return to the carpark, as a fellow sat on a bench practising his flute, Frome is a wonderfully original, outlandish place, deffo. If I was a younger, unattached lad, I could be persuaded to settle there, become part of the furniture at the Cheese & Grain.
But as it is, aging rapidly, rooted here with a settled family, and I must say, content with Devizes, I could only wish that our town council, our event organisers, and the great doers in town could take a leaf out of Frome’s books, shake off the partial frumpiness of Devizes, the discreditable tory grasp, and think outside the box. For all the great amenities we have in Devizes match Frome, yet our ability to utilise them as effectively, to accommodate everyone and their ways no matter how eccentric they might appear to others, sometimes, and I stress, only sometimes, falls beneath our potential; in, ha, you know, my honest opinion.
Though, I’ve returned home, added listings for The Cheese & Grain to our event calendar, as usual, but I mean, look, it falls within the ruling, really; they’ve got The Beat, The Feeling, Zion Train, Stiff Little Fingers coming up, they’ve even got Public Image Ltd, and thems worth driving the distances for, worth crossing border control into the land of somersetting for, if we can’t have Johnny Lydon here, punking up the Corn Exchange!
Get into the musical mood of the Platinum Jubilee with a concert in St Mary’s Church, Devizes, that showcases the Queen’s favourite music.…
Talented sisters Katja and Laura, who play the cello and violin respectively as the Serenity String Duo, have put together a selection of music for a special programme marking this milestone anniversary on Friday, 20th May.
Classical favourites by composers including Bach, Handel and Vivaldi together with a medley of hymns the Queen enjoys will feature in the first half. The second part of the evening will focus on a range of pop classics from Abba and The Beatles to Queen; to be honest, if the Queen doesn’t like Queen, what chance have we got?!
It’s the perfect playlist to serenade the country’s longest serving monarch!
Doors open at 7pm for 7.30pm. Background note: Permissions have been given to transform the 12th century Grade 1 listed St Mary’s Church into a multi-use community space . The aim is to continue events, such as the above, whilst the fund-raising gets underway.
St Mary’s would very much welcome anyone who would like to get involved in this project. For further information about the project contact Tony Scorer on firstname.lastname@example.org
Contrary to popular belief, particularly my kids, I was young once, and back in that iron age I used to live in a motte-and-bailey hillfort in Marlborough; not a lot of people know that, except for the one’s who know that, and even they’ve probably blocked it from their memories.
Yes, Merlin-Borough, famous for a wide high street, a mound and a fair about mops, just fifteen miles from Devizes but a six hour bus journey with two changes, somehow perceived being on another planet for Devizions. But I promise you, it’s a lovely town and the only reason I left was because I found said bus stop.
Back then, you either risked shopping in Somerfield or waited for the final seconds of Waitrose’s hours of business to nip in and blag whatever they had duly reduced; every night was like Ready, Steady Cook, and you were Ainsley Harriott.
Entertainment was the pub, which I had no quarrels about. My regular watering hole was The Green Dragon, until I matured enough to upgrade to The Lamb, at about 18. It has been a mainstay in Marlborough life for as long as I know, a welcoming and dependable tavern run by the only recently retired Vyv.
Sporadically we’d have free live music, and it was there us crafty little ravers perchanced to become fans of Swindon’s legendary Two-Tone band The Skanxters. So popular the sound that Marlborough formed it’s own ska band, Ska Trouble. But if there’s one unforgettable homegrown band it was Pants, as they were as the name suggests. Heavy metal covers of current pop songs came to a head with a thrashed version of the Mr Blobby song; man, we’ll never get that magic back.
Or will we? Pants are still on the circuit, and they’re still shit but proud, recently making me bath up toast commenting on social media at a G&H journalist’s report on Vyv’s retirement in which only frontman Moose Harris got a mention, like the others, whoever the fuck they are, had deserved some credit.
