I still remember landlord Deborah’s face aglow some years back, when she told me Devizes blues legend Jon Amor was booked to play The Southgate. He’s made several appearances since, as solo and as frontman of King Street Turnaround, but today the Southgate announced Jon will take up a Sunday residence at the lively Devizes pub…..
It will be a quieter New Year’s Eve for the Southgate, there is no music booked and from Monday 3rd to Monday 10th January the pub will be closed. “We’re keeping it simple on NYE, no live music, believe it or not!” Deborah said. “But we’re saving the best of the best until Sunday with a mega Blues/Funk/Rock gig to blow away the extended hangovers!”
With an awesome line-up on Sunday 2nd, as Jon is joined with Innes Sibun, Pete Gage, Jerry Soffe, and Tom Gilkes, I knew about this little marvel, and it has been up on our calendar for a while now. What I didn’t know is this will build a new house band for the Gate, “yes,” Deborah delights to inform, “Jon Amor and friends are taking up residency! Sunday afternoon gigs, first Sunday every month for 2022.”
So expect to see King Street Turnaround with Jon and friends on the first Sunday of each month down the Gate, which is some great news!
The future is bright, the future is The Southgate! Reopening on Tuesday 11th Jan, with the absolutely awesome rock covers band Triple JD Band on Saturday 15th! Rock on!
Meanwhile our event calendar is building up with choices for New Year’s Eve, do check it out for links, and have a great New Year; hopefully might catch you down the Southgate on Sunday, if I’m allowed out to play by the boss!
Billy Green (solo) @ The Hourglass, Devizes
Devizes Scooter Club NYE Party @ Devizes Cons Club
New Year’s Eve @ The Vaults
New Year’s Eve @ Massimos, Devizes
Rip it Up @ The Greyhound, Bromham
Sour Apple @ The Brewery Inn, Seend Cleeve
Six O’clock Circus @ The Talbot, Calne
The Roughcut Rebels NYE bash @ The Churchill Arms, West Lavington
New Year’s Eve Party @ The Green Dragon, Market Lavington
Illingworth @ the Waterfront Bar, Pewsey
Get Schwithty (Jamie R Hawkins & Phil Cooper) @ The Bear, Marlborough
80s, 90s, 00s NYE Party @ Wellington Arms, Marlborough
Deathproof Audio NYE Party @ the Vic, Swindon
Dubsouls & The Rumble-O’s @ The Bell, Walcott Street, Bath
Not as greater deal of options for entertainment as recent weekends gone, I still had a double-booked dilemma. As much as nipping to the Sham for Train to Skaville appealed, I can rest assured this gig would go off based on past experience. Similarly, though, whenever those crazy canal-type Boot Hill All Stars are chalked on the Southgate’s board, their unique and often comical frenzy of gypsy-folk-ska is a hoedown not to be missed, despite seeing them plenty before.
I opted for the latter, partially being anything longer than a fortnight without attending the Southgate and I get withdrawal symptoms, but more so because The Boot Hills were supported by Monkey Bizzle, who I’ve yet to witness live. Aware of this bunch of bananas too, though, after fondly reviewing their debut album Idiot Music, back in July, a fine primer to convince anyone checking them out is a must.
So, it was to be, a rare thing; a single record deck united with conventional instruments awaiting a show at the ever-dependable Southgate Inn, Devizes, and intrigue set in on how some of the, shall we use the term conventional again(?) punters would react to this. Our own reviewer, Andy looked ominously at the addition, even when Monkey Bizzle kicked proceedings off, and I wagered he was pleased to see me, knowing I’d cover anything more my cup of tea than his. To mark its greatness though, it must be said, aside from not busting into crazy legs and finishing off with a back spin, Andy reported how much he unexpectedly enjoyed it.
Though just like the Southgate, we are limited to suggest anything about both bands in this double-header are anywhere near conventional, and with corsets, props and handmade geetars from recycled produce, the Boot Hills did their own thing, in their own tried and tested way, and it’s something to behold.
But not before Monkey Bizzle set the scene alight with their outrageous brand of rib-tickling hip-hop. In many ways, despite a different pigeonhole, the two bands complement each other with west country folk background similarities; even sharing drummer, Cerys. If The Streets injected something of urban capital life into UK hip-hop witty commentary, and Goldie Looking Chain did likewise for Cardiff, Monkey Bizzle do it for the west country. Though we may’ve hinted comparable before with the utterly fantastic Corky, while this one-man band offers pastiches of hip-hop classics via an acoustic method, five-piece Monkey Bizzle subtly fuse rock, reggae and ska into original compositions, scratching and rapping over hip-hop beats.
As self-confessed when waxing lyrical, the result is “idiot music, for stupid people,” and “if you think this is stupid, then you’re a fucking idiot,” yet all presented here is tongue-in-cheek. The mocking irony of the egotistical rapper bigging himself up isn’t something entirely new-fangled, neither are pot smoking, blagging mates or akin subjects covered, but Monkey Bizzle boons the concept with an agreeably local touch, and it works so very well.
Was it enough to delight da Southgate posse, hardly being the rock steady crew and all? I believe it was, and kudos to Deborah and Dave for bringing them, something different, to town.
Yet the show was only half-baked, and despite a few sounds hitches and the missing member due to sickness, professional rebels the Boot Hills came on to do what they do best, bring the house down with this insatiable zest for energetic folk rock, as danceable as ska, as cavernous as blues and as west country fun as the Wurzels in Toy Town.
Yes, it’s rude and crude, comically entertaining, with anarchistic, often blasphemous themes where female masturbation references, puking on a night bus and frenzied Dolly Parton and Toots & the Maytals covers come under banjo turmoil goodness. If it sounds like madness, it totally is, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and it has become something of a personal Christmas treat tradition now; a predictably, but still absolutely fantastic night at the Southgate.
For the Boot Hills, the Xmas party continues next weekend closer to home, at Bradford-on-Avon leading pub venue, The Three Horseshoes. Meanwhile The Southgate hosts Phase Rotate next Saturday, the 18th, followed by Sunday’s unmissable Christmas party with It’s Complicated. Anything succeeding this will be stuffing Quality Street and cold turkey sandwiches.
Spoiled Rotten in Devizes this November you are. In what is usually a quiet month leading up to yule, the easing of lockdown has detonated the month, opening it up as anyone’s game. It’s just so good to see a chockful event calendar for the whole county, and so many event organisers making a Rocky Balboa style comeback.
Aside our dependable Southgate, who’ve led the way for events in Devizes, and continue to provide top notch live music every weekend, free I might add, it’s exciting to see the Cavalier, The Muck & Dundar, and even the Condado Lounge in the running.
There are some big guns coming out too, as we welcome back the Wharf Theatre, who hosted The Paul Simon Story last weekend, and the return of the Invitation Theatre Company from Tuesday (9th) to Saturday (13th) this coming week. The Long Street Blues Club are back in force with three gigs this month, the Gerry Jablonski Band Saturday 13th, Force on the 20th, which is such a whopper it’s coming out of The Corn Exchange rather than usual Cons Club, and the Antonio Forcione Quartet on the 27th.
If it’s sounding good so far, we’ve not even touched on Devizes Eisteddfod from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th, The Lawrence Art Society’s exhibition at the Town Hall from 25th to the 27th, and of course DOCA bring the Winter Festival and lantern parade on the 26th.
With all that I’ve mentioned it would be understandable to have overlooked the icing on the cake; Devizes Arts Festival surprisingly pops up to host some awesome events this month, when it’s usually confined to more summery months. Despite we’ve outlined the individual gigs lined up at the Arts Festival, back when it was announced in August, such has lockdown caused much jiggery-pokery with the dates of such things, and not forgoing I’d suspect the Arts Festival got itchy fingers and simply couldn’t wait until summertime to present us with some amazing performances, these things need reminders, so here I am!
Though the opening gig, Thursday’s Ronnie Scott’s All Stars Jazz Club Tour has sold out, tickets for the others are on the table awaiting your attention, plus, of course there’s free fringe events across town too. Let’s have another look at what’s on offer here, to wet your appetite shall we?
Under the banner, “the show must go on,” the Arts Festival are delighted to welcome Sally Barker to Devizes, on the 13th. In this new show ‘Sandy, Joni & Me’ she will bring some of the songs of both Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny to the stage, exploring the singer/songwriter legacy that was forged in the early ’70s.
Veteran folk-blues singer/songwriter Sally Barker became Tom Jones’ finalist on The Voice UK 2014 after reducing her mentor, and many watching the TV, to tears with her performances. Sally has toured with Sir Tom, Bob Dylan and Robert Plant amongst others. Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans said, “Sally changes the atmosphere in a room when she sings.”
And Friday 19th is Motown Gold time at the Corn Exchange. Dust off your dancing shoes for a fabulous evening from a fantastic band. Motown Gold celebrate the finest songs from the timeless Motown and Classic Soul era, which kind of speaks for itself.
As for free Fringe events, The Muck & Dundar have loop pedal guru Arif Najak bringing laid-back reggae sounds on Friday 12th. Sunday 14th is at New Society, where you’ll find Bristol’s dynamic jazz vocalist Lucy Moon, performing energetic swing and classic swing-era tunes to liven up your Sunday lunchtime. Booking is essential for this one, contact New Society to reserve your table.
There’s a couple more fringe events before the Arts Festival’s grand Motown finale; South Wales’s Big Sky are at The Crown on Wednesday 17th, with roots rock infused with touches of blues, country and psychedelia, they are known for being one of the few bands containing brothers who have not yet had an on-stage altercation! And Thursday 18th sees Mark Harrison at the Three Crowns. An original and interesting songwriter, a stunning guitarist, and a master storyteller.
It is, in all my years of running Devizine, the biggest November I’ve ever seen! But the Devizes Arts Festival doesn’t stop there, this is just filling a gap. I asked artistic director Margaret Bryant if there will be something in the pipeline for a summer arts festival too, and she replied “yes, we’re already planning 2022!”
It was February 2020, pre-pandemic, pre-Lockdown, that the New York-based Jack Grace Band last performed at The Southgate. I remember that show as being a cracking night out, so I wasn’t going to miss a second bite at this rather luscious cherry. Jack is on a short UK tour, before heading back to the US for a few more gigs.
