The Bakesys, Thursday Night on my Television

The Bakesys have a new album out this week, to get your flux capacitor firing on all cylinders……

Though Perry Como got the ball rolling for a possible “10 songs which stick in your head” nonsense article today, I’ve been pleasantly reminded of eighties German outfit, Trio. A kind of poor man’s Europop Ian Dury, their only UK hit ‘Da Da Da’ definitely fits the bill.

But in turn it reminded me I’ve an album review to prioritise, a track on which reeks of Trio, and not the popular chocolate biscuit of the era. With its upfront ZX Spectrum game backbeat ‘Six O’clock Already‘ is like techno never happened; you can virtually see Jet Set Willy entering the banyan tree.

If you need Google to comprehend that reference, Newbury’s The Bakesys’ ‘Thursday Night on my Television,‘  might skyrocket over your head. Inspired by late eighties third wave ska bands, The Bakesys formed in 1990, and frontman Kevin Flowerdew is now editor of the superlative ska-zine ‘Do The Dog.’
I fondly reviewed their last outpouring, Sentences I’d Like To Hear The End Of, in which a variety of sixties news headlines are given a fourth gen ska makeover to poignant and danceable effect. This latest album is a different ballpark.

Through retrospective compilation, Thursday Night on my Television, relies entirely on that post-punk pop era, where no subgenre in the clutter of youth cultures could avoid the onslaught of electronica. It was a do-or-die age of experimentation, free of the trend of sampling. And unlike the previous Bakesys’ album, there are no samples, just rich of culture references harking of the kind of sounds dripping from that era, and deliberately clunky.


Fun Boy Three’s Our Lips are Sealed gets a counter-reaction, Molly Ringwald gets a mention, in a song akin to Kirsty McColl’s guy down the chip shop, and the best ballad themes around the subject of Bunking Off School, Jumping on Buses, leaving no doubts The Bakesys are either Dr Who, or lived this time, and are reminiscing on both reality-driven romance and fantasising, of John Hughes characters.

With shards of Two-Tone, new wave and post-punk, no pre-electronica subgenre is left behind, as it merges into this experimental period, this album will have you recollecting all from The Damned and The Beat, to Blancmange and Sparks, if you don’t remember ‘Beat the Clock,’ your memory will be jogged by this retrospective outpouring, and in the words of Kenny Everett, “all in the best possible taste!”

For it might take a couple of listens to be fully immersed, for what was avantgarde might now be cliché, The Bakesys home in with such a degree you’re drawn into reliving rather than attributing, like your Harrington jacket, Doc Martins and Fred Perry polo shirt have been hanging in your wardrobe all this time, waiting for you to stop staring at that fading Kim Wilde poster on your wall, and nip to the arcade to play some Space Invaders until a fight breaks out….. which kinda makes it alright.

But, it took me by surprise, expecting ska, when even the most ska-ish track, Money all the Time, has the electronic plod of Depeche Mode. It’s a synth-pop marvel, with a notion to matured retrospection, rather than delinquent melancholy, and it works on a level above the archetypal 80s tribute, to the point I’ll be avoiding white dog shit on the street, and I can smell that bubble gum you used to get in trading cards!


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Errol Linton at Long Street Blues Club

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!


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Trowbridge Town Hall Rides into Spring

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 Hill All Stars supporting at the Town Hall on Saturday.     

Boot Hill All Stars

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.

Zoe Newton at Bradford Roots Festival

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.

NervEndings

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.

Boom Boom Racoon

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.

The Lost Trades

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?


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Song of the Day 43: Lollipop Lorry

As promised/threatened (delete as appropriate) I’m continuing on with the pledge to relaunch the Song of the Day feature, and today proves ska is universal.

From Yekaterinburg in Russia, Lollipop Lorry have worked their way to the top of the international ska scene over a twelve year period, getting kudos through a tour of Mexico this year, where the scene is at its apex.

It’s refreshingly fun and carefree sunshine music, as ska should be, and this tune is out today. If anyone could translate I might know the subject, but the amusing speed dating video suggests a frustrating man-hunt! You just have to pick one, Svetlana, we really are all that rubbish, (excluding myself obviously!)

They first caught my attention and affection three years ago when covering the Gaylettes’ rock steady classic, Silent River (Runs Deep) in which one third of Bob Marley’s backing singer trio, The I-Threes, Judy Mowatt takes the lead vocal. Judy’s range is such that this was no easy feat, which front lady Svetlana made a cracking job of, in a sultry and distinctly Russian tinge; I’m smitten, don’t tell the trouble and strife… long distance relationships never work out!

Give their Facebook page a Like!

No Bad Press for Captain Accident & The Disasters

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.

Ah, they’re all worthy, to me, but aside, reggae got soul, and you NEED this album in your life!


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Idiot Music, is the Monkey’s Bizzle

This is isn’t the favoured way to start a review, but this is idiot music for stupid people, if you think this is stupid then you’re a fucking idiot, and that’s a quote, from the opening title tack, which ends on, “oh, there it is, up my bum; can I eat it now?”

If Goldie Looking Chain is all too millennial, but hip hop, for you, should be served with massive chunks of deadpan sauce, west country tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and general silliness, Monkey Bizzle’s debut album, Idiot Music might just be the thing to pick off the menu.   

Through the Pythonesque nature of Idiot Music though, wailing guitars, proficient drumming (from Cerys of the Boot Hill All Stars), and substantial dope beats means this is far from amateurish, and will rock the festival circuit. In fact, the Somerset five-piece sold out the album launch party at The Barge on Honeystreet a fortnight ago; I see why. This drips with Scrumpy & Western charm, like Gloucestershire’s Corky, Wurzels meets the Streets, the elements of “agricultural” hip hop make this apt for our local crusty scene. Yet with wider appeal, it is, simply, parental advisory fun.

Primates tend to be a running theme, a particularly danceable funky signature tune named Monkey Funk, a King Kong themed rap, another including David Attenborough samples. There are also drug references aplenty, the reggae-inspired Heavy, or Doves (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) needs no explaining, but in it, it mocks the chav culture in such a way you may’ve thought only Goldie Looking Chain could. Something it’ll inevitably be compared to, but more so than the humour drafting this side of the Seven, what makes this so appealing is its nod of respect to hip hop rather than mocking it, is greater than that of Goldie Looking Chain, in a similar way there’s was with Beastie Boy satirists Morris Minor and the Majors, if you get as old skool as I!

One thing’s for sure, Monkey Bizzle isn’t to be taken seriously, but for the most part it’s listenable to as a hip hop album rather than pure novelty too, unique rappers Skoob and James make this so, especially as the album trickles on, both CU Next Tuesday and Ha Ha Ha being particularly entertaining, Oi Mate ripples with The Streets’, Give Me My Lighter Back but under a ska riff.

Nothing here is going to become next summer’s banging anthem on Radio One’s Big Weekender, an honour they’re clearly not bothered by or striding towards. To face facts, what you get is a full album of highly entertaining flip-flop and amusing lyrics of daring themes, wrapped by gifted musicians only playing the fools. And for which, Idiot Music has got my name all over it!


Girls Go Ska; Frente al Mar!

Rude girls grito! Far from home perhaps, but so, so worth mentioning for tropical vibes of rock steady and ska in a fashion proportionately you’ll find hard to come by around these parts, it’s my beloved all-girl-bar-one Mexican ska band, Girls Go Ska with a bran-new album Frente al Mar. Girls and ska, what’s not to like?!

From the off, the title track simply melts, mellowly, and builds in tempo, but is never overdramatic; “cool” is the operative word; fresco! If I’ve put them on a pedestal before, they’ve now put another couple of pedestals atop it. Often steady paced for the genre, it proves ska, while upbeat doesn’t have to be full of macho-bravura skinheads, or a frenzied rancour attack against dogmatic tyranny it’s often misperceived here through the eighties’ second-generation Two-Tone scene, and within the dominate contemporary ska-punk internationally. I’ve made this point in the past when penning a more general piece about ska and reggae in South America, in which Girls Go Ska were featured.

Girls go Ska

Frente al Mar is breezy, bright and fun, light-hearted and beguiling. It roots the genre to its original Jamaican ethos, as a carefree dance music. Though, there’s a large chunk of assumption with those observations, as my Spanish isn’t up to scratch, so my presumption rests on the design, the album name, which translates to the seaside, basically, and mood of the vocals; if they’re singing about anything other than romantic themes and enjoying oneself dancing on a tropical beach, like making political statement, it certainly doesn’t sound that way! You just have to enjoy the professionality and untroubled vibe this album breezes in your direction, it’s gorgeous, and it absolutely skanks!

Packaged femininely in loud pink and decorated with cute shōjo manga, rather than our typecast black and white chequered trade identity with Walt Jabsco splashed all over, Frente al Mar provides an alternative to norm, but is no way attributes the “fairer sex,” rather riot grrrl kick-ass in tenet, gender-neutral in sound. Not that punk comes into play; throughout it’s steadfast traditional ska sound, one should credit Studio One rather than Two-Tone, or even Reel Big Fish for, there’s also sprinklings of Latino sound traditional to Mexico, of ranchera, norteño and their contemporary offshoots, but are subtle and likely naturally occurring.

Imagine, if your English mind will adapt, Gloria Estefan performing ska, and you’re nearer to the mark than The Specials. But no, eight sublimely flowing tunes is what you get, a sun-kissed blessing on the ear, in the style of brass-based rock steady and good ol’ ska. While pukka boys, Death of Guitar Pop are currently returning the welcomed Nutty-Boys-esque frivolous and fairground ska home for lads, further afield, here comes the girls.