You can see for yourself, as The Lamb announce LambFest today, with Pants on the washing line and a whole host of others. Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June is the dates, it’s free but in aid of men’s mental health, and as well as Pants they promise Swindon’s premiere indie-pop darlings, Talk in Code, the one and only Gaz Brookfield, and Marlborough’s popular Kova me Bad. Interestingly, Mark Colton’s new Ian Dury tribute make their first appearance outside Swindon too.
Inside there’s acoustic acts, including the bearded third of the Lost Trades, Jamie R Hawkins. Heck, it continues Sunday with said Pants and Swindon’s punk ensemble Navago Dogs.
By the state of this fantastic lineup of local talent, dammit, this one’s calling me, tugging on my raw appetite for live music and cider. Which is a shame, because my pass for the glorious Mantonfest just came through and that’s in June too. Marlborough folk are going to assume I’ve moved back, and that terrible fake news bulletin could be just the one to push them over the edge of Merlin’s Mound.
Ever wondered if our county council actually gives a hoot about you? Here’s window into the philosophy of Wiltshire Council leader Richard Clewer, his comments to the Gazette & Herald this week reveal his want for Conservative totalitarianism and his abhorrence at democracy; perhaps why they dropped the slogan where everybody matters in 2019, because clearly to Mr Clewer, only Tories do.…..
In the article he slams the local election results as “not good,” and “very concerning,” as elsewhere in the country, including some key conservative strongholds, Tories have lost control of eleven councils in total, and almost 500 councillors. Though Conservatives held onto our closest council, Swindon Borough, by the skin of its teeth, they lost four wards to Labour, and the Liberal Democrats took Somerset.
Snubbing the political etiquette of impartially congratulating new councillors, like Trump’s final hour of shame, Clewer whimpered on Friday, “they are not a good set of results, and are very concerning, especially in somewhere like Somerset.”
I beg to differ, there’s only two things “very concerning” to all of this, firstly is that our next elections aren’t scheduled until 2025; plenty of time to brush the daily newsfeed of scandal, nation neglect and barefaced fabrications under the carpet and uphold this Tory safe seat, if they can prevent the cabinet from acting like teenage delinquents for more than twenty-four hours.
Secondly, it is “very concerning” the leader of our county council’s vision is so utterly polarised and indoctrinated, he cannot see other people might just have a differing opinion to him.
The article goes onto suggest “Cllr Clewer added that it must be “heart-breaking” for those Tory councillors who have lost their seats in places such as Wandsworth – which has been a Conservative stronghold since 1978.”
Bless, my heart bleeds for them, no, really. Maybe they should’ve thought about this while their precious clown prime minster trudged us through the economic suicide of Brexit, the horrific impact of which is only now being revealed through hyperinflation, border control, and the breaking apart of the United Kingdom.
Maybe it should have crossed their minds when their precious prime minister failed to attend Cobra meetings, ignored the World Health Organisation’s advice to lockdown prior to certain money-making sports events, causing the virus to spread and made us the worst affected country in Europe. Then insisted on partying through lockdown while all around us families were dying.
Maybe there could’ve been an inkling something was amiss every time their precious prime minster failed, on every single count, and while I could go on with the perpetual cycle of car-crashes this government has dragged us through. The threadbare reality of this constant shit-show is becoming visible to even the knuckle draggers; “A hungry man is an angry Man.”
Change is certain; I bet your bottom dollar Wiltshire will be at the back of that queue.
Cllr Clewer also said that he was relieved that Wiltshire Council was not holding an election this year, as “it would have been very tough.” No shit, Sherlock. In a word; good. It is a good thing to have a council of varying opinions, one which can present answers in response to the public, rather than one blindly following arrogant crooks. The opposition is just an opposition, it may vary from your insufferable judgements, but it doesn’t make them wrong, or some demonic uprising, or even something to be concerned about. It just means “Your old road is rapidly agin’……”
“Please get out of the new one,
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’,” and you better like it or lump it!
