If you rarely venture into Swindon, July is the month in which to make the journey. Swindon Shuffle celebrates and backs local music, since 2007 hosting a weeklong town music festival at its hottest venues; namely The Victoria, The Beehive, The Hop, The Tuppenny and Baila Coffee & Vinyl. In association with Swindon Link and the West Berkshire Brewery, last year they presented forty-four bands over the weekend, all free, and supported mental health charity MIND.
I was forgiven in thinking this year would be virtual, saving some petrol money at least, but the organisers inform me this weekend’s Virtual Shuffle is only to breeze over this gloomy, Groundhog Day isolation period, and they cross their fingers for the real thing on the 16th-19th July; crossing my toes too!
Our favourite Swindonian music journalist, the one and only Dave Franklin, if there’s another he’s a phoney, is all over helping organise this sofa bash. He states “obviously there’s more important things going on in the world right now than worrying about a local music festival, but it is also at times like these that music, art, creativity in general, helps get us through or at least offers an oasis of calm where we can retreat to and forget the day-to-day worries for a bit.”
For me personally, I’m continuing to toil with the worth of the live stream against a real gig, ponder it’s currently all we have, worry either punter or musician are forced onto the ropes when it comes to how they should be arranged and financed and have even encountered and engaged in heated debates as we scramble in the dark trying to make this work best for everyone. This said, if anyone can I’m reckoning the Shuffle team will make an amazing job of it. If there is an upside to it, it is that one can check these artists out for when the gig scene does take off, and boy, I’m predicting it’ll go off like an atomic blast, and it will encourage many to take the journey to festivals such as Swindon Shuffle, in this example.
In the meantime, enjoy the streams and not let it miff us too much at missing the real thing. I tell myself the scene is dormant; it will erupt again. It should go without saying, but I’m going to spell it out; B, for BUY, U for Yourself (sort of,) Y for some local music, (okay, that didn’t work) Look, just support the artists and buy their music from their websites and Bandcamp sites!
Proper quality celebratory glasses here y’ know, no squashy disposable cups; something of a memento. There are flowers in a jar on the table, aroma of hot pie, and a bulky fellow juggling knifes, while straddling our own Ian Diddams while he lies flat on his back on stage. If your preconception of a beer festival is a marquee in a muddy field, think again, this is the prestigious Devizes Corn Exchange and DOCA, our Outside Celebratory Arts association, are holding their annual Festival of Winter Ales in conjunction with the Stealth Brewery Company.
I’ll come clean, I’m breaking my Festival of Winter Ales cherry tonight, and I’m also fashionably late. Friday night was a sell-out, I’m informed, today is near equal in success, but I’d better hurry on in, the beers were running out. Another confession, I be a cider drinker, part of my five a day. Our man Andy cannot report, he’s here in a professional capacity, tending the bar, least lengthy set of tables. I would have kept him on his toes, but he’s attending to the ale end of things, I’m occupying the cider corner. A rhubarb laced cider is my first glassful, despite the event’s name, there’s ciders aplenty, but the choice of ale was extensive and over the whole weekend you could possibly, but unlikely to, pursue them all.
With a customary token system functioning, and barrels aligning the length of the grand hall, there’s part of this event which reflects the standard beer festival format, in a grand fashion. Yet it has a civilised angle, prementioned flowers on tables, etc and surrounding the magnificent stage as if it was an awards evening rather than a beer festival. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint but a compliment, twas a splendid arrangement for a splendid evening; no one need a muddy field in a rain drenched February, save perhaps the odd duck.
If I’m honest, which you know I blatantly am, I’m not surprised by the impressive event, Stealth knows good beer, and DOCA know what they’re doing and could arrange a party on a glacier off Antarctica and it’d still be awesome. Winter beanies off to them both, for this inviting and warming occasion which is, essentially, an important fundraising event which will help fund the carnival and massive summer events such as the beloved annual street festival.
Through the three sessions over two days, our best local bands and musicians played, the wonderful It’s Complicated, Splat the Rat and Vince Bell. I was there in time to catch the finale of Matt Barnard, who has amused as compere, and all-round entertainer through the festival. He’s a confident, comical and cheery chap with that unique Saturday Night at the Palladium ability to cover all aspects of showbiz proficiently. Kris Dollimore followed, with an extensive résumé, this member of Del Amitri drove from Cornwall to pick a guitar akin to an illusionist vanishing the Eifel Tower. I pay particular astonishment to his beautiful rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Inner-City Blues.
What a most splendid event, one worthy of your attention for next year, and priced at a tenner with first pint free in your keepsake glass, you cannot go wrong.
Tickets for this summer’s Manton-Fest are up for grabs, a one-day festival I’ve heard only good things about.
The date is Saturday 27th June. A £20 Early-bird ticket will guarantee you’re in for this previously sold-out mini-fest, this year you can book a plot for your gazebo for £5, parking has been moved to a separate field allowing more space, but let’s see what your money will get you this year shall we?
The headliner is Edinburgh’s Blondie tribute, Dirty Harry. While there’s Blondie tributes aplenty, the band say, “the essence of Dirty Harry is to put on a show Blondie would give the nod to and in true punk style.” Call me, I’m convinced, and slightly hot under the collar; with the advantage of YouTube you can judge for yourself, modern technology eh?
The Ex-Men are next on the hierarchy, as the name suggests, it’s an amalgamation group made up of Alan Sagar ex Big Country, Graham Pollock ex The Hollies, Peter Barton ex the Animals, Phil Bates ex ELO and Geoff Hammond ex Denny Laine; you get the idea. A stimulating sounding assembly with a wealth of experience between them couldn’t possibly go wrong.
Vintage blues with a hard edge groove is the ethos of Barrelhouse, who promise up-beat original tracks and classic covers. You be forgiven for assuming the Swinging Blue Jeans would headline, but this classic-sixties rock n roll group have no members of the original skiffle sextet. Yet the band went through constant changes throughout its expansive history, with replacements dating back as far as 1963, when they had their memorable hit, “Hippy Hippy Shake,” and frontman Alan Lovell has led the band for over twenty years.
London-based Bob Marley tribute, the One Love Orchestra could well be my arm twister. Formed in 2010, by musical director and lead guitarist Marcin Bobkowski, One Love Orchestra comprises of reggae musicians who’ve worked with legends like The Wailers, Max Romeo, Johnny Osbourne, Lee Scratch Perry, and UB40, and bring a moving tribute to the legend.
Lancashire singer-songwriter Joe Martin returns after being a hit last year, Manton’s own mellow blues-based Ed Witcomb will also appear, along with local rock covers band @59, and Skedaddle open the show with their mix of soul, blues and jazz. More are promised, if this isn’t enough to be getting on with, and I dunno, it just sounds like a splendid day. For what begun as an event to aid much-needed restoration funds for Manton Village Hall, its grown into an important occasion on our local circuit and aids other local charities.
