Open Music Venues, or Do They Hate Art?

The Smart E’s “Sesame’s Treet” bleeped through the hills of a west country location in 1991. There was an air of delight and mirth when someone pointed to the ridge yonder. “Look,” they chuckled, “the pigs are dancing!” Story checked out, I turned my head to witness a couple of police officers jumping and waving their arms, mocking the fashion of a dancing raver. Imitation we never took to heart, ravers were tongue-in-cheek about their chosen music; repetitive beats over a children’s tv theme was comical nostalgia, and not supposed to be taken seriously. As for the police, seemed as individuals observing, they saw the simple truth that there was no harm in what we were doing. Yet there was always hate in the establishment they took orders from, and we were months away from being grounded by force.

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Hysterical measures by a desperate conservative government, who failed to see the value we held for something they couldn’t understand, an electronic art movement, principally, a modern folk music.

Authoritarians detest art, least the progression of art, seems to me. And it has been plaguing my mind of recent. Freedom of expression, they fear, encourages liberation, unrest and consequently, rebellion. Munich, 1937; Third Reich leaders combined two opposing art exhibitions into one, the “Great German Art Exhibition.” The first hall featured art which Hitler considered suitable, orthodox and representational, lots of flaxen folk gallantly posed like Roman deity sculptures, and local idyllic rural sceneries.

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The second displayed what Hitler deemed “degenerate art,” contemporary, progressive and mostly abstract. But they ensured it was demoted, through exhibiting it callously, with disorder, and bestowing dissuading labels on it, describing “the sick brains of those who wielded the brush or pencil.” Hitler pushed stringent boundaries onto German artists, because he figured art was key to the rise of Nazism and his vision for the future.

Damn, he hated the Bauhaus. Forced the art school to close in 1933. Their angular designs which would herald the most efficient revolution of modernist architecture, were deemed communist intellectualism by the Nazi regime; give them an archaic Spalato Porta Greek arch, or be shot!

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I see humour as my art, my aim is to make you laugh, whenever possible. In a week where a keyboard warrior reported me to Facebook for an ironic slate at Boris Johnson, yet a grammatically atrocious meme, stating they need not pay for a holiday, when purchase of a dinghy from Argos will see them put up in a hotel, is hailed as hilarious, I receive a message of eternal doom for the grassroots music industry, from a professional musician.

Gone, it seems, are the days of eighties “alternative comedy” of the Footlights, of Ben Elton and Rick Mayell scornfully ridiculing Thatcherism. Gone is the echoing mantra of Joe Strummer demanding “a riot of our own.” Today the art of comedy, and music, barely touches political matter, and never takes risks. Humour is subjective, as is all art, I accept this, but art enriches our lives, provides joy and entertainment, and should never be curbed or censored. Yet we find a consistent urge by blossoming traditionalists to dampen the spirit of artists.

The Trump administration eliminated the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. An annual $150 million is a devastating blow to the industry, yet hardly major cost-cutting as it weighs in at only 0.004 percent of the federal budget. Akin to the ethos of the “Great German Art Exhibition,” history is peppered with examples of right-wing philosophy opposing art. The Stalinists enforced stringent principles of style and content, to ensure it served the purposes of state leadership, methodically executing the Soviet Union’s Ukrainian folk poets, according to the composer and pianist, Dmitri Shostakovich. Just as Chile’s coup of 1973, when Augusto Pinochet tortured and exiled muralists. Singer, Víctor Jara was murdered, his body presented publicly as a warning to others.

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In the UK, the reopening of lockdown restrictions despite the pandemic still mounting, where it seems perfectly acceptable to travel to foreign lands on a luxury holiday and return without quarantine, where we are encouraged to shop till we drop and eat out in restaurants to save the food industry, and it’s commonly accepted our children will be used as lab rats in a herd immunity experiment, a government, who let’s face it, should have imposed a lockdown sooner, as was the example of every other developed nation worldwide, rather than fail to attend meetings with the World Health Organisation, and use unreliable companies to supply software and PPE to help combat the virus, simply because they are mates of theirs, will not allow us to have a sing-song in a pub.

Now, at first, I accepted the possible threat, but in light of recent lessening of restrictions, I fail to comprehend the logic in this, in continuing the restrictions on art and music. Given the historical facts surrounding the authoritarian’s apparent hatred of art, I am beginning to fear the virus is a being used as a convenient excuse to suppress and suspend creativity. Oi, loony leftie, shut up, stay in your home and watch the celebrity Pointless special.

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I suggested, didn’t I, art is subjective? If Hitler liked the conventional, representative of Renaissance tradition, it was his prerogative, but there was no need to kill everyone simply because he couldn’t draw horses very well. Since the invention of photography can duplicate precise imagery, artists seek expression, inimitability and design according to their own mind. If it constitutes liberal or reformist ideals, why should it be devalued by opposing attitudes? The problem arises when oppression is enforced, freedom will return the fire, and will be back, refreshed, to bite them on the bum!

Just as the Jamaican JLP party of the right, battled burgeoning Rastafarians into the Wareika Hills in the 1950s, and labelled them “Blackheart Men,” or bogeymen, yet the surge of reggae and the popularity of Bob Marley today sees Rastas accepted in Jamaican society for the tourism it attracts, The Battle of the Beanfield in 1985 did nothing to control travellers in the UK. Less than a decade later the free party scene metamorphized into a rave generation which saw youths rally to support them. You cannot curb progressive movements in any art without risking a wave of rebellion. Ironically, the very thing they’re trying to prevent.

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We’ve seen a return of the rave, police fearing a riot if they try to prevent them, but they reflect nothing of the magnitude of the nineties, yet. Unless grassroots music venues and pubs who were regularly supplying live music are reopened, even if that means social distancing measures are in place, it is inevitable you will open a gapping underground and future generations will strike back. This does nothing for the values conservatives uphold, or their vision of a totalitarian future, but furthermore severely punishes every professional in the arts industry from rock star to sound engineer, every prospering new performer in an era formerly to lockdown, I see equivalent to those swinging sixties; a time I suspect most baby boomers of tory ethos hold dear. An era where every youth was in a band, and focused on music rather than belligerent misdoings.

Yet still, gammons, I believe is the modern terminology, if the left is snowflake, persist in whinging about how youths have no respect, how they were flaunting rules in the park, gathering, conspiring, they so suspect, against them. What if they are, though probably just socialising as they likely once did in their younger years, what if they’ve some masterplan to overthrow this Tory charade; they surprised by this? How egocentrically imprudent, how selfishly insular. This is people’s livelihoods they are toiling with. As Bob Marley once said, “a hungry man is an angry man.”

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Ben Borrill Takes A Little Time

Bobbing around the St John’s corner of Long Street, trying to act important, and sober, I had a message for Ben Borrill, Pete was looking for him, he was on next; ah, gave me something to do. It was the fantastic Devizes Street Festival, made that much more fantastic by Vinyl Realm organising a second stage, showcasing local talent. You must’ve heard about it, even if you weren’t there, I’ve harked on about it enough!

Mission accomplished, he was loitering the doorway, and equably replied with an “oh, okay.” There’s a casual air around Ben, perhaps the most altruistic and modest musician, and, oh, skateboarder too, on the local circuit. It was this way when I first met him during an acoustic jam at The Southgate. Yet there’s a magnetic sparkle when he performs, which captivates. Other than friendship, it’s probably the plausible reason he supports Daydream Runaways recurrently.

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I never held out for something recorded from Ben, content as he seems to roam the local circuit performing live, yet with the current climate surrounding gigs, time and effort is channelled into getting studio time down, for everyone. Sometimes this transmits the talents of a live performer, occasionally not, and I happily report it’s far from the latter.

Groovy, in a word; there’s something pleasantly sixties Merseybeat-come-beatnik about Ben Borrill’s debut single, Take a Little Time; not in a tacky tribute kind of cliché but in a nonchalant, progressive way. Particularly in the intro, the reference of seasonal change, shifting leaves and blossom of a fading spring, balances into romantic ditty, and spanning just over two minutes too; it’s short but sweet.

While it doesn’t go off down a completely psychedelic sixties formula, it’s no Mammas & Papas, the riffs do lean heavily on all that’s golden about that golden era, of Kinks or Hollies, with a fresh tinge of modern acoustic. Here’s a smooth ride into an intelligently grafted, but easy-going song, reflecting Ben’s charismatic and breezy attitude. It is, blinking marvellous, and leaves you yearning for more… jump to it Ben, equably I’d imagine he would reply with an “oh, okay!” Spotify link here.


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Sam Bishop and the Fallen Sky

Ex-Devizes boyband and half of Larkin, Sam Bishop is away studying music in Winchester. He posts about his latest single, Fallen Sky with the thought, “I really do think this is the best song I’ve ever made.” You do always say that, Sam, tee-hee, but it’s no bad thing! I think it was legendary underground cartoonist, Hunt Emerson, who once told me, “never put anything out you’re not confident to say it’s the best thing you’ve ever done.” It suggests Sam is always striving for better, but the proof is the pudding, and this is a Michelin star sundae. Yeah, I believe you’re deffo right with this one.

It’s got that dark, moody ambience, backed with a deep bassline, sonic piano and ticking drumbeats, as if William Orbit took boyband to dubstep. This compliments Sam’s humming vocals to a tee, as it characterises dejected teenage anguish and echoes the passion in early romantic interactions. While it’s a bromide subject at the best of times, Sam rests on it well, as was a time when we wanted Phil Collins to have a broken heart, so his reflection on it would be so powerfully crushing and relevant to our own life!

I feel old ears will nod in memory, but Sam’s defining style speaks volumes to younger generations. This is heartfelt stuff, as ever with Sam, but this time, in particular, the production on Fallen Sky envelopes that atmosphere so brilliantly.

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You know what I’d like to hear? And call me old-fashioned if you will, I’ve been called worse, but I’d like an amalgamation of songs filling a complete narrative, as the parable ends like an open-ended short story, leaving you wondering the next decision Sam’s character in the song will take. Like a chick-flick plot, he sings, “does it feel like it’s the end of our lives?” While this is great, I’m left yearning to know if they get back together or not, so, just a suggestion, but an intertwined set of songs spanning a complete fictional relationship, like, dare I say it, a concept album. This may not be the modern way to go with distribution I know, but here is Sam Bishop at his best, and a development worthwhile expanding.

Yeah, alright, I hear you, I’m old, yeah, thanks a million! Check this Fallen Sky out here.


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The Big Yellow Bus Rocks The Gazebo

Two things former humble truck driver Gerry Watkins is a natural at, plucking an ingenious idea and putting it into action, and putting on a gig to fund it. In 2017 Gerry raised four-grand to buy a double-decker bus, which he converted into a homeless shelter in Cirencester. Since he’s launched a similar plan in Swindon, and continues to raise funds for this amazing homeless project. The Big Yellow Bus project is innovative but simple, and Gerry works tirelessly to keep it running.

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With live music teetering on return, it still maybe a while before some venues are ready to reopen, despite yesterday’s sudden given date of August 1st. The following weekend, 7&8th, sees a grand restart for The Big Yellow Bus, to get funds rolling once again. The Tavern Inn in Kembleplays host to this glorious two-day mini festival, which is free, with collection buckets for the Big Yellow Bus doing the rounds.

Music plans to kick off at 7pm on Friday 7th August with our good friends, Absolute Beginners. I know, like most, Cath, Gouldy and the gang will be itching to get back to live music. While there’s still a few gaps in the line-up to confirm, The Roughcut Rebels will be a welcomed act, introducing their new frontman, the one and only Finley Trusler; an awesome unification we look forward to hearing. Mick O Toole is also on Friday’s header.

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Saturday 8th though is an all-dayer. Paul Cooper (Martin Mucklowe) from the twice BAFTA award-winning BBC tv series, This Country, will be opening up the event at midday. Shaun Peter Smith will be the Compère for the day, as Miss Lucy Luscious Lips, he’s certain to add a little bit of glamour and sparkle. There’s a number of faces I know to this busy line-up, and plenty new to me.

An interesting Opening at midday, Ascenda are a four-piece, playing smooth music with a rock edge and thoughtful, theatrical vocals. Their current collection of songs ‘Celeste,’ forms a love story that explores conflicts; solitude versus companionship, and spirituality versus practicality.

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Acenda (image by Eric Hobson Photography)

Cath, Gouldy and the gang return as The Day Breakers at 1pm, with their irresistible blend of Celtic and mod-rock covers, it’s guaranteed to go off! Swindon’s all-girl rock and pop covers band, Bimbo follow at 2pm. Dirty and filthy punk is promised to followed with The Useless Eaters, a band who accurately recreate the iconic sound of late 70’s British and American punk.

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Six Lives Left

Cirencester’s masters of high-energy classic eighties rock covers, Loaded Dice are on at 4pm, followed by a mesh of Britpop, new wave and ska with SkA’D Hearts at 6pm. Era-spanning soul follows with Joli and The Souls, and rock restarts in style with Six Lives Left. Sticking with six as the magic number, the finale will be from Calne’s fantastic misfits of Britpop and new wave, Six O Clock Circus, who are always up for a party!

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Joili & The Souls

Yeah, it’s all slightly out of our usual jurisdiction, but with a line up like this, all for such a great cause, and with limited events these lockdown days, this is highly recommended and worth the effort. Kemble Railway Station is right opposite The Tavern Inn so it’s easy to find.

Note, putting such an event on so early after lockdown will not be without expected guidelines, everyone must abide by. Gerry urges social distancing and that you respect those around you. “This is all done so you can enjoy yourself and have a great time watching and dancing to great live bands and performers, thank you for all your support and together we can have a great time.” I’m sure they will, Gerry. If anyone is heading off from Devizes, gimmie a lift, pal, because this sounds unmissable!

rockgaz


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Talk in Code Taste the Sun

Back in January 2019, I was dead impressed with Talk in Code’s debut album Resolve, and labelled it “sophisticated pop with modern sparkle.” I offered the track “Oxygen,” as best example of how, like classic pop anthems should, its instantaneous catchiness gets stuck in your head. To compare and contrast that favourite from the album with the upcoming release from this Swindon indie-pop four-piece, it’s clear they’ve come an incredibly long way to enhancing and refining that fashion.

