Here’s our weekly summary of things to do over the coming week. It saves you surfing every individual event calendar, and saves me waffling on about some unrelated rubbish, which I admit I have a tendency to do, but in the words of the great philosopher, KC, and, of course, his Sunshine Band; that’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it…… oh, I’m doing it again aren’t I?!
Onwards, not forgetting further details and links can be found on our event calendar, it’s too time consuming adding them a second time, and besides, there you can scroll away until your heart’s content, planning future weekends.
Best way to kick off live music early is Swindon’s experimental dub duo, Subject A, are at The Bell on Walcott Street, Bath, on Wednesday 19th; consider it highly recommended. Meanwhile, Beth Nielsen Chapman plays The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Thursday 20th sees a Very Hungry Caterpillar, on show at Neeld Hall, Chippenham.
Mr Love & Justice are at The Beehive, Swindon, Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage at Chapel Arts, Bath. But the link to Faustus at Salisbury Arts Centre seems to be broken, unsure if that’s still going ahead.
Friday 21st and Trowbridge’s Pump is the place to be, Matt Owens of Noah & The Whale headlines, with the amazing Concrete Prairie in support.
The magical Lady Nade plays Pound Arts, Corsham, The Little Unsaid at Chapel Arts, Bath.
Hatepenny at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, The Reservoir Hogs at The Old Ham Tree, Holt. And in Marlborough you’ll find @59 at The Wellington, and the incredibly good fun, Dr Zebos Wheezy Club at The Bear.
That just leaves me with the tributes, Queen tribute, Majesty at Melksham Assembly Hall, while Fleetwood Bac are at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Devizes, I have got nothing at all for this Friday, unless you know different? When near-on every known pub in town put live music on last Friday night, with a guaranteed crowd-puller from Longcroft at the Corn Exchange too! This town isn’t a competition, guys, please try to coordinate, through us, if you like, but it works better for you all if we do. Rant over!
Swiftly onto Saturday 22nd, it’s Trowbridge Carnival, plus Lego Club at Chippenham Museum, free and at 3-4pm every Saturday; everything is awesome!
There’s an evening of Irish classics with Asa Murphy and Shenanigans at the Devizes Corn Exchange, and the unmissable Eddie Martin Band is back for some blues at The Southgate.
Daz n Chave at Neeld Community & Arts Centre, Chippenham sounds a laugh, and there’s a Melksham Rock n Roll Club dance this week, with Glenn Darren & The Krewkats.
Full-Tone Orchestra presents their Symphonie Fantastique at Marlborough College, and if you check the quote on the poster, yes, I said that! It’s always nice to be quoted, on the rare occasion I say something nice, that is!
Sheer are down the Trowbridge Town Hall, putting on Lucky Number 7 and the Lindup Brothers, with promising local teen band Boston Green in support. Meanwhile The Forgetting Curve play The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon. A tribute to Pearl Jam at The Vic, Swindon, Earl Ham, and Tundra plays The Woodland’s Edge.
But if you want to boss the night away with some serious skanking, I cannot recommend Bristol’s legendary ska and reggae skinhead, Ya Freshness, of Strictly Rockers Records enough, who is with his Big Boss Band at Odd Down Football Club in Bath. Fiver a shot for a cracking knees up. In fact, what the heck, let’s make this one Editor’s Pick of The Week!
For a mellower experience in Bath, try The Tom Petty Legacy at Chapel Arts.
The Grief Opera, Love Goes On at St Andrew’s, Chippenham, Shift Social presents I Was Born in the Wrong Decade at Salisbury Arts Centre, and a Vintage Bazaar is followed by Moments of Pleasure, The Music of Kate Bush, at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Halloween Scavenger Hunt at Hillworth Park on Sunday 23rd October, PSG Choir hold an autumn concert at Devizes Town Hall, and the Chas Thorogood Trio play an afternoon session at the Southgate.
Kavus Torabi, Richard Wileman & Amy Fry at The Vic, Swindon, Richard and Amy appear on our Julia’s House compilation album, show them your support if possible. Always in for a great night with the Joh Amor Band, who play The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon. And oh, CSF wrestling at the Cheese & Grain finishes our weekend off.
Got nothing through the weekdays I’m afraid, but lots of updating to the calendar still to do, so check in from time to time. That is, of course, until Wednesday, the 26th, when White Horse Opera presents L’elisir D’amore at Lavington School, which is running until 29th October, and also running on the same dates, Female Transport at the Rondo Theatre, Bath.
With Ranking Junior now taking centre stage, the mighty Beat will be heading on tour, taking Swindon, Bournemouth, Leeds, and Hull to get audiences dancing to some of the most famous ska and reggae tracks ever written.….
Ah yes, did a song called “Stand Down Margaret,” if memory serves me well; perhaps a change of name and a little history repeating, fingers crossed.
One of the key bands in the UK ska revival of the late ‘70s and ‘80s, The Beat still bring the near-perfect balance of pop melodies and taut rhythms that made them stars and won them worldwide acclaim.
Based in Birmingham, The Beat released their Smokey cover debut single “Tears of a Clown” through The Specials’ 2-Tone label in 1979. The single went Top Ten in the UK and they soon struck a deal with Arista to distribute on their own Go Feet label.
Their debut studio album ‘Just Can’t Stop’ went Gold in England, and included the now-cult single “Mirror In The Bathroom”. The band’s ferocious live performances and clever blend of personal and political lyrics continue to make them stars to this day, and they’ll be diving into their back catalogue at these new year shows.
If I said of the Full Tone Festival, last year, “and in the history of events in Devizes, the magnitude of what The Full-Tone Orchestra achieved yesterday will forever be imprinted,” it was for two reasons; that it was, and also, aside their free gig in the Market Place, it was inaugural. Still, there’s a number of annual events well established in town, already historically imprinted.
One firm favourite, The Devizes Beer & Cider Festival returned post-lockdown, yesterday, for it’s 21st anniversary, a day which can be best described as monumental, if more expected to be than first timers, like FullTone.
I’ve been to a few drinks festivals, where you can choose from top to bottom, left or right, from the displayed kegs, work your way through the lot and return home a tad tipsy. Not so here, unless you’re Oliver Reed. There was just too many to choose from, and I’m only a cider drinker, beer drinkers would’ve needed Norris McWhirter on standby for a Guinness World Record.
You will need to join Devies branch of the beer trainspotters club CAMRA for some detailed analysis of indivdual brands on offer, I took the pin-in-a-map system and came out on top with such a variety of appley tipples I couldn’t begin to list, unless you have all day? Which you might have, being it’s Sunday, and if you attended, you’re probably not feeling motivated to cut the grass!
The main concentration here should, I believe, be focussed not in review of the contents of my souvenir glass, but in sincere thanks to the volunteers who had this huge beer hall running like clockwork.There must have been a pile of socks around the back, because they sure worked them off, and like robots with charisma programming as standard, they served proper job.
The most common verbal appraisals to Devizes Wharfside being transformed into a beer top-heavy festival, on the day, was, like Christmas day after the Grinch, ones of sheer delight that said monumental occasion has been returned to them after the triple year break.
But it’s far from Devizions just loitering, downing this vast selection and singing the event’s praises. Rather than hoist in hired food vans of varying quality, Devizes Rotary took care of the nosh, superbly. With standard barbecue favourites and king sized woks of meat or vegetable chilli, and the ice cream van was busy too.
Busy is an operative word for the event as a whole. Rapping with organiser Don Jones, I was informed attendance figures were very much governed on how much beer they had to sell. Yet by the end, the approximate 1,700 strong crowd prioritised drinking that colossal beer tent dry, and should you be new to town, welcome to Devizes!
It must take experienced organisers to estimate so precisely how much a crowd of this size will drink without too much waste or predicted riot if underestimated. I have trouble guessing how much pasta to plop into the pan when cooking for four!
Anyhoo, rain didn’t rear its ugly mug, and under shaded skies of tolerable temperature, surrounded by deck chair city, sat the main attraction aside the beer tent, ah, some musical entertainment; twist my arm why don’t you?! Atop transport company Garrbutts’ trailer the stage was set for a host of locally-sourced acts. Devizes CAMRA made a wise move to bring in local music aficionados, Ben and his partner Victoria to arrange the entertainment. Being their first time coordinating they knocked it out of the park, or at least, the wharf!
Devizes Town Band opened. I rolled up to Tom Harris and Claire’s rather sea shanty set, inspired by the neighbouring canal I gather, giving it Chicken on a Raft, and other joyful sing-a-longs, they never fail to please.
Followed quickly by Devizes favourite, unpretentious singer-songwriter Vince Bell, who’s intelligently crafted songs and guitar skills shines with every tune. Not content with showing his spellbinding aptitude with self-penned songs rich in emotion and often topically local, he covered David Gray’s Babylon, and proved talent is hereditary, when his, also all-singing (for Devizes Musical Theatre) partner, Lisa’s daughter, Evie, joined him for a homely enchanting tune, Lisa’s kitchen. The finale was the icing, his audience participation unofficial Devizes theme, which if you know, you know!
New to me, Warminster’s Dr Zebo’s Wheezy Club was up next, proving the timelessness of classic olde timey Americana. They were a highly skilled trio, guitarist, double-bass and fiddle authenticity breathed life in 1920s swing, tango, and a touch of bluegrass. Something different and welcomed, Tom Waits covers and revised banned rarities, shockingly more effective than it sounds.
With the only warning from “voice of Devizes,” compere Ian Diddams, we were next whisked away to Irish taverns with popular flute and guitar combo, The Celtic Roots Collective, who never fail to engage an audience with isometric Irish folk dance, and seem to me to improve tenfold with every day that passes.
Headlining was the rock classic covers band, Triple JD, from Chippenham, yet a welcomed and regular feature of Devizes’ Southgate’s never-ending musical rota. Cover bands aplenty and available for hire, but if you want something mindblowingly above average, Triple JD put the overtime in. Even dropped from four-piece to three on this occasion, sublime covers of Cream, Deep Purple et al, came thick, fast and acutely delivered with unsurpassed accuracy. But it’s the plethora of Hendrix classics which both dominate the set, and astound; any band who can do that without offending the legend is a cut far above the rest, and Triple JD really push the boundaries of what a cover band should produce.
And so came the end of a hugely successful and highly entertaining day here in Devizes, putting The Beer & Cider Festival firmly back on the event calendar, where it so obviously belongs. It’s affordable, enjoyable through variety, and it’s already historically bookmarked, yesterday served only to reaffirm it.
“It’s not really a reggae crowd,” Nick Newman professed to me, “so, we’re just going to play some Bob Marley and popular tunes.” But if the finale was the wildcard, it proved though a show of heavy dubplates might be niche, everybody loves reggae and it moves the crowd like nothing else.
Dancing broke out across the Wharf as Knati P and Nick Razah did their sound system ting. Knati toasting the crowd, a majority perhaps unaware of “rewind” Jamaican DJ methods, but nevertheless feeling the vibes of a set akin to a breif history of everything that’s great about reggae, from Marley to Millie Small, from Two-Tone to contemporary subgenres, like Groove Amarda. In this they showcased the diversity of a misunderstood genre around these backwaters; causing me to uncaringly spill my cider down my t-shirt in gyrating to the Wailers inaugural ska hit, Simmer Down!
And on that point, it surely clarifies my point about Ben and Victoria’s devotion to bring as larger quality and variety to the music program as the selection of beers and ciders, in what was the perfect denouement to a wonderful evening; in my honest opinion, naturally!
