Illingworth Celebrate Their 100th Gig!

Salisbury-based acoustic rock duo John Illingworth Smith and Jolyon Dixon play The High Post Golf Club, between Amesbury and Salisbury this Friday 2nd December, and celebrate that it’s their 100 gig.

Although the duo had been collaborating musically for over three decades, gigs dried out proir to 2019, and they stopped, as Jolyon vaguely explained, “for one reason or another!”

He told of how around the Christmas peroid of that year, “John and I were chatting about how we missed doing gigs, wondering if we should maybe get a set together and have go at performing again as a duo.”

We wasn’t certain if anyone would want to listen,” Jolyon continued, “if we could actually get any gigs at all, or even how to get the songs working with just the two of us playing.” Today it’s still a wonder to us how they manage such a gorgeous sound as a duo, but they do! At Bishop’s Cannings’ CrownFest this summer they stole the stage following two heavy rocks bands, and to see Illingworth stamp their mark on a cover as technical as Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, or The Beatles’ Hey Jude, is something really special.

To maintain a pub circuit, Illingworth have mastered the cover scene with a plethora of memorable and sing-along rock classics, but neither are they strangers to creating originals, knocking out two breathtaking albums to date. This is where their relationship with Salisbury’s Tunnel Rat studio producer, Eddie Prestidge, comes in handy.

Our good friend Eddie encouraged us to give it a try,” Jolyon said, “offered to become our manager and handle the bookings. So, we gladly accepted and sure enough we got our first booking in February 2020, with several more following soon after. Of course, early in March the lockdowns started and we couldn’t go out and play. We were gutted, but, undeterred we used the time to make a new album of original songs and we did gigs whenever the restrictions allowed.”

Well, this weekend will be our 100th gig, So we would just like to say thank you so so much to all the excellent venues that have booked us, the weddings, parties, festivals, celebrations and absolutely everyone who has come to see us along the way! It’s been an absolute blast getting to this point. We still love doing what we do, and hope to make it to our 200th gig!”

With the trajectory these guys are flying on, I estimate that’ll be around spring! What more of an apt venue name, then, for their 100th gig than the High Post?! But seriously, these guys could bring joy to punters and provide a cracking night to any pub. I’d wager they could even raise the morale of the Queen Vic in Eastenders given half a chance!

Congratulations to John, Jolyon and Eddie, and hope to catch you again soon, guys.

Top Marks For CrownFest

Sitting by a controversially purple outside bar, contemplating my debatable definition of the term “festival,” yesterday in Bishop’s Cannings, while Freddie Mercury sauntered past and the sun toasted me another shade closer to “calypso berry” on the Dulux colour chart… this isn’t your average day in this sleepy Devizes-hugging parish, it’s the meticulously planned and aptly named “CrownFest,” at their only central village pub, The Crown.….

Because while grateful for the pub trend of sticking a man with a guitar under a gazebo and hoisting in a hotdog van, it hardly constituents a “festival.” Even the Easter musical event at The Crown received a higher-scoring mark than that, and it wasn’t labelled a festival; just a free social gathering. This time around though, attendee’s entrance fee was exhausted with a proper stage of quality sound and pyrotechnics, and the semi-permanent marquee where performers were shoved into a corner of last time, this time was filled with a whopping selection of affordable homemade pasties and sausage rolls; that’s me set in for the day!

Okay, so here’s my vague scoring system; to me “festival” must include multiple happenings; variety, if you will. If you’ve one act, or even one and a support, it’s a concert. If you’ve one food choice, it’s a beer garden barbecue, and if you’ve one barrel of flat, warm ale, well, you’re really asking for it!

I’m pleased to announce, with a great line-up, two bars plus the pub operating as usual, two barbecues, aforementioned pasties, sweeties and doughnuts stall, a kiddies fairground ride, and Devizes’ Italian Job airstream caravan, who I strongly suspect are following me around the local festival circuit(!) for an inaugural village festival, CrownFest ticked all my boxes and went way beyond expectations.

