Singing Songs of Praise – IV : Less is more, more or less.


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10678532_10153271579608677_6255445137771109484_nOne of the people who I always look to for inspiration when it comes to music promotion is a chap called Kieran Moore. He runs a promotional operation based mainly around Devizes called Sheer Music and for integrity, enthusiasm and sheer energy (see what I did there) can not be beaten. As our paths don’t cross that often these days, when ever he has a show in town I always try to go along, sadly his recent show coincided with that weeks Songs of Praise show, made all the more irksome by the fact that it is part of the tenth anniversary shows we is running at the moment. If I couldn’t get to watch the show itself, with the aptly named Decade headlining, I could at least do the next best thing and meet for a drink and a catch up at the soundcheck before heading off to set up my own musical concern.

So a few drinks at the newly re-re-named Level 3 (a club resorting to the name it had back in it’s heyday in an effort to lose its nu-metal/classic rock/goth tag of more recent, less imaginative times) and a nice catch up has had. The one thing that struck me about the difference in our respective shows was the amount of equipment involved, Obviously a four band, pop-punk line up in a 400 capacity room was going to generate a ton of equipment, especially as kit share seemed to be at a minimum and it made me glad for the nature of our show.

Arriving early for sound check at my own shows, or should I say our own shows as colleague Ed Dyer does more than his fair share of the work, is one of the pleasures of the night as you get to properly socialise and talk to the bands as they arrive and set up, something that is more tricky to do once the doors are open.

Emily Sykes opened the night with her wonderfully positive and often spiritual vibe, probably something to do with the fact that whenever possible she can be found standing on her head halfway up a mountain in India. Around her she had gathered some of her regular cohorts, Phil and Chris providing bass and guitars (and occasional clarinet) respectively plus Becky and Polly from Matilda on sumptuous and sensual harmonies.

Second up was one of our regular bookings Faye Rogers who unveiled her new sound as she moved away from the more pastoral folk that she is known for and went electric. Unlike when Mr Zimmerman did the same there were no shouts of “Judas” just a quiet appreciation as she blended chiming guitars and smooth saxophone into a set that moved from pin-drop atmospherics to full on rock outs. The birth of something new is always an exciting time.

And finally The Cadbury Sisters. Playing their first headline tour and fresh from playing at the recent ELO headed BBC Hyde Park show, they were a less in vocal harmony like no other. Chilled Americana to minimal beats and guitar work that framed the music rather than dominated it, they were mesmerising and all the more so when they de-camped from stage and played a couple of songs amongst the crowd. The great way to end the night, a full room of people and a pretty perfect gig all round. I know it is a total cliche but sometimes less really is more.

The smell of disappointment.


As I did my usual trawl of the book, record and charity shops last week I had the sneaking suspicion that something a bit unusual was happening. Not only was the town busier than usual it seems full of pre-pubescent female teens in chav-ish attire, more tracksuits than a Romford sports bar or a theme disco in Harlow. Something was up. Brushing my way through the queues of expectant halflings I managed to get to a coffee shop to hide from the ghastliness of the squeals and screeching and on asking what was taking place was informed that Peter Andre, that well known smug bastard and one time singer of cheesy pop dross was in town to launch his new fragrance.

Over a large Americano I wondered to myself how many people had found themselves getting ready on a Saturday night thinking “if only someone would blend a fragrance that captures the olfactory delights that we associate with South-East Queensland and a Cypriot household.” Not many i would wager.

Linking Inkings 2nd October ’14


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writingHere’s a few things that have helped keep me in Stilton and Shiraz over the last week.

Sounds Around Town (Swindon Advertiser Gig Guide)

Floating Above the City  –  Port Erin (Dancing About Architecture review)

Stoned To Death – Fox and The Law (Dancing About Architecture review)

Songs of Candlelight and Razorblades  –  Wayne Hussey (Dancing About Architecture review)

Your History Defaced  –  Cross Wires (Dancing About Architecture review)

Selling the Family Silver  – Perren Street Parade (Dancing About Architecture review)

When I Was Sixteen I Wanted to be Graham Coxon  – Adam Crosland (Wessex Literary Review)


Linking Inkings 24th September ’14


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writingThis weeks literary attempts to pay the gas bill look something like this.





Sounds Around Town (Swindon Advertiser gig guide)

Tweed Jacket – Biscuithead and The Biscuit Badgers (Dancing About Architecture review)

Solar Collector  –  The Myrrors (The Sense of Doubt review)

Floating Above the City – Port Erin (Dancing About Architecture review)



Attempting to Escape my Certain Fate.



The reasons for putting this series of thoughts down on paper come from a “straw that breaks the camels back” moment. This particular straw was a conversation off air at a radio show with blues champion and radio presenter Ian O’Regan and the camel was to do with how my music writing is perceived by the wider public. It was the first time that we had met, though we were both familiar with each other’s work and he made the point that he had read a lot of my music reviews and that they were never anything but positive. Wouldn’t it be better to take a more critical approach? A very valid point. My initial and totally truthful response was that I write mostly for PR companies these days so by their very nature they are positive rather than critical, though I stop short of puff pieces and do try to analyse why the music is important rather than just sing its praises. But then like George Orwell said “journalism is printing what someone else does-not want printed everything else is public relations, ” and so it begs the question of what sort of writer I actually want to be.


