If I divide rock music into three favoured eras; its birth from rhythm and blues to form rock n roll, psychedelia moulding it back to wailing blues, and second gen mod or new wave from the eighties, and anything post these I don’t care for so much, be it heavy, soft or Nu-metal, I paused for thought last night, observing these three pillars firmly personified at this most fantastic jam at the Devizes Sports Club. And what is more, it’s fused, together in one great monster of a performance, which, in a word, was spellbinding.
Impelled to duck out the Cavy early, as while I figured our writer Andy would be in attendance, and be willing to put some words into action, I had to see this for myself. It was as I predicted in our preview, no musician singled out, no-one-on-one-off exhibition, rather a humongous blues jam amalgamating the exceptional talents of all present. Already underway on my arrival, our guitar heroes Ruzz Evans, representing the rock n roll in my three-pillar theory, with his classy suit and quiff, Innes Sibun on the psychedelia with that long hair and wailing guitar, and Jon Amor in his trademark drainpipes and sneakers. To boot, not only is Ruzz’s backing band present on bass, drums and horns, there’s the legend who is Peter Gage causally making the keys look like Child’s play.
Afterwards I made a beeline for Ruzz, inquiring how one goes about creating this wonderful amalgamation and how rehearsed it needed to be. There was no rehearsal, he explained, it’s based on specific templates in which the musicians observe each other’s changes and improv takes control. This takes a wealth of experience and talent, as Ruzz continued to get technical it showed both his obsession with his craft, and my incompetence in such matters. I should’ve recorded his explanation for a quote, as the jargon pursued and I’d drunk far too much! (Note dodgy photographs as proof!)
Again, the slight topic of conversation that was passed around the club related to the current virus situation. Naturally people are concerned, yet it didn’t stop this venue filling sufficiently with our blues aficionados, matured or otherwise. I figured if times do go terribly wrong in the coming days, this could potentially be my last night out for a while, and if so, or even if not, I’m out to party. This event satisfied that ideal, but I knew it would, it said so on the tin.
It was good to bump into singer-songwriter Joe Hicks, where we expressed concern for the decline and postponing of events and its effect on organisers and musicians alike. He had, as I suggested, already an album up his sleeve. Perhaps the coming month will see musicians take to recording studios as the bread and butter of gigs phases out. It’s a sad thought, but absently unnecessary tonight, as the power of live music blessed the hall in a way which should make Devizes proud.
Staggeringly as ever, Innes was on lead when I got there, taking the audience on one of his magical journeys, only for Ruzz to be frontman for one of my favourites of his tunes, Sweet as Honey. After a short break it was Jon’s turn, picking Juggernaut to blast us with, ever so proficiently. Then, was it a Billy Price song which Peter Gage so skilfully but causally covered with the honky tonk of Howlin’ Wolf, The Price I Paid for Loving You? I dunno, no expert, but I’d lost the will to keep track, allowing the blessed music to flow over me.
With a hypnotic guitar-off, if that’s the appropriate terminology, between Ruzz and Innes, sections provided for all musicians to show off, including the drum solo of drum solos and the most amazing bass guitar solo too, it was one heck of a brilliant blend of electric blues I’ve bared witness to.
If my only criticism was pondering if the sound could contain this monster of supergroups, and that a semi-circle barrier between the musicians and audience had naturally formed, with the blues preservation society of Devizes merely wobbling on their feet, the sound system took the strain adequately, and after not too long the movers penetrated the semi-circle and all round dancing ensued. Otherwise, this gig was perfection on all levels, my blessings to all involved. If there is, gloomily, to be no Saddleback Festival this year, last night thoroughly made up for it and leaves me pondering what will be next from this fantastic venue.
Everyone having a nice March so far, been alright, innit? I promised, when I featured the first fortnight of events, here, that I would return to complete the last two weeks. I’ve promised this before and totally spaced on it, for which I apologise; not enough hours in the day. Nothing to do with my goldfish memory. Here though, this month, I’ve actually only gone and done it, before the 31st March too! See below if you don’t believe it’s true, the last fortnight in March, stuff to do while waiting for the supermarkets to restock on bog roll, and all that. I know, it scares me sometimes too.
Bear in mind, mind, our calendar is constantly updating, so do check in as more events and gigs are bound to magically appear like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben.
Sunday 15th is where we were up to, and I got two fantablous gigs, Burbank are the White Bear in Devizes, while Jon Amor is at the Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon; nice.