With an eye on the weather forecast, Dave & Debs had moved the gig indoors – a smaller space to see the band, but a much better intimate atmosphere. Getting back to old times almost.
Appearing previously as a trio, this time the “band” consisted of only one other musician, drummer Ian Griffith. Yet this didn’t appear to slow Jack down one little bit. We got two great sets, packed with songs, stories and great audience banter. The songs were punchy, often short and to the point, with witty whip-smart lyrics and some spot-on guitar picking. Each one was introduced with the story behind it, often featuring booze, love, women and the life as a musician. The music was full of hooks, foot-tapping riffs and catchy lyrics. We even had audience participation, with Jack managing to poke fun at what he referred to as Britain’s “warm” beer. But we’ll let him off that little insult.
Jack is not just a song-writer and a musician, he’s also a born raconteur and a great all-round entertainer. Using harmonica, guitar and vocals he was able to quickly conjure up vivid pictures of past scenarios, memories, jokes and his occasional brushes with fame. Only one number in and the audience were completely onside. This was what live music is all about – a man who wants to play and get close to his audience, and a crowd who were absolutely out to enjoy themselves whilst having a few beers. Great gig.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
Friday 29th October – Grizzly Rhys Morgan 9pm
Saturday 30th October – Celtic Roots Collective
Fri/ Sat/ Sun 29th – 31st October – Beer & Cider Festival
Well, what can I say? They might lose a couple of brownie points for the singer continuously referring to me as “Barry,” but Somerset-Hampshire psych-folk rock four-piece, Strange Folk, who graced Devizes’ Southgate’s little magic box last night can afford to!
Aside an acoustic set in Crewkerne, it was their first electric gig post-lockdown, and the first time they’d played at Devizes answer to the O2, though some may cast their minds back to a brighter sunny day when they showed us what they’re made of at Pete & Jackie of Vinyl Realm’s alternative stage at DOCA’s street festival. It was on the grounds of this outstanding performance which summon me to the Gate, not forgoing the awe-inspiring tune they sent us for the Julia’s House compilation. Which, in turn would’ve substituted any lost gold stars for the Barry banter!
A small price to pay to ensure they played Glitter the very song they kindly contributed, a request which took them by surprise, being recorded during lockdown, they were unprepared, and hadn’t yet played it live. Still, as was the entire gig, they made a grand job of it, and I’m about explain why.
It’s David Setterfield’s sublime electric and acoustic guitarwork coupled with the awe-inspiring power of Annalise’s voice, which bounds their sound beyond the confounds of the usual gothic-folk rock genre. So soulfully captivating is this voice, and is the gifted guitar, at times there’s a natural nod to electric blues, particularly of the late psychedelic sixties sort. In fact, I was praising them to someone, Bran Kerdhynen, I believe, one half of the Celtic Roots Collective, by suggesting they remind me of “White Rabbit,” which they indeed later covered, along with the other Jefferson Airplane anthem “Somebody to Love.”
If I could think of no other cover so apt for their particular and inimitable sound, covers of T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy, Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac, and the Stones at their most enchanting with Gimmie Shelter, also fit the bill perfectly. Tainted Love being perhaps the outside chance, but very much based on Soft Cell’s version, I’ll give them that too, for the goth perspective.
Similarly, though, as I said about Frey’s Beer’s Beast album a few days ago, the professional finish and hauntingly alluring female voice, rather than the gritty vocals common with said genre, despite not being the black hair dyed and leather friendship bands type, I devoured, because Strange Folk sweep the arena of All About Eve, into System of a Down and Blind Melon, to blend Fairport Convention with Jethro Tull and Hendrix. And I was born out of time, loving to have hitchhiked to San Francisco with a flower in my hair.
Yet at times covers at the Gate last night felt pushed, as to appease a perceived audience, compared to their own original compositions; they were the icing on the cake and truly ushered you away on a petite mind-trip. The coupling of David and Annalise would be bare without the proficient bassist, Ian and drummer, Steve tucked in the back of the skittle ally, and they rocked through their own songs more so. For future reference, unlike many a pub gig, originals are encouraged here.
Talking of here, it was lovely to be back at the Southgate after gallivanting somewhat to bring news of other venues in our rural precinct, for while they do exist, for me, just like Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, except, it seems for the lead singer on this occasion! I mean, Barry, for crying out loud; do I really look like a Barry to you?! Rhetorical, you don’t have to answer that.
The canopies over the beer garden have become locally legendary, a testament in our town, to upholding live music throughout this era, and Deborah and Dave have created this haven, where you’ll see no drunken squabbles and feel no bad vibes.
Nice to hear their communal acoustic jams have respawned on Wednesday evenings, and next Saturday is the time for The Blind Lemon Experience, Billy and the Low Ground following on the 23rd October.
Meanwhile Strange Folk have three singles, an EP from 2014 called Hollow Part 1, and a debut promo EP from 2004, which are very worthy of your attention. Around our way again at B-O-A’s Three Horseshoes for Halloween, their sound is a gorgeous gothic-folk crossover professional enough to captivate even those with a passing interest in the genre.
Managed to make it somewhere between out and Micky Flanagan’s out-out last night. In other words, I didn’t change out of my manky khaki shorts I’d been gardening in, but still got a pint or so down “the Gate.” I’ve been aching to witness the duo, TwoManTing for myself, Captain Obvious; yes, TwoManTing is a duo, you can’t make it up.
Appearing at the Devizes trusty Southgate a few times previously, it’s been something I’ve been meaning to catch-up with, being their appellation sounds all rather reggae, my favourite cup of tea. My residual curiosity though, how can a duo make reggae, something you surely need a gang for; a bassist, a drummer, brass section et all?
Answer revealed, the “ting” part might be misconceiving to our preconceived notion the phonologic is Jamaican patois. The Bristol-based duo consists of English guitarist Jon Lewis, who has a clear penchant for Two-Tone and punk inclinations of yore, and Jah-man Aggrey, a Sierra Leonean percussionist. They met playing together as part of dance band, Le Cod Afrique, at venues such as Montreux Jazz Festival and WOMAD, formed the duo in 2004, and make for an interesting and highly entertaining two-man show.
Something of a surprise then, and a rarity around these backwaters, to hear maringa, demonstrative folk of Sierra Leone, perhaps catered more to our tastes via Jon, but essentially the same ballpark, acoustic guitar and percussion. Somewhere between calypso but with the Latino twinge of rhumba, best pigeonholed, their sound is motivating and beguiling, and achieved with originality. In fact, to my surprise most of their compositions were their own creations, save the sublimely executed known cover of The Clash’s Guns of Brixton, Jon’s clear punk inspiration showing forth.
They told there’s a Clash cover on each album, of which they’ve produced three. Story checks out; Armagideon Time on their first album Legacy, which I could quibble is actually a Coxsone’s Studio One cover by the Clash, aforementioned Guns of Brixton on 2015’s Say What? and something of a rarity from Combat Rock, the poet Allen Ginsberg’s duet with Strummer, Ghetto Defendant, which can be found on their most up-to-date album, 2019’s Rhymes With Orange.
But this punk influence is sure subtle, the mainstay of their enticing sound is the acoustic maringa, palm wine music traditional throughout West Africa, at least for the start of the show. The most poignant moment for me was Jah-man attributing his homeland’s natural glory, rather than that which people tend to ask him about, the civil conflicts and war, in a chorus which went, “why not ask me about….”
As the performance progressed the fashion modernised, live loops upped the tempo, and it became highly danceable afro-pop, in the style of soukous, more spouge than cariso in delivery; how apt for the current heatwave! At times lost in the music, it was easy to throw-off the notion the wonderful sound was reverberating from just two guys, rather than an eight-piece band, reason enough for BBC 6Music’s Lauren Laverne to say of TwoManTing, “brilliant – if you want a bit of early summer, then get this into your ear-holes!”
Today they can be caught at Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, but appreciation again to The Southgate for supplying Devizes with something diverse and entertaining. Next Saturday at “the Gate,” Rockport Blues appear, for a night of blues, rock and soul classics, starting at 7:30pm.
Could it be, I wonder this Sunday morning after a grand evening at our dependable Southgate, that being couped up and unable to play to a live audience for what feels like a decade, has planted fire in the bellies of musicians and a drive to return to the spotlight in an explosively intense and mind-blowing manner?
It certainly felt this way with the Boot Hill All Stars giving it their all, last weekend at Honey Street’s Barge, and again, last night where a “Plus Friends,” gig took place at the Gate, in the blaze of glory local folk have come to expect from the homegrown talented musicians involved.
As far from a band name as a desperate attempt to rehash a once-trendy US sitcom, Plus Friends is the banner for a looser formulation, I’m assuming, to temporarily disassociate the trio of Phil Cooper, Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin from their Lost Trades Americana branding and allow themselves the freedom to adlib and play in unison their separate songs as solo artists, generally rock out, and perhaps throw in a cover at will, as they did with a finale of Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere. Though covers were scarce, the crowd know these guys only too well, and their original penned songs.
Plus, and, most importantly where the “plus” part falls neatly into place, to add a fourth member in par rather than “support,” that being the modest acoustic local legend, Vince Bell. Not forgoing this allowance also saw Jamie’s eldest son occasionally join them on percussion, adding to the overall “family” nature of the homecoming gig.
And that’s precisely how it felt for punters and performers alike, a true community recovering from isolation the best way they know how. “This is how it should be,” delighted photographer Nick Padmore told me at the end. Because while the Southgate’s dedication to bringing variety, and artists who might well be unbeknown to Devizes is most welcomed, nothing raises the roof quite like Vince belting out his satirical prose about his hometown and the crowds joyously joining in with the “and you ain’t ever leaving!” chorus.
It hallmarks everything great about this splendid occasion, and a true Devizes-fashioned return of live music with homegrown talent abound.
But it’s not just the brilliance of Vince, Tammy, Jamie and birthday-boy Phil, to perform with bells on, which made the evening, rather the friendly assembly of local live music aficionados too, with their meeting of the “same ol’ faces” not fully grouped since lockdown begun. And, in turn, the Southgate to accommodate them so welcomingly within current regulations.
