REVIEW – Lark In The Park (Hillworth), Kimberley Rew @ The Southgate, Eddie Witcomb@ White Bear, Devizes

In The Wet And The Dry

Andy Fawthrop

Another busy Sunday afternoon of free music gigs around the town.

First to Hillworth Park for the much under-advertised “Lark In The Park”. I’ve heard of stealth marketing, but sometimes I think Fantasy Radio can take this too far. I saw/ heard very little about this, apart from one post on Facebook, so I wasn’t surprised to turn up an hour after the start of this event to find very few people there. Granted the weather forecast wasn’t great, but I suspect they’d get bigger audiences if they told a few more people what was going on. I managed to catch Clare doing a short set before the heavens opened in mid-afternoon then, like others, took refuge in the café for a coffee. Once it became obvious that the rain wasn’t going to stop any time soon, the few brave souls who’d turned up just melted away. I decided to join them. Bit of a wash-out.

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Fortunately the Southgate is just round the corner so I settled in there with a pint, and was soon joined by friends. The entertainment was provided by Kimberley Rew on guitar, and his wife & partner-in-crime Lee Cave-Berry on bass. Rew’s main claim to fame is having been guitarist and song-writer with Katrina & The Waves, having penned their big hit “Walking on Sunshine”, followed later in 1999 by “Love Shine A Light” when the band won the Eurovision Song Contest (remember that??). Since the band’s demise, Rew has produced a string of solo albums, and has clearly not lost the knack of writing catchy tunes.

The duo served up plenty of bop-along material, blending riffs from pop, boogie-woogie, rock and blues. There was some fine lead guitar from Rew, and solid vocals from both. If anything, it was a bit too exciting for a rainy Sunday afternoon, but absolutely nobody was complaining. It certainly blew out the cobwebs.

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By the end of their first set, the weather had started behaving itself again, and the sun made a belated appearance. So I made my way back down into town, and to the White Bear to catch Eddie Witcomb.

Eddie hails from up the road in Marlborough, and he’d pulled along his dad and a mate or two. So we had the start of a small, but beautifully-formed, audience which grew in size as the afternoon turned into early evening. Eddie did two sets, nicely blending his own very personal material with some carefully selected covers. We were treated to his versions of “Paranoid”, “Roxanne”, “Tears In Heaven” and “Stand By Me”, amongst others. His own songs were well-turned, featuring some fine playing, and delicate vocals. It was a mark of the quality of these songs, that they were as strongly received as the covers. His style was relaxed, and he was fully ready to engage in banter with the audience. He did confide that he was playing with a bit of a hangover, but if he was there was very little sign of it.

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So another great (free) Sunday of music around the town. I think we just shaded it – Weather 1, Music 2, and we all went home happy yet again.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW – The Bone Chapel @ The Southgate, Devizes

No Bones About It!

Andy Fawthrop

Another little stroll up the hill on Saturday night to The Gate to see Swindon-based The Bone Chapel.

Drawn in by their billing as “cosmic Blues featuring broken guitars, shamanic percussion and whisky- soaked original songs of salvation, damnation, lost dreams, hope and love”, I had to admit I was intrigued to see if that was actually what they delivered. TBH it wasn’t. I’m not sure that any of that was ever actually on offer, just nicely-turned marketing bollocks. But on the positive side I did get to see and hear a rather excellent band.

The duo, consisting of guitar/ vocals and drums, got off to a gentle, laid-back start. It took a little while to get the crowd actually listening, rather than chatting, but once they got into their stride, things picked up quite a bit. There was nothing showy, nothing forced or strained, just some very competent blues and boogie-woogie. Folks started dancing and getting into the swing. We got some nice covers, including a great version of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, which went down a storm. And, for a mere two-piece, they laid down some great sounds, and nicely-textured toons.

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There were no broken guitars – but there was some great playing. There was no shamanic percussion – but there was good drumming. The crowd built, the crowd stayed, and the crowd liked what they heard. Can’t say fairer than that.

Another good gig – thanks Debs & Dave!