Meanwhile here in my hometown of Devizes, the newly opened rum bar, The Muck & Dundar has been a roaring success, proving a taste of the tropical is welcomed, ergo, taken out of its context and origins, Frente al Mar would make the perfect soundtrack to it. Me? I’m smitten, with a little crush!


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OUT NOW! Various Artists 4 Julia’s House

As a nipper I’d spend days, entire school holidays, making mixtapes as if I worked for Now, That’s What I Call Music! In the era before hi-fi, I’d sit holding a microphone to the radio’s speaker, adventurously attempting to anticipate when Tony Blackburn was going to talk over the tune, and just when In the Air Tonight peaked with Phil’s crashing drums, my dad would shout up the stairs that my tea was ready; eternally caught on tape, at least until my Walkman screwed up the cassette.

Crude to look back, even when I advanced to tape-to-tape, I discovered if I pressed the pause button very slowly on the recording cassette deck, it would slide into the next song, and with a second of grinding squeal Howard Jones glided into Yazoo!! Always the DJ, just never with the tech! Rest assured; this doesn’t happen on this, our Various Artists compilation album, 4 Julia’s House. And oh, have I got some news about that?!

Huh? Yes, I have, and here it is….  

We did it! Thanks once again to all our fabulous contributing artists, our third instalment of detailed sleeve notes will follow shortly, but for now, I couldn’t wait another day, therefore, I’ve released it half a day early, this afternoon!

Now all that needs to happen is to get promoting it, and you can help by sharing news of this on your social media pages, thank you. Bloggers and media please get in touch, and help me raise some funds for Julia’s House.

I’ve embedded a player, in which you should be able to get a full try before you buy, I believe you get three listens before it’ll default and tell you to buy it. I hope you enjoy, it has been a mission and half, but one I’d gladly do again.

Please note: there are many artists giving it, “oh no, I was going to send you a track!” Fear not, there is still time, as I’ll causally start collecting tunes for a volume 2, and when the time is ready and we have enough songs, we will do it. It might be for another charity, I’d personally like to do another raising funds for The Devizes & District Opportunity Centre, but that’s unconfirmed as of yet.

You know, sometimes I think I could raise more money with less effort by trekking down through the Market Place in a bath of cold baked beans, but I wanted to bring you a treasured item comprising of so many great artists we’ve featured, or will be featuring in the near future on Devizine. Never before has all these artists been on one huge album like this, and look, even if you don’t care for a particular tune, there’s 46 of them, check my maths as I pride myself on being exceptionally rubbish at it, but I make that 22p a track, and all for such a worthy cause!


Click for info on Julia’s House

“We are so grateful to Devizine and all of the local artists who are taking part in the charity album to raise funds for Julia’s House. We don’t receive any government funding for the care we give to families in Wiltshire, so the support we receive from our local community is so important.”

Claudia Hickin, Community Fundraiser at Julia’s House

Ska-Punk-Folk-Whatever, From The Before Times, with Boom Boom Racoon

Blagging biros and stationery from banks and post offices, we’ve all been there, but few driven to pen a song about it. It’s one valid reason to love the righteous but riotous simplicity of Bristol-based anarchistic vegan folky-ska-punk misfits, Boom Boom Racoon.

Those aware, who thought 2018’s album by the trio, Now That’s What I Call Boom Boom Racoon vol1 was off the head, newly released Songs From The Before Times & Some More takes it to a whole other level. Lockdown raw, rougher and more in your arrogant, fat consumerist face than ever before; put that sausage roll down and prepare to be barked at with a charming slice of satire and counterculture commentary.

Now reading that paragraph back makes it all seem so terrible, but under a blanket punk term, which only goes some way to pigeonhole the unpigeonholeable, irony is abound and Boom Boom Racoon are quite the opposite. This is nine three-minute plus enthrallingly exciting rides, and is undoubtedly entertaining to say the least.

Mixing rum and coffee, ie. turbo mocha time, Covid19-related Public Service Announcement 2020, are the lighter, comical subjects.

Whereas tightening border control in States and Nations, laboratory animal testing in Cages, human unecological practices compared to dinosaur extinction, and another anti-capitalist rant on how difficult it is to be sustainable in the modern era, are the more sombre and acute subjects, setting the world to rights.

And the way they work it, the words they’ve planned go against the homemade rawness of the sound. This isn’t off-the-cuff, there’s ingenious wordplay and poignant messages hidden beneath the fun attitude. The abolition, against the psychological effect of imprisonment and a need to sustain numbers by reforming laws to create criminals, for example, Boom Boom Racoon touch on radical notions or campaigns, and are fearless to state their core values.

Anthropocene it, Say it, Sorted probably carries the most poignant message, and is also the only track which has an amusing sample, unlike the previous aforementioned more polished album which has more, from The Simpsons to Harry Potter. And it comes in the shape of a rather stumblingly polite call from Kent Police regarding an animal rights protest, which is highly amusing.

The album ends hilariously on the most brilliant retort from taunts by your average knuckle-dragging homophobic bigot, I’m certain you know the sort, completing the overall contemporary leftism and reformist ethos which, if you tag the piffle term “snowflake” onto, beware, the unity here is compounded into a masterfully literate snowball, and it’s a brown one, and it’s aiming at your face!

Myself, I’d love for these raccoon pests to come trash the bins of our narrowminded community and welcome the opportunity of our more daring venues to book them for a live performance on the theory, well, on the theory, they’d steal the show.


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Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of, with the Bakesys

No matter the subject, a lesson is only as interesting as the teacher teaching it. Johnny Ball did the impossible, he made maths fun! Likewise, but more modern, Terry Deary’s books and subsequent CBBC show, Horrible Histories made what’s often perceived as a dull subject by pupils, somehow entertaining, amusing even. If Deary was my history teacher, rather than a thick-rimmed speccy, bearded beatnik with leather elbow patches on his tweed jacket, well, I might just have taken heed of their wisdoms.

Equally, if you want to teach history to a bunch of scooterist skinheads, consider employing The Bakesys, for they are a skanking Horrible Histories, at least for this new album, released last Thursday called Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of.

Stu, Kevin & Bakesy onstage at Newbury College in December 1990!

Something of an elusive band despite twenty years presence on the UK ska scene, the early stages of The Bakesys reflected heavily on punk inspirations, such as the Buzzcocks, crossed with later developments of a definite Two-Tone influence. Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of takes it to whole other level. Akin to what On-U Sound did for dub in the nineties, sprinkling in a counter culture punk ethos, The Bakesys do for ska. It’s more upbeat than the usual plod of dub, but strewn with samples, heavy basslines, and drum machine loops, it has its elements.

From another angle though, as Dreadzone meld such influences into the electronic dance scene, there’s a contemporary sound, a mesh of offbeat influences with the Bakesys, more in line with the current ska scene. The flood of brass and chugging rhythms confirms its allegiance to authentic 1960’s Jamaican ska. What comes out the end is unique beguiling buoyancy, and it’s absolutely addictive.

Yet we’re only scraping the surface of why, the theme of the album is the kingpin here. Reflecting the era of its influences, subjects are historic affairs based in the sixties. The opening title track raps of Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair. Get Your Moonboots on is on Apollo 11’s moon landing, and the third, most haunting tune, You are Leaving the American Sector takes newsreels of the Berlin Wall. One I’ve been playing endlessly the single of on my Friday night Boot Boy radio show.

Atomic Invasion explores the Cold War, yet, as with Keeler, this sublime set of songs often concentrates more on the personalities than facts of the events. The Space Race is up next, with a nod to Yuri Gagarin’s luminary. Then it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis with the numerous failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, Cassius Clay’s rise to heavyweight champion of the world, and Robert F. Kennedy’s assignation.

Despite these often-dark subjects, it’s surprisingly upbeat, as if, like I said, The Bakeseys are the funky relief history teacher, and your class is about get moon stomping! The last three tracks offers dub versions of the most poignant tunes on offer here, yet the album as a complete concept is nothing short of brilliant.

The third CD album released on Bandcamp, and quite the best place to start if you’re unaware of them. Keyboardist Kevin Flowerdew, has self-published the ska scene’s definitive zine, Do The Dog Skazine for many decades, which has released this under its label namesake, Do the Dog Music, so he certainly knows what makes a great sound; which this does with bells on.

Mark, Stu & Bakesy backstage at the Epplehaus, Tubingen during The Bakesys’ June 1992 German tour.

Tribute Acts Going the Extra Mile; Blondie & Ska

One surprise track contributed for our forthcoming compilation album for Julia’s House, (yes, it’s going sluggish but well, thanks for asking!) comes from Chippenham’s part-Blondie-tribute-part-ska-covers duo, Blondie & Ska. It’s a solid, rock steady original, with the added bonus it sounds as if it could’ve been an album track from Parallel Lines, Plastic Letters or another Blondie album at the peak of their game.  

It’s given me the opportunity to have a chat with Dave Lewis, one half of the duo, on how they started doing what they do, pondering if you just wake up one morning and think, I know, I’m going to be tribute act. If Blondie & Ska actually see themselves wholly as a Blondie tribute act at all, given they not only record original songs, but in a unique slant, perform classic Two-Tone songs from the same period. But most importantly, answering some conundrums I’ve had since hearing a tune with a similar concept by UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad, about tribute acts going the extra mile and recording tracks in the fashion of their inspiration. I mean, is it deliberate that it sounds akin, or simply natural method given the music is based around imitating the act?