There’s a streamlined table service, its dedicated staff have the efficiency of McDonald’s, and the genuine friendliness of Disneyland. Though such comparisons should end there, for The Southgate is far from the mechanism of commercialism, rather a rustic haven for those seeking a “real” West Country pub experience, and within it, creating a free music venue that performers are queuing to play.
It’s without doubt the sum of all these parts made it so many chose our Southgate over Gareth’s squad on the tele-box, a brief “footballs coming home” chant raised by Jamie being the only reference to the Euros necessary. No, we’re happy here, thank you. Content to hear the welcoming homely vocals of Tamsin Quin, the passionately executed sentimental writings of Jamie as he rings out solo classics such as his tribute to his dad, the rockier side to Phil Cooper as he selects a tune from his solo lockdown album, These Revelation Games and the beautifully arranged understated lyrics of Vince as they so eloquently weave a tapestry of narrative. And as my opening presumption noted, they delivered it with such Jack-in-the-box passion, what once would have been a pretty standard gig down the Gate was more akin to a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Oh yes, more of that, please!
And our wish is granted, as The Southgate’s gig calendar is building as if 2020 never happened; next Saturday, 10th July sees Swindon’s premier ska covers band The Skandals, with ex-Skanxter Carl Humphries returning as frontman. Sunday is the turn of Essex’s finest Americana roots band, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective.
One weekend after is all you need to wait until reggae duo Jon Lewis & Jah-man Aggrey, TwoManTing, on Saturday 17th, Rockport Blues on 24th, and Blind River Scare’s Tim Manning rocks up on the final Saturday of July. The dates are booked into August too, with Kevin Brown on the 7th and the brilliant Strange Folk on the 9th October, but you can bet your bottom dollar dates in-between these will crop up very soon, check the event guide as I attempt to keep ahead and update it without getting too frustrated with cancelations, or the Southgate’s Facebook page, where the spirit of live music lives on, as proved last night.
So, who told the April showers that the lockdown applied to it? Come on, I want names! Last month of lockdown was dry and clement, as soon as things starts opening up again, it phased between drizzle and downpour; you can’t make it up.
Yes, I wrote this too soon; bang on cue, here comes the sun for June.
I reviewed Cornish psych-punkers The Brainiac 5’s album Another Time Another Dimension, Trowbridge’s Sitting Tenants album A Kitchen Sink Drama. Also, Sam Bishop’s great EP Lost Promises, a single from Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory’s called Can’t Come Home, and a new track from the Longcoats, Nothing Good. We also did a great interview with Dave Lewis, one half of Blondie & Ska. Reviews in the next few days will be an EP of Celtic punk from Liddington Hill, some awesome punkish blues from Elli De Mon, and the new album from The Lost Trades, due on 2nd June.
I started a new Sunday series, being the last one was so popular. No satire this time, just a reflection back thirty years to the era of the rave, from a personal angle; I’m having lots of fun with this, if it does make me feel old! This continues into June. So, without further to do, here’s what’s occurring in June.
Firstly, staying at home we can entertain you too. I’m gradually working through writing promotional material and sleeve notes for our compilation album, 4 Julia’s House, which, as it sounds, all proceeds will go to Julia’s House. This has proved more work than I anticipated for me, due to the most amazing line up of talent who has kindly donated a song. The penultimate entry was an exclusive rock steady track by Blondie & Ska, and the latest entry is by none other than Richard Davis & the Dissidents. See what I mean now, don’t you? Absolutely fantastic, massively hugely massive this is going to be, over three hours of genre-crossing music; something for everyone on there. Okay, I’ll copy and paste the artists featured; hold onto your jawbone.
A mahoosive thanks goes to: Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall, King Dukes, Erin Bardwell, Timid Deer, Duck n Cuvver, Strange Folk, Strange Tales, Paul Lappin, Billy Green 3, Jon Veale, Wilding, Richard Davis & The Dissidents, Barrelhouse, Tom Harris, Will Lawton & the Alchemists, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective, Kirsty Clinch, Richard Wileman, Nigel G. Lowndes, Kier Cronin, Sam Bishop, Mr Love & Justice, Barmy Park, The Truzzy Boys, Daydream Runaways, Talk in Code, Longcoats, Atari Pilot, Andy J Williams, The Dirty Smooth, SexJazz, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, The Boot Hill All Stars, Mr Tea & The Minions, Cosmic Shuffling, Blondie & Ska, The Birth of Bonoyster, The Oyster, The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show, Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves, Meru Michae, Cutsmith, The Tremor Tones, Big Ship Alliance, First Born Losers, Dutch Money(s), and last but by no means least, Neonian, who is working on a track as we speak.
Phew, so, yes, who is as out-out as Mickey Flanagan in June? I know right, how surreal. I went to a pub, an actual pub, and heard live music last Saturday; down the trusty gate for those Daybreakers. Bloody fantastic it was too. Here’s some things to be looking forward to over this month. Note, this is in no way exhaustive, (which is what I’m going to be trying to keep up to date with it all!) You must continue to check our event guide, for details of all events listed here, updates of events, and even live streamed.
Half term sees us into June, ongoing from Tuesday 1st there’s holiday activities at Wiltshire Museum, which we welcome their reopening, and program of forthcoming events.
Also, back in business is the Nether-Street’s Farm Cookery School, who has a parent and child class called Cake Lady on Thursday 3rd.
The weekend sees The Devizes Lions Sports Coaching Weekend at Devizes Leisure Centre, IndieDay happening across Devizes town centre, meanwhile Devizes Southgate welcomes Texas Tick Fever.
There’s a Court Room Cabaret at Trowbridge Town Hall, Talk In Code play Swindon’s Level 3, with Atari Pilot, and Rude Mood are at The Vic.
Eddie Martin is live at The Bell in Bath, and we wish the Bath Reggae Festival a successful first event, let’s hope it’ll become an annual thing.
While we’re on about festivals, the following weekend, from Friday 11th is Kite Festival at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire. Closer to home, Trevor Babajack Steger is at The Southgate, Devizes on Saturday, and don’t forget Lions on the Green in Devizes, Sunday 13th; let’s support their brand-new fund-raising event. Joh Griven also has a guided tour of the Heritage Walk of Devizes.
This sounds fun too, Mustard Brass Band live at The Bell in Walcott Street, Bath
Monday 14th there’s an important meeting online, a progress report on Wiltshire Museum’s hopeful move to the Assize Court.
Summer Solstice weekend, (solstice being 4:30 on Monday 21st) kicks off the Bigfoot Festival at Ragely Hall, Warwickshire. Closer to home, as it goes to press, the Kington Langley Scarecrow Festival is still happening. The HoneyStreet Barge presents Troyka, on Saturday 19th, Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround at The Southgate, Devizes and Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue with the Pete Gage Band at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
There are also two great charity fundraising events, Caroline Lowe as Amy Winehouse at Swindon’s Swiss Chalet, in aid of The Specialized Project, which acts as a fundraising portal for many charitable causes and projects. And at The Rose & Crown in Worton, Chloe Jordan, Mistral and the Celtic Roots Collective have a fundraiser for MacMillan Cancer Support.
To the last weekend of what will, finger’s crossed, be an amazing return to normality, on Saturday 26th, The Southgate, Devizes welcomes Blind Justice, and the brilliant Blondie & Ska play The Greyhound, Trowbridge. But I’m hopefully saddling up and heading east, for geetars and corset swinging fun at the Barge on HoneyStreet, where those Boot Hill All Stars plan to moor up, with Dry White Bones; that one will go off!
As far as I know, the legendary Black Uhuru at Frome’s Cheese & Grain, and Sunday 27th Blondie & Ska will be at the Royal Oak, Corsham. But as I say, loads more will be listed by the time we know what’s what, and hopefully a summer to remember is on the cards; just have to take responsibility for adhering to regulations and observing social distancing. Have a great June.
I’d always imagined a virtual reality internet, but honestly, with Facebook, sorry Meta, (which incidentally sounds like the name of a hard rock magazine,) announcing … Continue reading “Facebookland, Really?”
Shock, horror OMG and other unsuitable internet abbreviations, yes it happened. Like mutated survivors emerging from their underground lair in some post-apocalyptic movie, to snuffle fresh air once again, tonight could’ve been any other night two years ago, but with renewed captivation I sat in a beer garden, an actual beer garden, with a real pint of scrumpy, while the incredible Daybreakers played music. Yes, real, live music, which received not one applause emoji, but real applause, the like of human hands clapping and everything; how surreal.
I don’t ask for much these days, but let me tell you, it was both a relief and joy to feel somewhere back to normal, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate band to be there for the occasion.
Of course, It’s our trusty Southgate, the Devizes O2 arena. A rustic watering hole of sociability, hospitality and scraggy dogs. Fingers and toes crossed future Saturday nights will look like this, as blues-rock Leon Daye Band arrive next week, followed by Trevor Babajack Steger on 12th June and Jon Amor’s King St Turnaround on 19th.
Life isn’t fully repaired, expect table service, adhere to etiquette, remain seated wherever possible, and wear masks while moving around, but it is an awesome beginning. I’ve returned home, loaded up Word to pen a citation, but while it was booting, I worried; it’s been so long since I’ve knocked up live music review, is it like riding a bike?
Ah, bollocks. I was never much cop at either, anyway.
Unlike me, the professionalism of Gouldy, Cath and those Daybreakers, who lost no grip on their skills, played a blinder, seemingly thoroughly loving every minute of it. I arrived to hear the Jam’s Start, which was good start, ba-boom, and they continued through their plethora of wonderful era-spanning covers, from the Cure to The Levellers and OMD to the Specials, and so on; even adding their original song, I think they called The Wait. The masses of optimism in the cool air came to an apex when those Daybreakers burst into Dexy’s Come on Eileen just as it once, always did. And the wildcard, thrown in at the last moment, was a beautiful rendition of Ah-Ha’s Take on Me, believe it or not, yet as they have a tendency to do, they smashed it out of the park.
Hats off to them, and of course, Dave, Deborah and staff at the Gate. With their newfound roles of waiters and waitresses, I’m guessing not in the original job description, they catered to everyone promptly, with their charm and wit, and I’d imagine a smile under their facemasks. Here’s to many more perfect gigs at the Southgate.