Reflecting back, Resolve has the definite “indie” sound of the nineties, only dipping a toe in the pool of eighties synth-pop. I felt this coming, each track they release sounds more like an iconic mid-eighties sugary hit, and Taste the Sun dives right in. It supplements my “sophisticated pop with modern sparkle” label much more.

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Recorded just before lockdown at Studio 91 in Newbury, the band define the theme as “about waking up and smelling the coffee, a feeling that change is coming and the relief when that change is made for the greater good.” Nothing wrong with that inspiring concept, but perhaps nothing original; writing style they stick to a model template, but the sound is invigorating. In a word, it’s refreshing, like the zest of a sparkling iced fruit drink on a humid holiday afternoon, it encompasses all that is glorious about pop. Blooming with good time, summery vibes, Taste the Sun is the sort of lively “Wham” anthem a younger you would’ve retained from a holiday camp disco, and evermore evoke a fond memory of a fleeting romance.

That said in the best manner possible. Talk in Code is a well-oiled machine, refining that classic sound for a new generation and, most importantly, extracting and binning any cliché or cringeworthy elements. You know the sort, listen to any eighties pop now and wince at a particularly ill-thought out component, be it a castoff sample, badly grafted rap or, worse still, a “talky” part; “I thought I told you, Michael, I’m a lover not a fighter!”

Yet I find similar with today’s pop, and hold my daughter accountable! “Why they doing that bit?” I grumpily whinge. “What bit?” she retorts. It’s like a repetitive synthesised single word, or randomly placed high-hat making me shudder. Talk in Code use the acuteness of “indie” to eliminate said pop crime, use pop for catchiness and throw something back at you with universal appeal. It’s true, I concern myself at the prospect of taking my daughter to a pop festival, be it I’m cowering at her modern taste, or she’s dragging me away from something I like the sound of. Talk in Code is something we could both agree is great, and throughout reviewing their singles, Taste the Summer is perhaps the prime example of this notion.

Released on Monday 27th July, on digital download at http://www.talkincode.co.uk and on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music and all digital platforms. Go on, you have a listen, and I challenge you to find something bad to say about this sparkling, uplifting nugget of pop; because I can’t!


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Jamie at The Southgate; first live music review for a while!

Has lockdown made us appreciate the simpler things in life we once took for granted? Even if, it’s pathetic to lose your shit over the lessening of restrictions and go on an all-out bonkers spree of drunken foolishness, playing into the media’s hands creating a drama from a crisis. It is understandable isolated folk fear the idea of venturing to pubs when carefully selected images of hordes of pissheads scrapping outside some chavvy chain bar are spread across social media, just as a few weeks ago a trip to the beach would’ve been scorned at.

For me, a relative good, aging boy, who’s been looking forward to the prospect of an unpretentious pint down the Southgate all morning at work, to return home and regrettably check Facebook to notice a local post claiming sixty-plus youths were last night causing havoc in town, and extend the horror to hear similar events occurred in the Sham too, it’s discouraging. Will I be held up as a hooligan, because I desire life to return to a time when going to the pub was normality?

It’s a matter of being selective. If it was up to me, I’d encourage a mass boycott of Bojo’s philistine bum-chum, Tim Martin’s shamelessly uncultured shithouses, but each to their own. They lead by example, a bad one. If you want to pour your hard-earned pounds into the pocket of this billionaire who treated his staff with such utter disrespect, perhaps you’re the kind of insensible sociopath who enjoys a punch-up. Not me, I went to the Southgate for an afternoon pint and report back a decidedly lack of hooliganism from rampaging shirtless knob-jockeys; don’t believe the hype.

Going to this pub was safer than shopping, and the delightful experience it always was, if not more being it’s been a while.

I actually got what I anticipated all along; a warm welcome, orderly queuing for the bar, a bottle or two of hand sanitiser and a slight gathering observing social distancing, able to contain their excitement at being let off their leash. But what is more, some breezy live music; what I’ve been holding out for. Yay! I’m not writing to slag off some corporate monopoly, but wanted to compare and contrast, plus get the rant off my chest. Rather it is, our first live music review for seemingly eons, and who better to grace the step of the Southgate’s garden than Jamie R Hawkins? Okay, I know I’m asking too many questions in this piece, but that was rhetorical.

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Perched in the doorway of the skittle alley, slighter of beard and longer of locks, Jamie was every bit the icing on the cake. Predictable, could be said, but welcoming to see the many faces admiring over his ambiance of acoustic goodness. In faith too, of the gradual phase-in for live music, the session wasn’t intended to be long; just a few songs from 4-6pm. Enough though to get a taste, and Jamie looked to be enjoying it as much as the crowd.

There were some new ones, Walking into Doors (?) one I arrived for, one perhaps called “Speechless.” Jamie did one cover, Simon & Garfunkel’s Cecelia, and went through some of his benchmarks, the wonderful Capacity to Change, the remarkably sentimental Not Going Anywhere, and being it was a family affair, the ukulele-driven “Welcome to the Family,” aimed at his restless toddler in her pushchair. Yes, an intimate setting, but with words crafted so beautifully and perceptible as Jamie’s, one cannot see the relevance in your own life.

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It was also a notable notion that Jamie was the last person to perform at our splendid Southgate, prior to the lockdown, so fitting he set the ball rolling in reopening. Though, with the unification with Phil Cooper and Tamsin Quin as The Lost Trades, a band formed in just enough time to play a debut, Jamie and the gang are really gathering acclaim further afield. They are promised at the Gate, but again, we have to be patience; this was a teaser under certain restrictions. A band, a late night outside may not be feasible for this humbling pub, yet, but time will tell.

Here then, was a lovely teaser afternoon, and proof above all media hype surrounding this ease of restrictions, that it can be done sensibly and responsibly, and the Southgate is on top of the movement towards normality; when it does, it’ll be something wonderful. Has lockdown made us appreciate the simpler things in life we once took for granted? Not really, it’s always been this good.


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NervEndings For The People

More clout than Ocean Colour Scene I’d expected after hearing frontman Mike Barham’s prior thrashing solo releases and drummer Luke Bartels previous band, but more roaring blues than Reef was an angle I didn’t see coming when I first checked our local purveyors of loud, NervEndings.

We’re countless gigs in now, the band, with bassist and secondary vocalist Rob McKelvey, still tight and raucous. I’m glad there’s a six-track album doing the rounds on the streaming sites, as by way of a meanderingly drunken tête-à-tête with Luke down the Gate, an album in the pipeline was one of the random topics breezed over, but so was the debatable aggression levels between Welsh and English badgers too, so I only held hope it’d see the light!

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“For The People”they’re calling it, then, out last week. It’s got the kick I now predicted, with that surprising blues element to boot, particularly in the opening track, Infectious Groove. Yet the Muddy Puddles single we’ve reviewed in the past follows, and sets the ball really rolling; it takes no prisoners, yet, for its catchiness, contains a slither of something very sixties; imagine pre-Zeppelin metal.

Emo, to audaciously use an unfamiliar genre, I’d best describe Colour Blind; smoother, drifting indie rock. And in that, Fighting Medicine is more as I’d supposed, guitar riff rocking like a driving song and Mike’s brainy lyrics, with added profanity to describe the drunken hooligan spoiling for a rumble. You know the bloke, there’s always one.

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With themes of non-pretentious indie, Chin up continues this ethos, forget the attempts to conform to expectances, it’s a be-yourself song. Best, in my humble opinion, though, is Dark Dance; as it says on the tin, teetering on crashing punk, it’s upbeat and danceable, in a throwing-your-head mosh-pit kind of way, which isn’t my way, usually, but it reaches a bridge of mellow romance-themed splendour. Here’s Jimi Hendrix covering Blur’s Song Two, as the blues is retained in all these contemporary rock tunes, and for a dude indifferent to the cliché indie sound, it works on my level too.

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Nicely done, and, double-whammy, Mike has forced upon me this streaming inclination which defies all my generation stood for when collecting music. Our parents called us by name when shouting up the stairs to turn the music down, not “Alexa!” Ah, it needed to be done and I’m grateful, in a sense. “Send me a download or something,” I pleaded, “I don’t understand this Spotty-Fly thing!” But it only met with the reply, “it’s on all the streaming sites….” I’m of the generation who tried to turn over the first CD they got, to listen to the B-side, and only just got the hang of downloading. Now I’m causally informed downloading’s sooo millennial.

I dunno, all moving too fast it; seems so unphysical, not to have a record collection, rather a playlist. You can’t skin up on a Deezer playlist. At least downloading had a file, nearer, somewhat, to owning a record. But I’ve persevered and found the Spotify app on my PC more user friendly; I didn’t harass my daughter for assistance once, as I regularly do with the phone.

So, cheers, Mike. Hopefully this will help me surpass the “noob” label my son has tied to me, which, I’m told is a word for both a novice and an insult in one. Honestly, I feel like my grandad, who, when he came over once, stood staring at our new LCD television and asked, “where’s your tele?!” For the People needs to include the older people too, as I reckon many would either love it, or give this trio a ruddy good clip around the ear, which is maybe what they deserve for being so damn good; they’d have me talking emoji next.


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Jon Amor is Cooking

Last time I saw Jon Amor he was queuing for Sainsburys. Sign of the times I suppose, would’ve much preferred to say we were in a pub or hall, and Jon was doing his thing. Capers, was what, he explained, he went in for. Those Mediterranean pickled berries, I figured; Jon is as epicure with his tucker as he is with his music. A new single, Peppercorn, expands the hypothesis; he’s cooking alright.

A contemporary blues performer with an established diverse repertoire, I was surprised upon reviewing his 2018 album, Colour in the Sky, of a distinctive and quirky fashion akin to late-seventies pop-rock in the more beguiling tracks; a drainpipe-suited Elvis Costello, of type, and songs as good to match. I’m thinking of the tracks Red Telephone and Illuminous Girl in particular, they don’t follow the archetypical modern bluesman manner, they’re upbeat, zany and define a certain panache emerging with Jon. I’m pleased to say Peppercorn doesn’t just correspond with this notion, but expands upon it.

Accompanied by video of crazy antics around his home, presumably recorded over his many entertaining lockdown live streams, with not only a rather perfected Ministry of Silly Walks tribute in snappy blue winkle-pickers, but an amusing puppet sequence to scream Sledgehammer at you. This is a quirky, catchy little tongue-in-cheek number. From Shanks & Bigfoot’s Sweet Like Chocolate to, more appropriately, The Soul Leaders’ boss reggae classic, Pour on the Sauce, food innuendo is no new thing in music; Louis Jordan nailed it in the thirties. Still with his demarcated and inimitable stylishness, here’s Jon’s own take on it.

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With a little slide-guitar intro, after thirty seconds it’s having it; immediately enticing and definingly why Jon Amor sets the local live music bar high. Though he is, the hybrid between man-about-Devizes-town and blues legend. At a quid from Bandcamp, this shiny example of why is a winning dish.


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A Cracked Machine at the Gates of Keras

Don my headphones, chillax with a cider, and prepare my eardrums for a new album from our local purveyors of space-rock goodness; Cracked Machine is a wild ride….

There are few occasions when mellowed music truly suspends me in the moment, when it just exists in the air like oxygen and totally incarcerates and engulfs my psyche. Jah Shaka and ambient house rascals the Orb both achieved this a couple of dusks at Glastonbury, but the same with likewise happenings, I confess I was intoxicated on matter maturity caused me to long leave in my past!

The issue for any reborn psychedelic-head is pondering the notion, will it ever be the same again, will music and art tease my perception to quite the same degree. The sorry answer is no, unless your intransigent mate slips something in your drink. Yet it’s not all despair, with a sound as rich and absorbing as Cracked Machine, it’s doable without drugtaking shenanigans.

They proved this at the most fantastic day in Devizes last year, which was that bit more fantastic, when what was intended to be a bolt-on feature became the highlight of DOCA’s Street Festival. Funded and arranged by Pete and Jacki of Vinyl Realm, the second stage highlighted everything positive about local music; a historic occasion we’ll be harking on for some time yet. I nipped away briefly after Daydream Runaways stole the early part of the day. But where the lively indie-pop newcomers had roused the audience, I returned to witness a hypnotised crowd and a mesmerising ambience distilling the blistering summer air. Smalltalk was numbed, as if the area was suspended in time. A doubletake to confirm we were still perpendicular, sitting in deckchairs or slouching against a wall on the corner of Long Street and St Johns and not slipped through a time vortex to a Hawkwind set at a 1970 free-party love-in. I was beyond mesmerised, but not surprised.

For this is how it was with their impressive 2017 debut album, I, Cosmonaut, the soundscapes just drifted through me, as I causally drafted the review, reminding me of a smoky haze of yore, giggling in a mate’s bedroom, listening to Hawkwind’s Masters of Universe. Youth of my era though, were subjected to electronic transformation in music, which would soon engulf us. Rave culture cut our space-rock honeymoon short, though, Spaceman 3 were a precursor to the ambient house movement of the Orb, Aphex Twin and KLF, others changed their style, like Frome’s Ozric Tentacles merging into Eat Static, and a perpetually changing line-up for Hawkwind appeased the older rock diehards.

I love I, Cosmonaut, it manages to subtly borrow from electronica and trance, only enough to make it contemporary, but keep it from being classed as anything else other than space-rock. I felt their second album, The Call of the Void avoided this slice of Tangerine Dream, and submerged itself totally in the hard rock edge; bloody headbangers! Therefore, it’s a refreshing notion to note newly released Gates of Keras bonds the two albums and sits between them perfectly.