With a Queen tribute headlining, for example, a local spray-paint artist laboured the entire day, reconstructing a colossal portrait of Freddie Mercury, to be auctioned for charity. Just one of many unique elements which drove this mini-festival to punch above its weight, and a marvellous time was had by all. In a nutshell, it was a generous slice of fantastic.

On paint, a few nick-picking peevish keyboard warriors would’ve had you believe the Crown’s intentions of bringing a community together for a party was counterproductive, highly illegal and a nuisance to the tranquillity of life in Bishop’s Cannings, should you follow pitiful Facebook rants. Desperate for an angle, it backfired bizarrely, through petty complaining that the outside bar was painted purple! But if shock, horror meanderings divided a community online, there was no sign of it in the actual.

Despite the town carnival clashing, the event was moderately attended. The damning report for said pessimists is only a handful arrived from town, rather the bulk was made up of villagers, overjoyed entertainment of this calibre had parachuted into their village. Still though, to those unconvinced I’d say, I accept your concerns and respect your desire for tranquillity, but give and take in this world, and for just one night a year, a little compromise wouldn’t surely go amiss? While a significant event for a small village, noise levels were controlled and full-proof yet friendly security kept the peace; it hardly reached the intensity of living in Pilton.

The alternative is the reality of many a village pub, and excuse me if I’m wrong on this, but I also believe the Crown was suffering from the damning predicament prior to new tenants, that they fail to be a hub for villages, resulting in a dull life for its inhabitants. Providing such a service is essential for a demographic, as if house prices aren’t bad enough to drive the young away. Village pubs should take heed of the remarkable turnaround of the Crown at Bishop’s Cannings, owners employing local youths on a grander scale, building bridges between folk and providing entertainment to an otherwise archetypal sleepy community. Jazzy and Gary, you should be very proud of your achievement, and CrownFest was surely symbolic of the respect you’ve earned since taking the tavern on.

Eddie of Tunnel Rat Studios appears to have made coordinating the musical element his baby, the icing on the Crown’s cake. Though, running ahead of schedule, my bus journey ETA fell short of catching Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats, I can console myself upon the notion we’ll meet again some sunny Full-Tone day, and not forgoing, a band I’ve been meaning to tick off my must-see list, Devizes-based Paradox, were bundling equipment on stage superfast.

Paradox are entertaining, period. Kicking off with the Kinks’ You Really Got Me, and particularly adroit with the Beatles’ Day Tripper, yeah, they’re predominately covers, but their few originals came to a hilarious apex with a soon-to-be redundant satirical stab at Boris Johnson. Still, they were fun all round, and frontman, Derrick Jepson slogged it out as an amusing compere.

With George Wilding reassigned to a cruise job, and Isobel Thatcher signed off with covid, any doubt the two unfortunate cancellations would affect the schedule were abandoned when guitarist and sax backing for Thatcher surprisingly, mostly to themselves, produced a sublime set.

Then two hard rock bands, Melksham-Devizes crossover Plan of Action and Pewsey’s Humdinger contested for the best Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell cover, but also separately blessed the afternoon with back-to-back rock cover sets, that, while not entirely my cuppa, were exceptionally accomplished and certainly got the party going. While it was the heavier end of the scale which floated my boat from Plan of Action, covering Foo-Fighters yet also fantastically replicating Ready to Go, by Republica, the most appealing from Humdinger was certainly the breezy and encapsulating cover of Stereophonics’ Dakota. Both took no prisoners; drink was taking effect and CrownFest was gathering pace.

Confessions time; I neglected to tell John of Illingworth he was up for a mighty fine review regardless, until after he dropped me off home! Though despite following two heavy rock bands, this duo acoustic set with Jolyon Dixon, for me, was the kingpin in the line-up. Illingworth are so utterly skilful in driving a cover headlong into sentimental city, it’s always a pleasure. With heart and soul channelled, two guitars and a foot drum are all that’s required from Illingworth to produce breath-taking versions of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, and The Beatles Hey Jude, among others on this refined setlist; The Waterboys, Oasis, et al. Songs which could be considered cliché if anyone other than Illingworth were stamping their authority on them.

