Vince is often shy of praise, yet his gentle, respectful delivery of his own wonderfully written songs and carefully chosen covers deserve a celebratory mention….
There are many a-decent artist in the public conscious who would envy the beautifully crafted lyrics of songs like Lisa’s Kitchen, or Spider-Man Pyjamas , and our town anthem, of course Vince’s Devizes song.
Whether it be a reflection on life’s changes and fragility or the wry comical observations on youthful misadventure, those of a mind to settle and really listen are rewarded with a most engaging and enveloping warmth.
As ever, I want to extend my warmest thanks to not only Vince but, of course, Deb & Dave who’s own passion for music gives us these wonderful gigs and harmonious relaxing Sunday sessions.
This is my town, and this is one of the biggest reasons I ain’t never leaving!
I’ll do this now, get it ticked off, although I probably shouldn’t, a bit wobbly still; strictly professional all the way!
Said it before, Andy has too, and once Mr Ian Diddams wished to express it in his own words, a sentiment we can all agree on; Devizes is truly blessed when, monthly, our homegrown blues legend Mr Jon Amor, as regular as clockwork, arrives with cat and mouse team, drummer Tom Gilkes, bassist Jerry Soffe, and a guest of honour at the trusty Southgate. If this month was our easter egg, we stuffed our faces…
A week later than the usual first Sunday of the month, Jon’s superb trio did again, tore the place down with an electric set of electric blues, and the juke joint was bumping, grinding like sardines with shades on. It’s the highlight of the month in Devizes, worthy of giving up your Sunday roast for.
Thing is, it seems to be an occasion I never tire of, for as samey as it might sound, it doesn’t, it matures like a fine wine. Any similarities are welcomed; we love what Jon and Tom and Jerry do, but the diversity hinges on the guest.
For their touring efforts, they bring us back a souvenir, a musician friend who you’d gladly buy a ticket to see play. I asked Jon if they “knew what they were letting themselves in for?!” He assured me not all of them. But from what I witness, they always come away with a ‘well, that was well worth the squeeze’ expression.
This occasion was of no exception, Philadelphian soul blues virtuoso Leburn Maddox was mingling among the punters, likely in an attempt to keep awake. Missing his flight from Paris, he kipped in the airport and came to us via Dublin, but when it came for his time to shine, it was immaculate.
With fruity banter, exceptional finger-picking, and that authentic grizzly blues vocals, Leburn is the real deal, and Southgate regulars were in awe. He gave us some of his originals and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, as well as customarily jamming with the trio.
It only leaves me dripping in anticipation as to what delights Jon can pull from his magician’s tophat next. Tune in next month, folks.
Damp morning, about 3:30am I’m descending Pelch Lane in Seend, like a sack of potatoes dropping. If you don’t know the track it’s a steep one, with a bend which keeps on giving; not the ideal place to whip out your phone and change the tune when you’re pinning down a heavily-ladened milkfloat! So, first taster of the debut album from Trowbridge’s 41 Fords, Not Dead Yet goes on loop, and I shrug, as it’s no hardship, “let it roll for another round.”
I wasn’t sure what to listen to next anyway, and to be honest, this took me by pleasant surprise. Sure, we’ve registered their name on our gig list several occasions, regulars down the trusty Southgate (next date is Saturday 3rd June), but I’ve not had the opportunity to pay them a visit. I see now they’re on the roster for Devizes Scooter Club’s annual rally in July, which if I had of noticed before it might’ve given me a closer inkling what to assume.
But psychobilly was unexpected, neither is it a subgenre which usually floats my boat. Akin to heavy metal, the late-eighties fusion of rockabilly and punk is characterised with negative symbolism; it’s all ultraviolence, death, B-movie horror pastiches, and other delinquent and discouraging subject matters, and I like to think I’m optimistic, least too old, to relish in morbidity.
But if I am to pigeonhole the 41 Fords, it’s unlike the wrecking of The Meteors, or the all-out hellish nature of Demented Are Go, and not as offbeat as the skabilly of Roddy Radiation; this is matured psychobilly with all the negativity stripped away. It retains the lively rockabilly stance, the foot-tapping upright double-bass, the nods to western swing, jump blues and boogie-woogie, and breathing fresh air into it with punk’s insolence, and gypsy folk goodness.
Yet their themes tend on maturing romantic affairs, often generation X mod-pop in nature. And for this blend, it’s truly unique, beguiling and for want of sitting down, you’ll be incapable; my highest point-scoring goes on the sheer energy these guys never seem to let up on.
Recorded at Nine Volt Leap studio in Melksham, Not Dead Yet is out on 1st May, and you really need to look out for this, I bloody love it! To break down exactly why isn’t simple. The album kicks off mod, think hillbilly The Jam with double-bass, perhaps. A girl-infatuation themed Emily, opens, and from the off it’s got me hook, line and sinker. For it’s upbeat throughout, captivating, and optimistic; this is The Housemartins do psychobilly, and I mean this in the best possible taste, for you cannot prevent foot-tapping to Happy Hour, surely?!
The subject of reunion with a former partner is slam-dunked next, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan style, The Great Gatsby offers nothing more than Emily in topic, only the literatural reference. Yet while romance is a running-theme, ballad doesn’t appear in their vocabulary; 41 Fords do not come up for air. Marriage problems raises its ugly head, against a penchant for nightlife in the following track, and another girl’s name title, Tabitha continues this sunny side of the street mood.
If it goes on this leitmotif for a staggering twelve tunes, it all hinges on their magnum-opus for pop catchiness, the fifth tune, Peaky Blinders. Surely anthemic, it takes the humorous route of Del-boy lovable rouges; Chas & Dave does the Cockney Rejects!
Through this three-minute hero, you might wonder if cockney musical hall will continue being cited, but while Not Dead Yet maintains everything which has so far made this album sheer brilliance, 41 Fords swerve gradually into a more Anglo-Irish folk feel, like Shane MacGowan finished his pint and jammed with these Housemartins, doing psychobilly, with an overall Merton Parkas type fusion.
