Over Boot Hill to the Southgate

With the distinctive odour of stodgy crusty nourishing the air, the Southgate Inn Devizes jam-packed once again, this time in anticipation of a plentiful tequila-guzzling gang, breakneck banjos, and feathery lunacy, under the banner of those Boot Hill All Stars.

 
If there’s a band in the area I’ve been meaning to check out more I’d favour you remind me of them.

 
Okay, so I’ve put these nutters on a pedestal prior to catching them play, but the perilous move paid off; they were everything I imagined they’d be, with added professional folly. A canal-type’s darlings, talk in the rain-drenched beer garden consisted of various motors, otherwise was the sort of crisp banter you’ll only receive from these waterway travellers.

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Truly the worst photos taken for Devizine; accept no subsitutue

In which case, The Boot Hills couldn’t have been more apt for the Southgate, its proprietors rightly proud of their canal culture; these guys know how to have fun by the boatload, and fun it was. One chick down unaffected the mob, but not before a duo self-titled “Dry White Bones,” astounded the tavern with a unique blend of fiery folk with guitar, bowler hat, doc Martins and claves.

 
Fast, furious but friendly, The Boot Hills squeezed into the tight space and dancers wasted no time to celebrate their inimitable sound of misfit folk-fused rockabilly, gypsy-ska and general nuttiness. Sporting banjo and quiff, Flounder, composed the group, for want of a more appropriate word, and Cerys titillated with either tambourine or fluffy stick in a sturdy corset and top hat.

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If their own compositions didn’t feverously fire the crowd enough with tales of female masturbation, a cover of Toot’s Monkey Man certainly did, but most poignant was the scorching dissolute interpretation of Dolly’s Jolene. Phew, I’m flabbergasted, it was a filthy fuelled show of dubious ethics and warped values, and with a support résumé as varied as The Damned, The Beat to The Wurzels, it’s easy to see these misfits actually do fit, and what is more, bring the party with them.

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What? They had zider….

Favourites on the festival circuit of Glastonbury, Camp Bestival, Endorse, and Boomtown, for the best part of ten years, but who’d count? They hold the Once Upon a Time in the West, a festival which adopts their insane ethos, and if last night was anything to go by, expect this to go off.

 
It’s the sixth year of this festival, with a reputation of one of the friendliest and most accessible festivals on the circuit, it offers variety as diverse as punk, dub and ska, with the likes of Urban Lions, and The Tribe, to Corky’s devious blend of agricultural hip hop, he dubs Scrumpy & Western, oh and to ensure it’s a true west country welly-fest, the Wurzels also booked. Personal favs, Train to Skaville and Phil Cooper appear too, amidst a boundless line-up. Tickets on sale now for £85 here.

 
Akin to the opening of US sitcom Cheers, The Southgate continues to be that place sometimes you need to go; where everybody knows your name and always glad you came. Celebrating a year now at the helm, Deborah and Dave have successfully given birth to a live music landmark right here in our otherwise trivial town.

 

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The Lamb gets Drum n Bass

I reminisced about Devotion at Golddiggers last week on our homage to Keith Flint, don’t intend to go there again. But, (it’s a dirty big fib, you know it is…) I’ve been contemplating once, in the early nineties, inactive in my car in the carpark, when, what can only be described as “a cheesy raver,” completely unbeknown to us, steadied himself on the rolled-down driver’s window and allowed their jaw to run a marathon. He jabberingly informed he had no intentions of going back into the club, in his own words, “it’s all that jungle music, know what I mean?”

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Pop Quiz: Who can tell me what this was, and what it was for? Showing your age now whistle posseeee!

To be honest, I didn’t, it was the first time I’d heard it called by this name. Although, breakbeat had taken over acid house and techno “bleep,” the “hardcore” label was preliminarily splitting. X-L Recordings, albums like The Rebel MC’s Black Meaning Good and Ragga Twins, Reggae Owes me Money, were providing the hardcore scene with reggae-inspired beats which would assist the divide. Generally, many white youths headed for crashing pianos, hi-hat loops and sped up eighties pop samples, defined as “happy hardcore,” while the urban minority bought us a shadier, serious arrangement of sparse beats and deeper basslines, we now know as drum n bass.