Gigantic bouncy slide outside the trusty Pelican, where we usually wait for a bus. Beyond, a superior stage surrounded by pockets of circus acts, charity stands, clothes stalls, and street food heaven wraps the Market Place, where DOCA gave information and a Pimms bar bustled. Happenings snaked down Snuff Street, over St Johns, and across the town centre, the atmosphere buzzing. What’s not to like?
From fudge and churros, to Tibetan cuisine and crocodile burgers, food and drink was diverse. Stealth Brewery held the most aesthetic bar and seating area, The British Lion occupied the other, functional side, frantically serving the cider which gives this event it’s local auxiliary namesake. Yes, Black Rat Monday, or as the wonderful organisers would favour you call it, The Devizes International Street Festival. Upon us, the customary bubbliest, most multicoloured and all-round brilliant community-fuelled event to bless our spirited market town.
If many a festival constitutes packing camping gear, blagging petrol money off mates and trekking through town and country to attend, DOCA bring the spirit of festival to your doorstep, and do it with bells on. As the crowd bobbed and gyrated at the main stage, I spotted a musical statue, poised to snap a photo, or ten. Gail turned to me with a smile, “it’s my favourite day of the year,” she uttered. Whatever I write of it will be deficient and incomplete, for there’s so much going on. It’s our Mardi Gras; you wander, you catch what you can, go where you like, impossible for me to document it all, especially half-toasted as I was! Gail summed it in a sentence.
As the sun shone, I must say yet again, this was the fantastic event it traditionally always has been, and improves annually. Impossible to stage something so vast and varied without slight hip-cups. I’m not rising to grumpy hecklers taken to Facebook to whinge their futile vendetta against DOCA, all over a carnival date change so volunteers can take a well-earned break and schools can be encouraged to participate. Drunkenly calling for the artistic director’s head on a platter, as if they were the manager of Newcastle is pathetic. Did you slip through a wormhole and appear in an alternative reality, because I thought it was awesome? Take your storm in a teacup to Rio, least upon return from Lalaland give yourself the directive to resist the urge to post when sozzled!
Ha, an opinion piece it be, refraining from writing journalistically as I do, it’s my belief we should praise DOCA, award the highest accolade. This weekend was tremendous. Budget didn’t stretch to quite as many cosplayers, walkers and random street theatre than previous years, something funding will help towards, or hey, the attendees maketh the festival; maybe dress up yourself! No Andy; Spiderman onesie is in the wash, thank you!
My attention was drawn to an apparent lack of activities at the Northgate end, usually the child-friendly zone. I’ll say Sunday on the Green is more geared towards our younger, still it’s fair feedback. Though, it’s all the criticism I will accept as constructive. Yes, unobtainable was sitting around The Market Cross; it was fenced off due to structural damage and danger of pieces falling; no fault of DOCA. Similarly, a band mistaking their performance time is an unavoidable calamity. This caused a rather vacant period on the main stage, which was a shame, yet well-oiled crowds laughed between themselves, and thus away with the fairies went such trivial issues.
However, it did mean many flocked past the Town Hall, an area which usually fizzles out back to the reality of everyday Devizes. I’m so happy to say, prompting DOCA to take onboard our local music scene, I suggested something I really couldn’t commit to; had to work in the morning. But it was so, that Pete of Vinyl Realm had similar ideas, and executed a second zone of music in a manner I couldn’t have. My dream to have a little marquee with some acoustic singers was transformed into not only a trailer stage, but acoustic area and vinyl DJ, adding that extra dimension and rounding off the festival site with a definite border.
It was here where some excellent sets played before an audience larger than we anticipated. Strange Folk were amazing, yet it was Daydream Runaways who really bought the stage to its pinnacle. Sweltering, this upcoming pop-indie amalgamation of Swindon and Devizes, who I’ve been hailing with praise since I discovered, really delivered an energetic and proficient set of favourite covers and their own accomplished originals.
Often supporting the guys, Ben Borrill acoustically owned the area next, followed by Devizes space-rockers Cracked Machine. Having not managed to catch this headline act live up till now, I pondered if they could recreate the sublime atmospheric ambience they do on record, and I was not disappointed. This Pink Floyd of the vize volleyed it out of park. With trickles of intoxication, the sound apt under the heat of the sun, the crowd were whisked away blissfully.
This was, quite honestly, a highlight of the day, the whole idea to have the second stage was. So, a massive respect goes to Pete, Jacki and all at Vinyl Realm for organising and funding this, and to the Lamb who supplied the power, in more ways than one; I saw Sally wander over to band to hand them all some well-deserved hot dogs!
If this doesn’t convince DOCA to support our local music scene, nothing will! Pete has already suggested interest in doing it again next year. But, feeling the need to cover as much of the festival as possible, I scarpered back to witness the most gorgeous African fusion band on the main stage. Blinking heck, s’ all going on, so much so, it’s going off.
Truly fantastic DOCA and everyone who contributed their share, worked the bars, hosted side stalls and attractions and of course, the bonded spirit of you, the revellers; dotted with the special events, leaving next weekend for Confetti Battle and Colour Rush, I call to embrace this change, as this is destined to progress annually, we should be the envy of all of other towns and be proud of what has been achieved this weekend.
Perhaps the most interesting part of our chat with DOCA coordinator, Loz, and definitely, the most controversial was the carnival’s date change. Still social media comments groan that Confetti Battle was traditionally on a Wednesday. Yet, bringing it to a Saturday makes it feasible for higher attendance, particularly tourists and day trippers.
Loz expressed it could be as renowned as the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll, and intends to diversify and extend the concept to interest a wider audience. In Devizes we take it for granted people annually gather in the Market Place to fling confetti at each other, without contemplating how bizarre this notion is to outsiders. Bizarre attracts adventurous visitors, hunting for something different; they’d come, they’d spend money, but less likely on a Wednesday evening.
This morning I read a blog about The Rainforest World Music Festival, three days partying in the rainforest near Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia. Okay, the English was poorly translated, but the photos wowed. Given I’ve jested the word “festival” these-days seems to be a new-fangled soundbite whereby anyone can pop up a gazebo, hire a man with a guitar, sell some tinnies and allow gatherers to piss on his rhododendrons, and dub it a festival, it got me thinking exactly what constitutes a festival, internationally, how bizarre do some get, and how does our Confetti Battle compare?
Investigation exposed some pretty outlandish and curious events, and some complete bonkers. Many you’d need to pack a suitcase for a lengthy flight for, others it seems are not so far away. The Coopers Hill Cheese Roll in Gloucestershire cropped up more times than injuries undoubtedly caused there, but nowhere have I discovered mention of Pewsey’s locally eminent Wheelbeerow Race, or Devizes and the weird custom of lobbing confetti at each other. Think outside the box, or Brittox, it is a tad weird, guys; but both on weeknights.