Woe is me; tis a fortnight did pass since the beloved Devizes Street Festival. I did happen to saunter through the market lodging Saturday, peered ov’r to whither the main stage once gallantly did stand, but ‘t wast just parked cars and a bank façade; insert depress’d visage emoji…..
Because that’s it, folks, that’s your bloomin’ lot; there is nothing else happening in Devizes this summer, nought, nada….
Okay, that probably didn’t work, you’re nobody’s fool, and you probably know these already, but here’s a quick guide to the BIG events in Devizes and surrounding villages over the summer months; you know, so bods don’t whinge on social media, “I didn’t hear about this, I took my dog out for a poo and ka-blamo, without so much as a warning some kind of social event hit me square in the chops.”
Oh, and before I commence the proceedings be aware there’s always something on, some little events here and there, like free music at The Southgate every Saturday for instance, do keep in tune with our event calendar, but for this particular outing, we’re thinking BIG (ooh, matron.)
Sunday 15th May: Devizes Town Band’s Fantastic Journey at the Corn Exchange.
Their first outing of the year, Devizes Town Band plan to get all Phileas Fogg and beyond, taking the Corn Exchange on a fantastic journey from the depths of the ocean into space and everything in between, and you could onboard! Tickets are £10 here: http://devizestownband.com/
Saturday 21st May: Indecision’s Last Hoorah Tour at the Corn Exchange.
Popular covers band on the local circuit and beyond, Indecision, has indeed made a mutual decision to split up, but not without going out with a bang; they’re hosting a “Last Hoorah” gig at Devizes Corn Exchange. Proceeds go to Wiltshire Search and Rescue and the Fatboys Charity.
Running till May 28th, Lovesong is the story of one couple, told from two different points in their lives, as young lovers in their 20s and as worldly companions looking back on their relationship. Their past & present selves collide onstage as we witness the optimism of youth becoming the wisdom of experience | Love is a leap of faith. Freddie Underwood brought Things I Know To Be True to the Wharf stage in 2019. Movement has become Freddie’s personal stamp within her productions and Lovesong will be similar to her previous work which fuses movement & music, partnering within the work of the text.
Saturday 28th May: Hardy’s Wessex: The Landscape Which Inspired a Writer, Exhibition at Wiltshire Museum
Running until 30th October, this exhibition opens 28th May, and will explore how Hardy’s writing merged his present with the past. Within this ancient landscape, old beliefs died hard and Hardy’s plots are set against a background of superstition. Hardy felt that these past ways of life were important, helping us understand ourselves and our relationship with the environment; he also made a film outside the Bear Hotel, like a TikTok-obsessed teenager up for a rumble. Okay, that last bit isn’t strictly true!
Note: The first week of June is the Jubilee, where there’s so many village or town street parties to list here, so check your village magazines and social media sites for archetypical clipart bunting posters, and gawd bless ‘er, guvnor.
Thursday 2nd – Monday 6th June: Honey Folk Festival @ The Barge Inn, HoneyStreet
Bit of prequel to July’s HoneyFest, as you might expect from the trusty Barge, it’s a folk fest with a difference. Acts here range globally and incorporates the loose pigeonhole world music too, so much so it’s like a mini-Womad!
Saturday 4th June: Bromham Carnival
Friday 10th – Sunday 26th June: Devizes Arts Festival
A fortnight long arts festival on your doorstep! Including Baila La Cumbia, Rockin Billy, Tankus the Henge, The Scummy Mummies Show, Asa Murphy and so, so much more; we do love Devizes Arts Festival. Do check our preview, and links to The Devizes Arts Festival for more details of separate events and tickets.
Saturday 11th June: Sustainability Fair
Arranged by Sustainable Devizes, there will be a day celebrating all things sustainable in the Market Place and Shambles; let’s get green.
Sunday 12th June: Lions on the Green
Talking of green, it’s always a fantastic free day out with the Devizes Lions, on the Devizes Green, with a car show, beer tent, and whole lot more.
