Cobalt Fire’s Butterfly

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!


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Billy Green’s Garden

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.

Billy Green @ Still

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.


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George Ezra in…. Trowbridge!

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!

Live Jam Sessions at Swindon Hub Looking for Musicians

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.


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Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?

Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of … Continue reading “Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?”

Music For a Royal Celebration at St Mary’s Devizes

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 info@stmarydevizestrust.org.uk

Tickets are £15, online through ticketsource.co.uk at http://www.stmarydevizes.org.uk or book at Devizes Books or pay on the door)


Marlborough’s Lamb Announce LambFest

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.


Devizes Street Festival Day 1; the Inner Workings of DOCA

Well okay, there’s a meerkat atop a camal, patrolling him through Devizes Market Place, while girls attired in Victorian strongman leotards heckle the crowds, spoiling for arm wrestling contests.Grown men in pink bunny onesies hop outside the Corn Exchange while Bristol’s riotous transeuropean folk drum n bass agricultural revolutionaries Ushti Baba harmonise beatbox and an acordian in a sea-shanty-come-klezmer fashion on an open stage where you usually park to use the cashpoint. Devizes Street Festival blessed us early this year.

Ignoring the idol threat of April showers, Saturday was an absolute blast with the clement weather of summer and revellers out to play. The Market Place was thriving with smiley faces young and old and merriment abound. After last year’s restricted effort, we needed to blow it out of our system, and Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts knocked that sentiment out of the park.

Yet I do this; recover enough to string a haggard description of multiple circus and street theatre occurences into a kind of overhaulled review with a sensational “wow, this slice of festival really happened in Devizes” angle, every year. Throughly deserved though it is, to saunter through the crowd is to be joyful in the spirit of the moment, but blissfully unware of its inner workings.

Have faith, or take for granted the Market Place will magically tranform into Boomtown for a weekend, your free playground of revellery, with little consideration to how much effort has been made by a vast amount of contributors and volunteers.

So, the angle this time is only partially how utterly fantastic it so obviously was, rather focus behind the scenes, because arts director Loz and her volunteering team are not Paul Daniels, and this free fairytale bonanza doesn’t magically appear overnight.

To do this I’m high-viz wearing undercover, and for all the use I’ll be, other than clearing a few wheelie bins, misguiding folk in the opposite direction to the loos, and assigning myself offical cider tester, I’ve assimilated myself into the festival maker collective.

Adorned with access-all-areas privileges the Corn Exchange exposed the inner workings. Loz and leaders divide their time between rushing around like headless chickens and coordinating on a laptop, while every member wears a smile on their face despite the mundane or heftiness of the errand they’ve been set. Take these crates of food into the kitchen, I’ll be glad to. Happy to be on the team, which I haven’t made head nor tail of tasks set on a rota board by the entrance. I’m a newbie, many volunteers have done this for decades.

If you ever thought outside was bizarre, that hall you’ve been to for your covid jab is equally. A makeshift office-back stage circus hybrid, with a camal parked in the foyer, dancers choreographing in the hall, tree people preparing to wander out into the drunken abyss, and I’ve adopted the English tradtion of speaking my own language just with a hint of Latino accent in order to communicate with a crew of traditional Spanish saliors enjoying the supplied buffet. It’s an eye-opener to the inner workings of the centrepiece of DOCA.

Oh, for the energy, teamwork and amazing effort from everyone here, other than me, who, to put it nicely, aren’t getting any younger, to the keyboard warriors of social media land who continue to criticise changes to the programme, I confirm to you, my feet were aching by the first morning, and I was merely part time bin inspector. Criticise all you will, that is your perogative; they could’ve done this like this, not like that, where’s my favourite brand of lager, and the tradtionalist toppermost, why can’t they keep the dates as they were, all contained in a fortnight? Why not drain every last gram of stamina out of these volunteers and hang them up on a glucose drip afterwards?! Seriously, take a look at yourself, those guilty few, have you offered to help or are about to anytime soon? I took my best shot, it’s exhausting, I first-hand know this to be true now.

If its done anything it’s made me appreciate even more the will and effort of the volunteers, and respect that not every minor market town is blessed with such an event; we should be far more grateful. Then I revert, ignore the hiding whingers, they are but few. For everyone here, throughly enjoying themselves, the Ceres finale came at 6pm.

A theatrical acrobatic display of song and dance with the narrative of town’s folklore incident involing Ruth Piece, on this very spot, was promised. At first, while a hefty crane hoisted a peformer high into the sky, few drinkers at the bar huffed “hippy shit,” least admired the machinery and skill of the crane operator. Yet as the ambince of the drum beats, the haunting narrative of the moment, the strawmen casting shadows over the crowd, and the absolutely sublime acrobatic display above them, I swear every single person in the Market Place was left spellbound; you could hear a pindrop.

Unlike the usual fizzling out of the street festival, whereby revellers stagger away over time, navigated by a broken compass with the hide-in-a-pub or go home to sober up dilemma, even if they did they bore the imprint of a kind of subliminal concept, inserted through the medium of arts.

Perhaps Ruth Piece isn’t as portrayed, the archetypal baddie here, and while of course it is wrong to cheat, poverty and demading situations caused her to do what she did. Perhaps, just perhaps, the heckling and petty squabbling attaining her guilt was also at fault, and we should instead learn to have some sympathy and understanding. Perhaps, in turn, those complaining about the breaking up of the ‘fortnight of fun’ should consider the gallant work carried out by this group of volunteers, and appreciate their combined efforts, because Saturday was outstanding, and Sunday is awakening, the carnival, confetti battle and later events DOCA gift us with will arrive later in the summer, and you’re grownup, you can wait.

Ah, I’m getting all morally correct again, just ignore my insane dribbling if you will, the Street Festival continues today, I’m looking forward to it but I’m currently away in Taunton, typing this on my phone, where it’s rather drizzly. I hope this passes upon my return to Devizes later and we can do it all again; hope to see you there, and any delicious brownies from the Bake With Lil stall will be gratefully received!

This incredible Ceres show, with written verses by our resident poet Gail Foster, will be repeated as the finale again at 6pm, and prior one of my favourite bands, Mr Tea and the Minions are due to blast their sublime folky Balkan ska at us; lack of Mr Blue Skies I sincerely hope won’t prevent that!


