Cobalt Fire’s Butterfly

In the words of the great Suggs, “but I like to stay in, and watch TV, on my own, every now and then,” after three gigs on the previous weekend, I opted a weekend off, albeit I was with the family, and succumbed to Britain’s Got Talent for my entertainment, one little part of me wishing I’d headed down the Southgate.….

To rub salt in the wound, Swindon-(I think)-based Cobalt Fire, who were providing the sounds at Devizes most dependable pub for original music last Saturday, also released a debut album called Butterfly, so naturally I wanted to hear what I missed.

Self-defined as a fusion of “the retro sound of 90’s grunge and post-punk with a modern take on folk,” I can see where they’re coming from, and it’s no new thing for them, formerly known as Ells and the Southern Wild, the band developed their fresh sound from acoustic roots, and yes, there’s tinges of this still in them. Though their bio suggests they formed in 2103, I gather there’s either a typo or a gothic timelord in there! But in their switch to electric they strive to retain the core features of the songs, “creating a more muscular beast in the process,” they put it.

And they’ve certainly achieved this, Butterfly, usually more bug than beast, is a boom of emotional overdrive, as grunge commands, with echoes more of Evanescence than Nirvana, what with Ells Chadd’s haunting vocal range. It packs punches from beginning to end, the finale of which, Another Round, particularly poignant to this nod to acoustic roots, middle tracks like His Words Lie Heavy breath an air of eighties post-punk, ah, goth tinge, Siouxsie Sioux style, while it begins strictly grunge, with those rising and falling echoes of emotive authority.

The magnum opus, though, is three tracks in, Crimson Red summarises everything great about this potent four-piece, it’s dynamitic, driving.

It’s basically ten professionally executed, blindingly touching three-minute heroes, in a fashion not usually my cuppa. But if I sing praises for a genre more me, that’s easy work, for music to make me consider oh yeah, I like this though pigeonholing obligation says I shouldn’t, the result is even more impressive, and with Butterfly I’m near to breaking out some multi-belt buckle platform boots, growing my hair and dying it black!

This is a powerful and emotive creation, indulgent of all rock subgenres, yet beguiling grunge, and it never strays from its unique sound. See now, I’m sorry I missed you guys, another time and I’m beeline; embarrassingly for BGT too, though I’ve given my best cat ate my homework excuse, and though I doubt you’ll turn Simon Cowell’s frown upside-down, going on this album, you’d have got my golden buzzer.

Ah, it’s all lies, anyway; not sure my hair will grow back!


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Billy Green’s Garden

To deal with my forgetfulness I have a to-do-list. The only issue with my to-do-list is I forget I started it; Billy Green released a new single last month, it’s a poetic stonker of indie-rap, with his usual nod to Britpop, and still it fell through the floodgate. Apologies to Bill, but it’s a convenient time to bring it up, as he gigs at Trowbridge’s Pump next Friday, May 27th, for Sheer Music.…..

What makes it even more exasperating for me, is that I was gossiping about the man himself, with Pip Phillips of People Like Us at Long Street Blues Club, what was it, just last week?! All good things, reminiscent of when they were in the nineties indie band, Still, together. Because Billy Green has a history, and it’s savoured in a nimble and accomplished style of the time; zip your tracksuit jacket up to the chin and hide your swirly pupils under a Kangol bucket cap!

The impression of Still remains a forefront for Bill, who named his 2020 album after the band, and followed it with a preceding collection of lost demos, made with the band mid-nineties. Tales of musical happenings in times of yore, before I landed on planet Devizes, always fascinate me, and I never tire of hearing about the blues bands of an era long past, with good folk like Exchange-owner Ian James. Yet Billy echoes out his antiquity, The Pump gig will incorporate his songs from the Still album, which relish in this bygone fashion, adroitly.

Billy Green @ Still

Surprised I was to note the quasi-rap poetry of this new tune, Garden, but twas a pleasant one. Teetering with his Geordie mockery it holds an ironic slate against the charade of social media embodiment, “people posting inspirational memes in one post, and ruining people in the next,” Bill describes it to me; I know that sentiment, probably a smidgen guilty myself, Bill, you bloody stickler!

Though hints of the everyday rap style of The Streets, it’s wrapped rather in the upbeat jaunty attitude of Blur, awash with Britpop influences of acts like James, for example. But don’t take my word for it, ere, have a listen yourself mate, and you’ll be mad-for-it too; sorted.


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George Ezra in…. Trowbridge!

Dad’s taxi drops off, and the driver impatiently awaits his off-spring to exceed the bluetooth boundary; ha, I’ve got of my car stereo back. It’s not all bad, just a majority of my daughter’s playlist is, coupled with her insistance it’s played; control freak!

Yet we can agree on somethings, the acoustic genius of George Ezra is perhaps the most mutual. Thanks to Marlborough record store, Sound Knowledge, I’m more than happy to go gigging with her and her mates.

He’ll be playing a short, intimate set to promote the release of his highly anticipated third album ‘Gold Rush Kid’ at 8pm on Thursday 16th June at The Civic in Trowbridge, Sound Knowledge’s first event in the venue.

The Brit Award-winning singer-songwriter first played Marlborough back in 2014 before the release of his debut ‘Wanted On Voyage’, his first chart-topping album. Its follow-up ‘Staying At Tamara’s’ hit No. 1 on both the Albums and Singles Chart with the mega track “Shotgun“. His new album was written and produced entirely in London with longstanding collaborator Joel Pott. “The Gold Rush Kid? That’s me,” says George, reflecting on the title of his third record, a twelve-strong suite of marvellous, transporting, elevational songs, that more than anything “sound like me. That’s what ties them together.”

Gold Rush Kid‘ is released on 10th June. Tickets and bundles are available exclusively online from Sound Knowledge RIGHT NOW, from 10am on Friday 20th May.

If you have any queries about the event, you know, prone to overthinking, please contact them in-store or over the phone on 01672 511106 but please note that tickets and bundles can only be purchased via the website.

CD & ticket bundle – £19.50
LP & ticket bundle – £25
Blue LP & ticket bundle – £28
Ticket-only *max 1 per customer* – £16.00

Sound Knowledge has become renowned for these instore events, while it’s great promotion for new releases from the artists, they’re also an affordable opportunity for locals, particularly younger, to get to meet, greet and hear them play, which would usually involve trekking to a festival or city-based gig. Though while Sound Knowledge have hosted all manner of artists in the past, George Ezra has top the lot, hence a larger venue is needed. Of course, this puts something of a tag on Trowbridge too, and I’m hopeful it’ll really lift an already blossoming reputation for the town’s live music scene, of which Kieran Moore and others has worked so tirelessly to attain.

And afterwards, perhaps my daughter and I can slip his CD in my car stereo and finally find some common ground!

Marlborough’s Lamb Announce LambFest

Contrary to popular belief, particularly my kids, I was young once, and back in that iron age I used to live in a motte-and-bailey hillfort in Marlborough; not a lot of people know that, except for the one’s who know that, and even they’ve probably blocked it from their memories.

Yes, Merlin-Borough, famous for a wide high street, a mound and a fair about mops, just fifteen miles from Devizes but a six hour bus journey with two changes, somehow perceived being on another planet for Devizions. But I promise you, it’s a lovely town and the only reason I left was because I found said bus stop.

Back then, you either risked shopping in Somerfield or waited for the final seconds of Waitrose’s hours of business to nip in and blag whatever they had duly reduced;  every night was like Ready, Steady Cook, and you were Ainsley Harriott.

Entertainment was the pub, which I had no quarrels about. My regular watering hole was The Green Dragon, until I matured enough to upgrade to The Lamb, at about 18. It has been a mainstay in Marlborough life for as long as I know, a welcoming and dependable tavern run by the only recently retired Vyv.

Sporadically we’d have free live music, and it was there us crafty little ravers perchanced to become fans of Swindon’s legendary Two-Tone band The Skanxters. So popular the sound that Marlborough formed it’s own ska band, Ska Trouble. But if there’s one unforgettable homegrown band it was Pants, as they were as the name suggests. Heavy metal covers of current pop songs came to a head with a thrashed version of the Mr Blobby song; man, we’ll never get that magic back.

Or will we? Pants are still on the circuit, and they’re still shit but proud, recently making me bath up toast commenting on social media at a G&H journalist’s report on Vyv’s retirement in which only frontman Moose Harris got a mention, like the others, whoever the fuck they are, had deserved some credit.

You can see for yourself, as The Lamb announce LambFest today, with Pants on the washing line and a whole host of others. Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June is the dates, it’s free but in aid of men’s mental health, and as well as Pants they promise Swindon’s premiere indie-pop darlings, Talk in Code, the one and only Gaz Brookfield, and Marlborough’s popular Kova me Bad. Interestingly, Mark Colton’s new Ian Dury tribute make their first appearance outside Swindon too.

Inside there’s acoustic acts, including the bearded third of the Lost Trades, Jamie R Hawkins. Heck, it continues Sunday with said Pants and Swindon’s punk ensemble Navago Dogs.