Remember around this time of year, how the UK’s terrestrial television stations would wind down quality of their schedules in order to accrual a superior agenda for Christmas? Well, the near-only dependable live music venue in Devizes we have left is showing no sign of copying the idea. Abiding by restrictions and regulations, Dave and Deborah at The Southgate Inn on Potterne Road continue to bring us the very best of local music, and show no sign of letting up for November.
Maintaining Wednesday’s consistent Acoustic Jam evenings, and on top of regular Friday’s Ukelele Group, there’s something for all tastes during the lead up to the big C. Let’s run through them, but remember most gigs are early, from 4-6 or 7pm, and to adhere to the social distancing rules, and respect others at all times. Booking a table is recommended, particularly for the more popular gigs, and boy, there’s plenty of them upcoming. Call them on 01380 722872 or send them a Facebook message to let them know you’re coming!
This Saturday, 31st, we see the return of Swindon’s Navajo Dogs. They’ve not played since lockdown, and say they can’t wait to blow the cobwebs off, with their own-brand of punky, blues-rock, and as they say, “some face melting guitar solos!”
On Sunday, the local family band Skedaddle are in the house, with their popular singalong covers.
Next Sunday, the 8th November, is bound to be awesome as what The Southgate brand their house band pay a visit for some unforgettable funky blues. Local legend Jon Amor, Jerry Soffe, Tom Gilkes and Evan Newman make up King Street Turnaround
Saturday 14th and it’s time for Mirko and Bran, aka, The Celtic Roots Collective. The wonderful duo you should all know by now for their blend of Irish and Celtic folk and rock.
The Sunday, 15th, sees Bristol-based regular original folk, soul and bluesman, Lewis Clark, who appears solo rather than with his full band, The Essentials, focusing on new original material written during lockdown.
Saturday 21st has the combination of Manton’s own Ed Witcomb, of the aforementioned Skedaddle, & Marlborough’s talented Nick Beere, promising magical mellow blues, catchy guitar riffs, and a combination of chilled acoustic covers and original material.
More blues on the Sunday 22nd, and why not? Bare blues with rural roots, delivered via slide guitar, harp and stomp-box with energy and passion. The Gate welcome back Trevor Babajack Steger.
Saturday 28th I’ve defo bookmarked, when Swindon’s two-tone ska darlings, The Skandals skank the Gate. Since the split with frontman Mark Colton, the lively band welcome back their original lead, ex-Skanxter Carl Humphries. Playing as selection of two-tone ska covers, is always welcome.
The Southgate are keen to point out at this stage, gigs do depend on changing covid regulations and should things alter, larger and louder bands might have to sadly be cancelled. Fingers crossed, as Bite the Hand are due to arrive on the last Sunday of November, the 29th. Like many, it’ll be these crazy metal-heads’ first gig since lockdown. Bite The Hand perform fast and furious punk and metal, self-penned reasoning is “to try and offer audiences something less vanilla. It’s the kick in the teeth you’ve always wanted, the dirty habit you just gotta have.”
Personally, as well as wishing Dave a happy belated birthday for yesterday, I just wanted to thank them and their team for continuing to work through this period safely and provide Devizes with such a great line-up of free entertainment from their hospitable and welcoming, best pub in Wiltshire!
Midlands Jon Lewis and Sierra Leonian Jah-Man Aggrey, are a branch of world dance collective Le Cod Afrique, who play a cheerful combination of multicultural roots-pop. A welcome addition to the Southgate’s continuing mission to provide a diverse range of live music to Devizes; and a grand job they’re making of it!
With Aggrey’s bright, chatty vocals and bongos, and Lewis’s acoustic guitar picking, this promises to be something great and wholly different around these waters. They’ve done the festival scene from Womad and Glasto to the Montreux Jazz Festival & Glastonbury, and their acclaimed album “Legacy” has been much featured on BBC Radio 3 & BBC 6 Music.
He’s a fast learner, that Keanu Reeves; think how he progressed to “the chosen one” in little over an hour and half, while his superiors barely advanced at all; comes with the chosen one job, I suppose. Think cat scene, for example, where this novice presumed déjà vu, but twas a glitch in the Matrix.
Had a touch of déjà vu myself on Sunday, chatting with Essex’s Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective; alas I’m not the chosen one, until it’s time to do the washing up. Barefacedly had to check my own website, suspecting they’d been mentioned before. And I was right, Andy wrote a part-review back in July; I was briefly there too. Blame it on a glitch, rather than memory loss; this is 2020, glitches in the Matrix are abundant.
Regulars at the Southgate in Devizes, Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective are as the name suggests, but don’t do run of the mill. Cowboy hats and chequered shirts held a clue, but arrive excepting unadulterated county & western and you’ll get nipped. While there’re clear Americana influences, here’s an exclusive sound unafraid to experiment.
Jamie’s abrasive vocals are gritty and resolute, perfect for this overall country-blues sound, but it progressively rocks like Springsteen or Petty, rather than attempts to banjo twang back to bluegrass. It also boundlessly exploits other folk and roots influences, with a plethora of instruments and expertise to merge them into this melting pot. And in this essence, they are an agreeable rock band, appealing to commonalities; but do it remarkably, with upbeat riffs, tested but original material, and passion.
Not forgoing, I still need to be careful, and it was but a whistle-stop to the Gate, to wet my whistle. As current live music restrictions being the way they are, it’s unfair to use a gig review as a base for an act’s entirety. For starters, they’re missing bassist Jake Milligan, and drums deemed too loud to bring, James “the hog” Bacon made do with a cajon and bongos. The remaining two, Jamie and Dave Milligan, cramped in the doorway of the skittle ally with acoustic and electric guitar, respectively. Which, in a way, proves this band’s aforementioned adaptability and desire to experiment. The proof is the pudding though, and battling through the restrictions of the era, they came up with a chef-d’oeuvre.
Professionally, they scorched out a great sound nonetheless, mostly original, but a rather fitting Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, with Jamie’s grinding vocals apt for a later Dylan classic. But this downtempo cover was the exception to the rule, their originals upbeat and driving.
To pitch a fair review, though, is to take a listen to their latest album, Do What You Love. The cover of which is unlike your cliché Americana tribute too; highly graphical splashes of colour akin more to pop, or a branding of fizzy drink. The songs match, a popular formula of cleverly crafted nuggets intertwining these wide-spanning influences. One track they did live from their album was accompanied with an explanation the recorded version used a brass section and even a DJ scratching, yet they made do with Jake joining James for a hit on the bongos.
They certainly enjoy what they do, and appear relaxed in the spotlight. This doesn’t make them tongue-in-cheek, like, say Californian Watsky & Mody, who blend hip hop into bluegrass for jokes. Rather Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective has evenly balanced said collective’s influences and conjured this celebrated, danceable and fun sound, flexible for a standard function, like a wedding party but would also liven up the day at a mini-festival.
As an album though it encompasses all I’ve said above, there’s cool tunes like Lazy Day, the orchestrated reprise If I met my Hero, and rather gorgeously executed ballad, Held in Your Glow, but also frenetic tunes, driving down the A12 with the windows open music, Red Hot and Raunchy being a grand, light-hearted example but I’m A Stone as my favourite, with its clever pastiches of Dylan and The Rolling Stones, it rocks.
You need not visit the Oracle, waiting with spoon-bending broods, Keanu Reeves, for her to tell you Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective are not some “chosen” livid teenagers trailblazing a new sound and striving for the spotlight, but a collective of passionate and talented musicians loving every minute of performing, and this comes across as highly entertaining.
From Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads to bipolar bank robber George “Babyface” Nelson, there’s so many Americana mythologies and folklore veracities apropos in the Cohen Brother’s “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” I could draft a lengthy essay. One I’m reminded of last Sunday down our trusty Southgate, was the scene depicting the Carter Family singing “Keep on the Sunny Side” at a governor’s election rally. Reason; there’s something simplistically bluegrass about The Lost Trades, matchless vocal harmonies, ensuring the circle is unbroken, even in a distant Wiltshire.
It was only a whistle-stop to wet my whistle, and when I did arrive the trio I’d came for where on their break. Tamsin was selling handcrafted spoons and lesser original band merchandise such as t-shirts and CDs, Phil was lapping the pub chatting enthusiastically and Jamie was having a pint with his family. None of this really matters, as individuals, we’ve rightfully nothing but praised these marvellous local musicians. When they formed a more official grouping and the Lost Trades were born, we broke the news. Neither did it matter, at the time, that I would be unable to attend their debut gig at the Village Pump. I had my new writer Helen offer to take my place, and what is more, I knew I’d be catching up with The Lost Trades in due course; couldn’t have predicted the impending lockdown the following week.
Yet prior to Sunday I had ponder if there was anything else to write about these individuals we’ve not covered in the past, but I was wrong. The angle can only be the difference between them as individuals or periodically helping one another out at a gig, to the trio The Lost Trades. Because, when they did everything was very much adlib, with the Lost Trades three minds are working closer than ever before, and if two brains are better than one, three is not, in this case, a crowd.
It wasn’t long before they resettled, and huddled in the doorway of the skittle room playing to the crowd in the garden, as is the current arrangement for these brief acoustic sessions at the Gate. They joyfully toiled with a cover of Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere.” This was followed by my favourite track from Tamsin’s album Gypsy Blood, aptly, “Home.” Topped off with a sublime version of Cat Stevens’ “Moon Shadow.” But I did say it was a whistle stop.
In consolation I picked up their self-titled debut EP, something I should have done months ago. With this beauty in hand I could take a little of The Lost Trades home with me; it’ll play perpetually through those thoughtful moments. Recorded in session at The Village Pump, “because we really like the acoustics in there,” explained Tamsin, here is a recording oozing with a quality which, despite predicting, still blew me for six. As I say, it’s the combination of these three fantastic artists in their own right, as opposed the jamming we’ve previously become accustomed to, which really makes the difference.
Five tunes strong, this EP equally celebrates these three talents and harmonises them on a level we’ve not heard before. The acapella beginning of the opening tune, “Hummingbird” glides into stripped back xylophone and acoustic guitar, and is so incredibly saccharine, it trickles like some beatniks performing on a seventies Children’s TV show. Yet, it works. In true Simon & Garfunkel manner, it’s not mawkish, just nice.
