Images used with the kind permission of Steve Ullathorne
I’ve been a admirer of the pragmatic Mark Thomas and his satirical cutting-edge comedy since his days guesting on The Mary Whitehouse Experience at the dawn of nineties, end of this month he’s at the Swindon Arts Centre; could you ask for a more apt date?!
I recall with fond nostalgia how he ridiculed and enraged his local McDonalds, or gambled the entire ten grand profit from the previous show on a hopeless outsider at Doncaster, thanking Michael Grade, chief executive of Channel 4 at the time, for allowing him to waste his money. The notion, he stated, was that it was an exhilarating thrill of washing someone else’s money down the toilet, and likened it to the how the Queen must feel at races.
But it’s been a while since stumbling across his name. Hearing this self-dubbed “libertarian anarchist” comedian is heading to the Swindon Arts Centre on Thursday 31st October as part of a work-in-progress tour, before the real thing kicks off in the New Year, I did a little YouTube catching up type research, and found a decade old stand-up show where he the tackles the fox hunting ban, Tony Blair’s move to the right, and the Islamic extremism hot on the world’s lips. He takes no prisoners, dares to go where other comedians would quiver.
I have to ponder if the current affairs of a hare-brained conservative ruling, shifting towards nationalism and abandonment of a unification of Europe, simply to maintain billionaire’s tax-free offshore accounts whist politically dividing the country through media-bias, propaganda and blatant fabrications, thus creating a hatred of alternative thinking which even lambasts the very extinction of all life on Earth simply because it’s voiced by a teenage female, is enough ammunition for this cheeky-faced comedian.
The blurb suggests though, his new show, 50 Things About Us will go beyond this, “Mark Thomas combines his trademark mix of storytelling, stand-up, mischief and really, really well researched material to examine how we have come to inhabit this divided wasteland that some of us call the United Kingdom.”
“He picks through the myths, facts and figures of our national identities to ask how we have so much feeling for such a hollow land. Who do we think we are? It is a show about money, history, songs, gongs, wigs, unicorns, guns, bungs, sods of soil and rich people* in the vein of The Manifesto-meets-sweary History Channel.
*(not the adjective Mark has chosen)
It sounds like age and the writing of award-winning plays has only in heightened his crusade and hilarious radical sarcasm. I think we can take it as red; he isn’t going to do a Morrissey on us just yet. With a full tour of this show happening next year, here’s something worthy of your attention for the 31st October, what else you going to be doing on that date, eh? Kowtowing Boris Johnson whilst stockpiling baked bean tins before your meds run out?
With an 12+ Age Restriction, tickets are £15.50. Concessions: £2.00 Off, from here.
Have you ever loved a show so much that you wished you could kidnap the actors, keep them in your basement and get them to perform it again for you? No? Just Rupert?
After a successful three week run at the Miniver Theatre, a troupe of young actors are ready and willing to let go of their most recent production and move on to bigger and better things, but Rupert isn’t going to let that happen. He loves the piece to the point of obsession and can’t let their show die. There are a few things you should know when trying to save a play from death. Thing number one: the actors aren’t gonna like it. Trapped in a basement, forced to rehearse and fearing for their lives, there is only one way for the performers to gain their freedom.
They must act their way out…
The intriguing new drama-thriller work, At This Stage is on at The Shoebox Theatre, Swindon on Saturday 12th October at 7.30pm. Suitable for ages 14+
Tickets are £10 from HERE
With my ribs near fully recovered from giggling injuries caused by the one Ed Byrne, it’s nice to note if you missed him at the rescheduled Devizes Arts Festival evening, he’s playing Trowbridge’s Civic Centre on the 26th September, March 13th at the Wyvern, Swindon and Bath’s Forum on March 19th.
Here’s an interview with the man himself, to tempt your taste buds….