That said trying to champion the cause of local music is often more of a public relation exercise than anything else. Often you are called to glorify music and events that are very ordinary, review for general consumption bands who think that they are The Velvet Underground when they are little more than Coldplay tracks that didn’t make the album. So there may be nothing wrong with trying to excite the punter enough for them to set aside their 6 for £7.99 lager, TV dinner and the latest happenings in the tawdry world of Geordie Shore (who as we all know was George Bernard’s northern cousin) and check out some live music, but is that all I want my writing to be.


There was a time when I did attempt more scathing reviews, phrases along the lines of “with vocals flatter than Norfolk” and “ a band so beige you could upholster the inside of a Ford Mondeo with it” were often dished out. I was soon to find that writing such lines from the ivory tower of a London music magazine was one thing, finding yourself sat in a bar with the people who received such words was not. I’m sure if you are a band locked into the endless routine of recording, touring, being reviewed etc. etc. you take bad press as all part of the game. When you are a guy who works in Carphone Warehouse and your metal band has received only one review ever, which was less than glowing and the guy who wrote it is sat three bar stools along from you, it’s a different can of worms and you are going to open it.


I had one rock band bassist threaten to burn my flat down with me in it, made all the more worrying that he knew I lived in a flat rather than a house at the time. I had friends of one promoter suggest that frequenting a venue I had criticised would probably result in me getting hurt, again a predominantly old school rock establishment. Maybe I just have this effect on the rock fraternity. So I slowly moved into more PR type pieces and avoided the controversy. Not that it has completely gone away. I write a local gig guide and make know bones about the fact that I favour original bands. I feel that tribute and cover bands already sell themselves. After all what can you say about a good Bon Jovi tribute act? They are so good that they sound just like Bon Jovi, though why you would want to escapes me. The minimum expectation and the maximum expectation of their act is virtually the same. Original bands, I feel, need selling to the public and so I tend to dedicate more space to trying to describe what they do. This has been misconstrued, often wilfully, to suggest I have some sort of grudge against non-original music. This isn’t the case; it’s just not for me. Do people attack me for preferring to read Iain Sinclair to Dan Brown? Do people square up to me for extolling the virtues of Cloud Atlas or On The Road over Harry Potter or Twilight? No, so why should it be the case with music? But should I point out that the town has two many cover bands playing the same unimaginative catalogue or that not everyone wants to see an Iron Maiden Tribute band every weekend and certain quarters act as if I have just publically pissed on a photograph of Jessica Ennis.


The problem is the “voice” you hear in my writing isn’t me. It’s a PR job, mainly, and I was thinking about this last night as I was wandering home from a gig with a couple of sweet sherry’s coursing through my veins. My Road to Damascus moment actually took place somewhere between Beckhampton Street and York Road, nowhere near Syria at all actually and probably for the best. After a few weeks re-reading the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, Lester Bangs and the deconstructive, analytical and wonderfully challenging scripts of Stewart Lee (from which this piece gets it’s title) I realised that I need to find my own voice through my writing and this blog could be the outlet for the real me, as it were, or at least a different version of me.


So hopefully some of the stuff you read here in the future will be more critical, biting, hopefully funny and more in keeping with my actual thoughts of the world around me through lashings of sarcasm and irony but ultimately my own personal truth. Sounds like the start of a bumpy ride but as Napoleon said at the battle of Hastings…once more unto the beach dear friends…or something.

Singing Songs of Praise -III : Return of the piratical, prodigal son.


10556255_954822757877578_3812250388156931428_nJust when you think you have set a personal bench mark (see – Singing Songs of Praise – II) within a week you only go and break it. Big time. Back in it’s regular Thursday slot this week we were pleased to have not only Land Pirate extraordinaire Gaz Brookfield back on his home patch but his locally sourced, ethically produced band The Company of Thieves. It was great that we managed to sell about pre-gig 50 tickets but we must have shifted double that on the night as well with people coming from as far as Reading, Oxford and even Cornwall. Not bad for a school night…god I hate that phrase.

Luke De-Sciscio opened the night with his soaring vocals and pin drop atmospherics this was followed by Lonely Tourist who had been tour support at all the recent Gaz gigs and who displayed a wonderful charm, wit and wisdom through a set of upbeat acoustic numbers.

But obviously it was really all about the main act. Gaz has gone from strength to strength in the last few years with supports to the likes of The Levellers and New Model Army and the relentless work ethic that you need to break through to the next level, which is exactly what is happening. Usually a solo act or at least a duo with brilliant fiddle player Ben Wain, we were lucky enough to be able to book the full band and the people loved it. An hour of poignant, witty, positive, honest and reflective songs, all of which should be a hit single if there were any justice in the world –  and whilst people are happy to devour vacuous pop divas and TV show dross there isn’t – and he even has a song about that.

It was also great to see post show the merchant desk doing great trade as people hovered up CDs and lets face it merchandise is often the difference between sustainability and defeat for the self funded music act.

So a great night all round and lots of examples to be followed, such as, nurture and support your struggling local acts and watch them grow into an act like Gaz. Buy CDs and merch. and keep these people on the road. Make the effort to travel to support your favourite acts. It takes a lot to put gigs on but ultimately it is about support but it isn’t a one way street and just being part of nights like this is enough to enable you to sleep easily at night plus you get to meet and reacquaint yourself with some of the most creative, funny, charming, mad, silly and brilliant people you are ever likely to meet. Supporting music is more than just putting the occasional banner on Facebook or ranting about the state of live music. Be positive, be supportive, the pay off is awesome.


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