Errol Linton at Long Street Blues Club

In a remarkable finale to the season for Long Street Blues Club, London-based The Errol Linton Band presented Devizes with a sublime lively blues blend of delta and RnB, incorporating jazz, funk, reggae and ska too. But if the band’s proficiency in implementing this melting pot sounds erratic, the perfection was in the precision of switching through subgenres. The result was simply infectious.…..

It’s rarely mused, given the contemporary influence of Jamaica’s musical export, that prior to reggae its route lies with the removal of shortwave radio stations provided for American soldiers stationed on the island after WW2. As they disembarked Jamaica they left a blossoming sound system culture, the entrepreneurs of which set up recording studios as supply of US 45s declined.

They pulled from the influences they heard, jump blues particularly, and within these walls is the fabled Duke Reid session with Prince Buster, whereby copying the offbeat experiments of Fats Domino and Barbie Gaye, as was popular on the sound systems, and riding the shuffle beat style of T Bone Walker, a timeout was called and the guitarist ended by running the shuffle backwards, accidently creating “the ska.”

Even less widely known; initially Duke Reid wasn’t in favour of ska, but as the government promoted it for tourism as “Jamaica’s first national sound,” obviously he felt he’d lose out if he didn’t follow the trend. So, pre-ska, and even during its explosion, the Jamaican studios continued to put out as wider variety of sounds as they heard on US Radio, from blues to doowop and even country. This is a necessary backstory to capture the ethos of Errol Linton and his band, as Errol and two-thirds of the band have Jamaican heritage, are keen to emphasis this, and however subtle, everything mentioned gets a nod in their performance.

Errol is also an accomplished artist, creating portraits of his influences gives clear indication of who he is citing, the blues legends, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Louis Armstrong and beyond. Yes, the band deviated from blues, to throw down a jazzy number, to increase levels of danceable funk, and with a narrative of Howlin’ Wolf visiting Jamaica, they covered Howlin’ For my Darling with a matchless ska offbeat. Particularly diverse was an original “Country Girl,” as while maintaining one-drop reggae, the chorus verged onto a dancehall riff. It was right up my street and knocking loudly on my door, but I paused to observe the more blues aficionado regulars enjoying it equally as much as I!

For all the diversity I’ve noted, and mentioned the pleasure was in how proficiently they switched, even mid-song, this tight arrangement was best at delivering blues, and did so second-to-none. Frontman Errol gliding between vocals and harmonica, cherry-capped pianist Petar Zivkovic lightening on the keys, Lance Rose in porkpie hat, chilled on the upright double bass, perfectionist timekeeper Gary Williams on drums, and guitarist Richey Green presented the funkiest dancing show during play, the combo was spellbinding.

But none of this happened before Devizes-own Adam Woodhouse delivered the textbook support slot. Confident, despite his first outing at this blues appreciation society in which regulars will aim all eyes on you, Adam kicked off with an Elvis rendition of That’s Alright Mama, and with top-notch finger picking, continued covers with a remarkable Johnny Cash. Adam, a regular soloist at The Southgate and attendee of their celebrated Wednesday jam session, had some originals of his own, which were executed with panache.

A most memorable evening was had, in which frontman Errol reigned the moment, showing this natural ability accomplished over thirty years, since a busker of London’s streets. This is British blues at its finest, individually stylised yet heavily drawing from his roots, a perfect blend to homage his heritage, entertain and packaged in such a non-pretentious manner, you couldn’t dislike it; impossible!

An absolutely blinding night for the Long Street Blues Club, organiser Ian Hopkins’ smile said it all, as he clarified he’s been trying to book these guys for a while, and made a promise to the crowd they’d return; you need to be there when it does. The next season starts on 20th August, with anticipated return of Skinny Molly. Worth mentioning though, being we’ve discussed the early stages of Jamaican sound systems and Duke Reid’s Treasure Ilse, competitor Coxsone Dodd over at Studio One gave fame to a majority of reggae artists, yes, including Bob, and another crowned King of Rock Steady, Alton Ellis, that Alton’s son, Troy is on in Hillworth Park around about 3pm today. So, get your sandals on, unless you remain adamant nothing ever happens in Devizes!


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Saddleback Back!

In July 2019, straight after the Devizes Rugby Club’s Saddleback Festival, they announced July 11th 2020 for their next festival, but we all know the rest of that sad story. Since 2017 the club organised an annual Saddleback, named after Devizes Rugby team’s nickname, and the event quickly gained an outstanding reputation for bringing some quality acts to Devizes….

If I’m honest, being they held off during 2021, with tears from the memories of a great local all-dayer in my complimentary beer cup, I thought we’d seen the back of Saddleback. For want of repeating the same gag, coordinator Rick Kibby tells me, “We thought it was about time we brought the Saddleback Festival back!” And Saturday 18th June, 2022 marks the very day, at Devizes Rugby Club from 2pm, until late.

There was me thinking this cup was an emblem of a long lost Devizes festival!

Originally dedicated to blues, though the tag might’ve been dropped to allow more scope over the pre-lockdown years, blues is very much the mainstay, which is bound to satisfy Devizes aficionados, as local blues legends Jon Amor & King Street Turnaround, and Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue welcomingly headline; say no more.

The slightly more pop-rock acoustic, though with a definite hint of blues, Joe Hicks is also on the line-up. We love Joe here at Devizine, a true class act, prolific and generally all-round nice guy! Check out his latest offering double A-side, One More Step.

The other acts are new to me, which is all good, bit of well sourced mystery and all that. The drifting acoustic goodness of No Manz Land. Bristol’s big, stomping disco sound of Carolyn McGoldrick, retro-rock with Matt Peach, the beguiling Artic Monkey’s fashioned Public Eye, and the The Best of Ratcat, of which I’ve no info on, think of them as the wildcard!

But the real change for Saddleback is the side project, Lottiefest, as while the festival has always had a charity fundraiser base, this is the first time it has incorporated another festival in its title. “Lottiefest is in memory of Lottie,” Rick explained, “who was the daughter of one of our members who suffered from Ataxia, and the Lily Foundation raises funds for the fight against mitochondrial disease.” Lottie Rapson was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia at the age of 6, and sadly passed away aged just 27 in December last year.

“She taught us all so many things” the blurb on Saddleback Festival website reveals, “to focus on what you can do rather than worry about what you can’t, to see the good in everyone, to make the most of every day and never walk past an opportunity to do something mad!” And it goes onto explaining how much Lottie loved festivals, “often dragged to bed by her carers in the early hours of the morning.” Therefore Saddleback will be raising for The Lily Foundation and Ataxia UK.

This fitting tribute transcribes into dancing the night away in a club fashion with some carefully selected DJs, Matter, Rappo, Retrospekt, Astral Pipes, who fuse house and intelligent drum n bass into a diversity of dance music, something wholly different from anything we’ve seen at Saddleback before. A welcomed change to shake up the later hours, until 1am.

There’s camping on site, £15 for a tent, £25 for campervan.

You know, I’m so glad to see Saddleback on our event calendar again, the 2018 Battle of the Bands contest really bought to my attention the wealth of talent on our local circuit. I’d just befriended every local musician’s favourite photographer, Nick Padmore, who introduced me to George Wilding, Jamie R Hawkins, Sally Dobson, Jordan Whatley, Jack Moore and Mike Barham. Then, to have them play at the festival was the icing on the cake, really felt like I started something very worthy; they might disagree!

After that unforgettable year seems there was a little communication breakdown, Devizine was to cover the festival, but I wasn’t informed I was invited! Never mind, as now we are all informed; I’m telling you now, The Saddleback is back, and it’s going to be an amazing show right here in Devizes town!

Saddleback is on Saturday 18th June, Tickets start at £30, online here, or from

Devizes Books
Handel House
Sidmouth Street
Devizes
SN10 1LD
Tel – 01380 725944

Avon Trophies
Wharfside
Devizes
SN10 1EB
Tel – 01380 724630

The Peppermill
40 St John’s Street
Devizes
SN10 1BL
Tel – 01380 710407

Professional Books
Old Kingdom Hall
Avon Terrace
Devizes
SN10 2BH
Tel – 01380 820003


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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.


REVIEW – Billy Bremner’s Rockfile @ LSBC, Devizes – Friday 8th April 2022

Old Skool

Andy Fawthrop

Another night at Long Street Blues Club but on this particular evening we had an enforced change of venue from the Con Club – downstairs at the Corn Exchange.  Yes – in The Bin!

The support act James Oliver and his band was well chosen in terms of style.  He played the same sort of stuff as the main act that was to follow.  Unfortunately his performance relied more on speed and volume, and self-deprecation of his own Welsh-ness, rather than on any particularly musical ability.  His set was very same-y, apart a fairly pleasant and accomplished version of Peter Green’s “Albatross”.  But otherwise it was all high energy, but low talent.  Sorry, but best forgotten.