Certainly, Blondie & Ska wasn’t formed on a whim. For a decade prior to forming the duo, Lorraine and Dave were both co-members of various bands on the same circuit. The idea, Dave explained, “occurred over a number of phases,” and expressed, as a mod, his love for The Beat. Anxious not to live up to expectations of his idols, Dave continued, “playing ska, was one of those things, because you love it so much, you don’t want to go that direction, but when we kind of got dragged into it, there was no stopping us, because the more we did it, the more we loved doing it, and there was no reason to be nervous!”

In the band as well, was Steve Edge, who co-wrote our song. “Steve and I used to write back in the nineties,” Dave explained, chuffed to be reunited to write this track specifically for us. “And we performed as an originals band,” he enthusiastically continued.

After the originals band, Dave joined his drummer and played in a local blues band called No Ties, which Lorraine also started in, while Dave concentrated on a secondary band aptly named Band Two, which Lorraine would later join. It was there where Dave suggested the concept of Blondie & Ska to Lorraine, in 2013. “She replied, hum, I fancy having a go at that,” Dave revealed. “It took about six months to get rehearsed. We did our first gig, and thought, why didn’t we do this before?” They’ve been performing weekly as a duo act from Land’s End to Barnsley since, clocking up hundreds or appearances together.

I moved onto the question, given recording originals and this mixture of lateral ska tunes added to the Blondie tribute, if they even classed themselves at ‘tribute act’ in the same light as the run-of-the-mill ones. “It’s weird one,” he admitted, “I kind of call it that Blondie and ska sound. Whatever we tend to do, people say I didn’t expect it to be like that, but that’s way things are. If I’m going to do something, we want to do it in a different way.” It’s also practical, using pre-recorded sections such as drums and horns, Blondie & Ska can accommodate the smallest of venues, unlike a large ska band with a horn section. “The other thing which is difficult, with signature bands, is it’s hard work keeping the bands together,” Dave observed, a notorious hindrance with ska bands in particular.  

Dubious it would work at first, during lockdowns alternate Saturdays have seen regular blossoming live streams from Blondie & Ska. “We had over 10 thousand viewers on one,” Dave delighted, “which is bonkers! I think it was just a sign of the time, everyone was just at their computer!” For your attention, next one is tonight at 8pm (Saturday 22nd May) on Facebook, HERE. “If people don’t know us,” Dave suggested, “it’s always a nice test. We’ve been surprised by the positive feedback.”

There’s the thing with Blondie & Ska, and I put it to Dave without trying to cause offence, that though it’s unique, nothing they’re doing is particularly ground-breaking. They’ve no stars in their eyes, but the niche is they’re two musicians having a whole lot of fun, doing what they love doing. And this is what comes across, and why it sounds so good. “Absolutely,” he agreed, suggesting the original blues band was tiresome. “I wasn’t really up for anything after that, and later wanted to get back into the action. We’re doing it now because we enjoy doing it. The Blondie & Ska stuff, you know, the more we play, the more people ask, and more bookings we get in ska clubs, and our repertoire is pushed in that direction.” I laughed, so prolific was the Jamaican record industry during the ska era, there’s always going to be one trainspotter, like me (!) who comes up and asks for some obscure Coxsone rarity!

But in turn, that’s precisely the ethos of both ska, and seemingly Blondie’s music. Aside the political unrest occasionally portrayed in the Two-Tone ska revival of the eighties, the memorable songs come from a carefree perceptive of jollity, and like Madness and Bad Manners, ska is eternally dance music, from the very roots. Likewise, Blondie rarely, if at all, socially commented about anything more than romance.

Dave was so enthusiastic to chat about the reasoning and history behind Blondie & Ska, about the technicalities of recreating the perfect tribute sound, and appeasing the aficionados, we could’ve chatted forever, but I feel you need to witness them in the arena they love, rather than waffle some!

An interesting story surrounding the chosen name for the duo we finished on, as while setting up for an early gig, the organiser summed up the sound on the blackboard by chalking up “Blondie & Ska,” under the premise a lot of blond girls and a lot of male ska fans had turned up. “I was standing there, looking at the name on the poster,” Dave explained. “Lorraine was saying, can you just get on and set up, cos we’ve got to be playing in an hour?! I said, but look at the name on the poster, and she was going, no, get on with what you’re supposed to be doing!” But Dave approached the guy, knowing him through many past gigs, to ask him if he could use it. “The girls danced to the Blondie songs, and the guys danced to the ska,” he noted. Story checks out, the mix works. Tune into their live streams to find out for yourself, or here’s hoping to catch them at a real gig soon.


Trending…..

Reggae Perfection; Winds of Matterhorn

Again, we find ourselves in the most unsuspecting part of the world to find the perfect reggae sound, Switzerland. Fruits Records release Winds of Matterhorn at the end of this month, 30th April.

Rather than the unanimous Rastafarian camp, Jamacia’s hills of Wareika, Swiss-Italian trombonist Mattbrass and producer Jackayouth have taken inspiration from the eminent mountain in the Alps for this four-track instrumental EP. Unlike the progressive nature of the Jamaican music industry, Fruits Records, as ever, find their penchant in a more classic sound. The tried-and-tested formula of roots reggae may be deemed old hat on the island of reggae’s origin, but no one can refute the global influence of Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the consequential epoch which followed.

The mechanics of the profound effect reggae’s golden era has had on music as a whole is inconsequential here, because there is no fusion or experimental divergence. You will not hear rock or soul’s pastiches of the formula, there’s no preaching vocals, you will only hear a crisp and refined approach to the true sound. This is reggae at its finest, a driving riddim, occasional wail of an electric guitar, heavy bassline and saturated in sublime horns.

To emphasise these classic elements of reggae are evidently profound, each tune is singularly named after the four classic elements; earth, air, fire and water.  

Earth is marching one-drop reggae, the kind you’ll identify with the later works Bob Marley & The Wailers, such as the 1979 album Survival. But Air is no lighter, there’s a real deep, roots feel to it, a plodding bassline fills said air, but throughout there’s this continuation of a tight horn section, managed to perfection. Fire has more upbeat jollity about it, so much so it near-verges on the classic ska of the unrivalled Skatalites. Water brings it back around, with that proud one-drop march.

This is the traditions of reggae, elsewhere at its very best, the only thing it lacks is the vocal affirmation to Rastafari, or anything else uniquely indigenous to JA, rather a structured salute to the sound, as if it was performed by Mozart or Beethoven. There’s the nutshell, if Beethoven went to sister Mary Ignatius Davies’ class at Kingston’s Alpha Cottage School, with Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez, Roland Alphonso et all, his symphonies might end up sounding something like this; it is that accomplished.

Top marks, as if they not done it before on Devizine, and I’ve still not gotten fully over how awesome Wonderland of Green was!


Trending…

Erin Bardwell Gets Organised

A new album released yesterday from Swindon’s premier reggae keyboardist and producer Erin Bardwell made me contemplate a section of Henri Charrière’s book Papillon. The autobiographical account of a fellow no prison or penal colony can seem to keep incarcerated. There’s a point where Papillon deliberately causes a disturbance in order to be put in solitary confinement. He claims he prefers it to the regular cells, because away from the other inmates, alone in pitch darkness he can reimagine, practically hallucinate and relive his better days.

For the concept of the album and accompanying film Get Organised is largely reminiscing and reflecting on his past. Possibly, I suspect, due to age becoming, the fact this marks a thirtieth anniversary of the formation of his heyday two-tone band, The Skanxters, but largely due to lockdown.

Myself, lockdown has been parttime. I’ve worked throughout, galivanting through the villages, meeting early morning risers, and it’s all been much the same as it ever was, just cannot nip t’ pub, or see family living out of the area. Which is frustrating at times, but I accept it’s not as bad as those shielding and self-isolating; that would’ve driven me insane my now. It’s common in isolation to consider one’s life and recollect, but Erin does it over a reggae beat; and I approve!

We’ve been here before; this is not Erin’s first reflection of lockdown. Pre-pandemic he directed a collective who were pushing new boundaries in rock steady. But April last year saw the solo release of Interval, a deeply personal reflection and mind-blowingly cavernous concept album, diving into the psyche and exploring past events; scarce formula for reggae.

Erin Bardwell

Yet Erin’s style is such; relished in unconformity, individualism and freethinking, factors which make it so utterly unique it’s hard to compare. It’s this standout signature which Erin stamps on all projects, be them solo, as the Collective, or side projects such as the experimental dub of Subject A with Dean Sartain, or The Man on the Bridge project with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton, which defines the very sound of reggae in Swindon and puts it on the skanking map. If there was a skanking map, which I wish there was!

Whereas Interval’s morose mood merged styles through experimentation, some often out of the confines of reggae, be they jazz, ambient and space rock, Get Organised will wash better with the matured skinheads, scooterists and Two-Tone aficionados, for it sits with more golden era reggae, particularly of the sixties Trojan “boss” reggae epoch. They tend to know what they like, and favour tradition over risky and radical progressions.

In this notion too it’s sprightlier and more optimistic than Interval, a result of vaccinations and this “roadmap” out of lockdown, perhaps; The Erin Bardwell Trio booked for a gig at Swindon’s Victoria on 1st July. Though at times there’s still the thoughtful prose Erin is fashioned for, reflecting the effect of lockdown. The lyrics of Eight O’clock, for example, which notes despite the usually lively nightlife at this time, the town is quiet.

The Erin Bardwell Collective

They’re all sublimely crafted pieces, the title track’s mellow riff nods to Lee Scratch Perry’s middling Upsetters period with something akin to a tune like Dollar in the Teeth. And in that, we have to consider the great producers of rockers reggae for comparisons, rather than the artists. Aforementioned Perry, but of Niney the Observer, of Harry J too, and Get Organised subtly delves into dub, so I guess King Tubby also. Yet the opening tune reminded me of the earlier, legendary producer Duke Reid.