A household name teetering on the brink of national treasure status, award-winning comedian Ed Byrne enjoys worldwide acclaim for his stand-up. With 25 years under his belt, Ed has parlayed his on-stage success into a variety of notable television appearances. A regular on Mock The Week and The Graham Norton Show, Ed has recently co-presented Dara & Ed’s Big Adventure and its follow-up Dara & Ed’s Road To Mandalay, and managed not to disgrace himself on Top Gear or whilst tackling one of The World’s Most Dangerous Roads. As a semi-professional hill-walker himself and fully paid-up humanist, he also brought a refreshing warmth and honesty to BBC2’s recent hit The Pilgrimage.
But the Irishman is still best-known and best appreciated for his stand-up performances. A quarter of a century at the comedic coal-face has equipped Ed with a highly evolved story-telling ability and a silky mastery of his craft. Yet his wit, charm and self-deprecatory observational humour is often underpinned by a consistently hilarious vitriol and sense of injustice at a world that seems to be spinning ever more rapidly out of control.
Having recently hit a new peak with shows such as the sublime Spoiler Alert and reflective Outside, Looking In, which explored the minefield that is modern parenting and a generational sense of entitlement, Ed’s new show If I’m Honest digs ever deeper into a father’s sense of responsibility, what it means to be a man in 2019, and whether he possesses any qualities whatsoever worth passing on to his two sons. Occasionally accused of whimsy, If I’m Honest is a show with a seriously steely core.
Gender politics, for example, is something Ed readily engages with – deploying his customary comedic zeal. ‘I’ll admit that there are things where men get a raw deal,’ he says. ‘We have higher suicide rates, and we tend not to do well in divorces, but representation in action movies is not something we have an issue with. It was Mad Max: Fury Road that kicked it all off, even though nobody complained about Ripley in Alien or Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. Of course, social media means this stuff gets broadcast far and wide in an instant, which emboldens people.
‘The problem with men’s rights activists is that it’s not about speaking up for men’s rights, it’s about hating women. If you’re a men’s rights activist, you’re not going to care about the fact that there’s an all-female Ghostbusters remake. That’s nothing to do with men’s rights or female entitlement. That’s everything to do with being, well, a whiny baby.’
As ever, Ed manages to provoke without being overly polemical, a balancing act that only someone of his huge experience can really pull off.
‘I did stuff about Trump and the Pizzagate right wing conspiracy,’ he says, ‘and a couple of the reviewers said, “Oh, I would have liked to have watched a whole show of this”. And I think, ‘well you might have, but the average person who comes to see me would not like to see that’. I like to make a point or get something off my chest, or perhaps I’m talking about something that’s been on my mind, but the majority of stuff is just to get laughs.
‘People who come to see me are not political activists necessarily, they’re regular folk. If you can make a point to them, in between talking about your struggles with aging, or discussing your hernia operation or whatever it is, you can toss in something that does give people pause as regards to how men should share the household chores.’
He continues, ‘It’s not that I feel a responsibility, I think it just feels more satisfying when you’re doing it, and it feels more satisfying when people hear it. When a joke makes a good point, I think people enjoy it. It’s the difference between having a steak and eating a chocolate bar.’
Ed, who broke through in the mid-1990s when the New Lad became a genuine cultural phenomenon, doesn’t want to submit to any unnecessary revisionism, but admits that if the times have changed, he has changed with them. He reflects a little ruefully on one of his most famous jokes. ‘There’s an attitude towards Alanis Morrisette in the opening of that routine that I’m no longer comfortable with, where I call her a moaning cow and a whiny bint… slagging off the lyrics of the song is fine, but there’s a tone in the preamble that I wouldn’t write today.’
The new show also takes his natural tendency towards self-deprecation to unexpected extremes. ‘I do genuinely annoy myself,’ Ed concedes. ‘But the thing of your children being a reflection of you, gives you an opportunity to build something out of the best of yourself only for you to then see flashes of the worst of yourself in them. It’s a wake-up call about your own behaviour.’
When I challenge him over the degree of self-loathing he displays, he disagrees. ‘Self-aggrandising humour is a lot harder to pull off than self-deprecating humour,’ he insists. ‘A lot of people get really annoyed when Ricky Gervais is self-congratulatory. I always find it very funny when he accepts awards and does so in the most big-headed way possible. I think it’s a trickier type of humour to pull off, talking yourself up in that way.