By the state of this fantastic lineup of local talent, dammit, this one’s calling me, tugging on my raw appetite for live music and cider. Which is a shame, because my pass for the glorious Mantonfest just came through and that’s in June too. Marlborough folk are going to assume I’ve moved back, and that terrible fake news bulletin could be just the one to push them over the edge of Merlin’s Mound.


The Big Ones; Forthcoming Summer Events in the Devizes Area

Woe is me; tis a fortnight did pass since the beloved Devizes Street Festival. I did happen to saunter through the market lodging Saturday, peered ov’r to whither the main stage once gallantly did stand, but ‘t wast just parked cars and a bank façade; insert depress’d visage emoji…..     

Because that’s it, folks, that’s your bloomin’ lot; there is nothing else happening in Devizes this summer, nought, nada….

Okay, that probably didn’t work, you’re nobody’s fool, and you probably know these already, but here’s a quick guide to the BIG events in Devizes and surrounding villages over the summer months; you know, so bods don’t whinge on social media, “I didn’t hear about this, I took my dog out for a poo and ka-blamo, without so much as a warning some kind of social event hit me square in the chops.”

Oh, and before I commence the proceedings be aware there’s always something on, some little events here and there, like free music at The Southgate every Saturday for instance, do keep in tune with our event calendar, but for this particular outing, we’re thinking BIG (ooh, matron.)

Sunday 15th May: Devizes Town Band’s Fantastic Journey at the Corn Exchange.

Their first outing of the year, Devizes Town Band plan to get all Phileas Fogg and beyond, taking the Corn Exchange on a fantastic journey from the depths of the ocean into space and everything in between, and you could onboard! Tickets are £10 here: http://devizestownband.com/


Saturday 21st May: Indecision’s Last Hoorah Tour at the Corn Exchange.

Popular covers band on the local circuit and beyond, Indecision, has indeed made a mutual decision to split up, but not without going out with a bang; they’re hosting a “Last Hoorah” gig at Devizes Corn Exchange. Proceeds go to Wiltshire Search and Rescue and the Fatboys Charity.


Monday 23rd May: Lovesong @ Wharf Theatre, Devizes

Running till May 28th, Lovesong is the story of one couple, told from two different points in their lives, as young lovers in their 20s and as worldly companions looking back on their relationship. Their past & present selves collide onstage as we witness the optimism of youth becoming the wisdom of experience | Love is a leap of faith. Freddie Underwood brought Things I Know To Be True to the Wharf stage in 2019. Movement has become Freddie’s personal stamp within her productions and Lovesong will be similar to her previous work which fuses movement & music, partnering within the work of the text.


Saturday 28th May: Hardy’s Wessex: The Landscape Which Inspired a Writer, Exhibition at Wiltshire Museum

Running until 30th October, this exhibition opens 28th May, and will explore how Hardy’s writing merged his present with the past. Within this ancient landscape, old beliefs died hard and Hardy’s plots are set against a background of superstition. Hardy felt that these past ways of life were important, helping us understand ourselves and our relationship with the environment; he also made a film outside the Bear Hotel, like a TikTok-obsessed teenager up for a rumble. Okay, that last bit isn’t strictly true!


Note: The first week of June is the Jubilee, where there’s so many village or town street parties to list here, so check your village magazines and social media sites for archetypical clipart bunting posters, and gawd bless ‘er, guvnor.


Thursday 2nd – Monday 6th June: Honey Folk Festival @ The Barge Inn, HoneyStreet

Bit of prequel to July’s HoneyFest, as you might expect from the trusty Barge, it’s a folk fest with a difference. Acts here range globally and incorporates the loose pigeonhole world music too, so much so it’s like a mini-Womad!  


Saturday 4th June: Bromham Carnival

Friday 10th – Sunday 26th June: Devizes Arts Festival

A fortnight long arts festival on your doorstep! Including Baila La Cumbia, Rockin Billy, Tankus the Henge, The Scummy Mummies Show, Asa Murphy and so, so much more; we do love Devizes Arts Festival. Do check our preview, and links to The Devizes Arts Festival for more details of separate events and tickets.


Saturday 11th June: Sustainability Fair

Arranged by Sustainable Devizes, there will be a day celebrating all things sustainable in the Market Place and Shambles; let’s get green.


Sunday 12th June: Lions on the Green

Talking of green, it’s always a fantastic free day out with the Devizes Lions, on the Devizes Green, with a car show, beer tent, and whole lot more.


Sat 18th June: Saddleback Music Festival with LottieFEST

Yes, Saddleback is erm, back! This one stealthily popped up out of nowhere, which is good if you’re a Shaolin assassin but not if you want people to come to your festival; a little bit of notice on this wouldn’t go amiss, guys, like a marketing strategy and erm, telling your friendly neighbourhood Spider-event guide!

So, you may not have heard; Devizes Sports Club in full force with a blues extravaganza. Jon Amor & King Street Turnaround, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, Joe Hicks, No Manz Land, Carolyn McGoldrick & Friends, Matt Peach, Public Eye and The Best of Ratcat feature, with DJs until the early hours, which is different but I guess that’s where the Saddleback incorporates LottieFEST too, a celebration of the life of Lottie Rapson, who sadly passed away aged just 27 from Friedreich’s Ataxia. Tickets are £30, with £5 donated to Ataxia UK & the Lily Foundation.


Thurs 23rd June: The World under the Wood @ Wharf Theatre, Devizes

Running until June 26th; Jodie meets a magical talking Tree, as you do, who asks for her help, as they often do. The wood seems to be dying and Tree thinks the incredible World under the Wood may hold the answer… Jodie is whisked away to a super-world where life moves super-fast. But she discovers that this world is failing too; the super-humans have been collapsing and productivity is down. Jodie and Harley the dog must now journey between worlds to find an answer. Can the mega-multiplier plants restore the wood? And what is the mysterious ‘Source’?

A magical story of courage, friendship & unity to inspire a greener generation – For everyone 6+; of which I fall into this age-group, just.


Saturday 25th Sunday 26th June: Bromham Teddy Bear Trail

Always a lovely carnival in a lovely village, that’s on the 4th June, but bon’t forget their Teddy Bear Trail from 25th – 26th June, this year’s theme will be ‘Someone Beginning With B,’ with 40+ Teddies around the village, created and generously sponsored by local businesses and individuals. See how many you can guess!


Saturday 25th June: MantonFest

A tad further out, this side of Marlborough, but always worth a big mention, cos it’s such a well-organised community-driven yet professional one day music festival; certain I did a preview about it, here, and yeah, I might be going too but don’t let that put you off; you don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to.


Saturday 3rd July: DOCA Picnic in the Park @ Hillworth Park

Picnic in the Park is DOCA’s traditional start to the festival week. It’s a chance for the community to get together in the beautiful surroundings of Hillworth Park. There’s top quality music, stalls and a bar. You can also buy snacks, ice-creams and hot drinks from the café on the park. Bring your friends and a picnic, for the perfect Sunday afternoon.

Acts include a travelling duo of a Dubliner and a songwriter in the vein of Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen, called The “Grave” Diggers, bluegrass Americana with The Stemville Ramblers and Bristol based trio Boogaloo String Band.

Artist and performer Boogaloo Stu, too, while we’re on boogaloo, who promises to gets up-close and personal with Puppet Paramour, a one-to-one session of craft activity and psychic surgery to create your ideal partner in sock-puppet form.

And resident artist Libertine, a free-motion embroider who specialises in social commentary and out of the box thinking which is reflected in her work. She will take up residence at the Picnic and gather your musings on the last year, the year ‘we’ missed, she will commit them to fabric and thread.


Saturday 9th July: Devizes Carnival

Devizes comes alive carnival day, need I say more?


Saturday 9th July: CrownFest @ the Crown, Bishops Cannings

Queen tribute Real Magic headline this mini-festival with serious clout, not so far from carnival, in Bishops Cannings. Some awesome acts, check the poster, Including Illingworth, George Wilding, Humdinger and local legend Pete Lamb & the Heartbeats. This is such a nice setting; it has to be done.


Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th July: Market Lavington Vintage Meet Family Fun Weekend

Ah, big steam engines, proper job!


Saturday 23rd July: Devizes Beer & Cider Festival

Details of this still in the pipeline, but that’s no excuse for not putting the date in your diary for this historic wharf-side beer fest; I’ve still got my half-pint glasses from the early noughties!


Friday 29th, Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July: Devizes Scooter Rally

The Devizes Scooter Club have worked tirelessly through lockdown postponements and beyond to recapture the magic of their first scooter rally in 2019, which went way beyond the archetypical scooter rally and border-lined festival with the supreme acts it booked; here’s hoping they achieve this again, but I can pre-empt it will just by the line-up, most of which have been tried and tested at former Devizes Scooter Club gigs, the poignant Motown covers band All That Soul, Orange Street, who were the pivotal act at the last rally, The Specialized Specials tribute, local sure-things, The Roughcut Rebels, and a wildcard; Slade tribute Sladest!