Erin has the proficiency to cherry-pick elements from reggae’s rich history, effectively merge them and retain this said signature style. The Savoy Ballroom has the expertise keys of Jackie Mittoo, with the vaudeville toytown sound of Madness. That said has opened another Pandora’s box, as Two-Tone also has a significant influence on Get Organised, naturally. The grand finale We Put on that Show is reflective of the era, along the lines of the steady plod of Do Nothing rather than the frenzied ska of Little Bitch, if we’re going to make a Specials contrast, which I think is apt.

Equally, you’re going to love this if, like me, you cite the debut album Signing Off, as UB40’s magnum opus rather than their following pop covers, or just if you’re looking for something different from the norm.

These recollections are visualised in a half-hour video, making it more poignant. It’s a scrapbook film, with homemade clips of The Skanxters setting up or driving to a gig, footage I’d expect to have been largely unseen until now. There’s also a montage of memoirs chronicling Erin’s career, as the camera pans across gig posters, bus tickets, vinyl and press cuttings. Though far from documentary, the sound plays out the album, the material an aid to the songs, and a fascinating art project to accompany it.

 “A second solo album wasn’t really part of the plan,” Erin explains, “but with the current climate as it is, I still found myself coming up with music and songs. These tunes started following a theme, that led to a film idea, and the sounds and visuals grew together influencing each other.”

The point in the early nineties, when the Skanxters were the pride of Swindon’s two-tone scene is captured well, and while those on the circuit, or even living locally then, will love recognising the many memoirs, anyone into the scene at the time will thoroughly enjoy this outing. Overall, though, Erin continues to break boundaries, and this album is a blessing and pleasure to listen to, alone from its narrative and meaning, as all good reggae should.


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

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

Song of the Day 27: Emily Capell

We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, okay, you get the gist. Imagine Kate Nash is Doctor Who’s assistant, and they tracked back to Carnaby Street in 1963. If she dressed and performed without raising suspicion that they’re time travellers, you’ve got a general picture of the fantastic Emily Capell.

On one hand, this is fab retrospective meddling, on the other it’s lively and fresh fun, with a beehive hairdo.

There’s nothing here not to like, unless you’re a ret-con rocker and if so, I’ll see you on Brighton beach, pal. All I ask is you aim for the face, so you don’t crease my suit.

And, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….. oh yeah, nearly forgot to mention, Emily has a live stream coming up Friday 12th March, here; groovy.


Song of the Day 26: The Maitree Express

Reggae and ska’s association with trains tracks back to its very roots, that beguiling chugging offbeat replicates engine noise, ergo subject matter and band names suit.

Here’s hoping if Devizes does ever get a station, more reggae bands will stop here and bring their sunshine music. Prime example; I’d sure make a beeline for this Bath-Bristol seven-piece locomotive, with their lively blend of dub, ska and soul.
Failing that, I’m trekking, have roots, will travel.

Offering an exciting live show, the Maitree Express has been in the recording studio and the effect projects onto wax; proof here, in the pudding.

Wait, did someone say pudding? My work here is done, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on…..


Song of the Day 16: Blondie & Ska

If you came here looking for an original song by upcoming hopefuls, look away. Chippenham’s Blondie & Ska may not be groundbreaking or looking for a mainstream recording contract, a Blondie tribute act who fuse ska and Two-Tone classics into their repertoire, but what they do they do with a barrel load of lively fun. And, in a nutshell, lively carefree fun is the backbone of ska.

Heores of the live stream currently, booking Blondie & Ska for a party or pub gig in the future, and you can gurantee, if fussy music devotees tut, the majority will be up dancing. For this reason enough, I blinking love this duo, but that alone is plentiful. Like their Facebook page for details of future free streams, it’s an entertaining, unpretentious show.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 14: King Hammond Meets Death of Guitar Pop

Great things about ska are many fold, but a topper most one has to be collaboration. Rather than set groups, as with most mainstream music, musicians uniting for projects is common and has always been the ethos of ska and reggae since day dot. Perhaps being the very reason it’s so lively and communal.

Another great thing about our song of the day, where Islington’s ska legend Nick Welsh, aka King Hammond, teams up with that crazy Essex duo Death of Guitar Pop, is the ska style displayed, near enough mimics the jump blues “shuffle” on which ska is originally based.

But history aside, let’s just enjoy this new track for all it’s worth. DoGP are fast rising in rank on the UK ska scene, with a carefree “Nutty Boys” fashion, it’s easy to see why.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


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Song of the Day 11: Dakka Skanks

No video to this one. Do we need visuals? Not when it’s this good; my favourite track of Brighton-based contemporary ska heads, Dakka Skanks.

They’re lively, diverse, lots of fun, and I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the near future.

If the Duallers have reached a pivotal point akin to the Specials, and Death of Guitar Pop are providing the tongue-in-cheek Madness equivalent, I believe these guys could be The Beat of this era, as there was a band unafraid to experiment.

Dakka Skanks are majorly ska, but throw a lovable but carefree punk attitude, and a wide range of other influences, such as soul, into the melting pot, and concoct something uniquely entertaining.

Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 7: Mr Tea & the Minions

Sunday off, broke my promise to post a song of the day, everyday. Allow me to make up for it. Bristol’s Mr Tea & the Minions with a lockdown themed song. See how sublimely they fire a frenzy of folk and Balkan styled ska-punk into festival proportions. I think they’re the hottest bands around these parts, and fondly reviewed the album, Mutiny a while ago. Just a reminder today then, these kids have it.

I made enquiries, wanting to bring them to Devizes. It’s no cheap option and obviously currently off the cards.

The reservation is that just because I’m loving this style, it might too radical for a Devizes audience. So, I’d appreciate some feedback; would you have paid a purple one to see them play in our town?

Fingers crossed, we live for a better day. But I believe lobbying a large Devizes venue to bring contemporary music direct to us, just occasionally, is crucial to the culture diversity we should be delving into.

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 6: The Simmertones

It’s getting late now and I’ve only just got around to posting our song of the day. Had a piece to write and the obligatory family Scrabble game. Nearly missed the deadline, meaning my promise to post a song each day didn’t quite last a week, but alas, I’m here last minute to seal the deal.

What better then, than the pride of Devon, The Simmertones. They’ve fast made it to a lead name in the UK ska scene, and with their lively shows and crazy ska cover of the Dr Who theme, a personal favourite, it’s easy to see why. A tad more tender, here they are…..

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 4: Girls Go Ska

Hi, yeah s’me, keeping up the Song of the Day feature like dedication was as word I know the definition of!

No excuses not to, I mean I am of the generation when Roy Castle clasped his trumpet weekly, ready for the signing off of “Record Breakers.” No, it’s not a euthanasim, Google it whippersnappers.

Might also explain my fondness for brass. Brass is class, and a vital element of ska. Yep, four tunes in and I couldn’t resist sharing some ska with you.

It’s a commonly misguided notion that ska is a retrospective cult here in England. It tends to convey a bygone era of Two-Tone records, boots and braces.

Yet today, while said stereotype has a grounding, ska is an international phenomenon, particularly in South America. I did write a piece about this region’s love for ska, and how it’s roots out of Jamaica bare a different tale from our own.

To show you how fresh it can be elsewhere in the world, and it’s not a reminiscence for a
load of overweight balding pensioners as perceived in the UK, here’s all-female bar one Mexican band, Girls Go Ska, who I’m secretly in love with, (so secret they don’t even know themselves….until they use Google translate!) doing an instrumental jam.

Girls and ska; what’s not to like? Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


  • Hooch on Streaming

    Once a cover band, east Wiltshire’s rootsy four-piece Hooch have moved to writing and recording original material. Their discography goes onto music streaming sites today (Sunday 3rd July,) and if you like your country-rock breezy and uplifting, with a subtle touch of psychedelia and surf, then it’s worthy of your attention…..

    The instrumental Eagle Ray is particularly awash with this aforementioned surf-rock style, while all tracks have this sunny-side-of-the-street, retrospective feel about them. Slowburn, for instance, is good time mid-era-Beatles in nature and Voodoo Hair is outright groovy.

    Well even if you don’t do the streaming platforms you can get a listen direct from their website.Ten tunes on offer here, enough for an album, guys? An album of ten jumpy, anthemic ballads like Sweet Maria would see us fine, this one in particular is a beguiling peach I could imagine fans chanting back at them after only a few listens.

    Live is a bigger part to Hooch, I’m certain you’ll make a beeline for a gig upon hearing these well crafted tunes, they’re at the Seven Stars in Bottlesford Saturday July 16th, tickets are a purple one, I believe this includes a barbecue thrown into the bargin, and a summer mini-fest at the Horseshoe Inn, Mildenhall July 23rd.

    Expect “unusual” covers choices, they say, but I’d argue the cited Depeche Mode, Space and The Coral are apt, this upbeat melodic blend from Martyn Appleford, Nesh Thompson, Simon Dryland and Matt Ryan reflects this, with a dash more roots than perhaps, new wave mod, but with a move to electrification enhacing their acoustic roots, they weave perfect pop simplicity into their lyrics, and that’s where it is to pinning an imitatble, memorable style.

    If the name derives from the late 19th century abbreviation of Hoochinoo, a North American tribe in Alaska renowned for brewing booze, this is certainly fun time drinking music, but the sound is far more matured than its commonly associated brand of alcopop. Ha, whatever happened to that, do they still sell it? It certainly took the brunt of the blame for underage drinking in the nineties, as if they invented the concept and no kid ever tried alcohol before their ingenious bottle of wobbly lemonade came onto the market!