‘So no, I don’t think I’m being massively hard on myself. The fact is when you’re the bloke who is standing on the stage with the microphone, commanding an audience’s attention, you’re in a very elevated position anyway.’
That said, If I’m Honest brilliantly elucidates the frustration that arrives in middle age – and lives up to its title. ‘I’m bored looking for things, I’m bored of trying to find stuff, because I can never find it, and it is entirely my fault,’ Ed says. ‘Nobody’s hiding my stuff from me. Although my wife did actually move my passport on one occasion’.
He insists that, while the show might have mordant and occasionally morbid aspects, it’s also not without its quietly triumphant moments. ‘I thought I was being quite upbeat talking about the small victories,’ he says. ‘You know, finding positivity in being able to spot when a cramp was about to happen in your leg and dealing with it before it does. I was very happy with myself about that.’
Age, it seems, has not withered him. Especially now that he’s figured out how to head off ailments before they become a problem. ‘You see comics who are my age and older but are still retaining a level of “cool” and drawing a young crowd. I can’t deny that I’m quite envious of that. But there’s also something very satisfying about your audience growing old with you.’
Ed Byrne is touring nationwide, appearing at Trowbridge’s Civic Centre on the 26th September, March 13th at the Wyvern, Swindon and Bath’s Forum on March 19th. For more information, please visit http://edbyrne.com/
Ah, nuts, it’s all over. Get your winter coat, hats and snow shovels and bolt down the hatches; it’s September. “We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage.” Back to school though, summer usually kicks in around now. So, gig-wise, here’s what we’ve got to warm your soul.
Note, this is for musical gigs, please keep up. Last month I did this people were arguing I forgot their flower pressing show, foot healing festival and stuff like that. Please consult our homepage for it’s THE most comprehensive event guide in these dark waters, even if I do say so myself. Yeah, no, yeah-no, there’s all kinds of stuff listed to do, family stuff, sporty stuff, arty stuff, stuff with stuff in it and all the stuff between. And what is more, it’s updated nearly every day, so keep your eye on it, ‘n’ stay in the know.
Thursday 5th – Sunday 8th
Starting midweek, as I’ve procrastinated this weekend; man cut lawn. Regular acoustic nights on Wednesdays at our dependable Southgate, Devizes, and there’s an open Mic at The New Inn, Semington.
Thursday 5th then, and all I have to date is that American singer-songwriter and one third of acclaimed Americana harmony trio Applewood Road, Amy Speace will be returning to Sound Knowledge, Marlborough to promote her new solo album. Me And The Ghost Of Charlemagne is produced by long-time collaborator Neilson Hubbard and recorded during the final weeks of pregnancy with her first son, capturing Amy at her most honest, with sparsely-decorated songs which double down on her larger-than-life voice and detail-rich song writing. Amy will be playing a short set in the shop and signing copies of her album from 7pm on Thursday 5th September.
Friday, and aside the popular karaoke nights, we’re glad to see The Pelican in Devizes opening up for live music, this should become a regular free venue, and bands are encouraged to get in touch with them. What better way to kick off the proceedings than with Devizes-own Funked Up?
Now, I know my boss at work has a hand in this one, and going on the thought I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated to one particular band than him, I mean it’s an obsession to the point he talks of little else, I have total faith if you like Thin Lizzy, this will be the ultimate tribute band to catch. 4-piece, Twin Lizzy play The Cavalier on Friday, with all the classics that you would expect, but also, they claim to “mix it up with some key album tracks for good measure.” Including a genre-related disco, this is the ideal opportunity to check out the Cavy. It’s booking get evermore diverse, with country and rock, to kid’s discos and a plethora of top pop tributes.
Meanwhile in Swindon, those old-time musical hall, sixties psychedelia and new world country blenders, The Astral Ponies storm the Castle. Least they say “the Astral Ponies politely asking if people would like to come along and enjoy some fine and joyous music with them,” is more suitable. If vintage punk-rock is more your thing, try The One Chord Wonders at the Rolly. Metallers think The Queen’s Tap, with Rorkes Drift, or the Vic where Ion Maiden play; stop head-banging for a second a re-read that, yeah, s’ a tribute.
