Glad I went to Aldbourne, for a freebie trio of must-see bands, including Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute Painted Bird, it was a great night, but…..
In 1987 I was but a 14 year-old Essex suburbian lad, who got his first taste of rural Wiltshire peering out of the back window of his Dad’s car to the Square in Aldbourne, realising places like this really exsist outside of picture books and peroid dramas.
Concerns of fitting into life in my new home never dawned on me, let alone how the natives would feel about my being here. Oblivious to cliqueines and class, snobby village girls turned their noses up while lesser-so ones seemed intrigued. I guess I was somewhat “exotic,” if “chav” before the word was even repopularised!
Maybe it was the latter which caused my male peers to view me as a threat, maybe it was because I was different, but for whatever insular reasoning some bestowed an abhorrence of me which came to an apex when I attempted a night at the social club, and a gang chased me all the way home. I never returned, until now.
Thirty-five years later I confess a slight feeling of apprehension, sitting in my car in the Square planning to enter the club. Moreso to see it in exactly the same location, up exactly the same stairs. Surely they’ve matured too, I’m as Wiltshire as lardy cake now, and they’ve ditched their pitchforks?!
A nostalgic side to me felt pleased to be here, after so long. Here for two reasons, firstly to see old school associate Tim, who I was reunited with at Mantonfest as bassist for Richard Davies & the Dissidents, in the newly formed duo Deadlight Dance, with his former sixform buddy, Nick. The pair have worked together in various groups since their sixform band, and Tim confided he liked it this way, just a simple friendly formula.
But this evening’s entertainment is a trio of bands, all with an Aldbourne connection. The second reason was to tick headline act, Painted Bird off my must-see list, a local Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute I’ve heard all good things about. I find the backstories of tribute acts fascinating, and why they chose the artist they did to attribute, particularly when it’s such a unique choice as Siouxsie Sioux.
Real name Nancy Jean, I set out firstly to discover her connection to the village by asking her if she was a Dabchick. For those unaware, it’s the name for those born in the village based on a folklore rare appearance of one on the village pond. But Nancy’s response in a rich Californian accent answered the question; she was married to her drummer, a born and bred dabchick, and they live in the village.
Nancy explained she had fronted a Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute in LA, applied for a similar role here, and created her own band around it. And I’m happy to report, they’re a highly skilled four-piece, able to recreate the magic of the punk era legends in an entertaining and accurate way. Nancy was also keen to point out the music took presidence over the look, still she looked and acted the part with meticulous precison too.
It was a superb show, as lively as retro-punk should be, and perfected, as they trekked through the discography of the Banshees and polished it off with two remaining tunes from a new project using the same band for original sounds under the banner KGB, which though twisted the style to metal, the punk imprint of the tribute remained subtly evident, which was fine by me and the enthused and tipsy crowd.
And it was a bloody good gig, with hospitable locals and staff. Leaving my preconceptions outside, this was quite the opposite of the shithole akin to someone’s garage with a few scattered pub tables in it it once was, but a modest contemporary function room, comfy and affordable; something every village needs but few seem to have aquired. Aldbourne should be proud. But all should note, I don’t hold a grudge against an entire village for the aforementioned incident, it’s water under the bridge, and besides, I’m fully aware a similar occurence would’ve happened in whatever village we landed in; just bored teenagers with nought else to do.
For the record both young and old were in attendance, age demographics know no boundaries at village venues, as Deadlight Dance kicked off proceedings.
Eighties new wave electronica is their game, angled toward the gothic alternative, which they executed with finesse and emotion. From a few originals Nick explained they were taking into the studio, to expected covers of Bauhaus and Joy Divison, it was the sort of serious music venue appreciation society type stuff, rather than universal village hall. Though what was particularly adriot in their set was a rendition of Heartbreak Hotel in their house style.
That said, if Devizes has an affectionate for electric blues, go east to discover a similar penchant for post punk, so this worked, and I stood beside goths and locals, equally appeased. It was almost like being back at St Johns in the eighties, save for lack of trippy science teacher, Dr Dodd!
Next up were also residents and bought their fanclub with them as they bounced on stage and wasted no time in blasting traditional punk covers from the dawn of the shortlived detonation direct into our faces. The Racket, they called themselves, and they were, though an accomplished racket, and it’s a guaranteed win-win to rouse a middle-aged audience with Ramones, Dammed, Elvis Costello and Blondie covers. Most diverse with a punky version of Kids From America, the Racket make for an ideal function band, for the aging punk aficionado. The girl upfront passionate about reproducing the genre, appeared as a cross between Debbie Harry and Katherine Tate, as though it bore hit parade pastiche of the lost era, they did it with bells on, and were as lively as the need be.
Then it was time for Nancy and her band, the bassist of which we’d seen guest in Deadlight Dance, to steal the show. Proir she asked me if I liked Siouxsie, and though I confirmed I did, made excuses for not being totally clued up. “You’ll know more than you think,” she responded, “we play all the hits.” And she was blooming right too, as their perfect renditions paid homage to Siouxsie and the Banshees, track recognition fell neatly out of my brain’s archive like a slot machine.
Locally touring with Mark Colton’s Blockheads tribute, Dury Duty, if tributes reside with no middle-ground, either being absolute shit, or absolutely brilliant, I’m pleased to report it’s the latter with Painted Bird. Local circuits tend not to clash, but any one of these featured acts should be made to feel more than welcome to pass border control and play the Vizes. Book em, Dano, and put their name in cutout newspaper letters for a poster!
Punk, alive and well and living in Aldbourne; who’d have thought it?!
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