Sat 18th June: Saddleback Music Festival with LottieFEST
Yes, Saddleback is erm, back! This one stealthily popped up out of nowhere, which is good if you’re a Shaolin assassin but not if you want people to come to your festival; a little bit of notice on this wouldn’t go amiss, guys, like a marketing strategy and erm, telling your friendly neighbourhood Spider-event guide!
So, you may not have heard; Devizes Sports Club in full force with a blues extravaganza. Jon Amor & King Street Turnaround, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, Joe Hicks, No Manz Land, Carolyn McGoldrick & Friends, Matt Peach, Public Eye and The Best of Ratcat feature, with DJs until the early hours, which is different but I guess that’s where the Saddleback incorporates LottieFEST too, a celebration of the life of Lottie Rapson, who sadly passed away aged just 27 from Friedreich’s Ataxia. Tickets are £30, with £5 donated to Ataxia UK & the Lily Foundation.
Thurs 23rd June: The World under the Wood @ Wharf Theatre, Devizes
Running until June 26th; Jodie meets a magical talking Tree, as you do, who asks for her help, as they often do. The wood seems to be dying and Tree thinks the incredible World under the Wood may hold the answer… Jodie is whisked away to a super-world where life moves super-fast. But she discovers that this world is failing too; the super-humans have been collapsing and productivity is down. Jodie and Harley the dog must now journey between worlds to find an answer. Can the mega-multiplier plants restore the wood? And what is the mysterious ‘Source’?
A magical story of courage, friendship & unity to inspire a greener generation – For everyone 6+; of which I fall into this age-group, just.
Always a lovely carnival in a lovely village, that’s on the 4th June, but bon’t forget their Teddy Bear Trail from 25th – 26th June, this year’s theme will be ‘Someone Beginning With B,’ with 40+ Teddies around the village, created and generously sponsored by local businesses and individuals. See how many you can guess!
Saturday 25th June: MantonFest
A tad further out, this side of Marlborough, but always worth a big mention, cos it’s such a well-organised community-driven yet professional one day music festival; certain I did a preview about it, here, and yeah, I might be going too but don’t let that put you off; you don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to.
Saturday 3rd July: DOCA Picnic in the Park @ Hillworth Park
Picnic in the Park is DOCA’s traditional start to the festival week. It’s a chance for the community to get together in the beautiful surroundings of Hillworth Park. There’s top quality music, stalls and a bar. You can also buy snacks, ice-creams and hot drinks from the café on the park. Bring your friends and a picnic, for the perfect Sunday afternoon.
Acts include a travelling duo of a Dubliner and a songwriter in the vein of Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen, called The “Grave” Diggers, bluegrass Americana with The Stemville Ramblers and Bristol based trio Boogaloo String Band.
Artist and performer Boogaloo Stu, too, while we’re on boogaloo, who promises to gets up-close and personal with Puppet Paramour, a one-to-one session of craft activity and psychic surgery to create your ideal partner in sock-puppet form.
And resident artist Libertine, a free-motion embroider who specialises in social commentary and out of the box thinking which is reflected in her work. She will take up residence at the Picnic and gather your musings on the last year, the year ‘we’ missed, she will commit them to fabric and thread.
Saturday 9th July: Devizes Carnival
Devizes comes alive carnival day, need I say more?
Saturday 9th July: CrownFest @ the Crown, Bishops Cannings
Queen tribute Real Magic headline this mini-festival with serious clout, not so far from carnival, in Bishops Cannings. Some awesome acts, check the poster, Including Illingworth, George Wilding, Humdinger and local legend Pete Lamb & the Heartbeats. This is such a nice setting; it has to be done.
Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th July: Market Lavington Vintage Meet Family Fun Weekend
Ah, big steam engines, proper job!