Do they compare in weirdness to a moose dropping festival? Talkeetna, Alaska, it’s not snow falling from the sky, but moose poo, painted white and dropped from a helicopter! Or the International Hair-Freezing Contest in Yukon, Canada, where, as the name hints, using only water and the frosty air, contestants freeze their Barnett Fair into the most peculiar and eccentric shapes?
While some are just ascetically bizarre, like the Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, or Florida’s Underwater Music Festival, it’s the theme of many which alarms or amuses; Roswell obviously has a UFO Festival. Devon’s Blackawton International Festival of Worm Charming, is a thing. The World Bog-Snorkelling Championships in Llanwrtyd Wells and Ashbourne’s toedium smack down, the World Toe Wrestling Championships are too.
Wife Carrying Championship, anyone? The wedding vow of husbands metaphorically carrying spouses in times of sickness is taken a smidgen too literally in Sonkajärvi, Finland. Awards for the swiftest, toughest and amusingly costumed pairs are handed to contestants who carry their wives across a 254-metre obstacle course. But at the Festa del Cornuto, outside Rome, the Festival of the Horns, the men of cheating wives’ parade, crying and smashing possessions they gifted them to honour and console their woe.
Confetti Battle is a tad more family-orientated, like Krampusnacht in Germany, where every December an anti-Santa hands every naughty kid a lump of coal. Why not dress as devils and jump over our babies, because it has constituted a festival for over four-hundred-years in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain? If you think Don Quixote in a Lycra Satan suit leaping over your darling isn’t quite psychologically traumatic enough for them, how about Tokyo’s Naki Sumo, where oversized sumo-wrestlers square-up in a ring, each holding a baby, the contest being the first to make the other’s baby cry? Supposed to ward off evil spirits, so if your kid sees no fear in the wrester, the referee jumps in donning a scary mask to ensure a change of nappy is needed.
Some are pleasant, like the Cheung Chau Bun Festival in Hong Kong, where competitors’ climb sixty-foot towers of sweet buns which line the streets. Or the Floating Lantern Festival in Hawaii, and Beer Floating in Finland; steady, floating down a river in an improvised raft gulping Carlsberg. Others equal this pleasantness but add humorous elements, like the village of Brawby, where the Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race takes place over Bob’s Pond.
Food leftover fights are commonplace, La Tomatina in Spain, The Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, Italy. I mean, sure, Rayne in Louisiana has a Frog Festival, and turkey testicle eating contests are widespread across the USA. Alongside the sinister Day of the Dead Festival, Mexico has Noche de Rábanos at Oaxaca, or “The Night of the Radishes.”
Korea has the Boryeong Mud Festival, where if you thought Pilton can get pretty filthy on a rainy July, you should see these lot engaging in mud photography workshops or having mud massages. But mud is great for the skin, ambiguously, especially the Boryeong mud used in their cosmetics. Or the valued tradition of Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama, where 9,000 naked Japanese men wrestle for sticks thrown by a Shinto priest. If the winner puts the sticks into a wooden box with rice, he will be contented the whole year.
Equally as cringeworthy to me, but hey, you might fancy the Japanese Kanamara Matsuri, or festival of the penis. They have penis artworks (unsure if they’re pictures of dicks or drawn with one, like drawing using a fat, wax crayon in your left-hand,) penis-shaped sweeties and carved vegetables, decorations, and a phallic mikoshi parade. Yet again the logic centres around a shrine once popular for prostitutes to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. But legend has it, a Vagina Dentata demon lurks inside vaginas to castrate young men on their wedding night. If told that, you’d be celebrating the prosperity of your manhood.
Finland’s Air Guitar World Championships claims the ideology would end wars, stop climate change and eradicate all bad things. So, all of them have a history, or logic behind them, no matter how bizarre they may seem. Peru’s Cat Food Festival, for example, you may think this annual gathering in Cañete, where they munch on cats is to cull an overpopulated stray cat problem, but no, they breed the animals especially for human consumption at the gig. Apparently, cat meat has aphrodisiac properties and also prevents ailments in the bronchi; I’ll skip it and just try the veg, thanks all the same.
At least Thailand’s annual Monkey Buffet Festival isn’t as bad, despite the alarming name, it’s the monkeys who get a feast, not us nibbling on monkey meatloaf. They honour the descendants of a monkey warrior in Lopburi, and it’s a crowd-puller. Seems disease-spreading blood-sucking pests get honoured, The Great Texas Mosquito Festival brings three days of carnival to Clute; food, drink, games and rides, craft or cooking workshops.
Confetti Battle roots to Carnival in 1913, where confetti and rose petals were thrown by the crowd at people in the procession. The tradition evolved into a fully-fledged battle around 1955, started by Jim Jennings, but the reason is unknown. Maybe we need to make one up; a nobleman’s wedding that went horribly wrong?
Even bulls rampaging around the streets, averagely injuring three hundred people and killing fifteen at the Fiesta San Fermin, doesn’t stop people gathering and making a festival out of. Why then, should changing our relatively harmless confetti battle from Wednesday to a Saturday bother you?! I’m not suggesting we have a penis fest, or eat cat, but what Devizes has is unique, and could be on this list!
Some years back I was told a ska band played the previous night in the village across the dual carriageway. Being an aficionado of the genre, I was disappointed to hear I’d missed it; good enough reason we now have Devizine so you need not be like me and can hear of events before they happen!
Informed the band was called Train to Skaville worsened matters; such a great name, taken from the 1967 single of Jamaica’s harmony group, The Ethiopians. The launchpad for a UK tour when it hit our charts, the song’s riff has been applied to many later songs, including Toots & The Maytal’s 54-46 and heralded the concept of the chugging train sound used in a plethora of later ska and reggae songs.
Despite ensuring I’d added all their local gigs to the event guide here since day dot, and befriended singer Jules Morton as part of the all-female fundraising supergroup, The Female of the Species, the must-see box on my perpetually cumulative to-do-list remained unticked, until last night. Unfortunate weather clouded sanguinity early on when I ventured over to Melksham for the opening of Party in the Park. An evening dubbed “Parkfest,” separated from the main event happening today, as what once may have been a welcoming gig, has spawned its own identity; the main event builds on universal pop appeal, Parkfest has a more matured feel.
It was in chatting with Bruce Burry, event coordinator at the Assembly Rooms, which revealed this forthcoming grand line-up of ska. I was taken aback, Party in the Park is Bruce’s baby, and boy, does he take care of it. Impressive and vast is the setup at King George V park, professional is the stage, sound and effects. I’d heard of it before, but when Bruce uttered the name Neville Staple, my heart whacked into hyperdrive. Some months on, I was kindly invited backstage, as the support, none other than my burning-box-to-be-ticked band, Train to Skaville, prepared and tuned. Attempting optimism, my mutterings that once they took the stage the drizzle would cease met with sullenness, but guys, I was right, wasn’t I?! Call me Michael Fish.