Hummingbird serves as a great introduction, but is by no means the template. As is commonplace, from the Beatles to The Wailers, The Trades, I detect, conjoin the writing effort but the lead singer seems to be the one who plucked the idea. “Good Old Days,” then, screams Jamie at me, who leads. It has his stamp, ingenious narrative centred around thoughtful prose. “Wherever You Are,” likewise is a Tamsin classic, wildly romantic and wayfarer.
“Robots,” follows, the quirkiest and perhaps erroneous after an initial listen. Yet through subtle metaphors the satirical slant charms in a manner which nods Phil Cooper, and why should one stick to a formula in subject matter? Because the sound is authentically Americana of yore, Robots superbly deflects the notion it’s lost in a bygone era and cannot use modern concepts, and Robots ruling the world is, however much a metaphor, still fundamentally sci-fi, and that makes for an interesting contrast. With that thought in mind, this could be the track which stands out for originality.
As in this review, we’ve returned to the unbroken circle. In full circle the final song, “Wait for my Boat,” is a sublimely cool track, casting a direction the trio are clearly heading. For although Jamie leads, there’s elements of all three middle tracks combined in this sea shanty sounding song. It’s metaphorical, romantic, with sentimental narrative. It wraps up the EP perfectly, leaving you hanging for the album they’re working on.
Yes, the Lost Trades is a live group you need to see in person, but this EP really is way beyond my already high expectations. It’s combination of talents is honest, bluegrass-inspired acoustic gorgeousness you need in your life.
Bobbing around the St John’s corner of Long Street, trying to act important, and sober, I had a message for Ben Borrill, Pete was looking for him, he was on next; ah, gave me something to do. It was the fantastic Devizes Street Festival, made that much more fantastic by Vinyl Realm organising a second stage, showcasing local talent. You must’ve heard about it, even if you weren’t there, I’ve harked on about it enough!
Mission accomplished, he was loitering the doorway, and equably replied with an “oh, okay.” There’s a casual air around Ben, perhaps the most altruistic and modest musician, and, oh, skateboarder too, on the local circuit. It was this way when I first met him during an acoustic jam at The Southgate. Yet there’s a magnetic sparkle when he performs, which captivates. Other than friendship, it’s probably the plausible reason he supports Daydream Runaways recurrently.
I never held out for something recorded from Ben, content as he seems to roam the local circuit performing live, yet with the current climate surrounding gigs, time and effort is channelled into getting studio time down, for everyone. Sometimes this transmits the talents of a live performer, occasionally not, and I happily report it’s far from the latter.
Groovy, in a word; there’s something pleasantly sixties Merseybeat-come-beatnik about Ben Borrill’s debut single, Take a Little Time; not in a tacky tribute kind of cliché but in a nonchalant, progressive way. Particularly in the intro, the reference of seasonal change, shifting leaves and blossom of a fading spring, balances into romantic ditty, and spanning just over two minutes too; it’s short but sweet.
While it doesn’t go off down a completely psychedelic sixties formula, it’s no Mammas & Papas, the riffs do lean heavily on all that’s golden about that golden era, of Kinks or Hollies, with a fresh tinge of modern acoustic. Here’s a smooth ride into an intelligently grafted, but easy-going song, reflecting Ben’s charismatic and breezy attitude. It is, blinking marvellous, and leaves you yearning for more… jump to it Ben, equably I’d imagine he would reply with an “oh, okay!” Spotify link here.
Has lockdown made us appreciate the simpler things in life we once took for granted? Even if, it’s pathetic to lose your shit over the lessening of restrictions and go on an all-out bonkers spree of drunken foolishness, playing into the media’s hands creating a drama from a crisis. It is understandable isolated folk fear the idea of venturing to pubs when carefully selected images of hordes of pissheads scrapping outside some chavvy chain bar are spread across social media, just as a few weeks ago a trip to the beach would’ve been scorned at.
For me, a relative good, aging boy, who’s been looking forward to the prospect of an unpretentious pint down the Southgate all morning at work, to return home and regrettably check Facebook to notice a local post claiming sixty-plus youths were last night causing havoc in town, and extend the horror to hear similar events occurred in the Sham too, it’s discouraging. Will I be held up as a hooligan, because I desire life to return to a time when going to the pub was normality?
It’s a matter of being selective. If it was up to me, I’d encourage a mass boycott of Bojo’s philistine bum-chum, Tim Martin’s shamelessly uncultured shithouses, but each to their own. They lead by example, a bad one. If you want to pour your hard-earned pounds into the pocket of this billionaire who treated his staff with such utter disrespect, perhaps you’re the kind of insensible sociopath who enjoys a punch-up. Not me, I went to the Southgate for an afternoon pint and report back a decidedly lack of hooliganism from rampaging shirtless knob-jockeys; don’t believe the hype.
Going to this pub was safer than shopping, and the delightful experience it always was, if not more being it’s been a while.
I actually got what I anticipated all along; a warm welcome, orderly queuing for the bar, a bottle or two of hand sanitiser and a slight gathering observing social distancing, able to contain their excitement at being let off their leash. But what is more, some breezy live music; what I’ve been holding out for. Yay! I’m not writing to slag off some corporate monopoly, but wanted to compare and contrast, plus get the rant off my chest. Rather it is, our first live music review for seemingly eons, and who better to grace the step of the Southgate’s garden than Jamie R Hawkins? Okay, I know I’m asking too many questions in this piece, but that was rhetorical.
Perched in the doorway of the skittle alley, slighter of beard and longer of locks, Jamie was every bit the icing on the cake. Predictable, could be said, but welcoming to see the many faces admiring over his ambiance of acoustic goodness. In faith too, of the gradual phase-in for live music, the session wasn’t intended to be long; just a few songs from 4-6pm. Enough though to get a taste, and Jamie looked to be enjoying it as much as the crowd.
There were some new ones, Walking into Doors (?) one I arrived for, one perhaps called “Speechless.” Jamie did one cover, Simon & Garfunkel’s Cecelia, and went through some of his benchmarks, the wonderful Capacity to Change, the remarkably sentimental Not Going Anywhere, and being it was a family affair, the ukulele-driven “Welcome to the Family,” aimed at his restless toddler in her pushchair. Yes, an intimate setting, but with words crafted so beautifully and perceptible as Jamie’s, one cannot see the relevance in your own life.
It was also a notable notion that Jamie was the last person to perform at our splendid Southgate, prior to the lockdown, so fitting he set the ball rolling in reopening. Though, with the unification with Phil Cooper and Tamsin Quin as The Lost Trades, a band formed in just enough time to play a debut, Jamie and the gang are really gathering acclaim further afield. They are promised at the Gate, but again, we have to be patience; this was a teaser under certain restrictions. A band, a late night outside may not be feasible for this humbling pub, yet, but time will tell.
Here then, was a lovely teaser afternoon, and proof above all media hype surrounding this ease of restrictions, that it can be done sensibly and responsibly, and the Southgate is on top of the movement towards normality; when it does, it’ll be something wonderful. Has lockdown made us appreciate the simpler things in life we once took for granted? Not really, it’s always been this good.
Friday had been a not-so-great day, with lots of news about C**, pitched battles in the aisles of Morrisons over the last few toilet-rolls, and the cancellation of many sporting and other events. How to react to this desperate situation? Well it was obvious – go to the pub for a few beers and to listen to some live music.
It was The Southgate’s landlady Debs’ birthday week-end, so some great music (as always) was promised. And it all kicked off on Friday night with locals Lewis Clark & The Essentials. Although the band had played this venue before, I’d managed to miss them last time out, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d been told that they were wonderfully hard to pigeon-hole, but that they were an acoustic based band, blending folk, soul, and blues.
Lewis’ band on this occasion consisted of the man himself on vocals and guitar, accompanied by upright bass and keyboards, and they had just kicked off their first number when I got there. I was with friends and so started the evening by chatting to them, but the chat soon died away as we all relaxed and really began to listen to this very talented performer. This was no mere pub background music. None of us wanted to ignore what was clearly some very fine music.
The first thing that struck me was Lewis’ incredible voice. His range, delivery and vocal style were completely arresting and mesmerising. Coupled with some wonderful jazz-like phrasing, his vocals absolutely carried the night. The effortless musicianship of the band supported Lewis’ songs through a whole range of musical styles and influences – folk, jazz, blues, latin, roots, soul – sometimes within the same song. The result was a spell-binding fusion of melodies, haunting lyrics, and an eclectic and varied performance.
The trio produced two superb sets of original music, and still managed to work in a few covers, to which they lent their own fresh interpretation. Stand-outs among the latter were a mash-up of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” with the Guess Who’s “American Woman”, and later on Free’s “All Right Now”, which all received a damned good seeing-to.
In total, it was tour de force performance – lyrical, multi-influenced, impossible to pigeon-hole, and thoroughly entertaining.
And, yes, after self-medicating with beer, I did wash my wash hands at appropriate times during the evening.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
• Saturday 14th March Lightnin’ Hobos • Saturday 21st March Eddie Witcomb • Sunday 22nd March Vince Bell • Saturday 28th March Mark Smallman Band • Sunday 29th March Gary Hall
Everyone having a nice March so far, been alright, innit? I promised, when I featured the first fortnight of events, here, that I would return to complete the last two weeks. I’ve promised this before and totally spaced on it, for which I apologise; not enough hours in the day. Nothing to do with my goldfish memory. Here though, this month, I’ve actually only gone and done it, before the 31st March too! See below if you don’t believe it’s true, the last fortnight in March, stuff to do while waiting for the supermarkets to restock on bog roll, and all that. I know, it scares me sometimes too.
Bear in mind, mind, our calendar is constantly updating, so do check in as more events and gigs are bound to magically appear like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben.
Sunday 15th is where we were up to, and I got two fantablous gigs, Burbank are the White Bear in Devizes, while Jon Amor is at the Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon; nice.
Monday, I never know if the Devizes Folk Club is on down the Lamb or not, to be frank, but it’s a place for a beer if I’m wrong and it’s not!!
Tuesday 17th The Stonehenge lecture at the Wiltshire Museum is now sold out. Celebrated cartoonist and artist, Norman Thelwell is at The Merchant’s House in Marlborough, for a fascinating hour illustrated talk, tracing his life, passions and artistic development. Thelwell produced 1,500 cartoons and 60 front covers for the famed Punch magazine alone and some 32 books translated into a dozen different languages. His works were full of beautifully observed detail and mainly of rural subjects, including country and leisure pursuits, sport, house sales and renovation, stately homes, gardening and sailing. Failing that, Cracknakeel provides live music at The Sun in Frome for their St Patrick’s Day celebration.