Then onto the main act.  Not to be confused with namesake feisty former Leeds United midfielder (if you don’t know – ask your dad), Billy Bremner started life as a member of Lulu and the Luvvers (oh – better ask dad again).  However, he’s best known for being with Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Terry Williams, one quarter of Rockpile, one of the finest bands ever to emerge from the United Kingdom music scene. A fearsomely accomplished guitarist, he has also been an occasional lead vocalist, as well as a great songwriter.  Since the break-up of Rockpile he’s had an illustrious career as a solo performer (four albums), and as a member of the Pretenders (that’s him playing the lead guitar on Back On The Chain Gang).  He’s also played with Shakin’ Stevens, Carlene Carter, and The Coal Porters.  Most recently he’s worked as a producer and all round living legend in his adopted home, Sweden.

Now aged 75, this is the Farewell Tour for one of Britain’s finest guitarists and, as expected, the evening was dedicated to the music of Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile.  The four-piece played two sets, kicking off without introduction or pre-amble.  In fact there was extremely little in the way of between-song chat, and little attempt to engage with the audience.  Dressed all in black, and rarely cracking a smile, they presented a rather dour stage presence.  We had the classics like “I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock & Roll”, “I Hear You Knocking”, “Cruel To Be Kind” and even Kirsty McColl’s “There’s A Guy Down The Chip Shop”, interspersed with other material.

To be honest, it wasn’t the great performance I’d been expecting.  It seemed a step down from last time I’d seen the band a few years back at the Con Club.  It was all rather single-paced, one-dimensional stuff, with little variation to leaven the mixture.  As good old pub-rock, rockabilly, power-pop, it was OK but, frankly, difficult to get too excited about.  It was chunky, but at times it was plodding.  Billy’s vocals sounded rather reedy and thin.  And not at any stage of the night did any of the band actually look as if they were enjoying what they were doing – more a case of going through the motions.  It was competent, and it was professional, but it just wasn’t engaging or exciting.  It seemed as if the spark had gone.

I can’t say it was a bad gig, because it wasn’t.  But somehow it just never seemed to really take off.  The crowd, being unusually rather small for an LSBC gig, just couldn’t quite generate much atmosphere.  I guess you can’t like every performer and every gig – and this was just one of those that didn’t click with me.

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


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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


Devizes Gives Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club a Warm Welcome

Since their formation last June, Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club have held jamming sessions at the rather splendid Owl Lodge, tucked away on Bowden Hill, near Lacock. Video teasers on the book of face attracted my eye; membership-schemed freestyle blues within a cosy log cabin setting, firepit et al. But if this rural blues society has been stealthy, it was high time for them to blow the lid on the secret.….

And they pulled it off with bells on, staging a multiple act show at The Corn Exchange, in the bright city lights of Devizes(!); a market town historically marked on the blues map of England.

If the event came off with niggling teething troubles, organisers admitted hosting a show on this scale was a learning curve for them. Yet the exceptional high standard of acts booked guaranteed it infallible to be anything less than the awesome night it was.

Failsafe came in the form of the part rockabilly part big band-edged blues frenzy of headliners, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, with that guitar virtuoso frontman you could worry will dehydrate up there for want of extending feverish moments from traditional three-minute hero into Pink Floyd record lengths.

Our homegrown legend, Innes Sibun, who glides electric guitar strings as if the lovechild of Page and Hendrix, in sporadically performing, internationally famed collaboration Innes Sibun Blues Explosion. If this was any kind of detonation as the band name suggests, it was a seriously smooth one. Frontman Patrick Hibbert eased sublimely delivered soulful vocals, while Innes did his matchless thing.

Bristol-based one-man-band and regular favourite at Devizes’ Southgate, Eddie Martin, who perfectly filled gaps between bands with sublime solo renditions of long-lost blues legends, encouraging audience participation, with nuggets of a blues history lesson and witty repartee.

And part co-ordinator of the Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club, Will Blake, who with full band straddled a burgundy grand piano akin to Jerry-Lee Lewis, when I walked into the joint, and delivered some outstanding soul and rock n roll classics with a few originals thrown in. Alluring singer Rosa Gray occasionally complimented this line-up with sassy vocals, perhaps most memorable duetting with Will on Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

If, in comparison to the later acts, one debates the repertoire of The Will Blake Band to be wedding requests, it would surely be the one wedding you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Besides, platitude covers added a dimension and awoke the majority elder audience with familiarity; it was a booming flinch creating a buzz of anticipation; this was to be grand night of quality entertainment.

If similar shows fill gaps between bands with recorded sound or second-rate comedians, drafting in the great Eddie Martin proved the club never skipped on quality, even for intervals. A prolific recording artist whose devotion to the old-timey blues of legends like Robert Johnson, Son House and Blind Willie Johnson, Ed’s spellbinding solo tribute is unparalleled, and just as all other acts here tonight, would’ve made an unforgettable show alone.

In this, one prevention of selling out that vast hall could arguably be the score ticket-stub, but to deliver a lush line-up this rammed costs. Nevertheless, it was adequately filled to begin with, a mature majority able to justify and swallow the cost lessened off gradually as the evening drew late. This left the hall disappointingly bare by the time Ruzz Guitar belted on stage, but those who remained made the most of it and dancing upfront lambasted the decision to provide show styled seating. If I’m nit-picking criticisms they’re justified as future considerations, because cost is insignificant when the proficiency of all these acts, combined, was priceless, seating arrangements are hugely debatable, considering the age demographic, and others, well, I’m certain there was no more. This was a great evening, presenting Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club with potential new members, as jams are planned to kick off again in April; will keep you posted.

Long Street Blues Club proprietors Ian and Liz in attendance proved no rivalry, I conversed with Exchange club owner Ian James, who reminisced on blues gigs of yore, based in town; something I never tire of hearing. These, combined with the likes of Innes and Jon Amor affirms Devizes’ place of the blues map of England, surely? So, there was no local location more apt for this kind of event, and a massive respect to the Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club for taking on the challenge of appeasing local blues aficionados, proud of Devizes, akin to what Coventry means to Two-Tone or Bristol to UK hip hop, least near as dammit for a small town!

I personally think you guys pulled the rabbit from the hat.

It was something I was pondering beforehand, now confirmed my need to relabel after Innes Sibun Blues Explosion’s textbook performance last night, that my terminology “local music” I often overuse. It’s inapt to refer to the likes of Innes and Jon Amor as local musicians, despite being born here, with the same marker as those rarely venturing outside our local circuit. Last time I was standing beside Innes and Jon, I earwigged their recollections of tours of eastern European countries; these guys are internationally renowned, The Innes Sibun Blues Explosion have been somewhat dormant for over thirty years, likely due to their individual location being so far apart, and this was a reunion gig for them. But where does one draw the line? With folk trio The Lost Trades’ recent success, they too straddle this borderline now.

Four of the Five original members, Innes Sibun, John Baggot, Patrick Hibbert and also drummer for Ruzz, Mike Hoddinott, reformed for this gig, performing songs from their 1991 album That’s What The Blues Can Do. Coupled with Ruzz, officially endorsed by Gretsch Guitars, who knocked my personal favourite Sweet as Honey out of the park as a grand finale, encored by Will Blake joining them adlibbing on piano, made this evening a notable notch on the history of blues events in town, and a delight to have attended such a memorable occasion.

Where the Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club go from here is anyone’s guess, but we look forward to prospect they might least match this again rather top it, or even hope it breathes interest into their more humbling jamming sessions at the Owl Lodge. Top marks all round I say; anyone got an ibuprofen?!


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REVIEW – Mark Flanagan Band @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 26th February 2022

Talent to Spare!

Andy Fawthrop

First time up the hill for me this year, having missed the Mike Zito Band last week (too busy running the Winter Beer Festival and listening to The Lost Trades and The Rob Lear Band, since you ask – but that’s another story altogether).  Good to get back to Long Street Blues Club and its dependably great audience and atmosphere.…..

First up, in the support slot, was Lewis Clark who I last saw here back in October when he supported Jimmy Carpenter.  Again Lewis was playing solo, and yet again did nothing but impress with his stripped-back raw and emotional lyrics, accompanied by unfussy guitar work.  His lyrics are, as always, personal and intense; his songs simply command attention.  His set was greeted with rapturous applause, and rightly so.  Lewis was due to play the Sunday afternoon slot at the Southgate on Sunday, where I’m sure he’ll play to a different but equally appreciative audience.

Then for the main act of the Mark Flanagan Band.  Mark is a man who’s been round the block a couple of times, and nowadays plies his trade (amongst other things) as part of the Jools Holland travelling entourage.  In other words, he’s met and played with many of the greats in the music business, which provides him with a wealth of anecdotes and stories with which to regale the audience between numbers.

His trio hit the stage with no big fanfare, and throughout the evening maintained a quiet but purposeful subdued presence.  There were no big drum solos, no guitar fireworks, just a steady stream of competently-delivered laid-back blues, funk, boogie-woogie, folk, Cajun, you name it.  Mark fronted everything coolly and calmly, switching instruments, styles and anecdotes with consummate ease, even giving his band-mates George and Adam a couple of numbers break whilst he just carried on solo seemingly undisturbed and unflappable.