 

 
At the time we considered ourselves maturing ravers, (oh, the irony!) The upcoming generation separated the two, we buried into a new wave of plodding house. Yet with one eye on the divide I appreciated the lunacy of happy hardcore, enjoyed its merry ambience, but couldn’t help feeling drum n bass held the future. It was the more creative and experimental; proved right in the space of only a few years; A Guy Called Gerald, Goldie, and LTJ Bukem were pushing its boundaries into concept albums like it was 1975 space-rock. They prepared the stage for Roni Size, and mainstream acceptance of the genre.

 
So, I had to chuckle at the premise of the blurb on the Facebook event page, where Vinyl Realm stages a drum n bass night at The Lamb, Devizes on the 23rd March with DJ’s Retrospekt, Rappo and Harry B. “We at Vinyl Realm feel there is nothing in town for young adults to do. So, to fix that we have a night dedicated to the local producers creating heavy DnB, deep House and banging Jungle music.”

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Hey, what about us middle-aged old skool ravers? I can still shake a leg yer know, still got it mate! And when I say old skool, I don’t mean like on Kiss FM when they blast a club anthem from 2006 and think they’re retrospective; we were there, at the beginning pal, stomping in the mud! We fought an oppressive government so you kids can rave!!

 
But yeah, you’re probably right, I’d only be panting disproportionately and holding onto the wall for dear life, or else chewing some kid’s ear off about how we used to do it, like Uncle Albert on a love dove. Best leave it to the younger crew. All jokes aside, I know Devizes D&B DJ Harry B has posted to Facebook in the past, attempting to gage interest into such a night.

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I fully support the notion, good on the organisers of this, they’ve hit the hammer on the head; there’s nothing of this genre in Devizes, and not a lot for young adults; fair play, I hope it goes well and spurs others to provide entertainment for this age group. Seems like it will, limited to fifty tickets, with forty showing interest on the Facebook event page, this will be an exclusive return of D&B in Devizes which you better get in quick on, if you’re a playa. A snip at a fiver, tickets are on sale now at Vinyl Realm.

 
I just hope the old pub can hold up under the pressure of devastating basslines! I put my concern to Harry. “I’m going to have a test run up there this week with the speakers,” he confirmed; storming!

 

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Feeling the Force of The Devizes Arts Festival

If there’s a stigma among the typical denizen surrounding the Devizes Arts Festival that it’s all rather pompous and geared toward the elder generation, all walks and organ recitals, and that sounds like you, then I bid you look closer at this year’s newly announced line-up.

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Devizes Arts Festival has pulled a colossal rabbit out their hats for this June’s festivities; really, I don’t know where to begin. Yes, some of it conforms to the customary Arts Festival bookings, such as an audience with international journalist and veteran reporter John Simpson (Corn Exchange. Friday 31st May) and an organ recital by the Sub-Organist at Durham Cathedral, Francesca Massey (1st June St Johns.) There’s even a two-hour festival walk; Historic Devizes (2nd June. Devizes Town Centre,) guided by experts from the Wiltshire County Archaeology team, and a Civil War Battlefield walk at Roundway Down on 9th June.

 
Now, don’t get me wrong, while there’s no bad about any such events, and chatting with organiser Phillipa Morgan, who is keen to point out, “we had fifteen sold-out events last year,” there’s many-a darn good reason to cast off this erroneous label.

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I assure, many acts are set to blow some interest in the direction of those who’d not considered the Arts Festival before. Ska, for instance, (you know me, fancy picking on this one first!) with Skamouth favourites, Coventry’s (the home of Two-Tone) Barb’d Wire (1st June Corn Exchange) who boast legendary and original rude boy himself, Trevor Evans, combined with local songwriter/singer Lloyd Mcgrath. This is certain to raise a few eyebrows; perfect for the 40th anniversary of Two-Tone.

