Rock Hopping in the Free Rowde

When apathetic to galivant to a gig, and not for want of staying in my village, there’s always the Cross Keys in Rowde. Hum, been a while, historically had its ups and downs. Last report I did here things were looking up; food-wise, a few craft fairs and various goings-on. But it’s changed hands again, and the one thing it lacked other than the sporadic Splat of the Rat, live music, has returned to the agenda by the new landlord.

Arm twisted, I’m back in the watering hole where I had my wedding reception and the kid’s christening parties. Little visually has changed, punters included. No bad thing, village hub. The landlord tells me they’ll be renovating the restaurant area, but if it isn’t broken. For the functional the main pub is perfect, aesthetically it’s apt. Although the change for the evening is the pool table area, where guitars and drums swim amidst wires and foot pedals. Devizes band Rockhoppaz are due to kick off a season of performances here. This is good, heard of but not seen these guys yet.

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Holding a preconceived idea, largely based upon the name, I was mistaken to assume I’d be knocked over by rock verging on metal, which though not my cuppa, I’ll endure to support live music in my village for sure. Pleasantly surprised then to hear this matured four-piece’s repertories, though while varied, were largely based on rock and punk-mod classics.

Tuning teaser being Johnny B Goode, the age range of songs went from contemporary back to rock n roll. Commencing with the Kaiser Chiefs, we heard Dandy Warhols and Primal Scream covers, we were cast rearward to Buzzcocks and The Jam, and plopped into a pinnacle of Rolling Stones and Kinks. It was this era where I thought the band reigned, with an awesome Brown Sugar. Yet the range was achieved in its entirety with equal passion and skill, but when lead singer, Jim Smith rolled out an adroit version of Neil Young’s Rockin in the Free World, I changed my mind.

I questioned this namesake preconceived idea to the band during their beer-break, pointing out drummer, Ian “Tef” Martin’s AC/DC tee-shirt. Oh yes, I was told, they’ll be playing an AC/DC cover in the second half. What ensued was a potentially everlasting musical trivia conversation, indicting their passion was their motivation, and herein lies the spirit of Rockhoppaz, I feel.

They’re not the next big thing, just a bunch of guys satisfying an appetite on the pub circuit, but as far that notion travels, lead Jim Smith, aforementioned drummer Ian Martin, guitarist Chris Downing and “Big” Ben Robinson bassist pull to its bumper, and would do your function a huge favour, for their thirst and talent rubs off on the audience; punching above the average pub circuit band’s weight.

In various incarnations they’ve been around for a while, previous band names being more profane, they say, causing me to think they once had a punk vibe about them. They’ve played the Opportunity Centre charity fundraiser at Wadworth Brewery, The Yeoman, The George in Frome, Melksham’s Pig & Whistle and our trusty Southgate, they’ve gigged the Midlands, Windsor and Bath. The Cavalier, Devizes has them on November 2nd, their next local gig.

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As for the Cross Keys, I hope it’s the first of many, and with the great pub-grub and Sunday roast menu retained, I wish them all the best. The landlord calls for more, monthly, with local mod-rockers, Cover Up appearing next. I’d like to see some local heroes with some original acoustic booked too, happy to recommend the usual suspects. There is a notion cover bands will undoubtedly satisfy the regulars at The Cross Keys, but said originals will bring others in. It’s not a long walk from Devizes, I do it the other way many weekends, and that’s uphill, pal! That said though, getting a bit autumny innit, so nice to know live music has extended out to Rowde.


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


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Devizes First Scooter Rally; A Historic Weekend

Chatting to Gouldy of the Daybreakers, due to play Minety Festival the following day, we mutually complimented the setup at The Devizes Scooter Rally. Pleased for his input, as there was always a risk, being this is my first scooter rally, that any review would be comparable to a festival. Prior to the event, I admit I was mindful to this, telling myself not to hype it, as it’s a scooter rally, not a festival. Yet Gouldy described the archetypical rally as lesser in design and setup than your average festival. Given this notion I encouraged The Scooter Club to embrace wider appeal; they were in agreeance, it wowed and will undoubtedly go down in Rowde’s history.