But if you’re still hunting for festivals, Crash the Festival is in Andover direction, KV Brass are followed by Humdinger on the Friday and Kova Me Badd on the Saturday, roundup the Burbage Beer Festival, on the Red Lion field. The other way, Saturday 7th sees a one-dayer at Marshfield; Marshfest brings together popular Hip-Hop act, Stay Hungry, five-piece rhythm & blues combo Haney’s Big House, indie rock with The Temple Keys and Falling Fish, blues band Antalya, soul-funk with Eden, rock with The Clones, to name but a few. If this doesn’t convince you, Devizine favourites, Train to Skaville are also booked.
Devizes, make your way to the Southgate, Dry White Bones accompanied those Boot Hill Allstars last time I saw them, and it wasn’t nearly for long enough. After a stint at Glasto, it’ll be good to see this duo headlining. Larkin play Melksham’s Pilot, and for folky pop songs, Scratchy Black Cat at Stallards, Trowbridge is recommended.
There’s a Big Get Together at the Neeld, which aims to bring over 50 local clubs and organisations together in one place, to provide a showcase of activities that will encourage people to participate, get involved and expand their social life. Free event. Staying in Chippenham, soprano, Susan Coates, Mezzo- Soprano, Marie Elliott and Concert Pianist, Nick Goodall presents a mix of famous solos and duets from the world of Opera, Broadway and The All-American Songbook at the Cause. Or, rock out with Homer at the Black Horse.
Ska-punk in Swindon, as Operation 77 play Level III, or Led-Into-Zeppelin are at The Victoria.
Sunday, Devizes Town Band takeover Hillworth for the Children’s Proms in the Park, or maybe catch The Everly Brothers and Friends Tribute Show at The Neeld.
Wednesday 11th – Sunday 15th
Acoustic jam down the Southgate Wednesday, Thursday in Devizes is all about Mirko’s band, 10p Mix-Up, playing the Cellar Bar from 8pm. In aid of Liam’s fund, please support this one if you can. I interviewed Mirko recently, which covers the gig fully, so check here.
Meanwhile George Wilding and Plummie Racket support Johnny Lloyd, at The Vic, and Chris Webb does an acoustic set at The Tuppenny, Swindon.
Friday 13th has a good variety of local music, that danceable duo, The Truzzy Boys play The Crown, while our other own indie upcomers, Clock Radio are welcomed by The Southgate. People Like Us nip over to The Seven Stars at Bottlesford, the Chaos Brothers at The Three Horseshoes in Bradford, and The Skandals play The Vic in Swindon.
For an evening of classical music, try the Corn Exchange on Saturday, where two fabulous local musicians, guitarist Andrew Hurst and soprano Chloe Jordan will take you on a journey through a range of music from the medieval to now. There’s a unique original melodic rock band from Glastonbury at the Southgate called The Truthseekers, and favourite rock cover band, the Rockhoppaz play The Cross Keys, Rowde.
While the 2Tone All Ska’s are at The Woodlands Edge, and Level III Punk the Club, there’s a beer, cider and music festival at Wichelstowe, in aid of Wiltshire Air Ambulance, still awaiting the lowdown on this, but rumour has it Lottie J and other Marland favs will be playing. Vinyl Realm is at the helm of this one, and after the amazing show at the Street Festival, I’m expecting this to be a good one.
Wow, The Human League are playing Bath Racecourse on Saturday, but Reggae though? Check those Urban Lions at the Woodbridge Inn, Pewsey, or Train to Skaville at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar.
Ah, we’ve reached the end of the first fortnight, I’ll update this with the following one later, best get this out now so you can plan ahead. Round it up, Sunday the 15th in Devizes where George Wilding supports The Strays at The Cavalier, or The White Bear continues its Sunday sessions with Andrew Bazeley.
Treat this as a guide, though, not a bible; more gigs and events of all kinds are updated on our homepage and Facebook page too.