Monday, I never know if the Devizes Folk Club is on down the Lamb or not, to be frank, but it’s a place for a beer if I’m wrong and it’s not!!
Tuesday 17th The Stonehenge lecture at the Wiltshire Museum is now sold out. Celebrated cartoonist and artist, Norman Thelwell is at The Merchant’s House in Marlborough, for a fascinating hour illustrated talk, tracing his life, passions and artistic development. Thelwell produced 1,500 cartoons and 60 front covers for the famed Punch magazine alone and some 32 books translated into a dozen different languages. His works were full of beautifully observed detail and mainly of rural subjects, including country and leisure pursuits, sport, house sales and renovation, stately homes, gardening and sailing. Failing that, Cracknakeel provides live music at The Sun in Frome for their St Patrick’s Day celebration.
Wednesday 18th is jam-packed, for a Wednesday! Acoustic jam down the Southgate, Devizes. Bromham’s Farm Cookery School has a Taste of Morocco class, where you could be learning how to make a Briouat which is like a Moroccan Samosa, make your own Khobz and Kefta Mkaouara. £40.00 per person. Over in Marlborough David Evans gives the second of three lectures in The Merchant’s House Study Series, focussing on Reformation in England and the Arts. The Roots Sessions continues at Frome’s Cheese & Grain with the fantastic Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue.
Thursday 19th and you could be back down The Farm Cookery School in Bromham for a Mozzarella & Halloumi Masterclass with Josie. She will teach how to make both cheese which is technical but fun! £35.00 per person. The fantastic Ed Byrne is at the Bath Forum and Moles has a punky/metal night with the Anarchist’s Bookfair, Butter The Pavement and Out Of Reach.
If it’s a slow start to the week, Friday 20th March makes up for it. If, like me, all you know about Jesus Christ Superstar is that he came down from heaven on a Yamaha, and you have doubts with your conviction of that, it’s the opening night for this amateur production by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical portrayal of the last seven days of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot runs until Sat 28th March and while tickets are still available as I write this, do be as quick, as if you were on a Yamaha yourself; take care not to skid though!
Meanwhile Devizes Town Hall is the place to head for opera fans, as The White Horse Opera presents their Spring Concert. Including Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan and Hadyn’s Creation, this would be the perfect introduction to opera for those, like me, who thought Donizetti was a type of pasta sauce!
If you fancy music more pop, the local supergroup I’m always raving about, the Female Of The Species play Melksham’s Assembly Hall. Fusing all their respective band’s influences, expect the best of rock, soul and ska as the girl’s combine forces for a fun-filled gig; I’ve been to see one of these shows and I’m not hyping it up because they’re all awesome chicks, I highly recommend it!
Day one of two, at the inspiring Shoebox Theatre in Swindon of their FUSE Festival where six emerging artists test a new performance idea over three days. Fuse is about supporting the beginnings of new work before it’s fully developed. Watch, discuss, and be part of the creation of something brilliant. Two performances Kat Lyons’ Dry Season, interweaving music and movement with original spoken word poetry and extracts from medical literature. And the debut one-woman-show from Mighty Mammal Theatre, Swine of the Times, where you can meet the piggies at the troff; they sing songs, say prayers and even mime. Alice Wolff-Whitehouse employs her skills in physical comedy, dance and song to bring to life a series of flawed and quintessentially British characters, looking at the grotesque nature of privilege in the UK through a warped and colourful lens.
Staying in Swindon, Baila Coffee & Vinyl have some Disco Voodoo with DJ Amir, or try indie rock covers with Joli & the Souls at the Vic. Elsewhere, the Leathers play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon, Clannad are at Bath Forum, and Jack Dee’s Off The Telly tour is at Salisbury City Hall.
Saturday 21st then. After the hugely successful free concert in the Market Place last summer, The Full Tone Orchestra have taken their show to Marlborough, and return to town to rave the night away at the Corn Exchange. Taking the most popular section of their show, the club anthems, expect this to be something innovative and all glowsticks, as conductor Anthony Brown’s beloved orchestra reproduce the club classics which defined an era.
The Cavalier go country with the Stone Mountain Sinners, caught these guys before, they’ve a refreshing approach to country-rock which is a cut above the rest. And breezy, original songwriter Ed Witcomb makes a welcome return to The Southgate. For surf beats, odd time signatures, eccentric tunes and irony-fuelled free jazz, try The Barge at Honeystreet, where bonkers surf surrealists Mustard Allegro do their stuff.