In a remarkable finale to the season for Long Street Blues Club, London-based The Errol Linton Band presented Devizes with a sublime lively blues blend of delta and RnB, incorporating jazz, funk, reggae and ska too. But if the band’s proficiency in implementing this melting pot sounds erratic, the perfection was in the precision of switching through subgenres. The result was simply infectious.…..
It’s rarely mused, given the contemporary influence of Jamaica’s musical export, that prior to reggae its route lies with the removal of shortwave radio stations provided for American soldiers stationed on the island after WW2. As they disembarked Jamaica they left a blossoming sound system culture, the entrepreneurs of which set up recording studios as supply of US 45s declined.
They pulled from the influences they heard, jump blues particularly, and within these walls is the fabled Duke Reid session with Prince Buster, whereby copying the offbeat experiments of Fats Domino and Barbie Gaye, as was popular on the sound systems, and riding the shuffle beat style of T Bone Walker, a timeout was called and the guitarist ended by running the shuffle backwards, accidently creating “the ska.”
Even less widely known; initially Duke Reid wasn’t in favour of ska, but as the government promoted it for tourism as “Jamaica’s first national sound,” obviously he felt he’d lose out if he didn’t follow the trend. So, pre-ska, and even during its explosion, the Jamaican studios continued to put out as wider variety of sounds as they heard on US Radio, from blues to doowop and even country. This is a necessary backstory to capture the ethos of Errol Linton and his band, as Errol and two-thirds of the band have Jamaican heritage, are keen to emphasis this, and however subtle, everything mentioned gets a nod in their performance.
Errol is also an accomplished artist, creating portraits of his influences gives clear indication of who he is citing, the blues legends, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Louis Armstrong and beyond. Yes, the band deviated from blues, to throw down a jazzy number, to increase levels of danceable funk, and with a narrative of Howlin’ Wolf visiting Jamaica, they covered Howlin’ For my Darling with a matchless ska offbeat. Particularly diverse was an original “Country Girl,” as while maintaining one-drop reggae, the chorus verged onto a dancehall riff. It was right up my street and knocking loudly on my door, but I paused to observe the more blues aficionado regulars enjoying it equally as much as I!
For all the diversity I’ve noted, and mentioned the pleasure was in how proficiently they switched, even mid-song, this tight arrangement was best at delivering blues, and did so second-to-none. Frontman Errol gliding between vocals and harmonica, cherry-capped pianist Petar Zivkovic lightening on the keys, Lance Rose in porkpie hat, chilled on the upright double bass, perfectionist timekeeper Gary Williams on drums, and guitarist Richey Green presented the funkiest dancing show during play, the combo was spellbinding.
But none of this happened before Devizes-own Adam Woodhouse delivered the textbook support slot. Confident, despite his first outing at this blues appreciation society in which regulars will aim all eyes on you, Adam kicked off with an Elvis rendition of That’s Alright Mama, and with top-notch finger picking, continued covers with a remarkable Johnny Cash. Adam, a regular soloist at The Southgate and attendee of their celebrated Wednesday jam session, had some originals of his own, which were executed with panache.
A most memorable evening was had, in which frontman Errol reigned the moment, showing this natural ability accomplished over thirty years, since a busker of London’s streets. This is British blues at its finest, individually stylised yet heavily drawing from his roots, a perfect blend to homage his heritage, entertain and packaged in such a non-pretentious manner, you couldn’t dislike it; impossible!
An absolutely blinding night for the Long Street Blues Club, organiser Ian Hopkins’ smile said it all, as he clarified he’s been trying to book these guys for a while, and made a promise to the crowd they’d return; you need to be there when it does. The next season starts on 20th August, with anticipated return of Skinny Molly. Worth mentioning though, being we’ve discussed the early stages of Jamaican sound systems and Duke Reid’s Treasure Ilse, competitor Coxsone Dodd over at Studio One gave fame to a majority of reggae artists, yes, including Bob, and another crowned King of Rock Steady, Alton Ellis, that Alton’s son, Troy is on in Hillworth Park around about 3pm today. So, get your sandals on, unless you remain adamant nothing ever happens in Devizes!
I bloomin’ love March, usually, but as we show this month the door, and with such a mild winter, do not get over excited; while temperatures improve slightly, except it’ll be a wet one. A day of snow predicted Thursday, March kicks in better, but worsens by the second week, with a forecast 15-22 days of perpetual rain, hopefully clearing at the end, from Thursday 24th.
To add a degree of optimism to all this, there’s a truckload of things to do over the first month of so-called spring, there’s hope we can see less events being cancelled and life in the great outdoors taking steps towards the positive. Still, I advise to check ahead before venturing out, via the links provided; our ever-updating event calendar doesn’t update that quickly to include cancelations, and I can’t be held responsible for such cancelations or failure of organisers to refund tickets. Also, it’s a minefield adding links to these events, so find them all on the calendar, ta muchly.
And do not take this as comprehensive, the calendar is being updated all the time, this is just some advance highlights and all things I’d do, if I had cloning technology……
Given all I’ve said about the weather, it doesn’t seem too bad for Bath’s Big Sleepout on Friday 4th in Alice Park; hats off to Julian House and all doing it, raising vital funds and awareness for people forced to sleep-out every night.
Prior, live rock, electronica and folk from novelist, playwright and stand-up comedian Grant Sharkey, with ecologist Thomas Haynes and Bristol the Badger, aka Grasslands, on Wednesday 2nd, at that little coffee shop Baristocats, on Commercial Road Swindon. While Thursday sees one half of Show of Hands, Steve Knightly, at Trowbridge’s Pump, and the other, Phil Beer kicking off his So Much to Choose From tour at Corsham’s Pound Arts. Meanwhile, it’s a three-way guitar showdown at Chapel Arts in Bath with Daryl Kellie, Will McNicol and David Mead, and the Apricity Theatre group bring a Greenhouse of emerging artists out of lockdown to the Rondo Theatre.
To week one, then; starting Friday 4th, for parents and babies, Pound Arts has Swings & Roundabouts by the Filskit Theatre, who are inviting the bum wipers, bedtime boppers and owners of tiny humans, to join actor, musician, and mummy, Sophie Ross, for a brand-new comedy musical. A nappy change in the evening though, with dark, gut-wrenching adult stand-up from Bobby Mair, on his Cockroach tour.
The Exchange, Devizes pushes up the Tempo with a drum n bass night, while for a more hip-hop/reggae related evening, try DJ Nicewun & Mac Lloyd at The Village Pump. For something lighter, Alan Titchmarsh is at the Theatre Royal, Bath!
If you are in Bath, though, and into folk, try internationally renowned Faustus at Chapel Arts, who also come to Marlborough folk Roots the next week, Friday11th, or The Rondo, where Cindy Stratton and Marius Frank, ZBella, men’s choir Sasspafellas and upcoming singer/songwriter Ellie Frank headline an evening of entertainment raising money for the refugee charity UNHCR.
Closer to home, our good friends Bran and Mirko, as The Celtic Roots Collective bring some Irish roots to Seend Community Centre, from 7pm, which is free or donations. Also look out for one-man mechanical alt-blues band, Funke and the Two-Tone Baby at the Winchester Gate, Salisbury, a tribute to Nightwash, Knightwish, at the Vic, Swindon, or Coyote Kings at the Village Inn. Oh, and the Fillers play the Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Saturday, and the Wharf Theatre, Devizes has the award-winning theatre company White Cobra, presenting Bette & Joan, i.e., Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, in danger of becoming has-beens but get an opportunity to appear together in a new film, if the arch-rivals don’t clash.
Swindon’s original band with bluesy intent, Thud come to The Southgate, while the Bear’s Cellar Bar reopens with free entry to a 70s-80s Disco with DJ Andy Saunders.
It’s happy third birthday to Melksham’s The Hiding Place, and The Carpenters Experience, which speaks for itself, at the Assembly Hall.
Trowbridge Town Hall get post-punk DIY vibes with a triple billing of Slagheap, Slug Puppie and Carsick, while Chippenham’s Neeld have Amen Corner’s Andy Fairweather Low & the Low Riders, and The Cuban Brothers take The Cheese & Grain, but when in Frome, local punkers One Chord Wonders play the Sun. In complete contrast, Pound Arts has critical acclaimed folk and Americana, with Ida Wenøe & Samantha Whates.
Back to the arts, Rondo Theatre, Bath have Charlotte Palmer in an hilarious and moving one woman show, sometimes angry exploration of women over 50, who find themselves overlooked, ignored, disregarded, in short becoming The Invisible Woman, and Theatre Royal’s Egg have The Dark, Peut-Etrê Theatre which merges vibrant physicality with live music to create captivating and energetic performances for the whole family. It is even accessible for blind and visually impaired children through integrated audio description and touch tours.
Jon Amor’s first Sunday of the month residency at the Southgate, Devizes is the place to be, promising guest Jonny Henderson. But allow me to also recommend Bath’s Yiddish folk collective, Chai For All, who celebrate International Women’s Day at the Grapes.
The Theatre Royal, Bath starts Willy Russel’s musical Blood Brothers on Tuesday 8th and running until Saturday, while the Ustinov Studio has an epic cycle of short plays exploring the personal and political effect of war on modern life, called Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat running from Thursday to Saturday.
But for a locally themed performance, try the Theatre screening of Naming The View at Pound Arts, Corsham, on Thursday. Naming the View takes its inspiration from Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, yet it’s setting is Seend.
Meanwhile, Chapel Arts, Bath has three days on the trot of acoustic folk with Chris Wood on Wednesday, Nick Hart on Thursday, and The Lost Trades play Friday.
Aforementioned internationally renowned folk with Faustus at Marlborough Folk Roots club, and there’s open mic night at Trowbridge’s Pump, the third heat for amateur musicians of Take The Stage at Chippenham’s Neeld, and ancient ballads promise to be awoken, poems given the tunes they’ve long deserved with Salt House, Scotland’s foremost performers; Jenny Sturgeon, Ewan MacPherson and Lauren MacColl at Pound Arts.
I’d recommend the experimental jazz-fusion of SexJazz, at Swindon’s Beehive for a Harbour Project FUNdraiser, funding art sessions for Swindon refugees and asylum seekers. Also, the Relayaz Band at Bradford-on-Avon’s Boathouse, or for Thin Lizzy fans, as I know there’s a few, Limehouse Lizzy play The Cheese & Grain.
But Devizes best of luck wishes go out to our Full Tone Orchestra, who present Gilbert & Sullivan Pirates of Penzance at Bath Abbey; glorious!
Saturday is a whopper, spoiled for choice you are! The most excellently unique Bristol-based Two-Tone punk meets Sierra Leonean percussion duo, Two Man Ting return to The Southgate, Devizes. Meanwhile the Corn Exchange opens its doors to the Lacock-based Wiltshire Soul & Blues Club with a blues extravaganza headlining Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, and there’s a rock n roll night at the Conservative Club, fundraising for Kennet Gateway Club with Mickey Ace and the Wildcards and DJ.
With support by the awesome Train to Skaville, boot boys need to get to Melksham, where Madness tribute Complete Madness take the Assembly Hall one step beyond. Meanwhile our indie-pop heroes, Talk in Code support for The Worried Men at Trowbridge Town Hall. The Dunwells play The Croft, Hungerford.