Future gigs at The Southgate (all FREE) are:

Friday 16th August: Broken Bones Matilda
Saturday 17th August: The Corsairs
Friday 23rd August: Beyond The Storm
Saturday 24th August: Sophia & The Soul Brothers
Sunday 25th August: Vince Bell
Friday 30th August: Daydream Runaways
Sunday 1st September: Gary Hall


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW – George Wilding @ Cellar Bar, Bear Hotel, Devizes

Andy Fawthrop

Images by Gail Foster

George Goes Wild For Charity

 

We all have different approaches to raising money for charity. Some of us lie naked in a bath full of cold baked beans. Some of us shave off all our hair. And some of us choose to terrorise the local neighbourhood by driving a milk float dressed in a Spiderman onesie. [what kind of idiot would even contemplate that?! ED] Each to their own. But some people go for a more straight-forward approach and simply put on a musical benefit night (so as not to frighten the neighbours).

And so it was that Mirko Pangrazzi put on a concert to raise funds for specialist treatment for brain damage for his son Liam. And so it was that we all dutifully piled in to the Cellar Bar last night to support him. Of course The Cellar Bar as a venue would have been a pretty poor attraction in its own right, but thankfully there was the irrepressible George Wilding to light up the evening for us.

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You’ve got to admire George for his sheer versatility. Not only did he showcase some of his own (very good) material, but he belted out covers from right across the musical spectrum. I love the way he’s prepared to have a crack at almost anything, sometimes discovering half-way through a number that he can’t remember the rest of it. But it doesn’t matter. Every number is good fun anyway. I’ve recently started to think of him as a sort of human juke-box, such is his range. And he delivers it all with enormous energy and great good humour.

To be honest – he was playing to a good roomful of friends and fans, but I don’t think it would have made the slightest difference – the boy would’ve been super-good whatever the circumstances.

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But amid all the great music, the wonderful atmosphere, and the cracking-good entertainment, it would have been easy to forget why we were all there. Turns out that financially it was a great success, with over £300 raised for Liam. So the crowd were not only enthusiastic, but also very generous.

It was good to see Mirko back at the helm in the Cellar Bar again, good to see George on absolute top form, and great to see a good crowd enjoying themselves. Great night.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop/Gail Foster)
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REVIEW –Rockin’ Bandits @ Hillworth, Jamie Williams @ Southgate, and Ian O’Regan @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 28th July 2019

Another Free & Easy Sunday Afternoon in The Vize

 

Andy Fawthrop

This is getting to be a habit now. It’s a Sunday, the weather is balmy, and there’s lots of free music on offer.

Firstly to Hillworth Park for Fantasy Radio’s final Month of Sundays, featuring a live on-air radio show, showcasing the talents of a local artists. Today it was the turn of the Rockin’ Bandits, who delivered their usual performance of swing, country and rockabilly. Mixing a few of their own numbers with plenty of covers – Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Johnny Horton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash – you name it – the crowd really lapped it all up. Perfect nostalgia music for a sunny afternoon in the park.

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I couldn’t stay quite to the end because I wanted to get along to The Southgate to catch Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective – a five-piece band who really dress the part. This Essex-based outfit knocked out an altogether more get-down-and-boogie kind of sound, with a blues and Americana edge to their original material. Their set also took a tour around some nice country-rock licks. It was a good atmosphere, with all the windows thrown open, the crowd listening both inside and outside of the pub.

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And finally, back down into town to listen to Ian O’Regan at the White Bear. Ian doesn’t really do his own material – he’s not yer usual singer/ songwriter – but what he lacks in the song-writing department he more than makes up for in the quality, range and sheer versatility of his singing and guitar-playing. His skill lies in the interpretation and delivery of other people’s great songs. His repertoire is eclectic, covering blues, folk, “Irish & Western”, country and rock. Occasionally sipping at his water, he established his usual friendly bantering rapport with the audience. And he played his heart out to a very appreciative audience – for two hours solid without a break! And even after that he had enough energy left to play an encore. Amazing stamina and dedication!

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Yet another great afternoon – three gigs in five hours – and all of it free!

So keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks, both before and after the Devizes International Street Festival there’s loads more (free) music scheduled in Hillworth Park, The Southgate, The Three Crowns, The White Bear and other venues too.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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Back at th’ Argy Bargee

Ahoy, took a journey across the downs to Honeystreet Saturday, the ol’ stomping ground never looked so good.

Amidst affluent villages of the Marlborough Downs few pockets of counter culture hide. Notably, none more renowned than The Barge at Honeystreet.

With memorable days of yore, the pub, its adjoining wharf and campsite has always thrived with the spirit of a mini festival. If this lively reputation has been dubious recently, with changes of ownership and a community buyout, it’s now confirmed; the once jewel in our live music scene has regained its dynamism and essence.

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On adding gigs to our calendar, I’d noticed a consistent drift of local acts adding regular nights at this scenic old mill house, and with our prime sound system attending Saturday, I couldn’t hold back any longer, the desire to investigate was paramount; fetch my tie-dye tee.

Rammed carpark, a straggler sitting on a sarsen stone with a can of Strongbow took it upon himself to police parking, and kindly directed me back towards the sawmill. Sauntering the track on foot, familiar sounds of a gypsy boater’s haven blessed my ears; jolly laughter, dogs barking and the compulsory thunder of bass.

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The front lawn was chock-full of revellers upon my arrival, dogs and kids running wild, drinks flowing merrily around a strategically positioned speaker by the door. Struggle to ascend to the bar without smiling greetings, welcoming hugs, and the customary handclasp from Razah heading the controls to a tower of speakers. The bass is positively throbbing inside as merrymakers mingle and skank, I’d expect no less.

I observed, design wise things looked fresh; same ol’ extensive bar, retaining the previous open-plan renovation. Wow, must’ve been my stag do last time I was here; complete with charred sausages from a drunken campsite barbeque, perpetual rounds of tequila and a druid grudgingly cast as the wizard-o-gram.

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Speaking to the site manager, who’s name escaped my lobes (Dylan?) due to the sweet reggae vibes of our local purveyors of sound system culture, Razah and Knati P, I’m informed most Fridays and every Saturday is dedicated to live music. Where the crop circle centre of the world identifier perhaps waning with trends, the inescapable music scene is blossoming once again.

 

This Saturday evening as lively as ever before, if not more, engrained what I’d anticipated, The Barge is back on the circuit and the news is out. With the rotting neighbouring barn replaced by a plush wooden extension with showers and camping washing facilities, upwards there’s a community arts space, which opens up to the rear garden.

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Outside table areas are equally as jam-packed as the front, beyond, the fire-lit campsite resembling a free party of days gone by. A basic play area for kids and table tennis balances something for all here, yet the icing on the cake is eternally unchangeable, the stunning surroundings of Alton Barnes and the White Horse on Milk Hill.

What a wonderful setting for a gathering of any sort, but with the inimitable radiance of the inhabitants of the Pewsey vale, and the ethos of bringing the best local live music acts, you know it’s going to go off. Any normal night will cost £8 to camp, and good homecooked food is served, so despite its middle-of-nowhere location, you need not fuss about getting home, even to feed the dog. The site is dog-friendly, if you haven’t got a dog, you’ll be issued with one for the weekend.

From those twisted masters of the dark Somerset blues, The Black Wood Redeemers, to Devizes-own indie-pop People Like Us, and from Swindon’s skanking hip hoppers, The Tribe to Avebury’s star George Wilding, The Barge wasted no time whamming its pin back in the map.

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Coming Friday (2nd August,) sees the ferocious and whimsical galloping of gypsy boat folk, with Calico Jack, while reggae vibes return Saturday with both a live set from The Urban Lions, a band who campaigned and fundraised to get this Barge back on waters, and their dub sound system Lionheart Vibration. In contrast, perhaps, I’m equally pleased to see indie-pop upcomers, Daydream Runaways headlining August 17th, with Ben Borrill supporting, and a suburb bank holiday festival line-up.