Naturally, headline act, the original rude-boy, formerly of The Specials and who later formed Fun Boy Three with Terry Hall and Lynval Golding, Neville Staple excelled with sleekness and anticipated competence. His combo group, The Neville Staple band has become the stuff of legend amidst the ska scene since 2004. Again, akin to our review of Trevor Evan’s Bardbwire at Devizes Arts Festival last month, Neville’s outfit merges two-tone and punky reggae back into its precursor ska, for this explosive melting pot, prevalently fermented the anniversary of Two-Tone Records, the Coventry record label which spurred a scene and both aforementioned artists played a pivotal role in.
However, this was not before Neville and friends ran through some Specials classics, and if classics are the given thing in this retrospective amalgamation, Train to Skaville knocked it out of King George Park, prior to this fabled performance. For the headline act was grand, this should be taken as red, and despite my pedestal I popped Train to Skaville onto, they surely flew above all expectations.
For blending 007 (Shanty Town) into The Tide is High, as a teaser, the burgeoning crowd began to yearn for their start time, as gratis was handed to DJ setup, Fun Boy Two, Train to Skaville stepped up to an audience clearly familiar with the panache of this local band.
Train to Skaville have been on the circuit for eight years, albeit it a number of roster variations through their time, partly the reason, Jules told me, for not putting down any original material. This if-it-ain’t-broke attitude fitting, for the majority of ska followers just want to hear the anthems. While this is done timelessly by many-a-cover-band, Train to Skaville sit atop this standard, their unique style, singer’s Tim Cross’s witty repartee and entire band’s expertise reeks of good-time ska and explodes with party atmosphere.
For what seems to be a rare thing, a ska band from the Trowbridge/Melksham area, they set the bar high, and through Israelites, Too Much Pressure, and Rancid’s Timebomb to name but a few, they launched back on stage, slowing for reggae and rock steady classics, Hurt so Good and Is This Love, and detonating the finale by slipping back into ska with Prince Buster’s Madness, followed by Madness, Selector and Bad Manners hits and a sublime versions of Tears of a Clown.
Yet this train doesn’t seem to call at Devizes, and if word of the group of friends from Devizes I was delighted to meet there, Vince Bell, Tamsin Quin and significant other halves, isn’t enough to convince you I don’t know what is! The last train pulled out of our town in 1966 and I can’t wait for the Devizes Parkway project to become a reality, the angle of this piece is simply that someone needs to book this lively band in our town, we can’t let the Sham take all the spotlight! They’ve rammed pubs, gigged The Cheese & Grain, supported Neville a couple of times previous, and become hot favourites westward, we just need to stop them buffering at Seend!
As for Party in the Park, the main event kicks off this afternoon, a more pop-feel, they’ve some awesome local legends, including Indecision, Kirsty Clinch, Burbank, Forklift Truck, along with a fire-show, unicorns, fairground and food and drink stalls, topped off with a Take That Tribute. You can get a ticket on the gate, this an affordable event and the pride of the Sham.
If family-friendly festivals these days are two-to-a-penny, and you pop with the kids, like you are a kid, one thing is certain, and cool, you don’t gotta trek miles to catch one. Swindon has two upcoming I’d like to mention, if I may?
Firstly, a massive congratulations to Talk in Code, Swindon’s own indie-pop outfit rising to fame through excellence and dedication, we will be hearing a lot more from them methinks. They open the main stage at M is for Festival in Lydiard Park on 27th July. Alongside a plethora of contemporary pop acts such as Years and Years, Ella Eyre, HRVY, Becky Hill, Phats & Small, Jahmene Douglas and another BBC Music Introducing in the West upcoming band, She Makes War. Oh, not forgetting Top Loader will be dancing in the moonlight.
Tickets start at thirty quid, under fives go free, which isn’t half bad for such a grand line up, in such a nice setting too.
But if you’re all like Phats and who now, or years and years too far back, you could rustle up some hairspray and don your old leg warmers for Red Sky Promotions may just have the family festival for you, like as early as next week; I don’t think I’ll find my diddy-boppers in time, they’re in the loft somewhere.
Throughout the day until 6pm all kids can have festive fun with everything from hair braiding, 80’s neon face paints and glitter designs, hair sparkles and hair chalk colouring, temporary transfer and glitter tattoos to neon nails and more, free of charge. Relax, you’ll even get to create your own T-shirt memento of the day.
There will be stalls, food, drink and a host of other activities to accompany the musical time machine that the festival promises to be.
The day offers a range of 80’s music delivered in unique ways; opening with Sonore String Quartet rendering classic songs into lush classical sounds, 80:Three deliver two sets of pop gems, Emily-Jane Sheppard will bring her solo singer-guitarist set of classic covers and the headline act is the awesome Ghetto Blasters, a lively brass ensemble popping and rocking their way through the decade. DJ’s will be spinning all the tunes you love from the era; big chart favourites to half-forgotten gems will play between the main acts.
Your ZX Spectrum may not load this page, but tickets are here; £25 for adults, £15 for the nippers, and a price range for groups of four or more. Wham!
Yeah, it’s a toasty secret I’ve been busting to spill the beans on for eons; and we’re gathered here today to announce the line-up!
Sometime ago I suggested a local affair for DOCA’s amazing street festival on 26th August, just a small marquee-fashioned area, I imagined, set aside to highlight our local acoustic musicians. Like most of my ideas though, I throw away all practicalities and left it up to a fellow worker to causally whisper it’s a Monday and I’d be working in the morning!
Similarly, though, Pete of Vinyl Realm wanted to do something along these lines, and I’m delighted to announce he has taken the project under his wing and only gone done it, with bells on. The idea has expanded to a full-sized stage, with a great line-up that I’m here today to tell you about.
So, well done to Pete, Loz, et all, who’ve worked tirelessly to sort this out. Next week I’ll be chatting with Loz of DOCA about carnival and the street festival in general, but for now, all eyes on this, set to be the loudest alternative corner of the street festival, ever!
At this point, times of the bands performing are unconfirmed, as it needs to coincide with acts on the main stage. While DOCA’s booking of some fantastic international acts each year, it leaves us eager to know what they’ve in store for August; it’s secret left for you to buy a programme. But do save some room in your wandering for the Vinyl Realm Presents stage at the corner St Johns and Long Street, bang outside the shop.
Ah, the new four-piece indie-rock band I’ve been harking on about recently, Daydream Runaways will be playing. Wiltshire-based Ben Heathcote on vocals, Cam Bianchi on Guitar, Nath Heathcote on Bass and drummer, Brad Kinsey. Citing influences from the likes of The Killers, The Strokes and Sam Fender, Airborne, they also praise Fleetwood Mac, The Stones and Talking Heads. We reviewed their excellent single Light the Spark a few months ago, and have high hopes for this youthful bunch.