The Roving Crows play Chapel Arts, Bath, masters of euro-trance, Transglobal Underground at The Cheese & Grain, Frome, and there’s a Party & The Pavilion at Minety Rugby Club, featuring a number of bands, including our friends The Dirty Smooth.
Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake tributes rolled into one at the Vic, Swindon, with Rising from the Deep, meanwhile, Room 101 take the Castle, and Mean as Custard, Loaded Dice and Six O’clock Circus have a free band-off at Level III, fundraising for Swindon homeless charity the Moonlight Express Project. Oh, and MECA have a Sausage & Cider Fest; two of my favourite things!
But if gigs don’t tickle your fancy, there’s some excellent family theatre too; Saturday and Sunday at the Theatre Royal, is the place to find The Super Greedy Caterpillar, and Pound Arts in Corsham have Zoo Co Theatre coming in, presenting Messy, where you can meet Daisy. She’s got a messy brain and a messy bedroom, which makes it very difficult to look after her class hamster Mr Twiggy! A magical visual story, complete with original music, puppets, tap dancing and even a trip to the moon!
Messy is performed by a deaf and hearing cast with Sign Supported English, created in partnership with ADHD Foundation, where all performances are Relaxed, without loud noises and lights left on, and it is followed by a free workshop afterwards.
Saturday at Pound Arts also sees ENG-ER-LAND by Hannah Kumari and WoLab, a football-themed play set in 97, with 13-year-old Lizzie, obsessed with the beautiful game.
Sunday 13th and I got nothing, yet, except CSF Wrestling at The Cheese & Grain, but that’s why you need to keep checking into our bulging event calendar, as more comes in all the time. So much, I’m leaving it there, through fear of repetitive strain injury of my typing fingees. Either that, or it’ll be the middle of April before you finish reading it. But don’t, whatever you do, think for a second there’s nought to do in Wiltshire, and we’ll finish off the rest of March in a few days, give you time to digest this lot first!
At the beginning of the month Devizine covered Trowbridge’s musical renaissance, highlighting The Village Pump and Town Hall’s dedication to introducing a variety of upcoming local bands and performers. Explaining Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore had “big shoes to fill,” taking over as chief event coordinator for the Town Hall from Gavin Osborn. Well, the proof is in the pudding, and that dish has made it off the serving counter and onto our table.….
Not forgoing, the programme is already in full-swing, with Truckstop Honeymoon at the Pump on Friday, (18th) a cider swiggin’ scrumpy and western hoedown with The Skimmity Hitchers and our great friends, and the Boot HillAll Stars supporting at the Town Hall on Saturday.
Such is the fashion for live music in Trowbridge, Fridays at the Pump, Saturday at the Town Hall, aside some great happenings at Stallards and Emmanuel’s Yard, comedy and more commercial nights at the Civic. Gecko appears next Saturday at the Town Hall, and all-day Sunday there’s fundraising session, Kalefest, a family-orientated mini-festival for some musical equipment for a teenager with a severe brain injury, in which Zone Club, Pete Lamb’s Heart Beats and The Relayz play.
Marching on atop this free six-week interactive course of workshops for 16- to 18-year-olds, covering all aspects of the music industry, next month sees a continuation of great bookings, of which we highlighted in the aforementioned preview, here. What we’re here today for is to check in on Kieran, see if he indeed “filled” those shoes for the ongoing season.
So, just revealed, April and May listings at the Town Hall and Pump, which have equally exciting news, as, perhaps, Mr Moore asks the shopkeeper for a shoehorn. Isle of Man’s recent export to Wiltshire, Becky Lawrence, the musical theatre singer-songwriter who wasted no time fitting into the local circuit, joining established local bands, The Bourbons UK and Clyve and the Soul City Foundation, teams up Bristolian country singer-songwriter Zoe Newton to pinch-punch April at the Pump.
Whereas, in the name of variety I’m surprised to see The Town Hall hosting a “rum and reggae night” on Saturday April 2nd; it’s as if they’re calling to me! Seriously though, I’d wager youngsters reading this are asking Siri what the hell a shoehorn is.
But nice surprises flow, as Gavin Osborn himself plays The Pump, Friday 8th, with his band Comment Section. Regulars at Stallard’s, locally-based indie-rockers Riviera Arcade arrive at the Town Hall with Gloucestershire’s electric-punk favourites, Chasing Dolls on Saturday, with (udated) Devizes/Swindon NervEndings headling the show.
Alcopops Records’ Croydon duo, The Frauds play the Pump on the 15th, with Ipswich’s experimental indie-pop darlings, Lucky Number 7, while Henry Wacey and Dan O’Farrell are there on Saturday. Surreal stand-up, Welsh hard rockers The Vega Bodegas are at the Town Hall on the Saturday, with support from Wiltshire-based metal trio newcomers, Last Alvor and self-confessed “degenerates,” synth-punk noise-makers Benzo Queen.
If that weekend is atypical of what I’d expect Mr Moore to assign, the following, Saturday 23rd is different. Kieran is no stranger to asking what acts local giggers would like to see via social media, as Brighton’s Chap-Hop legend Professor Elemental comes to the Town Hall, with support from my recommendation, Bristol’s fantastic veganomic ska-punk-folk crazies, Boom Boom Racoon, who’ve we fondly followed in the past on Devizine.
If I’m excited with boom boom coming soon, while “Sunday league” songwriter Tom Jenkins finishes off April on Saturday 30th, May is positively booming too. Local soul-hip hop DJ, Mac-Llyod gets the crowd prepped for another of my personal favourites, Bristol’s bouncy boom-bap virtuosos The Scribes, on Saturday 7th May. Aching to encourage these guys a gig more local than Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, I’m delighted to see this on Trowbridge Town Hall’s listing; they’re definitely calling to me now!
Pan-European ‘inventive and thrilling’ alt-folk duo, singer-songwriter Tobias Jacob and double-bass playing multi-instrumentalist Lukas Drinkwater play the Pump on Thursday 12th May, whereas I’m notified Saturday 14th’s do at the Town Hall will be a “pipe and slippers rave,” of which I had to inquire if, as it sounds, it’ll be an old skool DJ rave type thing, and this it was confirmed, “that’s exactly it.” If they’re calling me, now they’re mocking; the feet in my slippers were stomping in mud when you were an itch, whippersnappers! “Honey, where’s my whistle and white gloves?”
Sheffield’s award-winning finger-style guitarist, Martin Simpson breathes some folk to the Pump on Friday 20th May, while the Town Hall blow cobwebs off with Trowbridge’s own hardcore metal quartet, Severed Illusions. With nine years under their belts, they opened for Hed PE at the now defaulted Beirkeller in Bristol, and played metal festivals’ assemblage M2TM. Joined by doomcore fourpiece Eyesnomouth, and Salisbury’s screaming metalcore Next Stop Olympus; that’s going to go off.
From here gigs are pencilled in, June sees Martin Carthy, Jon Amor with Kyla Brox, Hip Route and Billy & The Low Ground feature, but be certain the near-future looks bright and varied for Trowbridge’s live music scene, particularly as the last gig of May is our beloved folk-harmony trio The Lost Trades on Saturday 28th. Bring in the summer with Graham Steel’s award-winning Phil, Jamie and Tamsin, what more could you ask for?
Amidst the number of other suspicious, much less futilely brutal activities, in the pursuit of rural blood sports, we’re currently knee-deep in the badger … Continue reading “Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull Expresses Outrage as Farmer Buried an Active Badger Sett”
I’m delighted to transfer £186.46 over to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices today, the proceeds to-date of our compilation album; well, I call it an album, but it’s one mahoosive boxset really, a staggering forty-six tracks from local artists and others worldwide who’ve featured somewhere on Devizine in the past.
If you’ve not heard this absolutely stunning Miss World of music before, a virtual Now, That’s What I Call Devizine Music, she’s here for your viewing pleasure, please download your copy, exclusive on Bandcamp, as I feel this site offers the best deal to artists. Once you buy it, it stores in your account cloud, and you have unlimited downloads, so you can put it onto various devices.
Unlike a fundraising event, here is something which will stay in the domain, something you can download whenever you like, and we’ll continue to build a little stash and send it over to this wonderful registered charity once it builds up again. If I’m honest, I’ve been waiting for it to total to a nice round £200 before sending, but attention on the project has waned recently, and it’s been a while.
There are ways I could prompt folk towards it, a poster or flyer campaign would be handy, but I figure, as lots of bands and musicians expressed an interest to be included, after its release, time is nigh to start plotting a second volume.
As we penned all the acts onto an army surplus bag for the front cover, as many students in my era did just this, I thought we’d do similar this time. So, see our old school desk below, eerily free of graffiti? It is aching for me to inscribe your band name or logo onto it, with chewed biro.
You should note we have three tunes for volume 2 already, from Nick Harper, yes, I said Nick Harper, the wonderful Onika Venus, and Marlborough rockers, Catfish. But we need you onboard too. I envision it being entirely new artists, so if you contributed a track to volume one, I sincerely thank you, but unless you’re absolutely bursting with enthusiasm to forward a second song, let’s try to compile a whole new set of artists.
What got to me last time, was the unexpected amount of work I’d set myself. There was me, at the beginning, thinking I’d just be bobbing about, enjoying the ride, while our contributing artists did all the hard labour!
It occurred to me at the time, I’d likely raise better funds riding through town in a bathtub full of cold baked beans, and while I’ve certainly not scrubbed the idea, I would like this compilation project to build into a series, really prompting and promoting the best of the music we feature on Devizine, and giving the good folk out there a sampler of what great music there is, as well as raising funds for such a brilliant charity; it’s a double-whammy. Ergo, sending us a song will put you straight onto the good list!
So, I ask, if you want to contribute a song, please bear with, and I’ll be back in touch as soon as possible, but last time I was inundated. Streamlined, that’s the key here, so I’ve set out some guidelines to contributing below.
Firstly, we NEED original songs, NO COVERS, not even Chas & Dave ones, as copyright is a minefield. You must own the rights to the song, or have permission from everyone who owns the rights to it, and you MUST TELL ME THIS, see the form at the bottom.
Secondly, please remember this is a children’s charity, and while Julia’s House has been accepting of all the styles and content, really, I don’t want songs with unsuitable themes, or constant bad language. Willing to accept the odd naughty word, and extreme content should be avoided, thanks.
Thirdly, any genre is fine; I want to get a real cross-section of sounds, no pigeonholing. While some chose to record an exclusive song, and that was great, all I ask is for an album track or outtake not currently doing the rounds, but you’re free to choose whatever one suits you best.
Fourthly, there is NO DEADLINE set as of yet, but I will email you once one is decided; please do not wait for the deadline if you can help it; last time I got confused where I stood on so many promised contributions, and it doesn’t take a lot of confuse me.
And, oh fifthly, if that’s not already too much to take in already?! Please ensure you include how you’d like the song to be listed, i.e. Name of Artist and Song. Sounds rather obvious, but also, if I don’t know you already, send some links to websites, social media, and a short bio too!
You can copy and paste this passage below into an email, fill in the dotty bits, and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – attach a WAV file format of the song you’d like me to add, and wait patiently for a reply; I look forward to hearing your song; you flipping superstar, you!
I, (FULL NAME) confirm I’m the full copyright holder of the track (ENTER SONG NAME) or that I have contacted any other parties which holds rights to the track and have gained their permission also.