Again, there’s little to scrutinise as it rarely changes, it meanders, trundles me to a world beyond wordplay, as these completely instrumental tracks roll into one another, gorgeously. A Deep Purple styled heavy bass guitar may kick it off, yet the opening track Cold Iron Light takes me to the flipside of Floyd’s Meddle, with seven and half minutes of crashing drums and rolling guitar riffs. Temple of Zaum continues on theme, Ozrics-inspired funkier bassline, and we’re off on the drifting journey, splicing subtle influences. The Woods Demon, for example, stands out for particularly smooth almost Latino guitar riff, making it my personal fave. Yet Move 37 is heavier, upbeat, like the second album. Low Winter Sun is sublime blues-inspired, imagine Led Zeppelin created Satisfaction rather than the Stones, if you will.

Recorded back in November, this is eight lengthy soundscapes of pure bliss, and will guarantee you a safe trip. A signature album for a lonely lockdown of dark, yet emersed in a time of Tolkien-esque vibes and mandelbrot set fractal posters. If this was released in the mid-seventies-to early-eighties every spotty teenager would be inking their army surplus school bag with a biro-version of Cracked Machine’s logo. As it is, age taking its toll and all, I have no idea if this still happens, but doubt it. None of that matters, here is a matured era of the genre, only with a glimpse of how it once was. Nicely done.

Paul Lappin; Awake in the Dark

“Lying Awake in the Dark,” the new single from Swindon’s indie soloist Paul Lappin, drives a breezier and more melodic sound than previous singles, taking me to something Jamie R Hawkins or Phil Cooper might conjure. As his third single to discover on Bandcamp since the upbeat “Life Was Good,” near on a year ago, here’s an indie-pop rock artist I’ve just discovered, worthy of lots of attention.

Though our friend Dave Franklin, over at Dancing About Architecture got there first, describing Paul’s sound thus, “it bridges a gap between the sweeter sounds of the pre-Britpop era and today’s indie creations. This is an infusion of past and present, a blend of indie, rock and pop which is at turns melodic, euphoric and soulful but always honest, relevant, reflective and passionately in love with life.”

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There’s a positively determine, tried and tested formula at work here, which may break no new ground, yet is beguiling nonetheless, and needs no experimentation. While the first two singles prompt me to suggest, though proficient, it’s all quite contemporary indie-pop, joyous and optimistic, Lappin reflects on the more melancholic theme a lost love with “Lying Awake in the Dark,” and to be honest, it suits. Backed by partial exerts of female vocals, provided harmoniously by Emily Sykes, whispering through the melody, the composition is exquisite.

Paul spent some time in rural isolation in France, polishing his song-writing skills, along with painting and sketching. Winning a song-writing competition with his debut single, the aforementioned “Life Was Good,” the story starts here. No stranger to this self-isolation era then, Paul says, “it feels familiar, all be it under very different circumstances. But now I’m confined to my parents’ house in England, where I’ll continue to draw, paint, and write songs. Might as well make the most of it.” Paul strives towards an album release shortly; something to watch out for from him, his handful of backing performers and Swindon’s celebrated Earthworm Studios.

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There’s a kind of rueful honesty and openness about Paul’s building discography, the sort after attending just the single gig I’d imagine you retire with the content notion you know this guy,  hence my comparison to our Jamie or Phil. Tracks are downloadable for a mere quid, for example; there’s no fleecing here. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear the cover art is a self-portrait, here you get the whole package of a person. It is, though, a watermark of a great acoustic musician, and Paul fits that bill.


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Mr B & The Wolf come out of The Mist

On our promise, via The Indie Network Facebook group, and generally a growing cognisant inside me, for Devizine to musically venture outside our local area, geographically, here we go with a starter for ten. Though it’s no new thing, in the past we’ve mentioned many, from Cosmic Rays in Shropshire, to Mayyadda from Minnesota; I invite this pandemic to officially crash our borders….

One request recently came from one Vince Henry, who’s digitally-adapted Facebook profile pic makes Doug Bradley in his Pinhead guise from the Hellraiser films look like a bedtime Care Bear, and led me to assume the band he manages, Mr B & The Wolf was about to unleash some thrash death metal or psychobilly peculiarity unwillingly into my aging eardrums. I prepped myself accordingly, one ear in the headphone, paracetamol within reach, but I was pleasantly surprised.

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As a function band based in my motherland, Essex, Mr B, and his wolf too, are lively, true, but present a flowing range from blues-based rock and Americana to “throwback” pop and soul, and do it with the finesse of a contemporary Fleetwood Mac. It’s a zephyr blowing your locks, the single I’ve been sent, Out of the Mist archetypal of the band’s bravura. I liked it and now have the album, LazyDay to give a fuller appraisal.

With echoes of driving rock Mr B and the Wolf keep a balance, there’s no tearing off metal as I preconceived, no angry underscores, rather a commercially viable equilibrium of uplifting rock radio stations cannot excuse for not spinning. Second tune, Rise Up, a great example of this breezy and enriching chic. Yet in the acceptance lies an aching sensation eighties power ballad bands, like Huey Lewis and the News should’ve been striving for a sound more like Mr B & The Wolf.

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Three tunes in then, and Crazy Town strips the style back to a deeper blues riff, vocally gritty, vocalist Dean Baker handles it very well indeed. Out of the Mist combines the two and stands out, for both catchiness and composition. Chestnut subject matter, yeah, but it doesn’t sway me when it’s performed so well.

What we find here is a bonded, proficient band with stains of all rock has produced before but boy, do they know how to wear it well. They being, Ben Pellicci on lead and backing vocals, Jason Bird on bass and backing vocals, George Wallis on rhythm, and Jason Chown on Drums; unconfirmed which one is the wolf!

Phoenix ballads us to the finale, harmoniously and mellowly. I couldn’t go as far to compare it with the way Morrison would direct the Doors through an audience-mesmerising voyage, but it does equate the great soft metal bands of yore’s more magically rousing moments. I nod to Heart and of course, Bon Jovi, but they’d be knocking on the doors of Floyd or Cream, see if they’re coming out to play.

The finale though, belts back the blues riff and takes us full circle. In conclusion then, Mr B & The Wolf certainly don’t drift from blues-rock formulae, though it’s a damn fine established blueprint anyway, and this Chelmsford band do it with style. LazyDay would refrain you from road rage in traffic and compel you to turn it up when you hit the open road, Mr B & The Wolf would be a gig you’d return from with fond memories.


Mr B & The Wolf Website

BandCamp for the album (£3.50)

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Don’t, Ryan!

Okay I confess, in my last article I did, didn’t I, state there was a trend of indie music taming to mass appeal? And yeah, I suggested this is no bad thing. There will, however be exceptions to the rule, and rock will, and should always retain its hard edge; we have room for all here. Swindon’s Ryan Webb, for instance, who’s just dropped a new single, “Don’t,” takes no prisoners.

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This is militantly metal, with spikes. It rocks with edge, it doesn’t hang around with an ambient intro, stop for a melodic break, the bridge is reached in seconds, the rolling guitar riff perpetually quivering your bones. A one-man red-hot chilli pepper, Ryan wrote, produced, sang, wailed his guitar, recorded and mixed the track in his studio. The only collaborator being Dave Collins, the mastering engineer for Metallica’s last album, who mastered this too.

It must be said, this not the template of Ryan Webb, who quotes influences ranging from Pink Floyd, Joe Satriani, and Zeppellin, to Coldplay, Muse, and Kings of Leon. He has the range encompassing any rock avenue, and projects all with comfort and competence.

“Don’t” though, whoa there Ryan, I’m inclined to put my frayed denim jacket over my AC-DC t-shirt and head-bang my way to the highway from hell, and I’m not usually one for all that; haven’t even got an army surplus bag with badly grafted pictures of Eddie the Head and Megadeath logos!

So yeah, if I like it, you iron maidens will love it! What is more, the track is “a plea to anyone contemplating suicide to take a step back and see that they have a lot going on for them in the world. Even when times are really bad, it’s important to talk to those around you.”

Ryan has chosen All Call Signs as the beneficiary for any sales from the single. All Call Signs is a UK organisation set up by two veteran soldiers, Dan Arnold and SJ James, in order to help other vets/serving military personnel who may be finding life difficult. They have also created an app which helps locate those reported missing and in need of urgent support.


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Indie Networking and Long Coats

If social media is the rearguard in music’s battle against the Coronavirus lockdown, there’s plenty of battalions networking at this last stand, and physical location is no issue. A virtual realm is borderless, and for this reason, while Devizine is concentrated on content local to Wiltshire, there are many avenues worthy to waiver the rule for. So, expect us to cover some bands and artists without borders, ones I’ll connect with through social media, such as the Facebook group I’m here to mention, as is the group’s tenet.

That said, Ollie Sharp is a young performer from within our geographical catchment, Bath, who recently set up said Facebook group for indie music, called, aptly, The Indie Network. Its welcoming and dynamic attitude is gaining attention. I joined, they cast a thread of introductions; made me feel old! Funny cos it’s true, pipsqueaks by comparison. Young enough to have to Google my antiquated phraseology, like cassette tapes and Danny Kendal. Some poor guy confessed he was older, at 43, at which he faced compassionate reassurances such as, “it’s only a number.” I knew then to keep my gob shtum, so I stated I was “old enough to know better, too old to care.” Least it’d do no good for our Kieran from Sheer Music, who also joined, to grass me up as an old skool raver, historical to those barely an itch!

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Though we’ve jested before about the era of yore where never the twain would indie kids and ravers mingle, Mr Moore and I, and come to the conclusion I’m exempt on account of my eclectic taste. Let it be known now, I like the sound of Ollie’s recently formed band The Longcoats, and it’s just the sort of thing which allows Kieran to win the genre argument! It’s breezy, placid indie, acceptable on a larger scale than predecessors, much least my aging preconceptions, bit like what our Daydream Runaways and Talk in Code are putting out; and I like them. I even refer to them as “our,” see, like a northern working-class family. Shoot, pass my Smiths tee Mr Moore, I’m an indie kid! (kid used here in its most unlikely definition.)

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Anyway, I digress. We’ve reached the part of the show where the artist mumbles “is this codger going to actually review my single?” Apologies for my Uncle Albert moment, ha, there was me thinking Boris had made arbitrary tangents trendy. There’s no telling some, he’s a bastard. However, we’ll never get going if I branch into politics.

“Used to Being Used” is the single I was sent, the earlier one of two on their Bandcamp page. It follows a blueprint of indie-pop, there’s a trudging guitar riff, a theme of dejected ardour, yet it’s done with skill, catchiness and promising aptitude. The latter single, Drag, which came out in March takes a similar tempo, and cool attitude; there is no need to be angry in an era which accepts the genre, so ever with edge but only enough, The Longcoats create a beguiling and entertaining sound to appeal wide.

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Last year guitarist Arthur Foulstone and drummer Kane Pollastrone added to frontman Sharp’s lone act, which bridged the gap between band and solo artist. The final piece of the puzzle came upon recruiting permanent bassist Norton Robey. With the assistance of producer Jack Daffin, The Longcoats have created a defining sound which is appealing and instantly recognisable.

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There is nothing about this Bath four-piece indie-pop-rock band here, I’ll be honest, which will act as their magnum opus, but an auspicious start dripping with potential. Here’s one to watch, with their debut EP ‘October’ in the pipeline, here’s hoping it’ll reach us before the month of its namesake.

But it’s not so much about the individual band here which maketh this article, rather the conscious efforts to unite and network, thus creating a scene. Even through this era of wishing for a live gig, the networks thrive, perhaps even more so. Ollie also created Wise Monkey Music, a multi-media music and events promotion company based in the Southwest, of which we look forward to hearing more of; attention, the like Facebook group The Indie Network is likely to bring. They even let this aging raver in, dammit; though my white gloves and whistle must be in a box in the loft somewhere, it’s a deceased stereotype, of which I’m glad.

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I do find though, as someone who glued and photocopied zine after zine, aside the mass media driven pop tripe, the underground thrives as it ever did, the internet only creates an easy route in. Just like the bands of the now, such as The Longcoats and others rapidly joining the group, what’s not to like about it?

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Talking Gravity, and other things, with Daydream Runaways

With some images used by Nick Padmore

How professional of me to create a to-do-list of outstanding subjects for articles, but then spoil said professionalism by dithering to the Daydream Runaways boys about the nineties rave-indie divide and becoming a grandad. The sensible members of the band promptly left the group chat, save guitarist Cameron Bianchi who stayed to endure my inane waffling up as far as the Madchester scene.

Prior to this though we had a great heart-to-heart early in the week, but if the title of this article is misleading, I should add the subject of Sir Isaac Newton never came up, rather Gravity is their latest single, hot off the streaming sites yesterday. It’s quality, as expected, going on their three previous releases, blinding reviews and an appearance on BBC Wiltshire.

It does indeed, as the press release states, “deliver on their brand of retro-modern indie rock,” but while maintaining an emerging signature panache, it pushes firmer towards a heavy rock division. A hasty grinding atmospheric intro with a pause, then the spiralling sonic guitar takes no prisoners. If the last tune, Closing the Line bore topical sentiment with a theme of the town’s Honda Plant closing, Gravity is perhaps more general, but even more powerful. This imminent Swindon-Devizes four-piece really have dug into an emotional slant with Gravity.

The combination of Ben Heathcote’s idiosyncratic vocals, said sonic guitars and class production value, this belts across as a rock anthem to not only scare The Darkness but fight a Foo. They say it comes from “a time of turbulence and explores the burden of life’s toughest decisions.” If I predicted the air of gloom surrounding the era would produce some intensely expressive songs, here is the all the proof you need, if indeed it’s a product of the pandemic. I’m going to find out.

So, I’m wondering, if the recording was done at a distance, or prior to the lockdown. Drummer, Brad Kinsey informed, “it was done in February, in Swindon, with an engineer from Westbury.”

I explained my reasoning, “it sounds heavy, rather darker than usual. So, I wondered if it was a result of the lockdown. Is there a drive to take it that route, I mean slightly darker and heavier, or is just the mood of this particular track?”

Cameron replied “I think it was just the mood of the track. Everything kind of centres around the experience Ben’s lyrics are speaking about. In fact, Ben’s probably the best person to about the story behind the song. But we definitely made a conscious effort to push ourselves on this on to do the song justice.”