Professor Elemental Booms Trowbridge Town Hall with Raccoons and Cheesemakers

Type “smack me” into Google, at your own risk, and third predicted search is “…on the bottom with a woman’s weekly.” Six years since her passing, and over three decades since Victoria Wood first performed the Ballad of Barry and Freda her finest hour is everlastingly. Proof while often pushed into the “novelty” pigeonhole, comical songs can be as eternal as serious songs; if I had a penny for every time someone called me Ernie……

Horse and carriage association, comedy and music, since day dot. Be you come at it from a comedian background or as musician, the aged hybrid functions, and it’s effective equally if, like me Saturday night at Trowbridge Town Hall, your jawbone aches from grinning like a jester as much as your feet do from dancing!

It’s been something of a music-comedy weekend at the county town, Barnsley’s The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican played the Pump Friday, with their cheeky, seventies children’s TV presenter style of pop adaptions, chief coordinator Kieran sung their praises while I regretted my absence. But I crossed the border and landed in Vegas for Saturday’s offering at the Town Hall; couldn’t resist.

Hosting three acts of varying genres, tenaciously linked by the comical element, the night will end bizarrely, with naturally witty Brighton chap-hopper Professor Elemental rapping through a horse’s head and encouraging the audience to knock an inflatable unicorn between them. But the assorted crowds gathered this wasn’t going to be the archetypal hip hop gig.

Starter for ten the first act is Bristol’s conscious, anarchist, cross-dressed trio, Boom Boom Racoon. An acoustic ska-punk band I’ve been raving, but dubious they’d fit into Devizes’ rather polarised music epoch. Apologies are made for the bassist recovering from a gum infection, as his usual shouty exclamations will be reduced. Nevertheless, offerings approximately casing their fondness of invading dustbins, the NHS, and Lotus Biscuits were purveyed with finesse, and the poignantly satirical Fuck You, Ashley, the final tune on their second album, Songs From Before the Times.

I’d argue though unconventional, in a geek post-punk fashion, veganomics, LGBT and other leftist subjects maintain a seriousness edge, making Boom Boom Racoon uniquely placed at a comical gig, yet concluding on their amusing high-energy adaption of the Venga Boy’s Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, wherein they dub their own band name into the title, there’s forever a feeling not to take them seriously.

Calne’s Real Cheesemakers on the other hand blast loud rock in your face, all the while maintaining a heap of West Country humour. Akin to Boom Boom Racoon in only one factor, hilarity. Their psychedelia, surrealist-edged rock is aptly introduced with The Tortoise is Coming, and retrospective contemplation with Unicorns of the 1980s.

It becomes almost Dr Seuss at times, such as the vaudeville Trouserland. There’s a ballad involving dinosaurs, local banter with the Roundabouts of Swindon, and a Springsteen-fashioned lengthy, emotional build-up to a song which lasts but a second. The Real Cheesemakers nonsensically mock everything, in a metal style, even down to the dark, satanic ethos of the genre, as if Spike Milligan was Iron Maiden’s frontman, yet they were a Wurzels tribute, naturally.

They’ve supported Professor Elemental in the past, allowing him bound majestically on stage for a duet. Then the stage was stripped bare for the Prof to do his thang, an astounding hilarious stand-up routine, rapped.

Unlike the others, I suspect Professor Elemental comes from the comedian-turned-musician angle, as he weaves rap so effortlessly into what’s best described as stand-up. Topically waxing lyrical, satire and observational humour abound, astute in audience participation, such as the cliché rapper’s request to the crowd to “make some noise,” the Prof appeals they make specific noises.

As any professional stand-up he comments on his surroundings, the venue’s similarities to a council hall, cos it is; he elects himself mayor. He’s also no stranger to character assassinations, whipping off the jacket of his rainbow suit and trademark hunter’s Pith helmet, to become a crude and condescending businessman, heckling an unsuspecting girl in the crowd.

Everything the Professor does is astutely performed, with whimsical yet chivalrous charisma. He simply charms with lyrics chockful of pop culture references and judicious observations, it’s nothing less than hilarious. As the show progresses so too does the insanity level, to the aforementioned section where he’s donned a horse’s head and encouraging the crowd to bounce an inflatable unicorn between them.

Never a dull moment, there’s so much jammed into this show it’s tricky to pin the man down, like a one-man Airplane movie, blink and you’ll miss something. He explodes with colour and amusement, while attracting hip hop aficionados his performance is favourable to all, still, in his own unique manner, he can execute a fine rap too. He comes with a treasure trove of merchandise: comics, books, stickers and of course CDs, though I’d suggest the live show is his forte.

Once he lost the pith helmet, I realised he was older than I assumed, a stand-up comedian stage presence attributing hip hop into his act, he cited the Sugarhill Gang, suggesting his roots lie as old skool as I, a genre he salutes rather than mocks.

I sincerely hope he’s happy independently doing circuits, seemed as if he is, as his professionalism and natural comical ability would be ideal for mainstream TV to wreck, theoretically selling-out as a game show host, or mores to the pity, the best damn Doctor Who post-Tom Baker.

If I pondered through pigeonholing how divergent the three acts were, I was pleasantly surprised when they came together for an improvised finale, and in this the gig was a prime example of Trowbridge Town Hall’s diversity in programming; this was something I’d expect to see at a city venue or festival. A highly enjoyable evening with an assortment of hilarious class acts, in which I got to bounce a unicorn.





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Easter at the Crown, Bishops Cannings

Looking south yonder from the Wansdyke atop Morgan’s Hill, you will see the spire of St Mary’s in the parish of Bishop’s Cannings, much less you belt past it on the A361, glad to have escaped Devizes’ congestion.…..

Impressive is the church, recorded in the Domesday Book as held by the Bishop of Salisbury. Tis said its design is to replicate Salisbury Cathedral; a kind of mini cathedral, to make him feel at home, which is nice. I’m certain villagers today would want the same, to make visitors and newcomers’ welcome.

The spire towers over the historic inn, The Crown, which recently under new management felt the objections of a handful of disgruntled residents at their wish to provide a little entertainment in the village, a few of them a considerable distance from the site.

I’m glad to hear the proposal was met positively with a majority, a slightly later licence for outdoor music was granted, and this was celebrated with an Easter humble gathering of villagers and local live music aficionados, which is why I and a sprinkling of other Devizes riff-raff trekked eastwards.