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You can zip your soul boots too, for seventies pioneers in funk, The Real Thing are confirmed, (8th June. Corn Exchange.) Known for legendary hits “You to Me Are Everything” and “Can’t Get by Without You,” Devizes is sure to feel the force!

 
Wiltshire’s own Nick Harper is at The Exchange, 13th June, contemporary Congolese and Cuban music 15th June at the Corn Exchange with Grupo Lokito, and experimental prog-rock with CIRCU5 (16th June. Cellar Bar.)

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The brilliant radio, television and stage comedian Ed Byrne (12th June. Corn Exchange) was the other to immediately catch my eye. Joined by special guests, David Haddingham and Sindhu Vee, this one promises to “have you rolling in the aisles.” With sold-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, and the West End, it reminded me of a conversation I had with some organisers last year, about how they travel to Edinburgh to source acts for the Arts Festival. This dedication has paid off, it seems, and we’re set for an explosively good year.

 
I asked Phillipa if this stigma was something the committee addressed, as it certainly is a line-up of variety. “Classical music is still there but we’ve tried to broaden the appeal. I think we’ve just moved in that direction as a result of an awareness that the requirement is changing and we’re trying to be more inclusive.”

 
So, what else is up for grabs this year? Children’s author Clive Mantle will be entertaining youngsters with illustrated readings from his time-travelling, Himalayan adventure and talking about his writing and his own travels in Nepal (1st June. Devizes Town Hall 2:30pm.) Although familiar as an actor to audiences of Holby, Vicar of Dibley and Game of Thrones, Clive Mantle is also now a successful children’s author: his first book “The Treasure at the Top of the World” was short-listed for the People’s Book Award and a second book in the series is due out in June. This is suitable for eight-year-olds and above.

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Also, for young-uns, Blue Peter Award winning author and performer, Gareth P Jones presents Aliens in Devizes! (8th June. Town Hall) Pet Defenders, a secret organisation of dogs, cats, rabbits and rodents dedicated to keeping the Earth safe from alien invasion. Suitable ages from six to nine, but sounds like fun to me!

 
The best jazz violinist in the country, Christian Garrick and John Etheridge, one of the most stunningly versatile guitarists, presents Strings on Fire (3rd June. The Exchange.) Meanwhile, two siblings that make up the exceptional violin and viola duo, String Sisters, Angharad and Lowri Thomas String Sisters are at St. Andrews Church on the 5th June. Multiple award-winning musicians, who’ve played with Alfie Boe, Michael Ball, Paloma Faith, Marc Almond, Boy George and Robbie Williams.

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2nd June at The Bear Hotel Ballroom, there’s a quirky, funny and poignant award-winning solo show about Nick Drake; a celebration of music, photography, life, coincidences and the legacy of one of the most influential singers/song-writers of the last fifty years.

 
Competitive improv as you’ve never seen it, The Shakespeare Smackdown (4th June. The Exchange,) is from the creators of Olivier Award-winning “Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.” Britain’s favourite celebrity organic gardener and Gardeners’ Question Time star panellist, Bob Flowerdew has An Audience with on the 5th June at Devizes Town Hall.

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From Atila singing the Nat King Cole Story (6th June. Town Hall) to the dark comic and eclectic music of Moscow Drug Club (7th June Corn Exchange) and from An Audience with grand dame of English literature, Fay Weldon (8th June. Bear Hotel) to Elspeth Beard, the first British woman to motorcycle around the world (8th June. Bear Hotel) no one can deny the quality and variety is extraordinary this year. Talks on Sci-Fi influences on evolutionary linguistics, a homage of renditions of Eric and Ernie, author Clare Mulley’s on her third book, “The Women Who Flew for Hitler”, open mic poetry session with Josephine Corcoran, in fact there’s too much here to list in one article, my wordcount exploding and I fear you’ll be bedazzled by it all.