It certainly does. “It doesn’t hang around,” I pointed out, “and the vocals are more powerful than before. Seems like a natural progression, a maturity. Not that I’m calling you immature, you understand?!”

Bradley responded, “nah, I get that. I think we gained confidence and are more unified about this sound.”

Cameron interjected, “I think it’s important to all of us to keep pushing ourselves with each release and not churn out the same number. I’m not saying we’re the Beatles or anything, but you know give it some time. We’re still young!”

Bradley bantered, “are you, Cam?!”

Cameron added, “well, some of us are still young…” Laughing emojis are added, but I’m getting paranoid.

“Okay,” I opposed, “spring chickens; don’t rub it in!” But even with any such change, such as the edgier component of Gravity, there’s a distinct signature maintained in all their tunes and this, I feel, sets them apart from many a local band. I could have guessed it was them before knowing it. “Is that important,” I questioned, “to be instantly recognisable?”

Cameron said, “I think it helps that Ben has got a very distinctive and powerful voice. I suppose we’re starting to find our sound as well. Ben & Nath wanted to go a bit heavier with this track but I’m not a massive fan of heavy guitar. So, I opted for a more chimney yet overdriven guitar style that suits me, but also packs a punch. Plus, I got to flex my inner Graham Coxon/Jonny Greenwood with the effects heavy solo part!”

Brad covered this shot too, “I would say so, yeah. It’s good to build a sonic trademark, all the greats have that! It’s a good thing when people can still recognise you, even when you change things. Shows that you’re using that style but without losing the integrity of what you are.”

At this early stage, Daydream Runaways call a good compromise between them, witnessed when they tuned for our Waiblingen Way Fire fundraiser. “There’s always going to be differing opinions,” I pondered, “Bit like marriage!”

Cameron replied, “no relationship comes without some disagreements, a band included. But we’re all good at finding a compromise, which is good!”
Throughout the interview I’m concerned if I should bring the idea of a possible album up, as when we did the fundraiser I asked, and it met with varying opinions between them. However, with the topic running on compromise, it’s now or never! “I wasn’t sure, though wanting to ask, if I should bring it up again!”

Cameron delegated, “Bradley…over to you on the album talk!”

I interjected with the proposal before he did, “I think you should, but accept I’m not thinking about current climate in the music industry, rather an old fashioned ideal.”

Bradley answered, “there was a plan. However, the coronavirus has impacted that. Not going to say it’s completely gone but we’ll wait and see what happens. You can’t really make any plans at the moment.”

Cameron expressed, “it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when is probably all we’ll say for now!”

Brad added, “I’d say doing an album is all dependent on what genre you’re doing. Rock music fans are still very defiant and keeping the album alive. So maybe with this Gravity sound we’ll go down that route.”

It did bring us onto these strange times, and my deliberations on what’s the best approach for artists on how to continue, continues. “What’s best for musicians,” I asked them for their tuppence, “the live stream is simply not the same as a gig, and while charging for it is a bit cheeky, it’s difficult to know where to go to get some revenue for the work you put it. In short, must be a bitch. Let’s not say the word again!”

I couldn’t argue with Brad’s comment, “some bands I follow have rejected the idea and directed people to supporting more pressing causes.”

Meanwhile, Cam elucidated his feelings about the lockdown. “Whilst you really miss that immediate response from a crowd, and the fact you’re in a room where you can play loud and really get into it, they’re still fun to do! We were lucky enough to do one right before the lockdown was enforced. Probably one of the first bands to do it, then Chris Martin came along after with his solidarity sessions. We still haven’t forgiven him for that!”

“Springsteen did one! But not before you!” I supplemented.
Bradley was proud to say, “we were the first UK band to do a self-isolation livestream. There, I said it; Let the feud with Chris Martin begin!”

The topic continued for a while, this dilemma between fan etiquette and revenue for artists. But I wanted to notify how much I enjoyed theirs, “yeah, good it was too. Saw that! Right now, I guess, it’s all we have. That’s the point I cleared with Kieran at Sheer. It’s never going to be the best plan. I think it’s time to get down and write some killer songs, agree?”

Cameron agreed with a feel-good quote, “definitely, but now is also the time to look out for each other, even though we’re all apart. If we can reach out to people with our music or it helps them get through their day, then that’s amazing.”

Bradley approved too, “yeah, and there’s never been a better time to write. Technology’s made it so accessible now to bounce ideas. Who knows, we could even release a song in lockdown without even meeting up.”

It always amazed a younger me, that Paul Simon could collaborate with the South African musicians on Graceland, back in the late eighties, and it sounded like they were playing in harmony in the same studio. It is possible to edit parts and stitch together. Must bugger up the flow of it though, make it sound mechanical or manufactured.”

Bradley replied, “well, if the band records the parts individually themselves and lays off the editing it’s possible to get that organic feel. I wouldn’t be surprise if we start seeing artists jump on this idea and release original tracks.”

It was at this point Ben Heathcote joined us. “It seems like the boys have covered the questions quite well! As Cam said, Gravity comes from a place of uncertainty and pain from circumstances and the decisions triggered from them. A crossroad of the mind. And yeah, lockdown wise we’re hoping it makes people see the value in their freedom before and hopefully will bring out further support when pubs, clubs and entertainment reopen.”

I see Ben’s clarification reflected in the cover art too. With a kind of “stairway to heaven concept,” an impressionist character is looking lost, pondering which road to take. It’s apt for the song.”

Ben welcomed this, “you got it. And again, the artwork is something were really proud of. Provided by ezra.mae.art. We also enjoyed working with Reloopaudio on the production, a friend who we will be working with again. We love this song and we’ve loved the whole creation, writing and everything about it. It’s nice to have developed it from the live sound too.”
For Ben’s benefit, we found ourselves back on the subject of Gravity’s edgier side, “I think it will please the hardcore indie fans, and those which come from a heavy rock side, which is good, there’s a majority of them locally.”

Ben replied, “as you mentioned earlier, with the style sounding fresh, but still us. This is something I’ve always been hot on since the band formed. I’ve never wanted us to be doing the same thing every time. The aim was, and continues to be; to write and produce fresh sounds with hints of varying styles that is still recognisable as us, allowing it to not be boring or repetitive; kind of inspired by many of our favourite artists who keep developing their sound.”

I take off my hat to this, “I might come across pop or soul-ish but I had my day, and do still listen to bands like Zeppelin and Floyd etc. I think Gravity will be boss with that crowd.” With which I asked for their influences, and if they mutual.

Ben reacted, “I’d say our choices are not miles apart, but to pin a group favourite would be impossible as we all have our firm favourite influences.”

Cam agreed, “yeah, I don’t think there was a particular band or artist that inspired the track as such but we all agreed what the sound was we were aiming for. Making sure that each of us brought our own thing to it.”

Laughing emojis made a reappearance, when I teased, “Ed Sheeran it is then!”

Keen to take it back, Brad nods at my sixties psychedelic citations, “Floyd and Zeppelin are timeless though. Prefect example of bands that pushed themselves overtime.” And the Daydream Runaways can relate to that with this progressive new release.

Ben said, “I think before we produced the track, we all knew in our head how it should sound.” It’s definitely a belter. I thank them for their time, with one last question before we headed into our tangent about the rave-indie divide of the nineties! Where do the Daydreamers see themselves in five years?

Ben suggested in five years’ time he would like them to have a steady schedule, “playing to crowds who know our words, filling sold out venues as well as intimate gigs, which we can always remember.”

Cameron felt they’d have “an album or two under our belt, playing to crowds in our favourite venues. Having a slot on The John Peel Stage at Glastonbury is a bit of a dream of mine!” Ah, there’s the source of my waffling, started with seeing Oasis at Glasto but, unbeknown to me at the time, I paid them little attention.

Daydream Runaways though, worthy of your attention, here’s the Spotify link to Gravity, like them up on the book of face, and cross your fingers and toes we’ll be seeing them live soon, if not the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury!


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The New Local Blues

Had a nice chat with Sheer Music’s Kieran about acts, live streaming, future plans, and gardening this week… what am I on about? It’s always nice to chat with Mr Moore….

If the beginnings of Devizine was a learning curve in which I realised I’d bitten off more than I could chew, one might be mistaken to think now we must’ve covered every musical talent in Devizes, if not Wiltshire. Not so, as a post from Kieran J Moore of Sheer Music incited me to shudder. Why have I not heard the name Joe Edwards before?

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Joe Edwards

Name does ring a bell, must have posted about the cancelled album launch at the Wharf which would’ve happened this week. Well-travelled, Joe has been touring through Europe as a drummer for Australian band The Wishing Well, plus his debut solo album Keep on Running was mixed in Nashville and mastered in New Jersey with Grammy nominee Kim Rosen; might explain it, and if I have encountered the name I had no idea how renowned and awesome he is.

Hoisted in the help of Kieran for this then, to insure I’m bought up to date; there is a new cool in Devizes, and I’m going to prompt him about it. The initial message on any chat window these days is enquiring of wellbeing, understandably. Mr Moore is positively beaming, “[I’m] getting so much done and achieved,” he explained.

I replied with a question, “Like the gardening?!”

A boundless list of household chores followed which included, “how to programme moving head lights, learned how to live stream, learned how to record and edit videos.” Bless, that’s our Kieran, dedicated to fetching us the best live music and promoting local artists, no matter what the era brings us; you have to tip your hat to the man. Seeking permissions to release sets Sheer recorded from 2012-14 and bootleg them onto Bandcamp being the latest venture.

What of the live stream though? My Virtual Festival started with good intentions, but there’s been so much of it it’s hard to keep up, some may not be appreciative my sharing of their stream; it’s a close call. In these frustrating times, I asked Mr M if he felt “people are going to get bored with the live stream.” I often feel it doesn’t make up for the real thing and enforces my sadness that we’re missing out on live music. Yeah, I know, right; then I apologised for my despondent attitude.

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It’s a close call because artists earning from a live stream is problematic. Some have found methods of a pay-per-view stream, but many rely on a PayPal donation option. While I sympathise with the artists, also I ponder if charging for a live stream is justified when Wi-Fi can drop out, be overloaded, etc. “So,” Kieran added, “live streams have become a necessary evil, in the sense that everyone is doing them, and it’s really difficult to earn from them. Let’s be clear, live streams will never replace the real thing. No need to go into detail, we all know why, it just won’t.”

He believes they have a place in the future, though, after lockdown has ended. “You’d be a dolt not to recognise it! Whilst it may be difficult and lacking for most of us, these streams have enabled many people who wouldn’t usually be present, be it social anxiety, disability, or a myriad of other reasons, be able to take part and fell part of something.”

I gave mention to a stream-festival by Swindon Shuffle, it doesn’t have to be geographically grounded, organisers said people attended as far away as Mexico, and this increases the fandom of the performers to international levels.

In these few short weeks, we’ve seen musicians getting more creative with the concept, nice to see Benji & Hibbs sitting around a fire rather than indoors,Jon Amor climbed onto his roof last night, and Phil Cooper is getting tech with green screens for a Lost Trades stream on 1st May. “A lot of people have invested in the technology,” Kieran expressed, “so why would it stop after? It’s just daft, of course it won’t. Also, the reality is that venues won’t be back and open before 2021. The possibilities are currently being peddled by MVT,” He continued, “and it’s being taken seriously.”

I felt the need to apologise for my grumpiness, it had been a long day at the diary. I would, however, like to see artists getting some releases out rather than live stream, but accept that’s not easy either, for a band, with social distancing. Talking blues though, surely some the most poignant music, particularly blues, comes from feelings of isolation, depression and disappointment; from teenage anguish or working on the chain gang! The lockdown should deliver some interesting content.

“Be prepared for an avalanche of Coronavirus and lockdown blues songs,” Kieran suggested, and yep, seen a few emerging myself and played the “Corona Blues” by The Ragamuffin All-stars on my radio show last week.

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Little Geneva

Talking local blues, though, on top of Joe Edwards, who after a listen to I’m liking to a raw George Harrison or Clapton, what else has Kieran got for me? “Jon Amor likens Joe to JJ Cale, which is nice,” he compliments. “Then we have Little Geneva, who actually do covers, but they’re so obscure, people don’t know them. I actually like that slant.” Ticked that box some time ago, Little Geneva playing the Cellar Bar was knockout, and I’ve nothing but praise for their authentic blues sound.

This said, Little Geneva have since recruited female singer Mariam Maz to add to their already talented gang, and this I have to witness.

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Will Blake

“Then we have Will Blake in Bromham, a honky-tonk 12-bar type of guy,” but I’ve recently bookmarked Will too, sharing this soul cover multi-instrumentalist’s Isolation Sessions, which see him on piano in the middle of a Bromham field giving us a marvellous rendition of Man in the Mirror et all.

And finally, Kieran aims one I don’t know at me, a “swampy and dirty” contemporary Trowbridge four-piece, Sober Son. This is hard-hitting rock and one to watch. Looking to the future, where I predict an aching aftermath for concerts and gigs, many might frivolously suggest we have the party of parties, but Kieran is a doer. Can I spill the beans on his “overall idea?” “Say it’s currently Sheer’s intention to host an event!” he informs, yeah, will do.

Hosting a “Devizes Music Festival” is said idea, when the lock down is over, and to do a multi-stage bill, across the whole venue. Kieran’s dream team would consist of Jon Amor, Sober Son, Little Geneva, Joe Edwards, Will Blake and The Lost Trades, “etc.” I’m saying no more, not to get over-excited too soon, we’ve a long way to go with the lockdown; I could be a pensioner by then and only wishing to listen to Pat Boone!

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Ah bugger, back to the now; do like the Sheer Music Facebook page, currently dedicated to bringing you the best local live streams, “the necessary evil.” But most importantly is the notion I’ve said before and will no doubt say again, unless you want to pop the bubbles of musician’s aspirations and see them pushing supermarket trollies, it’s vital you check out local artists and buy their music, be it from Bandcamp, streaming sites, their sites or send Vinyl Realm a message, as they stock a selection of local music too.