Ah, see now I’m worried I’ve given the impression this is all sounds cluttered, like there’s too much going on, but na, me old China plate, this is flows, smoothly operated with such individuality it’s a tricky one to pin down. If, like me, you’re willing to take onboard the Cramps, and be done with psychobilly, this offers a maturity in themes, wrapped in addictive danceable congeniality.
The Wonder of The Sky is perhaps the standout track towards the finale, for it encompasses everything great about the 41 Fords, who know precisely what buttons to press to write and deliver a pop song with retrospective wow, but refuses commercialisation. It doesn’t verve to create a Stairway to Heaven or a dub-lampoon either, each tune is kept at the three-minute proximity, and each one does what you expect it to do; charges 240 volts into your blue suede shoes!
A Christmas Song, titled thus, finishes, and yeah, it has a Fairy-tale of New York feel, really bringing out the folk oblique which I believe breathes something local into it too, like Somerset’s proclivity for Scrumpy & Western. In all, you could fit 41 Fords into a scooter rally bill, but equally into a Somerset cider brawl with the Boot Hills. And in that, if pigeonholing matters not when you’re in the moment and the music takes you on a dancing voyage, 41 Fords are seamless. This album truly is a must-have.
Bung them a like on Facebook, for updates, and I’ll thread this review with links when the album comes out in May; you’re in for a treat!
Without cloning technology it was another Saturday night dilemma still as easily solved; Concrete Prairie were at The Gate, arm twisted….
From The Barge to the Pump we were spoiled for live music choices; any decision made I could predict would’ve paid off. But after fondly reviewing Swindon’s dark roots Americana five-piece, Concrete Prairie’s self-titled debut album last September, I hot-footed it to Swindon Shuffle to see them, and from Calne to Bradford-on-Avon I’ve been stalking them like a red-cheeked groupie with hearts for pupils, hoping my hometown will get a taste of why, soonishly.
It only seemed fitting then, being I’ve nagged landlady Deborah to get them in, now they finally play our trusty Devizes answer to the 02 arena, I show my ugly mug and assist in draining the scrumpy barrels.
It was, as ever down the Southgate, a blinding night. Celebrating their fifth year at the helm and over 350 gigs, Deb and Dave show no sign of converting it to a Christian science reading room yet. It’s lively and bustling, despite a majority of town’s live music aficionados at Long Street, but importantly, it’s always welcoming.
Sadly the Gate supplied a PA unsuitable for a five-piece, ergo the engineering didn’t do Concrete Prairie’s divine sound justice, by comparison to the acoustics of the specifically designed Wiltshire Music Centre, where I saw them last.
But as pundits of their craft, they overcame and delivered us their superb set of stunning originals, with outstanding covers of The Coral, and the particularly adroit Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman.
I never tire of hearing this set. Concrete Prairie operates as a unit, their passion shows in this tight unification and spills out to any audience, the result is irresistible entertainment of the highest calibre. Dark country Americana doesn’t necessarily have to be your thing, you’ll come away in awe.
And as is their tradition, they leave their magnum opus for the encore. The mood-switching, tempo-layered The Devil Delt the Deck is the perfect finale, saccharine yet melancholic. Its building powerhouse of emotions acts as the template to drive you back to see this band at every available opportunity.
Catch them locally on 16th April at the Electric Bar at Bath’s Komedia, and again with Mad Dog McRea on 7th May, at Cherhill Bank Holiday Celebration in Calne on 5th May, The Live Music Festival in Bradford-on-Avon 3rd June, and their Food & Drink Festival on the 11th. On the 17th, they headline Chippenham Pride and are at Box’s Schtumm on 25th June.
The Southgate humbly work with what they have, squeezing the kind of band into the bijou you’d happily pay a ticket stub for, and whatever technical stage engineering they lack they make up with devotion, and create an undeniably happy place, essentially our favourite pub in Wiltshire.
Personally, my favourite band currently on the circuit, in my favourite watering hole, was a chicken dinner, so while there was plenty on the menu, trips to Marlborough’s Lamb for Pants, Deadlight Dance at The Barge, Plan of Action at the Three Crowns, Long Street and a Devizes Scooter Club night, I had to make a choice, but it wasn’t pin in a map, if you’ve seen Concrete Prairie you’ll understand; I scoffed the lot, with only vague memories of returning home!
Late November last year I took the Southgate’s landlady Deborah on her word, and it paid off; a word you should never doubt when it comes to bands booked. She told me Swindon ensemble SGO are “an eclectic folky blues collective. They played a few crazy tunes in a circle in the middle of the pub once. Everyone loved it, we booked them!” On this chancer I dropped in and it was a pleasant surprise, such an apt band for the pub.
At the time I described it thus, “Brimful of sea shanties, hornpipe, parissienne and gypsy jazz, with subtle hints of Americana and country blues, SGO are both charming and accomplished. Melodically harmonising through geetars, fiddle and accordion, they reaffirm folk is the backbone to all modern musical genres, and launch preconceived notions of frumpiness within the modern scene out into the stratosphere.”
But hey, ain’t nobody got time to copy and paste anymore, you can read the full review HERE. All you need to know is, it was a brilliant gig, and now you don’t even need to take my word for it, if anyone ever does, because they’ve released it as a live album, Bandcamp download only. It’s one of those you listen back to and realise it wasn’t just a cider leakage in the brain, it really was as good as I recall. But if you didn’t attend here’s a taster of the Southgate at its best, for the recording contains the typical atmosphere and background noises, including George the pub dog, who seemed to approve.
Live is best for the rowdy pub folk of this kind, and this recording will put you right in the very spot of a most memorable gig, and if you attended or not, will ache you to catch them next time they’re around.
Another perishingly cold weekend in D-Town, but there was plenty of music and entertainment on offer to warm the heart. So I went off on a Winter wander to see what was on offer.