    Sickly sweet though, wasn’t it? Precursor to the Bacardi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice, but try the tune Aluna for size, and you’ll see, though there’s elements of the Kinks at their most comical, or subtle Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band at times, it’s a choice for grownups, with no immature persuasion; I love it, and hope they’re encouraged to perform their own tunes live, rather than an all-covers set; the difference between buying spirits and mixing it to your own taste or letting mainstream brewers decide on your sugar levels!


  • Full-Tone Stands Alone

    Full Tone Festival August Bank Holiday then, penny for your thoughts on that one……

    Five irritating wannabes handpicked for their conflicting personalities vote on each other’s dinner parties while a poor man’s Harry Hill narrator insults them in a heavily edited sham of a television show. Yet, despite this perpetual cycle of formulated garbage, Come Dine with Me attracts millions of viewers. It’s the same thing every darn episode; oh, how original, they’re looking in her knicker draw, saucy!

    Give me strength; familiarity is prevalent, between three to five million people slouch in front of The Chase daily, when face it, aside differing questions, it’s monotonous; eat, watch The Chase, sleep, repeat. Still, from a few branches of the grapevine, I’ve caught this tosh: “The Full Tone Festival is the same as last year.” Shut the front door!

    Honest, I feel like tapping them on the head, inquiring, “hello? Anybody in?!” Even if it was the same, which I’m out to conclude it’s not, so if you agree you need not read on, but even if it was, I’d reply, “yeah? Good!” for the simple reason, last year’s was absolutely, off-the-scale fantastic, and nothing, I repeat nothing, around these parts could match it.

    I sincerely hope they’re not the same substandard detractors who hypocritically whine-hole when DOCA, for good reason, change the dates or the route of carnival! I attended the astounding MantonFest last weekend, it was a similar setup as last year, because the formula works, regulars flock to it safe in the knowledge they know what they’re getting, and if it’s not broken…. Face it, most events are samey. Glastonbury might host some different acts annually, but even they have the same stages in the same fields year after year; fresh cowpats, same mud!

    Bottom line is, I’m unsure if it’s possible to improve on the sound, stage and pyrotechnics from last year, unless we forward-wind technology a few decades. The acoustics on that stage were mind-blowing, and if the price-tag is another niggly issue, you could see where your dollar was offloaded. It looked like something out of The Jetsons, didn’t it?! And I hope its shape will become iconic symbolism as to what can be achieved right here in Devizes. As an inimitable annual party, it’s one of a kind around these waters, it’s our ravey-davey Last Night of the Proms! The Full Tone Orchestra toured Bath Abbey, Marlborough College, the Wyvern in Swindon and beyond this year, but what they return home to produce is something really superior, something to congratulate and celebrate.

    Musical director and conductor, Anthony Brown tells us he’s “been looking forward to this year’s festival from the moment I put my baton down last year, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share what we do with so many people. There’s something here for everyone, no matter what your musical tastes are, and I guarantee that even those who have never experienced orchestral music before, will leave wanting more!” Summing my angle up nicely; far from a restrictive Proms, last year it opened doors to those otherwise sceptical of the magnificence of an orchestra and changed their preconceptions of them, and that’s a glorious achievement.

    But the biggie still remains, what can we expect from this year’s Full-Tone Festival on August Bank Holiday weekend (27th & 28th August)? The family-friendly music festival promises to be even bigger and better than ever, with two full days of back-to-back music, performed by this spectacular 65-piece orchestra conducted by Anthony Brown, we know and love as the Fulltone Orchestra.

    The programme divides into six orchestral concerts providing the ultimate variety of live music from popular classics, opera and big band to movie themes and huge nineties hits. The grand finale on Sunday evening will see The Green at Devizes transformed into its very own Studio 54, with the orchestra and singers performing a full two hour set of seventies inspired disco classics; oh, that can ring my bell, have I got time to grow an afro?!

    So, if it is as I suggested, impossible to improve on the sound, stage and pyrotechnics, enhancements in the line-up are the logical steps, which has been done. Special guest artists performing on stage include the formidable voice of Jonathan Antoine. A classically-trained tenor, Jonathan rose to fame after appearing on the sixth series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2012, as half of the classical duo Jonathan and Charlotte. He went solo and his debut album, Tenore, was released in 2014, and subsequently followed with a further two albums.

    Wiltshire’s own presenter and skateboarder, DJ James Threlfall also appears. James works radio for the BBC, and hosts football platform, 433. With a 95K Tik-Tok audience, Full Tone Festival also welcomes trumpeter Oli Parker, local legendary rock n rollers, Pete Lamb & The Heartbeats, and I’m delighted to see the most amazingly talented country-rock star Kirsty Clinch added to this fine bill; surely the icing on the cake.

    Talking cake, food and drink will be available from local vendors, and t-shirts will be on sale and raising funds for Dorothy House. And that’s that, Bowie said it best, ch-ch-ch-changes. All you need to do is grab a ticket, from Ticketsource, or Devizes Books. While children under 14 go free, it’s going to set you back forty quid, yet you can guarantee its money well spent, for this unmissable entire weekend show right on your doorstep.

    And for anyone casting a shadow of “samey,” I’d argue only in as much as everything is formulated; Albert Einstein had seven of the same suits, so he didn’t have to decide which one to wear! What are you expecting from them, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, digging up Beethoven? One ponders if they even attended last year, and I don’t mean the unofficial gathering on the little green, because they didn’t receive the benefit of being encased in the incredible acoustics of that Jetsons stage, they had not one iota of the splendour, the all-encompassing effect of it. But to say, if you were there, you’d surely take the “if it isn’t broken,” opinion and want nothing more than to do it all again.

    Of course, it’s your prerogative to stay home watching Come Dine with Me on an endless cycle of repeats while everyone else is having a truckload of fun! For more information about the Fulltone Music Festival on The Green, Devizes, and to purchase tickets, please visit the Fulltone Orchestra website.


  • REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival 2022

    A Great Festival – Now What About The Future?

    Andy Fawthrop

    Well, the 2022 Devizes Arts Festival has now drawn to its successful close.  Thanks to a very determined and hard-working committee, this jewel in the D-Town crown was finally shining again.  Along with DOCA-led events like the International Street Festival, Carnival, Colour Rush, Lantern Parade etc, The Food & Drink Festival, the two Beer Festivals, and The Fulltone Music Festival, we are truly spoiled for the cultural life in our town.  We certainly punch way above our weight.….

    This year the DAF ran from 9th to 25th June, a fortnight full of great entertainment – I counted 23 events at ten venues across town, showcasing a wide variety of the arts – jazz, classical, rock and country music, comedy, talks, walks.  Most, if not quite all, were well supported and I know that the organisers were pleased overall with ticket sales.  Bearing in mind that this Festival was effectively originally planned in 2019 and meant for delivery in 2020, it finally emerged blinking into the light of a post-Covid world in 2022.  A great job was done in rolling forward as many planned acts as possible, but there were inevitable casualties – some artists previously booked had understandably moved on and taken other bookings in the meantime. So, for the DAF Committee, it must have seemed a little bit like Groundhog Day in getting this thing finally done.

    So what was so good about it?  Obviously tastes and opinions are going to differ, but attendances and ticket sales have to be a good indicator.  We saw some nationally-known stars – Lesley Garrett, Simon Calder, Adam Frost, Tankus The Henge, and Darius Brubeck making their way down to this part of rural Wiltshire.  For me, the personal highlights were The Scummy Mummies and Alfie Moore on the comedy side, and Tankus and Darius Brubeck on the musical front.  The spread and variety of events was impressive, the venues were well set up and organised, and the advertising was spot-on.

    The things that might need a little further thought about were that some events/ venues weren’t sold out, that there were not more “affordable” events in the mix, and that there were only two Free Fringe events (although both were excellent and very well attended).  Perhaps these factors, and the lack of very much aimed specifically at a much younger audience, did lead to a preponderance of an (ahem) “older demographic” at quite a few events.  Clearly there were a couple of exceptions (Tankus and The Scummies spring to mind), but certainly something I couldn’t help but notice.

    But, to be honest, a lot of this is minor quibbling.  The Festival overall was clearly an artistic success, and the DAF committee and volunteers deserve a hell of a lot of praise for getting off their arses and delivering a very high quality event in our town.  Hats off to the lot of them!

    So what of the future?  What should we expect?  Already, as the dust settles on this year’s event and all the analysis starts, change is afoot.  The DAF organising committee itself is changing and evolving, as the Chair (Margaret Bryant) and Vice-chair (Vivienne Cuckow) step down from their roles.  Discussion and planning for 2023 and beyond will start shortly, with Vince McNamara and Jean Edwards stepping up to jointly fill the role of Chair.

    The broad thinking at the moment is that, now that the “old” Festival has been (finally) delivered, 2023 can start with an almost completely blank sheet of paper.  The decks have been cleared, and the DAF committee are back in the saddle, raring to go.  Is that too many metaphors? – probably, but you get the drift.

    There are (hopefully) new venues to think of – the Palace cinema, St. Mary’s, the Vaults and other pubs.  There is the possible prospect of conversations and more co-operation with other music venues in the town, and other Festival organisers – hopefully to mutual benefit.  There might well be more Free Fringe, especially on days/ times that don’t conflict with or overlap the more marquee main events.  Perhaps some choirs or singing events?  Perhaps more to appeal to a younger audience?  (But probably not children’s events – these have been tried several times in the past, but have not succeeded).   Because, whilst it’s important to have an open mind, it would clearly be foolish to completely ignore the hard lessons that have been learned in the past.  Experience has to be blended with innovative thinking.  It has to be a sensible and commercial balance between the completely experimental – bringing in the exotic, the different, unexpected – and the tried-and-trusted popular bankers.