Wednesday 18th is jam-packed, for a Wednesday! Acoustic jam down the Southgate, Devizes. Bromham’s Farm Cookery School has a Taste of Morocco class, where you could be learning how to make a Briouat which is like a Moroccan Samosa, make your own Khobz and Kefta Mkaouara. £40.00 per person. Over in Marlborough David Evans gives the second of three lectures in The Merchant’s House Study Series, focussing on Reformation in England and the Arts. The Roots Sessions continues at Frome’s Cheese & Grain with the fantastic Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue.
Thursday 19th and you could be back down The Farm Cookery School in Bromham for a Mozzarella & Halloumi Masterclass with Josie. She will teach how to make both cheese which is technical but fun! £35.00 per person. The fantastic Ed Byrne is at the Bath Forum and Moles has a punky/metal night with the Anarchist’s Bookfair, Butter The Pavement and Out Of Reach.
If it’s a slow start to the week, Friday 20th March makes up for it. If, like me, all you know about Jesus Christ Superstar is that he came down from heaven on a Yamaha, and you have doubts with your conviction of that, it’s the opening night for this amateur production by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical portrayal of the last seven days of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot runs until Sat 28th March and while tickets are still available as I write this, do be as quick, as if you were on a Yamaha yourself; take care not to skid though!
Meanwhile Devizes Town Hall is the place to head for opera fans, as The White Horse Opera presents their Spring Concert. Including Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan and Hadyn’s Creation, this would be the perfect introduction to opera for those, like me, who thought Donizetti was a type of pasta sauce!
If you fancy music more pop, the local supergroup I’m always raving about, the Female Of The Species play Melksham’s Assembly Hall. Fusing all their respective band’s influences, expect the best of rock, soul and ska as the girl’s combine forces for a fun-filled gig; I’ve been to see one of these shows and I’m not hyping it up because they’re all awesome chicks, I highly recommend it!
Day one of two, at the inspiring Shoebox Theatre in Swindon of their FUSE Festival where six emerging artists test a new performance idea over three days. Fuse is about supporting the beginnings of new work before it’s fully developed. Watch, discuss, and be part of the creation of something brilliant. Two performances Kat Lyons’ Dry Season, interweaving music and movement with original spoken word poetry and extracts from medical literature. And the debut one-woman-show from Mighty Mammal Theatre, Swine of the Times, where you can meet the piggies at the troff; they sing songs, say prayers and even mime. Alice Wolff-Whitehouse employs her skills in physical comedy, dance and song to bring to life a series of flawed and quintessentially British characters, looking at the grotesque nature of privilege in the UK through a warped and colourful lens.
Staying in Swindon, Baila Coffee & Vinyl have some Disco Voodoo with DJ Amir, or try indie rock covers with Joli & the Souls at the Vic. Elsewhere, the Leathers play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon, Clannad are at Bath Forum, and Jack Dee’s Off The Telly tour is at Salisbury City Hall.
Saturday 21st then. After the hugely successful free concert in the Market Place last summer, The Full Tone Orchestra have taken their show to Marlborough, and return to town to rave the night away at the Corn Exchange. Taking the most popular section of their show, the club anthems, expect this to be something innovative and all glowsticks, as conductor Anthony Brown’s beloved orchestra reproduce the club classics which defined an era.
The Cavalier go country with the Stone Mountain Sinners, caught these guys before, they’ve a refreshing approach to country-rock which is a cut above the rest. And breezy, original songwriter Ed Witcomb makes a welcome return to The Southgate. For surf beats, odd time signatures, eccentric tunes and irony-fuelled free jazz, try The Barge at Honeystreet, where bonkers surf surrealists Mustard Allegro do their stuff.
Super Trooper Abba tribute, Sensations grace the Seend Community Centre, while Swindon’s Meca has a Whitney Houston tribute. Don’t forget though, it’s day two of the Shoebox’s Fuse Festival too.
Mercy Lounge at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon. Recommended ska night at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar with the Train To Skaville, and Paul Carrick is at Bath Forum.
Head to the Southgate for an afternoon pint or three, on Sunday 22nd, and our fantastic singer-songwriter Vince Bell will entertain you. Meanwhile, Groovelator play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford.
Tuesday, Devizes Film Club at the Town Hall have the latest Ken Loach film, Sorry We Missed You, which you will be if you miss this one film fans. Full of drama, tension and heartbreak. Ricky and Debbie are the parents of teenage children. Ricky joins the ‘gig’ economy with a franchise for a parcel delivery firm. The job is sold to him as one where he will become master of his own destiny. Providing, that is, he complies with the labyrinth of deadlines, rules and conditions imposed by the company, a near impossible task. Debbie is a care worker who wants to care for the old people as though they are her Mam. But her working conditions thwart her in doing the job as she thinks fit. This modern Dickensian story dramatises the conflict between work and family life in contemporary Britain.
Don’t forget Wednesday’s acoustic Jam down the Southgate, and blues-folk singer Elles Bailey is with Phil King at the Chapel Arts, Bath. Thursday you can witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography on the big screen at The Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour, coming to the Salisbury City Hall. Staying in Devizes on the last Thursday of every month though is no bore, as the regular and celebrated open mic night at the Cellar Bar is something to behold.
Seventies punk bands never had such a great name as Brighton’s Peter & The Test Tube Babies. Still going strong forty years on, they play the Vic in Swindon on Friday 27th. Tenner on the door. Swindon also has an Improv Jam at The Shoebox, and homemade function band Locomotion at the Swiss Chalet.
While it’ll sadly never be possible for the boys to be back in town, Preston’s tribute Twin Lizzy will. They make a welcomed return to the Cavalier, Devizes on Friday. Meanwhile, the Devizes & District Twinning Association take over the town hall to bring us some French Café Music with Jac & Co, tickets are also a tenner for both these diverse evenings.
How much more diverse do you want? A dedicated club night for adults with Learning Disabilities? This Is Me at the wonderful charity youth centre, Young Melksham is precisely that, a night of great music and friendship. There’s a series of these events, first one is Friday.
Another welcomed return to Marlborough Folk-Roots at the Town Hall on Friday, when Steve Knightley explores the themes and stories that inspire him and shows how music and words can become lyrics and chords and notes can meld to create songs that acquire a life of their own.
For want of an authentic tribute band, From The Jam play The Cheese & Grain in Frome, and I’ve heard all good stories about them. If originals are what you want though, The Queen’s Head in Box has a double-booking Friday. Katy Hurt stretches the country music genre in exciting new directions; haunting blues vocals, towering country rock guitars, even a reggae vibe, and she is followed by psychedelic alternative rock band, The Bohemian Embassy.
Saturday night of the 28th March is alright, but no fighting, please. Time for the Devizes Lions’ Spring Concert at St Andrew’s Church, where Ian Diddams comperes Bath Coleman, Bangers & Nash, and the Trowbridge & District Youth Band. Tickets are £10, proceeds to Wiltshire Young Carers.
The Corn Exchange has a Gin Festival. Tribute act, Motley Crude are The Cavalier and local heroes Rockhoppaz play The Black Swan. For high octane original and classic rock mixed with some tasteful Bluesy tracks, check the Mark Smallman Band at the Southgate.
Devizine is the unofficial Tamsin Quin fan club, if you wanna hear why, head to Bromham’s Owl on Saturday. Another Abba Tribute, Swede Dreams play Market Lavington Community Hall.
Highly recommended for the mods, The Roughcut Rebels are at The Pheasant in Chippenham. Also, Blondie & Ska are great fun, they’re at the Wiltshire Yeoman in Trowbridge, checking ahead, they play in Devizes, at the Pelican in May. The Blue Rose Band at The Westbury Conservative Club and an Amy Winehouse tribute at Bath’s Odd Down AFC & Social Club. Level III have a “One Step Beyond-ska and punk club-night.
Elsewhere in Swindon, homemade Damm at Coleview Community Centre and P!nk tribute, Beautiful Trauma play Brookhouse Farm, and a Pearl Jam tribute, Earl Jam at the Vic.
Sophie Matthews explores the links between the visual and the aural in a one-hour presentation at the Merchant’s House, Marlborough. Drawing on the works of great painters including Brueghel, Hogarth and Rigaud, Sophie presents a feast of images featuring historical woodwind instruments in their original social context interspersed with live performances of historical music using authentic instruments.
Sunday 29th – Nearly there, and breath…. Yin Yoga & Gong Bath at Devizes Corn Exchange, The Sunday Sessions continue at The White Bear with Matt Cook and Gary Hall at The Southgate. There’s a Comic-Con at Bath Pavilion, to be frank, it’s a commercial affair rather than a genuine “comic” con, with cosplay, gaming and meeting vague TV actors and ex-Gladiators, but might be fun for the kids.
That’s it, folks, March done, save Bradford on Avon Folk Club have Geoff Lakeman on Tuesday 31st. Let’s regroup in April, but feedback on these articles are needed. Do they work for you? Long-winded I know, but in order to fit it in. Devizine is a work in progress, I enjoy and need to know what’s working and what’s not. So, if you’ve read this far, I salute you! Tell me about it!
“Norm!” – brilliant, wasn’t he? A kind of anti-hero pre-Homer Simpson. Part of the furniture in Sam’s Bar and despite him being an average guy, when he walked in the whole place lit up. It defined the lyric of the Cheers theme song, “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”
If I awakened from my hibernation Saturday night to attend the wonderful Festival of Winter Ales, such was the arrangement of tables in the Corn Exchange, it felt like the sort of event you appeared at with a posse of friends. For Billy-no-mates here, I’m kind of scanning the horizon for people to hassle with my company. So, I nipped out towards the end, knowing what I was doing; I had a calling.
There is a place in Devizes akin to Sam’s Bar in Cheers, I could visit anytime, but it’s been a while and knowing what’s occurring there, resistance is futile. It takes a few minutes in the winter wind to turn the corner and get the Southgate in my sights, but I’m immediately assimilated into the Borg collective upon hearing her song. While the Southgate strives to bring us a variety of live music acts, regular as clockwork, freely, and from varying locations, Tamsin Quin’s distinctive voice summons me, the very essence of her hometown. It’s like returning for a homemade roast dinner, or a New Jersey resident going to see Springsteen.