Unfortunately I had to miss Friday night’s Butch Hopkins Memorial Gig at The Corn Exchange, featuring Jon Amor and Innes Sibun. I would dearly loved to have gone, but was prevented by another commitment. Talking to people who did go, however, I was told that a great night was had by all.
But by Saturday I was fully on my mission. Whilst the editor of this esteemed digital mag was indulging his nostalgic love of Ford Cortinas and Slade tribute bands in Marlborough, I took to the mean streets of D-Town.
First off to St John’s for the Big Sound’s Christmas concert. This was a gig of two halves. The first half featured songs by a number of individual guest singers, including some very young soloists, each one of whom knocked it out of the park, despite the daunting prospect of standing up alone in front of hundreds of people. Hats off!
The second half moved up a gear and featured the big guns of the eponymous The Big Sound – a massive and marvellous choir, marshalled by the enthusiastic Jemma Brown. The choir was not formed particularly with formal concerts in mind, but more as an ongoing exercise in what Jemma herself describes as “music, singing, wellbeing, friendship, laughter and fun” (the choir meets and sings every Tuesday night). Those values certainly shone through as the choir strode their way through a number of Christmas-related songs. The highlight, particularly in the fun department, was the audience participation in The Twelve Days Of Christmas. Everyone on stage looked as if they were enjoying themselves hugely, and the audience were kept warm both by singing and by the mulled wine being served at the back. And to top all that, it would appear that the two charities being supported last night (Devizes Open Doors and Dorothy House) would have benefited somewhere in the region of £2000 – a terrific performance all round. Given that this was the choir’s first-ever gig, it was what I can only describe as a stunning success.
Of course there was other stuff on around town, but my next venue of choice for the night was The Southgate. Unfortunately, due to Covid, Dr. Zebo’s Wheezy Club had had to cancel at the very last minute, but the ever-resourceful Debbie had managed to find her friends (and fantastic musicians) Tim Madden (guitar and vocals) and Melinda Rozsahegyi (12-string pedal-steel guitar), both of The Duskers to play at the last moment. From a relatively quiet start, the crowd grew as the evening wore on, and the place was pretty packed by the end. Tim’s laid-back and mournful vocals, accompanied by gentle and under-stated guitar proved a perfect foil for Melinda’s pedal-steel. I think it’s the association with Country music and the heart-rending lyrics of you-done-me-wrong songs, but there’s something infinitely sad and haunting about the sound of pedal-steel. As it was, we had two great hour-long sets, and I left for home with just a liddle biddy tear in my eye.
But there was still more to come. D-Town doesn’t stop after Saturday night, it carries on until we all have to go back to work on Monday morning.
So Sunday got off to an early start. When there’s a Market Place full of farm machinery, why would you want to be anywhere else? Due to (as I understand it) insurance issues, Devizes Young Farmers were unable to stage their now-usual Tinsel & Tractor run through the Wiltshire countryside, ending up in D-Town, and so they did the next best thing – a static display. Whilst this might have been a little less exciting, and to feature rather less units, having the machines parked up in neat rows in The Market Place gave everyone a chance to get really close up. I’ve never seen so much clean (and often new) farm machinery – just makes you appreciate the level of modern technology that goes into producing the food that we all take for granted. I’ve also never seen so many strapping and weather-beaten chaps proudly displaying their vehicles. There were loads of stalls, including food offerings, and stuff for the kiddi-winkies to do too. Hopefully the day raised a shedload of money for Dorothy House, so another hats off to the organisers.
Afternoon is the time to go the pub, right? Keen to observe this custom in full, and never one to shirk my reporting responsibilities, I fearlessly went to two of our finest establishments. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
First to The White Bear to see my mate Jamie R Hawkins in a now-rare solo performance away from his Lost Trades buddies. It was really good to see and hear him in action again, and good to see that he’s retained all his good humour and singer/ songwriter skills. The songs were still there, that distinctive voice was still in evidence. Always a class act.
Finally it was back up to The Southgate, following the football, to catch It’s Complicated’s Christmas party. Again it was good to see an old mate, this time in the shape of Tim Watts behind the drums. Accompanied by Jacqi Sherlock (keys and vocals), Tom Evans (guitar and vocals), and Adrian Mundy (bass guitar), it was another of those gigs that really built momentum ass it went along. They’re a covers band, but definitely a musical step up from yer average pub band. They don’t just play the more “obvious” cloud-pleasers – they’re happy to take on some less well-known stuff. The musicianship, and their ability to use their own arrangements to lift a number out of the ditch of a mere slavish copy, means that they’re a notch or two better than the mere average. Jacqi’s vocals, in particular, really lifted some of the songs.
And because it was a Christmas party, the set-list included a number of Crimbo classics that we could all belt out. You don’t have to go all the way to Marlborough to see a Slade tribute act to get a dose of “Here It Is – Merry Christmas”. Tim did a passable impression of Noddy Holder, belting out the song, whilst doing some heavy-duty tub-thumping.
So – all-in-all – plenty of stuff to keep me out of trouble. And away from the football.
And – as a final note – I’d like to add a massive thank-you to all those shakers and movers, the organisers and planners, those people who get off their arses in our little town and put all of these events on for us to enjoy. There are lots of them throughout the year, and at a lot of venues, but just based on the above things that fed my particular week-end, a big hats off to Ian Hopkins (Long Street Blues), Dave & Debbie (The Southgate), Marc & Georgie (The White Bear), Jemma Brown (The Big Sound) and the Devizes Young Farmers. Hats off. Well done to all of them.
What of the apostrophe, diacritical, a punctuation marking a possessive case of nouns, a contractive omission of letters, or perhaps, in this case, a leftover smudge on a pub chalkboard?! Taking said chalkboard listing S’Go as the omission would read “S” for something, “go,” which could easily be ill-perceived as ultramodern funky electronica, or something loosly along those lines; not the case for this wonderful Swindon-based five-piece folk assemble.