And we had songs – proper songs!  Each had its own back-story of course, either who it was about or the situation that had given rise to its inception.  There was some name-dropping – Clapton, Richards, Harrison – but it was never gratuitous or intrusive, simply adding colour to a great musical tapestry.  The crowd was won over, there was a two-number encore and we were done.  The amazing thing was that Mark hardly looked to have broken sweat – one cool performer!

Another 5-star great night of world-class music delivered by Ian Hopkins and his team – hats off!  And just take a look at the programme still to come during 2022 – a mouth-watering array of talent.  Get those tickets and get yourself along to Long Street Blues Club!

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 19th March 2022                            Soft Machine

Saturday 2nd April 2022                                 Malone & Sibun Band

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 17 September 2022                      CSN Express (New Rescheduled Date)

Friday 14th October 2022                               Black Sabbitch (Corn Exchange)

Saturday 5th November 2022                       Alastair Greene Band


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Trowbridge Town Hall Rides into Spring

At the beginning of the month Devizine covered Trowbridge’s musical renaissance, highlighting The Village Pump and Town Hall’s dedication to introducing a variety of upcoming local bands and performers. Explaining Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore had “big shoes to fill,” taking over as chief event coordinator for the Town Hall from Gavin Osborn. Well, the proof is in the pudding, and that dish has made it off the serving counter and onto our table.….

Not forgoing, the programme is already in full-swing, with Truckstop Honeymoon at the Pump on Friday, (18th) a cider swiggin’ scrumpy and western hoedown with The Skimmity Hitchers and our great friends, and the Boot Hill All Stars supporting at the Town Hall on Saturday.     

Boot Hill All Stars

Such is the fashion for live music in Trowbridge, Fridays at the Pump, Saturday at the Town Hall, aside some great happenings at Stallards and Emmanuel’s Yard, comedy and more commercial nights at the Civic. Gecko appears next Saturday at the Town Hall, and all-day Sunday there’s   fundraising session, Kalefest, a family-orientated mini-festival for some musical equipment for a teenager with a severe brain injury, in which Zone Club, Pete Lamb’s Heart Beats and The Relayz play.

Marching on atop this free six-week interactive course of workshops for 16- to 18-year-olds, covering all aspects of the music industry, next month sees a continuation of great bookings, of which we highlighted in the aforementioned preview, here. What we’re here today for is to check in on Kieran, see if he indeed “filled” those shoes for the ongoing season.

So, just revealed, April and May listings at the Town Hall and Pump, which have equally exciting news, as, perhaps, Mr Moore asks the shopkeeper for a shoehorn. Isle of Man’s recent export to Wiltshire, Becky Lawrence, the musical theatre singer-songwriter who wasted no time fitting into the local circuit, joining established local bands, The Bourbons UK and Clyve and the Soul City Foundation, teams up Bristolian country singer-songwriter Zoe Newton to pinch-punch April at the Pump.

Zoe Newton at Bradford Roots Festival

Whereas, in the name of variety I’m surprised to see The Town Hall hosting a “rum and reggae night” on Saturday April 2nd; it’s as if they’re calling to me! Seriously though, I’d wager youngsters reading this are asking Siri what the hell a shoehorn is.

But nice surprises flow, as Gavin Osborn himself plays The Pump, Friday 8th, with his band Comment Section. Regulars at Stallard’s, locally-based indie-rockers Riviera Arcade arrive at the Town Hall with Gloucestershire’s electric-punk favourites, Chasing Dolls on Saturday, with (udated) Devizes/Swindon NervEndings headling the show.

NervEndings

Alcopops Records’ Croydon duo, The Frauds play the Pump on the 15th, with Ipswich’s experimental indie-pop darlings, Lucky Number 7, while Henry Wacey and Dan O’Farrell are there on Saturday. Surreal stand-up, Welsh hard rockers The Vega Bodegas are at the Town Hall on the Saturday, with support from Wiltshire-based metal trio newcomers, Last Alvor and self-confessed “degenerates,” synth-punk noise-makers Benzo Queen.

If that weekend is atypical of what I’d expect Mr Moore to assign, the following, Saturday 23rd is different. Kieran is no stranger to asking what acts local giggers would like to see via social media, as Brighton’s Chap-Hop legend Professor Elemental comes to the Town Hall, with support from my recommendation, Bristol’s fantastic veganomic ska-punk-folk crazies, Boom Boom Racoon, who’ve we fondly followed in the past on Devizine.

Boom Boom Racoon

If I’m excited with boom boom coming soon, while “Sunday league” songwriter Tom Jenkins finishes off April on Saturday 30th, May is positively booming too. Local soul-hip hop DJ, Mac-Llyod gets the crowd prepped for another of my personal favourites, Bristol’s bouncy boom-bap virtuosos The Scribes, on Saturday 7th May. Aching to encourage these guys a gig more local than Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, I’m delighted to see this on Trowbridge Town Hall’s listing; they’re definitely calling to me now!

Pan-European ‘inventive and thrilling’ alt-folk duo, singer-songwriter Tobias Jacob and double-bass playing multi-instrumentalist Lukas Drinkwater play the Pump on Thursday 12th May, whereas I’m notified Saturday 14th’s do at the Town Hall will be a “pipe and slippers rave,” of which I had to inquire if, as it sounds, it’ll be an old skool DJ rave type thing, and this it was confirmed, “that’s exactly it.” If they’re calling me, now they’re mocking; the feet in my slippers were stomping in mud when you were an itch, whippersnappers! “Honey, where’s my whistle and white gloves?”

Sheffield’s award-winning finger-style guitarist, Martin Simpson breathes some folk to the Pump on Friday 20th May, while the Town Hall blow cobwebs off with Trowbridge’s own hardcore metal quartet, Severed Illusions. With nine years under their belts, they opened for Hed PE at the now defaulted Beirkeller in Bristol, and played metal festivals’ assemblage M2TM. Joined by doomcore fourpiece Eyesnomouth, and Salisbury’s screaming metalcore Next Stop Olympus; that’s going to go off.

The Lost Trades

From here gigs are pencilled in, June sees Martin Carthy, Jon Amor with Kyla Brox, Hip Route and Billy & The Low Ground feature, but be certain the near-future looks bright and varied for Trowbridge’s live music scene, particularly as the last gig of May is our beloved folk-harmony trio The Lost Trades on Saturday 28th. Bring in the summer with Graham Steel’s award-winning Phil, Jamie and Tamsin, what more could you ask for?


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Devizine 4 Julia’s House; Volume 2 in the Pipeline, Need Your Help!

I’m delighted to transfer £186.46 over to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices today, the proceeds to-date of our compilation album; well, I call it an album, but it’s one mahoosive boxset really, a staggering forty-six tracks from local artists and others worldwide who’ve featured somewhere on Devizine in the past.

If you’ve not heard this absolutely stunning Miss World of music before, a virtual Now, That’s What I Call Devizine Music, she’s here for your viewing pleasure, please download your copy, exclusive on Bandcamp, as I feel this site offers the best deal to artists. Once you buy it, it stores in your account cloud, and you have unlimited downloads, so you can put it onto various devices.

Unlike a fundraising event, here is something which will stay in the domain, something you can download whenever you like, and we’ll continue to build a little stash and send it over to this wonderful registered charity once it builds up again. If I’m honest, I’ve been waiting for it to total to a nice round £200 before sending, but attention on the project has waned recently, and it’s been a while.

There are ways I could prompt folk towards it, a poster or flyer campaign would be handy, but I figure, as lots of bands and musicians expressed an interest to be included, after its release, time is nigh to start plotting a second volume.

As we penned all the acts onto an army surplus bag for the front cover, as many students in my era did just this, I thought we’d do similar this time. So, see our old school desk below, eerily free of graffiti? It is aching for me to inscribe your band name or logo onto it, with chewed biro.

You should note we have three tunes for volume 2 already, from Nick Harper, yes, I said Nick Harper, the wonderful Onika Venus, and Marlborough rockers, Catfish. But we need you onboard too. I envision it being entirely new artists, so if you contributed a track to volume one, I sincerely thank you, but unless you’re absolutely bursting with enthusiasm to forward a second song, let’s try to compile a whole new set of artists.

What got to me last time, was the unexpected amount of work I’d set myself. There was me, at the beginning, thinking I’d just be bobbing about, enjoying the ride, while our contributing artists did all the hard labour!

It occurred to me at the time, I’d likely raise better funds riding through town in a bathtub full of cold baked beans, and while I’ve certainly not scrubbed the idea, I would like this compilation project to build into a series, really prompting and promoting the best of the music we feature on Devizine, and giving the good folk out there a sampler of what great music there is, as well as raising funds for such a brilliant charity; it’s a double-whammy. Ergo, sending us a song will put you straight onto the good list!

So, I ask, if you want to contribute a song, please bear with, and I’ll be back in touch as soon as possible, but last time I was inundated. Streamlined, that’s the key here, so I’ve set out some guidelines to contributing below.

Firstly, we NEED original songs, NO COVERS, not even Chas & Dave ones, as copyright is a minefield. You must own the rights to the song, or have permission from everyone who owns the rights to it, and you MUST TELL ME THIS, see the form at the bottom.