This paid off, for two years in the planning, and some bumps between us along the way, the Devizes Scooter Rally was uniquely designed and executed with individualism and panache, binding a positive festival vibe with the style of a scooter rally, surely producing an event to shame other similarly labelled events; and all for the first time too.

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Booking The Tribe, Swindon’s hip hop-reggae whizzers, popular on said festival scene, was attributed to this notion; partly my suggestion, but to open wasn’t. Perhaps this wildcard could’ve fitted later, yet, their wider appeal indeed took the younger’s interest, even if not digested by traditional scooterists. They played an arresting and dynamic set as always, rapper AJ Mayhew joining the slight crowd for a dance momentously inspiring for the younger.

More so, it was the plentiful choice of food stalls, bars and side attractions which blessed this event with that genuine festival feel, as opposed to the average rally’s hashed barbeque, hosted by the least drunken skinhead, and the bar being the pub across the road! All slight, but there were fair stalls, rides and a bouncy castle to keep young ones amused. Food stalls of pizza, noodles, burgers, hog roast varied catering, retro clothes stalls and the Vespa Owners Club had travelled afar to join many local ventures such as Vinyl Realm holding their first stand.

Aside the brilliant homemade bar, with pumps and Pimms, which was reasonably priced even for a pub, let alone event, choices were also available, from separate coffee or Prosecco bars, and the strikingly Caribbean yet local rum distributor Muck & Dunder’s mobile bar, which I could make my second home!

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So fruitfully the Scooter Rally developed, combining the favourable elements of festivals and scooter rallies equally to create what they wished, done their own, localised way. Villagers and Devizes residents mingled with widespread scooter aficionados in a joyful ambience. Meeting enthusiasts who’d journeyed from the North, or Exeter, was amalgamated with strictly Rowde branded humour, such as parish councillor, dubbed “Rowde Mayor,” John Dalley, who had his head shaved by Tracie Lawson of Devizes Beauty Boutique for children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent.

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Late Friday evening, drinks may’ve flowed, but chatting to DSC Colonel, Adam Ford, there was little doubt, though the monumental organisation thrusted into an event of this calibre, that he’d do it all again, next year. For when it came together, a fabulous time was had by all and full marks must be awarded to all members of the club.

To nit-pick there will be lessons learned, the PA needed a little hoof, least villagers only went to their Facebook group to inquire where the wonderful music was ascending from, rather than complain. This came to a head at the concluding act, Bad Manners tribute, The Special Brew, who worked professionally through technical faults to bring a madcap finale we’ll be talking about for years to come. Lighting and washing facilities for those camping, may also have been on the hitlist, though elements ramp the ticket stub, and it was ever kept a reasonable price.

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Friday then, and local folklore heroes, The DayBreakers followed the Tribe, with their wonderful brand of folky-retro-pop. South-coast’s ska legends Orange Street headlined with a tight and proficient set of ska and two-tone classics, they simply astounded, leaving us with little doubt the weekend was a winner.

Trilbies must also be raised to the solo effort from renowned DJ Terry Hendrick in the marquee, who both filled in whenever necessary and bought each evening to a climax. Neither angered by my pestering, browsing his astounding collection of seven-inch rarities, he even allowed me a little taster on his wheels of steel!

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Local retro covers band, Cover Up did a grand job opening Saturday’s live music, upon the return of the scooterists on a ride-out across Devizes and villages, parking by the stage for browsing devotees. For me, the highlight was always to be Swindon’s Erin Bardwell Collective, whose rock steady and boss reggae classics appropriately fit the sunny afternoon breeze. As well as Double Barrell, Let Your Yeah be Yeah, and Jackpot, there was a sublime cover of Horace Andy’s Skylarking, a blend of Harry J’s Liquidator with Staple Sister’s I’ll Take you There, and just one of their own songs, a new one called Just Loving You.