Debroah, landlady of Devizes’ Southgate afirmed to me earlier in the week,“they’re an eclectic folky blues collective. They played a few crazy tunes in a circle in the middle of the pub once. Everyone loved it, we booked them!” and to know the affectionately dubbed “Gate” is to know never to doubt her word on this subject. So, far from potluck, I dropped in, Deborah was already up dancing with the crowd, while George the pub alsatian slept in the makeshift apron.
Cleared up any band name confusion with the bowler hat attired frontman during their halfway break. Seems the apostrophe is old hat for the band, favouring it as an abbreviation, SGO, of which he may’ve broken down for me but I missed it in the alcohol-infused noisy moment. Regardless, he suggested a dislike of the name was unanimous between its members, so subject to change, ergo; none of this really matters anyway.
What matters is ever the music, atmosphere and levels of enjoyability, and while Devizes hosted another Long Street Blues Club night and the Condado Lounge was brimming with fans of Finley Trusler and Mark, only an adequate houseful graced the dependable tavern, I’ll confirm those who did wouldn’t deny for what matters, SGO skyrocketed all said levels.
Pub dog George seems to detect the impending intoxication levels of the human punters, connecting it to their need of dancing, and, after time prefers to slumber under the bar hatch. But one ponders the attraction in kipping directly in front of the performers is likely the natural heat they give off makes it the warmest spot. Though steady to begin with, SGO certainly gave British Gas a run for their money.
Brimful of sea shanties, hornpipe, parissienne and gypsy jazz, with subtle hints of Americana and country blues, SGO are both charming and accomplished. Melodically harmonising through geetars, fiddle and accordian, they reaffirm folk is the backbone to all modern musical genres, and launch preconceived notions of frumpiness within the modern scene out into the stratosphere. Akin to what Dr Zebo’s Wheezy Club are putting down, this is achieved through replicating the timeless sounds of which folk have revelled in for centuries, and validates its worth in modern day.
All tradtions of folk were honoured, SGO covered classics, sporadically upping the tempo, enthused their audience, were amusing with localised ditties and personal prose. Referencing an expedition between their hometown’s landmarks the Richard Jefferies Museum to Coate Water as a sea shanty being a particularly adroit example. Yet they were at best producing some sublime instrumental moments of skillful union. The crowd were swaying in bliss, and perhaps, booze too.
Therefore the demanded encore was aptly Gretchen Wilson’s “You Don’t Have to Go Home, but You Can’t Stay Here.”
My lucky dip came up trumps, and a great night was had, although that’s the standard model at the Southgate. You should note Jon Amor’s monthly residency has been shifted to next Sunday, Rockport rocks up there next Saturday, one third Lost Trader, Phil Cooper follows on 3rd December.
For SGO, I’d recommend S’going to check them out, and can be found at Swindon’s The Gluepot on Thursday 1st December, with support from Shedric, and The Hop Inn with support from Canute’s Plastic Army on Wednesday 7th. Follow their social media HERE for updates.
How can we describe the sound? Heavy but relaxing? The strongest bass delivery you are likely to hear anywhere, incredible layering of sound from that bold bass, the prodigious lead guitar and backed with some fine, crisp delivery from the drums.
With no vocals, comes a name to hold court with musicianship. It didn’t appear to pose any pressure for this machine. We found ourselves captivated, enthralled entirely by something so different.
Our limited research prior to the gig, (we were encouraged to try by drummer Gary) threw up a tag of ‘space rock’. There’s not a huge amount of it anywhere in the world it appears, Germany and Japan seemingly the widest exponents.
Yet here we are in Devizes, in what guitarist Bill Denton proclaimed as ‘the best live music venue in Wiltshire’ watching space rock. (Ed’s note: yes, here’s a review of them at The Gate by Andy, from 2018.)
In the same way fans like ourselves might immerse their senses in big musical landscapes of say Pink Floyd, you find yourself in fact listening mesmerised, personally oddly relaxed…. there’s that driving bass and sufficient volume to shake the rafters, yet it’s like you’ve found yourself in the bars of Tatooine.
Years of music collecting and gigs have left no reference, no recollection of anything quite like it. So, chatting with the band, Prog Rock people often like them, space rock people love them, and as of yesterday so do we!
Check them out! I cannot remember the last time a band I liked left me with such difficulty describing their incredible music.
As ever and in full agreement with Bill, thank you Deb and Dave at The Gate for their unrivalled passion for live music in Devizes. Thank you to Cracked Machine, look forward to next time.
When Barrelhouse visited the Southgatelast easter, it was a great affair, though I was surprised to have been among a lesser crowd than a typical night down Devizes’ ever-dependable tavern. Given our blues obsession and this largely Marlborough based five-piece’s exceptional talent for providing exactly that, a clashing evening at Long Street Blues Club, if memory serves me well, is the only logical explanation. This time made up for it……
See, I’ve witnessed the crowd-pulling ability of this band on their home-turf, as residents of MantonFest, and was pleased to strut headlong into the rammed mosh pit, even if it meant accidently tripping over a dog, who got their own back with a nip of my badly executed apologetic hand! Rammed in there for birthday-boy landlord Dave, indeedy, but also, I confirm Devizes has awakened to how good these guys are. So rammed, even, I gave up trying to get a decent photo.
The dancefloor proved my point, Devizes has cottoned onto the Barrelhouse fanatical, and last night they took the packed boozer on their magical journey. Squeezed into our legendary alcove, it’s a good job they’re only barrel by name, otherwise it could’ve gone all Popup Pirate! I arrived fashionably late, plastered in badly grafted zombie makeup, but in time enough for the signature tune, and the one which attracted me to their most brilliant originals, Mainline Voodoo, a track they submitted to our first Julia’s House compilation. And being this was followed by their delta-version of Ace of Spades, I was happy to be there.
It’s when they slide in a cover of The Weight, you know you’re in good company, bassist Stuart jesting to me they only run it so Jim Morrison fashioned frontman, Martin Hands can sing the word “fanny.” And there it is, see, not a band with a standout character, but a real tight teamworking collective, they bind and entertain like clockwork, and the sound they produce is as it says on the tin, “vintage blues with a hard-edged groove.”
