Opera Meets House at Devizes Full Tone Festival

Featured image above by Gail Foster

It has been undeniably a variety music show at the Full Tone Festival this bank holiday weekend on the Green in Devizes, of tremendous proportions and matchless quality.

The stage I’ve previous dubbed “like something out of the Jetsons,” was once again erected, deckchair city assembled around it, with a bustling collection of food and drinks stalls beyond, and the sun with his hat on, shining down on all the shiny happy people.

It is a remarkable achievement and something to be truly proud of, to have here in our humble market town. The Full-Tone Orchestra taking their show to prestigious venues like Bath Abbey and Marlborough College, returned home, looking even more professional than ever. Conductor Anthony Brown waving his hands around like manual control of the world’s air traffic; it was, in a word, magical.

Highlights came thick and fast, Dominic Irving thrilled, heading a Tchaikovsky concerto on piano, for an opening of obligatory classical elements. The stage emptied as Will Foulstone took control of the keys, solo. Full Tone platforms young talent, like TikTok trumpeter Oli Parker, on Sunday, to an audience majority unlikely to know what TikTok is. Similarly, Will performed some videogame themes among Coldplay and contemporary pop, which is better in reality than it sounds to my generation bought up on ZX Spectrums or Mega Drives!

Will’s finale was an astounding cover of Elton John’s I’m Still Standing, and the orchestra realigned for a concentration of movie scores, largely dependent on the western themes of the late Ennio Morricone; liked this.

Then, BBC Introducing DJ skateboarder, James Threlfall took to digital wheels of steel and blasted the zone, and across the road to the chippy, with a set of contemporary and commercial high-energy house; lights came on blazing like the Green was the Ministry of Sound. Here is where I need to revert to my reviewing template, which resides on two major contributories. One is, did the event appease me personally, the second, more importantly is, did it do what it said “on the tin,” i.e., was it everything it posed to be. For the latter, the Full Tone Festival 2022 hit top marks, without a doubt. I watched the joy on hundreds of faces, as they danced the night away to James and the following Full-Tone Orchestra set of “nineties smash hits.”

The grand finale of Saturday night was certainly intrenched with nostalgia, perfected by an orchestra where no penny was left unexpended, no rehearsal was spent playing tiddlywinks, where the professionalism is first rate and the atmosphere was nothing short of sublime. The Full-Tone Festival was superb last year, this time around comes the typical stigma of a sequel, the “how can we ever top that” enquiry, and I’ve a duty to be honest, based upon the imperative Saturday evening, I’m not completely certain they did, on personal reflection, you understand?

Image: Gail Foster

Song choice at this conjunction was the only thing which let it down, for me. Started off okay, the Britpop beginning I can tolerate, but as it progressed to the pop hits of S Club 7, Britney Spears and Cher’s I Believe, et al, these, for me, were the excruciating pop slush of a generation below; I detested them at the time, and retain said detestation.

It was a far cry from the club anthems of last year’s, because that’s the point where creatively, electronic music technology truly challenged the orchestra. But, sigh, it’s all subjective, I told you about the hundreds of faces, didn’t I? They matter, it did what it said on the tin, with high gloss, it just wasn’t my cuppa.

Image: Gail Foster

I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to Sunday’s extension, we don’t all have bank holidays y’ know? But I can rest assured with the years of rock n roll experience of Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats, Kirsty Clinch’s angelic country vocals, and the fact Jonathan Antoine has been done BGT, it’d have been alright on the night.

Image: Gail Foster

Feedback on the orchestra’s big band showcase has been fantastic, with particular praise of vocalist Will Sexton. On opera, spellbinding local soprano who could turn even me to opera, Chloe Jordan, said, “it was my dream to sing ‘Song to the Moon ‘Resulka with an orchestra. Thank you so much to The Full Tone Orchestra for allowing that dream to come true!” And that, in a nutshell, is the kingpin to assessing this spectacular; if dreams come true there, you can’t argue how special an occasion it was.

Image: Gail Foster

Though the headcount was slightly lesser-so than last year’s, trouble to many events this, as a sad reflection on economic issues, here’s hoping this awesome weekend on the Green will be enough to convince Full Tone to make this a permanent fixture on our event calendar. Devizes loves you Full Tone, that much is certain.


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Waxin’ the Palace; Chatting to the Man Who Convinced Wiltshire Council to Have a Rave!

All the local mainstream are on it like a fly on a turd, and the negativity of keyboard warriors is flowing fast and furious. Who am I to steer off the bandwagon, yet you know we’ll handle the news Wax Palace obtained permission for a “rave festival” to happen near Erlestoke with a slightly different angle……

An angle much less based upon the fact your esteemed editor had a youth some indeterminable time yonder, where he gyrated in muddy fields with eyes like saucers, masticating the shit out of a Wrigley’s Doublemint, and more on the notion, I hope, that while we have a great music scene in these backwaters, there is little to tickle our younger resident’s tastebuds. This then, is great news, surely?