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The Start bought the event to boiling point, Essex’s finest gave us a loud and proud varied performance, shelling us with iconic Two-Tone and sixties to eighties mod-rock anthems which defined the eras. The Start were confident and highly enjoyable, rousing the crowd for Special Brew. If it was an unfortunate technical fault, worry didn’t project dismay, they battled through and such was the unabridged event, it mattered not.

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What a marvellous weekend, possibly the most bizarrely enlightening the village has ever seen, unless you different? Detroit USA, Kingston Jamaica, London, New York and Coventry; all established places on the soul & reggae map. Thanks to Devizes Scooter Club, we can now add Rowde to that map!

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


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Rowdies Going Down the Pub

I’ve been thinking recently about how good the sitcom Cheers was back in its heyday, it broke the perception that going down the boozer was something typically English and in the US you don’t get the same community spirit. Similar with Moe’s bar in the Simpsons, the US has a parallel ethos, your local watering hole is a fundamental asset in modern life, a community hub; social media just doesn’t compare I’m afraid. Fair to presume it’s the same whatever part of the world you are, sometimes you want to go “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Steady, it must be called  Rowde for a reason!

 

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From the moment I moved here I’ve loved the Cross Keys, standing on the site of the original timber-framed, thatched pub which burnt down in 1938, it’s a spacious tavern which was bulging with punters when I first stepped in, the 2006 World Cup being broadcast from Germany and plates of sausages and of chips were shared.

 
“We’re doing a lot for the World Cup this year,” Kelly tells me as I prop up the bar. Her name’s been above the door for the past couple of years, and she and her team are thoroughly dedicated to amend any chequered reputation it once may have had. Winner of Wadworth’s Best Neighbourhood Pub contest last year, and a runner up in Claire Perry’s quest to find the best local pub, it’s easy to see why.

 

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There’s a varied timetable of events and happenings, the August bank holiday sees the return of the popular Splat the Rat, but Kelly, in contrast is holding a “Ladies Night,” on the 29th June, where a DJ, a Drag Queen and something called “Hunks in Trunks” do, erm, whatever it is they do. Not for me I’m afraid, but that’s our point; a village pub needs to be for all, and that’s exactly what the Cross Keys is achieving, for it’s villagers, and it’s well worth the mere couple of miles travel for those in Devizes; come on over, we don’t bite.

 
On the subject of biting, the Cross Key’s grub is most alluring for visitors, and it’s spot on for a fair price. Continuing from the previous owners rep for an awesome carvery, the Sunday carvery is still popular. It’s the everyday menu of homecooked, locally sourced (G&W Butchers, Poulshot Lodge and Fine Food Company) pub classics which Kelly is most pleased with, adding the attention to wider vegetation and glutton-free options.

 

 

“We had a build-a-burger night, which was popular,” she told me, planning on returning the occasion. That said, checking out the skyscraper styled burgers already on the menu, I wonder if there’s need!

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Once you’ve had your fill, it’s good to know the pub also runs a fitness class (!), and here’s exactly what I mean about being the hub of village life. While it’s one thing for a town pub to put on great live music, a village or community pub needs to be so much more. Kelly, still open to music events, with free hire of the function room, but from aforementioned fitness classes, to the cup cake night and from the popular craft fayres and workshops with wonderful crafters Twiggy Owl Designs and others, to bingo and quiz nights, notwithstanding a fine gin menu, the Cross Keys has everything you could want from a village pub, and continues to strive to impress.

 

 
Bringing the community in is what it’s all about, such as the amazing idea of “Dementia Friends,” on 2nd July, which will be a fun, hour session learning more about the condition and what how to make life ‘friendlier’ for those affected by it. You can’t knock that, just welcoming the elders of Rowde for tea or coffee is brilliant in itself.

 

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We held our wedding reception there back in ermmm, whenever it was again, and the kid’s christenings, so I’m overjoyed to see it still running efficiently in these hard times. Hats off to Kelly then, for maintaining our hub; I wish her all the best and hope there’s many more happy years with her name above the door.

 
Check out the Cross Keys website, book for the carvery. Like them on Facebook.

 

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