Whisked away on one awesome, blissful journey through sound after just one listen of their debut album, I, Cosmonaut, Cracked Machine have been mentioned and rightfully praised on Devizine over the last year. Formed in Wiltshire also, in 2015, local space-rock hypnotists, weaving “mesmerising grooves, infectious riffs and layers of sonic texture to create compelling and original soundscapes which take fellow cosmic explorers on an exhilarating trip through the cosmos.” This is Pink Floyd likened space-rock, meeting ambient trance for a new generation, yet their second album, The Call Of The Void, reflects a harder, rock edge, we’re talking Hawkwind here, and it’s reverie style will hold you spellbound.
Deemed the headline act, Cracked Machine is a quartet of experienced musicians, brought together in a quest for aural mayhem; Bill Denton on guitar, Clive Noyes on keys samples and vocals, Chris Sutton on bass and Blazej Gradziel on drums. They play the Southgate today, and are a welcome blessing to our local scene.
Vibrant retro-rock fusion with folk and neo-gothic, Somerset/Hampshire’s Strange Folk UK is one I’ve not heard of, and look forward to. The band’s roots are in folk, and distinct rock aspirations are tempered by a recognisable folk vein running through their songs to varying degrees. Dark impressive vocals ride the crest of a truly great sound that transports the listener to another time.
Quoting their influences may divulge that time; sixties psychedelic legends such as Dylan, Janis Joplin, T-Rex, The Doors, Free, Hendrix, and Jethro Tull, there’s mod influences too like The Who, and Genesis, and harder rock like Zeppelin and Judas Priest.
Between bands, we announce acoustic artists, Devizes singer-songwriters, Marland favourite Tom Littlefair and the brilliant Ben Borrill, topped off with a local funky soul DJ set from Usaf. I’m truly delighted to bring you this news, reckoning this is addition is going to really add a whole new musical dimension to this already fantastic gem on Devizes event calendar. As well as all of DOCA’s exciting circus, street theatre side stalls, rides and games, it now stands at two stages large, double the fun!
Oh, and I do believe Devizine has the exclusive on this one; expect a plagiarising Gazelle or Herod along any moment. Please feel free to share our posts, but if republishing them observe copyright and quote Devizine as the source; basic etiquette, thanks!
Tipsy suggestions to those Saddlebackers at their gurt lush day festival at Devizes Sports Ground were poo-pooed from the off! With this year’s line up rolling out across social media, it’s easy to see they took my expansive notions as nonsensical dribble. A dance tent; yeah, right, circus and performing arts acts; get outta town, even a reggae stage is not to be. Feasibly, they know what they like!
With seemingly no plans to overinflate or cater for revellers outside their chosen target audience, this year’s Saddleback Festival drives surely on quality not quantity, and if good ol’ rock and blues music is what you want, and face it, it’s the most desirable around these backwaters, then it looks like Saddleback return to deliver.
Deliver they intend to, on 20th July, at a busy time with The Full Tone Orchestra promising a free event on the Green and Melksham’s Party in the Park on the same date, Devizes Carnival, Trowbridge’s Once Upon a Time in West Fest and the Swindon Shuffle the weekend prior, the Beer Festival and Devizes’ first scooter rally at the beginning of the month, perhaps it’s a reasonable move for Saddleback to stick with the working formula of previous years.
No extra acoustic stage for local acts has been announced, like the “bolt-on” last year. While being just that, it was at least a presence for them. It’s all focus on who’s performing main stage then, and tribute acts seem to feature predominantly. The longest running, full-time professional tribute to Led Zeppelin, Whole Lotta Led headline; and we all like a lotta Led.
Significant changes to their original line-up from 1996, six years ago, has seen considerable progress with the Whole Lotta Led’s customary two- and half-hour shows, receiving international acclamation from Zeppelin fans. With over 1,300 shows under the belts, they’ve performed Stairway to Heaven more than any other band in the world, interestingly, including Led Zeppelin!
To truly dedicated fans who witnessed the real McCoy at their prime, Whole Lotta Led avoid wigs, costumes, and look-alike paraphernalia to focus on recreating the music to an astonishing level of accuracy. They’ve recreated some of Led Zeppelin’s legendary live shows; 2001 they performed the ‘Bath Festival’ set, in 2003 staged the ‘Earl’s Court’ tour, in 2005 they recreated Zep’s last shows in England with the ‘Knebworth’ set, performed the live CD ‘How The West Was Won’ in 2006 and in 2008 they completed the ‘2007 O2 Reunion Show’ tour.
In a similar fashion, Creedence Clearwater Review are the UK’s premier tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival, capturing the feel, sound and atmosphere of the short-lived late sixties American band. With audience involvement, singalongs and plenty of rousing choruses the Review promise an authentic and power packed tribute to the Creedence legacy, sticking as closely to the album tracks as possible. There’s also a nod to John Fogerty’s solo career in the show.
To concentrate on original acts, most are Bristol-based, like Elles Bailey is that wonderful hard-blues chick we’ve covered on Devizine before. With a prolific and authentic blend of country and blues, Elles is the UK dynamite on the scene.
The second name to continually popup locally is Ruzz Evans, who since 2014, with drummer Mike Hoddinott and Joe Allen on upright bass make up Ruzz’s Guitar Blues Revue. The trio house a powerful, soul-injected mesh of Blues, R’n’B and Rock’n’Roll of retrospective energy. The opportunities to open for some class acts, from Rockabilly’s the Delta Bombers and the Rhythm Shakers from Vegas to Dr Feelgood and The Blockheads. Plus, the newly released studio album, Burn Out, which features Pete Gage from Dr Feelgood’s band, certainly shows enthusiasm, skill and passion; this one is going to get lively.
Also booked is four-piece blues/funk outfit, The Will Edmunds Band, who perform interpretations of classics from the likes of Robert Johnson, BB King, Albert King and The Meters. Their sound promises to be tight and fresh, yet retaining old-school mojo!
And that’s what we’ve been told so far. No mention of Jon Amor; surely, he’ll drop in, would’ve thought? Ah, one step ahead of you. The Friday before , 19th July, he’s at the pre-festival event at the Sports Club, where for a tenner you’ll get Saddleback favourites Innes Sibun and Jon, with Mike Hoddinott of Ruzz’s Guitar Blues Revue and what’s worth the entire weekend price-tag in my humble opinion, for all it’s worth, the awesome UK-USA blues conglomerate, Beaux Gris Gris who we’ve reviewed a night of before.