Smooth. Image: Nick Padmore

It’s understandable, you buy a rural property for peace and tranquillity, but I implore you, give and take for the odd weekend, is all anyone asks, no one is proposing your chocolate box cottage is resituated on the Las Vegas strip. Proof is in the pudding, and what the Crown hosted yesterday was far from the satanic-worshipping netherworld of a Special Brew sponsored anarchistic punk uprising I imagine they wrongly perceived it to be!

Rather, as the trend for pub-based mini-festivals is, a beautiful, family-orientated day of live music was had, celebrating a wealth of local talent; there were no acts of depravity, no drug-induced adolescent insurrection and I’d wager to drive through the village this morning would be to have no clue an event of any kind actually occurred. Give and take goes for anyone living in any village where a pub wishes to host a small event; in this era of regaining a hospitality industry, whereas an urban tavern can specialise, a village pub must cater for all, and that’s a delicate balance, to be the hub of a community.

George Wilding. Image: Nick Padmore

That’s exactly what the Crown achieved, owners and staff should be proud, I considered as I wandered through the pub witnessing families enjoying rather tasty looking meals, as ever, as is the mainstay for Wadsworth’s establishments. While outside a double marque nestled between an outside bar and barbeque in its wonderfully spacious beer garden. With clement weather, it made quite the comfy and hospitable music event it promised to be.

Paradox. Image: Nick Padmore

I can’t really justify a review, as such, I only rocked up to check it out prior to heading to the Southgate, but I saw enough and badgered attendees to discover it was nothing short of brilliant. I missed a band I don’t know called Smooth, George Wilding, who though not seeing post-lockdown you can depend his natural talent and charisma shines through with every performance, and Paradox, who I’m told were lively in their covers and got everyone up dancing; what can I say, I had to work, siesta, and had errands to run as dad’s taxi, but folk there spoke highly of them all.

I did arrive as planned, to see N/SH, a heartfelt Swindon-based teacher by profession who enthusiastically circulates the local scene as a solo, multi-instrumentalist indie-rock musician. Perhaps scheduling was slightly off, with Paradox before him being so lively, as N/SH’s style rests very much on acoustic and ambient vibes, his incredibly crafted self-penned songs are rich in narrative and his cool persona reflects this. He’s one for the serious acoustic-heads, the like Bath’s Chapel Arts should headhunt, the nonchalant yet passion he displays rides on the zephyr sublimely; he’s one for any singer-songwriter to sit and admire.

N/SH. Image: Nick Padmore

And I was also enthused to pop my Illingworth cherry, a Salisbury-based duo I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. Few originals, but mostly indie-pop cover favourites, lead John Illingworth’s voice is simply vocational and inspiring; it could pull you into sentimental meanderings if he was covering the Wheels on the Bus! There’s scrupulousness and charm in the whole setup, the kind to polish off a party, returning guests home with fond memories and thoughts of oh, did I get up and dance?!

But unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got, other than here’s a welcoming and comfy village pub keen to host events in support of the local live scene, reminding me somewhat of Bromham’s annual BromFest at the now sadly burnt-out Owl community centre. This little excursion for the Crown is a precursor, for they’ve a festival planned on July 9th, aptly titled CrownFest. N/SH, Illingworth, Paradox and the fantastic Mr Wilding are on the line-up, and also booked is Humdinger, Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats, Isobel Thatcher Band and Becca Maule, with Queen tribute Real Magic headlining.

Judging on this weekend alone, I think this is one very worthy of your attention. Parking and camping are included, it’s fundraising for Devizes Cancer Research and Dementia Friends, tickets are £35, early birds get a fiver off. Hats off to the Crown at Bishops Cannings.


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House of Casks; Barrelhouse Played The Southgate

Easter weekend in Devizes, where aside a canoe race, we’re awash with options for blues music. A diversity of genres debatable, blues is Devizes’ mainstay; a majority wouldn’t wish for it to be any other way. Me? I’m fine too with Billy Walton at Long Street while the Southgate has a local blues band, especially when it’s Barrelhouse….

Hailing from the Marlborough-Swindon areas, I’ve seen this five-piece offering “vintage blues with a hard-edged groove,” before on their home-turf MantonFest, where they rule the day through dependency. I witnessed an expectant crowd swamp the stage area upon their arrival. Such is the limbos of local circuits, while Barrelhouse have graced the trusty Gate before, many there seemed unaware of their excellence, and were pleasantly surprised.

Apt is their self-penned description, they sent us a signature tune about voodoo for our first Julia’s House compilation, with a seriously beguiling blues riff. One has to wonder to the significance of their voodoo affiliation; young, slim lead vocalist Martin Hands appears to have magically exchanged voices with an aged, stout Afro-American, akin to Howlin’ Wolf, to the point it’s possible there’s such a character wandering the Mississippi giving west country tongue, “lush moi luver, praper jarb!”

I use the term lead vocalist rather than frontman, for while last week’s offering at the Southgate was the incredible Worried Men, focus there was on frontman Jamie Thyer with his spellbinding guitarwork bridging every historical variety of blues and rock fusion, the golden element of Barrelhouse is quite the opposite, it’s the unification of the band, and their set style.

Tightly rehearsed, they work as a unit and customise that age-old delta blues formula, to the point where even if other Americana covers are played out, like Johnny Cash, as they did, they’re enriched with that simple working recipe. That’s why the roots of blues are so memorable above later adaptions, it’s the expediency of the rhythm.

So, between their parallel originals, they’re best covering the likes of Bo Diddly, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Hand’s gritty vocals, coupled with the twang of lead guitarist Tim’s cigar-box guitar bleeds authenticity into it. Though they’re known to also blend the same formula to version other crowd-pleasing genres, such as their celebrated cover of Ace of Spades.

Newly released to a third album, we were introduced to some teasers, and hardly noticeable between said covers, they played out previous album tracks. Mostly upbeat, there were also some sublime moments of smooth downtempo, where as Jim Morrison could, Martin held the audience in his palms. Unusually for typical local bands, Hands plays no instrument, ergo the comparison to someone like Morrison is justified, more so by his somewhat mysterious stage presence, as bass player Stuart Whant seems to take over the stage banter and tune introductions.

Whichever they decide, covers archetypical of their style, adaptions or originals, there’s short blasts of enriching fineness, a working combination flows through them, and the ride is exhilarating.

Precisely what they did last night, and effortlessly won the minor crowd, who broke out in uncontainable bopping; another grand night at the dependable Southgate.