Super Trooper Abba tribute, Sensations grace the Seend Community Centre, while Swindon’s Meca has a Whitney Houston tribute. Don’t forget though, it’s day two of the Shoebox’s Fuse Festival too.
Mercy Lounge at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon. Recommended ska night at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar with the Train To Skaville, and Paul Carrick is at Bath Forum.
Head to the Southgate for an afternoon pint or three, on Sunday 22nd, and our fantastic singer-songwriter Vince Bell will entertain you. Meanwhile, Groovelator play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford.
Tuesday, Devizes Film Club at the Town Hall have the latest Ken Loach film, Sorry We Missed You, which you will be if you miss this one film fans. Full of drama, tension and heartbreak. Ricky and Debbie are the parents of teenage children. Ricky joins the ‘gig’ economy with a franchise for a parcel delivery firm. The job is sold to him as one where he will become master of his own destiny. Providing, that is, he complies with the labyrinth of deadlines, rules and conditions imposed by the company, a near impossible task. Debbie is a care worker who wants to care for the old people as though they are her Mam. But her working conditions thwart her in doing the job as she thinks fit. This modern Dickensian story dramatises the conflict between work and family life in contemporary Britain.
Don’t forget Wednesday’s acoustic Jam down the Southgate, and blues-folk singer Elles Bailey is with Phil King at the Chapel Arts, Bath. Thursday you can witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography on the big screen at The Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour, coming to the Salisbury City Hall. Staying in Devizes on the last Thursday of every month though is no bore, as the regular and celebrated open mic night at the Cellar Bar is something to behold.
Seventies punk bands never had such a great name as Brighton’s Peter & The Test Tube Babies. Still going strong forty years on, they play the Vic in Swindon on Friday 27th. Tenner on the door. Swindon also has an Improv Jam at The Shoebox, and homemade function band Locomotion at the Swiss Chalet.
While it’ll sadly never be possible for the boys to be back in town, Preston’s tribute Twin Lizzy will. They make a welcomed return to the Cavalier, Devizes on Friday. Meanwhile, the Devizes & District Twinning Association take over the town hall to bring us some French Café Music with Jac & Co, tickets are also a tenner for both these diverse evenings.
How much more diverse do you want? A dedicated club night for adults with Learning Disabilities? This Is Me at the wonderful charity youth centre, Young Melksham is precisely that, a night of great music and friendship. There’s a series of these events, first one is Friday.
Another welcomed return to Marlborough Folk-Roots at the Town Hall on Friday, when Steve Knightley explores the themes and stories that inspire him and shows how music and words can become lyrics and chords and notes can meld to create songs that acquire a life of their own.
For want of an authentic tribute band, From The Jam play The Cheese & Grain in Frome, and I’ve heard all good stories about them. If originals are what you want though, The Queen’s Head in Box has a double-booking Friday. Katy Hurt stretches the country music genre in exciting new directions; haunting blues vocals, towering country rock guitars, even a reggae vibe, and she is followed by psychedelic alternative rock band, The Bohemian Embassy.
Saturday night of the 28th March is alright, but no fighting, please. Time for the Devizes Lions’ Spring Concert at St Andrew’s Church, where Ian Diddams comperes Bath Coleman, Bangers & Nash, and the Trowbridge & District Youth Band. Tickets are £10, proceeds to Wiltshire Young Carers.
The Corn Exchange has a Gin Festival. Tribute act, Motley Crude are The Cavalier and local heroes Rockhoppaz play The Black Swan. For high octane original and classic rock mixed with some tasteful Bluesy tracks, check the Mark Smallman Band at the Southgate.
Devizine is the unofficial Tamsin Quin fan club, if you wanna hear why, head to Bromham’s Owl on Saturday. Another Abba Tribute, Swede Dreams play Market Lavington Community Hall.
Highly recommended for the mods, The Roughcut Rebels are at The Pheasant in Chippenham. Also, Blondie & Ska are great fun, they’re at the Wiltshire Yeoman in Trowbridge, checking ahead, they play in Devizes, at the Pelican in May. The Blue Rose Band at The Westbury Conservative Club and an Amy Winehouse tribute at Bath’s Odd Down AFC & Social Club. Level III have a “One Step Beyond-ska and punk club-night.
Elsewhere in Swindon, homemade Damm at Coleview Community Centre and P!nk tribute, Beautiful Trauma play Brookhouse Farm, and a Pearl Jam tribute, Earl Jam at the Vic.