But is raving still a progressive thing, or does it dabble largely in retrospection? And what exactly will this Wax Palace provide in the way of entertainment? Harry, one of the organisers, a man who unbelievably convinced Wiltshire Council, conservative at the best of times, to grant them permission to hold what’s best described, to avoid media confusion, as a “rave festival;” can he sell ice to Eskimos, or what?! In a short chat with him, I suspected he could.

He giggled at the question, “we’d do our best, that’s for sure! It’s been a bit of a task, but we got it through, and they seemed very with it, during the hearing.” Throughout Harry projected himself as level-headed, reliably assured of the achievement of Kaleidoscope, the name of the event.

The first myth from the Gazette’s report to dispel is that these guys are bundling down from Yorkshire to ruin our peaceful community, when Harry explained the company is only registered there, and he lives close to Erlestoke himself. “The group who first run it were students in Leeds,” he explained, “but we’re very much Wiltshire born and bred.” Herewith the reason for bringing it to Devizes.

Promoting this today is neither here nor there, they’ve a solid base and early bird tickets have already sold out for the estimated 800 strong event. “This is our third edition of the festival,” he said with me interrupting about how to define it, “it is very much a festival, but we hope it has the apogee of a rave, though licenced, as the articles have focused on. It started as one night event, next time it was two, now we’ve got the full weekend, and our largest line-up yet.”

To spoil my queries of disambiguation, musically, Kaleidoscope will offer the whole range of rave subgenres, from house and disco to techno to drum & bass; “you name it will be there!” But this only got me pondering the setup, if it would, as legendary pay-raves like Universe’s Tribal Gatherings once attempted, to host each subgenre in a different tent. Because much as this appeased the then evolution of the diversity, it tended to clash into one immense noise when central! “We don’t have genre-split tents,” Harry clarified, “they’re split more-so by their set design. We’ve got three stages, one indoors, another outdoor, in which we’re shaping out an old school bus for the DJ’s, which should be really fun.”

Harry jested jealously at me rapping about raves of yore like Universe, “we missed that golden era, but we very much like to be inspired by the ethos.” This is great, though I’m trying to avoid an Uncle Albert moment where I preach on memory lane, but it does bring to question how niche is the market, does Harry think rave is either coming back, or it never really lost its appeal?

“I think it is coming back, commercially, perhaps it did lose a bit of what it was meant to be. In the last few years, I’ve heard people referring to their club nights as raves. I think the term rave now covers something broader and less political than it did, originally.” Harry hopes it does come back, encouraged to bring back those original values.

Though I’d suggest, rave was apolitical, it wasn’t until government interjected with the Justice Bill post-Castlemorton which both forced it underground and for ravers to think politically. Originally it was solely a celebration of life, and to party, and that really was our only objective. Which neatly covers another misconception; we raved everywhere and anywhere, if it meant standing in a muddy field, or if it meant going clubbing, location was irrelevant, so long as we could blow off steam and dance!

And herein lies my pitch at why I think this is a fantastic addition to our local events, because if you’re the first to complain about this, I sure hope you’re not the same one whinging about acts of anti-social behaviour in youth culture. If Wax Palace can provide a safe haven for young to go and enjoy themselves, it’s surely a positive.

Wiltshire Council were keen to label this a festival rather than a rave, as rave connotes to some to be an illegal, uncontrolled gathering. I say, this is the name of the genre, and doesn’t relate to illegal gatherings at all. After the Justice Bill the scene became anarchistic in frustration to the restrictions, but it never began like this. There was a sense of one big family, a tribal movement, and it was all about smiles. This, I feel is an important point to reduce this common misconception, and something Harry was also keen to express. “We’ve worked really hard to build a real sense of community,” he explained.

Today, of course, the original ravers have come of age, and organisations like Raver Tots have marketed retrospection in the form of taking your kids to a rave, but throughout our chat I got the feeling the ethos of Wax Palace was much more progressive, about introducing “rave; the next generation,” and that’s good to hear. “We like the idea through the way we organise events and our approach will introduce the idea of raving to a market who are only just coming to an age where they’re able to go to clubs. So, it’s nice to think we have the chance in shaping that impression they have. For a lot of people, this could be their first music festival, and for it to be local and described as a rave would be really exciting; exactly what I’d wish I’d have had in my village when I was 18.”

Tickets are here, Kaleidoscope takes place from 2nd-5th September.