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Birdmens Play Long Street

Bird is the Word. If April has seen a surge of memorable rescheduled gigs from Devizes’ Long Street Blues Club, and I’m content and grateful our roving reporter Andy has taken the arduous task of enjoying and reviewing them, May sees the blues club return to a monthly plan of action, meaning there’s only one gig, and I’m itching to attend it myself.….

The lockdown project of a staggering who’s-who of local blues, Birdmens will play the club on Friday 6th May. The line-up of lead & rhythm guitars Ian Siegal, Jon Amor, Joel Fisk and Dave Doherty, the latter also taking percussion, bassist Rob Barry, both Bob Fridzema and Jonny Henderson on keys and Giles King taking up harmonica, this is truly a force to reckoned with, now prepare for it to be a live show, featuring Ian, Jon, Dave, Rob and Jonny.

Armed only with cheap microphones, phones and varying internet speeds, ‘Birdmens’ recorded Lockdown Loaded, an album created in bedrooms and kitchens which thrusts a genuine life-force and verve back into a scene they feel is in need. If blues is having something of a renaissance, it’s not without timeworn formulas and antique following. Akin to the Doherty’s now defunct Little Geneva, here’s a supergroup aching to reintroduce that raw and energetic edge back into blues, something sorely missed on an elder and commercialised circuit.

Defined as swampy delta blues, there’s something retrospectively authentic and underdone about it, a true ethos of blues. I’m leaving a video here for you to make your own mind up, but it’s won me over. Now everybody’s heard about the bird!


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REVIEW – Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 9th April 2022

The Gig of 2022 So Far!

Andy Fawthrop

Following the previous night’s gig with Billy Bremner’s Rockfile downstairs at the Corn Exchange, tonight we were promoted upstairs into the main hall. And that was only fitting – big name, big gig, big crowd, so a big venue required. Last time we were in here was for those other prog-rock legends of the 70s – Focus. This time the hall was full of people, and the stage was absolutely full of drum-kit – a massive and meticulously set up piece of equipment, with a pair of huge gongs at the rear.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, alongside such legends as Cream, were one of the early rock so-called “supergroups”, and were massive innovators in the world of music. Transcending mere rock labels, they incorporated many other musical forms into their repertoire, particularly jazz and classical.

Carl Palmer has a reputation as a drummer’s drummer. A consummate professional, a brilliant technician and a dynamic showman, he has thrilled listeners and audiences alike for nearly four decades with some of music’s most memorable bands including Atomic Rooster, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Asia and of course Emerson, Lake & Palmer. To be honest, he’s worked/ played with everyone who is anyone. Along the way his dazzling speed and mastery of the drums, combined with his infectious stage personality, have secured for him a respected place in history as one of rock and roll’s greatest drummers.

Carl is now 72, looking fit and healthy, and is the only one of ELP still living. Sadly we lost both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake in 2016 – sad losses of talent. To “replace” them tonight, in a musical sense at least, we had guitarist/ vocalist Paul Bieltawicz, and on bass and Chapman stick we had Simon Fitzpatrick. Notice there were no keyboards – everything was reproduced on guitars.

We opened in classic style with “Welcome My Friends To The Show That Never Ends”, before being taken through several numbers from the ELP and King Crimson back catalogue. From the first album we had “Knife Edge” and “Lucky Man”. From the second album the eponymous “Tarkus”. There was “Trilogy”, “Benny The Bouncer”, “Hoedown” and “Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man”. The musicianship throughout was simply stunning by all three members of the band, each displaying some dizzying skills and dexterity with their instruments. Both Paul and Simon delivered stunning solos. Carl repeatedly stepped out from his drum battery to talk to the audience. He was down to earth, chatty and humorous, building rapport easily.

Carl’s big drum solo came, as it must, like a long-impending storm, and arrived in the midst of the last number “Fanfare For The Common Man”. To be honest, I’m not the greatest fan of drum solos because they are so often used to merely let other band members have a bit of a rest, and to keep them sweet since everyone else will have had a solo by then. But absolutely not the case here. Carl’s solo, as we expected it would be, was an absolute tour de force, demonstrating without question what an absolute master this guy is. It was completely stunning, and drew a deserved standing ovation, as the band filed back on stage to close the number out. I think it’s fair to say that this guy really knows his way around a drum kit!

There was still time for a resounding, thumping encore of “Nutrocker” and then we were done. An absolutely stunning night’s entertainment and, for me at least, best gig of 2022 so far! Superb!

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 16th April 2022 Billy Walton Band
Friday 6th May 2022 Birdmens
Saturday 4th June 2022 Errol Linton Band
Saturday 17 September 2022 CSN Express
Saturday 8th October 2022 Eddie Martin Big Blues Band
Saturday 5th November 2022 Alastair Greene Band


Worried Men at the Southgate

Glad to find time between running Dad’s taxi to nip over to Devizes’ trusty Southgate, for one reason unworthy of explaing here or another, feels like an age since frequenting our favouritemost tavern, and I’m all smiles to return.

Historically efficient, nonetheless, I’m here to find out what the men are worried about; possibly an ironic namesake for Jamie Thyer’s tradtional electric RnB three-piece, a pub trio very worthy of your attention, should you not have come across them on their 28 years on the circuit.

Sure, I’ve seen The Worried Men’s name about a bit of recent, last time listed at Trowbridge’s Pump with our Tamsin in support. Maybe there’s the reason for my assumption it’d have a folk twinge, but you know what they say about assumption.

Marvellously proficient, in a manner vien of classic sixties and seventies rock bands derived via blues rather than folk, The Worried Men seemed not in the least bit worried to me. Rather brewing in deserved confidence, Jamie’s wealth of experience shows as his fingers glide across those strings, governed, it seemed, from the gods. At one point this guitar virtuoso accepts a mug of tea, drinks it mid-song while continuing to make it look like childsplay.

Treated to the perfect balance of originals and self-stamped covers, they weaved between electric blues and psychedelia rock n roll with a clear nod to its roots. So to blend any subgenre fitted sublimely into a firey set, whether Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water riff, frenzied hints of punk rock, mellowed Flyod-eske moments or reaching further back to rock n roll’s golden era, every experiment in rock history was crafted into their unique style, without the need to metalise. Though Motorhead did get a moment in their repertoire.

What came out the other side was a loud and proud plethora of excellence of which you could only nod your appreciation to, confident you were in the hands of some really experienced long-haired rockers with Cuban heels.