Secondly, please remember this is a children’s charity, and while Julia’s House has been accepting of all the styles and content, really, I don’t want songs with unsuitable themes, or constant bad language. Willing to accept the odd naughty word, and extreme content should be avoided, thanks.

Thirdly, any genre is fine; I want to get a real cross-section of sounds, no pigeonholing. While some chose to record an exclusive song, and that was great, all I ask is for an album track or outtake not currently doing the rounds, but you’re free to choose whatever one suits you best.

Fourthly, there is NO DEADLINE set as of yet, but I will email you once one is decided; please do not wait for the deadline if you can help it; last time I got confused where I stood on so many promised contributions, and it doesn’t take a lot of confuse me.

And, oh fifthly, if that’s not already too much to take in already?! Please ensure you include how you’d like the song to be listed, i.e. Name of Artist and Song. Sounds rather obvious, but also, if I don’t know you already, send some links to websites, social media, and a short bio too!

You can copy and paste this passage below into an email, fill in the dotty bits, and send it to me at devizine@hotmail.com – attach a WAV file format of the song you’d like me to add, and wait patiently for a reply; I look forward to hearing your song; you flipping superstar, you!

I, (FULL NAME) confirm I’m the full copyright holder of the track (ENTER SONG NAME) or that I have contacted any other parties which holds rights to the track and have gained their permission also. 

I hereby grant Darren Worrow of Devizine, my permission to use it as part of the 4 Julia’s House Volume 2 compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House. Registered Charity Number 1067125. I also agree to allow clips of the track to be used for promotional purposes of the album mentioned above only.

In turn, Darren Worrow and Julia’s House maintain the artist of the track reserves all rights to the track, and it is only used in conjunction with the aforementioned album.

(If you have PRS details, Tunecode or ISWC, please add them.)


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Against the Grain; Ruzz Guitar at Thirty

South West’s resident Johnny B Goode, Ruzz Evans celebrates his thirtieth birthday with the release of a live album, Against the Grain. I caught up with him for a quick reminisce, and chinwag about the album……

As suggested, it was recorded at Frome’s Cheese & Grain on 19th June 2021, postponed due to lockdown. Such dynamic and regenerating conditions really breath atmosphere into this album, and it captures the mood of a band excited to re-emerge from isolation. Though by now, we’ve come to expect excellence from Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue as standard.

Featuring tracks from the band’s previous releases it also includes tracks from Ruzz Guitar’s recent video series “RG Sessions.” It’s uniquely delivered blues, RnB, rock n roll fusion with feelgood big band vibes, often frenzied and danceable, lengthy moments of extraordinarily proficient jamming, yet, like Longing to See You on this album, there’s always time for a concentrated ballad.

And oh my, if there isn’t Ruzz doing a sublime guitar solo of Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World, then joking about breaking a fingernail, but the complimenting talent behind the man is second to none. Blues Revue drummer Mike Hoddinott, bassist Richie Blake and Graham Nicholls on rhythm guitar, with a horns section of Michael Gavaghan on sax, Jack Jowers on trumpet and trombonist Will Jones, and special guests’ incredible vocalist and pianist Pete Gage, who is fast becoming part of the furniture, and breathes real gritty delta blues ambience into the collective, along with sublime harmonica by Jerry Tremaine, who simply wows on Baby, Scratch My Back.

Seriously, this is eight hard-earned pounds well spent. I’d say it’s better than the previous live album, Live at the Louisiana, we fondly reviewed a couple of years ago; Ruzz agrees, a quietly proud perfectionist, I figure.

But I want to get deeper into the psyche of the frontman, find out what drives him, when and how he first picked up that instrument. Firstly though, on this new release, I had to compliment the aforementioned Wonderful World solo. “That reaction is what I was aiming for,” he replied, “I wanted to bring something new to the table and challenge myself. I’m really happy that it came across as I wanted!”

Just checking this recording at the Cheese & Grain was the first live show they did after lockdown, Ruzz confirmed it was, “we had done an online set back in August 2020, and one small gig before all the lockdowns came back in heavier. That show was our first, full band show since the Devizes Rugby Club gig in March.” Ah, yes, what a way to go out that was!

Treated of a number of streams during lockdown, I asked if they considered continuing them. “Definitely. I’ve been trying to think of the right events to live stream to anyone who can’t make it in person (I.e., my international audience). I want the streams to be more than just me sat at home with my guitar all the time,” Ruzz chuckled. “I want it to be as much an experience for people watching the stream as for the people at the live event.”

Jogged my memory of a great stream from his garden, and though it was strange at first, seeing musicians in their home, on their sofas, some even with washing on a clotheshorse in the background, some made an effort to avert from the standard; I recalled Jon Amor climbing out onto his roof like a 5th Beatle! Ruzz laughed, “Jon had some great ones!”

Jon Amor. Image: Nick Padmore

This is Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue’s seven album, and out of them there’s three live ones, including Visual Radio Arts in 2018. Does he think he projects best when live, rather than a studio?

“I love working on music in the studio, but yes, I think this sort of music is best experienced live,” Ruzz answered, though I suspected as much. “It wasn’t a conscious plan to do three live recordings but I can honestly say that this new one is my favourite by far. I feel the band is playing better than ever. I’m always trying to capture that magic on our recordings, whether it’s in the studio or live.”

I wished him a happy birthday and counted it an ideal opportunity to trace his past and discover the very beginnings of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue.

“My dad and youngest brother play music,” he answered my family connection to music question. “I got my start into live guitar playing through my dad. Back when I was 16, he put a band together to feature me on guitar; I haven’t looked back since!”

The first time he picked up a guitar? “When I was 15. I had started on bass and drums, around 14, but was shown a George Thorogood DVD and then taken to see him live. After that I decided to learn slide guitar, then Jimmie Vaughan and Brian Setzer came along, and the rest is history.”

Ruzz at 20!

I wondered if they commonly had requests for cliché rock n roll hits, imagining drunk punters asking for Heartbreak Hotel or That’ll be the Day, but would Ruzz appease such appeals, and in that, did it start out this way. “I have played all of those in various rockabilly bands over the years; great tunes, but maybe not quite right for the current band!”

Originals is what you get with Ruzz Guitar, outstanding ones, yet he cites the blues, RnB artists as influences; Dr Feelgood, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. “I try to take from many places,” he laughed, “Wilko Johnson, BB King, Reverend Horton Heat, Steve Cropper; to name a few.”

Anticipated responses, so I thought I’d throw a curveball for the finale. I use the urban myth of Hendrix taking his guitar everywhere, to my kids, as a testament to dedication, and how hard you must strive to perfect something, any goal you might have. It was reported Hendrix took it to the toilet. I asked Ruzz what drives that dedication in him, but not before inquiring if he too, took his guitar to the loo!

He chuckled at this, and for the record answered, “I haven’t gone that far!”

“In all honesty I don’t know. It’s just something that’s felt right since I started learning. It’s been the one constant in my life since I was 15. There’s nothing more enjoyable to me than learning more with it, writing my own music and standing up in front of a group of people and taking them on a musical journey with me… it’s just what I was meant to do with my life.”

Well, at just thirty he’s certainly achieved it, this album is proof. He signed off with “hope to catch up in Devizes in March!” And there’s a thing, 12th March the Wiltshire Blues and Soul Club are indeed at the Corn Exchange with Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue headlining, which we’ve already previewed, here.

The live performance from the Cheese & Grain can be seen on YouTube for a limited time, here.


And Yes, Ruzz Guitar does feature on our compilation album, all in aid of Julia’s House; please download a copy 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?”

Manton Fest Reveal 2022 Line-Up

Drizzle couldn’t prevent MantonFest from being one of my fondest memories of last year. There’s a real community-feel to this honourable little festival, yet it prevails professionalism aside it’s cheery atmosphere. Enough for me to label it “a gem in Marlborough’s event calendar” last time; let’s see what’s in store this year, as organisers announce dates and line-up for 2022….

Set for Saturday 25th June this time, headlining are seminal rhythm & blues band, Animals & Friends, which boasts original Animals drummer John Steel, and keyboardist Mick Gallagher, who joined The Animals in 1965, replacing Alan Price, and is perhaps best known as a founding member of Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

Returning to MantonFest after a five year gap, Animals & Friends still command great respect internationally amongst their peers, as well as from fans of all ages who instinctively respond so enthusiastically to such pivotal songs from The Animals catalogue such as ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’, ‘Boom Boom’, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, ‘Baby, Let Me Take You Home’, ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and the bands’ multi-million selling anthem and Number One hit across the world, ‘House of The Rising Sun’.

Also appearing with an astounding résumé for a tribute act, 1993’s creation of John Mainwaring and John Ford, Jean Genie, has a founding in the very person it’s attributing, Bowie, of course. An original recording artist in his own right, John Mainwaring has been signed by numerous record companies throughout his career, twice with Warner Bros. In the 1980s David Bowie’s world-famous producer Tony Visconti produced some of John’s songs when he was signed to WEA.