Saturday 13th July: Seend Fete 2022

Always a real community-feel to Seend’s fete, a great family out!


Thursday 25th till Sunday 28th July Honey Fest @ The Barge Inn, HoneyStreet

Again, the annual kingpin at a campsite, wharf and pub which is like a mini-festival all year around! You can guarantee this will be amazing.


Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th August: Fulltone Music Festival

OMG Super-Proms….Can they do it again? Go compare, I think they can! The funding and effort put into last year’s Full Tone Festival on the Green was truly the jewel in Devizes’ event calendar, a memorable history in the making. To help replicate the magic there’s a bigger line-up of other acts as well as the Full Tone Orchestra. Including our favourite country solo singer Kirsty Clinch, Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats again, DJ James Threfall and it’s great to see local piano virtuoso, young Will Foustone heading the bill.

Also note my pun above, as an opera section with a host of guests including local music school owner, the breath-taking Chloe Jordan and Welsh soprano Wayne Evans, better-known to gogglebox slouchers as the Go Compare man!


Saturday 3rd September: Devizes Confetti Battle and Colour Rush

If you don’t know what this most bizarre event of Devizes calendar consists of, you’re not from Devizes!

For those who aren’t, please come and see what it’s all about: This year the Confetti Battle continues to grow and the colourful chaos has been added to with the introduction of the Colour Rush, an amazing 5 km mixed terrain fun run – what better way to arrive at a Confetti Battle than covered in multi-coloured powder!

There is no ‘battle’ as such, just a very silly half-hour during which a lot of fun is had, and a lot of confetti is thrown about. Expect to get ‘attacked’ by complete strangers throwing paper!  The Battle continues to gain popularity and 2017 saw over 3500 people take part. The event takes place at the finish line of our new Colour Rush 5k run so expect to see some exceptionally colourful visitors in the crowd.

Enjoy yourself on Jennings funfair in the Market Place on both Saturday 31st of August and Sunday 1st of September operating between 5.30 pm until 11.00 pm.

Buy tokens to exchange for the confetti before the event – look out for our stand and get your tokens in advance to reduce queuing time during the event. You’ll still need to line up to collect your confetti prior to the 8pm kick-off.

Keep your eyes peeled when collecting your confetti as one lucky person will receive a Golden Ticket in a confetti bag, info about the prize will be announced soon.


Saturday 24th September 2nd October: Devizes Food & Drink Festival

More food than I can reasonably stuff into my oversized cakehole, and trousers for afterwards, and that’s really saying something more than Bananarama. Saturday 24th kicks straight off with the free market in the Market Place, and there’s a packed lunch full show of events, including designing a sandwich fit for the Queen, workshops, talks, meals, foraging, Come Dine with Us, and a Teddy Bear’s picnic; details of which are on their website.


And that’s about it, summer over, batten down the hatches for autumn; unless you know any different? Something we missed? Why didn’t you tell us about it? Too late now…..unless you twist my arm, editing on this article is strictly and unashamedly governed on favouritism!  


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Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?

Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of … Continue reading “Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?”

Devizes Street Festival; Day Two and Overall

All images used with the kind permission of Simon Folkard Photography

That’s overall, as in “taking everything into account,” and not the all-in-one pac-a-mac kind, I thought you should know before I commence waffling…

Do they even sell pac-a-macs now? Google it if you feel the need, but keep the results to yourself; ah, off I trek… Sunday, the second day of Devizes Street Festival, and the main stage had a little hat; unfortunately, weather turned more appropriate for April and I’d wager combined with fragments of hangover, it resulted in a slightly lesser crowd.

Nevertheless, the show marched on unperturbed. I confess, due to Dad’s taxi on call, I rocked up far too late to justify a precise evaluation, but you know me, I relish in the attention giving my tuppence brings, so I will, thank you.

Firstly, I’ll apologise if Saturday’s thoughts came across a tad preachy, about volunteering and playing your part, but my reasoning was concern. It is critical younger volunteers take up these posts as the years pass; I worry if generation next doesn’t replicate what DOCA have achieved, it could go all village fete fashion, rather than what we have now, the colourful array of variety, the festive-style we rarely see the like of around these backwaters.

Though I accept how it is, folk are busy, working, have other priorities (like dad’s taxi) and want the occasion to unwind and enjoy themselves, that is, after all, its purpose. I found myself caught in this dilemma helping out Saturday. Self-assigned myself to wheelie bin patrol, I figured I could keep one eye on them from the bar area! Anyhoo, let’s drift away from that thought and look at what an utterly fantastic show it was; don’t wanna jinx it.

An assessment of social media commentary hailed it a success, aside one ironic Facebook jester. Many suggested it was the best yet, though it came to us at a light at the end of a biennial tunnel, void of much entertainment at all, so a Jim Davidson tour would sound fantastic by comparison. But I agree, taking heed of various attendees’ observations, yeah, it was equally if not better than previous street festivals. I believe the change of stage positioning, binding food stalls into a horseshoe was a benefactor for this, but aside design the surprise icing on the cake had to be the Ceres show, the splendour of which was covered in my previous article. The local folklore subject breathed a sense of inimitability and distinctiveness to the whole shebang, it really did.

I confess, when I first read about the idea, I was sceptical, even at its commencement I doubted but now, the more I consider it the more astonished and overwhelmed I become with its magnificence. Sunday for me though had one highlight I simply couldn’t miss; I’ve been raving Bristol’s folk-Balkan ska ensemble Mr Tea & The Minions since I fondly reviewed their album Mutiny in 2019. So much so I’ve been trying to convince anyone and everyone to book them somewhere local since; you should’ve seen my little chubby chops light up when I noticed their name on the schedule, the like of a toddler at Christmas. Why did I then go about, recommending them to every passer-by? The proof was in the pudding, they didn’t disappoint despite the pedestal I put them on, as their album they were lively, jubilantly danceable, the perfect match for the spirit of the street festival.

With some brilliant new tunes and a handful from their album they won the audience over with their stylised formula of blending localised folk into this already deeply fused south-eastern European genre which reflects its own roots with the off-beat of Jamacia’s finest musical export. As an enthusiast of ska keen to ascertain its contemporary global progression, I’m resolute we castoff the polarized presumption it belonged to a time of yore, of eighties skinheads and Two-Tone. Memorable and fantastically beguiling though Madness, The Specials, et al were, developments internationally offer us a much wider variety often overshadowed by the aforementioned retrospective cult in the UK. I think Mr Tea & the Minions represent this, but as the tradition presides, they have a truckload of carefree fun while doing it.

I could chew your ear off about how much I enjoyed that particular act, but it is the combination of all which really made the weekend something special. Equally as much as I love the wealth of local talent, and do believe they too should be represented at the Street Festival, director Loz’s determination to present us with a variety of sounds unconventional to our usual local circuit, the liveliest and most colourful array of world music, is something I welcome with open arms. Just like the South American vibe of Mariachi Las Velentinas, Simo Lagnawi’s Gnawa Blues All Stars, on one act prior to Mr Tea, was the perfect example; you don’t get to hear Gnawa, the scared trance music of Morocco in the pubs around here, and they played it sublimely for our alternate jiffy.

In this, the most conventional act on the main stage was perhaps the Brass Junkies, and by our usual expectations they were pretty much unconventional! I note them because while a covers band, where I usually assess with their attention of making a cover their own, this Bristol-based versatile brass band of New Orleans style do this so absolutely proficiently. So, to appease the populace, covers of contemporary, foot-tapping pop hits, such as Daft Punk’s Get Lucky get a brass makeover, and they refined this angle with bells on.

But more so on this variety point is the vast array of circus and street theatre, too many to cover, they just go on, around you, in a breath-taking inclusive show you dare not blink at. If one constructive criticism I heard bounding about requested DOCA add more music to the main stage, the answer would have to be, aside the sheer cost and the time needed to soundcheck for these multi-instrumental seven- or eight-piece bands, is that DOCA want you to explore the Market Place and take in the variety of side-shows, and to have a continuous rave at the main stage would both distract the crowds and drown out the sounds of them too; and you know what? I think that’s fair point.

The combination of all these elements meant the Street Festival is restored post-lockdown, better than it ever was and is continuing to better itself through continued assessment and experimental changes; something we are very lucky to have here in Devizes. Though the smiles in the crowd said it all, then the topical and uniquely Devizes narrative of this added element, this sublime finale, combing dance, acrobatic performance, poetry and music truly was the binding component which confirms my assertion and made it, undoubtedly, the finest street festival yet. Thank you once again, all the organisers and volunteers of DOCA.

Onwards, carnival is July 9th, the Confetti Battle and Colour Rush are on 3rd September, but next up is The Picnic in the Park at Hillworth Park, Devizes, on Sunday 3rd July, all the info you need is at the DOCA website; enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.


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Easter at the Crown, Bishops Cannings

Looking south yonder from the Wansdyke atop Morgan’s Hill, you will see the spire of St Mary’s in the parish of Bishop’s Cannings, much less you belt past it on the A361, glad to have escaped Devizes’ congestion.…..