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Phil Cooper is Without a Sound

Surprising title, Phil Cooper is not usually without a sound. Trowbridge’s prolific singer-songwriter subtlety reflects, I believe, on the silence of the lockdown in a new single born today. Subtlety is the key to many of his works, there’s a wonder in this one in particular if there’s undertones of a political statement, or if it’s a simple love and togetherness theme. I like it when it’s open to interpretation.

Yet if there’s something unsurprisingly catchy about Phil’s Easter egg single Without a Sound, I’m uncertain if he’d be flattered with my Elvis Costello comparison, but that’s what I picked it out of it, and you might be surprised by this.

Though comparing isn’t necessary now, Phil have stamped his own unique mark onto music and this one retains that personal fashion.

However you choose to look at it, it’s a gradual step in the right direction for Phil. With the Lost Trades obviously on hold for the time being, it’s a welcomed surprise and while we look forward to the vocal harmonies with Tamsin and Jamie, ah, this single will fill the gap perfectly.

As with Tamsin’s first rate live stream last night for the Swindon Shuffle virtual festival, it’s still good to see this trio working apart as well as together.

But dont take it from me, give it a listen!

The Lost Trades; Debut at the Village Pump

By Helen Robertson

Images by Abbie Asadi

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On a rainy Friday night in Trowbridge, I followed the directions from the bar staff at the Lamb Inn- past the pool table and out the back – to the Village Pump, a quirky, intimate performance space that was already packed. And there was cake, lots of cake.

This was the first gig for The Lost Trades but most people seemed to know the Wiltshire-based singer songwriters, Jamie R Hawkins, Phil Cooper and Tamsin Quin, pretty well as they mingled in the breaks between support acts Vince Bell and newcomers Timid Deer.

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Tamsin confessed she was nervous, hoping the new three-part harmony adventure would start well. She needn’t have worried. The sell-out crowd were on their side right from the start.

 
Swapping instruments and lead vocals throughout the night, The Lost Trades shared their stories and songs with the relaxed ease of seasoned performers. There are three distinct styles to the songs but an obvious pleasure in playing together binds the music into a cohesive set. It’s folky, funny and full on harmony.

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 I’m glad Phil took the time to introduce his original, the Groom of the Stools – a little context went a long way to explaining this rollicking, foot stomping number where “every day I take a look at the Crown jewels”. Google it, trust me it’s that job that you’ve never dreamed about.

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 About halfway through the set Tamsin debuted Hope Cove, a very personal song for a friend about holidays in Devon. Loaded with emotion the absolute strength of the trio, the balance of harmonies, was on display. These three voices create a beautiful rich sound, layered and textured.

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 My favourite song wasn’t an original – sorry guys – but a traditional American spiritual, Down in the River to Pray. The harmonies, wow. Just wow. As it soared and rolled around me, I’m not ashamed to say I might have had something in my eye….

 
The Village Pump is a cracking venue, home to the local folk club and a regular open mic night. I was told a group of friends started the folk club there in 1973 in a barn at the back of the pub. Performances were staged from a wagon and there are nods to this on the walls with horse paraphernalia hanging with tubas, French horns, guitars and pipes from a church organ. Upstairs in the balcony there’s plush red tiered seating from a now-closed local movie theatre. Great acoustics, a welcoming vibe and drinks on tap from the Lamb Inn, it’s just the place to showcase local talent.

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Shout out to Jamie’s fiancé Janey for the cakes – a vote saw the chocolate cake coming out the clear winner with the consolation prize going to Tamsin’s flapjacks. I tried a few, for research purposes. Perhaps more than a few. Yum!

 
The encore was a swinging country version of Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere. I’m picking this is far from the truth for the trio. The Lost Trades are out on a Spring tour now with a handful of gigs around Wiltshire as well as trips to far flung places including London, Stratford on Avon and Exeter between now and the end of April. Details are on their website along with the chance to join the mailing list for early bird benefits.

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© 2017-2020 Devizine (Helen Robertson)
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Blues at the Sports Club got my Mojo Working

If I divide rock music into three favoured eras; its birth from rhythm and blues to form rock n roll, psychedelia moulding it back to wailing blues, and second gen mod or new wave from the eighties, and anything post these I don’t care for so much, be it heavy, soft or Nu-metal, I paused for thought last night, observing these three pillars firmly personified at this most fantastic jam at the Devizes Sports Club. And what is more, it’s fused, together in one great monster of a performance, which, in a word, was spellbinding.

Impelled to duck out the Cavy early, as while I figured our writer Andy would be in attendance, and be willing to put some words into action, I had to see this for myself. It was as I predicted in our preview, no musician singled out, no-one-on-one-off exhibition, rather a humongous blues jam amalgamating the exceptional talents of all present. Already underway on my arrival, our guitar heroes Ruzz Evans, representing the rock n roll in my three-pillar theory, with his classy suit and quiff, Innes Sibun on the psychedelia with that long hair and wailing guitar, and Jon Amor in his trademark drainpipes and sneakers. To boot, not only is Ruzz’s backing band present on bass, drums and horns, there’s the legend who is Peter Gage causally making the keys look like Child’s play.

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Afterwards I made a beeline for Ruzz, inquiring how one goes about creating this wonderful amalgamation and how rehearsed it needed to be. There was no rehearsal, he explained, it’s based on specific templates in which the musicians observe each other’s changes and improv takes control. This takes a wealth of experience and talent, as Ruzz continued to get technical it showed both his obsession with his craft, and my incompetence in such matters. I should’ve recorded his explanation for a quote, as the jargon pursued and I’d drunk far too much! (Note dodgy photographs as proof!)

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Again, the slight topic of conversation that was passed around the club related to the current virus situation. Naturally people are concerned, yet it didn’t stop this venue filling sufficiently with our blues aficionados, matured or otherwise. I figured if times do go terribly wrong in the coming days, this could potentially be my last night out for a while, and if so, or even if not, I’m out to party. This event satisfied that ideal, but I knew it would, it said so on the tin.

It was good to bump into singer-songwriter Joe Hicks, where we expressed concern for the decline and postponing of events and its effect on organisers and musicians alike. He had, as I suggested, already an album up his sleeve. Perhaps the coming month will see musicians take to recording studios as the bread and butter of gigs phases out. It’s a sad thought, but absently unnecessary tonight, as the power of live music blessed the hall in a way which should make Devizes proud.

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Staggeringly as ever, Innes was on lead when I got there, taking the audience on one of his magical journeys, only for Ruzz to be frontman for one of my favourites of his tunes, Sweet as Honey. After a short break it was Jon’s turn, picking Juggernaut to blast us with, ever so proficiently. Then, was it a Billy Price song which Peter Gage so skilfully but causally covered with the honky tonk of Howlin’ Wolf, The Price I Paid for Loving You? I dunno, no expert, but I’d lost the will to keep track, allowing the blessed music to flow over me.

With a hypnotic guitar-off, if that’s the appropriate terminology, between Ruzz and Innes, sections provided for all musicians to show off, including the drum solo of drum solos and the most amazing bass guitar solo too, it was one heck of a brilliant blend of electric blues I’ve bared witness to.

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If my only criticism was pondering if the sound could contain this monster of supergroups, and that a semi-circle barrier between the musicians and audience had naturally formed, with the blues preservation society of Devizes merely wobbling on their feet, the sound system took the strain adequately, and after not too long the movers penetrated the semi-circle and all round dancing ensued. Otherwise, this gig was perfection on all levels, my blessings to all involved. If there is, gloomily, to be no Saddleback Festival this year, last night thoroughly made up for it and leaves me pondering what will be next from this fantastic venue.


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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REVIEW – Lewis Clark & The Essentials @ The Southgate, Devizes –Friday 13th March 2020

No Pigeon-Holes

Andy Fawthrop

Friday had been a not-so-great day, with lots of news about C**, pitched battles in the aisles of Morrisons over the last few toilet-rolls, and the cancellation of many sporting and other events. How to react to this desperate situation? Well it was obvious – go to the pub for a few beers and to listen to some live music.

It was The Southgate’s landlady Debs’ birthday week-end, so some great music (as always) was promised. And it all kicked off on Friday night with locals Lewis Clark & The Essentials. Although the band had played this venue before, I’d managed to miss them last time out, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d been told that they were wonderfully hard to pigeon-hole, but that they were an acoustic based band, blending folk, soul, and blues.

Lewis’ band on this occasion consisted of the man himself on vocals and guitar, accompanied by upright bass and keyboards, and they had just kicked off their first number when I got there. I was with friends and so started the evening by chatting to them, but the chat soon died away as we all relaxed and really began to listen to this very talented performer. This was no mere pub background music. None of us wanted to ignore what was clearly some very fine music.

The first thing that struck me was Lewis’ incredible voice. His range, delivery and vocal style were completely arresting and mesmerising. Coupled with some wonderful jazz-like phrasing, his vocals absolutely carried the night. The effortless musicianship of the band supported Lewis’ songs through a whole range of musical styles and influences – folk, jazz, blues, latin, roots, soul – sometimes within the same song. The result was a spell-binding fusion of melodies, haunting lyrics, and an eclectic and varied performance.

The trio produced two superb sets of original music, and still managed to work in a few covers, to which they lent their own fresh interpretation. Stand-outs among the latter were a mash-up of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” with the Guess Who’s “American Woman”, and later on Free’s “All Right Now”, which all received a damned good seeing-to.

In total, it was tour de force performance – lyrical, multi-influenced, impossible to pigeon-hole, and thoroughly entertaining.

And, yes, after self-medicating with beer, I did wash my wash hands at appropriate times during the evening.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

• Saturday 14th March Lightnin’ Hobos
• Saturday 21st March Eddie Witcomb
• Sunday 22nd March Vince Bell
• Saturday 28th March Mark Smallman Band
• Sunday 29th March Gary Hall


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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Phil Jinder Dewhurst at the White Bear

You know you’re stockpiling years when you decide staying in for your birthday is the choicest option. I did, finally, haul my birthday-cake belly off the sofa on Sunday, driven by lingering desire, or an essence of ritual, which put up a fierce battle against my indolence; I’m glad it won.

Though the anticipated birthday banter and celebratory sacraments were scarce, as the White Bear was held captive by an extraordinarily acute and enthralling sound. An artist I thought Andy had reviewed for a past Sunday session here at this snug tavern, but searching came up with no reference to it, Phil Dewhurst, known as Jinder was mysterious to me as either. Yet he weaves intricate and personal storytelling as an introduction to each song, so you leave feeling you know a little about the musician.

If it’s a Springsteen-esque cliché, Phil summarises well, each song illustrated with an explanation to his thoughts and inspiration while writing it. No matter if it’s fashioned with poetic riddle, once you’ve a background to it stimulus you comprehend. And his writing is well crafted, eloquent and precise.

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While the songs were melodic and mellowing, few with a melancholic theme, Phil conducts his prose against the cynical, and his songs breath an air of positivity over pessimism. There was a running leitmotif of keeping on the sunny side of the street against all odds, and for such, I compare him again to Springsteen, for his wild romantic style. Never was the subject quixotic, pragmatism showed his true colours as he poured his emotion fluently into his songs, attached to acoustic guitar so you couldn’t see the join, through proficient use of the loop peddle he created a beautiful soundscape, like a one-man Pink Floyd.

And it was when to come back with the following verse which really impressed me, Jinder has professionalism in his timing and a natural flare, making this afternoon a notable and entertaining affair.

See, I observe the loop pedal operation with a certain fascination, particularly under the command of the multi-instrumentalist, previous referencing Chris James Marr from a Sheer gig, or when the Arts Festival introduced Devizes to She Robot last summer, but it never ceases to amaze me when a man like Jinder can weave such intense resonances with just an acoustic guitar. The instrumental sections penetrated the mind and drifted from person to person; he clearly knows what he’s doing there, wincing an electric guitar sound or bashing a beat on the side of it.

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Big “but” here though, it was the crux when he let off the pedal, the songs of simplicity; man, and guitar, ah, the acoustic really showed his true expertise. I’d recommend and welcome a Phil Jinder Dewhurst gig to all mature aficionados of rock. And marvellously prolific is he, a West Country based international touring musician, Jinder has released ten critically acclaimed albums for five different labels, including Sony BMG and Universal, had top 40 singles with ‘Overthinkers Anonymous’ and ‘Keep Me In Your Heart’, the latter of which has been successfully covered by many other artists and features in 2019’s international smash hit movie ‘Fishermen’s Friends’.

Through the delicacy of lo-fi folk-noir to the crank but pleasing blues tune he charmed the humble audience with personal anecdotes of woe, or uplifting inspirational moments, he expressed his passion for his art, that of friends in collaboration, and he pitched his landmark album The Silver Age with accounts of its orchestration. I’d like to hear that, yet as solo he has a force of his own, and was the perfect finale to a weekend.


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Baby, we were Born 2 Rum!

Received a substantial golden handshake when Anchor Foods closed the Swindon site in 2000, by the following week I was maxing-relaxing on Long Bay near Sam Lord’s castle in Barbados, sipping the local beer, Banks. Upon my second influx at the beach bar, a conversant gent questioned why I drank beer, “mek ya belly get big,” he advised.

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“What do you recommend?” I inquired. He suggested I gave this local lad a dollar, I did, and before I knew what was what, he had ascended a palm tree with a machete and used it to knock off a coconut. With a thud it hit the sand, the top was severed, the remaining part handed to the barman who filled it with a generous dosage of Mount Gay white. I’ve been a rum drinker since.

You can’t get white Mount Gay for love nor money in the UK, so I made a beeline for the Muck & Dunder’s mobile rum bar at the Devizes Scooter Rally to ask them. I’d been chatting online with Stu and Shelly, listing their Born 2 Rum event at the Wyvern Club in Devizes. Sad to have missed it, what with the now defunct SN Dubstation playing. I don’t intend to make the same mistake this year, as the Muck & Dunder plan to do it again, with bells on, same place, on 23rd May.