    Equally, whilst it’s always good to support artists from our local cultural scene, there needs to be a heavy sprinkling of national/ international stars that audiences in D-Town would never normally get to see at affordable prices.  Frankly, it’s the latter that sells most of the tickets, and the acts that look good on the posters and the advertising!

    So it’s going to be a real tightrope walk for the new committee to get this just right.  I don’t envy them, but I do sincerely wish them the very best of luck!

    Does this make you feel that you’d like to contribute your ideas and/ or your energy?  If so, I’m pretty sure DAF would like to hear from you – there’s plenty of work to be done to develop and shape a successful festival.  And/ or you can become a Friend of the Festival, volunteer, and – most importantly of all – buy those tickets! For more information see the Devizes Arts Festival website at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk/


    Editor’s note: well, that kept our roving reporter Andy out of trouble for a fortnight! A massive thanks to you, Mr F, you’ve done an astounding job covering the Devizes Arts Festival. As opposed to me who danced my socks off at the fantastic Baila La Cumbia night. Here’s to 2023!


  • Timid Deer; back with more Melodies for the Nocturnal

    Salisbury may be a grey area for us, we don’t get to hear a great deal about the music scene there. I guess they have their own media, magazines and blogs covering it, but it is something I realise I must work on. For all I know, Timid Deer could be huge there, but they should be widely known, everywhere, in my honest opinion. So even if this is erroneous, I stand my ground when I’ve said in the past, they’re one of the most underrated bands around these parts, and this follow-up EP to vol one of Melodies for the Nocturnal proves their worth…….

    If, like me, you find it hard to come to terms with the notion the melodic Bristol-led trip hop scene for the matured raver is a generation past, and cannot get over how luscious Portishead, Massive Attack and, particularly, Morcheeba were, or if your indie side still relishes in the mellowed ambient soundscapes of Celtic goth, of Clannad, or All About Eve, this sits comfortably, somewhere in the middle, yet, for all the random comparisons I’m flinging, it’s unique for not applying the electronica “dope beats” of trip hop or the often gloomy outlook of goth. It is, in essence, uplifting indie.

    Uplifting because Timid Deer captures your mood and whisks it away on a smooth airborne expedition across a fantasy realm, akin to Enya or Evanescence, or which seems to be trending recently, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill.

    Unsure quite why every kid is listening and every mainstream radio station is playing Running up that Hill at the moment, but I’m happy it has, going on the grounds it makes those little hairs on the back of your neck stand up, Timid Deer has the same effect.

    I’ve fondly reviewed the first two tracks, Crossed Wires and Run upon their single release in March and December last year, respectively, but the EP contains two more beautiful songs, Wrapped Around Your Heart, and Promises. I said of Run, at the time; “a grand piano opening, their evocative part-indie-part-trip hop ambience is accomplished to a new standard here, with Naomi Henstridge’s both soothing yet haunting vocals embracing howling strings and, wow, this rolling piano. It’s reflective of nineties nu-cool, the brilliance of Morcheeba or Portishead, yet without so much inspired of acid jazz or trip hop to make it cliché, rather it’s owning this refreshing edge to appeal to the more guitar-laced indie fans, too.”

    And I described Crossed Wires as, “An uplifting piano three-minute masterwork, engulfing your soul and building layers with smooth electronic beats. Evocative as Enya without the orchestrated strings, as expressive as Clannad without the folk roots, and closer to Yazoo via electronica, rather than the aforementioned influences of Portishead and Morcheeba. Ticks all my boxes.”

    These two new tunes follow suit. The rolling piano, is blissful and lyrics beguiling, Wrapped Around your Heart is another winner, perhaps a smidgen more marketable than the previous two. The four-track EP ends with the ballad Promises, exemplifying everything that’s gorgeous about the sound they’ve captured, the strings and piano work in harmony, entreat the euphoric mellifluousness. It’s the standing motionless mouth aghast kind of music which reaches the soul.

    I discovered Timid Deer supporting the Lost Trades’ launch night at Trowbridge’s Pump, a gig I unfortunately had to miss but despatched a roving reporter to in my absence, and upon checking out their slight recorded output I was shocked as to why Timid Deer doesn’t have greater recognition. Perhaps a clue in the band name, they play Swindon Shuffle but rarely we see them gig otherwise; it’s a sound to relish, a sound for home comforts, for “chilling in your crib,” and Melodies for the Nocturnal Pt. 2, showcases that brilliance. Absolutely enrapturing…..


  • Weekend Roundup: 30th June – 3rd July 2022

    Full throttle into July, then; here’s what the weekend looks like around these parts. These parts of cultural void, so it’s claimed, we say otherwise…. You want proof?

    As usual no links here, the only link you need is here, our event calendar. Have a great weekend whatever you do!

    Ongoing from Wednesday until Sunday the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon has got Shrek the Musical. Thursday and Friday, Devizes Musical Theatre presents their Summer Concert, Miss Fortunes at The Wharf Theatre, see the poster, always see the posters!

    I’m delighted to hear Devizes LGBTQ+ group’s first big event, Drag Bingo at the Exchange has sold out on Thursday 30th; well done to them and here’s hoping for some similar events in Devizes in the future.

    One of folk music’s greatest innovators, Martin Carthy is at Trowbridge Town Hall Thursday, Paul Jones Live in Concert at Christ Church, Swindon while Swindon Arts Centre has a play called Blithe Spirit, running until Sunday.

    Friday is pinch punch. Chippenham Comedy Festival at The Old Road Tavern, starts, running all weekend. Limited Weekend Tickets £60, individual shows are all £7 each. Friday 1st July: 7pm Sam Michael & John Matthews: Cister Act, 8.30pm Juliette Meyers: Passport Face,10pm James Dowdeswell: Beers of a Clown. Saturday 2nd July: 5pm Jo Caulfield: Here Comes Trouble, 6.30pm Sooz Kempner: Playstation, 7.45pm Katie Mitchell: She Festers, 9pm Andrew O’Neill: We Are Not In The Least Afraid Of Ruins; We Carry A New World In Our Hearts, 10.15pm Wil Hodgson: Barbicidal Tendencies. Sunday 3rd July: 5.30pm Jessie Nixon, Dannie Johns & Millie Haswell: Dumb Belles,7pm Joe Wells: I am Autistic, 8.30pm Beth Black.

    Devizes School Summer School Concert in the main hall. Minety Festival kicks off for the weekend. Melksham’s One Love reggae night has been moved from the Assembly Hall to Spencer’s Club on Beanacre Road, I just haven’t changed the poster, so forget all I said about paying attention to the posters!!

    The Ukey Dukes play The New Inn, Winterbourne Monkton. Ska punkers head to The Barge at Honeystreet, for Slageri J headline there, and surfers should wipe-out at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, where they’ll find the highly recommended Palooka 5. Rorke’s Drift play The Vic, Swindon, and fresh(ish) from Glasto, Jo Whiley plays 90s Anthems at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

    Saturday 2nd, Longleat continues showing off; those who don’t mind standing for hours, with a bottomless wallet and advance planning can see Tears for Fears, the rest of us are not left without options…. like Salisbury Pride at Queen Elizabeth Gardens.

    Arts Together fundraise with a day painting at Bowood, see the poster for real this time!

    Six O’clock Circus headline The Vale of the White Horse Scooter Rally at The Cooper’s Arms, Pewsey. While there’s a reggae day at The Wheatsheaf, Calne; the Bee Skas play at 3pm!

    The Seven Stars in Bottlesford has a Burger BBQ for twenty quid, but you do get The Reason playing.

    The amazing Jack Grace is at Southgate, and popular covers band Paradox are down the Cellar Bar in Devizes; yes, I did say The Cellar Bar, glad to see this venue back on our listings.

    Band X at the Three Horseshoes Bradford-on-Avon, Siren at the 12 Bells, Trowbridge, with Hatepenny rocking the Town Hall. @Fest mini-festival at the White Hart in Attsworth. Down & Dirty at The Vic, Swindon.

    Swindon’s Midlife Krisis sound system was due to setup at The Barge at HoneyStreet, however, due to issues with their secondary camping field it is unfortunately cancelled. We wish the Barge all the best with this issue, and hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.

    Sunday 3rd July is DOCA’s Picnic at Hillworth Park. British Blues with Trevor Babajack Steger from 12pm, from 1pm, find some jazz-tinged klezmer and old-world Yiddish folk, from Mozzle Brocha, branch of the collective, Chai for All, who we tried to get to play a Ukraine fundraiser at St Mary’s, but it unfortunately fell through. It will be good to meet you, guys.   

    Eastern European folk traditions follow that with East of Eden at 2:40, South African at 4pm with Otto & The Mutapa Calling, finishing off your Sunday entertainment. Also look out for Rose Popay, the “Art Tart,” sounds hilarious, and various carnival workshops, suitable for all ages; see the DOCA website.

    Elsewhere, People Like Us headline free live music for Inspire Warminster, preview here. The Cosmic Sausages play The Bell, Bath, The Lost Hills play The Tap & Barrel, Swindon. Blues legend Andy Fairweather Low plays The Cheese & Grain, Frome, with Ruzz Guitar in support, and oh, it’s Aldbourne Doggy Day!

    That’s your weekend wrapped up, unless I missed anything? Did you let us know? It’s not too late, I can edit our event calendar, if you’re nice and send cake!