Impressive is the church, recorded in the Domesday Book as held by the Bishop of Salisbury. Tis said its design is to replicate Salisbury Cathedral; a kind of mini cathedral, to make him feel at home, which is nice. I’m certain villagers today would want the same, to make visitors and newcomers’ welcome.

The spire towers over the historic inn, The Crown, which recently under new management felt the objections of a handful of disgruntled residents at their wish to provide a little entertainment in the village, a few of them a considerable distance from the site.

I’m glad to hear the proposal was met positively with a majority, a slightly later licence for outdoor music was granted, and this was celebrated with an Easter humble gathering of villagers and local live music aficionados, which is why I and a sprinkling of other Devizes riff-raff trekked eastwards.

Smooth. Image: Nick Padmore

It’s understandable, you buy a rural property for peace and tranquillity, but I implore you, give and take for the odd weekend, is all anyone asks, no one is proposing your chocolate box cottage is resituated on the Las Vegas strip. Proof is in the pudding, and what the Crown hosted yesterday was far from the satanic-worshipping netherworld of a Special Brew sponsored anarchistic punk uprising I imagine they wrongly perceived it to be!

Rather, as the trend for pub-based mini-festivals is, a beautiful, family-orientated day of live music was had, celebrating a wealth of local talent; there were no acts of depravity, no drug-induced adolescent insurrection and I’d wager to drive through the village this morning would be to have no clue an event of any kind actually occurred. Give and take goes for anyone living in any village where a pub wishes to host a small event; in this era of regaining a hospitality industry, whereas an urban tavern can specialise, a village pub must cater for all, and that’s a delicate balance, to be the hub of a community.

George Wilding. Image: Nick Padmore

That’s exactly what the Crown achieved, owners and staff should be proud, I considered as I wandered through the pub witnessing families enjoying rather tasty looking meals, as ever, as is the mainstay for Wadsworth’s establishments. While outside a double marque nestled between an outside bar and barbeque in its wonderfully spacious beer garden. With clement weather, it made quite the comfy and hospitable music event it promised to be.

Paradox. Image: Nick Padmore

I can’t really justify a review, as such, I only rocked up to check it out prior to heading to the Southgate, but I saw enough and badgered attendees to discover it was nothing short of brilliant. I missed a band I don’t know called Smooth, George Wilding, who though not seeing post-lockdown you can depend his natural talent and charisma shines through with every performance, and Paradox, who I’m told were lively in their covers and got everyone up dancing; what can I say, I had to work, siesta, and had errands to run as dad’s taxi, but folk there spoke highly of them all.

I did arrive as planned, to see N/SH, a heartfelt Swindon-based teacher by profession who enthusiastically circulates the local scene as a solo, multi-instrumentalist indie-rock musician. Perhaps scheduling was slightly off, with Paradox before him being so lively, as N/SH’s style rests very much on acoustic and ambient vibes, his incredibly crafted self-penned songs are rich in narrative and his cool persona reflects this. He’s one for the serious acoustic-heads, the like Bath’s Chapel Arts should headhunt, the nonchalant yet passion he displays rides on the zephyr sublimely; he’s one for any singer-songwriter to sit and admire.

N/SH. Image: Nick Padmore

And I was also enthused to pop my Illingworth cherry, a Salisbury-based duo I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. Few originals, but mostly indie-pop cover favourites, lead John Illingworth’s voice is simply vocational and inspiring; it could pull you into sentimental meanderings if he was covering the Wheels on the Bus! There’s scrupulousness and charm in the whole setup, the kind to polish off a party, returning guests home with fond memories and thoughts of oh, did I get up and dance?!

But unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got, other than here’s a welcoming and comfy village pub keen to host events in support of the local live scene, reminding me somewhat of Bromham’s annual BromFest at the now sadly burnt-out Owl community centre. This little excursion for the Crown is a precursor, for they’ve a festival planned on July 9th, aptly titled CrownFest. N/SH, Illingworth, Paradox and the fantastic Mr Wilding are on the line-up, and also booked is Humdinger, Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats, Isobel Thatcher Band and Becca Maule, with Queen tribute Real Magic headlining.

Judging on this weekend alone, I think this is one very worthy of your attention. Parking and camping are included, it’s fundraising for Devizes Cancer Research and Dementia Friends, tickets are £35, early birds get a fiver off. Hats off to the Crown at Bishops Cannings.


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House of Casks; Barrelhouse Played The Southgate

Easter weekend in Devizes, where aside a canoe race, we’re awash with options for blues music. A diversity of genres debatable, blues is Devizes’ mainstay; a majority wouldn’t wish for it to be any other way. Me? I’m fine too with Billy Walton at Long Street while the Southgate has a local blues band, especially when it’s Barrelhouse….

Hailing from the Marlborough-Swindon areas, I’ve seen this five-piece offering “vintage blues with a hard-edged groove,” before on their home-turf MantonFest, where they rule the day through dependency. I witnessed an expectant crowd swamp the stage area upon their arrival. Such is the limbos of local circuits, while Barrelhouse have graced the trusty Gate before, many there seemed unaware of their excellence, and were pleasantly surprised.

Apt is their self-penned description, they sent us a signature tune about voodoo for our first Julia’s House compilation, with a seriously beguiling blues riff. One has to wonder to the significance of their voodoo affiliation; young, slim lead vocalist Martin Hands appears to have magically exchanged voices with an aged, stout Afro-American, akin to Howlin’ Wolf, to the point it’s possible there’s such a character wandering the Mississippi giving west country tongue, “lush moi luver, praper jarb!”

I use the term lead vocalist rather than frontman, for while last week’s offering at the Southgate was the incredible Worried Men, focus there was on frontman Jamie Thyer with his spellbinding guitarwork bridging every historical variety of blues and rock fusion, the golden element of Barrelhouse is quite the opposite, it’s the unification of the band, and their set style.

Tightly rehearsed, they work as a unit and customise that age-old delta blues formula, to the point where even if other Americana covers are played out, like Johnny Cash, as they did, they’re enriched with that simple working recipe. That’s why the roots of blues are so memorable above later adaptions, it’s the expediency of the rhythm.

So, between their parallel originals, they’re best covering the likes of Bo Diddly, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Hand’s gritty vocals, coupled with the twang of lead guitarist Tim’s cigar-box guitar bleeds authenticity into it. Though they’re known to also blend the same formula to version other crowd-pleasing genres, such as their celebrated cover of Ace of Spades.

Newly released to a third album, we were introduced to some teasers, and hardly noticeable between said covers, they played out previous album tracks. Mostly upbeat, there were also some sublime moments of smooth downtempo, where as Jim Morrison could, Martin held the audience in his palms. Unusually for typical local bands, Hands plays no instrument, ergo the comparison to someone like Morrison is justified, more so by his somewhat mysterious stage presence, as bass player Stuart Whant seems to take over the stage banter and tune introductions.

Whichever they decide, covers archetypical of their style, adaptions or originals, there’s short blasts of enriching fineness, a working combination flows through them, and the ride is exhilarating.

Precisely what they did last night, and effortlessly won the minor crowd, who broke out in uncontainable bopping; another grand night at the dependable Southgate.


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Birdmens Play Long Street

Bird is the Word. If April has seen a surge of memorable rescheduled gigs from Devizes’ Long Street Blues Club, and I’m content and grateful our roving reporter Andy has taken the arduous task of enjoying and reviewing them, May sees the blues club return to a monthly plan of action, meaning there’s only one gig, and I’m itching to attend it myself.….

The lockdown project of a staggering who’s-who of local blues, Birdmens will play the club on Friday 6th May. The line-up of lead & rhythm guitars Ian Siegal, Jon Amor, Joel Fisk and Dave Doherty, the latter also taking percussion, bassist Rob Barry, both Bob Fridzema and Jonny Henderson on keys and Giles King taking up harmonica, this is truly a force to reckoned with, now prepare for it to be a live show, featuring Ian, Jon, Dave, Rob and Jonny.

Armed only with cheap microphones, phones and varying internet speeds, ‘Birdmens’ recorded Lockdown Loaded, an album created in bedrooms and kitchens which thrusts a genuine life-force and verve back into a scene they feel is in need. If blues is having something of a renaissance, it’s not without timeworn formulas and antique following. Akin to the Doherty’s now defunct Little Geneva, here’s a supergroup aching to reintroduce that raw and energetic edge back into blues, something sorely missed on an elder and commercialised circuit.

Defined as swampy delta blues, there’s something retrospectively authentic and underdone about it, a true ethos of blues. I’m leaving a video here for you to make your own mind up, but it’s won me over. Now everybody’s heard about the bird!


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REVIEW – Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 9th April 2022

The Gig of 2022 So Far!