I hereby grant Darren Worrow of Devizine, my permission to use it as part of the 4 Julia’s House Volume 2 compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House. Registered Charity Number 1067125. I also agree to allow clips of the track to be used for promotional purposes of the album mentioned above only.
In turn, Darren Worrow and Julia’s House maintain the artist of the track reserves all rights to the track, and it is only used in conjunction with the aforementioned album.
(If you have PRS details, Tunecode or ISWC, please add them.)
Crime detecting asset or invasion of privacy opinions aside, The CCTV fundraiser at The Exchange nightclub in the basement of Devizes Corn Exchange went off with a reggae boom last night, when UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad paid a visit, and you know me, on the rare occasion reggae comes to town I want in on it!
We covered the reason for the campaign in a preview post, concentration should focus on the visiting band today, who were fantastic. Aside witticisms of “the Bin” too, for though it’s been a while since I descended those stairs, (and the first time sober!) the décor is updated and comfy, the crowd and staff hospitable, the drinks affordable for a nightclub, but most importantly, it retains its aged amphitheatre setup, functional, with seating boxing in a dancefloor and the bar rearward across the back wall; it works.
Though with a wide-range of disco classics, resident DJ Flash (no, not the NYC grandmaster one!) appeased the wide-spanning demographic of the audience, many regulars while others reggae devotes here for the particular show, anticipation was focussed on the Birmingham band Johnny2Bad, who bounced on stage close to ten o’clock and didn’t pause for breath.
The tribute act scene is vast and blossoming into a mass market, some pub venues pledge allegiance and rarely book original acts. Yet you take the rough with the smooth, I find when they’re bad, they’re excruciatingly bad, but when they’re good you’re in for a blinding night of retrospection, and they drive punters to the bar. Research paramount for event coordinators, picking badly will tarnish all tribute acts with the same brush, for the individual.
There was a couple down the Bin last night who travelled up from Portsmouth, and while I don’t doubt, they liked UB40, he wasn’t wearing a UB40 T-shirt, he was wearing a Johnny2Bad one. Keen to cast an exceptional appraisal of the band to me prior to their performance, any engagement mentioning the band they’re attributing didn’t get such a positive response; he was here to see Johnny2Bad, rather than a UB40 tribute act, and the relevance of this point is evident in said performance.
For Johnny2Bad waiver in and out of a tribute to UB40 and staging a show within their own right, yet it blends so utterly perfectly. At times, such as the sublime mimicking of “If it Happens Again,” and Holt’s “Homely Girl,” the first real glimpses of a UB40 tribute, it shone in acknowledgement to the reggae virtuosos, whereas in other moments you were not mistaken this was also a band within their own right.
And what a band; the refined entertainment value was exceptional, as this blending left you guessing what was next. I put it to frontman Mitch Thomson, rather than simply drone out a setlist of UB40 hits, they added elements, such as visual banter or reprises of other songs, such as Marley’s Small Axe at the beginning, and Mungo Jerry’s in the Summertime, to make it exciting. He agreed, suggesting they liked to make a show of it.
And Mitch is indeed a showman, rather than resembling Ali Campbell visually, though at times his voice captured that forced Brummie-patois fusion perfectly, he was his own man, lively and confident, amusing and alluring to the fairer sex! The proficiency of the band complimented this, tight-knit and adroitly professional they blessed the Exchange with the soulful sound of roots reggae which inspired UB40, occasionally subtle drifts into a more contemporary dancehall style, but majorly readapting the known classics.
I also wanted to gage Mitch about differences they experience when playing in their hometown, being UB40 is pride of Birmingham and respected above all things there. Are they driven to cover rarer, album tracks, for example when playing to a crowd of serious UB40 aficionados? Mitch was keen to express he liked UB40’s older, and often slower repertoire, but while it made little difference if they were in their mutual hometown as UB40, or not, they aimed to play to the crowd. And in this case, as I’m sure many others too, the crowd would demand the hits, which, post Red, Red Wine, are, it has to be said, mostly covers of reggae classic themselves.
Though Johnny2Bad slipped in some I’d consider lesser hits, such as One in Ten, with every tune they did it was of such exceptional quality, you know what, none of these technicalities really matter in the scheme of things. Mitch expressed shows as far away as Holland and Germany were incredibly well received, suggesting they “showed us up,” assuming he meant either Brits in general, or Brummies.
If I had reservations about the band name, taken from the Slickers’ 1970 Jamaican hit “Johnny Too Bad,” a personification of a Kingston rude boy gangster referenced in The Harder They Come, movie, although UB40 did cover it, many others did too, and UB40’s version was never a hit. Perhaps that’s the point in picking a rarer cover as namesake, because while Johnny2Bad are in essence a tribute act, there’s something of their own merit inclusive, and that part is equal to the overall excellence of their act; either that or I’m overthinking it, and they just liked the name!
Importantly, they bought the show with them, and torn down the house; a remarkable achievement from an accomplished act, tribute or not. Fourth wall breaking moments, such as the singer dropping offstage to sing among the crowd cliché, perhaps, but for the brass section to do likewise was something else. How often are you on the Exchange’s dancefloor, or any dancefloor come to think of it, with a trombonist playing next to you?! For me, as a reggae-ska lover who knows brass is class, that was the icing on the cake of a thrilling and professionally entertaining show.
As I’ve discovered through Legend, the Bob Marley tribute, and more recently, the Blondie tribute Dirty Harry, and now these guys, their excellence will turn any preconceptions of tribute acts on their heads; Johnny2Bad is an unmissable show; if it happens again you need to be there!
Amnesty International investigate, but a song can resonate injustices to the masses with far more impact. When UB40 released Tyler, in 1980, the perversions of the American justice system which jailed Gary Tyler six years previously for a murder he didn’t commit were little known in the UK. Convicted based entirely on the statements of four witnesses who later recanted their testimony, one has to wonder the differences having CCTV technology back then might’ve had on injustices such as this.
Apt then, that Birmingham’s premier UB40 tribute act, Johnny2Bad are playing The Exchange nightclub on Friday 11th February for a Devizes & District Licensees fundraiser, to raise funds towards supporting our town CCTV. But we’ve already got a CCTV system, haven’t we?
I caught up with Noel Woolrych, controller of the cameras since it began fourteen years ago, to ask him what improvements need to be made. “How long a list would you like?” he responded, pointing out several areas in need of cameras; blind spots which I’ve no intention of telling you where they are cos, I know what you’re like! “But it’s pretty much impossible to get from the Bell to Waddies without going past several cameras,” Noel adds; probably got a few of me staggering home!
Currently upgrading the cameras in Old Swan Yard and putting up a couple more behind the Town Hall, Noel points out “none of it is original, as it’s been upgraded several times. We respond to requests where there is antisocial behaviour.”
Inclined to quip, at least the CCTV is run by a Labour man, heaven help us otherwise, but Noel quickly deflected the political jab, “politics has nothing to do with it. I’m just concerned for the safety of all.” And in that, I’m convinced nothing Orwellian is in operation here, Noel adamant if you’re doing nothing wrong, he’s not interested in spying on you.
“It’s being well supported by the night-time economy,” continues Noel, explaining it recently caught someone smashing a car windscreen, and provided evidence for the knife incident at the Dolphin. “Oh, and my conviction rate of those who get to court is only 100%!” he vaunts, though with good reason, and for the coverage to continue keeping us safe and improve, further updates are needed.
I’m certain booking Johnny2Bad is as a wise move as it is fitting, everyone loves UB40, and this eight-piece ensemble are a world-renowned tribute, endorsed by Ali Campbell himself on a national TV interview. With a wealth of experience beyond the reggae circuit, members of the band have toured with artists such as Sting, Santana and Peter Gabriel, and also reggae legends Jimmy Cliff, Third World, Shaggy, and Maxi Priest, but ultimately, Ali Campbell and the late Astro themselves; there can surely be no higher accolade.
But if there’s one thing which, for me, puts a tribute act on a pedestal, is when they record original material in the style of those tributed. I’ve played one of two of their singles, “I love you,” on my radio show, and it magnificently mimics the UB40 sound to the degree without knowing you’d think it was an album track of theirs you must’ve missed, and they’ve more tracks promised.
Not one to blag, but I’m honoured to have their collaboration lockdown single on our compilation album for Julia’s House, “we’re all in this thing together,” with Big Ship Alliance, another brilliant reggae outfit which also has a Freddie McGregor tribute, plus Robbie Levi, and Stones.
Still, Johnny2Bad are real crowd-pleasers, and you’d be in for a fantastic night of the classic UB40 covers we love. Although I’d be hoping for some personally favoured UB40s older originals, I won’t throw toys from my pram if they don’t, as I believe post-Red Red Wine, their concentration on covering reggae classics breathed new life into rare Jamaican singles, which otherwise might’ve been lost in time. Such as the sublime Lord Creator’s Kingston Town, and man, if this ol’ trainspotter need Google if UB40 ever covered the Slicker’s Johnny Too Bad, Johnny2Bad have answered that for me!
Tickets for Johnny2Bad at The Exchange on Friday 11th February are £15, and can be found in the various pubs, at Devizes Light & Sound in Sidmouth Street…. but not in Kingston Town, the place I long to be, if I had the whole world, I would give it away, just to see, the girls at play…. but obviously not via taking advantage of Noel’s CCTV system, for that’s just to catch criminals!
Ticketholders for the hugely publicised Bath Reggae Festival still awaiting a refund after the festival was cancelled in August last year are getting understandably disgruntled, as the organisers are reportedly unresponsive to emails and messages….
Like many others, I jumped on this when first announced in November 2020. With a real community feel to their reggae scene, and Fairfield House, where Emperor Haile Selassie I spent five years in exile, what location in the southwest could be more apt to hold a reggae festival than Bath?
Wowed but slightly dubious when I saw the inaugural festival announce their line-up later in the month, for a first-time festival it seemed too good to be true. Legends of reggae were billed; Maxi Priest, Aswad, Big Mountain, Dawn Penn, Hollie Cook, Sister Nancy and more. Due to Covid restrictions the event was postponed from June to August, but over 2,000 reggae fans were disappointed to learn, due to the organisers being unable to source port-a-loos, the festival at Kensington Meadows in the city was again called off.
Spokesperson for event organisers, VIP Productions, Jack Wilkinson told the BBC at the time, “there has been a mention of September but again that can’t be guaranteed.” VIP put out a plea on their Facebook page, encouraging ticketholders to retain their tickets as they would be honoured once a future date was arranged, but promised a full refund if not. This was the last post published on their Facebook page in August, as punters rally to inquire to their refund, and receive no response.
Some managed to obtain a part-reimbursement from their bank or PayPal, but I’ve yet to find anyone who actually received a refund direct from the organisers. I emailed the festival’s website and the messaged VIP Productions, to no reply either, but since discovered, according to the .gov site, the company dissolved in October. VIP also presented another similar reggae festival, same month, in Huddersfield, called Sunup, of which I can find no evidence of it happening either. Going on this, I’m sad to say, I wouldn’t hold out much hope, guys.
I would not go as far to suggest the whole shebang was a scam; the festival industry is not a swindlers’ market, as it is not enormously profit-making. An event of this scale takes hard work, dedication, experience and a huge pot of funds long before stages are erected, and folk are downing cider and chewing on falafels. Admin, marketing, council permissions and insurance are just some of the mountains of red tape you need to get through just to get your foot on the first run of the ladder, therefore there’s far easier methods of defrauding people.