Time was nigh for the finale, Real Magic from Leicester pulled out the tribute act costume shop to replicate a marvellous homage to Queen, of which goes beyond comparison, likely because I’ve not witnessed another Queen tribute before. If doubts of how well they’d accomplish such a feat were mildly enthused with quantities of alcohol, but nevertheless were absolute perfection. Through every legendary hit they covered them with precision and finesse, it was a sight to behold, truly confirming the kind of magic CrownFest had monumentally achieved through just their first attempt. What a wonderful way to end the day, as villagers lit up the area with a true bond to be proud of. Spot on, I say.

I believe some folk need to get over the antiquated notion festivals are only for a raging mob of crusties, as trends have changed dramatically from the anarchist balls of the eighties or illegal raves of the nineties. Music festivals are today a stalwart of family entertainment, churches of popular culture and performing arts. They’re controlled, they’re mainstream, and the industries’ essentiality for them will not be put off by a whinging minority. It was great to meet Peggy-Sue of Swindon 105.5 radio, who for the past year has been producing a show wholly dedicated to local acts, and Mark Jones of Fantasy Radio, as we got along handsomely, chasing the shade in squatting his gazebo. So, if us media giants can get along, I’m sure a village community can too!

We look forward to the possibility of this being an annual fixture, word passed around CrownFest in the heat of the moment was positive it would be, meanwhile they’ll sporadically host smaller music events, and if true it’d be wise to bookmark CrownFest 2023 on your calendar.


Song of the Day 31: Ilingsworth

My classic excuses don’t wash in an online era; the dog ate my Song of the Day blogpost, I’m certain I put it in my bag when I left school, bull like that.

I know, right. It’s been a while since my last Song of the Day, a post I promised on a daily basis but failed, miserably. I got nothing, no excuse that’ll wash. But the moment you hear this tune from John Smith and Jolyon Dixon, the duo known as Illingworth, you’ll understand the need to bring it back.

They’re the Kenco of local music, instantly, each new song comes across as a rock classic, sounding as if it’s always been swimming around in your head.

But Man Made of Glass is emotionally topical and contemporary. Just, go on, have a listen, and I might be persuaded to realign my promise to bring you a song of the day each day, else I’ll have to change the title to song of the month, which is a bit lack lusture of me.

Pulling my finger out, if you’re looking for someone to blame; Netflix. There, it’s out there. Why has every fair idea got to be flipping twelve season series of 200 episodes each, consisting of a drawn-out narrative a better writer could’ve concluded in a hour and half movie? For God’s sake, bring back live music!

Anyway, I’m waffling, feel free to stop me; that’s my song of the day. Very good, carry on….

Fairy-Tale of New Park Street; And Better Local Christmas Songs!

It was Christmas Eve moi lover, outside Carpet Right, an old man without facemask said to me, won’t be seeing another one, and then he yelled a song, Shaky Steven’s Merry Christmas Everyone, I turned my face away, and puked all over you……

Okay, I’ll hold my hands up, that’s all I’ve got when it comes to writing a Christmas song. Time to call in the pros, because without venues many of our local musicians are so bored, they’ve produced some great Christmas songs! As ever I’ll list them alphabetically, not to prove I know my a, b, c, but because whenever I do these “listy” type articles some of you assume it’s a top ten countdown. This isn’t Top of the Pops, but we do have some nice tunes for you:

Ben Borrill – (untitled?)

Colm McCarthy – Christmas Time – 2020 Remix

Gecko – Last Christmas’ sung by a sad bird

Illingworth – Yes It’s Christmas! 

Peloton – Father Christmas Won’t Be Long

Pete Lamb & Colette Cassin – I Remember Christmas

Sound Affects – Taking Back Christmas

Splat the Rat – 2020 you Arse (Ho Ho its Xmas)

Will Lawton – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Did we miss you out? I’m sorry, tell me quick and I can add it!

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