Yep, It’s Swindon Shuffle weekend, and so I thought it best to poke my nose in…..
Voice recognition they call it, I call it defective verbal dysentery. My precise articulation fails on a number of letters and numbers from my vehicle reg, and I’m wound up. Parking apps; pet hate, so, call a number, it says, fuck you, nonhuman Noddy, I’m relocating, to a known carpark where you put these primative nuggets of bronze into a machine, wondering why I, aging country bumpkin that I am, bothered to come to the smoke of Swindon centre in the first place. Though it was a passing aggravation, my only rant about the Swindon Shuffle, and hardly their fault anyways…..
Like a lukewarm sea, once you’re immersed it’s lovely, and if the ground I once frequented is so alien, Swindon College, Regent Circus, now an underground carpark unpermitable for technophobes with a neon multiplex atop, one step up the hill and dependable Old Town greets you. Dependable because other than a few shop facades changing, it’s prettty much the same as it always was, the one safe haven within the roundabout-infested sprawling metropolis with its name derived from “pig hill.” Apologies Swindonites, I’m tetchy only about your carparks, and every large town has them.
So now I’m decending Vic Hill with the pleasent scent of kebab houses, on a misson to cram myself into the sardine tin which is The Beehive. It’s my first port of call, a bee line, (gettit?) after reviewing the singlemost amazing debut album from a local act, I was coming to see Concrete Prairie no matter the machine, urbanisation and rammed public house.
But it’s the most welcoming sardine tin, it has to be, the bustling Beehive is a wonderful no-frills pub making do with the space it has, adorned with quirky decor, and filled with smiling faces there for this legendary fifteenth Shuffle, a multi-venue long weekend testimonial to local live music, in aid of Prospect House. I’m immediately feeling homely in this hospitable watering hole, if a tad sultry.
I have to grab a word with chief coordinator Ed Dyer, in which he reveals this time legwork is reduced by having a promotor at each venue, though every year it’s rammed like this at most of the venues. Took me to pondering if a mere market town of Devizes populas could ever accommodate such a scale event without a severely dispursed crowd in each individual venue, but here, it works.
And it works with half-hour sets, timed somehow, with precision engineering, this colossal musician assemble spanning too many names to mention, let alone amass a comprehensive coverage. But such was yours truly impressed with what I did manage to injest, I’m contemplating if I should make Swindon Shuffle a B&B getaway next year.
It was good to bump into Kelly Adams, of Lacock’s Wiltshire Blues and Soul Club, hosting this venue’s entertainment, old friend and newspaper entrepreneur Jamie Hill, and Joel Rose, whose set I unfortunately missed. The question was if Concrete Prairie could, in this petite space, recreate the magic of said album, and they did, with bells on. One cover, and a few peaches from the album was all it took to convince me this is a band we so desperately need to get into our town, their stage pressence was topnotch, their timing impeccable and original compositions just melt.
One silver lining to the parking botheration is I’m closer uphill to my car once settled in the reliable Victoria, which is where I’m hotfooting it to next. Keen to catch Salisbury’s upcoming recommended CarSick, though skate-metal-punk not my preferred cuppa I’m game for those who do it well. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you; CarSick pulled a sicky, though no reports it was actually in any kinda vehicle.
Instead, Kieran Moore, coordinator for this legendary venue under his stalwart Sheer banner, flew in a young three-piece called InAir, who thrashed it out professionally, in a most pleasing fashion, so one could feel the bass rumble under one’s feet; I like that in any genre.
For where the Beehive is a welcoming but crammed bustling hive, The Victoria has a large pit aback, geared toward gigging. While slightly more conventional, and certainly more spacious, it still holds charm and you know when you decend those stairs into the black magic box, The Vic will pull a rabbit from its hat.
Proir to InAir’s blown away set, I spotted the man himself, fronting the Saturday headliner at the Vic, it’s impossible to miss him. “You’re out of Devizes?!” he cried in mirth; am I not allowed to be?!
Mike Barham towered, chatting enthusiastically, while bassit Rob McKelvey stood smiling, a position he’d compromise before the finale by circular squirming the stage floor while strumming his last notes. Yeah, with missing drummer Luke Bartels, who’d arrive on the scene soonishly, complaining of the after-effects of the pre-gig curry they’d had, the one InAir promised themselves on stage never to do again, ah, bless, the joys of reuniting with the NervEndings lads on neutral ground.
And they did their thing, loud and proud as before, though slightly more professional I hassen to add, with boundry-pushing banter. It’s one hardcore band easy on my acceptance, because there’s a blues influence. Mike nodded to Devizes’ affection for blues, and attempted a tune geared that Jon Amor way, but it fell short of a younger crowd, there to mosh and roll, or whatchamacallit. A quick switch rammed the dancefloor again, and those purveyors of noise were at it, superbly. Something Devizions need not miss when Sheer takes the Bin for free, on the 7th October.
To conclude, for what bore witness to mine eye, Swindon Shuffle is more than worthy bounding over the downs for, and what’s furthermore, you’re best leaving any ill-conceived notions at home. For loutish hooliganism, I saw none, just a mass of widespread age demographic live music aficionados, relishing the moment of strolling Old Town in bliss. Bouncers, I saw one, happily munching on a salmon sandwich.
There’s no prentious big names, no grand finale tribute act wandering around like they’re the real McCoy, no ethos to let the local orginal acts do their thing early and get sloshed awaiting a mainstream headliner. This is wholly dedicated, not just to a worthy charity, but to promoting upcoming local talent, which is precisely the kind of thing we love here at Devizine Towers; go Swindon; it continues today, (Sunday.)