Just one day prior to the event in August, Somerset Live reported VIP were “criticised for their last-minute approach and lacking basic information in the application, making it ‘extremely difficult’ for Bath and North East Somerset Council.” Somerset Live also spoke to a senior environmental health officer, Sara Chiffers, who expressed concerns, “we’ve had extensive dialogue with the organisers about elements of the event management plan that were unclear, contradictory.”
This would suggest my initial hesitancy was justified; perhaps their intentions were honourable, but they tried to run before they could walk. For to have one of these big names booked would have been enough for an inaugural festival, as you need to start small and build. You cannot run off looking at Glastonbury, Reading or Bestival, these are well established with generations of experience, if they book Bowie, or Bruce Springsteen it’s because they know they can, they know tickets will cover it. Festival organising is a massive risk, and fundamental organisers get an event co-ordinator with experience. But to fail over a trivial aspect like toilets is, aptly, a bit shit!
More so it looks bad, creating a riff between punter and organisers in general, and right now, this is the last thing the hospitality industry needs. I know of one festival organisation shut up shop because they depended on advance ticket sales to host the next event. An honourable, trustworthy little festival, and while I’d rather advocate folk entrust such organisers, stories like this are bound to create understandable uncertainty.
My advice would have to be, in order for the festival scene to thrive and especially for new-comers to become established, folk have to put their trust in events and buy tickets in advance. Yet I urge punters to use their noodle, be wary of festivals promising too much at one time, especially the first time, or events which may have sister operations elsewhere in the UK under a similar banner. But it is detrimental for the future of festivals that organisers remain faithful to their customers, that they insure there’s reserves for refunds should it fail, and that they keep in communication with the ticketholders in such an occasion, as it is not only the customers you are bothering, but other event organisers too; common decency really, isn’t it?
If we recently reviewed Ian Diddams and friends meeting at the Vaults for their annual festive Jackanory, the first article of 2021 was the very same funny fellow reciting his yarn as a live stream from his mocked garden grotto, and in that, surely displays how far we’ve come from the restrictions of lockdown we entered the year with. Though not without the same notion as last Christmas looming over us, like a dirty black shroud, that it was, perhaps, all too soon, and we’ve not seen the backside of the Covid19 yet.
Summarising, 2021 was marginally better than 2020; there were gung-ho moments of throwing caution to the wind, and there were others to make us stop and ponder the consequences of our actions. There’s little doubt the world will never be the same for decades to come; social interaction, shopping, even work practises; but we did get to party on occasions, and when it was good, it was really good.
And if it ended with a Boxing Day brawl, I suspect some wished for the bash-a-sab fest. Even police it seems, who would likely send in The Wealdstone Raider to crowd control a Wealdstone V Whitehawk FC game, if given the assignment. Did I predict this when I said“make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge?”
Hardly crystal ball stuff, tensions at their highest for rural Wiltshire’s most contradictory dispute, it was on the cards since day dot; when the county voted in a foxhunting Police Crime Commissioner, whose misadventures in drink driving caused him to pull out at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. A calamity most shrugged off with “oh, ha-ha, those naughty Tories, bless ‘em.”
Allowed Out to Play
It was May before I set foot in a pub, lockdown eased and live music was back on the agenda, albeit with hefty restrictions; early ending times, remain seated, table service, no mingling outside of “bubbles,” and deffo no dancing or singing. It felt awkward to begin with, not quite the same, but it was a start, and who better to kick off proceedings than the brilliant Daybreakers, gracing the trusty Southgate? One could sense the joy from Cath, Gouldy et al, to be singing to an audience once again, proving their dedication to the cause. A handclap emoji just isn’t the same.
For a while then The Southgate remained the only venue in Devizes providing live music, and we thank Deborah, Dave and all staff for working within the rules to create a safe space to be blessed with music; it was like they were on roller-skates at times, up and down the beer garden, ensuring not a mouth was left dry!
I also ventured out to the Barge at Honeystreet, to see how they were coping with the boundaries too. And what a show The Boot Hill All Stars put on there, under a spacious marquee, so tempting to get up and dance, but couldn’t; mastered foot-tapping though.
The return to some normality for many in Devizes came in clement early June, when Devizes Lions held a fantastic car show, plus, on the Green. With side stalls aplenty, nervously folk began to socially distanced mingle; it was a breath of fresh air and a testament to what can be safely achieved with forward thinking and dedication.
By July I made it out a few times, the idea of Vince Bell teaming with the individual performers of The Lost Trades, Phil, Jamie and Tamsin was too much of an irresistible hoedown of local talent to miss, and a third trip to the trusty Southgate to tick TwoManTing off my must-do list also proved to be a memorable evening.
The beginning of August I ventured to TrowVegas to tick another off said list, catching those Roughcut Rebels with new frontman Finley Trusler. They blasted the Greyhound, and didn’t disappoint. The month shifted gear for many, and things simply blossomed like there never was a lockdown. Back-to-back weekends saw both my favourite largescale of 2021, the single-most amazing festival near Marlborough; MantonFest is a real gem, professionally done with a real communal atmosphere, the type perpetual drizzle couldn’t put a downer on. This event wowed.
Back in Devizes, the events of the year were the weekend which followed, sitting nicely between a stripped back version of DOCA’s International Street Festivalsprinkled across town, was of course, The Full Tone Festival. Without the refreshing emergence of folk out of lockdown, this would have still been something for the town’s history books, but being as it was, the opportunity to head back out and enjoy life once again, the timing, the best weather, the whole ambience was electric. The time and work gone into pulling this off was absolutely outstanding, and for which folk of Devizes will forever mark it as a celebration of post lockdown.
Awakenings even drew Andy out of hiding by September, and I was overjoyed to have him back on the team, without putting his bag and coat on the hook, he went out to play, reviewing Devizes Musical Theatre’sGallery of Rogues, and Devizes Town Band’s Proms in Hillworth Park. Meanwhile I was delighted to see The Wharf Theatre reopen with a fantastic performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.
September also saw the welcome return of Devizes Comedy at the Corn Exchange, and The Long Street Blues Club, who, kicking off with Creedence Clearwater Review, wasted no time catching up with their rescheduled programme of the most excellent blues nights money can buy. Andy covered these, while I ventured to see Kieran J Moore’s new digs at Trowbridge Town Hall. After a brilliant street art exhibit from Tom Miller, I went to taste the music there, with a most memorable evening from Onika Venus. I returned to the scene in November, for a great gig from Ålesund with support from Agata.
Other than a trip to the White Horse Opera and Southgate to see Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround, Andy pitched a tent at Long Street Blues Club, one time shipped out to the Corn Exchange in late November for Focus, which Andy crowned best gig of the year. I made it out to the Cross Keys in Rowde for The Life of Brian Band, and to the Southgate see Strange Folk again, since their fantastic set on Vinyl Realm’s stage at a Street Festival of yore. But October held my best gig of the year, the reasons manyfold, and I’m lay them on the line….
For the outstanding fundraising efforts of the Civic award-winning local supergroup, The Female of the Species, I hold them all up as my heroines, therefore the chance to see them again at Melksham’s fantastic Assembly Hall too much to miss, and the fact they’d chosen this time to raise funds for another of my local heroines, Carmela Chillery-Watson, was almost too much to take! With an electric night of awesome danceable covers and a massive raffle, they raised a staggering £1,763 for Carmela’s Therapy Fund.
It will never cease to amaze me the selfless lengths our musicians will go to for fundraising. Even after a year and half of closed hospitality and no bread-and-butter gigs, they continue to offer their precious time to help. While events blossomed late this year, and November saw the return of TITCO, and Devizes Arts Festival added a spellbinding mini-autumn-festival with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Sally Barker and Motown Gold, Devizine continued also to preview events and do what we had being doing to find content during lockdown. Yeah, we rattled some cages with social and political opinion pieces, tasted some great takeaway tucker, and we reviewed recorded music further afield as well as local, but we had a number of feelgood stories, most memorable being things like our snowman competition in January, but there was a project which highlighted the sterling effort from musicians to fundraise, and it will be something I’ll never forget.
So, in April I announced we would be putting together a compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospices and by late June it was a thing. It was hard work to put together, but I’m astounded by the plethora of great bands and artists who took the time to send us a tune for inclusion. Knowing time was precious for artists popping out of lockdown, in need to source bookings and rehearse, I only asked them to provide us with an existing tune to prompt their albums, but some went beyond this, giving us exclusive outtakes such as the brilliant Richard Davis & the Dissidents, or some even recorded new songs, like Blondie & Ska, Tom Harris and Neonian.
I picked a staggering forty-six tracks to bind together, to create a boxset so humongous it would need far too many CDs to make it actual, so due to this and the expense of outlaying, it exists as a download on Bandcamp. Think of it as a teaser for the many great acts we’ve supported and reviewed over the years, and for a tenner, it works out under 5p a tune.
For me this was a momentous achievement, and can’t thank them enough. While I’ve put it out to the right places, to the Gazette & Herald and Fantasy, and airtime on West Wilts Radio’s fantastic Sounds of Wilderness Show, there is obviously more I need to do to get the message out there, as sales have been slow, unfortunately.
I could fathom a number of reasons for this, but in all, we’ve raised approximately £177 for Julia’s House, hoping to reach a £200 target before we send them the money, still sales have waivered off so significantly I feel I need to send what we’ve had so far. Please help us to up the total if you’ve not already bought this fantastic album. Gloom aside I will say I’m planning a second volume, and already have a few contributions from incredible acts such as Nick Harper, Onika Venus and Catfish.
Returning to events for the last part of the year, While Andy fondly reviewed Focus, I popped into the Corn Exchange for a quick interview with The Lost Trades, and left to attend a great art show at the Shambles. That weekend the Full-Tone Orchestra played Swindon’s Wyvern, and I’m grateful to Ian Diddams for his review. This is what we need, people, we cannot cover everything, but if you’ve a few words to say about an event or anything local, please, help to make Devizine a comprehensive community, erm, thing!
Of course, one delightful addition to our team TD Rose has been submitting some lovey features, firstly of ramblings, and more recently she made friends with Wiltshire Museum, and reviewed DOCA’s Winter Festival. Thank you so much Tyg, I’ve yet to meet, but we need to arrange this for the new year.
Towards the end of November Andy remained seated at Long Street, I did the rum bar thing. Such a refreshing addition to Devizes, The Muck & Dundar pulled off a blinder with Bristol DJs, The Allergies. This was one smooth funky night, best for an age, and it was great to shake my greying tailfeathers. Both Andy and I finished off the year with a Boot Hill bash at the Southgate, where hip hop misfits Monkey Bizzle supported, and was shocked by Andy’s positive reaction, being more my cup of cheddar, this was an awesome night too!
Having live music back, no matter the limitations was a breath of fresh air. Prior to it I was still scrambling around in the dark as I was in 2020, hunting for something to write about. But I guess a year of lockdown had given me time to contemplate and improve on the content. This boosted the stats, for if 2020 saw a drop in readership, I hoped to better it, and I’m pleased to announce we had a record amount, well over doubling the figures of 2020. This is awesome news, and I thank everyone for keeping the faith in us, and continuing to support Devizine.
I keep looking at the bar graph of stats, not believing the skyscraper which is 2021. How much we’ve grown, become a “thing” now. It’s fantastic and I hope we will continue to entertain you. I must stress though, we don’t harass you to subscribe or any rubbish like this, we keep advertising to a minimum, and nothing should pop up and distract your reading, and we uphold the ethos features should be free to the end user.
