I’ll come clean, resisting the urge to write a piece for Devizine for the past few days, being toothache is depressing me and fear if I do start writing I’m going to take my stress out on the subject. Had some awesome new music to review recently from our local heroes, been so positive, because it’s been thoroughly deserved. Much as I’d like to break that chain, yearn to be overly critical and lambast some poor soul for little reason, I unwittingly refrained. If you’ve nothing nice to say Worrow; no sorry, doesn’t wash with me.
Then, Devizes numero uno and worldwide blues legend, Jon Amor, only goes and pings over the highly anticipated album, Colour in the Sky. Released digitally tomorrow (28th Nov) on his website, and he hopes on iTunes, Jon signs off his message: “good luck at the dentist!” Grrr, I’m gonna listen to this right now! Oh…. why can’t teeth be more like Mr Amor; there’s zilch to be critical about here, and certainly no pain inflicted?
From blast off, Colour in the Sky confirms what all local musicians state; he’s Captain Numero Uno alright. Though opening tune, Faith Reborn is a rocket, it’s quite what I expected, definitive frenetic electric blues. However, the missile proceeds into something else, something which scales Mount Marvellous and shoots high into the orangey glow of tremendous troposphere, and the pain killers haven’t even kicked in yet.
Diversity ensues, while Elephant slides equably into the room, up-tempo Illuminous Girl reminds me of the catchy, amusing teaser we had of this album last month, with Elvis-Costello-fashioned, Red Telephone, which, chronologically, you’ll wait until closer to the end for, but this is funkier, even more potent.
The rocket blasts over Andalusia, with a flamenco, Latino track, reminiscent of Santana at his coolest, across the Southern States with rolling rhythm and blues, to New Orleans, with a smooth, big band jazz number to make Nina Simone blush, and crash-lands up my path, banging on my front door. I’m left gobsmacked by track seven, only halfway through this twelve-track musical marathon, darn it’s uplifting; toothache, what toothache?
When The Weather Turns Cold, (as it has) has a stirring country riff, February Tree mellows agreeably, aforementioned Red Telephone is quirky pop-rock, Scandinavia stalwarts fans, and the finale Sentiels is lovably sentimental, concluding my pondering; even the toughest-to-please Jon Amor fan will be blown off their feet with Colour in the Sky.
So, short of time, as it’s released tomorrow, I’ve taken a long scan over this album, and it’s expectedly a keeper. Some months ago I was standing outside the Devizes Sports Club my first unofficial meeting with Jon, when he supported Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse, he promised me a preview of this and I’ve admit I’ve hyped it up in my mind since; it does not disappoint.
I just hope the dentist tomorrow is equally professional, but I doubt it.
Your creative sorts usually appreciate music, but, stereotypically, entertainment for “sporty-types” would rather be waving fists and hurling abuse at a team projected to them via a widescreen TV, seemingly oblivious; television is a one-way communication devise. It’s not until someone puts “Eye of the Tiger,” on a jukebox, or Bonnie Tyler croaks she’s holding out for a hero, that they get all sweaty, and start flexing biceps in a dance comprising of getting friends in a headlock and rubbing knuckles atop their cranium.
It couldn’t be further from the truth for the Devizes Sports Club, and anyway, my generalising just a witticism in hope the lady’s rugby team might fulfil my daydream and chase me down the street! The Sports Club, enthusiastic for the remaining month before their Saddleback Festival, are serious about presenting the town with an exciting and professionally organised festival.
It’s the music festival’s second innings, after the sun-drenched blues event last year, and they’re determined to up their game…..not a lot, no point in running before they can walk, but enough to make this, in my opinion, our most anticipated event of the year.
For starters, they’ve dropped the “blues” tag from its title, making it less specialised. While the concentration on blues music still sturdy, it’ll be joined predominantly with rock, acoustic and folk.
Certain other moves are to be introduced, I’m at the British Lion, having a pint with organiser, Mirko Pangrazzi, to find out what they might be.
I suggest they could drop the “music” label too, add a comedy tent, or possibly street theatre. Mirko considers, but stops at the idea of a “dance” tent. Their chosen genres equate to a family-styled event. A mass of fledgling “ravers” descending brings its own issues.
There’s an air about the conversation which leads me to believe the organisers value quality over quantity, with no intentions of expanding to Glasto proportions. We laugh as Mirko recalls people last year leaving, only to return with chairs in which they would switch the angle of to face their chosen stage; that is sooo Devizes and surely associates this family ethos.
Mirko is keen to show me a list of activities they’ve organised for children; a fun bus, inflatables, face painting, a bungee run, Striker game, slot machines and of course, a sweet stall, to name but a few. Plus, it goes without saying it’s at a sports club with abundant space to kick a football till you drop.
