Proper Job; Devizes Beer & Cider Festival is Back!

If I said of the Full Tone Festival, last year, “and in the history of events in Devizes, the magnitude of what The Full-Tone Orchestra achieved yesterday will forever be imprinted,”  it was for two reasons; that it was, and also, aside their free gig in the Market Place, it was inaugural. Still, there’s a number of annual events well established in town, already historically imprinted.

One firm favourite, The Devizes Beer & Cider Festival returned post-lockdown, yesterday, for it’s 21st anniversary, a day which can be best described as monumental, if more expected to be than first timers, like FullTone.

I’ve been to a few drinks festivals, where you can choose from top to bottom, left or right, from the displayed kegs, work your way through the lot and return home a tad tipsy. Not so here, unless you’re Oliver Reed. There was just too many to choose from, and I’m only a cider drinker, beer drinkers would’ve needed Norris McWhirter on standby for a Guinness World Record.

You will need to join Devies branch of the beer trainspotters club CAMRA for some detailed analysis of indivdual brands on offer, I took the pin-in-a-map system and came out on top with such a variety of appley tipples I couldn’t begin to list, unless you have all day? Which you might have, being it’s Sunday, and if you attended, you’re probably not feeling motivated to cut the grass!

The main concentration here should, I believe, be focussed not in review of the contents of my souvenir glass, but in sincere thanks to the volunteers who had this huge beer hall running like clockwork.There must have been a pile of socks around the back, because they sure worked them off, and like robots with charisma programming as standard, they served proper job.

The most common verbal appraisals to Devizes Wharfside being transformed into a beer top-heavy festival, on the day, was, like Christmas day after the Grinch, ones of sheer delight that said monumental occasion has been returned to them after the triple year break.

But it’s far from Devizions just loitering, downing this vast selection and singing the event’s praises. Rather than hoist in hired food vans of varying quality, Devizes Rotary took care of the nosh, superbly. With standard barbecue favourites and king sized woks of meat or vegetable chilli, and the ice cream van was busy too.

Busy is an operative word for the event as a whole. Rapping with organiser Don Jones, I was informed attendance figures were very much governed on how much beer they had to sell. Yet by the end, the approximate 1,700 strong crowd prioritised drinking that colossal beer tent dry, and should you be new to town, welcome to Devizes!

It must take experienced organisers to estimate so precisely how much a crowd of this size will drink without too much waste or predicted riot if underestimated. I have trouble guessing how much pasta to plop into the pan when cooking for four!

Anyhoo, rain didn’t rear its ugly mug, and under shaded skies of tolerable temperature, surrounded by deck chair city, sat the main attraction aside the beer tent, ah, some musical entertainment; twist my arm why don’t you?! Atop transport company Garrbutts’ trailer the stage was set for a host of locally-sourced acts. Devizes CAMRA made a wise move to bring in local music aficionados, Ben and his partner Victoria to arrange the entertainment. Being their first time coordinating they knocked it out of the park, or at least, the wharf!

Devizes Town Band opened. I rolled up to Tom Harris and Claire’s rather sea shanty set, inspired by the neighbouring canal I gather, giving it Chicken on a Raft, and other joyful sing-a-longs, they never fail to please.

Followed quickly by Devizes favourite, unpretentious singer-songwriter Vince Bell, who’s intelligently crafted songs and guitar skills shines with every tune. Not content with showing his spellbinding aptitude with self-penned songs rich in emotion and often topically local, he covered David Gray’s Babylon, and proved talent is hereditary, when his, also all-singing (for Devizes Musical Theatre) partner, Lisa’s daughter, Evie, joined him for a homely enchanting tune, Lisa’s kitchen. The finale was the icing, his audience participation unofficial Devizes theme, which if you know, you know!

New to me, Warminster’s Dr Zebo’s Wheezy Club was up next, proving the timelessness of classic olde timey Americana. They were a highly skilled trio, guitarist, double-bass and fiddle authenticity breathed life in 1920s swing, tango, and a touch of bluegrass. Something different and welcomed, Tom Waits covers and revised banned rarities, shockingly more effective than it sounds.

With the only warning from “voice of Devizes,” compere Ian Diddams, we were next whisked away to Irish taverns with popular flute and guitar combo, The Celtic Roots Collective, who never fail to engage an audience with isometric Irish folk dance, and seem to me to improve tenfold with every day that passes.