Yet we do need to maintain some budget to keep the site going. That’s currently around £60 a year; we fund our own beer money, thank you, we’re not MPs, we have no expense forms! So please consider donating to keep Devizine afloat, please donate when sending us an advert, unless it is fundraising. I’d really like to build up a small fund to get some charity events off the ground, as I believe the artists should be paid for their time considering their predicament too. So, anything extra will go towards this, and promoting the Julia’s House album.
What can we expect from Devizine in 2022, you might ask; well, if it’s not broken……let’s happily bash on shall we?! Thank you all so much for your support over 2021, the stats show we’re heading in the right direction.
Said this before, but I take pride in repeating myself; food reviews get an enormous response, yet still eateries seem reluctant to come forward. A food review here will do wonders for your sales, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a greedy so-and-so. Places we’ve eaten out or takeaways we’ve had which failed to live up to our expectations have not been mentioned. I’m no Gordon Ramsey and I’m not about to publish a slagging off. I’d rather tell you to your face why I’m not reviewing it!
During lockdowns the takeaway became essential part of a weekend treat for families with nought else to do, and new establishments opened, while pre-existing ones flourished. In January we praised the Massimos’ Pizza, and the following month saw me queuing halfway down a frozzled Nursteed Road for a rather tasty Greek Gyro from the Cosy Kitchen mobile van; such was the popularity of these mobile units during the bleakest of times.
When things begun to open up in April I went for my first vaccination jab, where they told me not to drive for fifteen minutes. They didn’t say go find a new Indian lunchtime takeaway in the Brittox, but we did, and long should Naan Guru live on!
Not much further into the same month, I tracked down The Feisty Fish, a fish n chips van like no other. They don’t come into town being there’s chip shops here, but track these guys down for the single best gourmet fish n chips you will ever taste, I tell no lie!
June saw a second IndieDay, organised by InDevizes, and prompted people to get out and shop with a bustling farmer’s market, in which I discovered the rosy cheeked benefits of Lavington’s Rutts Lane Cider, and merrily made my way home on the bus! I also had to mention, unsurprisingly to those who know me, that month, that Plank’s Dairies introduced a new locally-sourced organic milk, yogurt and juice range, in sizable and reusable glass bottles, which has proved hugely popular.
Naturally, without a main stage this year, there was a greater interest in the food market at The Devizes Street Festival in August, and the following month we mentioned Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Market, where I was reunited with Rutts!
Mildly amusing than most, I offered a Battle of the Best Devizes Breakfast, in November, something we need to follow up on when the kids are back in school, as Round One, The Condado Lounge Vs New Society was a popular post. I bloomin’ love food, me, y’know, invite me to your café, pub or restaurant and I’ll give you my honest opinion, except I don’t do eggs or liquorice; yuck!
If I’ve already mentioned our awesome 4 Julia’s House project, and all the artists who contributed are in my good books, we also covered a whole heap of new releases. Plus, we started a Song of the Day, where we post a YouTube link for your pleasure, and generally don’t say much else about it, rather waffle on a tangent! But mostly recorded sound reviews waned when live music reopened, still we strive to continue telling you what we like.
Will Lawton proposed to open a music school, JMW held a lockdown festival in support of musicians, Wiltshire Council asked Gecko for a Road Crossing song and video, and Wiltshire Rural Music’s announced producing live steams from Trowbridge Town Hall.
Kirsty Clinch announced her music school and book plans, and covered Swindon’s sound system Mid Life Krisis’s live streams. We chatted to The Scribes, announced The Lost Trades Live Stream in Advance of Album Launch, and The Ruzz Guitar Sessions, and Asa Murphy returning to Devizes.
We announced Sheer’s Salem gig, the Dear John Concert Album for War Child, and the bid to help Calne Central. Announced Sheer’s Frank Turner gig at the Cheese & Grain, chatted to Blondie & Ska. Announced Wharf Theatre’s Youth Theatre, Pound Arts Blue Sky Festival, My Dad’s Bigger than Your Dad Festival in tribute to Dave Young. This list goes on, but most enjoyable recently, meeting up with Visual Arts Radio who moved from Frome to Devizes.
We reviewed Terry Edwards Best of Box Set, Ain’t Nobody’s Business by Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue and Pete Gage, Skates & Wagons, Kirsty Clinch, Small Town Tigers, Django Django, Chole Glover, Araluen and Ariel Posen. Trowbridge DJ and producer Neonian, The Direct Hits, Andy J Williams, Erin Bardwell, Nigel G Lowndes, Mike Clerk, Cutsmith, Timid Deer, and Cult Figures.
Horses of the Gods, Lone Ark & The 18th Parallel, Longcoats, Black Market Dub and The Lost Trades.
Brainiac 5, Sitting Tenants, Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory, Sam Bishop, Longcoats, The Bakeseys and Elli de Mon.
Liddington Hill, Boom Boom Racoon, Longcoats, Girls Go Ska and Daisy Chapman.
Monkey Bizzle, Webb, The Hawks, Captain Accident & The Disasters, Onika Venus, Death of Guitar Pop, The Burner Band, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, and Scott Lavene.
Spearmint, Captain Rico & The Ghost Band, Sonny Vincent, Freya Beer, Near Jazz Experience, Beans on Toast, Old Habits, and most recently, Paul Lappin! That enough for you?!
On the Social and Political Side
The fate of every nation depended on how their governments dealt with the pandemic, and how the public responded to them. I’m not here to dwell on international or even national politics, for this is a review of Devizine, what I define loosely as “an entertainment news and events guide,” for the locality of Wiltshire, focussing particularly on our base, Devizes. Yet tenaciously it is linked, undeniably affecting limitations to what we could and couldn’t do. By the very appalling national statistics, despite rolling out vaccinations like no other country, it revealed true horrors of conflicting government decisions, their general disrespect and selfishness for the public they’re supposed to serve, and the public’s reaction to them.
Like a blind vacuum, sucking in every government blame game, it never ceases to amaze me keyboard warriors on social media turning culpability onto mainstream media, when their task is purely to report news, and capture the mood of the nation. The mainstream media is ruled by the elite, funding the government, they’re in bed together, literally. To publicise shortage of goods is informing of a potential issue, they didn’t enforce panic buying, the public did; chicken and egg. Equally, to publish mood change in the majority lost faith in government, is because there’s a mood change; we’ve lost faith in government.
I’m not here to say I told you so; I’ve not lost faith in this government, I had none to start with!
Take the last set of pandemic announcements, made only hours after government-controlled media broke news of Downing Street Christmas parties, best part of twelve months earlier. A day where the public felt betrayed, even those who voted for Bojo and his cronies held their heads in shame and had to confess it was all too much for a government to break rulings it set itself, and party on while the public suffered, and died. The mood was understandably bleak; why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t?
Why, you ask, for crying out loud? To protect ourselves from a global pandemic, numpty! Government announcements are fed counsel from health organisations and medical experts, skewered by bent politics, naturally, but the bullet points are there. It is not the same self-entitled buffoons, they’re voiceover artists on this occasion; given free reign they’d have “herd immunity,” against WHO advise.
Can you not see through the wool? The government press released the Downing Street Christmas Party scandal themselves, bang on cue of an announcement, so we would all think precisely that, why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t? If we rebel from their restrictions, we’ve only got ourselves to blame when the virus spreads. The government gets what they always wanted, herd immunity, and they’ve shifted the blame away from them and onto you, me, and everyone else.
Therefore, we need to take precautions ourselves, be a community, care for others around us. No hard and fast lockdown is needed, if common bloody sense prevailed, but government seem intent to rinse it from our craniums. We’re not self-service tills, do not robotise us!
We know now how to prevent the virus spreading; keep your distance from others, wear facemasks in public places, follow NHS guidelines in testing and get vaccinated as soon as possible, whether they tell you to or not.
These things should be commonplace, but whenever restrictions ease, like a naughty school-boy triumphantly marching out of detention only to offend again, we forget everything we’ve learned and pay the cost for it. I’m not preaching like a saint, caged too, I urged for a pint, to lob my facemask into the air, hug, and flaunt the rules when the rules relaxed, at times reflecting if we did the right thing, least if we did it too soon. But it’s done now and we can’t turn the hands of time. If we could, I’d still be on Castlemorton Common.
In this, one series of articles I was proud of this summer was in reminiscence of my youth, being the thirtieth anniversary of 1991, an explosion for the rave scene. But another similar premise based on news of illegal raves happening in lockdown, was to ask those old skool ravers if they’d still go raving if there was a similar pandemic in the nineties; with interesting results.
And if it sounded like I was defending mainstream media, I wasn’t, only applying a smidgen of sympathy. With Facebook, Twitter et al, media is everyone now; I’m living proof any idiot can publish a blog and make look it like reputable news! Reason why, I guess, criticising other local outlets always brings hits, the occasion I felt the need to defend Devizes against the sharp eye of local gutter-press Wiltshire Live, proved to be our third most popular article of the year.
Devizes is a great place to live, Tory top-heavy, but that’s something anyone with an alternative opinion has to unfortunately suck up. Our fourth most popular article this year was in January, breaking the news Tory PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed, was a bad card. Something as more evidence came to light, namely drink-driving offences, proved to be true, at the time I put my finger on something conflicting in his chat with us, calling anyone who cared to address fox hunting a “troll,” but requesting we talk on his trespass pledges, blatantly linked to restrict the movement of sabs, the only folk we see actually policing this disgusting and unbelievable smokescreen of trail hunting. Something we covered more recently, suggesting Boxing Day Hunts need better policing.
Moan I’m bias, yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Do I attempt to hide it like others? Why the hell should I side with anyone butchering wildlife for so-called sport, and in that, why the hell would you?! But hey, I remained impartial during local elections, giving each and every candidate a platform, so there!
Never has a PCC election run with such controversy. Aggravation between sides fired, and we did more than blow the lid off Seedy’s bogus campaign, causing some alarming revelations in local social media bias. Tories back Tories, no matter what they’ve done wrong, it’s an allegiance to admire, even if you feel it’s malicious. As well as chatting with Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster and independent Mike Rees, we tried a few spoofs: Play the Wiltshire PCC Game, Basil Brush Missing, and upon the Tories hustling in an alternative candidate by stalling the re-election, we ran a short story The Adventures of Police Crime Commissioner Wilko, which was based upon a better received satire, a long-running mock of Wiltshire Council, inThe Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead.
At times Mike seemed such a threat to Wiltshire’s Tory totalitarianism, a media attack seemed the best method to deflect people taking the common-sense vote. The first bout came in January, when Mike was barred from volunteering to administer lateral flow Covid tests, the second in July affected me personally as the Devizes Issues Facebook group revealed its fiercely denied bias, by banning me for using a George Orwell quote to express my concern at the taxpayer having to fork four million quid for a re-election which was clearly the Conservative Party’s fault! I’m adamant it was justified.
Nineteen-eighty-four was supposed to be a warning, not a fucking self-help guide.
Annoyed, I struck out, naturally, and was begged back, after the full-gone conclusion a Wiltshire majority blindly vote for the blue rosette no matter what! But it was a month after the ban, the smear reached its apex, with all posts about the independent candidate immediately banned and deleted on the popular Facebook group, and anyone complaining were blamed by members for the downfall in Mike’s success! You can’t make up hypocrisy that nasty.