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With Punjabi style Bhangra outfit, RSVP, headlining, The Argy Bargee Weekender on 23rd-26th August, set in a marquee in the camping field, may come at a £12.50 day ticket stub, or £30 for the whole weekend, but also promises People Like Us, Matt Cook, Phil Cooper & Jamie R Hawkins, Panacoustic, Tripolar and The Tribe, with Knati & Razah’s sound system too. And of course, the given notion they’ve got the know-how-to-party t-shirt, it’s more than tempting.

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So, topper-most respect t’ Brenden ‘n co, th’ new crew o’ th’ Barge, th’ acts ‘n that crazy crowd; yeâd be a land-lubbin’ mug nah t’ bookmark th’ destination this summer!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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REVIEW –Tamsin Quin/ Andrew Hurst @ Hillworth and Andy Juan @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 21st July 2019

Laid-back musical Sunday afternoon in The Vize

Andy Fawthrop

 

Yet again it’s a Sunday, the weather is balmy, and the hangover is starting to recede a little. There seems to be a recurring theme here. Whatever.

After last night’s stunning free show in the Market Place, delivered by The Fulltone Orchestra, today was a day when there was a need to get very much chilled out and calmed down. I mean – singing along to Queen’s greatest hits, and dancing along to the Ibiza set are all very well, to say nothing of the odd jar of liquid refreshment – but since the crowds had all dispersed into the night a few hours previously, something a little more relaxed was very much required.

But not to worry. As ever, our little town, punched above its weight yet again and delivered just what was required.

Firstly to Hillworth Park for Fantasy Radio’s Month of Sundays, featuring a live on-air radio show, showcasing the talents of a couple of local artists. This was the third Sunday show for July (last one is next week 28th July), and it was the turn of Tamsin Quin and Andrew Hurst.

Tamsin’s two short sets included songs from her album Gypsy Blood. Her gentle, simple songs rang out across the park, and behind each one was a personal story, a thought, a feeling. Her delivery was both clear and heart-warming, and she (as always) established a friendly rapport with her audience. Perfect.

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Andrew Hurst is also no stranger to the park, having played here for Fantasy last year too. Only last week I enjoyed Andrew’s longer session in the White Bear, but today it was a couple of shorter sets. He played both covers and self-penned numbers, ranging from the quiet and intimate, through to the noisier upbeat numbers. I was left wondering how two hands can play quite so many notes so quickly. Close your eyes sometimes and it sounded like two guitars – fantastic stuff.

Next week, the final one of the Month of Sundays, will feature the very entertaining Rockin’ Bandits. So get yourself along there!

I left the crowd enjoying their Sunday afternoon in the park because a) I wanted to check out another artist playing in the White Bear’s Sunday afternoon sessions, and b) it was time for a beer! The artist in question was Bristol-based Andy Juan – new to me, but glad I made the trip.

Andy is a singer/ songwriter of some considerable talent. His songs were well-crafted, his vocals intense, and his guitar-playing spot on. He’s one of those artists who, when he’s playing a song, gets completely in the zone, completely in the moment. His focus, his concentration, were wonderful to behold. Playing mostly his own beautiful songs, he wasn’t afraid to throw in the occasional cover as well. But this wasn’t done as a mere afterthought. I’ve long been of the opinion that, if you’re going to cover a well-known song, you need to do one of two things – either replicate the original very exactly (to show how well you can actually listen to another artist’s work), or else give the original a complete re-working (to show how you can re-interpret the meaning, or the feeling, of the original song, to add something entirely new). Andy was definitely in the latter category, and the results were truly stunning. I shall definitely be listening to this guy again.

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On top of all that he delivered his sets with warmth and humour, engaging the audience throughout. And he was a nice bloke too.

Next Sunday (28th July) the White Bear’s Sunday session at 5pm will feature the very talented, and very versatile, Ian O’Regan. One not to be missed.

So there you go – one afternoon, three acoustic artists. Three different styles, but all united in being very talented, very entertaining and (thankfully) very laid-back – perfect! What’s not to like?


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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Choo-Choo, Train to Skaville Supported Neville Staple at Parkfest!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


 

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