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What these kids don’t know about rum you could write on the back of a matchbox, with space for diagrams. It’s a borderline obsession which sees them travel the Caribbean searching to increase their collection, and they call that work! Since 2018 they’ve been a welcomed sight at our food festival, fetes and events, providing fabulous insight on their passion, often bringing an exotic musical accompaniment, and generally providing the joyous ambience you’d expect from drinking rum, as well as the rum itself of course!

You can guarantee they’re sorting through their collection right now in anticipation, claiming to bring us over forty varieties of rum, some locally brewed rum-ale, with all the added cocktail ingredients they so expertly concoct. Tickets are a tenner and on sale now. It includes a Rum Punch on arrival, and a Rum Map (with tasting notes.) Doors open at 7pm, last entry at 9pm, event closes at 11pm. Strictly over 18’s. There promises to be beer, soft drinks and food available from the club.

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As of last year, WierdyShit spins some tunes. Not come across this DJ before, so I’m intrigued. One thing is for certain though, the most innovative and exciting band to come out of Swindon for a decade or so, The Tribe, will be playing a live set. This year sees a new release from the Tribe with Shakka and Chunkz, yet their debut album Tribal Wave is three years old. If hip hop is usually tricky to reproduce live, The Tribe are a firm favourite on the contemporary festival scene, with a plethora of bookings, and I’d speculate their live performances are the greater priority for them; and take it from me, they rock.

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First time I came across The Tribe was Calnefest some years ago, where I’d returned to my car, taking a break from overheating in the Wilber the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Bear suit! Some fine bands played, but I chose my timing badly to leave the site. This funky, hip hop sound I was appreciating from afar, contemplating heading back it was so good. But when it unexpectedly split to an offbeat ska, the crowds exploded and I hotfooted it back to see what the deal was. Here’s where The Tribe excel, embracing the original hip hop ethos of a fusion of styles, they encompass localised preferred genres, of rock, gypsy-folk-ska, then blend it with funk, rap and dancehall reggae. It’s frenzied, stylised, unique and invigorating, and has to be seen and heard to be believed. So, grab a ticket to Born 2 Rum!


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Jamie, Tamsin, Phil, Vince and Ed Too; Five Go Adventuring to The Southgate

“Norm!” – brilliant, wasn’t he? A kind of anti-hero pre-Homer Simpson. Part of the furniture in Sam’s Bar and despite him being an average guy, when he walked in the whole place lit up. It defined the lyric of the Cheers theme song, “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”

If I awakened from my hibernation Saturday night to attend the wonderful Festival of Winter Ales, such was the arrangement of tables in the Corn Exchange, it felt like the sort of event you appeared at with a posse of friends. For Billy-no-mates here, I’m kind of scanning the horizon for people to hassle with my company. So, I nipped out towards the end, knowing what I was doing; I had a calling.

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There is a place in Devizes akin to Sam’s Bar in Cheers, I could visit anytime, but it’s been a while and knowing what’s occurring there, resistance is futile. It takes a few minutes in the winter wind to turn the corner and get the Southgate in my sights, but I’m immediately assimilated into the Borg collective upon hearing her song. While the Southgate strives to bring us a variety of live music acts, regular as clockwork, freely, and from varying locations, Tamsin Quin’s distinctive voice summons me, the very essence of her hometown. It’s like returning for a homemade roast dinner, or a New Jersey resident going to see Springsteen.

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There’s enthusiastic talk between them, about the amalgamation to be, The Lost Trades, yet the trio aren’t leaking any secrets until their debut at the Village Pump. Gate as welcoming as ever, Jamie R Hawkins billed for tonight, “with friends.” You know this is a local circumstance, sharing of the limelight a must, with flare and passion for the venue and crowd, it reflects into their performances. Phil Cooper is like Clark Griswold, if Jamie and Tamsin are Rusty and Audrey, but Vince Bell is also in attendance, so I don’t know where it leaves him! I mean this in so much as Phil is the organised one, with a setlist scheduled, he’s professional in all aspects of the game, providing order to their show. Jamie is sauntering and socialising, before being beckoned to the now legendary red-carpet makeshift stage, “oh, is it my turn?!”

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At that conjunction you’d expect a song come over muddled, but Jamie, like the others, just rolls into it and knocks out the perfect rendition of his own classic, “As Big as You.” Yep, I’m in my comfort zone, with or without an easy chair.

Through all their subtle differences, the trio work, period. As we’ve said here, The Lost Trades will be a natural progression from the sporadic and less formal amalgamations. Phil is thrilled, nodding and telling me how well the harmonies work, and it’s unusual to have a boy-girl-boy harmony trio. The conversation progressing onto Simon & Garfunkel citing the Everly Brothers as the unsurpassed vocal harmony. In this line of chat, you can sense Phil’s passion and love for what he does, and with every performance it shows. If anything, that is the symmetry within this triangle, Tamsin and Jamie sport the same proficiency and appetite.

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I’ll go as far as illustrating this point: later in the evening, after each performer took their turn until Clark’s schedule ran out and the punters craved more, improv covers streamed. Landlady Deborah handed Phil a drum and his eyes lit up like a kid with a new X-Box; “oh yes!” he thrilled, and joined Jamie with it, strumming. There are no prizes for guessing the improv would take over, once drinks were flowing, and with the gang helping one another out. There are subtle hints as to how the Lost Trades will sound, and it’s simply awesome.

For now, though, they’re still three separate performers with an intimate ethos, and Vince is equally involved, rather than treated like a prodigal son. That’s the spirit in a nutshell; be it George, Kirsty, or others, it’s a family affair to make Sister Sledge envious. That’s precisely why Devizine celebrates this little circuit. In a sentence, it’s guaranteed to be an awesome night, and thus it was, with a very special added surprise.

There is nought negative I could say about it. Between acts, if there was a confusion who was up next, the crowd ardently called for “Ed” to take another. I didn’t like to inquire, something I missed? If another singer was present, I didn’t see him, just a ten-year-old sitting on a stool amidst the regulars. Ed did take the stage, the very same; no one nicked his stool.

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If the near future of our local music scene is the progression of these talented adults, we just glimpsed the future beyond. Ed took up his acoustic guitar, played an Oasis cover superbly, and effortlessly raised the roof. What a surprise and absolute gem, reflecting in all I’ve said about the family atmosphere. I chanced my luck and caught a quick chat with Ed, who came across mature and at ease. Oasis songs his comfort zone, for now, he expressed, it was his first time performing to an audience, it did not show. To get an entire pub singing along, no easy feat, well done Ed; you owned it.


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Mad March: Things to Do. Part 1…

Huzzah, hurrah, hurray, whoop, bravo, hoot, shout, shriek, hosanna, alleluia and other synonyms for expressions of delight which I’ve shamelessly purloined from Word’s dictionary. Do I care? It’s March, time of the Mad March Hare, spring springing, birds a-singing in the blossoming treetops; after such a damp winter it’s refreshing to look forward to the April showers season!

Why do we even call them April showers when they tend to carry through from March to June?! Nevertheless, it’s warmer rain, with momentary lapses of sunshine, those little teasers of spring; don’t blink you might miss them. Still, just like a bear, I’m awakening from my hibernation, and heading downstream for a salmon supper!

In celebration of the feast, here’s some choosiest stuff to do over the coming month, as fished from our event calendar. The list is by no means comprehensive, you know the score by now, it’s updated (nearly) every day, so do try to keep up. Facebook is a good idea, if you do that, our page pumps posts out like Dwayne Johnson on a promise. Also, consider signing up for a weekly email, I don’t spam you, just once a week bulletin of what we’ve done and what’s to come.

First fortnight in March then, here it comes; the second half will follow…… I say that, then like a goldfish it’s a notion that’s gone in three seconds! Also, I can’t provide the links, but it’s all listed on our home page with links; it’ll take till April to do that, computer running at the speed of snail and all!

Devizes: First of the month is Sunday, nice way to ease into it. Georgina, Landlady of the White Bear, is running the London Marathon for Dorothy House, so there’s a pub quiz at 6:30pm to fundraise; £2.50 per person, max. 6 people on a team. Great Scott! St James Church hosts the monthly Devizes Silver Screen Film Club; Back to the Future showing this month. A great social meeting for our elders, and Driving Miss Daisy can provide transport.

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If you’re looking for something wilder, The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon is the place to head, where those Back-Wood Redeemers will be twisting those dark country and blues riffs into their splendid frenzy. Highly recommended from Devizine, tell them we sent you!

PSG has their regular Monday “Devizes session of Pop Soul & Gospel Choir,” at the Parish Rooms on Long Street, from 8pm until 9:30pm. Incredibly welcoming, PSG currently expect between 25 and 30 members on a Monday, and inform us “it’s a fantastic sound!” Join them for a fantastic start to your week!

Tuesday 3rd then, and it’s Devizes Film Club at the Town Hall. The Farewell (PG) from China, 2019. Director: Lulu Wang. To western eyes, this film has a curious plot but it becomes understandable in the telling. Billi has left China aged six, to be brought up in New York. Twenty-four years later, she is called back to attend a wedding that has been arranged purely to conceal from her grandmother that she is dying of lung cancer. Such kindly subterfuge is apparently common practice but Billi finds it hard to accept. She sees again many family members and it is her gradual reacquaintance with her Chinese heritage that provides this compelling, spiky exploration of family duty. A heartfelt, funny, emotional and rewarding film. The screenplay and production are wonderful, prompting The Irish Critic to call it the Best Film of the Year.

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Edgelarks

Wednesday is the regular acoustic jam at the Southgate. Marlborough’s folk-roots club has Edgelarks at the Town Hall; duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin combine exquisite folk with influences as diverse as the blues and Indian classical slide guitar, to create a sound that is “subtle, atmospheric and bravely original” (The Guardian.) Alternatively, one of the most romantic operas ever written, La Bohème is showing at Bath Forum.

Even if not for the weather, Thursday 5th should get heated. Extinction Rebellion Devizes and Marlborough debate with MP Danny Kruger at St Mary’s Devizes.

Friday night in Devizes looks loud; hard-edged vintage blues with Barrelhouse at the Southgate will yowl like the Howlin’ Wolf. To contend, AC/DC tribute, Hell’s Bells play the Exchange, but want for a local, loud, classic rock cover-band, the awesome Homer play The Crown at Bishop’s Canning’s, and you’ll probably hear them from the Market Place!

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Buddy Holly and The Cricketers

Lighter rock n roll tributes come from Melksham’s Assembly Hall, where you’ll find Buddy Holly and The Cricketers. Or Bath Forum has Elvis show, The King is Back, and Johnny Walker presents Sounds Of The 70s at Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre.

The 7th, first Saturday of the month then, here it is: A songwriter genuinely literate, sometimes almost literary, Ian Parker is an original craftsman. Expressed through a distinctive bitter-sweet vocal delivery, Ian’s songs hold nothing back. His ability and willingness to share with his audience, naked honesty and genuine emotion, is what sets him apart, and The Long Street Blues Club welcomes him and his band back. Meanwhile, a little more light-hearted, Teachers Pet Rock Show comes to The Cavalier Community Hall. If you’ve seen School of Rock, expect an East/West Midlands styled tribute, promising to be a “gut busting, face melting glorious rock show that’s suitable for all ages!”

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There’s acoustic fingerpicking, electric guitar thumping rhythms, harmonica and a loop pedal at the Southgate with Jon Pollard, while Marlborough’s Lamb has the high-energy classic rock covers band, The Electric Troubadours. Down t’other end of that enlarged High Street, The Wellington has its Welly-Fest; check their Facebook page as there’s stuff going on the whole month long. Comes to ahead for reggae fans though, on Saturday  when our friends Razah and Knati P bring their sound system; oh yes.

Tributes in Trow-Vegas with Abbamania at The Civic. Whereas it’s a Britpop tribute double-header at the Melksham Assembly Hall with Oasis Maybe and Ultimate Stone Roses, and always worth catching, The Blue Rose Band play The Talbot Inn, Calne.

Would you Adam & Eve it, Sunday March 8th is my birthday? Thank you, it’s just a number. Not spoiled for choice as I’ve only one gig listed at the moment, but I do love the White Bear, where Phil Jinder Dewhurst continues their regular Sunday Sessions. Talking Sunday sessions, Swindon promoters Songs of Praise do similar at The Tuppenny, find the Richard Wileman & the Amy Fry Experience there this Sunday 8th.

Week 2

Second week of March then, then we’re done and you go vacuum the hallway, or whatever else is outstanding; never ends, does it? Extinction Rebellion Devizes and Marlborough holds workshop “Roots of a Regenerative Culture,” Monday 7pm at The Barge on Honey Street. This training demystifies how to make everything we do regenerative and, as such, it is the key to understanding how to build resilience within ourselves and our communities.

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Tuesday 10th there be a Quiz Night at The Vaults, Devizes in aid of Opendoors. And the Devizes Film Club has a Mexican movie, The Chambermaid (15) at the Town Hall. Director Lila Avilés’ first film quietly pulses with life in a multi-storey luxury hotel in Mexico. We see the engrossing work of a young, single mother trying her best to be promoted by thorough work, and to study in what spare time she is allowed. There is no life-saving Hollywood romance, just the drudgery of her daily work, problems with her fellow workers and managers and her efforts to improve her life. Cartol acts with sublime understanding of her role. With persistence and wry humour, she rearranges her tasks for variety, wickedly teases the window-cleaners, goes to evening classes and reads Jonathan Livingston Seagull. A subtle gem of a film, beautifully shot against the boring and colourless back-rooms, lush guest-rooms and the stunning city views.

Wednesday 11th at Marlborough’s Merchants House Michael Hart presents “Protestantism and the English Character.” While one of the most intriguing and exciting collaborations on today’s folk scene, Peter Knight, legendary violinist and ex-Bellowhead member John Spiers brings an evening of improvisation and invention of mysterious tunes to Pound Arts in Corsham. In Devizes, it’s time again for the acoustic jam at the trusty Southgate.