A further tenner means you can camp for the weekend, from 5.00pm Friday 19th July, with campers asked to leave the site by 10.30am on Sunday 21st July. It may be whacking the total from £25, for a main ticket, to £45 for the whole shebang, and in all honesty the mods may have it cheaper than the rockers this year, the Scooter Rally tallying to £25 for the whole weekend with free camping, but a considerable donation of Saddleback is off to chosen charities Julia’s House and Care If, and going on the sturdy and reliable security, strategic setup and organisation that went into last year’s event, together with an awesome line-up, Saddleback will not go unnoticed, even if promotion of it seems somewhat lessened this year.
Here’s last year’s snaps to get you in the mood; all images by Nick Padmore
Breaking and brilliant news as Adam Dempsey pings over the line up for this year’s Owl Fest on Saturday May 25th in Bromham’s social club, The Owl. Chained to that kitchen sink again, I dried my hands on a tea towel quick as I could to reply what a fantastic line up, I reckon it is. He thinks it’s their best yet.
So, no more suspense, and in no particular order, it’s that five-piece classic rock covers band, Homer. Citing influences as wide as The Undertones and Buzzcocks to Thin Lizzy, Steppenwolf and Red-Hot Chili Peppers to AC/DC, Homer’s been on the local scene since 2012. Frontman Pete Pig, Danny Silvers on drums and backing vocals, guitarists Paul “Winger” Weinling and Les Vegas, with Graham the crazy bassist, are sure to rock Bromham.
Devizine favourite Jamie R Hawkins will be there, with acute and sentimental storytelling brilliance, Jamie never fails to impress.
Everyone’s favourite, Mr George Wilding will also do his stuff. With natural ability and ease, astounding originals solo and with Wilding, George is surely Wiltshire’s imminent legend.
And you must love tiny country-pop princess, Kirsty Clinch with her bountiful talent and energy.
Malmesbury’s Corky also returns with his hilariously original brand of acoustic “scrumpy and western” agricultural hip hop, had me in fits of laughter before the cider even took its natural course at last year’s.
My wild card, The Gentle Crows appear; not heard of these guys, I confess, but acclaimed rock covers they promise with great reviews online to date.
Topped off with Trusler senior’s Funked Up duo with Mark Colin Jones, with their brand of eighties funky-pop-rock, not forgetting the great selection of ciders on offer, food, I’m sure you’ll agree, The Owl is worthwhile heading towards on May 25th. See our review of last year’s here, and see you there, I hope!
The day is FREE, but if you want to use the Cider bar, you’ll need a wristband and plastic glass which sets you back a whole £8, and includes two tokens; why wouldn’t you?!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
It’s easy to make a storm in a teacup in this hurtling era of social media: put one slightly erroneous newspaper article into a mug, brew some pretty strong local feelings on the issue, add a poll to a Facebook group as required; best served boiling.
Face it, it’s a lot harder to motivate yourself into actually helping out.
It’s clear the Front page in this week’s Gazette and Herald has been wrongly perceived as scaremongering, and failed to focus on the relevant points. Perhaps a slow news-week, but the intention to highlight the Devizes Outside Celebratory Arts (DOCA) need for funding has exploded into a social media frenzy over its date change, and employment of its key manager, Loz Samuels.
If you felt like the article “was more concerned with one job loss than possibly losing an historic carnival,” consider without someone in Loz’s position, there would be no carnival at all. Besides, Loz expressed she only breezed over the fact her contract runs out with reporter, Joanne Moore, it was not supposed to be the key angle of the piece.
When a newspaper decides to run an article, it’s their prerogative which images they place, not the subject’s. Loz was as much surprised to see her own face on the front page as you, and is keen to point out, while funding for carnival, and the plethora of other events DOCA arrange is getting harder each year, it’s much the same as any year.
Loz herself works tirelessly with a team of volunteers to provide us with these fantastic, and mostly free events in Devizes, for what my tuppence is worth, she needs to be saluted and thanked, rather than dismally criticised for changes the committee as a whole have decided upon, and in their expert judgement, for good reasons.
I ask Loz if she feels some people simply don’t like change, being the poll revealed a huge majority feel the date for the carnival should remain the same, in September, as opposed to being shifted forward to July. “More sceptical than not liking I think, until they see it, they’re afraid of the change.” She points out that Weymouth carnival has had to be stopped, expressing her concerns about the number of volunteers, and fund-raising needing to raise over half the cost, after the Town Council’s contributions. The Arts Funding Council require twenty-percent of costs secured before paying out, and in struggling times, local businesses and organisations find it hard to sponsor as much.
I ponder if popular opinion has not considered every tiny element which makes up DOCA events, every factor which needs to be taken into consideration. The Arts Funding doesn’t cover anything non-art, such as road closures and insurance, the availability and commitment volunteers are able to contribute thins, and yes, while Loz has concerns, and with less time now to arrange the carnival procession, she also confirmed she’s feeling far more optimistic than the newspaper article conveys. “In March,” she elucidates, “we should know.”
Loz pointed towards the school’s eminent participation in the Christmas Lantern Parade and its workshops, to highlight the potential of the carnival’s date change. There is hope local schools will be able to organise themselves better, given the procession is within term-time, that the Confetti Battle and Colour Rush, the latter a vital fund-raising event, can be popularised shifted from midweek to a Saturday, but most of all, Loz stressed on the fatigue of the volunteers after a fortnight’s full schedule of activities, by the time the actual carnival arrives “they’re shattered!”
I find this very easy to believe, as a punter, I confess I overdo it at the Street Festival and by the following week, when carnival moves through town, I’m like “really? Can I be bothered?!” Given the choice I’d take the Street Festival over the carnival any day, but I think both are as vital as each other. A reply suggesting organising positions should be unpaid infuriated me, considering how much work is necessary to stage such events; could you do that as a hobby, my friend?
In fact, go against popular opinion as I may, I fully support the change of date, seeing it as a great decision which although must’ve been tricky to call, will benefit the town as a whole. Many a comment on this Facebook poll incensed me, truth be told; a stab at why DOCA paid for outside bands to play at the festival, when this year, as previous, I’ve felt the bookings have been justified and welcomed; didn’t see anyone complaining when we danced in the Market Place, a place usually reserved for wandering across from the shops to catch the bus.
I did stress to Loz I’d like to see the wealth of local musical talent represented too, though she pointed out timeslots and the need for breaks in performances on the main stage, so that the circus side acts and street theatre could be heard. I offered the idea of a second stage for our local heroes, and Loz remarked it’d be another grand for a PA, and we’re back to stage one with the lack of funding.
Giving more clout to the need to support and attend the year’s fund-raising events, such as the impending Devizes Festival of Winter Ales at The Corn Exchange on the 15th and 16th of Feb. With a beer and cider selection curated by local Stealth Brew Co, it does indeed host local musical talent, such as George Wilding who will be playing this year, “and a cabaret too!” Loz enthusiastically added.