Not forgoing work with Jarvis Cocker and Tony Christie, co-writing and recording Beverley Callard’s work-out fitness DVD, John is currently signed to Bucks Music Publishers for his original material, and, more apt for the role, in the late 1990s John was approached by ‘The Spiders from Mars,’ asking if he’d front the band and tour with them. Has to be said, it’s a rare thing for a tribute to have toured and performed with the original artist’s band.

Barrelhouse

Marlborough’s own and MantonFest favourites, Barrelhouse are returning. With a penchant for vintage blues, I was mightily impressed with Barrelhouse las year, very nearly dropping my hotdog, blending their original material with classic blues covers so you couldn’t see the seam. Promoting a new live CD, they’re a winner every time.

Another act, another tribute. One which I’m sure will be welcomed with open arms by the MantonFest crowd, Nottingham-based Beatles tribute band, The Fab4. Formed thirty-two years ago, they’re renowned for using classic sound equipment, much the same gear as the Beatles, to get that authentic sound, and were the first band invited to play at the Paul McCartney Auditorium at the Liverpool institute of Performing Arts.

Compelling and daring, former Purson singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, from Southend, Rosalie Cunningham is also on the line-up, whose 2019 debut solo album earned a Top 10 placing in the UK’s official independent chart. Along with local acts Dangerous Kitchen, a four-piece rock band, acoustic and electric band covers trio, @59, Adam Ford, Eddie Witcomb and LLoyd Crabb as Kotonic, and Manton’s very own semi-acoustic blues, jazz and soul crossover group, Skedaddle.

@59

So, yeah, this variety, mostly rock, blues and soul one-dayer shindig, comes highly recommended by yours truly. Gates open at 11am on Saturday 25th June, and advance tickets have just gone online, for £35 until 15th June, £40 afterwards. Child tickets are a fiver, under 7’s go free, youth tickets are £15. This year people can book a plot for a campervan for £20, or a gazebo pitch for £10, payable on the day at the gate.

With an assortment of food and drinks stalls, picnics and bring your own booze are still welcomed, in this overall fantastically friendly festie overlooked by the beautiful surroundings of Treacle Brolly near Marlborough, it’s walking distance into town; what more do you want? Well, I’d like to see Blondie tribute Dirty Harry from last year; see if I can get her phone number this time; epic fail due to cider last attempt!

There she is, see? Shouting out to me, “don’t call me, go home, you’re drunk!”

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Rock n Roll Lives; in Melksham!

Found myself in the Sham last night, hail hailing rock n roll at the Assembly Hall, something I’ve been meaning to witness for ages; and I’m pleased to report, they do it with bells on……

Passing through Swindon’s GWR works prior to the Steam Museum, I perchance to natter to an aged engineer prepping a locomotive for display. He frustrated his vocation was fading, and with no apprenticeship, the knowledge would be a lost trade. Art is different from a trade; it lives beyond the creators’ years naturally; it is only hope it inspires enough to attract devotees from future generations.

Creative types rarely contemplate this, tending to live for the moment. Rock n Roll was perhaps the first youth culture to transcend social and political barriers into mainstream. Generations of segregation had worn-out the connection of railroad slaves, mimicking four-beat folk of their masters, and white youths of the 1950s reunited it by blending blues into country, much to the outrage of traditionists. But would those early, wide-eyed rock n rollers have stopped to consider seventy years later their voices would still be ringing out, their fashion would be epitomised and their dances displayed with such enthusiasm, in a market town hall in South-West England?!

Geoff and his wife proudly sit on the door of the Melksham Assembly Hall and welcome me. They have been the backbone of The Melksham Rock N Roll Club since its formation, twenty years ago. Recently two clubs opened in Bristol, he expressed, but prior he’s had free reign of the niche market for a few years. Coupled with winter’s chill and the resistance to head back out post-lockdown, he shrugs, unruffled attendance is slightly down. I pulled up a chair for a chat of all things Buddy Holly to Shakin’ Stevens, then popped inside to see for myself.

Despite his reservations and taking into account the hall is wonderfully spacious, it feels suitably packed in there, if this is an evening of lesser ticket sales it certainly doesn’t show. Devotees of rock n roll have come from afar to attend; Geoff cites members trek from Bristol, and even as far as Essex.

The closest we have here in the ‘Vizes is the Long Street Blues Club, which while spectacular can be a library-like appreciation society; I was shushed in there while thanking Ian for inviting me! Here appreciation is displayed rather differently, events aptly referred to as “dances,” while hold factors akin to many clubs, a live band, DJ and a raffle, the most astounding part was the dancing. There was no way I dare step onto that dancefloor to be showed up, as matured and authentically attired regulars would put upcoming generations to shame with their astounding moves! Trade in your gym membership, come here instead for a rock n roll workout!

With poodle skirts whirling around refined gents in double-breasted Chesterfields and winklepickers, it’s an impressive spectacle. I was interested to observe the age demographic, concerned, like the steam engineer, for his disappearing trade. I’d spoken to Geoff about diversity, for what is considered “rock n roll” is altered by later age-groups, through Zeppelin to punk. But acceptance of progression felt like a no-go zone; this was traditional, fifties fashioned rock n roll, like it or lump it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the band, hailing from various locations from Hungerford to the Cotswolds, this five-piece ensemble called Haney’s Big House had the classic arrangement; bona-fide frontman on lead, bassist, drummer, harmonica and an outstanding upright double-bass player. It proficiently spelled rock n roll to me, they played their own awesome compositions, and relished in covering Bill Haley and Chuck Berry, to name a few. Yet conversing outside, nick-picking gossip circulated it was too blues, whilst others suggested too rockabilly.

True, but the band don’t hide this blues influence on their own website, and inside the crowd danced on seemingly unconcerned. I huffed at a minority of grouches, they revelled in nights of yore through rose-tinted specs, when unfortunately, that era has passed. Haney’s Big House made for an excellent evening, seemed to love the spotlight and were a perfect match for a rock n roll club.

Akin to the contemporary scooter scene, subgenres have to merge back into one another in hope of survival, as Northern Soul mods meet ska-led skinheads, so rockabilly, RnB and blues should be accepted as fair game by fundamentalist rock n rollers, otherwise the scene risks fragmentation over time.

A heartfelt concern, because I’m with Joan Jett, loving rock n roll, put it every time on the jukebox baby; I grew up listening to Elvis, Buddy et al, via parents. There’s nothing like the authenticity of original rock n roll, with an epoch to match, The Melksham Rock N Roll Club is an institution upholding this ethos and they do so with matchless effort.

It was a brilliant evening of beguiling retrospection and long may it continue for another twenty years plus. My demographic observations came up trumps, while a palpable majority were retirement age diehards, a sprinkling was younger, equally excited about the scene. Though that number has to be upped, so I urge anyone affectionate of old timey rock n roll, try this affordable club for size; it’s reelin’ and a rockin’ to the point age is just a number, folk of all ages twirling the night away; absolutely wonderful!

Next dance is Saturday 26th February with Jive Street….

Stay updated via their Facebook page.


Check out other forthcoming events at Melksham Assembly Hall Here, from Abba and Carpenters tributes to Madness and Led Zeppelin…and erm, “ladies” nights!


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Devizine Review of 2021; Marginally Better than 2020!

If we recently reviewed Ian Diddams and friends meeting at the Vaults for their annual festive Jackanory, the first article of 2021 was the very same funny fellow reciting his yarn as a live stream from his mocked garden grotto, and in that, surely displays how far we’ve come from the restrictions of lockdown we entered the year with. Though not without the same notion as last Christmas looming over us, like a dirty black shroud, that it was, perhaps, all too soon, and we’ve not seen the backside of the Covid19 yet.

Summarising, 2021 was marginally better than 2020; there were gung-ho moments of throwing caution to the wind, and there were others to make us stop and ponder the consequences of our actions. There’s little doubt the world will never be the same for decades to come; social interaction, shopping, even work practises; but we did get to party on occasions, and when it was good, it was really good.

And if it ended with a Boxing Day brawl, I suspect some wished for the bash-a-sab fest. Even police it seems, who would likely send in The Wealdstone Raider to crowd control a Wealdstone V Whitehawk FC game, if given the assignment. Did I predict this when I said “make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge?”

Hardly crystal ball stuff, tensions at their highest for rural Wiltshire’s most contradictory dispute, it was on the cards since day dot; when the county voted in a foxhunting Police Crime Commissioner, whose misadventures in drink driving caused him to pull out at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. A calamity most shrugged off with “oh, ha-ha, those naughty Tories, bless ‘em.”


Allowed Out to Play

It was May before I set foot in a pub, lockdown eased and live music was back on the agenda, albeit with hefty restrictions; early ending times, remain seated, table service, no mingling outside of “bubbles,” and deffo no dancing or singing. It felt awkward to begin with, not quite the same, but it was a start, and who better to kick off proceedings than the brilliant Daybreakers, gracing the trusty Southgate? One could sense the joy from Cath, Gouldy et al, to be singing to an audience once again, proving their dedication to the cause. A handclap emoji just isn’t the same.