An encore was demanded, after Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, they only went and did Honkytonk Woman, and rinsed it with the skill they put into every one of their originals. Much so, you cannot see the seam, there is no wandering off to the bar when they call it, “here’s one of our originals;” no; crowd be like, okay, I’m happy with that. Especially at The Southgate; we like it like that.
It only leaves me to direct your eyes to the poster below, a kind of interim MantonFest, where alongside a Slade tribute, you’ll get the full impact of Barrelhouse on their home turf, and unless you hold out until they’re at the Gate again, you should make a beeline for this Christmassy offering.
Do you ever get that feeling that each day has its own special feeling, its own atmosphere? Do we even need to talk about Mondays? Fridays, especially Friday evening, have that “thank God it’s all over for another week; let’s go out and have a drink to get the weekend started” vibe. Saturdays are sport, leisure, shopping, maybe a meal out, perhaps a music gig. And Sundays, well Sundays are different yet again, aren’t they? Yes I know there’s that well-documented slight anxiety about the coming working week, but there’s just something more laid-back, more relaxed about the whole atmosphere.
And that’s how it is at The Southgate on Sunday afternoons – comfortable, relaxed and a nice buzz amongst the regular music-goers. Some of my best memories of 2022 have been those lazy, hazy Sundays at Dave & Deb’s place, watching some of the best local musical talent on show.
All year, on each first Sunday of the month, local hero Jon Amor has been showcasing his musical “friends” – his trio with Tom Gilkes on drums and Jerry Soffe on bass, together with an eclectic set of special guests (Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse in the early part of the year being a particular highlight). But one of those guests, guitarist Chaz Thorogood, impressed so much that he was asked to come back with his own band and do his own gig, and yesterday we were treated to the results.
But first a short aside – last Sunday afternoon featured another superb artist: Jack Grace and his trio. What a show that was. More than two hours of country/ folky/ blues/ rock songs stitched together by Jack’s amazing commentary and stories. There were echoes in there of Hot Tuna, Tom Waits, Alex Harvey and a whole vaudeville vibe that was by turns exciting, hilarious and totally infectious. It was genuinely one of those gigs that you just don’t want to end. Musical entertainment of the very first order.
However, I digress – back to Chaz. As if last week-end’s show couldn’t be bettered, here was something equally good. Playing plenty of rock-infused blues, Chaz’s two sets were a revelation. Taking several blues standards by the throat, he and his boys steadily squeezed new life out of them. Crossroads, Got My Mojo Working, Folsom Prison Blues all got the treatment, with some absolutely inspired leas guitar work. And then, if it were possible, he went up another gear. What he did to Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile was absolutely stunning (“filthy” was the word used by a friend of mine). Later he repeated the trick with All Along The Watchtower, and even managed (I can’t believe I’m saying this) to kick seven bells out of Britney Spears’ Toxic. And there was a final cherry on the cake – a stonking and inspired version of the Beatles’ Come Together. To say that this guy knows his way around a guitar is a massive understatement. Entertainment of the very first order.
So yet another brilliant Sunday afternoon completed – good beer, great company, wonderful atmosphere and some stunningly good music. It’s what life’s all about in my book – stuff Monday!
So if you’ve not poked your nose around the door of The Southgate yet, I strongly suggest that you do so. There’s gigs on various Fridays and Saturdays too but, for me at least, Sundays just have that edge. And your next chance to experience just what I mean is in a couple of Sundays’ time, when Jon Amor returns to his monthly residency with his trio and another musical guest.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
Saturday 29th October Barrelhouse
Saturday 5th November 41 Fords
Sunday 6th November Jon Amor + Friends ft Ben Waghorn (sax)
It was a typical, standard Saturday night at Devizes Southgate, but a typical and standard night at the Gate equates to an absolutely blinding night in most other pubs……
Amidst friendly faces, welcoming staff and warm familiar surroundings, the unpredictable drizzling autumn was set aside for Mr Eddie Martin to group with the finest drum and bass section to grace the alcove, Tom Gilkes and Jerry Soffe respectively. And together they blasted us full in face with some sublime three-piece electric blues. An unchanged formula for decades, because it works.
Though Eddie himself is diverse, the last time I saw him he was solo, filling gaps between bands in at The Wiltshire Blues and Soul Club’s grand evening at the Corn Exchange, where clad in golden suit he executed vintage blues akin to Muddy Waters. A high accolade it may well be but fully deserved. With full horn section he went for the big band style recently at the Long Street Blues Club, but here at the Gate, he’s truly rocking the electric blues, in DMs, black jeans and one too many shirt buttons open. He can do this, with apt blue shades and shaved head he looks the part, and certainly sounds it.
With a few blues covers, but nothing immediately recognisable or cliché, Eddie mostly rolled out original tracks from his plethora of albums, in a suitcase at his feet. This matched the appreciation of the slight but blossoming crowd. It was, in short, electrifying yet cool as a cucumber; an electrified cucumber, if you will. In fact, I could skewer the idiom to cool as an Eddie Martin!
Nimble on the strings, with extended instrumental breaks of mesmerising proportions, he polished those songs right there before our very eyes, and it was something to behold. I believe, if memory serves me well, my top drunken exclamation was a rather Punch and Judy, “that’s the way to do it,” because it is.
Not that this was the night I had planned, intentions were to get to Bath for a bit of ska and boss reggae with Ya Freshness, but difficulties with non-existent public transport meant I’d have to drive, and being I’ve galivanted elsewhere the past few weekends, sometimes one desires a few too many ciders, where everybody knows your…erm, cue classic American sitcom theme, because it’s apt. The Southgate is that dependable tavern, which hasn’t failed me yet, and neither on this occasion either.
Eddie, a local bluesman of international calibre knows exactly what he’s doing, Devizes renowned blues circuit love him for it. Not only does he know his way around a guitar, but he also even attaches his harmonica holder stylishly and he knows how to rouse a crowd. Which means I don’t make comparisons to blues legends lightly, but justifiably, and the thought hangs on the Howlin’ Wolf. Needless to say, I had a great night, and even flagged a taxi home with ease, cool as an Eddie Martin, what is this now, 2019? No one gets an unbooked taxi in a rank at midnight in Devizes anymore; luck is a lady!