There’s enthusiastic talk between them, about the amalgamation to be, The Lost Trades, yet the trio aren’t leaking any secrets until their debut at the Village Pump. Gate as welcoming as ever, Jamie R Hawkins billed for tonight, “with friends.” You know this is a local circumstance, sharing of the limelight a must, with flare and passion for the venue and crowd, it reflects into their performances. Phil Cooper is like Clark Griswold, if Jamie and Tamsin are Rusty and Audrey, but Vince Bell is also in attendance, so I don’t know where it leaves him! I mean this in so much as Phil is the organised one, with a setlist scheduled, he’s professional in all aspects of the game, providing order to their show. Jamie is sauntering and socialising, before being beckoned to the now legendary red-carpet makeshift stage, “oh, is it my turn?!”
At that conjunction you’d expect a song come over muddled, but Jamie, like the others, just rolls into it and knocks out the perfect rendition of his own classic, “As Big as You.” Yep, I’m in my comfort zone, with or without an easy chair.
Through all their subtle differences, the trio work, period. As we’ve said here, The Lost Trades will be a natural progression from the sporadic and less formal amalgamations. Phil is thrilled, nodding and telling me how well the harmonies work, and it’s unusual to have a boy-girl-boy harmony trio. The conversation progressing onto Simon & Garfunkel citing the Everly Brothers as the unsurpassed vocal harmony. In this line of chat, you can sense Phil’s passion and love for what he does, and with every performance it shows. If anything, that is the symmetry within this triangle, Tamsin and Jamie sport the same proficiency and appetite.
I’ll go as far as illustrating this point: later in the evening, after each performer took their turn until Clark’s schedule ran out and the punters craved more, improv covers streamed. Landlady Deborah handed Phil a drum and his eyes lit up like a kid with a new X-Box; “oh yes!” he thrilled, and joined Jamie with it, strumming. There are no prizes for guessing the improv would take over, once drinks were flowing, and with the gang helping one another out. There are subtle hints as to how the Lost Trades will sound, and it’s simply awesome.
For now, though, they’re still three separate performers with an intimate ethos, and Vince is equally involved, rather than treated like a prodigal son. That’s the spirit in a nutshell; be it George, Kirsty, or others, it’s a family affair to make Sister Sledge envious. That’s precisely why Devizine celebrates this little circuit. In a sentence, it’s guaranteed to be an awesome night, and thus it was, with a very special added surprise.
There is nought negative I could say about it. Between acts, if there was a confusion who was up next, the crowd ardently called for “Ed” to take another. I didn’t like to inquire, something I missed? If another singer was present, I didn’t see him, just a ten-year-old sitting on a stool amidst the regulars. Ed did take the stage, the very same; no one nicked his stool.
If the near future of our local music scene is the progression of these talented adults, we just glimpsed the future beyond. Ed took up his acoustic guitar, played an Oasis cover superbly, and effortlessly raised the roof. What a surprise and absolute gem, reflecting in all I’ve said about the family atmosphere. I chanced my luck and caught a quick chat with Ed, who came across mature and at ease. Oasis songs his comfort zone, for now, he expressed, it was his first time performing to an audience, it did not show. To get an entire pub singing along, no easy feat, well done Ed; you owned it.
There had been some concern that this gig might not go ahead after Jon Amor was forced to cancel Thursday night’s outing to The Beehive in Swindon due to illness. But fortunately for us, and thanks to the amazing healing properties of Lemsip, Jon’s latest home-town gig went ahead as planned. And even being a bit under the weather, Jon was on good form.
King Street Turnaround is one of Jon’s latest band outings, formed at the end of last year, and features Jerry Soffe on bass, Evan Newman on keyboards and Tom Gilkes behind the drums. And what an outfit it is. The band rolled into the Southgate and blew us all away.
What did we get? We got soul, funk, blues, boogie-woogie and rock. This was high-octane stuff, delivered with confidence and panache. We got some great solos from each member of the band, including the always-expected wizardry from Jon’s squealing lead guitar. How he manages to squeeze some of those sounds from that one guitar is simply amazing.
And we got tight, driving rhythms that gave a solid platform to some great improvisation work. We got a band that could dial it up, then dial it down, then back up to eleven again. We got a dance-floor packed with people having a good time. We got very little time wasted on inter-song chat, just lots and lots of music that spoke for itself. It was hot, it was sweaty, it was great.
Highlight of the night for me was the band getting in the groove to deliver a fearsomely good performance of “Juggernaut”. It’s got to that point with me now that if Jon doesn’t play this monster of a song, I almost feel short-changed!
Are we allowed to say that it was shit-hot? Can we say that? Yes – it was shit-hot!
Yet another belting gig from Mr Amor and friends, and yet another inspired booking by Debs and Dave at The Southgate. Live music at its very best.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
• Friday 28th February The Shudders
• Saturday 29th Feb Plus Friends
• Friday 6th March Barrelhouse
• Saturday 7th March Jon Pollard
• Friday 13th March Lewis Clark & The Essentials
• Saturday 14th March Lightnin’ Hobos
After the previous night’s superb gig with The Arnie Cottrell Tendency (see other review elsewhere in Devizine), it was back to The Southgate for something completely different. From gentle Americana on a Friday to straight-up pub-rock on a Saturday night. Part of me was concerned that the night just couldn’t be as good, but I needn’t have worried. Different music genre, different vibe, but still excellent.
Navajo Dogs, formed in 2016, are a local blues-influenced rock band. Consisting of Simon Hansen on vocals, Tom Evans on lead guitar, Kieran McLaughlin on rhythm guitar/ vocals, Jonny Wallhouse on drums/ vocals and Graham Hill on bass, these guys are one solid entertainment unit. The music is loud and uncompromising, the performances are hot, sweaty, sweary and in your face.
Covering a wide range of pop/ rock/ blues classics, outstanding numbers for me were Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone’s A Winner”, Free’s “Fire and Water”, Prince’s “Purple Rain”, The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and Sam The Sham’s “Woolly Bully”, but there were plenty more. The dance-floor was full all night long, and the crowd clearly appreciated their no-nonsense, no-apologies style. This was 4-star leaded, full cream, full fat pub-rock. It was thumping, steady, rocking and totally infectious. Great vocals, nice guitar work.
Two superb gigs on two consecutive nights. This is what live music is all about.
Friday night is music night, so where else to go other than the ever-welcoming Southgate? Once again Dave and Deb had found a wonderful band to fill the pub…..
I managed to miss the very start of the gig, but then stayed to catch the rest of it, and was still sitting there at nearly midnight.
What had been originally billed as The Velvet Doonicans had morphed into The Arnie Cottrell Tendency. Same people, same band. Whatever. Whoever. Either way Arnie Cottrell, Rick Foote and Graham Bushell played a simply superb gig. Featuring upright bass, acoustic and steel guitars, mandolin, and shared vocals blending into double and triple harmonies, the trio produced music that was magical, melting, melodic and absolutely mesmerising. This was Americana at its best.
The guys were clearly confident and comfortable with their music and with each other, and produced some stunning versions of Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country”, Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”, and The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek”. Every song was easy on the ear, relaxed and understated, delivered with panache and some wonderful self-deprecating good humour.
Song after song was wheeled out, and I dearly wanted to go home and get my head down for the night, but there was no way I was leaving whilst these guys were still playing. Such superb musicianship just drew you in. It was warm, lovely, embracing, mesmerising and – well – brilliant. No other word for it.
Yet another reminder that it’s absolutely worth getting your arse in gear, going out into the night and supporting live music venues like the Southgate.
It was Saturday night, which could mean only one thing – free live music at The Southgate!
Jack Grace was a figure new to me, so thought I better give him a good old listen – be rude not to. And so pleased that I made the effort to go and see him.
Jack’s band is described as delivering “Country Rock with a Latin Twang” and that was certainly much in evidence. The trio were already operating at full blast when I walked in, and rarely if ever let the tempo and the excitement level drop. The pub was full, the dance-floor crowded, and the band were cooking. They gave us two superb sets of music that was loud, exciting and great to listen to.
We got lots of styles – country, country/ rock, R&B, boogie-woogie, rock n’ roll, and little bit of vaudeville, all delivered with some panache, confident playing and a good deal of humour. There were musical nods in there to Tom Waits, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Johnny Cash, and many others. Jack and his band seem to be constantly on the road, and their playing reflected a close understanding, driving rhythms as tight as a nut, and some very assured vocals and guitar playing. Yet this didn’t mean any kind of complacency or just running through the numbers. The band were not afraid to experiment, and to completely let rip at times. And the crowd absolutely loved it.
To me, this is what live music is all about – musicians who want to deliver a great show, and a crowd that really wants to listen. A completely belting gig, and a fabulous live band.
• Friday 7th February Velvet Doonicans
• Saturday 8th February Navajo Dogs
• Friday 14th February Trevor Babajack Steger
• Saturday 15th February Mike Barham
• Friday 21st February Kent Duchaine
• Sunday 23rd February CRC
• Friday 28th February The Shudders
Hibernation, like a bear, saving motivation and funds for Christmas, spent too much at the Lantern Parade? Ah, a bit of all three meant it was only to be a whistle stop at the Southgate Saturday night. When I should’ve been at the Sham’s Assembly Hall for the Female of the Species, and I should’ve been in Trow-Vegas for Sheer’s gig too. Without cloning technology, the pressure usually melts my enthusiasm entirely, and opt to I slob on the sofa cuddling a packet of digestives, chocolate ones, naturally. Yet if just a pint at the dependable local couldn’t persuade me,after reviewing the forthcoming live album from Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue I simply couldn’t resist.
And for all the thoroughly deserved lovely things I had to say about it, I propped this gig on a pedestal, but was far away from disappointment. The band started with Hold It, and blasted Baby Please Come Home, virtually replicating this live album. Best thing at the Southgate is the communal feel, beneficial to meet and greet the artists; I was a handshake away from Ruzz Evans and the band, which I did, and with it he explained they often begin with that formula and mix it up thereafter. The advantage though was not our quick chat, but the close inspection of Ruzz handling that guitar, as it’s something spectacular and I watched in awe.