Andy Fawthrop

Following the previous night’s gig with Billy Bremner’s Rockfile downstairs at the Corn Exchange, tonight we were promoted upstairs into the main hall. And that was only fitting – big name, big gig, big crowd, so a big venue required. Last time we were in here was for those other prog-rock legends of the 70s – Focus. This time the hall was full of people, and the stage was absolutely full of drum-kit – a massive and meticulously set up piece of equipment, with a pair of huge gongs at the rear.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, alongside such legends as Cream, were one of the early rock so-called “supergroups”, and were massive innovators in the world of music. Transcending mere rock labels, they incorporated many other musical forms into their repertoire, particularly jazz and classical.

Carl Palmer has a reputation as a drummer’s drummer. A consummate professional, a brilliant technician and a dynamic showman, he has thrilled listeners and audiences alike for nearly four decades with some of music’s most memorable bands including Atomic Rooster, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Asia and of course Emerson, Lake & Palmer. To be honest, he’s worked/ played with everyone who is anyone. Along the way his dazzling speed and mastery of the drums, combined with his infectious stage personality, have secured for him a respected place in history as one of rock and roll’s greatest drummers.

Carl is now 72, looking fit and healthy, and is the only one of ELP still living. Sadly we lost both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake in 2016 – sad losses of talent. To “replace” them tonight, in a musical sense at least, we had guitarist/ vocalist Paul Bieltawicz, and on bass and Chapman stick we had Simon Fitzpatrick. Notice there were no keyboards – everything was reproduced on guitars.

We opened in classic style with “Welcome My Friends To The Show That Never Ends”, before being taken through several numbers from the ELP and King Crimson back catalogue. From the first album we had “Knife Edge” and “Lucky Man”. From the second album the eponymous “Tarkus”. There was “Trilogy”, “Benny The Bouncer”, “Hoedown” and “Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man”. The musicianship throughout was simply stunning by all three members of the band, each displaying some dizzying skills and dexterity with their instruments. Both Paul and Simon delivered stunning solos. Carl repeatedly stepped out from his drum battery to talk to the audience. He was down to earth, chatty and humorous, building rapport easily.

Carl’s big drum solo came, as it must, like a long-impending storm, and arrived in the midst of the last number “Fanfare For The Common Man”. To be honest, I’m not the greatest fan of drum solos because they are so often used to merely let other band members have a bit of a rest, and to keep them sweet since everyone else will have had a solo by then. But absolutely not the case here. Carl’s solo, as we expected it would be, was an absolute tour de force, demonstrating without question what an absolute master this guy is. It was completely stunning, and drew a deserved standing ovation, as the band filed back on stage to close the number out. I think it’s fair to say that this guy really knows his way around a drum kit!

There was still time for a resounding, thumping encore of “Nutrocker” and then we were done. An absolutely stunning night’s entertainment and, for me at least, best gig of 2022 so far! Superb!

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 16th April 2022 Billy Walton Band
Friday 6th May 2022 Birdmens
Saturday 4th June 2022 Errol Linton Band
Saturday 17 September 2022 CSN Express
Saturday 8th October 2022 Eddie Martin Big Blues Band
Saturday 5th November 2022 Alastair Greene Band


Worried Men at the Southgate

Glad to find time between running Dad’s taxi to nip over to Devizes’ trusty Southgate, for one reason unworthy of explaing here or another, feels like an age since frequenting our favouritemost tavern, and I’m all smiles to return.

Historically efficient, nonetheless, I’m here to find out what the men are worried about; possibly an ironic namesake for Jamie Thyer’s tradtional electric RnB three-piece, a pub trio very worthy of your attention, should you not have come across them on their 28 years on the circuit.

Sure, I’ve seen The Worried Men’s name about a bit of recent, last time listed at Trowbridge’s Pump with our Tamsin in support. Maybe there’s the reason for my assumption it’d have a folk twinge, but you know what they say about assumption.

Marvellously proficient, in a manner vien of classic sixties and seventies rock bands derived via blues rather than folk, The Worried Men seemed not in the least bit worried to me. Rather brewing in deserved confidence, Jamie’s wealth of experience shows as his fingers glide across those strings, governed, it seemed, from the gods. At one point this guitar virtuoso accepts a mug of tea, drinks it mid-song while continuing to make it look like childsplay.

Treated to the perfect balance of originals and self-stamped covers, they weaved between electric blues and psychedelia rock n roll with a clear nod to its roots. So to blend any subgenre fitted sublimely into a firey set, whether Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water riff, frenzied hints of punk rock, mellowed Flyod-eske moments or reaching further back to rock n roll’s golden era, every experiment in rock history was crafted into their unique style, without the need to metalise. Though Motorhead did get a moment in their repertoire.

What came out the other side was a loud and proud plethora of excellence of which you could only nod your appreciation to, confident you were in the hands of some really experienced long-haired rockers with Cuban heels.

Jamie holds an expression of concentration, occasionally looking up at you through these spellbinding Hendrix fashioned exercursions, as if to ask “is that alright for you?” Like a dentist with his tools stuck in your gum, you feel like responding, “yes, fine, thank you doctor.”

I guess therein lies the beauty of the rather cramped Devizes answer to the 02 arena, virtually perched atop of a band you’d usually witness from a stage distance, makes it an intimate experience, personal. While this may not suit all, The Southgate does it their own way, and they continue to host free gigs you’d happy pay a ticket stub for.

For this, and the clash of similar as The Long Street Blues Club knocking out, I’d suspect, a blinder at the Corn Exchange, last night down the Gate wasn’t as full as it could’ve possibly been for an act so warrent of the highest praise possible. Again, the strive in The Gate to present us with great live music every weekend needs nourishing and respecting, with other local boozers only doing this sporadically, it’s the only dependant offering of entertainment in town, unless of course you keep up with what’s happening via this rather special website, if I do say so myself!

So, if you were in that exclusive club last night, I wager you were as bowlled over by The Worried Men as was I. From moments of intricate guitar picking with amps low, to the frenzied finale where Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny,” fused into medley with Muddy Waters’ “Little Red Rooster” with emphasis on the Stones cover, and The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” with an audience participation encouraged encore of Them’s “Gloria,” this surely was an astounding performance to satisfy the craving of rock aficionados from any given generation.

Onwards, next Saturday’s offering at The Southgate also takes on a blues edge, slightly east of us, local blues group Barrelhouse take up the legendary alcove, and take it from me, if you like your entertainment as gritty and vintage as the great Howlin’ Wolf, you’re in for a treat.


REVIEW – Billy Bremner’s Rockfile @ LSBC, Devizes – Friday 8th April 2022

Old Skool

Andy Fawthrop

Another night at Long Street Blues Club but on this particular evening we had an enforced change of venue from the Con Club – downstairs at the Corn Exchange.  Yes – in The Bin!

The support act James Oliver and his band was well chosen in terms of style.  He played the same sort of stuff as the main act that was to follow.  Unfortunately his performance relied more on speed and volume, and self-deprecation of his own Welsh-ness, rather than on any particularly musical ability.  His set was very same-y, apart a fairly pleasant and accomplished version of Peter Green’s “Albatross”.  But otherwise it was all high energy, but low talent.  Sorry, but best forgotten.

Then onto the main act.  Not to be confused with namesake feisty former Leeds United midfielder (if you don’t know – ask your dad), Billy Bremner started life as a member of Lulu and the Luvvers (oh – better ask dad again).  However, he’s best known for being with Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Terry Williams, one quarter of Rockpile, one of the finest bands ever to emerge from the United Kingdom music scene. A fearsomely accomplished guitarist, he has also been an occasional lead vocalist, as well as a great songwriter.  Since the break-up of Rockpile he’s had an illustrious career as a solo performer (four albums), and as a member of the Pretenders (that’s him playing the lead guitar on Back On The Chain Gang).  He’s also played with Shakin’ Stevens, Carlene Carter, and The Coal Porters.  Most recently he’s worked as a producer and all round living legend in his adopted home, Sweden.

Now aged 75, this is the Farewell Tour for one of Britain’s finest guitarists and, as expected, the evening was dedicated to the music of Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile.  The four-piece played two sets, kicking off without introduction or pre-amble.  In fact there was extremely little in the way of between-song chat, and little attempt to engage with the audience.  Dressed all in black, and rarely cracking a smile, they presented a rather dour stage presence.  We had the classics like “I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock & Roll”, “I Hear You Knocking”, “Cruel To Be Kind” and even Kirsty McColl’s “There’s A Guy Down The Chip Shop”, interspersed with other material.

To be honest, it wasn’t the great performance I’d been expecting.  It seemed a step down from last time I’d seen the band a few years back at the Con Club.  It was all rather single-paced, one-dimensional stuff, with little variation to leaven the mixture.  As good old pub-rock, rockabilly, power-pop, it was OK but, frankly, difficult to get too excited about.  It was chunky, but at times it was plodding.  Billy’s vocals sounded rather reedy and thin.  And not at any stage of the night did any of the band actually look as if they were enjoying what they were doing – more a case of going through the motions.  It was competent, and it was professional, but it just wasn’t engaging or exciting.  It seemed as if the spark had gone.

I can’t say it was a bad gig, because it wasn’t.  But somehow it just never seemed to really take off.  The crowd, being unusually rather small for an LSBC gig, just couldn’t quite generate much atmosphere.  I guess you can’t like every performer and every gig – and this was just one of those that didn’t click with me.