For a while then The Southgate remained the only venue in Devizes providing live music, and we thank Deborah, Dave and all staff for working within the rules to create a safe space to be blessed with music; it was like they were on roller-skates at times, up and down the beer garden, ensuring not a mouth was left dry!  

I also ventured out to the Barge at Honeystreet, to see how they were coping with the boundaries too. And what a show The Boot Hill All Stars put on there, under a spacious marquee, so tempting to get up and dance, but couldn’t; mastered foot-tapping though.

The return to some normality for many in Devizes came in clement early June, when Devizes Lions held a fantastic car show, plus, on the Green. With side stalls aplenty, nervously folk began to socially distanced mingle; it was a breath of fresh air and a testament to what can be safely achieved with forward thinking and dedication.

Image by Nick Padmore

By July I made it out a few times, the idea of Vince Bell teaming with the individual performers of The Lost Trades, Phil, Jamie and Tamsin was too much of an irresistible hoedown of local talent to miss, and a third trip to the trusty Southgate to tick TwoManTing off my must-do list also proved to be a memorable evening.

The beginning of August I ventured to TrowVegas to tick another off said list, catching those Roughcut Rebels with new frontman Finley Trusler. They blasted the Greyhound, and didn’t disappoint. The month shifted gear for many, and things simply blossomed like there never was a lockdown. Back-to-back weekends saw both my favourite largescale of 2021, the single-most amazing festival near Marlborough; MantonFest is a real gem, professionally done with a real communal atmosphere, the type perpetual drizzle couldn’t put a downer on. This event wowed.

Back in Devizes, the events of the year were the weekend which followed, sitting nicely between a stripped back version of DOCA’s International Street Festival sprinkled across town, was of course, The Full Tone Festival. Without the refreshing emergence of folk out of lockdown, this would have still been something for the town’s history books, but being as it was, the opportunity to head back out and enjoy life once again, the timing, the best weather, the whole ambience was electric. The time and work gone into pulling this off was absolutely outstanding, and for which folk of Devizes will forever mark it as a celebration of post lockdown.

Awakenings even drew Andy out of hiding by September, and I was overjoyed to have him back on the team, without putting his bag and coat on the hook, he went out to play, reviewing Devizes Musical Theatre’s Gallery of Rogues, and Devizes Town Band’s Proms in Hillworth Park. Meanwhile I was delighted to see The Wharf Theatre reopen with a fantastic performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.

September also saw the welcome return of Devizes Comedy at the Corn Exchange, and The Long Street Blues Club, who, kicking off with Creedence Clearwater Review, wasted no time catching up with their rescheduled programme of the most excellent blues nights money can buy. Andy covered these, while I ventured to see Kieran J Moore’s new digs at Trowbridge Town Hall. After a brilliant street art exhibit from Tom Miller, I went to taste the music there, with a most memorable evening from Onika Venus. I returned to the scene in November, for a great gig from Ålesund with support from Agata.

Other than a trip to the White Horse Opera and Southgate to see Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround, Andy pitched a tent at Long Street Blues Club, one time shipped out to the Corn Exchange in late November for Focus, which Andy crowned best gig of the year. I made it out to the Cross Keys in Rowde for The Life of Brian Band, and to the Southgate see Strange Folk again, since their fantastic set on Vinyl Realm’s stage at a Street Festival of yore. But October held my best gig of the year, the reasons manyfold, and I’m lay them on the line….

For the outstanding fundraising efforts of the Civic award-winning local supergroup, The Female of the Species, I hold them all up as my heroines, therefore the chance to see them again at Melksham’s fantastic Assembly Hall too much to miss, and the fact they’d chosen this time to raise funds for another of my local heroines, Carmela Chillery-Watson, was almost too much to take! With an electric night of awesome danceable covers and a massive raffle, they raised a staggering £1,763 for Carmela’s Therapy Fund.

It will never cease to amaze me the selfless lengths our musicians will go to for fundraising. Even after a year and half of closed hospitality and no bread-and-butter gigs, they continue to offer their precious time to help. While events blossomed late this year, and November saw the return of TITCO, and Devizes Arts Festival added a spellbinding mini-autumn-festival with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Sally Barker and Motown Gold, Devizine continued also to preview events and do what we had being doing to find content during lockdown. Yeah, we rattled some cages with social and political opinion pieces, tasted some great takeaway tucker, and we reviewed recorded music further afield as well as local, but we had a number of feelgood stories, most memorable being things like our snowman competition in January, but there was a project which highlighted the sterling effort from musicians to fundraise, and it will be something I’ll never forget.

Image: Gail Foster

So, in April I announced we would be putting together a compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospices and by late June it was a thing. It was hard work to put together, but I’m astounded by the plethora of great bands and artists who took the time to send us a tune for inclusion. Knowing time was precious for artists popping out of lockdown, in need to source bookings and rehearse, I only asked them to provide us with an existing tune to prompt their albums, but some went beyond this, giving us exclusive outtakes such as the brilliant Richard Davis & the Dissidents, or some even recorded new songs, like Blondie & Ska, Tom Harris and Neonian.

I picked a staggering forty-six tracks to bind together, to create a boxset so humongous it would need far too many CDs to make it actual, so due to this and the expense of outlaying, it exists as a download on Bandcamp. Think of it as a teaser for the many great acts we’ve supported and reviewed over the years, and for a tenner, it works out under 5p a tune.

For me this was a momentous achievement, and can’t thank them enough. While I’ve put it out to the right places, to the Gazette & Herald and Fantasy, and airtime on West Wilts Radio’s fantastic Sounds of Wilderness Show, there is obviously more I need to do to get the message out there, as sales have been slow, unfortunately.

I could fathom a number of reasons for this, but in all, we’ve raised approximately £177 for Julia’s House, hoping to reach a £200 target before we send them the money, still sales have waivered off so significantly I feel I need to send what we’ve had so far. Please help us to up the total if you’ve not already bought this fantastic album. Gloom aside I will say I’m planning a second volume, and already have a few contributions from incredible acts such as Nick Harper, Onika Venus and Catfish.

Returning to events for the last part of the year, While Andy fondly reviewed Focus, I popped into the Corn Exchange for a quick interview with The Lost Trades, and left to attend a great art show at the Shambles. That weekend the Full-Tone Orchestra played Swindon’s Wyvern, and I’m grateful to Ian Diddams for his review. This is what we need, people, we cannot cover everything, but if you’ve a few words to say about an event or anything local, please, help to make Devizine a comprehensive community, erm, thing!

Of course, one delightful addition to our team TD Rose has been submitting some lovey features, firstly of ramblings, and more recently she made friends with Wiltshire Museum, and reviewed DOCA’s Winter Festival. Thank you so much Tyg, I’ve yet to meet, but we need to arrange this for the new year.

Image: Chris Dunn

Towards the end of November Andy remained seated at Long Street, I did the rum bar thing. Such a refreshing addition to Devizes, The Muck & Dundar pulled off a blinder with Bristol DJs, The Allergies. This was one smooth funky night, best for an age, and it was great to shake my greying tailfeathers. Both Andy and I finished off the year with a Boot Hill bash at the Southgate, where hip hop misfits Monkey Bizzle supported, and was shocked by Andy’s positive reaction, being more my cup of cheddar, this was an awesome night too!

Kossoff played Long Street, Andy also went to White Horse Opera’s Winter Concert and other than the hugely successful Tractor & Tinsel Run, we’re back to where we started with an Ian Diddams’ spoken word showdown the Vaults!


On Stats and Boring Stuff

Our Annual Stats Doubled from Last Year!

Having live music back, no matter the limitations was a breath of fresh air. Prior to it I was still scrambling around in the dark as I was in 2020, hunting for something to write about. But I guess a year of lockdown had given me time to contemplate and improve on the content. This boosted the stats, for if 2020 saw a drop in readership, I hoped to better it, and I’m pleased to announce we had a record amount, well over doubling the figures of 2020. This is awesome news, and I thank everyone for keeping the faith in us, and continuing to support Devizine.

I keep looking at the bar graph of stats, not believing the skyscraper which is 2021. How much we’ve grown, become a “thing” now. It’s fantastic and I hope we will continue to entertain you. I must stress though, we don’t harass you to subscribe or any rubbish like this, we keep advertising to a minimum, and nothing should pop up and distract your reading, and we uphold the ethos features should be free to the end user.

Yet we do need to maintain some budget to keep the site going. That’s currently around £60 a year; we fund our own beer money, thank you, we’re not MPs, we have no expense forms! So please consider donating to keep Devizine afloat, please donate when sending us an advert, unless it is fundraising. I’d really like to build up a small fund to get some charity events off the ground, as I believe the artists should be paid for their time considering their predicament too. So, anything extra will go towards this, and promoting the Julia’s House album.

What can we expect from Devizine in 2022, you might ask; well, if it’s not broken……let’s happily bash on shall we?! Thank you all so much for your support over 2021, the stats show we’re heading in the right direction.