For here’s a thing, I’m convinced no one is to get fleeced at Saddleback, the food stalls enter freely, organisers only asking for a donation to chosen charities; Julia’s House, Wiltshire Air Ambulance and others, while punters get value with a wealth of talented acts for a reasonable twenty-five quid, and their kids under 13, well, they get in for FREE and for 13-17 it’s just a fiver.
Mirko introduces me to John, a newcomer to the committee but with a wealth of experience on the festival scene. What John doesn’t know about coordinating a festival could be written on the back of a matchbox, with diagrams, pie charts and a few dirty doodles on the bottom.
Having worked on littler-known events like, say, Glastonbury and Boomtown, John is a welcomed asset to provide a fully professional team, determined to make this work wonders. There’s more than meets the eye to arranging such an event, a note others need take heed of in these cliché days of any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Harry’s pet dog attempting to hold one. They’re delighted to have halted construction plans for a new pipeline running through the site, due bang on the 14th July when Saddleback takes place. For when music promoter Mirko and Sports Club owner Rick get going on a project, they’re the sort who work tirelessly to make it the very best they can.
It didn’t matter of the success of last year’s, though Mirko was pleased with the result, they’ve assigned themselves to this ongoing project and intend to make it an annual event.
So, the second major change is camping. People will be able to set up a tent this year, from Friday to Sunday, for a tenner, or just fifteen smackers to bring their campervan on site. This will add an extra dimension to the ambience, with visitors able to mingle with locals. Add this to the real ale and cider bars, prosecco, Pimms, wines, soft drinks, and craft beer from Devitera, merge it with a wide assortment of food stalls, such as Happy Hog Catering, Asian cuisine, obligatory barbeque and a tea/coffee and crepe bus, I think they’re building the perfect recipe for a blinding day which will go down in Devizes history and will firmly put our town on the festival map.
Notwithstanding an unforgettable line-up, with blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Marcus Bonfanti, rockers Bad Touch, ballad-esque pop-rockette, Mollie Marriott, daughter of Small Faces and Humble Pie singer and guitarist Steve Marriott, Devizes-own blues/alternate rock deities The Jon Amor Band, Bradford’s legendary John Verity, Blues/Rock guitarist Innes Sibun and Avebury’s own George Wilding.
If you need further proof of the authenticity of my recommendation, bear in mind it was a great thing when George Wilding won his place at the festival at the Battle of the Bands earlier this year and said he’d do it, if the other contestants could have the opportunity to play too. But it’s an even greater thing when Rick and Mirko took heed, and before we knew what was what, a third “acoustic” stage was added, introducing local heroes and heroines Mike Barham, Jamie R Hawkins, Alex Cash, Sally Dobson and Clare, who was coincidently serving at the British Lion at the time!
She smiled when we chatted, not realising who I was she said, “but I’ve known you for years!” That is what’s special about Devizes, that is what Saddleback will adhere, and that is also what’ll make Saddleback a knockout.
So, don’t miss out, leave a comment on a local Facebook group, giving it, “whats that wonderful music I can hear from my garden?” – there’s tickets on the gate, or in advance, here.
Deadlier than the male, The Female of the Species is an amalgamation of female musicians from various local bands who team up to host charity gigs; what’s not to like?
Nicky Davis from Warminster based People Like Us and The Reason, Glastonbury’s Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Frome’s Claire Perry from Big Mamma & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews from Melksham, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, form the supergroup again for “Live on the Night,” at the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday 30th September.
Seriously not to be missed; Beginning by showcasing two young performers; James Dempsey and Laura Jane Burt, giving them stage time and experience. The show then continues with People Like Us. The finale, Female of the Species sure to be the icing on the cake. Blending their influences in a mash-up of reggae and ska, soul and Motown, blues and rock, how on Earth do they govern what genre is coming next?
I thought I’d hassle Jules of Train to Skaville for an answer. “Each of the girls chooses three or four songs from their band’s set list,” explained the self-confessed rude-girl, “and then we add in the stuff we sing together.”
The Female of the Species first formed for a one-off gig at the Civic Hall, Trowbridge in 2014 for the Hope Centre in Southwick, a charity for adults with learning difficulties, “but it was so successful,” Jules continued, “we had no choice but to do it all again….and again.”
This news nugget keeps getting better though, as this year they’re fund-raising for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. The previous appearance at the Assembly Hall in Melksham, back in 2015 raised £2,920 in aid of WILTSHIRE M.I.N.D Mental Health Charity. The founding gig at The Hope Nature Centre in Southwick in 2014 I previously mentioned, raised an amazing £3,395.
While the next Train to Skaville is boarding from the White Swan, Trowbridge, Big Mama and the Misfitz only coming as close to us as The Fox and Hounds in Colerne on 4th November and the next People Like Us gig being a longer bus journey to Bath, at the Westgate on 22nd, here’s something in easy reach and all for the greatest cause. Tickets at just a tenner can be snatched from the Assembly Rooms or online here.