Saturday 23rd July: Devizes Beer & Cider Festival
Details of this still in the pipeline, but that’s no excuse for not putting the date in your diary for this historic wharf-side beer fest; I’ve still got my half-pint glasses from the early noughties!
The Devizes Scooter Club have worked tirelessly through lockdown postponements and beyond to recapture the magic of their first scooter rally in 2019, which went way beyond the archetypical scooter rally and border-lined festival with the supreme acts it booked; here’s hoping they achieve this again, but I can pre-empt it will just by the line-up, most of which have been tried and tested at former Devizes Scooter Club gigs, the poignant Motown covers band All That Soul, Orange Street, who were the pivotal act at the last rally, The Specialized Specials tribute, local sure-things, The Roughcut Rebels, and a wildcard; Slade tribute Sladest!
Saturday 13th July: Seend Fete 2022
Always a real community-feel to Seend’s fete, a great family out!
Thursday 25th till Sunday 28th July Honey Fest @ The Barge Inn, HoneyStreet
Again, the annual kingpin at a campsite, wharf and pub which is like a mini-festival all year around! You can guarantee this will be amazing.
Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th August: Fulltone Music Festival
OMG Super-Proms….Can they do it again? Go compare, I think they can! The funding and effort put into last year’s Full Tone Festival on the Green was truly the jewel in Devizes’ event calendar, a memorable history in the making. To help replicate the magic there’s a bigger line-up of other acts as well as the Full Tone Orchestra. Including our favourite country solo singer Kirsty Clinch, Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats again, DJ James Threfall and it’s great to see local piano virtuoso, young Will Foustone heading the bill.
Also note my pun above, as an opera section with a host of guests including local music school owner, the breath-taking Chloe Jordan and Welsh soprano Wayne Evans, better-known to gogglebox slouchers as the Go Compare man!
Saturday 3rd September: Devizes Confetti Battle and Colour Rush
If you don’t know what this most bizarre event of Devizes calendar consists of, you’re not from Devizes!
For those who aren’t, please come and see what it’s all about: This year the Confetti Battle continues to grow and the colourful chaos has been added to with the introduction of the Colour Rush, an amazing 5 km mixed terrain fun run – what better way to arrive at a Confetti Battle than covered in multi-coloured powder!
There is no ‘battle’ as such, just a very silly half-hour during which a lot of fun is had, and a lot of confetti is thrown about. Expect to get ‘attacked’ by complete strangers throwing paper! The Battle continues to gain popularity and 2017 saw over 3500 people take part. The event takes place at the finish line of our new Colour Rush 5k run so expect to see some exceptionally colourful visitors in the crowd.
Enjoy yourself on Jennings funfair in the Market Place on both Saturday 31st of August and Sunday 1st of September operating between 5.30 pm until 11.00 pm.
Buy tokens to exchange for the confetti before the event – look out for our stand and get your tokens in advance to reduce queuing time during the event. You’ll still need to line up to collect your confetti prior to the 8pm kick-off.
Keep your eyes peeled when collecting your confetti as one lucky person will receive a Golden Ticket in a confetti bag, info about the prize will be announced soon.
Saturday 24th September2nd October: Devizes Food & Drink Festival
More food than I can reasonably stuff into my oversized cakehole, and trousers for afterwards, and that’s really saying something more than Bananarama. Saturday 24th kicks straight off with the free market in the Market Place, and there’s a packed lunch full show of events, including designing a sandwich fit for the Queen, workshops, talks, meals, foraging, Come Dine with Us, and a Teddy Bear’s picnic; details of which are on their website.
And that’s about it, summer over, batten down the hatches for autumn; unless you know any different? Something we missed? Why didn’t you tell us about it? Too late now…..unless you twist my arm, editing on this article is strictly and unashamedly governed on favouritism!
Literary Evenings are back in Devizes, and they’re inviting you to find out how rude they can be, though there is no bidding for you to be rude back, yet there appears to be no regulations set, so I’ll leave it up to your own artistic licence….