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Blossoms

Blossoms play the Bath Forum on Thursday 12th, revealing their new album, Foolish Loving Spaces. They explain, “The album is a pure celebration of love in all of its splendid and baffling guises, toying with the so-called sins of lust and forbidden infatuation. It’s inspired by a summer spent listening to ‘Stop Making Sense’, ‘The Joshua Tree’ & ‘Screamadelica’.” If you’re in Swindon though, head for The Tuppenny, where the awesome Jake Martin and Jess Silk perform acoustic. Acoustic, made for Thursday, eh? If you disagree, check out the Winchester Gate, Salisbury where top Ramones tribute, The Ramonas are guaranteed to liven it up.

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The Lost Trades

Friday is the night when the county finally gets ready for the debut gig of super-group The Lost Trades. Highly anticipated amalgamation of our good friends, Phil Cooper, Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin. We wish you the very best of luck, guys. They’ll be supported by Timid Deer and Vince Bell at Trowbridge’s Village Pump.

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Meanwhile, keeping Kalm ‘n’ Kind in Devizes, there’s a Restorative Yoga class with Kim Pierpoint, a Fundraising Quiz Evening for Opendoors at 7.30. Philippa and Declan Morgan are running the quiz at Wiltshire Museum. Tickets £10, including nibbles and a glass of wine. Reserve your ticket online and pay on the door! https://devizesopendoors.yapsody.com/event/index/533176/quiz-evening

On my never-ending list to do is get to “Pelly,” kudos for putting on live music gigs, guys, just got work early in the mornings! Drew Bryant is live at The Pelican Inn on Friday, Lewis Clark & The Essentials with folk, soul, and blues at The Southgate, and there’s a Queen tribute called The Bohemians at the Corn Exchange. Comedy Night at Bradford’s Boat House with Jake Lambert, and the amazing Frank Turner plays Bath Forum.

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Lewis Clark & The Essentials

Tuesday is St Patrick’s Day, but Devizes’ Cavalier can’t wait, and present a St Patrick’s theme weekend with those brilliant Day Breakers in the Community Hall on Saturday 14th. On the other side, three-piece rock originals, the Lightnin’ Hobos play The Southgate, and if you’re not spoiled for choice this Saturday, I don’t know when you will be, as the one and only Pete Gage plays with Innes Sibun and Jon Amor, all backed by Ruzz Guitar Revue at the Sports Club, corrrrr, that’ll be awesome.

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Extinction Rebellion Devizes and Marlborough are back at the The Barge, Honeystreet for a gathering, where the evening presents a stripped back, 3-piece version of Troyka Bristol, Troyka Mala. They play a stormy mixture of traditional and original songs and rhythms from the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans with brushes of Klezmer and the Middle East; intrigued? I am.

Powerhouse Gospel Choir play Melksham Assembly Hall while Jon Hopkins is at Bath Forum. For something more off planet, stoner rock and electro art-punk are promised at the Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon, with Head Noise, Conspiracy of Chaplains and The Forgetting Curve.

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That’s about all, we will follow this up with the final fortnight of March, when I get around to it. I do, though wish I’d stop promising these things! One thing you can depend on, Saturday in Swindon will rock with Splat The Rat at The Merlin on Drove Road, unfortunately, I cannot recommend Talk In Code’s new single Talk Like That enough, see our review. Note, the launch party is at the Castle on this particular Saturday, the 14th, and I can’t think of a better way to finish this lengthy roundup off!


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Hold Tight, March Brings R’n’B Showcase at the Sports Club

Ah, hold tight, two preview pieces from me tonight; I’m an unstoppable steam train of broadcasts, choo-choo! Yet, I’m not sure this needs an introduction, not because we’ve been running the poster for it a while now, but if you’re in the know regarding Devizes links to blues then the line up at the R’n’B Bar at The Sports Club on Saturday 14th March will appeal no end, and you’ve probably snapped the tenner tickets already. If you’re new to said scene, then this gig would act as the ideal taster; digest this……

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Legendary bluesman Peter Gage, former frontman of The Jet Harris Band, member of Dr Feelgood who blew the roof off Long Street with Dave Raeburn, Paul Hartshorn and Pete Lowrey as The Pink Tornados in December, will headline. But come here, there’s more. The guitar maestro I’ve been raving about, Mr Ruzz Guitar and his Blues Revue will also be there, his trio backing, or blessing these otherwise solo performances. I swear his guitar is like a phaser in Star Trek, set to stun, and I’m still speechless after his performance at the Gate a number of moons ago.

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While Ruzz is Bristol based, and Peter resides in the west country too, both Devizes links to the contemporary blues scene also show up to do their thing. Innes Sibun, who we featured partnered with Marcus Malone as the Malone Sibun Band on the night they allowed me to roam free at the Long Street Blues Club, and be astounded by the quality of goings-on there. And of course, Jon Amor who is regularly featured here as, well, he’s regularly here, but more-so, because his talent is unsurpassed. Though I’m sure, as when such heroes meet, there will be a communal feeling and we’ll be treated to some improv and guitar-showdowns, rather than a balanced one-off-next-one-on scenario; least I’m hoping.

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All in all, this event is like pulling four bells in a row on the fruity; need I say more? See you there. Oh, nearly forgot, slow down, man; tickets on door or in advance from Sports Club.

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© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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REVIEW – King Street Turnaround @ The Southgate, Devizes –Saturday 22nd February 2020

The Juggernaut Rolls Back Into Town

Andy Fawthrop

There had been some concern that this gig might not go ahead after Jon Amor was forced to cancel Thursday night’s outing to The Beehive in Swindon due to illness. But fortunately for us, and thanks to the amazing healing properties of Lemsip, Jon’s latest home-town gig went ahead as planned. And even being a bit under the weather, Jon was on good form.

King Street Turnaround is one of Jon’s latest band outings, formed at the end of last year, and features Jerry Soffe on bass, Evan Newman on keyboards and Tom Gilkes behind the drums. And what an outfit it is. The band rolled into the Southgate and blew us all away.

What did we get? We got soul, funk, blues, boogie-woogie and rock. This was high-octane stuff, delivered with confidence and panache. We got some great solos from each member of the band, including the always-expected wizardry from Jon’s squealing lead guitar. How he manages to squeeze some of those sounds from that one guitar is simply amazing.

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And we got tight, driving rhythms that gave a solid platform to some great improvisation work. We got a band that could dial it up, then dial it down, then back up to eleven again. We got a dance-floor packed with people having a good time. We got very little time wasted on inter-song chat, just lots and lots of music that spoke for itself. It was hot, it was sweaty, it was great.

Highlight of the night for me was the band getting in the groove to deliver a fearsomely good performance of “Juggernaut”. It’s got to that point with me now that if Jon doesn’t play this monster of a song, I almost feel short-changed!

Are we allowed to say that it was shit-hot? Can we say that? Yes – it was shit-hot!

Yet another belting gig from Mr Amor and friends, and yet another inspired booking by Debs and Dave at The Southgate. Live music at its very best.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

• Friday 28th February The Shudders
• Saturday 29th Feb Plus Friends
• Friday 6th March Barrelhouse
• Saturday 7th March Jon Pollard
• Friday 13th March Lewis Clark & The Essentials
• Saturday 14th March Lightnin’ Hobos


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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George Wilding; Sunday Session @ The White Bear

Marc singing off the same song sheet as me, when he explains he encourages original material from the performers at his Sunday sessions at the White Bear in Devizes, yet covers which the artist “make their own” are always crowd pleasers. Who could be more apt than George Wilding?

Yeah, car troubles caused his slight delay, but the fireplace was warming, the denizen atmosphere matched. Convivial and geniality are prevalent at this earliest of Devizes inns, still going strong; I do like the White Bear. Last time I was here, George Wilding coincidently blessed the alcove, while others such as Wade Merrit, Andrew Bazeley, Vince Bell, Jon Walsh, Ian O’Regan, and Cutsmith have all graced the sessions, to name but a few; I’ve just been a bit rubbish in attending. Though our man Andy has been there to review most, I see why. It’s a comfortable and welcoming central pub.

Andy was there, to breath a sigh of relief upon seeing me; I’ll delegated myself to write a little something and he knows it. Though there’s not a great deal to say, especially nothing negative; I didn’t even snap a photo through nattering. If you’ve not heard how unsurpassed George’s every performance is then you’re both new to Devizine and to the area. In a peak cap he breezed through sublime covers and proficient originals like it was child’s play, and maintains his audience with genuine and sincere affability.

Hidden between Simon & Garfunkel, The Animals and even Abba classics, he slipped a refined version of his own My Backwards Head, doing as he always does, brilliantly. With right here, and naturally, The Southgate adding end-of-weekend live music too, Sunday afternoon in Devizes has never been so good. If the value of a pub is the sum of its landlords and its atmosphere, Marc and Georgie have done wonders. It’s Wadworth but with its own stamp. Sunday sessions continue for a while, check our event calendar of their Facebook page. Sunday roasts are also popular here; Mark tells me about plans to open some outside space, but while it’s February, we’re here, nice and warm.


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REVIEW – Navajo Dogs @ The Southgate, Devizes –Saturday 8th February 2020

Pub Rock Is Alive and Well

Andy Fawthrop

After the previous night’s superb gig with The Arnie Cottrell Tendency (see other review elsewhere in Devizine), it was back to The Southgate for something completely different. From gentle Americana on a Friday to straight-up pub-rock on a Saturday night. Part of me was concerned that the night just couldn’t be as good, but I needn’t have worried. Different music genre, different vibe, but still excellent.

Navajo Dogs, formed in 2016, are a local blues-influenced rock band. Consisting of Simon Hansen on vocals, Tom Evans on lead guitar, Kieran McLaughlin on rhythm guitar/ vocals, Jonny Wallhouse on drums/ vocals and Graham Hill on bass, these guys are one solid entertainment unit. The music is loud and uncompromising, the performances are hot, sweaty, sweary and in your face.

Covering a wide range of pop/ rock/ blues classics, outstanding numbers for me were Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone’s A Winner”, Free’s “Fire and Water”, Prince’s “Purple Rain”, The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and Sam The Sham’s “Woolly Bully”, but there were plenty more. The dance-floor was full all night long, and the crowd clearly appreciated their no-nonsense, no-apologies style. This was 4-star leaded, full cream, full fat pub-rock. It was thumping, steady, rocking and totally infectious. Great vocals, nice guitar work.

Two superb gigs on two consecutive nights. This is what live music is all about.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

• Friday 14th February Trevor Babajack Steger
• Saturday 15th February Mike Barham
• Friday 21st February Kent Duchaine
• Sunday 23rd February CRC
• Friday 28th February The Shudders


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW – Arnie Cottrell Tendency @ The Southgate, Devizes –Friday 7th February 2020

Live Music At Its Very Best

Andy Fawthrop

Friday night is music night, so where else to go other than the ever-welcoming Southgate? Once again Dave and Deb had found a wonderful band to fill the pub…..

I managed to miss the very start of the gig, but then stayed to catch the rest of it, and was still sitting there at nearly midnight.

What had been originally billed as The Velvet Doonicans had morphed into The Arnie Cottrell Tendency. Same people, same band. Whatever. Whoever. Either way Arnie Cottrell, Rick Foote and Graham Bushell played a simply superb gig. Featuring upright bass, acoustic and steel guitars, mandolin, and shared vocals blending into double and triple harmonies, the trio produced music that was magical, melting, melodic and absolutely mesmerising. This was Americana at its best.

The guys were clearly confident and comfortable with their music and with each other, and produced some stunning versions of Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country”, Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”, and The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek”. Every song was easy on the ear, relaxed and understated, delivered with panache and some wonderful self-deprecating good humour.

Song after song was wheeled out, and I dearly wanted to go home and get my head down for the night, but there was no way I was leaving whilst these guys were still playing. Such superb musicianship just drew you in. It was warm, lovely, embracing, mesmerising and – well – brilliant. No other word for it.

Yet another reminder that it’s absolutely worth getting your arse in gear, going out into the night and supporting live music venues like the Southgate.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

• Friday 14th February Trevor Babajack Steger
• Saturday 15th February Mike Barham
• Friday 21st February Kent Duchaine
• Sunday 23rd February CRC
• Friday 28th February The Shudders


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW – Jack Grace Band @ The Southgate, Devizes – Saturday 1st February 2020

Live Music At Its Very Best

Andy Fawthrop

It was Saturday night, which could mean only one thing – free live music at The Southgate!

Jack Grace was a figure new to me, so thought I better give him a good old listen – be rude not to. And so pleased that I made the effort to go and see him.

Jack’s band is described as delivering “Country Rock with a Latin Twang” and that was certainly much in evidence. The trio were already operating at full blast when I walked in, and rarely if ever let the tempo and the excitement level drop. The pub was full, the dance-floor crowded, and the band were cooking. They gave us two superb sets of music that was loud, exciting and great to listen to.

We got lots of styles – country, country/ rock, R&B, boogie-woogie, rock n’ roll, and little bit of vaudeville, all delivered with some panache, confident playing and a good deal of humour. There were musical nods in there to Tom Waits, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Johnny Cash, and many others. Jack and his band seem to be constantly on the road, and their playing reflected a close understanding, driving rhythms as tight as a nut, and some very assured vocals and guitar playing. Yet this didn’t mean any kind of complacency or just running through the numbers. The band were not afraid to experiment, and to completely let rip at times. And the crowd absolutely loved it.

To me, this is what live music is all about – musicians who want to deliver a great show, and a crowd that really wants to listen. A completely belting gig, and a fabulous live band.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

• Friday 7th February Velvet Doonicans
• Saturday 8th February Navajo Dogs
• Friday 14th February Trevor Babajack Steger
• Saturday 15th February Mike Barham
• Friday 21st February Kent Duchaine
• Sunday 23rd February CRC
• Friday 28th February The Shudders

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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A Skandal in Marlborough

Broke my hibernation last night to trek across the downs and catch Swindon’s Skandals play the Lamb in Marlborough; well worth the effort……

“Some proper drum and bass,” yelled frontman of The Skandals, Mark Colton during the break of a Bad Manners’ Special Brew cover, “not like the shit the kids listen to today!” In essence there’s the summary of The Skandals’ ethos, yet with the catchiness of the simple offbeat of ska, you’ll commonly find every generation up dancing together. So, while the attitude is to appease the elder, skinhead, mods and scooterists, I think you’ll find generations too young to personally recall the days of yore a band like The Skandals arrest, still love it.