On Food

Said this before, but I take pride in repeating myself; food reviews get an enormous response, yet still eateries seem reluctant to come forward. A food review here will do wonders for your sales, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a greedy so-and-so. Places we’ve eaten out or takeaways we’ve had which failed to live up to our expectations have not been mentioned. I’m no Gordon Ramsey and I’m not about to publish a slagging off. I’d rather tell you to your face why I’m not reviewing it!

During lockdowns the takeaway became essential part of a weekend treat for families with nought else to do, and new establishments opened, while pre-existing ones flourished. In January we praised the Massimos’ Pizza, and the following month saw me queuing halfway down a frozzled Nursteed Road for a rather tasty Greek Gyro from the Cosy Kitchen mobile van; such was the popularity of these mobile units during the bleakest of times.

When things begun to open up in April I went for my first vaccination jab, where they told me not to drive for fifteen minutes. They didn’t say go find a new Indian lunchtime takeaway in the Brittox, but we did, and long should Naan Guru live on!

Not much further into the same month, I tracked down The Feisty Fish, a fish n chips van like no other. They don’t come into town being there’s chip shops here, but track these guys down for the single best gourmet fish n chips you will ever taste, I tell no lie!

June saw a second IndieDay, organised by InDevizes, and prompted people to get out and shop with a bustling farmer’s market, in which I discovered the rosy cheeked benefits of Lavington’s Rutts Lane Cider, and merrily made my way home on the bus! I also had to mention, unsurprisingly to those who know me, that month, that Plank’s Dairies introduced a new locally-sourced organic milk, yogurt and juice range, in sizable and reusable glass bottles, which has proved hugely popular.

Naturally, without a main stage this year, there was a greater interest in the food market at The Devizes Street Festival in August, and the following month we mentioned Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Market, where I was reunited with Rutts!

It was July when we discovered Thai-day Friday, and that was just delicious!

Mildly amusing than most, I offered a Battle of the Best Devizes Breakfast, in November, something we need to follow up on when the kids are back in school, as Round One, The Condado Lounge Vs New Society was a popular post. I bloomin’ love food, me, y’know, invite me to your café, pub or restaurant and I’ll give you my honest opinion, except I don’t do eggs or liquorice; yuck!


On Music

If I’ve already mentioned our awesome 4 Julia’s House project, and all the artists who contributed are in my good books, we also covered a whole heap of new releases. Plus, we started a Song of the Day, where we post a YouTube link for your pleasure, and generally don’t say much else about it, rather waffle on a tangent! But mostly recorded sound reviews waned when live music reopened, still we strive to continue telling you what we like.

Will Lawton

Will Lawton proposed to open a music school, JMW held a lockdown festival in support of musicians, Wiltshire Council asked Gecko for a Road Crossing song and video, and Wiltshire Rural Music’s announced producing live steams from Trowbridge Town Hall.

Kirsty Clinch announced her music school and book plans, and covered Swindon’s sound system Mid Life Krisis’s live streams. We chatted to The Scribes, announced The Lost Trades Live Stream in Advance of Album Launch, and The Ruzz Guitar Sessions, and Asa Murphy returning to Devizes.

We announced Sheer’s Salem gig, the Dear John Concert Album for War Child, and the bid to help Calne Central. Announced Sheer’s Frank Turner gig at the Cheese & Grain, chatted to Blondie & Ska. Announced Wharf Theatre’s Youth Theatre, Pound Arts Blue Sky Festival, My Dad’s Bigger than Your Dad Festival in tribute to Dave Young. This list goes on, but most enjoyable recently, meeting up with Visual Arts Radio who moved from Frome to Devizes.

We reviewed Terry Edwards Best of Box Set, Ain’t Nobody’s Business by Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue and Pete Gage, Skates & Wagons, Kirsty Clinch, Small Town Tigers, Django Django, Chole Glover, Araluen and Ariel Posen. Trowbridge DJ and producer Neonian, The Direct Hits, Andy J Williams, Erin Bardwell, Nigel G Lowndes, Mike Clerk, Cutsmith, Timid Deer, and Cult Figures.

Horses of the Gods, Lone Ark & The 18th Parallel, Longcoats, Black Market Dub and The Lost Trades.

Brainiac 5, Sitting Tenants, Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory, Sam Bishop, Longcoats, The Bakeseys and Elli de Mon.

Liddington Hill, Boom Boom Racoon, Longcoats, Girls Go Ska and Daisy Chapman.

Monkey Bizzle, Webb, The Hawks, Captain Accident & The Disasters, Onika Venus, Death of Guitar Pop, The Burner Band, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, and Scott Lavene.

Spearmint, Captain Rico & The Ghost Band, Sonny Vincent, Freya Beer, Near Jazz Experience, Beans on Toast, Old Habits, and most recently, Paul Lappin! That enough for you?! 


On the Social and Political Side

The fate of every nation depended on how their governments dealt with the pandemic, and how the public responded to them. I’m not here to dwell on international or even national politics, for this is a review of Devizine, what I define loosely as “an entertainment news and events guide,” for the locality of Wiltshire, focussing particularly on our base, Devizes. Yet tenaciously it is linked, undeniably affecting limitations to what we could and couldn’t do. By the very appalling national statistics, despite rolling out vaccinations like no other country, it revealed true horrors of conflicting government decisions, their general disrespect and selfishness for the public they’re supposed to serve, and the public’s reaction to them.

Like a blind vacuum, sucking in every government blame game, it never ceases to amaze me keyboard warriors on social media turning culpability onto mainstream media, when their task is purely to report news, and capture the mood of the nation. The mainstream media is ruled by the elite, funding the government, they’re in bed together, literally. To publicise shortage of goods is informing of a potential issue, they didn’t enforce panic buying, the public did; chicken and egg. Equally, to publish mood change in the majority lost faith in government, is because there’s a mood change; we’ve lost faith in government.

I’m not here to say I told you so; I’ve not lost faith in this government, I had none to start with!

Take the last set of pandemic announcements, made only hours after government-controlled media broke news of Downing Street Christmas parties, best part of twelve months earlier. A day where the public felt betrayed, even those who voted for Bojo and his cronies held their heads in shame and had to confess it was all too much for a government to break rulings it set itself, and party on while the public suffered, and died. The mood was understandably bleak; why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t?

Why, you ask, for crying out loud? To protect ourselves from a global pandemic, numpty! Government announcements are fed counsel from health organisations and medical experts, skewered by bent politics, naturally, but the bullet points are there. It is not the same self-entitled buffoons, they’re voiceover artists on this occasion; given free reign they’d have “herd immunity,” against WHO advise.

Can you not see through the wool? The government press released the Downing Street Christmas Party scandal themselves, bang on cue of an announcement, so we would all think precisely that, why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t? If we rebel from their restrictions, we’ve only got ourselves to blame when the virus spreads. The government gets what they always wanted, herd immunity, and they’ve shifted the blame away from them and onto you, me, and everyone else.

Therefore, we need to take precautions ourselves, be a community, care for others around us. No hard and fast lockdown is needed, if common bloody sense prevailed, but government seem intent to rinse it from our craniums. We’re not self-service tills, do not robotise us!

We know now how to prevent the virus spreading; keep your distance from others, wear facemasks in public places, follow NHS guidelines in testing and get vaccinated as soon as possible, whether they tell you to or not.

These things should be commonplace, but whenever restrictions ease, like a naughty school-boy triumphantly marching out of detention only to offend again, we forget everything we’ve learned and pay the cost for it. I’m not preaching like a saint, caged too, I urged for a pint, to lob my facemask into the air, hug, and flaunt the rules when the rules relaxed, at times reflecting if we did the right thing, least if we did it too soon. But it’s done now and we can’t turn the hands of time. If we could, I’d still be on Castlemorton Common.

Old Skool Rave

In this, one series of articles I was proud of this summer was in reminiscence of my youth, being the thirtieth anniversary of 1991, an explosion for the rave scene. But another similar premise based on news of illegal raves happening in lockdown, was to ask those old skool ravers if they’d still go raving if there was a similar pandemic in the nineties; with interesting results.

Return of the Rave

And if it sounded like I was defending mainstream media, I wasn’t, only applying a smidgen of sympathy. With Facebook, Twitter et al, media is everyone now; I’m living proof any idiot can publish a blog and make look it like reputable news! Reason why, I guess, criticising other local outlets always brings hits, the occasion I felt the need to defend Devizes against the sharp eye of local gutter-press Wiltshire Live, proved to be our third most popular article of the year.

Devizes is a great place to live, Tory top-heavy, but that’s something anyone with an alternative opinion has to unfortunately suck up. Our fourth most popular article this year was in January, breaking the news Tory PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed, was a bad card. Something as more evidence came to light, namely drink-driving offences, proved to be true, at the time I put my finger on something conflicting in his chat with us, calling anyone who cared to address fox hunting a “troll,” but requesting we talk on his trespass pledges, blatantly linked to restrict the movement of sabs, the only folk we see actually policing this disgusting and unbelievable smokescreen of trail hunting. Something we covered more recently, suggesting Boxing Day Hunts need better policing.

Moan I’m bias, yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Do I attempt to hide it like others? Why the hell should I side with anyone butchering wildlife for so-called sport, and in that, why the hell would you?! But hey, I remained impartial during local elections, giving each and every candidate a platform, so there!