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 16th April 2022                               Billy Walton Band

Friday 6th May 2022                                        Birdmens

Saturday 4th June 2022                                   Errol Linton Band

Saturday 17 September 2022                      CSN Express

Saturday 8th October 2022                            Eddie Martin Big Blues Band

Saturday 5th November 2022                       Alastair Greene Band


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Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?

Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of the year in our humble town for many a year, and though we’ve had setbacks with the dreaded year of lockdown and DOCA’s valiant effort to stage something near similar within the restrictions of last summer, we’ve been waiting, debatably patiently, for this summer extravaganza.

But my levels of excitedness have gone from 500% to 1,000 meows, now I’ve seen the program of acts. A band who contributed to our Julia’s House compilation, I’ve been aching to get Bristol-based frenzied folk ska-punk outfit Mr Tea & The Minions to play our town, and DOCA have either noted their brilliance themselves, or have taken heed of my constant whining of a suggestion; either way, we’re quids in, pinky promise. It means two things; someone actually listens to me, and you’ll have your socks blown off by this band I totally love!

Though that’s the icing on the cake for me, the line-up looks set to thrill us as it ever did. Hints of the acts are there to see on the DOCA website, and as usual neither the site nor us can reveal times and places of the acts, you’ll need to buy a programme, as it’s an essential fundraiser for DOCA. But we are allowed to breeze over it.

Expect mischievous experimental entertainment and audience participation, performed in the round by Full Circle, upbeat funk and Northern Soul influenced Desert Boots from Worcester, a quirky Folkdance performance around a 12-foot maypole, fusing everything from clogging to breakdance and beat boxing, a Playground of Illusions, created by Travelling Light Circus, a heavily laden golden postman suddenly surprised by a rain shower, by A bird in the Hand Theatre Company, the latest creation of Jon Hicks and Matt Rudkin, a Visionary who is said to have wisdom beyond knowledge, incredible acrobatic gravity defying feats from Spanish/Swiss collective Tripotes la Compagnie, Dr Jones & Professor Barnard’s Medicine Show, professional painter and amateur alchemist Malcolm Brushell, on a quest to find the pinky-est pink paint on the planet, sea shanties and sing-alongs with some Old Time Sailors, the minuscule majesty of meerkat Prince Amir on the back of his pet camel, circus shenanigans on a giant red carpet, Treemendous tree-people, riotous folk-fusing hypnotic trans-European melodies with Ushti Baba, of course the bustling market and side-stalls of food and drink, and my aforementioned icing on the cake, Mr Tea & The Minions.

All this happens on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May, in Devizes Market Place, it’s free, it’s fantastic, it’s the Devizes event of the year, on a day where there’s also the Born2Rum Festival at the Muck & Dundar, though you’ll be hard pressed to pick up a ticket for this, plus the Leon Day Band play the Southgate, Seend has it’s annual Beer Festival and it’s Urchfont Scarecrow Festival; whoa, what a weekend!

Ushti Baba

We must praise DOCA yet again to the highest heights, but point out, The International Street Festival relies on it’s collective of volunteers to create and control the magic, who are keen to hear from anyone interested in becoming a “festival maker” by helping out in a number of vital roles. One good Facebook group to join if interested is the festival makers group, where there’s details on how you can get involved, upcoming workshops and all the behind-the-scenes gubbings which need to happen to make this magical event it is.

So, yeah, I’m excited, possibly over-excited, can you tell?!


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REVIEW – Jon Amor with Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse @ The Southgate, Devizes – Sunday 3rd April 2022

It’s All Happening At The Gate

Andy Fawthrop

If you ever find yourself at a loose end, particularly the first Sunday afternoon in every month, there’s one place you really ought to be – up at The Southgate.  Starting early in the New Year, hometown boy Jon Amor has taken up a residency – a great idea by Dave & Debs – and has been featuring a different guest each month.

Yesterday it was the turn of American band Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse, and what a great show it turned out to be.  Although usually held inside the pub, yesterday meant everyone was out in the garden – the only practical solution when you’ve got six musicians, including keyboards and two drum-kits to get on the stage.  It was a bit chilly out there at first, but we soon got warmed up with two stonkingly good sets from Amor et al.  

Kicking off on his own, just backed by his usual rhythm section of Tom Gilkes on drums and Jerry Soffe on bass, Jon played the first couple of numbers before inviting up one member of the guest band after another.  It worked a treat, with the sound and the depth/ richness of that sound building and building – more guitar, more drums, keyboards, and more vocals – until we had all six musicians up there and really hitting their stride.

It was one of those great moments in live music when the opening chords of Jon’s signature tune “Juggernaut” rang out to great applause, only for BGG lead singer Greta Valenti to take over the vocal duties and to give the song the best working-out it’s had in quite a while.  Another highlight of the afternoon was the full blast audience participation in one of BGG’s great numbers “Don’t Let The Bastards Drag You Down”.  Everyone – I mean everyone – was singing to that one.

What a great afternoon – good beer, good company, a big enthusiastic crowd, and one of the best live pub gigs that you are ever likely to hear. The size of the crowd and the volume of the applause said it all – terrific gig.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

Saturday 9th April                              Worried Men

Saturday 16th April                           Barrelhouse

Saturday 23rd April                           Splat The Rat

Saturday 30th April                           Leon Daye Band

Sunday 1st May                                 Jon Amor & Friends feat. Marcus Bonfanti


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REVIEW – Malone Sibun Band @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 2nd April 2022

Two Stellar Musicians = One Powerhouse Unit

Andy Fawthrop

Another night at Long Street Blues Club – the gigs are coming thick and fast at the moment, and there are several more big ones in the next couple of weeks too – feels like we’re gradually catching up with all the time the venues were closed during Covid.

Support act was local favourite Jamie R. Hawkins, tonight divested of his Lost Trades buddies, and going it alone. Here’s a man comfortable with himself and with getting back to chatting to an home-town audience. Joking that it was almost hard to remember his own songs after the long lay-off and his collaborative work, he then proceeded to deliver a master-class in how to perform as a singer-songwriter. Despite the occasional fluff, his songs remain strong and poignant, delivered with sincerity and a strong voice. Old favourites such as Walking Into Doors, Let’s Put This Thing To Bed, As Big As You and Hey, Where’d Everybody Go! were dusted off and given a good shaking down. There’s not many performers that could get away with singing about divorce, domestic abuse and fair-weather friends, but Jamie’s commentary, wit, and self-deprecating style easily got him through. Great to see him back.

Then onto the main dish of the evening – two very professional sets from the four-piece Malone Sibun Band. These guys were last at the club over three years ago (see? – I told you thee’d been this big two-year hole in live performances!). The guys have a new EP out – “Ashes to Dust”, and this material was well show-cased throughout.

Marcus Malone (vocals, guitar) and Innes Sibun (guitars) were joined on stage with bass and drums, and delivered a power-heavy performance featuring rock, boogie-woogie, slow blues, fast blues – you name it. There was even time to drop back into a couple of acoustic numbers. It may be just me, but there’s something about seeing Innes with an acoustic guitar in his hands that doesn’t quite look right, but I digress. First number in and the band members, clearly enjoying themselves, were soon literally bouncing up and down with enthusiasm.

Thereafter we were treated to the more familiar fare of Innes working his electric guitar, forcing it to give up a whole range of amazing noises through his many solos. There were all the classic gestures – arm-wheeling, head-banging, gurning – and we were back in familiar territory. Marcus, meanwhile, held centre stage, a calmer and more purposeful presence with the vocals. The volume and the pace were dialled up, then down for the odd number, then back up again.

We had the obligatory drum and bass solos late on, but these were produced as grand final flourishes, not as extended self-indulgent passages. The crowd were on their feet, and the encore was a formality – richly deserved after a great evening’s entertainment.

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Friday 8th April 2022 Billy Bremner’s Rockfile (Corn Exchange)
Saturday 9th April 2022 Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy (Corn Exchange)
Saturday 16th April 2022 Billy Walton Band
Friday 6th May 2022 Birdmens
Saturday 4th June 2022 Errol Linton Band
Saturday 17 September 2022 CSN Express
Saturday 8th October 2022 Eddie Martin Big Blues Band
Saturday 5th November 2022 Alastair Greene Band


Helping Ukraine in Wiltshire

Coordinating an event in Devizes fundraising for the Ukraine has fallen wayside at the moment, I need a rethink. Meanwhile there’s lots of ways to help in Wiltshire and I thought I’d see if we can’t amalgamate them into one article….

Wiltshire Council has provided some FAQs on all aspects of fundraising, donating and housing refuges HERE, I’ve been in search for others.

Starter for ten, there’s some fundraising events coming up, starting tomorrow Tuesday 29th, at Downton Social Club, Salisbury, who have a big band concert, free with donations, just turn up after 7:30pm.