Headlining was the rock classic covers band, Triple JD, from Chippenham, yet a welcomed and regular feature of Devizes’ Southgate’s never-ending musical rota. Cover bands aplenty and available for hire, but if you want something mindblowingly above average, Triple JD put the overtime in. Even dropped from four-piece to three on this occasion, sublime covers of Cream, Deep Purple et al, came thick, fast and acutely delivered with unsurpassed accuracy. But it’s the plethora of Hendrix classics which both dominate the set, and astound; any band who can do that without offending the legend is a cut far above the rest, and Triple JD really push the boundaries of what a cover band should produce.

And so came the end of a hugely successful and highly entertaining day here in Devizes, putting The Beer & Cider Festival firmly back on the event calendar, where it so obviously belongs. It’s affordable, enjoyable through variety, and it’s already historically bookmarked, yesterday served only to reaffirm it.

It’s not really a reggae crowd,”  Nick Newman professed to me, “so, we’re just going to play some Bob Marley and popular tunes.” But if the finale was the wildcard, it proved though a show of heavy dubplates might be niche, everybody loves reggae and it moves the crowd like nothing else.

Dancing broke out across the Wharf as Knati P and Nick Razah did their sound system ting. Knati toasting the crowd, a majority perhaps unaware of “rewind” Jamaican DJ methods, but nevertheless feeling the vibes of a set akin to a breif history of everything that’s great about reggae, from Marley to Millie Small, from Two-Tone to contemporary subgenres, like Groove Amarda. In this they showcased the diversity of a misunderstood genre around these backwaters; causing me to uncaringly spill my cider down my t-shirt in gyrating to the Wailers inaugural ska hit, Simmer Down!

And on that point, it surely clarifies my point about Ben and Victoria’s devotion to bring as larger quality and variety to the music program as the selection of beers and ciders, in what was the perfect denouement to a wonderful evening; in my honest opinion, naturally!


Gigs Continue at the Southgate with a Bonza Line-up for November

Remember around this time of year, how the UK’s terrestrial television stations would wind down quality of their schedules in order to accrual a superior agenda for Christmas? Well, the near-only dependable live music venue in Devizes we have left is showing no sign of copying the idea. Abiding by restrictions and regulations, Dave and Deborah at The Southgate Inn on Potterne Road continue to bring us the very best of local music, and show no sign of letting up for November.

Maintaining Wednesday’s consistent Acoustic Jam evenings, and on top of regular Friday’s Ukelele Group, there’s something for all tastes during the lead up to the big C. Let’s run through them, but remember most gigs are early, from 4-6 or 7pm, and to adhere to the social distancing rules, and respect others at all times. Booking a table is recommended, particularly for the more popular gigs, and boy, there’s plenty of them upcoming. Call them on 01380 722872 or send them a Facebook message to let them know you’re coming!

This Saturday, 31st, we see the return of Swindon’s Navajo Dogs. They’ve not played since lockdown, and say they can’t wait to blow the cobwebs off, with their own-brand of punky, blues-rock, and as they say, “some face melting guitar solos!”

On Sunday, the local family band Skedaddle are in the house, with their popular singalong covers.

Next Sunday, the 8th November, is bound to be awesome as what The Southgate brand their house band pay a visit for some unforgettable funky blues. Local legend Jon Amor, Jerry Soffe, Tom Gilkes and Evan Newman make up King Street Turnaround

Saturday 14th and it’s time for Mirko and Bran, aka, The Celtic Roots Collective. The wonderful duo you should all know by now for their blend of Irish and Celtic folk and rock.

The Sunday, 15th, sees Bristol-based regular original folk, soul and bluesman, Lewis Clark, who appears solo rather than with his full band, The Essentials, focusing on new original material written during lockdown.

Saturday 21st has the combination of Manton’s own Ed Witcomb, of the aforementioned Skedaddle, & Marlborough’s talented Nick Beere, promising magical mellow blues, catchy guitar riffs, and a combination of chilled acoustic covers and original material.

More blues on the Sunday 22nd, and why not? Bare blues with rural roots, delivered via slide guitar, harp and stomp-box with energy and passion. The Gate welcome back Trevor Babajack Steger.

Saturday 28th I’ve defo bookmarked, when Swindon’s two-tone ska darlings, The Skandals skank the Gate. Since the split with frontman Mark Colton, the lively band welcome back their original lead, ex-Skanxter Carl Humphries. Playing as selection of two-tone ska covers, is always welcome.