Jamie holds an expression of concentration, occasionally looking up at you through these spellbinding Hendrix fashioned exercursions, as if to ask “is that alright for you?” Like a dentist with his tools stuck in your gum, you feel like responding, “yes, fine, thank you doctor.”

I guess therein lies the beauty of the rather cramped Devizes answer to the 02 arena, virtually perched atop of a band you’d usually witness from a stage distance, makes it an intimate experience, personal. While this may not suit all, The Southgate does it their own way, and they continue to host free gigs you’d happy pay a ticket stub for.

For this, and the clash of similar as The Long Street Blues Club knocking out, I’d suspect, a blinder at the Corn Exchange, last night down the Gate wasn’t as full as it could’ve possibly been for an act so warrent of the highest praise possible. Again, the strive in The Gate to present us with great live music every weekend needs nourishing and respecting, with other local boozers only doing this sporadically, it’s the only dependant offering of entertainment in town, unless of course you keep up with what’s happening via this rather special website, if I do say so myself!

So, if you were in that exclusive club last night, I wager you were as bowlled over by The Worried Men as was I. From moments of intricate guitar picking with amps low, to the frenzied finale where Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny,” fused into medley with Muddy Waters’ “Little Red Rooster” with emphasis on the Stones cover, and The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” with an audience participation encouraged encore of Them’s “Gloria,” this surely was an astounding performance to satisfy the craving of rock aficionados from any given generation.

Onwards, next Saturday’s offering at The Southgate also takes on a blues edge, slightly east of us, local blues group Barrelhouse take up the legendary alcove, and take it from me, if you like your entertainment as gritty and vintage as the great Howlin’ Wolf, you’re in for a treat.


Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?

Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of the year in our humble town for many a year, and though we’ve had setbacks with the dreaded year of lockdown and DOCA’s valiant effort to stage something near similar within the restrictions of last summer, we’ve been waiting, debatably patiently, for this summer extravaganza.

But my levels of excitedness have gone from 500% to 1,000 meows, now I’ve seen the program of acts. A band who contributed to our Julia’s House compilation, I’ve been aching to get Bristol-based frenzied folk ska-punk outfit Mr Tea & The Minions to play our town, and DOCA have either noted their brilliance themselves, or have taken heed of my constant whining of a suggestion; either way, we’re quids in, pinky promise. It means two things; someone actually listens to me, and you’ll have your socks blown off by this band I totally love!

Though that’s the icing on the cake for me, the line-up looks set to thrill us as it ever did. Hints of the acts are there to see on the DOCA website, and as usual neither the site nor us can reveal times and places of the acts, you’ll need to buy a programme, as it’s an essential fundraiser for DOCA. But we are allowed to breeze over it.

Expect mischievous experimental entertainment and audience participation, performed in the round by Full Circle, upbeat funk and Northern Soul influenced Desert Boots from Worcester, a quirky Folkdance performance around a 12-foot maypole, fusing everything from clogging to breakdance and beat boxing, a Playground of Illusions, created by Travelling Light Circus, a heavily laden golden postman suddenly surprised by a rain shower, by A bird in the Hand Theatre Company, the latest creation of Jon Hicks and Matt Rudkin, a Visionary who is said to have wisdom beyond knowledge, incredible acrobatic gravity defying feats from Spanish/Swiss collective Tripotes la Compagnie, Dr Jones & Professor Barnard’s Medicine Show, professional painter and amateur alchemist Malcolm Brushell, on a quest to find the pinky-est pink paint on the planet, sea shanties and sing-alongs with some Old Time Sailors, the minuscule majesty of meerkat Prince Amir on the back of his pet camel, circus shenanigans on a giant red carpet, Treemendous tree-people, riotous folk-fusing hypnotic trans-European melodies with Ushti Baba, of course the bustling market and side-stalls of food and drink, and my aforementioned icing on the cake, Mr Tea & The Minions.

All this happens on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May, in Devizes Market Place, it’s free, it’s fantastic, it’s the Devizes event of the year, on a day where there’s also the Born2Rum Festival at the Muck & Dundar, though you’ll be hard pressed to pick up a ticket for this, plus the Leon Day Band play the Southgate, Seend has it’s annual Beer Festival and it’s Urchfont Scarecrow Festival; whoa, what a weekend!

Ushti Baba

We must praise DOCA yet again to the highest heights, but point out, The International Street Festival relies on it’s collective of volunteers to create and control the magic, who are keen to hear from anyone interested in becoming a “festival maker” by helping out in a number of vital roles. One good Facebook group to join if interested is the festival makers group, where there’s details on how you can get involved, upcoming workshops and all the behind-the-scenes gubbings which need to happen to make this magical event it is.

So, yeah, I’m excited, possibly over-excited, can you tell?!


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REVIEW – Jon Amor with Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse @ The Southgate, Devizes – Sunday 3rd April 2022

It’s All Happening At The Gate

Andy Fawthrop

If you ever find yourself at a loose end, particularly the first Sunday afternoon in every month, there’s one place you really ought to be – up at The Southgate.  Starting early in the New Year, hometown boy Jon Amor has taken up a residency – a great idea by Dave & Debs – and has been featuring a different guest each month.

Yesterday it was the turn of American band Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse, and what a great show it turned out to be.  Although usually held inside the pub, yesterday meant everyone was out in the garden – the only practical solution when you’ve got six musicians, including keyboards and two drum-kits to get on the stage.  It was a bit chilly out there at first, but we soon got warmed up with two stonkingly good sets from Amor et al.  

Kicking off on his own, just backed by his usual rhythm section of Tom Gilkes on drums and Jerry Soffe on bass, Jon played the first couple of numbers before inviting up one member of the guest band after another.  It worked a treat, with the sound and the depth/ richness of that sound building and building – more guitar, more drums, keyboards, and more vocals – until we had all six musicians up there and really hitting their stride.

It was one of those great moments in live music when the opening chords of Jon’s signature tune “Juggernaut” rang out to great applause, only for BGG lead singer Greta Valenti to take over the vocal duties and to give the song the best working-out it’s had in quite a while.  Another highlight of the afternoon was the full blast audience participation in one of BGG’s great numbers “Don’t Let The Bastards Drag You Down”.  Everyone – I mean everyone – was singing to that one.