Spud-gun is an amusing epithet underutilised as much as the Shambles often is in ol’ Devizes town, in my honest opinion. Spudgun, best describes the far removed from reality councillor who suggested a mezzanine floor is what’s needed to ensure the longevity of The Shambles. Is there even room for a second floor? I gazed upward to answer my own question, with a sigh of possibility, but would enough traders come and fill new units, if they did would it compensate for the cost of adding a second floor, and would shoppers even accend it to explore? Not forgoing lessening the aesthetic value of the building’s glorious height, it sounds like an impractical soultion focussed only on unachievable profit.
Having a feast in the Shambles casted a whole new perspective on the hidden beauty of this building, for me, and its possible usages too. SoupChick hosted a knockout supper there last night for near-on forty guests, celebrating owner Anya’s Georgian roots with an inspiring presentation from her artist mother, followed by a banquet of Georgian cuisine, but somehow, in that wonderfully tall hall, akin to a feast in the great hall of Vaulhalla!
I haven’t enough flowery shirts to be Jay Rayner, but I know what I like, and this was an experience my tastebuds will love me forevermore for! Pampered with a consistent stream of wine and gorgeous dishes, no expense was spared to show off the skills of Anya and her team in a unit the size of a bedsit kitchenette, and confirmed SoupChick is about as close to dishing out a mug of Cup-a-Soup as a daytrip to Canvey Island constituents a tropical holiday!
I feel for you if you missed this exclusive dinner, but keep abreast of their Facebook page or posters, as this was inaugural with future events planned, a Greek one, followed by an Italian, Anya’s partner Marc informed me.
Aside the continuing Devizes Food & Drink Festival, which coincidentally kicked off yesterday too, we’re somewhat limited for world cuisine here, like many rural areas, so this is a welcomed additional option, and just like the art show they organised back in November, it goes a long way in making perfect use of The Shambles.
Proof, I believe, that surely we should keep our feet on the ground, concentrate on what we have got? Starter whinge for ten, the entrance from the Market Place is hardly whetting the appetite, hardly screams come in here and take a look around; just some tables and chairs in a dank hall, occasionally occupied by a trader or two on market days. I accept an open space is practical and convenient, but this needs to occupy the rear end of it while those fantastic units in the middle and rear-end should greet passers-by at the beginning, much less it needs a lick of paint and some decoration.
Vibrant market halls of yore send me on a memory bliss, of sauntering Camden Lock, or the Lanes of Brighton. But this isn’t the nineties, and it’s Devizes, certainly not Brighton or Camden. And with that a chilling thought comes to me, of a couple of weeks ago, decending into the once bustling indoor market in Trowbridge town centre, to find it 99.9% desolate, my daughter reminding me it’s the after effects of the pandemic. By comparison with this, and not a bustling bygone city market, The Shambles is a wonderful market hall, and we shouldn’t take it for granted.
I’m guilty myself, I rush through it on my way elsewhere, but to add lively communal events, to welcome, as it once did, community groups like Devizes Living Room, and the addition of a piano were real positive moves. I’d like to suggest extending this, to welcome buskers, put some acoustic musicians in there, Devizes has plenty to offer.
I say they should encourage a flow of foot traffic through the Shambles by concentrating on adding arts, entertainment and street food, make it colourful and lively, add events such as book or record fairs, the possibilities are endless, let’s have a self-publishing zine convention with affordable tables, let’s have a creche, play area, and things to do for our younger generations, let’s go for it, and visting folk will bookmark Devizes as an even more fantastic day out than previously anticipated.
But hey, you know me, just a thought! For the best part of this is to thank SoupChick for a wonderful meal, it was interesting and an experience, I know now about Georgia, it’s culture and art, and certainly had the best possible taste of its food. All in good company, here’s a local event with a difference, truly tantalising the tastebuds, so much so I took to donning my modest gladrags, much to the shock of regulars at the Southgate, where I bee-lined afterwards for the contrasting headbanging thunder of Plan of Action!
The band were fantastic, though I wasn’t there for long enough to fairly justify a fuller review this time, mentioning it here it is only a method of expressing what a wonderfully diverse calendar of events we have in Devizes, and after last weekend’s gig excursion to Swindon, it was great to return. If buildings like the Shambles can be used as an addition for events, I believe we should make full use of it, diversify and celebrate the talent we have here inside it; go figure, miss-firing spudgun!
After eight months of being other engaged on the first Sunday of each month, with run throughs of self-authored radio plays, Rugby weekends to Edinburgh, and rehearsals for Pirates of Penzance and Macbeth, I finally had a spare slot to come and see Jon Amor in residency at The Southgate Inn, Devizes.
Given this was Jon’s EIGHTH appearance this year at the venue it’s a somewhat daunting task to review him following in the footsteps of Messrs Worrow and Fawthrop .. but here I am in an attempt to not regurgitate the same old cliches and fawning sycophancy.
Errr… ummm… hmmm… ahhh… So much for that attempt then! So leaving that aside …
Jon – the lanky piece of piss from the Hoax according to Jeff Beck – was as ever at his ease in his manor. Joining him were his constant companions (at least at the Southgate!) the incomparable Jerry Soffe on bass and Tom Gilkes on drums – more of them later. And after a couple of shoulder loosening openers of superb class this month’s guest … Muddy Manninen of Wishbone Ash, Patsy Gamble and Black Pearl fame. And even with the superb introduction to the gig, the class rose yet again as Muddy strummed his way through the first joint number.
And the evening just got better and better and better. Swapping between themselves on rhythm and lead, Jon and Muddy led us through raucous numbers to classic blues over and over again. And no sooner had it seemed they’d just begun … it was half time and a chance to replenish glasses and take a breather from the heady atmosphere outside in the delightful beer garden of the Southgate.