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So why don’t we regroup tomorrow, when we’ll highlight, in particular, the free fringe events? Phillipa, in charge of the fringe events, notes surprisingly, that although “the fringe events are subsided, for some reason they don’t seem to attract that many people, compared with ticketed recent events such as Rick Wakeman at £45, which sold out.” I think this is down to the aforementioned stigma, and here at Devizine I’m dedicated to prove it wrong. So, same time tomorrow then?

 

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Stone Mountain Sinners at Dead Kool’s Final Night at The Cons Club

Returning favourites, The Stone Mountain Sinners pulled a sizable crowd to Dead Kool Promotion’s final hoedown at the Devizes Conservative Club last night. The accomplished Worcestershire country-rock six-piece belted out some dazzling country riffs fused with energetic rock n roll/blues nods. It was just how I suspected it’d be as drafted in our preview piece, that’s why I took the opportunity to drop in.

 
While stereotypically the genre admittedly not to my usual tastes my eclectic toe was tapping, here’s perfect example of the cross-over Dean pushes for, to appease both regular country aficionados and newcomers. For a sprinkling were Stetson-wearing adherents, but the bulk in attendance were everyday local music lovers.

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Covered in our preview was the harmonies of the two vocalists, Neil and Sarah, and they certainly took full advantage of this, as fronting a professional and tightly accomplished band, they shared the session uniquely and wonderfully, though I note while Neil took lead on the more country angled songs, Sarah had that poignant strength to twist some seriously grinding rock elements. After the first instance of this I felt the need to capture it on one my wobbly videos, but the following song lowered the tempo again to country, nevertheless, here it is!

 

Ah, king of the wonky sound-crackling video, they never do justice to the acts, you have to use a heap of imagination to note it was far better than it may sound here!

It sure was one grand performance, producing a night celebrating all that is good about the club, it’s balance between archetypical country and the diversity of its backlash.

 

Bringing in Devizes best singer/songwriter Jamie R Hawkins as support being a fine example. Jamie gave us his masterworks, expressed a fondness of country and mollified the audience with his own more-country inspired songs, such as Man of Simple Means.

 
Chatting outside he told me of his roots as a family band playing the country music circuit and we discussed his fondness of song-writing. I noted the narrative in his writing, a complete story, often with a twist is something all-together country; a skill Jamie rightly prides himself on.

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The night was prodigious, yet the arrangement of seating in the venue acts somewhat as a barricade between audience and artist, I feel, if left open for dancing it takes a while to encourage this. I note while the other clubs arrange this differently, Long Street Blues pushes seats up to the stage for optimal intensity, whereas The Scooter Club do the opposite, leaving a wider dancefloor, as the nature of its genre is more danceable. For this sole reason I welcome the venue change for the Country Club to the Cavalier on Eastleigh Rd for future events. It’ll be more imitate, engaging the audience more.

 
I look forward to seeing how this development progresses, for the Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts gig it’ll be perfect, for the Family Club tribute nights, a pub location rather than function hall will give it the community feel and closeness it craves. And if the club pulls in bands as good as The Stone Mountain Sinners, well, boom!

 

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Decatonics to take Devizes to Skaville!

Designing the posters for the Devizes Scooter Club came to the peak of absurdity with this one for the latest event on the 30th March, and I feel I may need tone down the experimentation a tad. Still, I think it stands out from the run-the-mill event poster; in the words of Mike the Cool Person, “I never stand on convention, it never stood on me.”

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But I cannot deny, with a bombardment of highly anticipated local gigs this coming month, I’m looking forward to this one perhaps, the most. We’ve seen a few Northern Soul and Motown nights of recent from the Scooter Club, and while my eclectic taste appreciates these along with the plethora of other gigs lined up on my calendar, you still can’t, in my opinion, beat a bit of ska.

This will reflect well against the forthcoming Scooter Rally, as while a weekend-long event will provide scope for the club to parade all relevant genres, there’s a truckload of ska to be heard. Orange Street headlining will be one to watch, while Swindon’s The Tribe mesh ska with hip hop beats, and other local outfit The Erin Bardwell Collective will simmer in some rock steady. Essex’s finest, The Start are not averse to playing ska, and I’m sure, given the nature of the event that the Day Breakers will blast a two-tone classic or three. Of course, Bad Manners tribute Special Brew take as red.