What a great afternoon – good beer, good company, a big enthusiastic crowd, and one of the best live pub gigs that you are ever likely to hear. The size of the crowd and the volume of the applause said it all – terrific gig.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

Saturday 9th April                              Worried Men

Saturday 16th April                           Barrelhouse

Saturday 23rd April                           Splat The Rat

Saturday 30th April                           Leon Daye Band

Sunday 1st May                                 Jon Amor & Friends feat. Marcus Bonfanti


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REVIEW – Malone Sibun Band @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 2nd April 2022

Two Stellar Musicians = One Powerhouse Unit

Andy Fawthrop

Another night at Long Street Blues Club – the gigs are coming thick and fast at the moment, and there are several more big ones in the next couple of weeks too – feels like we’re gradually catching up with all the time the venues were closed during Covid.

Support act was local favourite Jamie R. Hawkins, tonight divested of his Lost Trades buddies, and going it alone. Here’s a man comfortable with himself and with getting back to chatting to an home-town audience. Joking that it was almost hard to remember his own songs after the long lay-off and his collaborative work, he then proceeded to deliver a master-class in how to perform as a singer-songwriter. Despite the occasional fluff, his songs remain strong and poignant, delivered with sincerity and a strong voice. Old favourites such as Walking Into Doors, Let’s Put This Thing To Bed, As Big As You and Hey, Where’d Everybody Go! were dusted off and given a good shaking down. There’s not many performers that could get away with singing about divorce, domestic abuse and fair-weather friends, but Jamie’s commentary, wit, and self-deprecating style easily got him through. Great to see him back.

Then onto the main dish of the evening – two very professional sets from the four-piece Malone Sibun Band. These guys were last at the club over three years ago (see? – I told you thee’d been this big two-year hole in live performances!). The guys have a new EP out – “Ashes to Dust”, and this material was well show-cased throughout.

Marcus Malone (vocals, guitar) and Innes Sibun (guitars) were joined on stage with bass and drums, and delivered a power-heavy performance featuring rock, boogie-woogie, slow blues, fast blues – you name it. There was even time to drop back into a couple of acoustic numbers. It may be just me, but there’s something about seeing Innes with an acoustic guitar in his hands that doesn’t quite look right, but I digress. First number in and the band members, clearly enjoying themselves, were soon literally bouncing up and down with enthusiasm.

Thereafter we were treated to the more familiar fare of Innes working his electric guitar, forcing it to give up a whole range of amazing noises through his many solos. There were all the classic gestures – arm-wheeling, head-banging, gurning – and we were back in familiar territory. Marcus, meanwhile, held centre stage, a calmer and more purposeful presence with the vocals. The volume and the pace were dialled up, then down for the odd number, then back up again.

We had the obligatory drum and bass solos late on, but these were produced as grand final flourishes, not as extended self-indulgent passages. The crowd were on their feet, and the encore was a formality – richly deserved after a great evening’s entertainment.

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Friday 8th April 2022 Billy Bremner’s Rockfile (Corn Exchange)
Saturday 9th April 2022 Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy (Corn Exchange)
Saturday 16th April 2022 Billy Walton Band
Friday 6th May 2022 Birdmens
Saturday 4th June 2022 Errol Linton Band
Saturday 17 September 2022 CSN Express
Saturday 8th October 2022 Eddie Martin Big Blues Band
Saturday 5th November 2022 Alastair Greene Band


The Dark Horizon of Sam Bishop

Oh, for the rolling years since Devizes Sixth Form-Hardenhuish collaborated boy band 98 Reasons, time cannot stand still, we know this, we still see the bassist of which, Finely, on the local circuit with cousin Harvey as the Truzzy Boys, and as frontman of astounding mod-rock covers band The Roughcut Rebels. And occasionally we hear from his partner in the duo spin-off Larkin, Sam Bishop, it’s good to hear from him again with an awesome new EP, Dark Horizons; out now……

While still studying music over in Winchester, his unique brand of pop, while momentously contemporary, didn’t agree with me personally one occasion, a couple of years ago, and he took it on the chin; I have to be honest. If something definably “pop” doesn’t agree with my grumpy aging expectations it doesn’t make it bad, just means I’m too old! He rebuked any past criticism with a sublime last EP homing more auditory on my cabbaged ears, but here’s a young singer and musician who just keeps getting better.

Honestly, cast off any doubts, Dark Horizons is another massive progression, enriched with euphoric soundscapes, some often dark in subject, as the EP title suggests, yet all uplifting. It plods open with digital notes, Same Stars, and I’m nodding approval; love it. There’s contemporary pop on offer here, bleached with William Orbit or Moby style soundscapes.

Yet the second track, Playing in Shadows transcends the previous for retrospective influences, think eighties electronica, especially on the intro, virtually Kraftwerk! Yet again, nothing is passé no matter how far the basslines and synth-pop arch back for recollections, as the vocals roll with repetitive elegance, stirringly upbeat and ultramodern, Years And Years fashion.

Clearly there’s vast experiments washing like waves onto the beachy mind of Sam Bishop, yet by the third tune out of four, Stay Close, we hear the accustomed acoustic croon of Sam, a floating love-song which builds with a subtle aforementioned ambience, but essentially retains the guitar riff over chanting backing vocals. It’s the standout track you might’ve been suspecting when you clicked on the link, if aware of Sam’s past work, but herein lies the point; the EP in general a massive advance forward, looking headlong rather than rearward.

To confirm this progression, here’s Sam a few years ago with a drumstick up his nose, of which he’ll kill me for posting!

The finale, Backroads has a piano riff, building into current pop with elegance, like a lot of Sam’s themes it relies on life’s directional decisions, yet it delves deeper into trialling and investigation both musically and lyrically, which intertwine in such a way I’ve not felt so connected to Sam’s solo work than this wonderful EP previously. And before you suggest, that’s cos you is, like, getting old, brah, I’ll have you know I get my teenage daughter DJ on car journeys, so I may not have the gen Z patois of a roadman but I know my Cardi B from my Ariana Grande, and this is as a blend akin to what The Weeknd and The Kid Laroi are putting out; sick, apparently!

ALBUM LINK HERE


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On The Road With Talk in Code!

You know that millennial movie, Almost Famous, set mid-seventies, where Rolling Stone Magazine mistake a nerdy teenager for a music journalist and send him on the road with an outrageous prog-rock band? It was nothing like that. Neither did it resemble 200 Motels, where a man dressed as a vacuum cleaner convinces you Ringo Starr is actually Frank Zappa in some freaky acid flashback. But I did have an awesome adventure yesterday, on the road with local premier indie-pop favs, Talk in Code.…..