Wednesday 30th with a Community Supper at Devizes Corn Exchange, organised by Devizes Food & Drink Festival, details HERE, and Saturday sees punky rock covers bands Stone’s Throw and Izzy Barsby appear at Market Lavington Community Hall, tickets are £6, HERE.

Phoenix Brass have a concert for Ukraine at Marlborough Town Hall on Sunday 10th April, ticket info on the poster below.

If there’s one band in the UK most apt for a Ukraine fundraiser it’s the incredible lively and traditional folk-punk of The Ukrainians; I’ve seen them many years ago at the Endorset in Dorset Festival and they were unforgettable. Obviously originating from Ukraine they’re based in the north of England and have been working tirelessly raising £13,000 to-date, donating to Association of Ukrainians in GB and DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and have also committed to pay the travel expenses of two transit vans taking locally donated medical supplies to Lviv hospital. They play Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday 23rd April with Pronghorn, Lump and Gypsy Jukebox. Tickets vary from £15 upwards, pay what you can.

Frome’s Cheese and Grain presents a Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal Event on Saturday April 30th with The Back Wood Redeemers, Mighty One, Back Of The Bus, Henry Wacey and DJ Patmandu, with all proceeds donated to the fantastic Frome Town Council’s twin town Ukrainian refugee appeal. £10 in advance HERE.

Over Easter half-term, 11th-14th April, and again from 19th-22nd, Trowbridge Town Hall has some Workshops in aid of Humanitarian Aid Centre. There are badges, flag making and sunflower sowing at £1-3, kids arts open competitions for ages 5-18yrs, and a prize raffle. There’s also an online auction of local and Ukrainian artists, with a live preview of work on 23rd April from 10am -4pm in the Old Court at the Town Hall. Details HERE.

Warminster has two Concerts for Ukraine at the Athenaeum Centre, on Fri 22nd and Sat 23rd April. All tickets are £10 HERE. Warminster Military Wives Choir, Bonner & Blake, The Echobirds, Hilary Pavey and Andrew Bazeley perform.

I’m sure there’s more yet to discover, everywhere you look there’s churches collecting donated clothes and food, there’s schools holding cake stalls, and so many other amazing efforts. If you know of some worthy to add here, please do let us know.

The response to this crisis has been overwhelming in Wiltshire. Like Wroughton businessman Cliff Barry who raised more than £20,000, bought a van and left last Thursday to deliver donations to the border. But so many others have rallied to the cause, donating or even opening their homes to refuges, it’s incredible!

WILTSHIRE for UKRAINE

Trying to find the best avenue to donate should our gig have happened, I joined a Facebook group, Wiltshire for Ukraine, assuming it was just a place to post fundraising efforts, folk looking to house refugees and visa-versa, and other general news on the theme. But I was surprised to hear Wiltshire for Ukraine is all these things and so much more. I spoke to admin Magdalena, direct from Poland, where her group are visiting charities and places dealing with help for refugees.

She was keen to point out, raising funds for smaller community groups is more effective now. They bridge the gap between big charities and its users. “Of course,” she explained, “big charities are super important and professionally help all in need. In a crisis like war help is needed immediately and funds collected by groups can immediately collect and give money to those most needed. At Wiltshire for Ukraine we collect money to help refugees who fled with nothing. We give them money directly and help them have a new start in foreign countries.”

To donate to WILTSHIRE for UKRAINE find their go-fund-me page HERE, and their Facebook group has so much more info of people going that extra mile, ideas on ways you can get involved, and information for those taking in refugees. Such as Salisbury’s Valeriy, raising £10,000 for personalised help to the children and their families inside of Ukraine who have no possibility to leave the war zone. Their GoFundMe is HERE

Another Marlborough based Facebook group called Ukrainians and their Sponsors in Marlborough and surrounding area is helping link Ukrainians needing homes with sponsors and is giving Marlborough residents a place to offer practical advice once they’re here. Find the group HERE.

There is so many amazing people locally, doing whatever they can, I am sorry if I missed you and yours, the beauty of the online blog though, this can be updated if you send me details!


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On The Road With Talk in Code!

You know that millennial movie, Almost Famous, set mid-seventies, where Rolling Stone Magazine mistake a nerdy teenager for a music journalist and send him on the road with an outrageous prog-rock band? It was nothing like that. Neither did it resemble 200 Motels, where a man dressed as a vacuum cleaner convinces you Ringo Starr is actually Frank Zappa in some freaky acid flashback. But I did have an awesome adventure yesterday, on the road with local premier indie-pop favs, Talk in Code.…..

There were no campervans with CND slogans painted on the side-door, no sign of Goldie Hawn’s daughter unfortunately, and though my bubbles of anachronistic pre-imaginings burst, it allowed me to chart the regular labour of a touring band, rather than my usual practise of slouching up halfway through a performance with lame excuse. For if I’m going to write on the subject, I need to comprehend the inner workings, and the thoughts of a band going to a gig; even though I’m far from teenage music journalist with an advance from Rolling Stone!

So, by dinnertime I’m lone with guitarist Alastair Sneddon at the steering wheel, hereafter referred to as “Snedds,” with an amp case knocking in the rear of his car, and distracted by my inane waffling, weaving between musical subjects, badly following his sat-nav to Portsmouth.

Likely the eldest of this four-piece band, Snedds is a family man with a wealth of musical experience. He fondly recalls playing in cover bands, jazz and blues groups and our chat swifts across his past, musical influence brushing off on his children, current past gigs and local venues, to the importance, or insignificance of pop culture, the mainstream music industry and current trends of listening to music from streaming platforms to amplification to listening through phone speakers; we could’ve chatted all night on his passionate chosen subject, least it perceived to reduce the travel time.  

Before I knew it, we were awkwardly parked on a busy street in Southsea. Awash with cheesy club type pubs, restaurants, kebab houses and chippies, lies an equally misplaced theatre to our right, and a more traditional looking city tavern, The Lord John Russell, which will be our venue for the evening. Like a true roadie I felt a sense of haughtiness as I assisted lugging equipment through the already bustling pub; make way, yes, I’m with the band, ladies control yourselves!

But nothing felt ostentatious for the band as they amassed their kit in a corner, greeted each other and the promoter; here’s a tight working team despite the geographic distance between them. Talk in Code are part from Swindon, Reading and Devizes, but here they are with an excited air of anticipation brewing. There’s a trio of bands on tonight, Talk in Code are second on, while the first are already sound checking, locally based to Portsmouth, Southerlies are a seven-piece covers band, fusing Americana with punchy hooks into contemporary pop; they proficiently delivered their set with good male-female vocal harmonies, and being local I observe they attracted a fanbase.

Quite eclectic then, to switch to Talk in Code’s more electronica indie-pop, which as I discussed in the car with Snedds, perpetually seemed to fuse conventional nineties indie sound to a more inimitable eighties synth-pop style with every new tune. Yet tricker still was the notion the Talkers insist to play only their originals, which would be unknown to this rather heterogenous crowd. Besides, frontman Chris gets his fill of covers with the Britpop Boys.

Seems Friday live music nights are relatively new-fangled for the Lord John Russell, with a promoter keen to create the venture, the pub also adhered to cater for the pull on it’s street with screens showing sport and archetypical club music between acts. As much as market town pubs like Devizes’ Southgate work here, with a penchant for original live music and solely that, it wouldn’t work in this busy city location judging by the footfall. But a splendid, convivial and dynamic pub it was with a wide demographic.

One thing I was keen to gage from Talk in Code, the priorities and feelings towards playing a gig outside their usual stomping ground as opposed to returning to a venue like Swindon’s Victoria where a fanbase would be welcoming. They stressed the importance of both, and being their recent connection to Regent Street Records, there’s a keenness in the band to grab wider-appeal in anticipation of the forthcoming album. The release of which has been pushed back to accommodate this collaboration.

Still, all the band are united in praising recent local gigs, particularly Trowbridge Town Hall where they supported The Worried Men, and were keen to pick out the importance of the many locally-based festivals they’re booked at, from Minety to Live at Lydiard and IWild in Gloucestershire. And with appearances at places like Oxford’s HMV, things are really looking up for them post-lockdown.

And it’s easy to see why when they bounced on stage last night at the Lord John Russell, after their virtually nail-biting eagerness while the Southerlies launched into their final song, Chris already polishing his guitar and Snedds confessing the waiting game is a pet hate. A technical issue with leads to the backing tracks solved, the band applauded the previous and proficiently executed their thing, introducing themselves and delivering their songs with panache.

For me it was a blessing, being I’m aware of much of their discography, to finally get to witness them do it live, and had to stop to ponder their stage presence is as exhilarating as their recorded work. Yet, my view of the performance differed from the crowd as the band were likely new to them. Still, they got the place jumping, sprightlier, and louder than the previous band. They confessed a spirit of fair competition was unavoidable in them, yet affirmed their ethos to never do their set and bunk, in respect for other bands; Talk in Code come off as outgoing throughout and it was an honour to be welcomed into their web.