We breezed over successful city carnivals, such as Bath, whose sponsorship from local business are obviously more plentiful, attraction much wider, and solely concentrate on carnival, unlike DOCA who take the Street Festival, Picnic in the Park, The Confetti Battle, Colour Rush, Christmas Lantern Parade, and Winter Ales Festival under their wings; forgive me if I’ve missed one out, but that’s a truckload of things to arrange.
In an area as affluent as this, Arts Funding will always give with one eyed squinted, it really is up to us support and fund DOCA. So please treat this bulletin as cautionary, consider damage done by taking our major events for granted and do whatever you can to help DOCA. One phone call with Loz, confirmed my already concrete notion that she is thoroughly dedicated to this position, is worthy and capable of the task. Think, while we have other great events in our wonderful town, they usually come with a price tag.
You know what? I blame the bad weather, yeah, the stresses over national politics and so on; understandably tetchy in February, but decent summer entertainment is that one time to put cares aside, let your hair down; don’t let austerity take it away.
Your creative sorts usually appreciate music, but, stereotypically, entertainment for “sporty-types” would rather be waving fists and hurling abuse at a team projected to them via a widescreen TV, seemingly oblivious; television is a one-way communication devise. It’s not until someone puts “Eye of the Tiger,” on a jukebox, or Bonnie Tyler croaks she’s holding out for a hero, that they get all sweaty, and start flexing biceps in a dance comprising of getting friends in a headlock and rubbing knuckles atop their cranium.
It couldn’t be further from the truth for the Devizes Sports Club, and anyway, my generalising just a witticism in hope the lady’s rugby team might fulfil my daydream and chase me down the street! The Sports Club, enthusiastic for the remaining month before their Saddleback Festival, are serious about presenting the town with an exciting and professionally organised festival.
It’s the music festival’s second innings, after the sun-drenched blues event last year, and they’re determined to up their game…..not a lot, no point in running before they can walk, but enough to make this, in my opinion, our most anticipated event of the year.
For starters, they’ve dropped the “blues” tag from its title, making it less specialised. While the concentration on blues music still sturdy, it’ll be joined predominantly with rock, acoustic and folk.
Certain other moves are to be introduced, I’m at the British Lion, having a pint with organiser, Mirko Pangrazzi, to find out what they might be.
I suggest they could drop the “music” label too, add a comedy tent, or possibly street theatre. Mirko considers, but stops at the idea of a “dance” tent. Their chosen genres equate to a family-styled event. A mass of fledgling “ravers” descending brings its own issues.
There’s an air about the conversation which leads me to believe the organisers value quality over quantity, with no intentions of expanding to Glasto proportions. We laugh as Mirko recalls people last year leaving, only to return with chairs in which they would switch the angle of to face their chosen stage; that is sooo Devizes and surely associates this family ethos.
Mirko is keen to show me a list of activities they’ve organised for children; a fun bus, inflatables, face painting, a bungee run, Striker game, slot machines and of course, a sweet stall, to name but a few. Plus, it goes without saying it’s at a sports club with abundant space to kick a football till you drop.
For here’s a thing, I’m convinced no one is to get fleeced at Saddleback, the food stalls enter freely, organisers only asking for a donation to chosen charities; Julia’s House, Wiltshire Air Ambulance and others, while punters get value with a wealth of talented acts for a reasonable twenty-five quid, and their kids under 13, well, they get in for FREE and for 13-17 it’s just a fiver.
Mirko introduces me to John, a newcomer to the committee but with a wealth of experience on the festival scene. What John doesn’t know about coordinating a festival could be written on the back of a matchbox, with diagrams, pie charts and a few dirty doodles on the bottom.
Having worked on littler-known events like, say, Glastonbury and Boomtown, John is a welcomed asset to provide a fully professional team, determined to make this work wonders. There’s more than meets the eye to arranging such an event, a note others need take heed of in these cliché days of any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Harry’s pet dog attempting to hold one. They’re delighted to have halted construction plans for a new pipeline running through the site, due bang on the 14th July when Saddleback takes place. For when music promoter Mirko and Sports Club owner Rick get going on a project, they’re the sort who work tirelessly to make it the very best they can.
It didn’t matter of the success of last year’s, though Mirko was pleased with the result, they’ve assigned themselves to this ongoing project and intend to make it an annual event.
So, the second major change is camping. People will be able to set up a tent this year, from Friday to Sunday, for a tenner, or just fifteen smackers to bring their campervan on site. This will add an extra dimension to the ambience, with visitors able to mingle with locals. Add this to the real ale and cider bars, prosecco, Pimms, wines, soft drinks, and craft beer from Devitera, merge it with a wide assortment of food stalls, such as Happy Hog Catering, Asian cuisine, obligatory barbeque and a tea/coffee and crepe bus, I think they’re building the perfect recipe for a blinding day which will go down in Devizes history and will firmly put our town on the festival map.
Notwithstanding an unforgettable line-up, with blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Marcus Bonfanti, rockers Bad Touch, ballad-esque pop-rockette, Mollie Marriott, daughter of Small Faces and Humble Pie singer and guitarist Steve Marriott, Devizes-own blues/alternate rock deities The Jon Amor Band, Bradford’s legendary John Verity, Blues/Rock guitarist Innes Sibun and Avebury’s own George Wilding.
If you need further proof of the authenticity of my recommendation, bear in mind it was a great thing when George Wilding won his place at the festival at the Battle of the Bands earlier this year and said he’d do it, if the other contestants could have the opportunity to play too. But it’s an even greater thing when Rick and Mirko took heed, and before we knew what was what, a third “acoustic” stage was added, introducing local heroes and heroines Mike Barham, Jamie R Hawkins, Alex Cash, Sally Dobson and Clare, who was coincidently serving at the British Lion at the time!
She smiled when we chatted, not realising who I was she said, “but I’ve known you for years!” That is what’s special about Devizes, that is what Saddleback will adhere, and that is also what’ll make Saddleback a knockout.
So, don’t miss out, leave a comment on a local Facebook group, giving it, “whats that wonderful music I can hear from my garden?” – there’s tickets on the gate, or in advance, here.
Swindon Shuffle has been mouthed around my earshot recently, whazat? Some kind of euphemism? Nope it’s Swindon’s longest running contemporary music festival; been ‘appening since 2006. It now consists of four days of original live music spread over Swindon’s finest music venues, much of it locally sourced, and it’s free entry to the whole shebang!
Swindon being cultureless is an old wife’s tale as ancient as carrots helping you see the dark, I learned this when drawing my little goldfish cartoon for the free rave/rock zine De-Railer in 1992, and nights at Queen’s Tap when the Skanxters shook the rafters. Swindon always has had a healthy music scene, don’t let anyone tell you any different, and even if they do, here’s a chance to prove that it’s staying more alive than John Travolta in a hot tub time machine.