Avoid negativity of misconceptions bought about by a bygone era, well organised and safe pay raves have happened since day dot, and providing youth with entertainment is paramount to building bridges; Wax Place, I salute you!


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Swindon Sound System Mid Life Krisis Live Streams

If you’re missing a tubthumping club night, you could clear your laminate flooring of breakables, blag your kid’s colour-changing lightbulb, overcharge yourself for a Bacardi Breezer from your own fridge, and belch up kebab behind your sofa.

All these things are optional to simulate the full lockdown nightclub in your own home. But, even creating a cardboard cut-out queue for the downstairs bog, or hiring a doggie tuxedo so your pet can double-up as the bouncer, extreme measures in extreme times will doubtfully replicate the genuine clubbing experience; sad but true.

However, if props don’t make the neon grade, the music can. Swindon-based tri-county sound system, Mid Life Krisis, abbreviated to MiLK, announce an online schedule for live DJ feeds and multi-genre events. “We will be putting on events post Covid for the people of Swindon and beyond,” they say.

There’s an interesting line-up ahead, prompted to me by Pewsey acoustic performer Cutsmith, who is on this Sunday (28th Feb.) Yet most are hard floor, afro/tribal house, trance, techno and drum n bass DJ sessions, freely shared onto a Facebook group, here. Join the group, throw your hands in the air, scream oh yeah, just don’t set your own roof on fire, it’s only going to increase your insurance direct debits, mo-fo.

Your exhaust cannot drop off en-route, girlfriend needs not to spend umpteen hours sorting her hair, and there’s no over-vocal knob jockey giving you all that in the carpark to distract you. No excuse for unattendance; no dress-code either, get funky in your jimmy-jams, if you like, you know I will. Shit, I’m like the Arthur Dent of Mixmag!

Now, I’m also gonna start adding these posters to our event calendar, which despite being about as tech-savvy as Captain Caveman, I’ve taken the time when nought is really happening to redesign it, to be more user-friendly.

All needs doing is directing buggers to the thing, as we’re listing global online and streamed events, and until a time when Bojo the Clown finally stops mugging us off and announces a release date, it’s not worth adding real live events for me to have to go delete them again.

That said, I find difficulties in keeping up to scratch with what’s on in the online sense, partly because I’m fucking lazy, but mostly because they pop up sporadically and unexpectedly.

Else they’re mainstream acts begging via a price-tagged ticket. I can appreciate this, it’s a rock and hard place, and we all need to get some pocket money, but from a punter’s POV, charging to watch their own laptop screen in hope they get a good speed for their feed, can be asking a bit much and one now favours a PayPal tip jar system.

Such is the nature of the beast, where a performer or DJ could be slumped in front of Netflix one minute and suddenly decide they fancy going live. Thankful then, we should be, to these Facebook groups hosting streams, in order to create some kind of structure.

The positive, for what it’s worth, is boundaries have been ripped down. Without travel issues, online, your performance has the potential to reach a global audience, and hopefully attract newbies to your released material. Who knows, pre-lockdown you played to a handful of buddies at your local watering hole, but afterwards tribes from Timbuctoo might rock up at your show. Okay, I’ll give you, they might not, but potentially, the world is your oyster. Just a shame its shell is clamped shut.


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The Judge, Jules Brings Live Band to Swindon

One of the scene’s most best-known names for more than three decades, Judge Jules has never shied away from pushing the boundaries in dance music. And this year, for the first time ever, audiences will be able to experience the iconic tracks that have defined his career through a ten-piece live band with Judge Jules himself at the helm.

 
‘Judge Jules: Live’… will be coming to Swindon’s MECA venue on 25th Jan 2020.

 
Jules’s in-depth involvement in many of the recent wave of “classical” dance events, including Gatecrasher, Colours, Club Class and 2019’s Ministry of Sound tour, inspired the decision to take the impact and emotion of the classical shows, but refine the feeling with a wholly new take on live dance music.

 
With complete creative free rein, Jules curated every element of the performance. Each track has been bespoke reinvented and reworked in a style unique to this live show, featuring a full ten-piece band, with brass, percussion, drums, bass guitar, lead guitar, keyboard, singers, and of course Judge Jules himself. A 90-minute show from start to finish, the music has been selected to represent the breadth and scale of his career.

 
“There is something about music being played live that never fails to send shivers down your spine – it doesn’t matter what the genre is, hearing a track performed by live musicians on stage is something you cannot replicate in the studio, or even on the best nightclub environment. So, I decided to create my own bespoke versions of my all-time favourite records with a specially selected band. It’s taken a long time to put together, but finally we look forward to taking the “Judge Jules Live” tour on the road. This truly is a new take on the ‘live dance music’ phenomenon and the tour bus starts rolling shortly.” – Judge Jules

 
This is not a show to sit down for – combining the energy of specially-chosen outstanding musicians with his own inimitable presence behind the decks, Jules will take the audience on a tailor-made journey through dance music with vocals, hands-in-the-air moments and plenty of basslines that’ll take you right back to your very first rave.