Also present, I spent time chatting connections, her background as music journalist and her fanzine making past, with manager Lyndsey. From Milton Keynes she avidly followed the group in their early years, falling in love with their sound it seemed only natural to mutually agree for her to manage. And part-time freelance photographer Helen, whose PolarPix Facebook page is dominated with Talk in Code shots. I put it to her she seems to have another band photographed then a Talk in Code one, then another Talk in Code one, then another random band. She acknowledged most of the other bands were on the same bill as TIC! A true “Talker,” as is their fanbase appellation.

Percival Elliott

A pleasant change from trudging the local circuit, as the finale was a euphoric rock band named Percival Elliott, who, with barefoot frontman on keys, executed a sublime set, the like you’d want Coldplay to achieve. In many ways here was a band apt for our own fond venues such as aforementioned Southgate and Trowbridge Town Hall. Without boast, coming highly recommended by yours truly occasionally has some clout, though there was part of me who, if in control of this triple-bill, would’ve put Talk in Code as the final band, being more upbeat popish.

We give no more review of The Lord John Russell for the sake of it being outside our boundaries, but if you’re Pompy bound this would be an ideal pub to consider, offering a variety of free live music dates on Fridays. Now I’m home, unpacked my Peppa Pig bucket and spade, but while I unfortunately didn’t see the seaside, or Kate Hudson, I was in good company with a band which goes from strength-to-strength.  


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REVIEW: White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert @ The Town Hall, Devizes – Friday 18th March 2022

Opera Is Back!

by Andy Fawthrop

Friday was a beautiful, sunny day with clear blue skies, and it finally felt as if we were sloughing off the darker days of Winter.  The daffs and the snow-drops are out, which always makes it feel that Spring is well under way.  White Horse Opera couldn’t have timed things any better for their Spring Concert, and it was good of them to have ordered up such great weather.

Advertising for this event had been much better, and a virtually full room was the clear reward for that extra effort.  The audience were treated to a veritable selection box of operatic delights over a couple of hours, featuring items from Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Handel and Mozart in a dazzling first half.  Guest tenor Robert Felstead blended with the in-house company on several items, and was ably accompanied by solos from Paula Boyagis, Barbara Gompels, Charles Leeming and Lisa House.  The highlight for me was The Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly beautifully rendered not on the stage, but from the close confines of the ante-chamber at the back of the room – very atmospheric!

The second half featured items from Donizetti and Rossini, but was mostly given over to my personal favourites – Gilbert & Sullivan.  There was one item from The Mikado, beautifully sung by Lisa House, but then several helpings of songs from Ruddigore (the operetta which will feature in WHO’s main 2022 programme).  Jon Paget and Jessica Phillips shared a charming duet, and there were strong performances from Charles Leeming and every one of the sopranos.

A delightful concert in a beautiful room.  Spring is back – and so is opera!

Future WHO events:

Spring 2022                                        Ruddigore                                           7.30pm Venues TBA

26th, 28th & 29th Oct 2022          L’elisir d’amore                                 7.30pm Lavington School

More information on WHO is available at www.whitehorseopera.co.uk


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Bath’s Bell Pub Hits Back at 1Star TripAdvisor Review!

The Bell in Bath is an outstanding pub, we know this, you know this, but how they’ve turned a grumpy cretin’s one star review on TripAdvisor on its head is nothing short of genius……

Finding your apposite pub is akin to shoe shopping…. no, hear me out; I can waste time trekking a shopping centre, browse a zillion other stores, but once I’ve settled on a pair of shoes, which are usually in the first shop I visited because I bloody loathe shopping, there is no compromise, it’s those shoes or I’m walking barefoot. I never, however, feel driven to go onto ShoeAdvisor and discredit every other pair of shoes simply because they didn’t suit my tastes.

I’m game finding a suitable pub in Bath, but aware, as with any unfamiliar city, I’m likely to make a blunder and land in one which just isn’t for me. Familiarity, and want of a pint with a degree of urgency, I know full-well satisfaction will be nigh sauntering along the sunny side of Walcott Street, because for as long as I can remember, the Bell has been that stable institution with my name all over it, and then there is no compromise.

Historically The Bell has been lively, the comfy type for the hedonistic alternative. It sells pizza from a bicycle-themed hut, it hosts craft and artisan markets as well as being an upstanding music venue for musicians and DJs alike, with poetry slams and anything else which might tickle their fancy; it’s simply popular because it’s such a darn lovely place.

Their method to dealing with a bad TripAdvisor review though, tips the wanna-be Jay Rayners’ intentions on their heads. As a badge of honour, they post such reviews on their Facebook page for their customers in the know to belittle and laugh at. On this particular occasion the unhappy couple downgraded them from two stars to one, just for mocking their hypocritical review on their own Facebook page; it’s a social media thread which keeps giving!

They blamed the pub for the City Council’s lack of parking facilities, seemed to hate that the pub was popular, on its busiest weekend night, and for want of a quiet pub, with music(?) they hunted elsewhere, but their abhorrence of students prevented any success.

Laughable it may be, but it illustrates the danger in trusting opinions cast by unprofessional critics on these pathetic excuses for websites. Take me, for example, craving my pen mightier than my sword, if I wanted to slag off the Bell, or anywhere else, I would, but I don’t, because ultimately the Bell is a blindingly brilliant pub, always has been, and I hope always will be. Might take a fair attempt at slagging off the reviewer though, but to be fair, the reviewer was nice, and I’m sure on another review it would’ve suited me!

The audacity to downgrade a review simply because they laughed it off only increased the hysterical element to their hypocrisy; as they added “to be fair the place was nice, and I’m sure on another night it would’ve suited us…I am not slating the place or the people there!” But…. oh, you still downgraded your already appalling review to the lowest star rating possible? Okay, makes sense if a tavern with padded walls is what you’re after.

They had our very own guitar virtuoso Innes Sibun playing that very same night, for crying out loud; I strongly suggest he swaps his sublime guitar melodies for a cassette of whale song for want of appeasing these imbeciles, or continue unperturbed if not; of which I fancy the latter! Innes himself asked, “would it help if I offered to do a solo acoustic gig especially for them? I feel really guilty you’re getting slated for providing a night of live music which is what was promised.”

For The Bell have far from “taken it on the chin,” as suggested by the keyboard warrior, with 357 likes, laughing or wowed emojis from the original Facebook post, 140 comments to-date supporting the establishment, and equally blossoming on the latter post telling of the downgrading, rather it’s had quite the opposite effect the critic desired, and their audacity to appear fair-minded has collapsed in a pitiful heap.

Business as usual for the Bell, the Pizza Bike fired its oven and blessed drinkers with sourdough specials, Uncle Boo took to his guitar for some soul and blues grooves, and the staff prepare for a weekend of vinyl DJ sessions, an artisan and pre-loved market, and local country-rock indie from Breakfast Records’ Langkamer; much ado about nothing, but then some people can never let it lie. If your head is stuck in TripAdvisor, you’d never get the right shoes for you.

I could send you a packet of corn plasters for your blisters, but next time have faith in me, who gets or wants nothing from this or any other pub or venue, other than their continuation to support local creatives and musicians, and generate the awesome atmosphere in their establishment they always have.


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Indecision To Split Up, With One Final Gig

Popular covers band on the local circuit and beyond, Indecision, has indeed made a mutual decision to split up, but not without going out with a bang; they’re hosting a “Last Hoorah” gig at Devizes Corn Exchange on Saturday 21st May……

From Seend Beer Festival to Potterne Cricket Club’s, Indecision has been a firm favourite for many-a-year now, playing across the south west from Bromham’s long lost Owl community centre to as far away as Portsmouth, the six-piece Potterne-based band have demanded many to the dancefloor, but the time is nigh to say farewells.

Drummer Richard Monk joked he couldn’t stand the smell anymore, but explained, more seriously, a number of reasons, “Lee has a young family which as we know takes up time, Martin is busy and loving the studio, Tracy is looking at travelling, and I’ve started playing in blues bands in the Leicester area. I’d love to play blues again ….. it’s been a blast!”

Martin Spencer of the Badger Set recording studio fed me this sad secret a while back, and we ran a poll to find out our favourite charities, as they want the Last Hoorah to fundraise. I was mightily impressed with the response to the poll, in which Wiltshire Search and Rescue and the Fatboys Charity, won, so all proceeds will be going to them.

Fatboys is a small local charity which aims to help children who are suffering from cancer, or some other life-threatening illness. They also make charitable donations to other charities working in similar fields. The main thrust of the charity is geared towards the purchase of Christmas gifts for children who are suffering with cancer and other potentially life-threatening illnesses. However, donations have also been made to Oncology Units at NHS Hospitals in Bath and Cheltenham, to a Swindon School for the purchase of gymnastic equipment for children with Special Needs, as well as donations made directly to cancer-related charities such as C.A.L.M, C.L.I.C and Macmillan Nurses.

Indecision promises some guests at the Corn Exchange farewell gig, but are keeping hushed about who, tickets will be out soon, watch this space. We wish the Indecision members all the best with their future prospects and look forward to their final gig, so much so I designed them this poster as a farewell gift!