So, for a cheap article, I’ve cut and pasted the line-up, check it out and dribble! But also take note, sponsor the West Berkshire Brewery will be brewing an ale especially for the event called 5 Knuckle, which will be available in venues. Our friends at the Ocelot have been long-time supporters and a partner of the Shuffle, alongside Swindon Viewpoint, Britain’s original public-access television service, and venues The Beehive, Vic, Tuppenny and Castle. The Shuffle will also be raising money for the Swindon branch of Mind, a mental health problems charity.
Yeah, so blow me down and call me David Murray John, it looks a little bit like this:
Wednesday 11 July 2018 – The Beehive Stage
19:30 Swindon Shuffle Music Quiz
Thursday 12 July 2018 – The Castle Stage
21:30 Street Outlaws
20:45 Post 12
20:00 Flour Babies
Thursday 12 July 2018 – The Tuppenny Stage (acoustic)
21:45 Canute’s Plastic Army
21:00 Tamsin Quin
20:15 Atari Pilot (acoustic)
Thursday 12 July 2018 – Baila Stage
(time tbc) Live Hip Hop Jam Session
Friday 13 July 2018 – The Victoria Stage
22:50 The Harlers
20:20 The Oxymora
19:30 Falls On Deaf Ears
Friday 13 July 2018 – The Castle
22:15 SN Dubstation
20:45 Basement Club
20:00 The Compact Pussycat
19:15 Matthew Bryant
Friday 13 July 2018 – Baila Stage
(time tbc) After Party DJs
Saturday 14 July 2018 – The Victoria Stage
22:00 Fabian Darcy
20:20 Palm Rose
Saturday 14 July 2018 – The Beehive Stage
21:30 Aural Candy
20:00 The Illustrations
Saturday 14 July 2018 – The Tuppenny Stage (acoustic)
18:30 Josh Wolfsohn
17:45 Sarah C Ryan
17:00 Steve Cox
16:15 The King In Mirrors
14:30 Raze*Rebuild (acoustic)
Saturday 14 July 2018 – Baila Stage
(time tbc) After Party DJs
Sunday 15 July 2018 – The Beehive Stage
20:15 True Strays
19:30 Hip Route
18:45 Sunset Service
18:00 Cobalt Fire
17:15 Richard Wileman
16:30 Strange Tales
Sunday 15 July 2018 – The Tuppenny Stage (acoustic)
15:30 Emily-Jane Sheppard
14:45 Jack Moore
14:00 Special Guests
13:15 The Shudders (acoustic)
Argh, seen one Wiltshire village, seen ‘em all, so they say.
Who be “they” anyway? Course they all seem the bleedin’ same from the angle of a flippin’ Costa Coffee cup, while belting through at eighty miles per bleedin’ hour, texting about the far more important place they be pretending to be? Who do they fink they arrre? Sum kinda superstarrr?
Yous an me knows each individual village is actually quite unique really, with their own folklore, customs, and weird faces. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. Although, welcoming visitors is often accomplished with a cold stare. For the outsider it feels alienating, but it’s done in want of gossip and not malice; “ooh art be rand ere den?”
Certainly not the way I felt when I smuggled myself across the border; St Edith’s Marsh on Saturday. Despite being from a neighbouring village, and initially weary of possible gazing, I was met by Adam, the organiser of the event I’m here to participate in. The things I do for a story; “pop over and check out the Owl’s Music and Cider Fest,” it’s a dirty job….
Handed a plastic logoed cup, wristband and some tokens we briefly discussed; this was the first of its kind, previous cider festivals not being so musically based and The Owl, a section of the Bromham Sports & Social Club dedicated to bringing the village quality live music, has never combined with the cider festival.
Seems it’s a welcomed merger, with a modest but enthusiastic local crowd. In scarlet dress and spectrum shades, Jezilyn Martyn was just finishing her set as I perused the program’s sublime cider menu and decided to chronologically work my way through; when in Rome. Upon request they even supplied a pencil so I could mark the tried and tested ones, should later, it all become a bit much.
Perhaps there was a bigger local festival happening on the other side of the Vale of Vizes; no one here cared. This was cosy, friendly and typically Bromham. I asked if they expected many from the town, or other places. They hoped so, but didn’t seem particularly concerned about it, for while Bromham may be a just village, plentiful loyal supporters hung out in the garden.
Picking a face from the unknown crowd, I made a beeline for the superbly talented George Wilding. Unsure the weather would hold up till six, when he was booked to perform, or else concerned people might be more interested in the football final, George can come across shy, until he’s in the spotlight. Still, enjoyed getting to know this local legend.
Next up though was the mighty Mike Barham, who after stopping for a brief word and responding to my request for his ever-amusing cover of Danger Zone from the Top Gun soundtrack, towered over the marquee and blasted good vibes. An hour passed until, bang on cue, Tamsin, opens a mini-case containing her new CD, whips on her guitar and takes over with songs and smiles.
I’d worked my way halfway through the cider selection when George Wilding added to the line-up of indigenous aptitude, for me what a local festival should be about. With ease he continued the sound vibes, a few originals and making covers his own. House of the Rising Sun as red, but most interesting was the Ronettes “Be My Baby,” how one can acoustically convert it to a sombre ballad is nothing short of genius. He performed the set with Tamsin’s case still open to punters in front of him!
With sizzling barbecue and dependable punters propping up the bar, Owl Fest was humble, typically Bromham, and so warm and welcoming it’d be the envy of other villages. Well done to all, but for the months after this fest the music continues, as the Owl and Bromham’s social club in general dedicate themselves to sporadically bringing a wealth of talent to the village, to the point it challenges any entertainment establishments you’ll get in its nearby towns. Check out their future evenings and open mic events to see where I’m coming from.
Next up is the The Hoot on the 2nd June, their acoustic night in The Owl with Phil King from Bristol, Ian O’Regan and Frome’s Al O’Kane. But with horse racing nights, charity quizzes, a week-long carnival celebration and popular local acts such as Larkin (25th Aug), Jamie R Hawkins (7th July) booked, there’s loads going on up here, including names you may not have heard of.
Appearing after George, prime example was Corky, a singer/songwriter creating what he dubs “agricultural hip hop.” I was intrigued; how does this work? Very amusingly is the short answer, when in the able hands of this Malmesbury yokel, whose naturally hilarious adaptions of classic rap tunes are parodied for the ears of rural West Country folk, as if the Wu-Tang Clan were in an MC battle with the Wurzels. Rural poverty lined subjects apt for our area, such as escaping Devizes and using red diesel, converted from hip hop’s usual themes of bling, guns and hoes, and delivered with audience participation and heckling was nothing short of dazzling.
Gradually the event was hoisted inside, with the Surfin’ Turnips and Bilbo Baggins & The Bargain Hunters preparing to take them into the night. Unfortunately, I had to go, I’d worked my way through the ciders till the lead of the pencil snapped, and was getting wobbly. For a free event and only six pounds for the wristband and first token, this was an outstanding little do; long live the Owl – twit-ta-hooooo!