Confident in the statement international third-gen ska is regenerating the old Two-Tone scene here in England, is evident in the success of groups like the Dualers. Call it cliché, say yeah, diehard skins don’t know when to give it up, but there’s something in that joyous offbeat which makes you want to jump and skank.

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So put your braces together, your boots on your feet, and allow me to introduce this prodigious booking, Dorset’s eight-piece ska band, The Decatonics. It promises to be a blinding night at the Devizes Conservative Club. The band, formed in 2012 have indeed supported the aforementioned Dualers, along with The Skatelites, The Neville Staple Band and Bad Manners.

An established 8-piece female-fronted ska band, The Decatonics are constructed of bassist Rowan, two Steves, one on keys and the other on drums, an energetic backline and powerful horn section of Mike on tenor sax, Harry on trumpet and alto sax, and Ian on trombone. They’re fronted by two adept vocalists who compliment one another; Shaun, also on lead guitar and Sally, who I’ve been chatting with. I started by asking her how long they’d been together and if the members were the same original line-up.

“The bass and I, and the lead brass, are original, with our drummer being with us for five years,” she explained, “but as with any large band, changes are inevitable along the way.”

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“Is it all covers, or have you any original songs recorded?” I asked Sally.

“We do just cover songs,” she sustained, “but try and give our own little flair, and being female-fronted we get to play a more diverse set than your standard ska covers band.” No issue there, in retrospective glory, cover songs make the night at the Scooter Club. Not forgoing, Sally mentioned that since 2017, The Decatonics have been part of a Specialised Project, recording tracks for a CD. I saw my opening, boasted of my newfound show on Boot Boy Radio and blagged two tunes to play on the show next week!

The first song a Trojan hit in the UK, Bob & Marica’s up-tempo Pied Piper, proves their ability to sprinkle a joyous contemporary ska riff to a boss reggae classic, but the second hoists up that skill, with a concentrated ska adaption of the Jam’s Standards.

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The Decatonics draw influences from both original Jamaican ska, bluebeat, and its new-wave Two-Tone, but also from successors rock steady and reggae. They even accommodate soul in the melting pot, bringing a vibrant live show which has built up a great reputation with the entire mod/scooter scene rather than just ska aficionados. Do not expect third generation punk experimentation, but a suitable English ska sound popularised by Madness and The Beat.

With a strong following through regular pub and club gigs, and festivals such as the Big One Weekender Festival, Dorset Volksfest, The Dorset Steam Fair and Teddy Rocks under their belt, I’m certain they’ll transport their astounding party atmosphere to our already lively Devizes Scooter Club nights.

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Tickets are a tenner, by messaging the Devizes Scooter Club Facebook page, from Vinyl Realm, Jefferson’s Café, or from the Devizes Cons Club direct. As usual there will be a raffle, and I believe it’s me warming up the crowd on the wheels of steel, like a musical fluffer; but don’t let that put you off! The club ascertain everyone is welcome, not just members. Think of this as an opportunity to taste what you might bear witness to at the forthcoming Rally in July, oh and to have a good knees-up too!

 

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You’ll be Broken-Hearted to miss Hannah Johnson

Howdy; yeah, it’s me, riding back to the crossroads on a horse with no name to convince you, once again, that your preconceived ideals about country music are not made of Spanish leather. Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts stroll into town on the 23rd March to cast this caboodle out to the desert. Not that we have a desert, but in a way, that’s my point.

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It’s easy to tire of the cliché of the modern country scene and arrive at the conclusion it’s not for you. Agreed, if you screech much of the music coming out of Nashville today denotes watered down country-pop, or stylistically pretentious Americana; same old chanted choruses and stomping drums, country music aficionado Dean Czerwionka, of Wiltshire’s Country Music Scene, Dead Kool Promotions aims to set the record straight.

Keen to promote and bring us all that is great about the scene, rather than the standardised churns of the industry machine, Dean hosts Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts at the Cavalier, Devizes on the 23rd March, with one of Devizine’s favourites, the Celtic-based acoustic duo, Sound Affects as support.