For the record I’m hardly ever rude, but the opening evening on 25th May at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes is at 7:30pm, on Wednesday 25th May. Devizes Books presents the evening, in which the subject of rudeness and impoliteness will be discussed and celebrated as an art, as written about by Saki, Mark Twain, Bernard Levin, Hunter S Thompson, and Jane Austen, among others. There’s a musical interlude, or should I suggest “inter-rude” by Lewis Cowen and James Harpham, nibbles and wine.
Tickets are £6 from Devizes Books, which is rude, perhaps you could shout at them as they go in! (Kidding!) They should consider the novel White Space Van Man by a certain local author if they want to delve into some deep-rooted rudeness, and not to mention, shameless plugging.
I can’t help feeling there might be some local councillors really into this event!
Pleased as Punch I’ve managed to tick three Bristol-based musical acts off my must-see list in as many weeks; Boom Boom Racoon, Mr Tea and the Minions, and this Saturday night saw me boom-bap bouncing to The Scribes in the most unusual of places to find hip hop, Trowbridge Town Hall…
And bouncy it certainly is, an irresistible, partially old skool sound which embraces all the positives of UK hip hop, and none of the negative stereotypes. If we were the other side of the pond, it’d be classed east coast rap, surely(?) as the Scribes find the perfect balance between carefree and enjoyable, the like of De La Soul, the concentrated harmonising of A Tribe Called Quest, and the tongue-twisting proficiency of The Fu-Schnickens.
It’s poignantly layered with denotation, when it needs to be, yet it remains without the pretentious bravado and bling; there wasn’t a gold bikini-clad hoard of chicks sprawled across a white stretch limo (partly a shame), there wasn’t a single baseball cap on back-to-front, or a gold chain large enough to anchor a cruise ship. In chatting with Ill Literate outside, he was keen to cast off those preconceptions for his trio, and UK hip hop in general.
In fact, he was tremendously outgoing, sociable and articulate, this common association of a chip on shoulder was non-existent. What there was where truckloads of intelligent lyrics, executed so incredibly intricately, precise and with a skill way, way beyond the average; dope is the appropriate term, apparently!
But from listening to their tracks, I gathered this long before the show, I’ve been waffling about their talent for some time now, trying to get the message out there; the Scribes are the most promising hip hop act currently on the UK circuit; I’ll call it.
Though if last night proved my point, the crowd at the Town Hall was minimal and disappointing, but one talent I hadn’t predicted was their stage presence. The Scribes have a natural ability to entice, encourage and involve the crowd; it was virtually holiday camp entertainment fashioned at one point, where they divided the room in two for heckling humour, but if this was cliché, they united the sides again in harmony; nicely done.
There could be many factors as to why numbers were down, perhaps the Town Hall has a stigma for younger local hip hop fans, perhaps the publicity didn’t reach the required audience, maybe, it was pointed out by an attendee that the scaffolding obscures the wealth of events happening inside. I’d favour some marketing brainstorming might be an idea, the poster designs are rather formulated, this one hardly spelt out the awesome hip hop gig it was. Outside, a popular nearby bar’s DJ blasted out Wham’s Wake me up Before you Go-Go to a busy crowd; you can’t train stupid!
What Trowbridge and neighbouring villages need to twist their melon around is the venue is offering a vast variety of affordable events, and with the incredibly motivated Sheer Music promoter, Kieran Moore at the helm, it’s quality not quantity. Twist to the predictable preconception is, Trowbridge Town Hall is a wonderfully welcoming and aesthetically pleasing venue, pushing the boundaries. And in this notion, The Scribes were in fact the perfect act, as they too clearly push boundaries.
The Scribes are booked to many festivals, from Shindig to Boomtown, and are popular regulars at Salisbury’s Winchester Gate. As I peered inward and ignored the lack of audience, I could imagine they’d handle a huge crowd with similar ease, and the whole house would be jumping like House of Pain on trampolines in zero G.