It’s not the politics which bothers me as much as the kind of world they envision. Stories of injustice swamped Devizine this year, more than ever before, even our April Fool’s Joke had stark repercussions.
Every minute an adolescent arm reaches out of a window, unceremoniously handing a bag of fast food to a driver, they nod a thanks, and leave. That seemed to me to be the maximum social interaction of 2020, yet commonplace in modern living, pandemic or not. I recalled going to a Tesco, paid at the pump, masked expressions as I sauntered the aisles, paid at the self-service till and on the way out considered one could live their life in modern times completely unnoticed, months need pass without human contact. My mind meanders if that’s something young folk actually want, or if they’ve been robotised, or if it’s an age thing leaving me in a care-home for terminally bewildered.
The best hitting article of the year was again, our April Fool’s Day joke, where this time I misleadingly announced the opening of a McDonalds in Devizes. Maliciously planned, it broke the local internet, and despite suggesting it was All Fools Day in the piece, comments and messages flooded in from headline scanners. In favour of it or not, the debate is such popular the joke was lost on many desperate souls dying for a McFlurry; causing faith, just like Chippenham’s recent pandemonium for a bucket of battery chicken in gravy, yes, Aldous Huxley was bang-on, many folks do want to live in this commercialised bubble, void of individualism.
On Everything Else
Individualism, free thinking and fair and just causes we stand for here, it is not my fault the many attempts to counteract this seem to come from a conservative ethos, and therefore get criticised for it. I’m not dead against conservativism, but they seem dead against me, as if we’re supposed to know our place tip our hat and reply, “very good guvnor, I’ll bail your shit for a shilling!”
My god, how they hate common people who can articulate, that’s’ why they slash away like Freddy Kruger at the education budget while back the grammar school relaunch. Then keyboard warriors whinge at juvenile delinquency like it’s a new thing and something stringing them up for will somehow solve. We’re heading into days as dark as the early eighties, perhaps medieval for some, days I remember with a horror in my heart.
The audacious legacy building bashes on with grand and glorious plans, I reported Stonehenge had been saved by the High Court, but they operate above the law and continue to ignore the justice system, plotting to bury a road underneath it, shaking it to ruin, least knocking it of the World Heritage List, for the sake of knocking minutes off commuting times.
I criticised the reality of building a whole new train station miles out of Devizes, against popular opinion, cos I’ll believe it when I see it, and furthermore, I feel there’s more pressing issues which looking at. If not our terrible infrastructure, the state of our roads, and the endless chain of bureaucratic nonsense to get the simplest of notions pushed through bumbling pompousness of councillors and apparent do-gooders, it’s the increasing homeless on our streets, the need for Food Banks which the Tories selfishly assume is a good thing, the poverty level submerging a continuous population and the outright condoning of racist, sexist and homophobic acts. Sort them out, and I’ll gladly stand on Devizes Parkway platform with you, or any other brazen legacy-building pledge you dream up!
Every time I’m duped, I feel like an idiot, unable to get my message through the red tape. You want a train station, yet I reported the dangerous state of a Wiltshire Council playpark in Rowde, FIVE years ago, and I have to seriously throw my toys out of the pram to get anyone to pay it any attention. In February this year I was delighted, based on my article, Councillor Laura Mayes secured £20,000 from WC to re-design the playground and she proudly used it to publicise her election pledge.
But still the playpark remains in the same state of disrepair, not a penny pledged has been spent. Whether this is WC’s fault or the Parish Council I don’t know, they got what I suspect they wanted, a successful election result, and my whinging reduced too. I’ve just lost all faith and interest in continuing to bother with it. You want a train station, huh? Traffic lights at the Black Dog crossroads? A no left turn sign at the top of Dunkirk Hill? Yeah, good luck with that, we’re moving into six years for them to fix a dangerous baseplate of a bouncy chicken in a playpark!
Yet perseverance can pay off; we loved it when Rab Hardie of Duck N Curver broke into Stonehenge to raise awareness of his wish to film a video inside the stone circle, we asked if the Fire & Rescue Service were Cutting Vital Flood Equipment, defended Wiltshire Police from keyboard warriors upset they used a rainbow as their Facebook logo during Pride Month, wished Devizes Lions a happy 50th, supported Joe Brindle on his campaign to save Drews Pond Wood, attended Save Furlong Close protests, added some reflection on the Travellers based in Bromham, praised local artist, Clifton Powell when he was commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, had a great time at Breakout, Chippenham’s Alternative Art Show, congratulated the award-winning British Lion. Crickey, the list goes on; the vast array of subjects we’ve covered, even war memorials which look like bins!
I must be boring you into an early grave, which isn’t the best way to start a new year!
One last thing, we did plenty of spoofs and satirical pieces, too many to name, yet, all’s fair in love and war, and it was a great year; here’s to 2022! I leave it there before your head explodes!
A truly wonderful night was had at Trowbridge Town Hall with soul-reggae artist Onika Venus and band….
Agreed, you may have to sift through wildly nerdy debates over Kirkby and Buscema’s cross-hatching, or season 12 of the Fourth Dr Who against season 13, but one great thing about socialising in the comics industry, unlike the mainstream music one, is level-pegging. The fact everyone gets paid peanuts no matter if you’re inking for Dark Horse or small pressing under a broken photocopier, means no snobby hierarchy, and this compares to local music circuits too, something I wrongly didn’t expect it to be like last night.
The arrogance and haughtiness of the pop star is historically documented. If I go above my station, it usually ends in disappointment, because I’m not wearing a Rolling Stone stage pass. I check ahead this weekend, because Onika Venus responded with gratitude when we reviewed her wonderful album, and on the strength of it alone, I made Trowbridge Town Hall my mecca for my evening’s intake of quality music. The message simple; make door-staff aware to allow me backstage if you would like to say hi.
Now I’m sitting in a modest room of the Town Hall, with a slight crowd of approximately forty, rather than the grand ballroom and mass gathering I was expecting, and husband half of the duo, Mark Venus comes to thank me for the review, joking, “it’s okay, I’ve cleared your backstage pass!”
Why my assumptions? Not alone the prestigious connotations of “Trowbridge Town Hall,” but the sheer quality of Onika Venus’s album, Everything You Are. Her rich, beautiful vocals commands superiority, as if she’s pre-famed internationally, rather than the veracity; she’s upcoming, gigging together for the best part of twelve years on their local music scene around Bristol and the Forest of Dean, fans of which travelled to attend in support.
Reason enough to cry her name from the hilltops, which I intend to do, because last night was absolutely fantastic, and if everyone knows Macy Grey, Erykah Badu, or even Ariana Grande heaven help, everyone should know the music of Onika Venus.
I could ponder why until the cows come home, and conclude imminent attention aside, there’s a unique crossover with this singing duo making it tricky to pigeonhole. Husband Mark very much has the style of acoustic country or easy listening, a passionate James Taylor quality, whereas Jamaican-born Onika belts out a naturally sublime soulful voice where reggae is ascertained.
In a world where traditionally, husband and wife duos are unified in style, from Abba to Sonny & Cher, or Johnny Cash and June Carter, this blend is welcomingly unique, and I have to say, works so, so well. Critics should also take heed this little-known fact, historically as well as blues and RnB, country music bears a huge influence on the Jamaican recording industry pre the era of their homegrown radio stations, where folk would hear the sounds of US stations.
I discussed this with the pair, Mark acknowledged Onika’s mother back in JA sung country songs. In turn this also revealed, like many Jamaican musicians, music is in her blood. For while soulful, there’s nothing diva about Onika, coming across reserved and shy. Reflecting in the passion of her voice, on stage she shines like a beacon, with the joyfulness of female reggae artists of yore, particularly that of Marcia Griffiths, who always held an esteemed cheerfulness in her sound.
So, amidst this modest audience, accompanied by her husband Mark on acoustic guitar, and two other members, a percussionist on snared cocktail cajon and multi-instrumental brass player, they played out tunes from their album with a perfection spectators held in awe, then took a break.
This was not before the brilliant oddity of a comical support act, namely Big Tom, a friendly Londoner with a warming smile and penchant for original music hall. Whom covered the age-old bawdy parody of the nursey rhyme, “Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be,” where seven old ladies were locked in the lavatory. This took me back to the cockney songs my own nan would sing, and I told him so within this surprisingly communal and outgoing environment.
It also gave the opportunity, said environment, to chat with Onika and Mark, the latter suggesting his eclectic influences included mod revival and two-tone ska as well as country-rock. This came to an apex in the second half of the show, whence after playing a few more songs from the album, and introducing us to some new songs they’ve been working on for a follow-up, the four-piece burst into a lively finale of reggae classics. From Dandy Livingstone to the more obvious Toots and Marley, this medley gave the crowd the incentive to dance, making for a celebratory and memorable culmination.
But if this felt essential given Onika’s origins, it certainly wasn’t pushy, and with equal joy Onika sang the songs which blessed reggae into international recognition as she did their own compositions. Yet it is in those originally penned songs where this band all gleam, the album is a must-have. I adhere to this notion so much, I’ve a CD of said album to give away, see below.
For now, though, know this was a wonderful evening, with Sheer Music’s Kieran at his beloved control tower, Trowbridge Town Hall intends to break barriers and offer a variety of events for all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Not forgoing, Onika and her band were astounding.
WIN A CD OF EVERYTHING YOU ARE!
So, if you want a copy of Everything you Are by Onika Venus, it’s on Bandcamp, or you could win one (if you live in the Devizes area so I can deliver it!) Please ensure you’ve liked our Facebook page, and Onika’s too. But I’m not making it that easy, you will have to give me, via Facebook comment, a great example of where country music influenced reggae, post a YouTube link to the song, and let’s get educating! Winner will be the one who picks my favourite example, by chance!
You remember being given some coursework, when back in higher education, with various objectives and your task was to choose one to complete? Not really wanting to do it, you go to the student at the top of the class, and ask them what they’ve done. They reply, “ah, not much,” and this gives you the cue to do absolutely nothing. Then, on the day of handing it in, they’ve unexpectedly produced the single-most awesome project, covering all the objectives in one ingenious combination, and you stand there with zilch, except a jaw hanging and an implausible excuse, which you made up on the bus coming in?!
I’d imagine Onika Venus to be just like that. Now Bristol-based, Jamaican-born Onika plays Trowbridge Town Hall on September 18th, so, given reggae is cited as an influence, I thought I’d check out her debut solo album, Everything You Are, which was released back in March.
The title track was chosen as Songsmith’s Song of the Year 2020, and it’s easy to hear why. I’ve not been this blown away by a female vocalist since discovering Minneapolis’s Mayyadda.
Immediately this pushed my buttons, but if this opening title tune is decidedly acoustic blues, with a distant harmonica resounding in the background, there’s a truckload more going on than the first impressions here.
The premise from the beginning is as simple as, Onika Venus has the prevailing soulful voice to carry whatever genre is thrown into the melting pot, and drizzle it over you like hot sauce. It only leaves you pondering how far she will take it. The second tune I pigeonholed as RnB pop, a contemporary Macy Gray or Erykah Badu, aiming for chart success. When I’m Broken carries this concept to a higher height, and is simply, the model formula of popular music every song should aim for.