One of the scene’s most best-known names for more than three decades, Judge Jules has never shied away from pushing the boundaries in dance music. And this year, for the first time ever, audiences will be able to experience the iconic tracks that have defined his career through a ten-piece live band with Judge Jules himself at the helm.
‘Judge Jules: Live’… will be coming to Swindon’s MECA venue on 25th Jan 2019
Jules’s in-depth involvement in many of the recent wave of “classical” dance events, including Gatecrasher, Colours, Club Class and 2019’s Ministry of Sound tour, inspired the decision to take the impact and emotion of the classical shows, but refine the feeling with a wholly new take on live dance music.
With complete creative free rein, Jules curated every element of the performance. Each track has been bespoke reinvented and reworked in a style unique to this live show, featuring a full ten-piece band, with brass, percussion, drums, bass guitar, lead guitar, keyboard, singers, and of course Judge Jules himself. A 90-minute show from start to finish, the music has been selected to represent the breadth and scale of his career.
“There is something about music being played live that never fails to send shivers down your spine – it doesn’t matter what the genre is, hearing a track performed by live musicians on stage is something you cannot replicate in the studio, or even on the best nightclub environment. So, I decided to create my own bespoke versions of my all-time favourite records with a specially selected band. It’s taken a long time to put together, but finally we look forward to taking the “Judge Jules Live” tour on the road. This truly is a new take on the ‘live dance music’ phenomenon and the tour bus starts rolling shortly.” – Judge Jules
This is not a show to sit down for – combining the energy of specially-chosen outstanding musicians with his own inimitable presence behind the decks, Jules will take the audience on a tailor-made journey through dance music with vocals, hands-in-the-air moments and plenty of basslines that’ll take you right back to your very first rave.
With audiences demanding more from dance music and newfound focus on a visual as well as a sonic spectacle, Judge Jules Live is a chance for dance fans to lose themselves in the moment with the kind of experience that you just can’t replicate with a solitary DJ.
The Judge still won’t budge.
Judge Jules will play Swindon MECA – 25th January 2020
There are two sides to every story. We’ve heard Dolly’s angle since 1973, imagine if Jolene had her say. Traditionally, like gallant fables, songs seldom back the underdog, the aberrant. Particularly the rounded narrative of folk or country, usually tales culturally able to be retold, optimistically.
If the last local singer-songwriter you’d expect to be exploring darker tenets is Tamsin Quin, think again. Akin to Springsteen’s Nebraska, in so much it summons no such communal feeling, rather Scandal, the new single from our illustrious local songstress is secluded in a room of a distant, shady and enigmatic place.
A song of who the cap fits, of watching your own back. Tamsin advises “there’s criminals in the shadows, pull your friends a little closer.” But cross examines her own persuasions and faith in the notion, maybe, “we’re all scoundrels deep down inside.”
It’s as if the darker depths of Tamsin’s acute words in previous songs have come to detonation; executed sublimely, and produced with eminence by Phil Cooper. Scandal, out next Friday (30th August) is whole new level of excellence for this already blossoming star. I congratulated her, as vocally it sounds deeper and much more refined than anything before. Is that what she was hoping for?
“Yep,” she responds as ardently as the same ol’ Tammy, “I was totally going for the dark country vibes. Phil did such a great job producing it; I’m really pleased with the outcome. I hope its dramatic!”
Tis indeed, like Wynette at her darkest; she builds tension around the breakfast table, the penny drops as to why Billie Joe Macalister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge and the protagonist attempts to hide her secret affair. “So,” I asked, “this is for a forthcoming album? Can we expect the others to be similar, or am I divulging too much?!”
“I’m aiming for a new album next year. The plan is for another single in October, then a single in February, and the album in April.” Tamsin expands the answer, “not all of the songs are this dark, although I am working on another haunting one at the moment, but the whole album feels a lot more mature that Gypsy Blood. I feel like I’ve grown into myself, and I’m writing what I want to write, instead of what I think the crowd will love. Writing more for myself I guess, although I really hope others really like it too.”
That personal enlightenment brews Tamsin’s poise when performing live, “writing things for yourself does tend to give you a little more confidence in delivery. Which I guess gives other people faith that its good, if you have faith in yourself and your work.”