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This was certainly true in Marlborough’s Lamb last night, as this Swindon ska cover band came to skank, with bells on. It was a squeeze in the crowd, with the aforementioned varied demographic, but none can resist the surge of retrospective ska. Limited to saxophonist Nina as the brass section, and without keyboards, this six-piece still manage to capture the spirit of the era and throw it back in your face loud and proud. I’d wager this comes from experience; the band boasting not just Nina, but both guitarists Jase and Mark, who previously played with Swindon’s legendary Skanxters, and in turn this event brings fond memories to my old watering hole, as those Skanxters skanked here during their nineties reign.

Though frontman Mark also heads a new wave punk cover band, The Rotten Aces, among other projects such as Thin Lizzy tribute, The Lizzy Legacy. This punker angle showed through the playlist, as adroit but only subtly ‘ska’d’ covers of “Echo Beach” and the Toy Doll’s bonkers arrangement of “Nellie the Elephant,” echoed between the more archetypal tunes of Madness, The Specials, Bad Manners, et all. I wanted to quiz Mark on what he favours, but when they stated they were taking a ten-minute break, it was far more punctual than most bands!

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Pigeonholing I haven’t time for, and in a hedonistic moment it matters not. Example; they covered Rancid’s Time Bomb, pioneers of the ska-punk crossover that the international third-gen ska-heads thrive on. Yet the Skandals didn’t venture over this border, delivering predominantly eighties Two-Tone they were obviously inspired by, and giving the audience diminutive verbal notations as to why, amidst the usual banter. They were lively, fun and entertaining; everything a ska band should be, and would guarantee to liven up your venue or pub. Specials covers Rat Race, Rich Girl, Little Bitch and their version of Toot’s Monkey Man being the nimblest.

It may be a timeworn formula for a ska band to cover classics like Baggy Trousers, Lip Up Fatty and Mirror in the Bathroom, but like fish n chips, it’s cliché because it never fails to thrill an audience, and The Skandals do it superbly. Interestingly, they added northern soul anthem “Tainted Love,” reggae’s “Pressure Drop” and “Chase the Devil,” into the melting pot, and choosing “Food for Thought,” as their UB40 cover is a wise move; anything post-Red Red Wine and it’s a cover band covering a cover band!

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While Devizes has a thriving music scene, other than sporadic gigs from the scooter club, the pub circuit lacks ska and reggae, and you all know how I feel about that. If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad. It was a delight to pay a visit to Marlborough’s Lamb again, despite remining in Wadworthshire, it’s working formula stands the test of time. “We’re quite lucky in Marlborough,” a regular informed me, rattling off the Bear’s backroom, The Wellington and Royal Oak as fond live music venues, as well as the Lamb. Yes, I nodded my acknowledgment, but when ska comes to town that’s where you’ll find me! “Let me tell about Sally Brown……”


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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REVIEW – Jon Walsh @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 27th January 2020

Mr Versatility

Andy Fawthrop

Having got a couple of hours to spare before the evening’s Rockfiles gig at Long Street Blues Club (see elsewhere), I thought I’d pop into the White Bear for a couple of looseners, and to see Jon Walsh, a performer new to me.

Using both acoustic and resonator guitars, Jon clearly had an extensive repertoire of songs. His material varied from old 1920s and 1930s blues standards such as “Crossroads” and “Walking Blues” through to fairly contemporary pop songs e.g. “Walking In Memphis”. In each of his two sets he was joined on vocals by his partner Terie, who lent some bluesy and jazzy phrasing to several classics such as “Crazy”, “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “Valerie”. There was clearly some musical chemistry between these two, and they obviously enjoyed working together.

Jon put in an extremely versatile performance, including a nice smattering of his own original songs. Nice crowd, and nice atmosphere.

Can’t think why I’ve not come across Jon before, but shall certainly be happy to listen to him again.

Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:

• 16th February George Wilding

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW; Long Street Blues Club Weekender

January Blues Banished!

Andy Fawthrop

Two days up at the Con Club this week for Long Street Blues Club’s “Beat The January Blues” Week-ender.

On Saturday night we had a packed room to listen to Liam Ward & Malcolm Thorne (support) and the Kirk Fletcher band.

Ward & Thorne, who are new names to me, were a delight. Their set was clean, fresh, quirky and entertaining. Featuring guitar, vocals and some deft touches on harmonica, these two produced a wonderful set of originals which were laid-back and nicely bluesy. I particularly liked their song “You Are My Medicine”. I’d be happy to go and see these guys again.

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Then a single extended set from the main star Kirk Fletcher and his band. Kirk hails from California and is ex-lead guitarist with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. He’s had some great reviews on this tour so far. Ian Hopkins reports that Innes Sibun said he was amazing when he shared a bill with him last year, and Joe Bonamassa rates him as one of the world’s best guitarists. Well, I didn’t know anything about all that, so I could only judge on what I saw and heard.

Kirk himself was obviously up at the front with some snarling guitar work, but there was plenty of featured keyboards too. It took a few numbers to really get the room warmed up, but once the trio hit their stride, the band were really cooking and in their groove. We had guitar solos aplenty, the band providing a solid platform of driving rhythms. There was minimal chat from the stage, and the guys delivered number after number, hardly pausing for breath. The playing was always technically superb, and at times inspired, and the crowd lapped it up, but (for me at least) it didn’t carry that magic spark of real excitement. Don’t get me wrong – I really enjoyed the gig, but it didn’t quite hit my hot-spot.

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Then just 24 hours later, on Sunday night we had Thompson Smurthwaite (support) and Billy Bremner’s Rockfiles. A slightly smaller crowd this time, but still a great atmosphere.

Thompson Smurthwaite is starting to become a regular in these here parts. Having played support here at the Club a few months ago, Thompson has also recently played slots at The White Bear and The Southgate. It was good to see him back with a large audience again. He was relaxed and confident, joking with the audience, whacking out some great tunes from guitar, harmonica (his “Mississippi saxophone”) and stomp-box. The guy put such heart and soul into his performance. Great entertainment.

Then on to the second main act of the week-end. Billy Bremner was one of the founding members of Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile along with Nick Lowe, and produced some great music during the seventies. Prior to this particular outfit he has had a long track record in session work and a member of Lulu’s backing band the Bruvers. Then a season as guitarist with The Pretenders during the recording of On The Chain Gang – he has always been the guitarist to go to. Billy now resides in Sweden and his touring is carefully rationed so the Club were delighted to be one of a few carefully selected club dates on this UK tour.

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Rockfiles are probably the polar musical opposite to Kirk Fletcher. Whilst the latter was focussed on originality, improvisation and exploration, Rockfiles were just as firmly set on reproducing classic hits of the seventies and eighties. The songs were short, snappy, catchy pop/rock classics. The four-piece hit the stage running, sharing the vocals between them, and never let up for the whole of their 75-minute set. This was Old Skool retro and nostalgia at its very best. And the hits just kept on coming, including “I Knew The Bride When She Used to Rock & Roll”, “Three-time Loser”, “Cruel To Be Kind”, “I Hear You Knocking” and many, many more. The inter-song chat was absolutely minimal, so they could pack more in. The music wasn’t complex, but it was solid, thumping good stuff, and difficult not to enjoy. Absolutely no blues were involved in the making of their performance.

Overall a great weekend of music – four great acts, four different styles, but all enjoyable and great value for money. There was something there for everybody. Devizes is so lucky to have access to so much great live music.

Future 2020 gigs at Long Street Blues Club:

• Saturday 7th March Ian Parker Band
• Saturday 4th April Mike Zito Band
• Saturday 18th April Mark Flanagan Band
• Saturday 30th May Antonio Forcione Quartet


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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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A Dirty Harry, some Ex-Men, a One Love Orchestra and more @ MantonFest 2020

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.

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The Ex-Men

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.

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Ed Witcomb

More info and for tickets look ‘ere….

at59
@59


© 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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PREVIEW: Bradford Roots Music Festival 17th – 19th January 2020 @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford

Andy Fawthrop

If you’re looking for a whole week-end of music-based events, with lots of sessions for children too, then you should do yourself a favour and head over to Bradford-On-Avon. It’s a bit out of D-Town I know, but it doesn’t take long to just tootle over to the really splendid Wiltshire Music Centre.

Now in its eighth year, Bradford Roots Music Festival, now extended to three days, is all about two things – showcasing the vast array of musical talent that has any connection with Bradford, and raising (lots of) money for good causes. This year’s beneficiaries will be Dorothy House Hospice, Zone Club (creative club for disabled young adults) and Wiltshire Music Centre. All the artists play for nothing and the event is administered and operated wholly by volunteers. That way all the funds raised go to the good causes.

This year’s event starts next Friday night (17th Jan) with a concert featuring Louie Millar, Crossing The Rockies and Verdisa. This concert is almost sold out, so get your skates on!

Then the main two-day Festival spreads itself across Saturday and Sunday from 11am each day. Saturday’s programme goes through till 10pm, and Sunday’s programme finishes at 4pm. There are four stages in operation, including the superb main WMC auditorium. Over the two days there are more than fifty different acts scheduled to play, including music concerts, shanty sessions, children’s concerts, jazz, blues, poetry, morris dancing and much more.

Particular acts to look out for are The Magnificent AK47, Will Lawton & The Alchemists, Lee Broderick, Billy In The Lowground, and The Yirdbards, although there’s so much going on that it almost seems invidious to pick out individual artists.

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Apart from all the music events, there are several spaces given over to craft workshops, merchandising, tarot readings, a Peculiar Gin Company gin bar, a Box Steam main bar and an artisan fair. Just outside there’s a huge marquee hosting JC’s Kitchen, which runs all weekend serving hot drinks and great array of home-cooked food.

I can’t recommend this event highly enough – there genuinely is something for everyone to enjoy, with great food, great beer and a great atmosphere. It’s superb value for money and there’s plenty to do and see for children and for adults. If you’ve never been, I urge you to check it out. You can buy tickets online, or on the door. Day tickets for Saturday or Sunday are available, as well as a 2-day Weekender Ticket.

The Wiltshire Music Centre is also a superb venue in its own right, hosting a year-round programme of top UK and international artists from all genres – classical, folk, blues etc. Worth checking out if you are after top-class entertainment.


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Nerve Endings Love Muddy Puddles!

Local indie-rock outfit, Nerve Endings have a debut single, out last week…..

At the distal end of every axon lies the conclusion to a nerve. They message sensory neurons, bleating “you’re hot,” “or cold,” or “oi, that hurts!” Around these waters a personification are the nociceptors of noise, chiefly guitarist and lead vocalist Mike Barham, bassist and vocalist Rob McKelvey and drummer boy, Luke Bartels, and their stimuli definitely sends threat signals on the ears, in a premium possible manner.

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When they step on stage expect a little horseplay, then an explosive set of twisted blues riffs combining the elements of all contemporary alternative and indie rock subgenres. It leaves one intrigued by the news, which was drunkenly fed to me one summer’s evening at the Southgate, what will become of the progression towards recording the sound; we now have confirmation. Muddy Puddles is a Peppa Pig free song, which howls all that’s prodigious about Nerve Endings; unless Peppa is one who wears her heart on her sleeve.

Players, I shit them. Relationship annoyance by those who view romance as a sport, if being an archetypical subject, this alarm-ringing debut single of thrashing guitar riffs, with howling vocals that meet a near-sixties blues melody composes it with freshness. And as the gritty theme takes no prisoners, wailing “you won’t change, get your head out your arse and you might see,” analogous of actual nerve endings, sending a powerful warning to those who dig the dagger deeper into their victim’s heart. The result is boundless energy I might’ve expected, but executed professionally and agreeably adroit; great start to the year, guys!

See, I once pondered if the rave era ended youth culture as without conviction, I couldn’t assess any post-genre apt for the idiom. Perhaps the most stimulating conversation I’ve had with Mr Mike Barham, over a decade my junior, was at a Saddleback Festival, where he proclaimed grunge and emo proceeded my era. I was saturated in the fact younger people considered them youth cultures, concluding just like the teddy boys, punks and skinheads before me, my epoch was blindly trapped in the renaissance of a particular era.

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For the record I wouldn’t change it for the world, we partied harder, faster and longer than any predecessor, and I’d like to wager more than any “emo,” whatever that was, had to Google! Yet his statement not only aided new exploration in me, but a liking for this gentle giant who explodes with passion and fiery temperament when on stage. A specific style of the genre, that much I am aware. I know who Kurt Cobain was pal, blanketed by an era maybe, but not living on the moon; just a few miles closer to Earth.

My eclectic taste was never faulted by the overindulgence of the youth culture which engulfed me for a period, and I emerge open-minded and prepared to accept anything. Intrigue took me to a Bowling For Soup gig at Bristol’s O2, that and my son’s need of a lift. Yet if I felt out of place, searching for another sober, taxi-driving Dad as youths collapsed in the heat and the frontman made stagediving a cliché, I still enjoyed it. As is Nerve Endings, I’m not dying my hair black with a neon streak, neither are they, but this rocks with competence, appetite and enjoyability.

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Here’s the spotty-fly link, I know my system needs updating, here’s one if you’ve an apple; but Mike, thanks to my son’s Christmas present I now know where Bowser’s Castle is, and I like it; getting there, I just take the long way around!


© 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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REVIEW – Pink Torpedoes @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes – Saturday 28th December 2019

For One Night Only

Andy Fawthrop

Only a week after John Coughlan’s Quo’s rousing set, it was back up to Long Street Blues Club for another great gig. If you needed the Christmas blues blowing away, this was the gig to do it.

Support act for the night was Jamie R Hawkins, aided and abetted by his sometime collaborator Phil Cooper. I suppose you could say that this was two thirds of the newly-formed Lost Trades, but we’ll have to wait until later to hear their new songs. This set was Jamie and Phil classics from their back catalogues