There were no campervans with CND slogans painted on the side-door, no sign of Goldie Hawn’s daughter unfortunately, and though my bubbles of anachronistic pre-imaginings burst, it allowed me to chart the regular labour of a touring band, rather than my usual practise of slouching up halfway through a performance with lame excuse. For if I’m going to write on the subject, I need to comprehend the inner workings, and the thoughts of a band going to a gig; even though I’m far from teenage music journalist with an advance from Rolling Stone!

So, by dinnertime I’m lone with guitarist Alastair Sneddon at the steering wheel, hereafter referred to as “Snedds,” with an amp case knocking in the rear of his car, and distracted by my inane waffling, weaving between musical subjects, badly following his sat-nav to Portsmouth.

Likely the eldest of this four-piece band, Snedds is a family man with a wealth of musical experience. He fondly recalls playing in cover bands, jazz and blues groups and our chat swifts across his past, musical influence brushing off on his children, current past gigs and local venues, to the importance, or insignificance of pop culture, the mainstream music industry and current trends of listening to music from streaming platforms to amplification to listening through phone speakers; we could’ve chatted all night on his passionate chosen subject, least it perceived to reduce the travel time.  

Before I knew it, we were awkwardly parked on a busy street in Southsea. Awash with cheesy club type pubs, restaurants, kebab houses and chippies, lies an equally misplaced theatre to our right, and a more traditional looking city tavern, The Lord John Russell, which will be our venue for the evening. Like a true roadie I felt a sense of haughtiness as I assisted lugging equipment through the already bustling pub; make way, yes, I’m with the band, ladies control yourselves!

But nothing felt ostentatious for the band as they amassed their kit in a corner, greeted each other and the promoter; here’s a tight working team despite the geographic distance between them. Talk in Code are part from Swindon, Reading and Devizes, but here they are with an excited air of anticipation brewing. There’s a trio of bands on tonight, Talk in Code are second on, while the first are already sound checking, locally based to Portsmouth, Southerlies are a seven-piece covers band, fusing Americana with punchy hooks into contemporary pop; they proficiently delivered their set with good male-female vocal harmonies, and being local I observe they attracted a fanbase.

Quite eclectic then, to switch to Talk in Code’s more electronica indie-pop, which as I discussed in the car with Snedds, perpetually seemed to fuse conventional nineties indie sound to a more inimitable eighties synth-pop style with every new tune. Yet tricker still was the notion the Talkers insist to play only their originals, which would be unknown to this rather heterogenous crowd. Besides, frontman Chris gets his fill of covers with the Britpop Boys.

Seems Friday live music nights are relatively new-fangled for the Lord John Russell, with a promoter keen to create the venture, the pub also adhered to cater for the pull on it’s street with screens showing sport and archetypical club music between acts. As much as market town pubs like Devizes’ Southgate work here, with a penchant for original live music and solely that, it wouldn’t work in this busy city location judging by the footfall. But a splendid, convivial and dynamic pub it was with a wide demographic.

One thing I was keen to gage from Talk in Code, the priorities and feelings towards playing a gig outside their usual stomping ground as opposed to returning to a venue like Swindon’s Victoria where a fanbase would be welcoming. They stressed the importance of both, and being their recent connection to Regent Street Records, there’s a keenness in the band to grab wider-appeal in anticipation of the forthcoming album. The release of which has been pushed back to accommodate this collaboration.

Still, all the band are united in praising recent local gigs, particularly Trowbridge Town Hall where they supported The Worried Men, and were keen to pick out the importance of the many locally-based festivals they’re booked at, from Minety to Live at Lydiard and IWild in Gloucestershire. And with appearances at places like Oxford’s HMV, things are really looking up for them post-lockdown.

And it’s easy to see why when they bounced on stage last night at the Lord John Russell, after their virtually nail-biting eagerness while the Southerlies launched into their final song, Chris already polishing his guitar and Snedds confessing the waiting game is a pet hate. A technical issue with leads to the backing tracks solved, the band applauded the previous and proficiently executed their thing, introducing themselves and delivering their songs with panache.

For me it was a blessing, being I’m aware of much of their discography, to finally get to witness them do it live, and had to stop to ponder their stage presence is as exhilarating as their recorded work. Yet, my view of the performance differed from the crowd as the band were likely new to them. Still, they got the place jumping, sprightlier, and louder than the previous band. They confessed a spirit of fair competition was unavoidable in them, yet affirmed their ethos to never do their set and bunk, in respect for other bands; Talk in Code come off as outgoing throughout and it was an honour to be welcomed into their web.

Also present, I spent time chatting connections, her background as music journalist and her fanzine making past, with manager Lyndsey. From Milton Keynes she avidly followed the group in their early years, falling in love with their sound it seemed only natural to mutually agree for her to manage. And part-time freelance photographer Helen, whose PolarPix Facebook page is dominated with Talk in Code shots. I put it to her she seems to have another band photographed then a Talk in Code one, then another Talk in Code one, then another random band. She acknowledged most of the other bands were on the same bill as TIC! A true “Talker,” as is their fanbase appellation.

Percival Elliott

A pleasant change from trudging the local circuit, as the finale was a euphoric rock band named Percival Elliott, who, with barefoot frontman on keys, executed a sublime set, the like you’d want Coldplay to achieve. In many ways here was a band apt for our own fond venues such as aforementioned Southgate and Trowbridge Town Hall. Without boast, coming highly recommended by yours truly occasionally has some clout, though there was part of me who, if in control of this triple-bill, would’ve put Talk in Code as the final band, being more upbeat popish.

We give no more review of The Lord John Russell for the sake of it being outside our boundaries, but if you’re Pompy bound this would be an ideal pub to consider, offering a variety of free live music dates on Fridays. Now I’m home, unpacked my Peppa Pig bucket and spade, but while I unfortunately didn’t see the seaside, or Kate Hudson, I was in good company with a band which goes from strength-to-strength.  


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REVIEW: White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert @ The Town Hall, Devizes – Friday 18th March 2022

Opera Is Back!

by Andy Fawthrop

Friday was a beautiful, sunny day with clear blue skies, and it finally felt as if we were sloughing off the darker days of Winter.  The daffs and the snow-drops are out, which always makes it feel that Spring is well under way.  White Horse Opera couldn’t have timed things any better for their Spring Concert, and it was good of them to have ordered up such great weather.