Unsure if I got the ball rolling fittingly, as I mumbled, “you make that look so easy,” at the suited Bristolian caked in perspiration. Clearly, and as I expressed in our album review, blasting a lengthy and vigorous rock n roll chef-d’oeuvre like this takes stamina! I knew what I meant though, they did make it look like child’s play, the band equally as proficient as the front man.
So, a high-energy blast of traditional rock n roll blended with acute blues blessed the trusty Southgate, a never-ending foundation of great, free, live music in Devizes. Here’s the twist; it’s the uniqueness of Ruzz and crew, amidst the conventional rock n roll cliché of Elvis or Buddy tributes, passé eighties rockabilly four-pieces, and nostalgic but substandard fifties cover bands, Ruzz simply doesn’t come off like that. Mostly fresh, original works; if there were covers, they were rarities, and delivered with the youthful energy and passion of an era of yore.
I can’t keep on this glorious new find, I’m not even a rocker! But when stripped back to the roots, as authentically as this, all pop genres combine and there’s no need to pigeonhole. Funny, in reflection, and considering diverse fifties artists like Buddy Holly, how close mod’s and rocker’s tastes were, yet at the time, reason to fight. Look, just read our album review, will you, before I waffle on a tangent? Which, incidentally, is released February but available for pre-order today. There’re also two previous studio albums, and Ruzz returns this way in March at the Sports Club, (see poster) if not before.
After the utter chaos, madness and mayhem of the previous night at The Southgate featuring the totally bonkers 7-piece Back Wood Redeemers (see the review by esteemed colleague Mr Worrow), I thought I’d start my musical Sunday afternoon back at the same venue to see if there was anything left standing. Surprisingly all previous traces had been removed, and occupying the red carpet of musical fame was the small, lonesome figure of Mr Thompson Smurthwaite.
I’d last seen Thompson play a few weeks back at Long Street Blues Club, supporting local legend Jon Amor. On that occasion he’d played a wonderful set, if anything slightly over-awed by the size of the crowd and the great warmth of the reception to his playing. But I’d been impressed by what I’d heard, and was looking forward to hearing him in slightly more intimate surroundings.
And I was not disappointed. Thompson has a lovely laid-back, casual, self-deprecating style of talking to his audience, as if chatting to just a few friends. And indeed he was among friends this afternoon. Guitar, voice and harmonica were all employed to great effect to deliver a wonderful set of self-penned smoky-sounding blues. His material is often personal, and reflects his experience of life, both on the canals and elsewhere. His playing style is relaxed, unfussy and genuine. Most songs are slow, rolling, rambling numbers – and all delivered with a thin, reedy, drawling vocal. And the crowd received his sets with warmth and genuine appreciation.
It’s a great tribute to the Southgate that Dave & Deb continue to provide such a diverse range of free musical entertainment every weekend. You really couldn’t get a greater contrast between last night’s rollicking 7-piece band and this afternoon’s laid-back solo blues artist. And yet both worked so well in the pub, and provided superb entertainment.
Then back down into town to The White Bear for their latest Sunday Session. Big shout-out to Georgie & Marc too, who’ve just celebrated their first year of being in Devizes, and who have already made a difference in terms of pub dining, craft beer and musical entertainment.
This afternoon’s offering was the return of the very versatile, and very talented, Ian O’Regan. Ian had impressed so much on his first visit a couple of months ago that they got him back again. This time, although I’ve heard Ian many times, was probably one of his very best performances. Newly-refreshed (or tired) from his recent trip to Nashville, Ian was on top of his game. As usual, he reeled out number after number from across the musical spectrum, hardly pausing for breath. Ian is a chatty, friendly soul, but once he picks up his guitar, he’s off and running. Again we got two sets of perfectly-crafted, superbly-delivered music. Great versions of John Martyn’s “May You Never”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” and even Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune” were interspersed with the occasional O’Regan original. His playing, and his vocals, as ever, were absolutely spot-on. The crowd loved it, and dispersed into the late-afternoon murk of Devizes, with smiles on their faces. Great gig.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
• Friday 22nd Nov The Idle Silence, The Leathers, Mighty Magic Animals
• Sat 23rd Nov Jamie R Hawkins
• Friday 29th Nov Duskers
• Sat 30th Nov Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Review
Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:
• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell
Yet another blinding night’s entertainment at the Southgate, as Frome’s Back Wood Redeemers came, saw and kicked ass….
His banjo to one side for a beer break, Flounder Murray perched on the step as I defined the live music scene in Devizes as thriving. As most Saturday nights we were spoiled for choice; People Like Us, I explained, popular locally, playing the Three Crowns, and there’s Britpop trio Billy Green 3 heading the Crown, rock n roll at the Rotary’s sixties-themed Presidents Night at the Cons Club, an Elvis tribute at the Cavalier and a gin and bourbon festival at the Corn Exchange. Not even touching upon various village gigs, such as Splat the Rat who played the Cross Keys in Rowde. I really need a clone, or five!
The area’s population is approximately 31,000, I’ve researched now, but returned the question on the night with a blank stare. Inevitable if you’ve not heard of Frome’s Back Wood Redeemers, this one passed you by. Alas, you missed out on what was a no-brainer for me, since Flounder last appeared here as part of the band The Boot Hill All Stars and blew the roof off with an original blend of grinding, upbeat folk and gypsy ska. It was one sweaty night. Though a quieter Saturday at the trusty Southgate didn’t damped the atmosphere, just rather more intimately contained.
An altogether unusual seven-piece band squeezed into the tight space, I expected no less then crusty beards, the circus attire of vintage suits, bowler hats, clown trousers and stripy tights and anything goes. Armed with an electric guitar, harmonica and drums, nothing unusual there I’ll grant you, but throw in a banjo, two, yes two double basses, a pink electric mandolin made to look like a mini guitar, and a fellow propped in the alcove with a trombone, might just invoke an appropriate image as to how bonkers it was; might.
Described as “songs of dark country, twisted blues & religious fervour,” BWR did what it said on the tin. The mood on my entry was melodically paced; on asking Flounder the difference between them and the Boot Hills he expressed the hunt for vintage blues or country songs, even gospel and the ethos of twisting them into this west country folk. We talked of ska and how it developed in a similar manner as rock n roll, those rhythm and blues rarities very much standard radio airplay across the Americas. Yet Flounder pronounced the need to cover artists such as Tom Waits and Nick Cave too, and with his archetypical gritty vocals these artists are apt.
Flounder though did not front all the tunes, the band clearly a collective as the double-bass man in tights straddled off his instrument to parade around like Bez of the Happy Monday’s, singing fervently with an expressive dance routine to boot. The second half promised to be dirtier, faster and grittier, and did just this. Through the promised murky country tunes, those Somerset folks threw everything at this original blend. Think of a Wurzels-Levellers combo as a Northern Soul band at the Hacienda’s Madchester era trying their hand at jump-blues, you might come somewhere near! Yet whatever pigeonholes you care to throw at it, in the jest of this band who daren’t take themselves seriously, it’s lively, crazy and highly entertaining.
Danceable too, once a Nick Cave song finished, the Train to Skaville riff teased the audience, and Flounder bounced into Toots & The Maytals’ 54-46, only for a melody of Tainted Love and the Cure’s Love Cats to follow. Yet aside the crowd-pleasers, it’s the proficient general skulduggery of instrumentation and upbeat sound which fuses the frenzy of the Back-Wood Redeemers and makes them so appealing. The finale Bound to Glory being the icing on the cake, and perhaps more apt for the band’s description than those known pop tunes; but either way, all were executed sublimely and originally. It was, in short, a crazy, crazy night Kiss fans wouldn’t dream of.
As it’s been said, hats, and many of them, off to the Southgate, who, while the others tend to provide us with safe options of tributes and locally renowned acts, and there’s nought up with that, The Southgate strive to hunt for something different, and bring alternatives to town. With the attitude of providing free live music every weekend, of course, there is also plenty room for our local favourites too and while these make the best and most crowded nights here, when The Back Wood Redeemers are back around this zone, you’d be a fool to miss them.
A cheetah can achieve motorway speeds, but not long enough to get off the slip road; worthless trivia, unless you’re an antelope. I like to think cheetahs listen to rock n roll; no, hear me out. Akin to this feline fact, those RnB and rock n roll classics are one short burst of energy. Fortunately for the artists the 78rpm record lasted a maximum of five minutes, and for radio play they’d cut it to little over three, any longer they surely risk congestive heart failure.
As the era passed to late sixties, psychedelia stretched recorded music to live and extended dimensions Little Richard could never maintain. Mellowing tendency matured rock, but arguably robbed its dynamism. Ah, come the eighties twelve inch single and the mega-mix, prompting the question; why didn’t Glenn Close choose the Jive Bunny to boil?
Rare then it is, to hear a frenzied traditional rock n roll sound encompass ten minutes; welcome to Ruzz Evans’ world. Embodiment of Johnny B Goode, Ruzz can pick guitar like he’s ringing a bell, for an astounding period too. Due for release on 10th February, but available for pre-order from December 1st, I’ve been adoring this album recorded live at the Louisiana in Ruzz’s hometown of Bristol.
Forgive me for sustaining the rock n roll pigeonhole, for Ruzz has the quiff and is photographed in a teddy boy drape jacket. With backing from an incredible band including drummer Mike Hoddinott and upright bassist Joe Allen, the panache of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue straddles rock and its namesake blues. Since 2016, when they added an awesome horn trio to the roster, we can add big band jazz to their style. That’s my thoughts while absorbed in this, of what Miles Davis did to jazz, or Pink Floyd to prog rock, Ruzz does to traditional rhythm and blues come rock n roll; the result is breath-taking.
Bearing in mind his voice isn’t growling Tennessean, yet neither was Gene Vincent’s, rather quirky Bristolian, the vocals are sporadic, instruments reign. There’s an amusing conclusion to “Under Your Spell,” where 10 minutes of detonating electric blues is broken by a genuinely surprised thank you from Ruzz in said accent. This often amuses me, pondering, no, thank you, mate, I just clapped, you’ve just held me spellbound for ten minutes, the pleasure is all mine!