Soon it was however time for more of the same, and what a second half. How anybody can say they don’t like blues always defeats me and the guys took us all to even more stratospheric delights. Aside from the phenomenal talents of our two strummers, the backing boys shone though. Jerry every bit the standard bassist with t shirt, shorts and trainers had his own moment to shine with sublime solos and interjections, the coolest member of the quartet (well, he IS a basis 😊 ). And Tom… well… BLOODY HELL! I recall the first ever drum solo I saw aged about twelve maybe, at the Chatham Central Halls of the Dutch Swing College Band – the rest of the band left the stage – no doubt to toke and drink up – and the drummer did his thing for several minutes. I was mesmerised. I’ve loved a good drum solo since and I wasn’t disappointed as Tom got his chance to demonstrate his sublime skillset for many minutes until he finally begged for release from his band mates as he tired, to a standing ovation.
A chum I grew up with a million years ago is no mean drummer himself, and runs a recording studio in Southern California now; I sent him a video of Tom’s work and he replied “He’s a very good drummer. Those little grace notes he’s playing on the hi hat in that last clip is classy.” So there you have it – not only a brilliant drummer but also a Devizine review from San Diego!
All good things eventually come to an and we said farewell to Jon and Muddy and – of course! Tom and Jerry! The connection between all four of them was palpable and the joy palpable. Jon has always come across as a genial easy-going guy of course, but I commented to him afterwards that he looked really happy on set. Broad grins and smiles all round. Muddy was a total delight to see and hear play, true class again. We are so fortunate to be able to draw upon Jon’s circle of friends in the business in this manner, and it’s no small kudos to Dave and Debs at the Southgate for the residency slot and the concept of “And Friends”.
As a final world then, it’s only fair to quote my chum from SoCal once again …
“It’s a good day when you stumble upon players of this calibre down the pub!”
Jeepers. No one works that hard on a Sunday, surely? Even if your boss shoves a Sunday shift unwillingly on you, you brush as much as you can under the carpet; anything which can wait until Monday, should do. I’ve mentioned it in passing, but not given Jon Amor’s monthly residency at the Southgate full coverage before, because those who know, know anyway.…..
For procrastination isn’t in our Devizes’ blues living legend’s vocabulary, neither is the notion it’s only a free pub gig. Jon Amor and friends blows the Southgate down, every first Sunday of the month. The like you’d happily pay a ticket stub for, and he throughly loves every second of it.
It’s a pub Sunday roast with a difference; you’re the meat. Jon bangs up the heat and cooks like Heston Blumenthal on a promise, usually drafting in a renowned sous chef from his network of astounding bluesmen. On this occasion King Street Turnaround bassist, Jerry Soffe and quickfire drummer Tom Gilkes joined him, along with the single most dexterous keyboardist I’ve had the pleasure to witness, John Baggot.
With more to appease than Devizes blues afictionardos in the middle-aged mosh pit, being footfall decended clockwork from DOCA’s fantastic Picnic in the Park, Jon didn’t concern himself to warm the oven first, sizzling our tender loins with his signature ‘Juggernaut,’ I was assured from start, this was a hip rub with michelin star garnish.
Baggot was the gravy boat, seemingly improv throughout, his sublime skill at the keyboard poured the stock on so thickly, contrails were visible from his hands. Complimenting Jon, Tom and Jerry’s jam, it came together impeccably. We’re looking at the Devizes’ very own juke joint here, the tunes they played through unimportant when you’re going with the flow, the outstanding quality is the only element paramount for mentioning.
See, I’m a world music lover, mightily impressed by DOCA’s ethos of providing our town with these slices of something all together different for these back waters. But due to Dad’s taxi service I rocked up belated enough only to catch the finale of their carnival warmup at Hillworth; beguiling marimba rhythm band, London-based Otto & The Mutapa Calling. Their enchanting tempo breezed through the crowd and trees beyond, contrasting in genre to the familiarity of what was to follow a stone throw away at our Southgate. Yet to palsy-walsyily acquaint with electric blues is to Devizes what Merseybeat is to Liverpool or triphop to Bristol, Jon is the kingpin, and we love it with bells on.
The rare occasion timings between events occur in town like this, is fantastic, bit like sauntering between stages at Glastonbury, without the wellies. The sporadic spoils of DOCA or Devizes Arts Festival, Long Street Blues Club or the Wharf truly are blessings to the town when they occur, but the Southgate is that dependable, regular stalwart, something Deborah and Dave should be very proud to have developed.
With such a flowing lineup, it’s never a disappointment, but I recall a day a few years past, when, with glint in her eye, landlady Deborah told me Jon Amor came in and wanted a slot; look how far we’ve come. For if the musical menu is tantalising weekly, this residency is the house special.
Is it really (not that) long? Debs suddenly realised over the weekend that this was the 300th gig that she and Dave had put on in The Southgate since taking over in 2018. That’s only four years, and we had a pandemic in the middle when all the pubs were necessarily closed anyway, so that’s a pretty remarkable record! No-one has done more to support live music in D-Town that Debs and Dave, with virtually every weekend supporting at least one gig, sometimes two or three. I do remember one night when there were (for complicated reasons that need not detain us now) two gigs on at exactly the same time – one inside the pub, and one in the skittle alley!
There have been acts from all over the country, and indeed from several other countries. There has been just about every style of music you can think of – rock, prog, psychedelia, blues, funk, soul, folk and every combination thereof that you can think of. Most of it worked too!
So it was really good, albeit perhaps just a lucky coincidence, that gig number 300 should be one of those relaxed Sunday afternoon sessions featuring a couple of the best of our very local singer/ songwriters – Tamsin Quin and Vince Bell. The atmosphere was, as usual, warm and supportive right from the start.