Support came from Salisbury-based Mac Lloyd, a solo artist impossible to pigeonhole. With a sensationally emotive voice he cast some original compositions to the crowd, using ambient and breaks backing tracks, but at times incorporating electric guitar and sporadically rapping. I could suppose it’s intelligent hip hop, at base level, but it’s too unique to categorise and played out with such skill and passion, let’s roughly liken him to what Pewsey’s Cutsmith is putting out, and open a whole new pigeonhole for them; now that’s experimentally creative and interesting. Keep your eye on Mac Lloyd.
But look, it’s Sunday; permission granted for me to go out on a whim, get a little rant off my chest?! Concerning today, not for The Scribes’ sake, more so for the general misconception of this genre, quintessentially the new rock n roll? And for it we need to go back, way back, back into time, back to legwarmers and BMX….
I grew up in dog-turd-paved suburbia, bin bag mountains on the streets, where binmen were on strike, hardly anyone under the age of 25 had a job, and a frustrated generation hostage to a Conservative regime caused white to blame black and only unite to bash the Asians. Yet gradually, Skinhead and teddy-boy gangs dwindled as we joined hands in primary school, and body-popped; I was too chubby to breakdance!
Just as a decade prior in New York’s ghettos, racially segregated warfare came to an end through the invention of block parties heralding a mixture of musical genres to appease them all. Just as rock n roll united black and white, hip hop dragged everything into its melting pot.
Now, exported to Britain a short-lived fad arrived, quickly as ever commercialised. It was carefree party vibes; Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s The Message was the exception to the rule, ground-breaking it displayed conscious prose, just as Gill Scott Heron, which warped into a freedom of expression ethos whereby frustrations of ghetto life could be voiced; enter Public Enemy and NWA.
Consequently, it became aggressive, angry and as it spread across the States rivalry got heated. It took us to the late eighties whereby the backlash returned us to a carefree offshoot. The likes of De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and Arrested Development put the hippy back into hip hop.
The genre ruled the day, but the commercialism only resisted and what rebelled was slackness in lyrics, this polarised philosophy of do or die; gold, guns and hoes; that sort of macho bullshit.
Afraid it is so, but so too does rock and ska have their extremities, and we don’t single them out with a narrow-minded preconception, we accept there’s that part to them but it doesn’t represent a majority, why do we do it with hip hop?
The roots of hip hop are not lost, just obscured like a flower in bracken. The original ethos was more akin to the carefree spirit of early rave, a generation on, than it is to a modern commercial hip hop market. We see this now through the later nineties’ association with the big beat sound of Skint and Wall of Sound, using breakbeat to throw jazz, blues, rock, and reggae into a melting point; what-cha gonna do when the fat boy’s trippin; that kinda Brighton rock!
One good reason why The Scribes are ahead of their game, they can fit into this, and unlike the nonsensical chanting of an MC, they lyrically supply something sublime.
This may play off well in the cities and festivals, but by the end of the night I tried to convince Ill Literate not to give up prompting The Scribes to the smaller, more rural backwaters, as there are pockets of resistance; there are hip hoppers doing crazy legs in the fields! Secret is, they come to Devizes via our tropical holiday-at-home rum bar, The Muck & Dundar in November; I’d sincerely hope we can show them some serious support, because believe me, the Scribes, and Mac Lloyd rocked da house, aka, Trowbridge Town Hall last night, and this thoroughly deserves our attention.
See, you know I ain’t gonna bullshit you, too hungover for that. To hell with advertorials; we’re the review equivalent of Catchphrase, we don’t abide by them here, we say what we see. Be warned, being I’ve bunked the morning off work, you’ve got me to cast my punitive opinion the Birdmens night at Long Street Blues Club, our usual Long Street reporter and part of the furniture there, Andy, I’ve demoted to photographer just for this occasion.….