    Through the week you can catch a Live Art Demonstration by the wonderful Caroline le Bourgeois at Devizes Conservative Club on Monday 4th, meanwhile David Olusoga presents A House Through Time at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

    Tuesday sees carparks in Devizes closed for the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay; for a whole half-hour! Heaven help us! Keyboard warriors, I’d advise you walk or bus it into town to get your garibaldi biscuits!

    The New Forest Folk Festival starts Wednesday, while there’s a bit of Shakey at Bath’s Rondo Theatre, Macbeth; all proceeds go to Marie Curie. Best of luck to the two Devizes actors appearing in this, Lucy Upward and Ian Diddams; break a leg!

    Next weekend you need tickets for a fundraising concert for Devizes GAC’s chosen charity, Julia’s House Children’s Hospice, at Devizes School Hall, on Friday July 8th at 7.30pm. Special guests at the concert will be the Pewsey Belles Ladies Choir. Tickets are priced £8 and available from 01761 472468.

    Both Readipop Festival and Cornbury Festival, next weekend, and of course, Devizes Carnival and Trowbridge’s ParkFest, both on the Saturday 9th. I believe I’ll be painting the whole village purple at Bishop’s Cannings mini festival at The Crown; please come and support this too. And on Sunday, give our Essex country-rocker favourites, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective a warm Devizes welcome at the Southgate.

    And if you’ve read this far I salute you; people like you who pay attention really need to grab up tickets to the Full-Tone Festival August Bank Holiday, AND Devizes Scooter Rally, AND Devizes Beer Festival too!


  • REVIEW – Tamsin Quin & Vince Bell @ The Southgate, Devizes – Sunday 26th June 2022

    300 and still counting!

    Andy Fawthrop

    Is it really (not that) long? Debs suddenly realised over the weekend that this was the 300th gig that she and Dave had put on in The Southgate since taking over in 2018. That’s only four years, and we had a pandemic in the middle when all the pubs were necessarily closed anyway, so that’s a pretty remarkable record! No-one has done more to support live music in D-Town that Debs and Dave, with virtually every weekend supporting at least one gig, sometimes two or three. I do remember one night when there were (for complicated reasons that need not detain us now) two gigs on at exactly the same time – one inside the pub, and one in the skittle alley!

    There have been acts from all over the country, and indeed from several other countries. There has been just about every style of music you can think of – rock, prog, psychedelia, blues, funk, soul, folk and every combination thereof that you can think of. Most of it worked too!

    So it was really good, albeit perhaps just a lucky coincidence, that gig number 300 should be one of those relaxed Sunday afternoon sessions featuring a couple of the best of our very local singer/ songwriters – Tamsin Quin and Vince Bell. The atmosphere was, as usual, warm and supportive right from the start.

    Tamsin was up first, shorn of her Lost Trades buddies, for an occasional solo performance. I’ve known Tamsin since some of her early gigs back in the mists of time at the now-defunct Seend Acoustic. Back then she was chatty, nervous, a little scatty, but clearly a great songwriter and performer. Since then, and I’ve seen her perform many times, she has clearly developed. She’s stronger and more assured in front of a microphone, her singing style is more gentle, and her song-writing has developed in leaps and bounds – intimate, sincere and with a new depth and maturity.

    Vince followed her onto the singing stool and showed us, yet again, what a great singer/ songwriter he is. And it was one of those gigs where, instead of being reduced to the “folkie in the corner” everybody (including the dogs) was properly listening. Again we had strong, deep songs, with some occasional Spiderman-pyjama whimsy thrown in, and a captivating performance.

    Unfortunately, I had to skip the very last bit where they got to sing some songs together (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was calling and I didn’t want to get put “on hold”), so as they used to say in The News Of The World “I made my apologies and left”, which was a damned pity because it was such a lovely, homely gig.

    There were lots of friends in the audience, and a lot of love in the room. I’m pretty sure I’m right in thinking that both performers enjoyed it as much as we audience did in listening. Wonderful.

    So, as I said, a great gig to celebrate 300 and counting. Let’s hope for many more great gigs, and let’s hope that the good folk of D-Town keep on supporting quality live music.

    Future gigs at The Southgate:

    Saturday 2nd July Jack Grace Band
    Sunday 3rd July Jon Amor + Friends


  • REVIEW – Fulltone Strings @ Town Hall, Devizes – Sunday 26th June 2022

    Four Seasons In One Day

    Andy Fawthrop


    There’s no respite if you’re into your culture in D-Town these days. Fresh off the back of the wonderful Devizes Arts Festival, I headed on a beautiful sunny Sunday evening to a sold-out Town Hall to hear The Fulltone Orchestra in full musical flight. This was FTO’s “taster” event, and an advert for the big event over the August Bank Holiday weekend (Fulltone Music Festival) to be held on The Green on 27th and 28th August….

    Anthony Brown (“Our Tone”) had gathered an almost 40-strong string orchestra, with only a very short time for rehearsals, and moulded them together to provide us with a short, but very satisfying musical repast.
    To start with, our amuse-bouche if you like, was the short but sweet Adagio in G Minor by Tomaso Albinoni. This 18th Century composer, who was quite famous in his day, and a contemporary of Vivaldi, is less well-known these days. The piece was light and airy, and played with some panache by a clearly enthusiastic orchestra, a perfect Baroque accompaniment to the sunshine flooding in through the open windows, and a piece absolutely suited to the surroundings of the splendid room in which were sitting.

    Next up, the real starter, was Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on A Theme By Thomas Tallis. Still light but a little more substantial, this was one English composer’s interpretation of an earlier English composer’s work, and is perhaps more recognisable, having been recorded and performed many times over the last century.

    And finally, after a short interval, we were onto the main course and, I suspect, the key reason for this concert’s obvious popularity – Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, his violin concerto written roughly 300 years ago in the period 1718-20. For this piece, conductor Anthony willingly ceded the leadership of the strings to guest Russian concert violinist, Elizaveta Tyun. Elizaveta has performed all over the world, and her appearance in Devizes was a real coup for the FTO.

    The Four Seasons (“Le quattro stagioni” in Italian) is, by far and away, the best-known of Vivaldi’s works, and is a group of four linked violin concertos, each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. At the time when they were first performed, they were a revolution in musical conception: in them Vivaldi represented flowing creeks, singing birds, a shepherd and his barking dog, buzzing flies, storms, drunken dancers, hunting parties from both the hunters’ and the prey’s point of view, frozen landscapes, and warm winter fires. Also unusual for the period, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying sonnets (possibly written by the composer himself) that elucidated what it was in the spirit of each season that his music was intended to evoke. The concerti therefore stand as one of the earliest and most detailed examples of what would come to be called “program music” — or in other words, music with a narrative element. Vivaldi divided each concerto into three movements (fast–slow–fast), and, likewise, each linked sonnet into three sections. I’m not going to pretend that I knew all of that, but I Googled it and I thought you ought to know! I did it before I listened, and it certainly helped me to understand much better what I was listening to!

    What can I say? It was absolutely wonderful, thrilling, inspiring, and emotional stuff. It was live orchestral music at its very best. Elizaveta played with enormous passion and enthusiasm, attacking the faster, trickier passages with great energy. And the strings of the FTO, probably inspired by such skill in their midst, followed her lead and supported her to great effect. It’s an absolutely fabulous piece of music. No matter how many times I’ve heard it played, it never ceases to amaze me. Despite being used in (literally) hundreds of film soundtracks, adverts, and the inevitable telephone on-hold theme, it always comes through as fresh and original. And it was so good to listen to it properly, all the way through, played by a set of musicians who clearly wanted to play it. Hats off to the lot of them – it was absolutely superb!

    Well done to Jemma and Anthony Brown for pulling this concert together, well done to Elizaveta for a stirring rendition of the lead violin role, and well done to the scratch group of musicians who came together to deliver an excellent performance. Oh, and well done to the crowd who came out on a Sunday night to support such great live music and gave the performance exactly what it deserved – a long standing ovation and rapturous applause. Absolutely brilliant!

    So – don’t forget to buy your tickets for The Fulltone Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday 27th & 28th August on The Green – available from Devizes Books, and online from www. www.ticketsource.co.uk/fulltone


  • Miracle at MantonFest!

    Ah yeah, Paul McCartney whisked Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl out of his hat at Glasto, and no one can top that, no one dare try, but on the other side of the west country The Fab Four were rejuvenated on stage, and miraculously commanded the weather!

    Okay, allow some exaggeration for artistic licence, but being the only sour point about MantonFest last year was spates of torrential downpour, and the forecast foreboding a repeat, note it tried its uppermost to drizzle, but on the one occasion the crowds thought, “this is it,” Nottingham’s fantastic Beatles tribute, The Fab Four broke into George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun and lo-and-behold, the sunshine returned, to a rapturous applause.

    Coincidence, or should these guys try a Paul Daniels tribute next, is besides the point; there were numerous memorable happenings at MantonFest this year, the Beatles tribute controlled clement weather was just the tip of the iceberg.

    For eleven years strong MantonFest has been Marlborough’s little gem, punching well above its weight. It’s both communal and friendly, but professionally executed too. If Glastonbury is a city of tents, this day festival is a village of gazebos. Picnicking families return year-after-year, and MantonFest prides itself on a loyal fanbase.

    Nit-picking, the focus is entirely on the music, but kids seem unperturbed by any lack of facilities aimed at them. They naturally make their own entertainment, organise a game of football in the ample surrounding fields, more so join the already extensive age demographic and genuinely enjoy the music. Perhaps why The Fab Four were so apt, the Beatles’ early music is the eve of bubble-gum, beguilingly simple for the masses, which makes it timeless.