 

Surprisingly, it’s our homegrown artists reacting against this notion, and Hannah Johnson is of no exception, she’s from Birmingham. This award-winning (UK Country Artist of the Year 2018 – UK Country Music Awards and Most Successful British & Irish Single 2017, Hotdisc Country Music Awards) Brummie girl began her artistic career working in theatre and television as a child, participating in an unabridged version of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, playing Puck, aged 11, part of a Central Television actors’ workshop, and acting in national children’s TV shows. But ‘tired of being someone else on stage’ and hailing from a musical home, she began singing, and initially studied the clarinet, but switched to guitar in her teens; realising she couldn’t use the clarinet to back up her vocals.

She soon found a home with the country music genre, through its “humility, simplicity and ability face emotionally complex topics,” not forgoing fifteen years touring extensively in the UK, Europe and the USA as lead in her family band, The Toy Hearts. Hannah’s composition The Captain remains the biggest hit for her family band, the song a testament to both her song-writing ability, and her fierce independence.

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An Alumni of the prestigious IBMA Leadership Bluegrass program, Hannah returns to the UK after a whirlwind tour of Austin, Texas, with shows in London, York, Doncaster, of course her beloved Birmingham, and Devizes. Her debut album, Shaken rinses of country and honky-tonk of yore, with characteristic twangy telecaster riffs and a singing style to make Tammy Wynette blush. With a slight smoky element of Patsy Cline to her voice, the standout tracks are her own compositions, receiving warm reviews.

An event then to warm country fans, and perhaps, ideal to introduce newcomers; you may be the broken hearted of her band title if you miss this one. This event is FREE, waddies, rustlers and cowgirls.

 

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Hot Blues on a Cold Night

Kyla Brox Band – Saturday 2nd March @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes

Andy Fawthrop

 

Back up the road to the Con Club for Long Street Blues Club’s latest presentation – The Kyla Brox Band. And it was definitely worth the hike.

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Yet again Ian Hopkins had managed to get one of Britain’s top blues & soul bands in front of a Devizes audience on a Saturday night, and the crowd lapped it up. Winner of the 2018 UK Blues Challenge, Kyla’s reputation preceded her. And we were not to be disappointed -an outstanding performer with an incredible pair of lungs on her, knocking out some soulful, smoky and gritty lyrics. Her voice covered all the bases, from the cool, sexy drawl, belting through the mid-range rock chick style, to the high-end screaming wail of soulful pain. And the band behind her were as tight as a tourniquet.

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The three-piece featured the fluent guitar work of Paul Farr, some inspired bass playing by Danny Blomeley and tight drumming by Mark Warburton. Farr, in particular, impressed with some of his inspired solos, drawing wild applause from the crowd.

The absolute highlight for me was the final number in the first set – one of the best versions I’ve ever heard of the classic Etta James song “I’d Rather Go Blind”, with Kyla pulling out all the stops to press every emotional button. To say that she completely nailed this number would be something of an under-statement – worth the entrance money on its own. The material throughout varied from up-tempo, high-energy blues through to low and slow, crooning soul, and it was great to hear these different textures through the two sets. The band’s ability to turn up the burners, and then cool right down, number after number really demonstrated their versatility. k2

The only time I felt that the band put a slight foot wrong was the choice of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” for the first encore – can this song that has been one of the most-ever covered pieces still having anything else left to give? – the answer, sadly, was a No from me. Fortunately there was a great up-tempo number to finish the evening off, and the minor damage was thus quickly repaired.

All-in-all another beltingly good gig, and a great night out.

Next gigs coming up @ Long Street Blues:

• Saturday 6th April Billy Walton Band – electric blues & Memphis soul
• Saturday 4th May Shemekia Copeland – passionate Americana roots & soul
• Friday 10th May Tom C Walker – young virtuoso guitarist
• Saturday 25th May Kossoff…The Band Plays On – fine, high-calibre tribute band

 

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