Of course, it’s nice to return to any venue I’ve not poked my bulbous snout into for a while, and yeah, I was tipped off by the one band guitarist, Dave Doherty, there would be no holding back at this here gig, but nah, no money changed hands for me to plug it, other than they’d be space on the dancefloor for me to shake my scraggly rump, obscuring the view of members of the blues appreciation society that is Devizes’ Long Street Blues Club. Which I did so, cos the Birdmens gig was everything they said it would be, and a little bit more.
We could ask for Howlin Wolf meets Jimi Hendrix, but a Birdmens in the hand is worth two in the bush; when isn’t Long Street Blues Club a safe bet? For crying out loud, that town councillor is bring Errol Linton to town next occasion, 4th June: is Liz Debbie McGee, cos that’s magic?!
In fair exchange for said honesty, if you did attend, you’ll know where I’m coming from; it was simply a sublime night. Birdmens was a lockdown project, a potential supergroup trapped indoors with nought else but to produce a beguiling album, but, quite clearly by last night’s performance, aching to get out and play together, despite various collaborations in the past, in this new official guise; I get that.
Something of an exclusive then; they came, saw, kicked into touch the most blinding set of authentic sixties-fashioned swampy delta blues to have ever graced my widening eardrums, and left the spellbound Devizes’ blues aficionados to trek onto Holland for the Moulin Blues Ospel festival, their only other date to erm, date; show offs!
Long Street signifies everything crucial to punching a Devizes pushpin into the global blues map. Yet rather than hosting an established name as usual, the Birdsmen gig was a risk, if a bulletin wasn’t spread of its legendary line-up. Anyone with a slight acquaintance of the local blues scene will know any one of these musicians could give a breath-taking performance solo, armed with just a xylophone. Absent off the Birdmens roster were guitarist Joel Fisk, keyboardist Bob Fridzema and Giles King on harmonica. The remaining crew of lead & rhythm guitarists, Ian Siegal, Jon Amor, and Dave Doherty, with bassist Rob Barry and Jonny Henderson pushing the keys was more than plentiful.
With more pizazz than 007, Ian Siegal is the spark and definitive frontman, he is to UK blues as Ray Winstone is to UK gangster movies; just naturally fits like a glove. Though fronting was divided between him and Jon Amor, who needs no introduction. I’m supposing its professionalism and comradeship which allows them to slot into routine so superlatively, rather than time to perfect this live act, which they’ve not really had much of.
They started as is their album, with “Cat Drugged Up,” and must have featured most of the eleven tracks with a finale of the funkiest “Diggin’ That Rut.” With time spare for Jon take centre-stage for his magnum opus “Juggernaut,” and his Costello-esque “Red Telephone,” and for Ian to hold a mellowed homage to classic blues in the key of The Whispers’ You Never Miss Your Water, executed akin to Otis Redding, I swear on my cat’s life. It was at this point Ian unnecessarily excused himself elucidating his two broken ribs, but no one was complaining. It was an enraptured show from start to finish; upbeat when it needed to be, emotive and precisely accomplished.
Inexcusably, I’ve got that eighties Elton John song stuck in my head this morning, I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues; no guessing about it, Reg, Devizes had itself a night to remember. Based on this, if Dave Doherty recommended a flower pressing workshop, I’d attend without question.
But none of this occurred before Tom Harris donned his blues Stetson in support of this memorable gig. Something unique about our Tom, his wailing vocals, just as his smiley face could’ve been the work of Harvey Ball. He’s supported at Long Street annually at least, for a decade. He rinsed his original compositions in style, with a self-penned scatological festival-toilet blues song, followed by a gritty version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence, hinting at his extreme metal band Kinasis, yet not straying from appeasing the blues aficionados; we like Tom.
Long Street Blues Club yet again pulled off a blinder; yeah, there’s dynasties of dedicated blues obsessives, regulars there with the habit of inspecting as if it was opera, but it’s far from cliquey, most welcoming to newcomers, and when a band like Birdmens thrust some life into it, it goes off.