Yet, three songs in and here comes the Caribbean influence. Friday Love has a clear mento feel, it’s immediately beguiling, a good-time chugging song in the face the despondent romance theme. This will occur again towards the middle the album with Who’s Been loving You. Again, with Shotgun there’s similar appeal, perhaps the most definable as “roots reggae,” and, for me, they’re the favoured sections.
But it swaps back to the mainstay for track four, steady soul with an orchestrated ambience; Everything has its Season, is the ideal equilibrium to bless that heavenly voice and compose this euphoric moment of bliss. After a surprising modern dancehall intro, we’re back to an acoustic guitar riff for the poignant The Storm, using sax to mitigate jazz. I Need You, though, has kick-ass funk, Ike & Tina Turner in their prime.
With only three tunes to go, just when you think influences have been exhausted, there’s a duet with a male voice, supplied by husband, Mark, Mary, sounds classic Americana, as if Joe Cocker just walked into the studio and said, why don’t you try this?!
To keep you guessing what the last couple of tunes will hold, yeah, folk is strapped onto soul, Reaper Man aches of Aretha Franklin, but by this point you just know Onika Venus can carry this off with bells on. Raising the bar of comparisons is justified, believe me. For when it’s funky I’d give you Randy Crawford, Chaka Khan, and when it levels with acoustic and folk, her voice dishes out notions of reggae heroines, of Phyllis Dillon or Marcia Griffiths, and the gospel finale, yeah, Aretha will be justified, if not Sister Rosetta Tharpe; it is this magnificent.
Yet, unlike all these aforementioned legends, the style here is not monocultured, neither does it jerk from genre to genre without consistency and flow. Onika Venus gives volumes to the eclecticism, and it moulds efficaciously into one melting pot, beautifully. Prior to this solo launch, in a band called Slyde, her voice customised their breakbeat, techno and house style, to great effect, and I can well believe it. The flexibility of her skill is captured here, I’d imagine as comprehensively as she chooses personally, and just as the student who bursts in effortlessly, with the homework complete and to an exceptional standard, Onika Venus makes this look easy!
Just as Afrika Bambaataa was “looking for the perfect beat,” I’m one who’s seldom content with the direction reggae has shifted to in the modern era, and long to discover something more akin to the finale of its golden age, when Marley chanted his songs of freedom to a liberated Zimbabwe, Jah Shaka shook the rafters and Linton Kwesi Johnson poetically versed an English insurgence.
Alongside international acts such as Spanish The Emeterians, or Hollie Cook closer to us, Switzerland’s Fruits Records is that rare outpost still defending the ethos of that militant period in reggae, and if I’ve used the term “reggae perfection,” to define their wonderful outpourings before, this one takes the phrase to a whole new dizzy height.
Out tomorrow, 3rd September, Showcase Vol1, cannot be compared with any other reggae album I’ve heard of recent; it simply wouldn’t be fair on the others. I’d better pitch this against classics; Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Survival, Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey, Black Uhuru’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and a particular favourite of mine, Misty in Roots, Live at the Counter Eurovision 79, in order to rank it equitably, fi true.
Probably the most respected and sought-after producer of the European reggae scene of the last decade, Roberto Sánchez takes his place behind the microphone to deliver a new album as a singer under pseudonym Lone Ark, and is backed by Fruits’ in-house band, The 18th Parallel, and it’s quite simply, a sublime combination.
Sublime because it honours the Jamaican roots reggae tradition, with bells on. To put in perspective these six tracks, with dubplate counterparts, is to accept I’m sent so much music they occasionally get played more than once, but Showcase has been on repeat for the last month, and it still makes me tingle with delight, and militantly march while washing up the dishes!
It just has all the elements of said reggae perfection, heavy bass, divine one-drops, scorching riddims and well-penned lyrics of righteousness. The creativity of the sound engineer and the musicians is freely expressed, and the melody is tight, allowing all elements to flow in an amalgamation which sizzles under the grill.
Without being preachy or spiritual, there’s balanced virtue in the words. Starting revolutionary in citing youth, with the rousing line of Defend; “the rights of our brothers and sisters who cannot defend themselves,” through the yin-yang revelation in the solid Snake in the Grass. Side B, however, starts with Build an Ark, talks of family values in everyday activities, and “Get You,2 projects positivity to defeat oppression, akin to One Love. And in a summary, it creates a tenet comparable to the words of Marley, along with the sound of Sly & Robbie at their peak of Black Uhuru. And I’m sorry, but you cannot beat that.
This album is a treasure, all reggae fans need in their lives.
Top marks and a gold star for this album, released tomorrow, Friday 20th August; Bad Press, of which you’ll hear no such thing as bad press from me, and I’d be interested in how anyone could find an angle to do such. Yet if the title is subtle irony, more so is the band name, Captain Accident & The Disasters.
From the band name alone it’s understandable for one to perceive their output as comical or zany, but far from it. Here is some sublime, concentrated reggae and rock steady, bouncy and carefree, yes, but astutely written, covering some acute themes as well as the general tenet of rock steady; forlorn or unabridged romance. Neither am I willing to accept the talent here is any way an accident, and the band is anything but a disaster!
Twenty seconds into Bad Press is all you need to realise why David Rodigan speaks so highly of Cardiff’s Captain Accident & The Disasters, and they were invited back to tour with legends Toots & the Maytals after their 2016 UK tour, as the official full-tour support in 2017 and again in 2018. Which they did, and Captain Accident was asked to join the band onstage to perform Monkey Man on guitar. If it wasn’t for lockdown and the tragic passing of Toots Hibbert last year, they would have been on the European tour that year also.
Other than the wonderful sunshine reggae vibe, there’s not a great deal else going on in Bad Press, yet there’s no need to be. The band stick to the tried and tested formula, the mellow plod of traditional one-drop reggae, occasionally more steppers upbeat with only subtle ska or dub elements coming through. Note importantly, they do this with bells on. It doesn’t attempt to swerve off with experimentation. All tracks flow with precision and a highly polished sound produced with traditional instruments. At no time will Bad Press replicate a previous tune through dubplate principles, neither will a dancehall DJ toast over it, or a drum n bass riff be thrust unexpectedly at you; good, honest and exceptionally beautiful roots, rock reggae is what you get.
If themes reflect lovers rock or rock steady on occasion, it’s nicely done, and in others, where more sombre subject matter arises there’s no militancy, rather the longstanding carefree reggae ethos of not worrying, dancing reservations away, as every little thing will be alright. Neither does Rasta etiquettes or such biblical or cultural references come into play, making this reggae for the masses as well as aficionados. It’s just, ah, tingly, and apt for all!
Despite the band’s output, three previous albums being self-produced, their beguiling festival friendly sound has rocketed their success with a national fan-base growing by the day. I fully believe Bad Press will seal the deal.
Ten songs strong, I couldn’t pick a favourite. As I believe I said, it flows, blessing your ears with inspirational sound. In Redemption Song familiarities the content of the opening tune casts an eye on Armageddon, but pessimism doesn’t deject or depress you, and the title, “Not the End of the World,” says it all. The aforementioned carefree attitude carries over with the catchy “Best Shoes,” the upbeat melody cutting to plod as Captain Accident aptly quotes Marley, “when the music hits you, you feel no pain.”
And such is unswaying general premise throughout, returning to one-drop for the beautiful “Playing Field,” which truly showcases the writing skill on righteousness and equality. Swapping back to the common hopeless romantic theme, “Wings,” will melt you, like the referenced wings of Icarus. Followed by the most ska-ish, the buoyant “Miami Incorporating.”
There is nothing here to rightfully label this with bad press, perhaps the blithest tune being the “Dark n Stormy,” with a rum subject, there’s a real Caribbean feel, yet the most interestingly intertwined is the rock-inspired guitar previous song, “Puttin’ Up a Fight,” because it clarifies this “reggae for all,” notion I’ve attempted to convey. I hope this comes across, especially in these local parts where the genre is often misunderstood and misrepresented. If your knowledge of reggae doesn’t extend much past Bob Marley & The Wailers in their international prime, you will love this. Yet, for bods like me, a humongous enthusiast, it fills me with a glorious passion that the traditional aspects of reggae will never be lost in a sea of dancehall, reggaeton and dubstep.
As the headline suggests, it’s Bandcamp Friday, August 6, 2021, when the music platform waivers its fees, from midnight-to-midnight Pacific Time. There’s no better time to buy our awesome fundraising compilation album as an average 93% of your tenner will go to Julia’s House Children’s Hospice.
Bandcamp Friday has been operating since March of 2020, on the first Friday of every month. Bandcamp is a wonderful site, it doesn’t prioritise signed artists, but level pegs all musicians. They waivered their shares to help support the many artists who have seen their livelihoods disrupted by the pandemic. You can explore Bandcamp forever, finding your favourite artists, local music, or do as I like do sometimes, and venture off for a musical journey beyond your usual haunts. You can trek to a country and find all manner of musical styles you’ve never heard before, safe in the knowledge, unlike streaming sites, it is fair trade for the artists.
Streaming sites offer a pittance of revenue share to the artist, they have to get millions of listens to make the price of sausage roll, whereas Bandcamp is a buying service, where merchandising can be added too. This is why I chose the site to launch our compilation album. Money comes straight over to us when you buy, and we’ve currently raised over £150 for Julia’s House, please help us to raise this bar.
Besides, it’s a cracking album, where if you’re in the local area, name your favourite local artist, and I there’s a high chance they’ll be on it, and I guarantee you’ll discover some new ones too. 46 full length songs of various genres, thoughtfully placed in sections according to those genres, to create a soundscape encompassing everything that’s amazing about both our local music scene, and beyond, artists we’ve featured on Devizine in the past.
In fact, I call it an album, but a “boxset” would be a more appropriate term if it was a physical product. Unfortunately, it is only as a download, as to make it an album would take over 5 CDS, and the expense of producing a product is too much to risk taking any profits made for the charity. I would be keen to hear from a business willing to sponsor the production of a small run of CDs, but as it is, download it is. There’s a good thing with download, your purchase is stored in a cloud, so you’ll never lose it as you have unlimited downloads of it. You can transfer it from one devise to another, you could burn it onto your own CD, if you wished.
It will never fail to amaze me, just how many musicians rallied to donate a song to this project, and I’m forever grateful to them all. Artists you should branch out to, and buy some of their albums and singles, as I’ve handpicked these fantastic people, so you can be rest-assured of their quality and talent.
For detailed track listing click here, but here’s the lowdown of who you’ll be hearing on this musical journey of over three hours, in order of appearence: Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall, King Dukes, Erin Bardwell, Timid Deer, Duck n Cuvver, Strange Folk, Strange Tales, Paul Lappin, Billy Green 3, Jon Veale, Wilding, Barrelhouse, Richard Davies & The Dissidents, Tom Harris, Will Lawton – Evanescence, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective, Kirsty Clinch, Richard Wileman, Nigel G. Lowndes, Kier Cronin, Sam Bishop, Mr Love & Justice, Barmy Park, The Truzzy Boys, Daydream Runaways, Talk in Code, Longcoats, Atari Pilot, Andy J Williams, The Dirty Smooth, SexJazz, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, The Boot Hill All Stars, Mr Tea & The Minions, Cosmic Shuffling, Blondie & Ska,The Birth of Bonoyster, The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show, Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves, Meru Michael, Cutsmith, The Tremor Tones, Big Ship Alliance, Feat Johnny2Bad, Robbie Levi & Stones, Urban Lions, Neonian, First Born Losers.