Advertising for this event had been much better, and a virtually full room was the clear reward for that extra effort.  The audience were treated to a veritable selection box of operatic delights over a couple of hours, featuring items from Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Handel and Mozart in a dazzling first half.  Guest tenor Robert Felstead blended with the in-house company on several items, and was ably accompanied by solos from Paula Boyagis, Barbara Gompels, Charles Leeming and Lisa House.  The highlight for me was The Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly beautifully rendered not on the stage, but from the close confines of the ante-chamber at the back of the room – very atmospheric!

The second half featured items from Donizetti and Rossini, but was mostly given over to my personal favourites – Gilbert & Sullivan.  There was one item from The Mikado, beautifully sung by Lisa House, but then several helpings of songs from Ruddigore (the operetta which will feature in WHO’s main 2022 programme).  Jon Paget and Jessica Phillips shared a charming duet, and there were strong performances from Charles Leeming and every one of the sopranos.

A delightful concert in a beautiful room.  Spring is back – and so is opera!

Future WHO events:

Spring 2022                                        Ruddigore                                           7.30pm Venues TBA

26th, 28th & 29th Oct 2022          L’elisir d’amore                                 7.30pm Lavington School

More information on WHO is available at www.whitehorseopera.co.uk


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Devizes Arts Festival Coming Back

After the wonderful winter stop-gap between the void of lockdown and this coming summer, Devizes Arts Festival is back with a full programme of events running from Friday 10th to Saturday 25th June.

Please check their website for full details, but allow me to least give you a quick rundown.….

A Diva and a Piano with Britain’s most popular soprano Lesley Garrett starts us off at the Corn Exchange on Friday 10th June. Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling writer of crime fiction Sophie Hannah is at the Town Hall Saturday 11th June with Agatha, Poirot & Me.

Saturday night is my kind of night, cumbia night at Corn Exchange, as phenomenal 10-piece Cumbia band, Baila La Cumbia takes you right back to the dance halls of Colombia, and Sunday they’ve a walk, and a free fringe event at the British Lion; Rip It up with Rockin’ Billy, one big sounding three-piece Rock’n’roll Rockabilly band from Somerset, from 1pm.

Leonore Piano Trio starts the week off on Monday 13th June. The Leonore Piano Trio brings together three internationally acclaimed artists whose piano trio performances as part of Ensemble 360 were met with such enthusiastic response that they decided to form a piano trio in its own right

London based, five wheeled, funk fuelled, open top, custom paint job, rock ‘n’ roll jalopy, Tankus the Henge at the Corn Exchange on Tuesday 14th June, and Wednesday sees Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope with Mark Farrelly in the Merchant Suite, a solo show which has toured the UK ever since it was first previewed in Edinburgh in 2014. Starting in the late 1960s Quentin surveys a lifetime of degradation and rejection in his filthy Chelsea flat. Repeatedly beaten for being flamboyantly gay as early as the 1930s, but also ostracised for daring to live life on his own terms.

Borealis Saxophone Quartet on Thursday 16th June at St Andrews Church, and what was promised prior to lockdown for 2020, The Scummy Mummies Show is at the Corn Exchange.

The Homing, an up-and-coming London band riding the wave of the alt-Country revival, wave it into the Conservative Club on Friday June 17th, and you can Meet Nicci French, the pseudonym of husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerard and Sean French, British fiction’s most famous double-acts at the Town Hall on Saturday 18th June.

Our good Liverpudlian friend, Asa Murphy presents The Song-Writing Years at the Corn Exchange on Saturday too. Asa now sets out on a tour which focusses on his own unique song-writing talents, backed by a fantastic live band. While Sunday has a free fringe event at Three Crowns, astonishingly accomplished jazz guitarist Florian Felcitta.

Onto the final week of the festivities, and there’s An Audience with Adam Frost Monday 20th June at Corn Exchange, Britain’s leading travel commentator Simon Calder on the Tuesday.

Paying tribute to his father’s music in the jazz master’s centenary year, pianist and composer Darius Brubeck teams up with saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, bassist Matt Ridley and drummer Wesley Gibbens for their Devizes debut after critically acclaimed international tours and sold-out shows at major jazz houses in London, on Wednesday 22nd June at the Corn Exchange.

The Second-Best Bed with Liz Grand is in the Merchant Suite on Thursday 23rd June, a frank, humourous and revealing monologue where the audience gets to know Shakespeare like never before, through the eyes of his wife.

BBC Radio 4’s cop-turned-comedian Alfie Moore brings his latest stand-up tour show to the Corn Exchange, Friday 24th June. And the grand finale is an Organ Recital with Claudia Grinnell, Saturday 25th June at St John’s Church and a Celtic Party Night, Absolute, at the Corn Exchange. Absolute are an Irish party band bringing their own unique mix of traditional and modern Irish favourites, with a few classics thrown in for good measure.

Tickets go on sale online on April 29th and from the ticket office in Devizes Books on May 3rd.


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Indecision To Split Up, With One Final Gig

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 on Saturday 21st May……

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 the time is nigh to say farewells.

Drummer Richard Monk joked he couldn’t stand the smell anymore, but explained, more seriously, a number of reasons, “Lee has a young family which as we know takes up time, Martin is busy and loving the studio, Tracy is looking at travelling, and I’ve started playing in blues bands in the Leicester area. I’d love to play blues again ….. it’s been a blast!”

Martin Spencer of the Badger Set recording studio fed me this sad secret a while back, and we ran a poll to find out our favourite charities, as they want the Last Hoorah to fundraise. I was mightily impressed with the response to the poll, in which Wiltshire Search and Rescue and the Fatboys Charity, won, so all proceeds will be going to them.

Fatboys is a small local charity which aims to help children who are suffering from cancer, or some other life-threatening illness. They also make charitable donations to other charities working in similar fields. The main thrust of the charity is geared towards the purchase of Christmas gifts for children who are suffering with cancer and other potentially life-threatening illnesses. However, donations have also been made to Oncology Units at NHS Hospitals in Bath and Cheltenham, to a Swindon School for the purchase of gymnastic equipment for children with Special Needs, as well as donations made directly to cancer-related charities such as C.A.L.M, C.L.I.C and Macmillan Nurses.

Indecision promises some guests at the Corn Exchange farewell gig, but are keeping hushed about who, tickets will be out soon, watch this space. We wish the Indecision members all the best with their future prospects and look forward to their final gig, so much so I designed them this poster as a farewell gift!   


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