Never has a PCC election run with such controversy. Aggravation between sides fired, and we did more than blow the lid off Seedy’s bogus campaign, causing some alarming revelations in local social media bias. Tories back Tories, no matter what they’ve done wrong, it’s an allegiance to admire, even if you feel it’s malicious. As well as chatting with Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster and independent Mike Rees, we tried a few spoofs: Play the Wiltshire PCC Game, Basil Brush Missing, and upon the Tories hustling in an alternative candidate by stalling the re-election, we ran a short story The Adventures of Police Crime Commissioner Wilko, which was based upon a better received satire, a long-running mock of Wiltshire Council, in The Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead.

At times Mike seemed such a threat to Wiltshire’s Tory totalitarianism, a media attack seemed the best method to deflect people taking the common-sense vote. The first bout came in January, when Mike was barred from volunteering to administer lateral flow Covid tests, the second in July affected me personally as the Devizes Issues Facebook group revealed its fiercely denied bias, by banning me for using a George Orwell quote to express my concern at the taxpayer having to fork four million quid for a re-election which was clearly the Conservative Party’s fault! I’m adamant it was justified.

Nineteen-eighty-four was supposed to be a warning, not a fucking self-help guide.

Annoyed, I struck out, naturally, and was begged back, after the full-gone conclusion a Wiltshire majority blindly vote for the blue rosette no matter what! But it was a month after the ban, the smear reached its apex, with all posts about the independent candidate immediately banned and deleted on the popular Facebook group, and anyone complaining were blamed by members for the downfall in Mike’s success! You can’t make up hypocrisy that nasty. 

Tory Devizes Town Councillor Iain Wallis on “the Devizes Issues.”

It’s not the politics which bothers me as much as the kind of world they envision. Stories of injustice swamped Devizine this year, more than ever before, even our April Fool’s Joke had stark repercussions. 

Every minute an adolescent arm reaches out of a window, unceremoniously handing a bag of fast food to a driver, they nod a thanks, and leave. That seemed to me to be the maximum social interaction of 2020, yet commonplace in modern living, pandemic or not. I recalled going to a Tesco, paid at the pump, masked expressions as I sauntered the aisles, paid at the self-service till and on the way out considered one could live their life in modern times completely unnoticed, months need pass without human contact. My mind meanders if that’s something young folk actually want, or if they’ve been robotised, or if it’s an age thing leaving me in a care-home for terminally bewildered.

The best hitting article of the year was again, our April Fool’s Day joke, where this time I misleadingly announced the opening of a McDonalds in Devizes. Maliciously planned, it broke the local internet, and despite suggesting it was All Fools Day in the piece, comments and messages flooded in from headline scanners. In favour of it or not, the debate is such popular the joke was lost on many desperate souls dying for a McFlurry; causing faith, just like Chippenham’s recent pandemonium for a bucket of battery chicken in gravy, yes, Aldous Huxley was bang-on, many folks do want to live in this commercialised bubble, void of individualism.


On Everything Else

Individualism, free thinking and fair and just causes we stand for here, it is not my fault the many attempts to counteract this seem to come from a conservative ethos, and therefore get criticised for it. I’m not dead against conservativism, but they seem dead against me, as if we’re supposed to know our place tip our hat and reply, “very good guvnor, I’ll bail your shit for a shilling!”

My god, how they hate common people who can articulate, that’s’ why they slash away like Freddy Kruger at the education budget while back the grammar school relaunch. Then keyboard warriors whinge at juvenile delinquency like it’s a new thing and something stringing them up for will somehow solve. We’re heading into days as dark as the early eighties, perhaps medieval for some, days I remember with a horror in my heart.

The audacious legacy building bashes on with grand and glorious plans, I reported Stonehenge had been saved by the High Court, but they operate above the law and continue to ignore the justice system, plotting to bury a road underneath it, shaking it to ruin, least knocking it of the World Heritage List, for the sake of knocking minutes off commuting times.

I criticised the reality of building a whole new train station miles out of Devizes, against popular opinion, cos I’ll believe it when I see it, and furthermore, I feel there’s more pressing issues which looking at. If not our terrible infrastructure, the state of our roads, and the endless chain of bureaucratic nonsense to get the simplest of notions pushed through bumbling pompousness of councillors and apparent do-gooders, it’s the increasing homeless on our streets, the need for Food Banks which the Tories selfishly assume is a good thing, the poverty level submerging a continuous population and the outright condoning of racist, sexist and homophobic acts. Sort them out, and I’ll gladly stand on Devizes Parkway platform with you, or any other brazen legacy-building pledge you dream up!

Every time I’m duped, I feel like an idiot, unable to get my message through the red tape. You want a train station, yet I reported the dangerous state of a Wiltshire Council playpark in Rowde, FIVE years ago, and I have to seriously throw my toys out of the pram to get anyone to pay it any attention. In February this year I was delighted, based on my article, Councillor Laura Mayes secured £20,000 from WC to re-design the playground and she proudly used it to publicise her election pledge.

But still the playpark remains in the same state of disrepair, not a penny pledged has been spent. Whether this is WC’s fault or the Parish Council I don’t know, they got what I suspect they wanted, a successful election result, and my whinging reduced too. I’ve just lost all faith and interest in continuing to bother with it. You want a train station, huh? Traffic lights at the Black Dog crossroads? A no left turn sign at the top of Dunkirk Hill? Yeah, good luck with that, we’re moving into six years for them to fix a dangerous baseplate of a bouncy chicken in a playpark!

Yet perseverance can pay off; we loved it when Rab Hardie of Duck N Curver broke into Stonehenge to raise awareness of his wish to film a video inside the stone circle, we asked if the Fire & Rescue Service were Cutting Vital Flood Equipment, defended Wiltshire Police from keyboard warriors upset they used a rainbow as their Facebook logo during Pride Month, wished Devizes Lions a happy 50th, supported Joe Brindle on his campaign to save Drews Pond Wood, attended Save Furlong Close protests, added some reflection on the Travellers based in Bromham, praised local artist, Clifton Powell when he was commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, had a great time at Breakout, Chippenham’s Alternative Art Show, congratulated the award-winning British Lion. Crickey, the list goes on; the vast array of subjects we’ve covered, even war memorials which look like bins!

I must be boring you into an early grave, which isn’t the best way to start a new year!

One last thing, we did plenty of spoofs and satirical pieces, too many to name, yet, all’s fair in love and war, and it was a great year; here’s to 2022! I leave it there before your head explodes!


Jon Amor to Take Up Sunday Residency at The Southgate

Featured images by Nick Padmore

I still remember landlord Deborah’s face aglow some years back, when she told me Devizes blues legend Jon Amor was booked to play The Southgate. He’s made several appearances since, as solo and as frontman of King Street Turnaround, but today the Southgate announced Jon will take up a Sunday residence at the lively Devizes pub…..

It will be a quieter New Year’s Eve for the Southgate, there is no music booked and from Monday 3rd to Monday 10th January the pub will be closed. “We’re keeping it simple on NYE, no live music, believe it or not!” Deborah said. “But we’re saving the best of the best until Sunday with a mega Blues/Funk/Rock gig to blow away the extended hangovers!

With an awesome line-up on Sunday 2nd, as Jon is joined with Innes Sibun, Pete Gage, Jerry Soffe, and Tom Gilkes, I knew about this little marvel, and it has been up on our calendar for a while now. What I didn’t know is this will build a new house band for the Gate, “yes,” Deborah delights to inform, “Jon Amor and friends are taking up residency! Sunday afternoon gigs, first Sunday every month for 2022.”

So expect to see King Street Turnaround with Jon and friends on the first Sunday of each month down the Gate, which is some great news!

The future is bright, the future is The Southgate! Reopening on Tuesday 11th Jan, with the absolutely awesome rock covers band Triple JD Band on Saturday 15th! Rock on!

Dave and Deborah at the Southgate

Meanwhile our event calendar is building up with choices for New Year’s Eve, do check it out for links, and have a great New Year; hopefully might catch you down the Southgate on Sunday, if I’m allowed out to play by the boss!

Billy Green (solo) @ The Hourglass, Devizes

Devizes Scooter Club NYE Party @ Devizes Cons Club

New Year’s Eve @ The Vaults

New Year’s Eve @ Massimos, Devizes

Rip it Up @ The Greyhound, Bromham

Sour Apple @ The Brewery Inn, Seend Cleeve

Six O’clock Circus @ The Talbot, Calne

The Roughcut Rebels NYE bash @ The Churchill Arms, West Lavington

New Year’s Eve Party @ The Green Dragon, Market Lavington

Illingworth @ the Waterfront Bar, Pewsey

Get Schwithty (Jamie R Hawkins & Phil Cooper) @ The Bear, Marlborough

80s, 90s, 00s NYE Party @ Wellington Arms, Marlborough

Deathproof Audio NYE Party @ the Vic, Swindon

Dubsouls & The Rumble-O’s @ The Bell, Walcott Street, Bath