The Southgate are keen to point out at this stage, gigs do depend on changing covid regulations and should things alter, larger and louder bands might have to sadly be cancelled. Fingers crossed, as Bite the Hand are due to arrive on the last Sunday of November, the 29th. Like many, it’ll be these crazy metal-heads’ first gig since lockdown. Bite The Hand perform fast and furious punk and metal, self-penned reasoning is “to try and offer audiences something less vanilla. It’s the kick in the teeth you’ve always wanted, the dirty habit you just gotta have.”

Personally, as well as wishing Dave a happy belated birthday for yesterday, I just wanted to thank them and their team for continuing to work through this period safely and provide Devizes with such a great line-up of free entertainment from their hospitable and welcoming, best pub in Wiltshire!


Great Night at The Cellar Bar, for Devizes Open Doors

Images nicked from Nick Padmore, cos we love him, and his new lens!

Local musicians, George Wilding, Vince Bell and the Celtic Roots Collective united for a Devizes Open Doors Christmas fundraiser down in that Cellar Bar on Friday night, dragging me kicking and screaming from my outings on Friday nights embargo; least I still made it to work notwithstanding the inclination to slip away quietly before Mr Wilding done his thang! Trust in me then, to produce half-a-review, yet despite what they say about assumption, given the high standard of every past appearance of George I’ve witnessed, I know a supposition of the finale is justified.

Upon my arrival Mirko and Pete were bearing the cobblestone dais, since a split between the four-piece 10p Mixup, the duo now forms The Celtic Roots Collective to deliver what it says on the tin; a jubilant, toe-tapping assortment of Irish folk. And a grand job they make of it. If you missed this, bookmark Feb 23rd, aptly at the Southgate.

Under the impression sixteen-year-old environmental campaigner, Joe Brindle was to make a quick speech, again an assumption he kicked the evening affair off while I still had my hands in the kitchen sink! But before I’d made it to the bar, our often-underrated singer-songwriter Vince Bell tuned. I believe Vince favours it this way, there’s no pretence in his performance, yet his songs hold you spellbound by their accomplished guitar melodies, intelligent lyrics and unbridled delivery of them. Often emotionally poignant subjects, some locally witty, you can never tire of either; let’s hope he really is never leaving Devizes!

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And that’s me done, over and out. Guessing if George Wilding gave a bad performance, I’m the Queen of Sheba. Safe in knowledge, I had to slip out through fear of the fury of old ladies when they didn’t receive their pint of semi-skimmed. A massive well done to the organisers, Mirko and the Devizes Labour Party, including Steve Osborne manning the door. I believe between £200 and £240 was raised for homeless charity Devizes Open Door, with the promise of more such gigs in the pipeline.

As crazy as it sounds upon sharing news of this event, I was subject to one of those pathetic Facebook mini witch-hunts, as if the mere utter of Labour is a swear word in Tory Town; get over yourselves! Devizine, I should point out, is here to promote all events regardless of the political viewpoint of the organisers, and I will not adhere to insular remarks against this ethos. It came to ahead when I was asked why similar Conservative Party events have not been promoted. Upon my response, to notify me of any such events as I was unaware any existed, being left unanswered, I think proves my point at how pitiable this outcry was.

Ironically, I suspect there are no such events, in fact, seems to me the current Government have done nothing to reduce poverty and any of us are at real risk of losing our homes; put that in your pipe when considering this forthcoming election. In which case, we must and will uphold the brilliant work of Angie Carpenter and all the volunteers at Devizes Open Door. I’ve seen first-hand how worthy this charity is, and we’ve raised funds from events at the Cellar Bar ourselves earlier this year.

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All fair in love and war; while local candidate Rachael Schneider Ross and members of Devizes Labour organised and attended, nothing politically motivated took shape throughout the evening, save Rachael’s reminder to me that this gig was organised before this badly-timed election was called. I’d like to remind people, Open Doors is a worthy charity, and aside national affairs, one which known local Conservatives also take an active role and support. If anyone plans to hold a local fundraising event, it is valid (unless it’s for Boris Johnson’s Dom Perignon fund,) welcomed and promoted freely here, but if I’m not made aware of them do not tighten your collar at me! It’s all getting really rather silly now, the premise of the review should be the music, perhaps the venue, a few excuses as to why I couldn’t stay, and that should be it, so let’s keep it that way, please; negative political responses will be deleted, don’t waste your time.

Here’s looking forward then, to a possible series of such events, in which I encourage them to consider holding on Saturday, that is, if they want to see me up dancing! I cut a rug like a carpet layer on a four-day week; just saying!


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