Sophie Matthews explores the links between the visual and the aural in a one-hour presentation at the Merchant’s House, Marlborough. Drawing on the works of great painters including Brueghel, Hogarth and Rigaud, Sophie presents a feast of images featuring historical woodwind instruments in their original social context interspersed with live performances of historical music using authentic instruments.
Sunday 29th – Nearly there, and breath…. Yin Yoga & Gong Bath at Devizes Corn Exchange, The Sunday Sessions continue at The White Bear with Matt Cook and Gary Hall at The Southgate. There’s a Comic-Con at Bath Pavilion, to be frank, it’s a commercial affair rather than a genuine “comic” con, with cosplay, gaming and meeting vague TV actors and ex-Gladiators, but might be fun for the kids.
That’s it, folks, March done, save Bradford on Avon Folk Club have Geoff Lakeman on Tuesday 31st. Let’s regroup in April, but feedback on these articles are needed. Do they work for you? Long-winded I know, but in order to fit it in. Devizine is a work in progress, I enjoy and need to know what’s working and what’s not. So, if you’ve read this far, I salute you! Tell me about it!
Ah, hold tight, two preview pieces from me tonight; I’m an unstoppable steam train of broadcasts, choo-choo! Yet, I’m not sure this needs an introduction, not because we’ve been running the poster for it a while now, but if you’re in the know regarding Devizes links to blues then the line up at the R’n’B Bar at The Sports Club on Saturday 14th March will appeal no end, and you’ve probably snapped the tenner tickets already. If you’re new to said scene, then this gig would act as the ideal taster; digest this……
Legendary bluesman Peter Gage, former frontman of The Jet Harris Band, member of Dr Feelgood who blew the roof off Long Street with Dave Raeburn, Paul Hartshorn and Pete Lowrey as The Pink Tornados in December, will headline. But come here, there’s more. The guitar maestro I’ve been raving about, Mr Ruzz Guitar and his Blues Revue will also be there, his trio backing, or blessing these otherwise solo performances. I swear his guitar is like a phaser in Star Trek, set to stun, and I’m still speechless after his performance at the Gate a number of moons ago.
While Ruzz is Bristol based, and Peter resides in the west country too, both Devizes links to the contemporary blues scene also show up to do their thing. Innes Sibun, who we featured partnered with Marcus Malone as the Malone Sibun Band on the night they allowed me to roam free at the Long Street Blues Club, and be astounded by the quality of goings-on there. And of course, Jon Amor who is regularly featured here as, well, he’s regularly here, but more-so, because his talent is unsurpassed. Though I’m sure, as when such heroes meet, there will be a communal feeling and we’ll be treated to some improv and guitar-showdowns, rather than a balanced one-off-next-one-on scenario; least I’m hoping.
All in all, this event is like pulling four bells in a row on the fruity; need I say more? See you there. Oh, nearly forgot, slow down, man; tickets on door or in advance from Sports Club.
Hibernation, like a bear, saving motivation and funds for Christmas, spent too much at the Lantern Parade? Ah, a bit of all three meant it was only to be a whistle stop at the Southgate Saturday night. When I should’ve been at the Sham’s Assembly Hall for the Female of the Species, and I should’ve been in Trow-Vegas for Sheer’s gig too. Without cloning technology, the pressure usually melts my enthusiasm entirely, and opt to I slob on the sofa cuddling a packet of digestives, chocolate ones, naturally. Yet if just a pint at the dependable local couldn’t persuade me,after reviewing the forthcoming live album from Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue I simply couldn’t resist.
And for all the thoroughly deserved lovely things I had to say about it, I propped this gig on a pedestal, but was far away from disappointment. The band started with Hold It, and blasted Baby Please Come Home, virtually replicating this live album. Best thing at the Southgate is the communal feel, beneficial to meet and greet the artists; I was a handshake away from Ruzz Evans and the band, which I did, and with it he explained they often begin with that formula and mix it up thereafter. The advantage though was not our quick chat, but the close inspection of Ruzz handling that guitar, as it’s something spectacular and I watched in awe.
Unsure if I got the ball rolling fittingly, as I mumbled, “you make that look so easy,” at the suited Bristolian caked in perspiration. Clearly, and as I expressed in our album review, blasting a lengthy and vigorous rock n roll chef-d’oeuvre like this takes stamina! I knew what I meant though, they did make it look like child’s play, the band equally as proficient as the front man.