I’m certain when reviewing Gypsy Blood, I suggested Tamsin sounded more mature, guessing both are a natural progression, though. “Guess you gotta grow up somewhen!” she laughs. I think you never stop learning and growing artistically, until, perhaps you reach a pinnacle and it doesn’t sound so progressive. Does she fear ever reaching that age where they say, “old Tamsin, just going through the motions?”
After stressing the importance to her of critical feedback, she laughed at the notion. “I guess that’s where the whole ‘writing for yourself’ thing comes in, because if you like your songs then you won’t care what people are saying.” I suspect that time is a long way off, Scandal in a nutshell is poignant, emotive and, perhaps an unanticipated gift to our music scene, and based upon it, I hold my breath for the album.
Fifteen, about to leave school, exam pressure and that dangling feeling of future prospects; I’d give my right arm not to go through all that again! Swindon singer, Lottie J groans at the thought, confesses music is her worst subject at school. Under the elderly assumption schools have changed since my era, where to quote “popstar,” as a chosen career will see you smashed over the head with a wedge of Beethoven song-sheets and told to wake up and smell reality, seems it’s not changed as much as I thought.
“They shared my video on their website,” she explained appreciatively, but slated the philosophy of studying classical music. Yet, Lottie has been in the headlines since she was eight, encouraged by Jamie Cullum when he visited her school and donated his old piano. Music was mapped for her then, with her first song, ‘Kiss Your Old Life Away’ making the final 10 of The Song Academy’s Singer/Songwriter Competition and later, in 2016, she made the Grand Final of Future Music’s Songwriting Competition, at Dingwalls in Camden.
From a time when I first heard Lottie, delightfully but tensely tapping her keys and singing covers at Times Square in Devizes, yet an angelic voice ringing out, to this latest video for her song “You,” shows a natural ambition to pop stardom that I personally feel is imminent. Our phone conversation today revealed a matured girl, with poise in the prospects of her vocation.
Half the clips in the video connote a narrative of a regular local girl, falling out with a boy in the woods. Yet while it’s saccharinely juvenile, the contrast of a flipside displays a confident and sassy female popstar, dancing on a Chevy in the Las Angeles desert. It licks with all the style and panache of a professional contemporary pop video, and the song rides it like a wave of self-assurance. Is that the suggestion Lottie was hoping to achieve? “Totally!” she expressed.
On note of her education, Lottie continued to express her hopes of studying music at Bath University, where the syllabus will be more to her taste. Just go in there and slap your phone on the desk and show them this video, I ill-advised, yet, it’d work if it was me. Lottie is keen to learn the business side of the industry, as well as the performance and music technology. Herein lies my ignorance at how the biz has changed, when, through the writing and production, being she has independently produced this work, I ask her what comes next.
“The key is to get the music out there,” she elucidates. YouTube and Spotify subscribers are far more important than the idea of creating a physical album, which she disregards from the mere mention of. “This will get me gigs, and support gigs.” It’s a DIY ethos which with her talent, and motivation will see her reach the goal, overlooking the concept of pitching to record companies, and especially poo-pooing the idea of a stab at a Simon Cowell TV karaoke show. “It’s a fake industry,” she sighs, “you’re already down to the fifth round before being aired on television, and I’d probably be kept out for having the wrong hair colour!”
Standing with George Wilding on Devizine’s birthday bash in November, as Lottie got the ball rolling, the fact we were both aghast at her singing ability not only means I’m not alone in the sentiment. But it showed a skill Lottie can paste into the more pop orientated direction she craves, and with these new songs, Snapped, but more so, You, it’s the kind of song I need a second opinion from my twelve-year-old pop-inspired daughter from. She confirmed my thoughts; it’s dazzlingly good. She taps her Spotify account to subscribe to Lottie’s profile. That’s what Lottie needs, that’s the way forward for aspiring young musicians; sharing is caring, the new break is an accumulation of subscribers and followers.
So do check it out and subscribe, or let your kids show you how to do it. No shame in that, I have to!