Tamsin was up first, shorn of her Lost Trades buddies, for an occasional solo performance. I’ve known Tamsin since some of her early gigs back in the mists of time at the now-defunct Seend Acoustic. Back then she was chatty, nervous, a little scatty, but clearly a great songwriter and performer. Since then, and I’ve seen her perform many times, she has clearly developed. She’s stronger and more assured in front of a microphone, her singing style is more gentle, and her song-writing has developed in leaps and bounds – intimate, sincere and with a new depth and maturity.
Vince followed her onto the singing stool and showed us, yet again, what a great singer/ songwriter he is. And it was one of those gigs where, instead of being reduced to the “folkie in the corner” everybody (including the dogs) was properly listening. Again we had strong, deep songs, with some occasional Spiderman-pyjama whimsy thrown in, and a captivating performance.
Unfortunately, I had to skip the very last bit where they got to sing some songs together (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was calling and I didn’t want to get put “on hold”), so as they used to say in The News Of The World “I made my apologies and left”, which was a damned pity because it was such a lovely, homely gig.
There were lots of friends in the audience, and a lot of love in the room. I’m pretty sure I’m right in thinking that both performers enjoyed it as much as we audience did in listening. Wonderful.
So, as I said, a great gig to celebrate 300 and counting. Let’s hope for many more great gigs, and let’s hope that the good folk of D-Town keep on supporting quality live music.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
Saturday 2nd July Jack Grace Band Sunday 3rd July Jon Amor + Friends
Ah – you never know what life is going to throw up at you till it smacks you right in the face. Coming off the back of two weeks’ worth of fare from Devizes Arts Festival, I poked my head in to The Corn Exchange to catch their very last act – Absolute with their Celtic Party Night. I managed to stay for the first half (and very it good it was too as the crowd began to thaw and fill the dance-floor), but to be honest, there’s only so much diddley-diddley music that one man can take.…..
And so it was, as a late call, I decided to head up the hill to The Southgate to check out the Sarah C. Ryan Band. And boy am I glad I did. These guys were a new band to me, despite being quite local (they even rehearse in Devizes), and I couldn’t believe that I’d never run into them before.
In short they were beltingly good – several notches above most pub bands. But that judgement is kinda unfair – they were much more than a mere “pub band”. They played mostly self-penned numbers, with just the occasional leavening of covers. Being a five-piece, and including three guitars, drums, keyboards and the occasional woodwind, gave them a depth and a richness in their sound. The songs were clean, sharp, unfussy. Sarah’s singing in particular lifted the performance with her sweet, clear voice, but the whole thing was a complete pleasure to listen to. Number after number rolled off their set-list, each one bringing huge applause from a very enthusiastic audience. Their versions of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and the Cranberries’ “Zombie” were absolutely spot-on, working with the crowd and feeding off their energy.
Really good band – best I’ve seen in ages. And really nice folks to talk to as well. They told me that they don’t actually gig very much, but I really can’t understand why – they’ve got the right package – good songs, good playing, good sound and an ability to connect with their audience. Let’s hope we see much more of them in the future!
Well done to Debs for another great booking, and a good night at The Gate.
Editor’s Top-Secret Information! I’m sorry to have missed this gig at our trusty Southgate, for although I’ve not had the chance to catch The Sarah C Ryan Band live, yet, I can leak some top-secret information, or, at least, procrastination being the reason I’ve not mentioned it sooner: I’m fully aware how absolutely awesome The Sarah C Ryan Band are, as they’ve kindly donated a tune called A Woman in White, to the forthcoming second volume of our Julia’s House compilation. And you HAVE to hear it!
It was only a whistle-stop for me at Devizes’ best pub for original live music on Saturday, but long enough to sink a cider and assess; James Hollingsworth is fantastic….
Our roving reporter Andy informed me James is a blessing on the folk circuit, but this occasion, armed with enough loop pedals to make The Southgate’s alcove resemble the Millennium Falcon, he summoned his inner “progness” to embark upon a journey beyond three chords.
A captivating solo show, where pre-recorded backing tracks were not welcome, Frome-based James worked steadily and proficiently through his own compositions, as well as some covers, with complex arrangements built via hand percussion, voice and guitar effects.
Prominsing classics from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Yes, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Kate Bush, The Beatles, Roy Harper, Jeff Buckley, Marillion and more. If I couldn’t stay for long, because I’m as not as omnipresent as I need to be, I picked out Hendrix’s Castles Made of Sand, and it was sublime.
So, only a quick note to say, for any music lover from folk to prog-rock, from the era of mellowed Flyod-eske goodness, James Hollingsworth works some magic. I’ll be making a bee-line next time he arrives at The Southgate, and so should you!
If you ever find yourself at a loose end, particularly the first Sunday afternoon in every month, there’s one place you really ought to be – up at The Southgate. Starting early in the New Year, hometown boy Jon Amor has taken up a residency – a great idea by Dave & Debs – and has been featuring a different guest each month.
Yesterday it was the turn of American band Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse, and what a great show it turned out to be. Although usually held inside the pub, yesterday meant everyone was out in the garden – the only practical solution when you’ve got six musicians, including keyboards and two drum-kits to get on the stage. It was a bit chilly out there at first, but we soon got warmed up with two stonkingly good sets from Amor et al.
Kicking off on his own, just backed by his usual rhythm section of Tom Gilkes on drums and Jerry Soffe on bass, Jon played the first couple of numbers before inviting up one member of the guest band after another. It worked a treat, with the sound and the depth/ richness of that sound building and building – more guitar, more drums, keyboards, and more vocals – until we had all six musicians up there and really hitting their stride.
It was one of those great moments in live music when the opening chords of Jon’s signature tune “Juggernaut” rang out to great applause, only for BGG lead singer Greta Valenti to take over the vocal duties and to give the song the best working-out it’s had in quite a while. Another highlight of the afternoon was the full blast audience participation in one of BGG’s great numbers “Don’t Let The Bastards Drag You Down”. Everyone – I mean everyone – was singing to that one.
What a great afternoon – good beer, good company, a big enthusiastic crowd, and one of the best live pub gigs that you are ever likely to hear. The size of the crowd and the volume of the applause said it all – terrific gig.
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 her