    Talking to them backstage they delighted in the notion they’re a platform introducing Beatles music to a new generation, and in that, plus the fact they are an archetypical four-piece rock band setup without strings and effects, they blasted out the earlier, simpler 45s such as Love me Do and Hold my Hand as a baseplate. And they did it fantastically, with a nod to later Beatles creations such as Yellow Submarine and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but perhaps most absolute to exposing their skills in ballads, such as Something the aforementioned, Here Comes the Sun, and a grand finale of Hey Jude, this was a very entertaining package.

    Take a Beatles tribute as red, my mum, caught up in Beatlemania, thrust it willingly down my throat, so I’m bound to enjoy, but the real surprise of MantonFest 2022 was the second tribute, Jean Genie. As it suggests, accomplished musician and writer in his own right, John Mainwaring becomes David Bowie, more so in sound than appearance.

    You can rough me up for this, but note while I fully recognise and accept Bowie’s importance in the progression of pop, and understand why he is idolised, I’m a smidgen too young to have been caught up in the fanaticism surrounding him. But this guy wowed, as simple as; assessment is this is way up on my best tributes leader-board, forcing me to view Bowie in a new light. I mean, the guy toured with Bowie’s own band The Spiders from Mars in the nineties, explaining to me backstage the gradual progression to this career point was, as he sounded so much like his influence, through his own original music, he was persuaded first to attribute the fictional persona Ziggy Stardust, “as Bowie killed him off anyway.”

    This performance was truer to the definition “tribute” than the standard tribute act, it was part John Mainwaring, being himself hugely inspired by Bowie, but it was also part Bowie, sublimely, his voice and showmanship as close as you could possibly get, and as Starman echoed out, it was a totally mesmerising performance, my highlight of the day.

    Unfortunately, while professional and accomplished, I have to say, I don’t think the headliners The Animals topped this. Maybe it was just me, feeling the strain of not drinking myself stupid, of which, looking back on, I’m proud, but at the time at tad niggly! I’d say the line between a real act and a tribute act are blurred, when a man like Mainwaring, with such experience and close relationship with the act he’s attributing is a tribute, but a band with only one original band member is considered the genuine article. I mean, yeah, it’s labelled as The Animals and Friends, but grammar comes into play somewhat. It’s not plural; The Animal and Friends. A rather plodding show, a bit meh in comparison with what went beforehand.

    Between the two tributes stood the testament to MantonFest, Marlborough’s pride, Barrelhouse. With bassist Stuart Whant as artistic director, MantonFest is the Barrelhouse fan club’s annual beano, but they’ve the knack to make their show something watchable on repeat. If you ever figured the timeworn blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley,or even when they slip into bluegrass, couldn’t enthuse teenagers today, you need to bear witness to the enduring methods of Barrelhouse, with the growling mysterious frontman Martin Hands, his proficient band, and the reaction of their loyal fans at the one place they’ll guarantee to rule the stage, Manton Grange.

    But if Barrelhouse are guaranteed goodness, The Fab Four were what they said on the tin, fab, and Jean Genie was a sublime homage, there was an equally talented act upon my arrival. Rocking up a bit late to catch previous performances, Southend-on-Sea’s Rosalie Cunningham was all I needed as confirmation this was going to be a great day for live music. Program a hundred personas of legendary rock heroines into a computer, from Patti Smith to Suzi Quatro and Debbie Harry to Alanis Morissette, and ask it to compute something analogous, it’d likely create Rosalie Cunningham. She looked the part, she sounded like the part, and in all essence, she was the part.

    At first it came across prog-rock, all King Crimson type, but there were riffs to punk, nods to rock n roll, and the band explained they liked it like this, prevented it getting tedious for them. For an audience it was astutely performed, original rock, steady, flowing; the like you’d think you knew already.

    All-in-all, Mantonfest is a credit to Wiltshire, but as I said last year, absent are the faces of our own live music aficionados, just a stone-throw away. Marlborough is not the Upside Down from Stranger Things, Devizions, yet those rolling downs seem to divide us into little circuits.

    In fact, the only connection to my hometown I made was thinking about my stomach! Yes, amico, that trusty airstream caravan, The Italian Job, usually parked upon the Green in Devizes, was pitched at MantonFest, the wonderful aromas of basil and garlic were as alluring as the seating inside, and for want of a cup of Rosey-Lee, I came bundling out with gorgeous homemade lasagne, garlic bread and rocket, and slouched in a chair below the beautiful slopes of Treacle Brolly; now that’s festivaling Marlboro’ country, something you’re really missing. I’d highly recommend you etch MantonFest 2023 into your must-do-list.


  • REVIEW – Sarah C Ryan Band @ The Southgate, Devizes – Saturday 25th June 2022

    Another Great Find

    Andy Fawthrop

    Ah – you never know what life is going to throw up at you till it smacks you right in the face.  Coming off the back of two weeks’ worth of fare from Devizes Arts Festival, I poked my head in to The Corn Exchange to catch their very last act – Absolute with their Celtic Party Night.  I managed to stay for the first half (and very it good it was too as the crowd began to thaw and fill the dance-floor), but to be honest, there’s only so much diddley-diddley music that one man can take.…..

    And so it was, as a late call, I decided to head up the hill to The Southgate to check out the Sarah C. Ryan Band.  And boy am I glad I did.  These guys were a new band to me, despite being quite local (they even rehearse in Devizes), and I couldn’t believe that I’d never run into them before.

    In short they were beltingly good – several notches above most pub bands.  But that judgement is kinda unfair – they were much more than a mere “pub band”.  They played mostly self-penned numbers, with just the occasional leavening of covers.  Being a five-piece, and including three guitars, drums, keyboards and the occasional woodwind, gave them a depth and a richness in their sound.  The songs were clean, sharp, unfussy.  Sarah’s singing in particular lifted the performance with her sweet, clear voice, but the whole thing was a complete pleasure to listen to.  Number after number rolled off their set-list, each one bringing huge applause from a very enthusiastic audience.  Their versions of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and the Cranberries’ “Zombie” were absolutely spot-on, working with the crowd and feeding off their energy.

    Really good band – best I’ve seen in ages.  And really nice folks to talk to as well.  They told me that they don’t actually gig very much, but I really can’t understand why – they’ve got the right package – good songs, good playing, good sound and an ability to connect with their audience.  Let’s hope we see much more of them in the future!

    Well done to Debs for another great booking, and a good night at The Gate.

    Future gigs at The Southgate:

    Saturday 2nd July                               Jack Grace Band

    Sunday 3rd July                                  Jon Amor + Friends


    Editor’s Top-Secret Information! I’m sorry to have missed this gig at our trusty Southgate, for although I’ve not had the chance to catch The Sarah C Ryan Band live, yet, I can leak some top-secret information, or, at least, procrastination being the reason I’ve not mentioned it sooner: I’m fully aware how absolutely awesome The Sarah C Ryan Band are, as they’ve kindly donated a tune called A Woman in White, to the forthcoming second volume of our Julia’s House compilation. And you HAVE to hear it!

    We just need a few more songs to make this happen; don’t make me beg!

    We want your band name on our desk!
    You can download the first Volume here!

  • Inspire Warminster; Free Live Music on Sunday

    Skewered, the adverse replies to my Facebook post a month ago, asking for suggestions on how to kill a few hours in Warminster; it was as if I’d wandered into the outback! Skewered by banter, neighbouring rivalry, perhaps, but I also have to take into account the town’s proximity to funky freewheeling Frome, and the fact any town name with the word “war” in hardly connotes an approachable kind of place..but, is it?

    But what’s in a name, military links aside? I set about a little research project to suggest Warminster is not a cultural void, and any accusation it is, is obscured by ignorance, surely? They probably say the same about us; all’s fair in love and war, minster….see what I did there? A little Sunday pun to break the ice! Okay, I’ll get my coat.

    Already aware both the Rose & Crown and Prestbury Sports Bar host a regular live music programme, supporting local live music, I also came across a group aptly titled Inspire Warminster. Coincidently, they’ve a free community festival happening Sunday 3rd July from 1-7pm in the town park. I suggest if you suffer from Warminster-phobia you check it out, overcome your negative presumptions!

    The brainchild of Pete Bartley and Doug Halls, Inspire Warminster started out in 2013, when their Town Council approached them with their idea to put on an annual live music event in the park to showcase local talent, and more specifically to encourage young people to take up a musical instrument. Doug and Pete wanted to put on a daytime family event where parents could bring their children and enjoy a family day out listening to the music, which is precisely what they did!

    Okay, so there’s a guy clearly scratching his butt in their featured Facebook photo, what of it?!

    I spoke to Tom of the group, whose job it is to organise the bands. “We’ve nine very diverse bands booked for this year,” he tells me, “All of whom local to Warminster, so it really will be a wonderful showcase of the talents in the town.” This is exactly what I was after, evidence!

    Coyote Country starts the music at 1pm, followed by Wade Merritt, Junkyard Dogs, Grumpy Dog, and Brakelight. Then the Warminster Community Choir are on at 4:20, followed by Dr Alibi, The Frontman and our good friends, People Like Us headline at 6. “With the amount of talent on during the course of this event,” Last playing Inspire in 2017, People Like Us announced, “we are stunned, thrilled and humbled to be headlining this brilliant community event.”

    Old stock photo of PLUS, knocks a couple of years off, guys!

    “PLUS were instrumental in reuniting our community,” Inspire explains, “as we emerged from lockdown, reigniting our spirits and reminding us that good times could exist again. All that remains is to let them do their thing, so come, dance and sing!”