Our IndieDay at Brogans!

Images by Gail Foster

Coming from Essex where shopping is religion, you’d think I’d be impartial to the duty. But no. To be bluntly honest, as I believe I mostly am, I find nothing entertaining or enjoyable in sauntering a continuous stream of mundane chain stores aimlessly, other than to spend money I haven’t got on crap I didn’t want or need in the first place. Blessed we are then, in Devizes, with an array of original, charming and interesting independent shops, which make shopping endurable for whinging cronies like me! An ethos celebrated, kind of, this Saturday by the group Devizes Retailers and Independents who, in order to return commerce to our wonderful and lively town, held an “IndieDay.”

MP Danny Kruger opened the event, I missed that, loads of shops got involved and opened their doors to a festivity-fashioned celebration, missed that too. Donkeys and more, I missed. Far better for me to contribute by loitering outside Brogans café, munching on a bacon roll and taking credit for Mike J Barham’s hard work!

I arrived late, The Devizes Rotary Club arrived long before to lend us a grand gazebo, and Mike too, he set up a PA, he managed the PA, he hosted the event with his charming and entertaining charisma, and everyone came up to me and thanked me; result!

Honestly, as I’ve said, I have to give a massive thanks to everyone involved for making it such a special day, and in this day and age it was indeed even greater. Mike Barham for one, aforementioned contributions, but two, for rocking both the opening and finale with a plethora of his own work, such as the lively Bowser’s Castle, and thoughtful prose through downtempo blues, to the thundering satire of a west-country-styled Top Gun theme, Danger Zone! The guy is a one-man machine, the best of the best, of the best.

So yes, breakfast to a late lunchtime at Brogans got lively, as people filled the plot outside and the carpark, in the sunshine. It was something until late last night I feared would fail, with gapping gaps between the confirmed acts. Sadly, and for various reasons, Archie Combe and Tom Harris had to cancel, and our opening act, Pewsey singer-songwriter, Cutsmith was also unable to attend. The worry took me until 10pm when I unleashed a masterplan; Tamsin Quin cropped up on the book of face, to thank me for reviewing the new Lost Trades single, and so, whammy, I dispatched note of my concern and asked nicely if she would be able to grace us with her presence, and naturally, sing us a song or three.

I highly suspect they’re secretly superheroes, Tamsin, Jamie and Phil, and if not, they certainly saved my skin, more than once before. Tamsin dragged Jamie R Hawkins along, and as their alter-egos with no need for superhero costumes, they did it again. Thank you both so, so much. Tamsin gave it her all, which needs no surprise, her confidence and professionalism doesn’t preside her charming grace and skill to entertain. Jamie accompanied her brilliantly on cajon, claiming to be “getting into it now!” after just two songs in.

Then Cath and Gouldy rocked up on their way to the Southgate, to play as their folk duo Sound Affects, which was, as ever, blindingly awesome. All originals and finishing on Mr Blue Sky and Come on Eileen covers, it was superb. So, a massive thanks to them.

The finale then, was rocked by Mr Michael J Barham, which I’ve said already, but needs another mention. Thanks to everyone who turned up and made it really special day, including our photographers, Ruth, Nick and Gail, writer Andy and all the supporters. Thanks to Brogans for having us, I trust we behaved, least it could’ve been worse, believe me! It’s times like this which make Devizine feel more than me clonking on a keyboard, and rather a thing of community, of spirit and substance. Though now I’m back clonking, vainly bigging up our own gig, which I justify by noting it’s not about me, or my bacon roll, and more about the good folk who regularly contribute to make this website function, the musicians, writers and photographers, and supporters. Here’s to more, I want more!

This is not an act of vanity, but a condition Gail set forth in order for me to get permission to use them! Thanks Gail, it takes a highly skilled photographer to capture me smiling!

The Lost Trades on Cloud 9

New song from our local purveyors of the perfect folk vocal harmony trio, The Lost Trades. Out for another Bandcamp Day, today, Friday, where the website drops it’s fees and gives the artists 100% royalties; and darn it, if this isn’t worth a quid when it constitutes a mere quarter-cup of coffee from a posh café these days, I dunno what is.

The origin of the idiom, cloud nine is largely debated. Explanations relating the US Weather Bureau of the 1950s denoting fluffy cumulonimbus type clouds, or the penultimate stage of the progress to enlightenment for a Bodhisattva, are mostly debunked. But who needs a debate when you’re in a definite state of blissful contentment anyway?!

All you need know is this tune will land you on said cloud as if you were the monkey-god Sun Wukong on a mission. We are blessed with all the hallmarks of a Lost Trades signature tune; the calming tingle of xylophone, the gentle sway of acoustic guitar, the heavenly vocal harmonies, and uplifting lyrics to boot.

As Pink Floyd, around the Meddle era, after a bout of heavy space rock, when it suddenly drifts into thoughtful acoustic mega-bliss, this song just drifts akin, without need of heaviness, of Simon & Garfunkel, perhaps, meandering along a river on a gondola, thinking; hey man, let’s, like, sing; and it’s gorgeous, as we may’ve come to expect from this Trowbridge-Devizes trio. I wonder if we’re looking at a track from the highly anticipated album, yet, even if no, it’s the perfect display of progression for the newly-formed trio, who’s exceptional solo careers combine to create just as the title suggests; sitting on cloud nine.

With Tamsin advancing with her album, and Phil some way in front, teasing us with a cover design for his, titled Revelation, it’s clear the solo side projects will continue, but as a trio they bounce perfectly off each other, though it’s hardly a shove, more mooch.  Download it here.


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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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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