 
With audiences demanding more from dance music and newfound focus on a visual as well as a sonic spectacle, Judge Jules Live is a chance for dance fans to lose themselves in the moment with the kind of experience that you just can’t replicate with a solitary DJ.
The Judge still won’t budge.

 

Judge Jules will play Swindon MECA – 25th January 2020

Doors 8pm – late
£17.00 early bird + BF

Tickets on sale now and available from:
https://www.mecaswindon.co.uk/events-tickets/2020/january/judge-jules-live/


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A Funky Sensation in Devizes

Devizes set to party like it’s 1999; zipping up my boots with Funky Sensation.

 

Normally, if there’s a funky sensation in Devizes it means it’s been foggy post-harvest and the aroma of manure has filtered into town. In a similar light, I confess, I’ve been critical in the past about our only nightclub, events hosted tend to mimic what’s on elsewhere, and I really feel tribute acts have a home in hire venues and pubs, but not necessarily in a night club. It’s an age thing perhaps, usual nights too commercialised for me, recalling the clubbing scene of the eighties, how it assisted in spawning a decade of raves. To me, a night in a nightclub should be concentrated on DJ culture, be dissident dance music, and most importantly, should be banging, mate.

 
Here then is something that lacks in Devizes, flourishing with original music a trend I adore, though surely there’s a place for dance music too? A glitch set to change; with the potential to be a grand night at the Funky Sensation launch in the Exchange on the 5th April, I caught up with the hosting DJ, George Penny, to find out more about this Funky Sensation event doing the rounds on Facebook.

funky sensation 3

“Basically, I used to DJ about twenty years ago, free parties, private parties and a club residency,” explains George, who goes by the DJ tag George G-Force. “But then work, life, mortgage, wife, child came along.” It’s not so uncommon, for many the desire to create, artistically or musically though will return to bite them, and George started mixing again about four years ago. “I’ve been trying to get back out on the circuit, but it’s a lot harder now, a lot more competition.”

 
He’s been DJing in Frome and Bristol, with appearances for the ‘House of Disco’ collective and Input2 Promotions, but explains, “I always wanted to try and put on my own party a bit closer to home (Melksham) but had really been struggling trying to find a venue. I only heard about The Exchange three weeks ago and I think it’s perfect in terms of location; hoping to pull people from Melksham, Trowbridge, Calne and Chippenham.”

 
So, busting out of retirement, and ready to bring the heat with his unique blend of nu-disco and classic-vocal-funky house vibes, G-Force is set to take Devizes back to an era when clubbing meant clubbing. “We want to bring the fun back, with good old uplifting, hands in the air, sing-a-long music. That could be a classic disco track/re-edit, house anthem or a modern-day club banger!”

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He brings along special guest DJ, Nina LoVe and DJ Stach. Akin to George, Nina took a decade away from the scene to concentrate on family and studies. But with a childhood filled with classical music and musical theatre, and discovering dance music and raving in the nineties, she couldn’t hold the bug in much longer than 2012, as with the discovery of Disclosure and Gorgon City, that led to a new energy for House music, vinyl junkie Nina started learning to mix.

 
Bath-based Stach has been playing to enthralled crowds since 1990, kicking off his career within the techno scene on the Isle of Wight. Since those halcyon days, DJ Stach has played many genres and has a wide repertoire; pleasing audiences with epic sets featuring nu-disco, classic and tech-house.

 
He can be found on the set lists of some of the UK’s best boutique festivals and coolest club nights, as well as elite private parties. Previous sets include: Shindig Weekender, Grinagog Festival, Love Summer Festival, The Backroom, and The Nest in Bath.

 
I gulp when my chat with George raises Shindig, as organiser Slim Goodgroove and I go back to art college days, the dawning of the breakbeat rave explosion and through to the fluffy house days of his Stardust Collective. Time to get all fuzzy and waffle off a parable or three, Uncle Albert style. Think I’m boring George now, I’ve a tendency to do that, but in hindsight, I really think a decent dance night is missing from the variety of things to do in Devizes, and welcome this prospect.

 
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” George tells, “but thought I’d give it a shot. Obviously, if we get enough people the aim would be to do it, maybe, three times a year.”
So, from old raver to young house music aficionado, take note; it may be time to dust off your old white gloves and relight the glowsticks. I never thought I’d see the day! Tickets for this launch party, at a fiver, are available from today.

 

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