So, a high-energy blast of traditional rock n roll blended with acute blues blessed the trusty Southgate, a never-ending foundation of great, free, live music in Devizes. Here’s the twist; it’s the uniqueness of Ruzz and crew, amidst the conventional rock n roll cliché of Elvis or Buddy tributes, passé eighties rockabilly four-pieces, and nostalgic but substandard fifties cover bands, Ruzz simply doesn’t come off like that. Mostly fresh, original works; if there were covers, they were rarities, and delivered with the youthful energy and passion of an era of yore.
I can’t keep on this glorious new find, I’m not even a rocker! But when stripped back to the roots, as authentically as this, all pop genres combine and there’s no need to pigeonhole. Funny, in reflection, and considering diverse fifties artists like Buddy Holly, how close mod’s and rocker’s tastes were, yet at the time, reason to fight. Look, just read our album review, will you, before I waffle on a tangent? Which, incidentally, is released February but available for pre-order today. There’re also two previous studio albums, and Ruzz returns this way in March at the Sports Club, (see poster) if not before.
A cheetah can achieve motorway speeds, but not long enough to get off the slip road; worthless trivia, unless you’re an antelope. I like to think cheetahs listen to rock n roll; no, hear me out. Akin to this feline fact, those RnB and rock n roll classics are one short burst of energy. Fortunately for the artists the 78rpm record lasted a maximum of five minutes, and for radio play they’d cut it to little over three, any longer they surely risk congestive heart failure.
As the era passed to late sixties, psychedelia stretched recorded music to live and extended dimensions Little Richard could never maintain. Mellowing tendency matured rock, but arguably robbed its dynamism. Ah, come the eighties twelve inch single and the mega-mix, prompting the question; why didn’t Glenn Close choose the Jive Bunny to boil?
Rare then it is, to hear a frenzied traditional rock n roll sound encompass ten minutes; welcome to Ruzz Evans’ world. Embodiment of Johnny B Goode, Ruzz can pick guitar like he’s ringing a bell, for an astounding period too. Due for release on 10th February, but available for pre-order from December 1st, I’ve been adoring this album recorded live at the Louisiana in Ruzz’s hometown of Bristol.
Forgive me for sustaining the rock n roll pigeonhole, for Ruzz has the quiff and is photographed in a teddy boy drape jacket. With backing from an incredible band including drummer Mike Hoddinott and upright bassist Joe Allen, the panache of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue straddles rock and its namesake blues. Since 2016, when they added an awesome horn trio to the roster, we can add big band jazz to their style. That’s my thoughts while absorbed in this, of what Miles Davis did to jazz, or Pink Floyd to prog rock, Ruzz does to traditional rhythm and blues come rock n roll; the result is breath-taking.
Bearing in mind his voice isn’t growling Tennessean, yet neither was Gene Vincent’s, rather quirky Bristolian, the vocals are sporadic, instruments reign. There’s an amusing conclusion to “Under Your Spell,” where 10 minutes of detonating electric blues is broken by a genuinely surprised thank you from Ruzz in said accent. This often amuses me, pondering, no, thank you, mate, I just clapped, you’ve just held me spellbound for ten minutes, the pleasure is all mine!
In this instance I’m not even there, merely listening on my headphones, but still entranced. While they’re Bristol based Ruzz and his Guitar’s Blues Revue are no strangers here, and you can catch them at the Southgate (Nov 30th), White Swan Trowbridge (tonight 9th Nov) at the R&B bar in March at Devizes Sports Club. I’m quivering, ashamed after hearing this that I’ve not caught them live yet; an offence I will rectify, you would too if you hear this.
Live at the Louisiana explodes from the off; the two, Hold It and Baby Please Come Home, for starters envelope all I’ve said, lively jump blues come big band rock n roll. Catchy, you’ll be lindy hopping before your first sip. Yet if Movin On groovily notches to allegro moderato, Back Home to Stay boogie-woogies again, and Sleepwalk is as dreamy as it suggests. The last two tunes, Sweet as Honey and the aforementioned Under You Spell embrace all we’ve so far said, making this release, I reckon, a treasure; fantastic!
With two self-released studios albums already under their big rockabilly buckles, and opening for Dr Feelgood, The BlockHeads, Kirk Fletcher and Bill Kirchen and Darrel Higham, they’re stamping an authority of quality worldwide. Ruzz has been honoured by being officially endorsed by Gretsch Guitars, and that’s what I perceive of him, the kind of obsessive guy who will turn any conversation to his labour of love, but when it’s this proficient, you cannot help but take heed. I’m off to find out what they can do in the studio, but with such a formula I think this live album captures the spirit perfectly.