Linking Inkings 28th Aug ’14


writingHere’s the weekly link to articles that have helped keep me in Twinings Earl Grey and the odd glass of Shiraz.




Sounds Around Town (Swindon Advertiser gig guide)

Dreaming of A Dream –  Young Wilson (Swindon Advertiser music review)

Mended With Gold – The Rural Alberta Advantage (Dancing About Architecture review)

Strangers and Lovers  – Thea and The Wild  (Dancing About Architecture review)

The Blue Musk-Oxen – Olde Worlde  (Dancing About Architecture review)

(Here’s to) The Ghosts of the Past –  Dot Dash (Dancing About Architecture review)

On The Outside  –  Jona Overground (Dancing About Architecture review)


Linking Inkings – 21st Aug ’14



writingHere are a  few of the items that have helped pay the gas bill this week.

Sounds Around Town (Swindon Advertiser gig guide)

Dinosaurs Ate My Caravan – Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers (music review for Dancing About Architecture)

Business in the Front, party in the Back – Zoo Harmonics (music review for Dancing About Architecture)

Killer Ohh – LazyEye (music review for Dancing About Architecture)

My Fear of Heights  – Stripped (music review for Dancing About Architecture and Swindon Advertiser)

The Shuffle Diaries – Part IV


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10167968_1428174550772352_5692796574406852304_nOne of the problems with running the Shuffle is that you don’t get to experience the event in it’s ideal form, wandering between the venues and cherry picking the acts that you want to see. The unexpected upside of having to stay in one venue all night is that you find yourself working with bands that you might no have checked out if you had free reign to pick your own itinerary.

My Friday night was looking after The Castle, a great back street pub just off Victoria Hill, better known for acoustic folk and cover bands but eager to be part of The Shuffle and embrace the original music scene. Last year we put in a last minute affair which did okay in terms of numbers, this year we managed to take it to a whole new level.

There are two traditions that are talked about every year. Firstly who has played the most gigs that year, through legitimate bookings, guest spots and even last minute sessions to replace acts who have dropped out. The second is who has played every year, something which over the years has dwindled down to fewer and fear people. This year there were only two musicians who had featured one way or another every year. Sadly one of those, Marky Thatcher was due to play tonights Castle session but had pulled out due to illness leaving Jim Adkin as the solo surviving Shuffle completist.

Due to the late pull out by Marky, there was a lot of last minute rushing about to find a replacement which I couldn’t be part of as I was conducting a radio interview with a South African author on a community radio show that I co-host, so I just had to wait and see who stepped into the breach. And this is what i was alluding to in my opening paragraph about working with bands that you might not have gone to see if I was a mere punter. So would I have gone to see a two piece hip-hop outfit if I hadn’t been working with them? Probably not. Did I enjoy their set? Totally. Young Wilson are an MC and a DJ who use modern technology to mix the beats and music live whilst rapping confidently and eloquently over the top. look out for them.

Next up was someone who I had checked out through writing my local gig guide, who had even played The Shuffle before but who was new to me as a live act, Ben McDanielson. A wonderful blend of dexterous guitar work and a great voice enhanced by a harmonising peddle which took the vocals almost into a haunting, Clannad type ethereality.

The big surprise of the nigh came from Blindman’s Bastion a two piece guitar and drum set up fronted by Harry Sayers who I had last seen many years before as a fresh faced young chap playing bass for The Street Orphans. Not only had he returned looking like a bearded rock god, but he now created a sound that played wonderfully with dynamic, ran a great line between underground and commerciality and who could be seen as a successor to The White Stripes or The Black Keys. Great Stuff.

Faye Rogers and her slowly evolving band is always a treat and again through Secret Chord Records I get to work with her a lot. Take a delicate yet clear voice, an acoustic core to the music, put sweeping cello lines below it and shimmering electric guitar above it and then tie it all down with minimal drum beats and you have a great sound all projected with a charm and innocence which is refreshing.

Headlining the night were Familiars a band I have booked a number of times. Theirs is a tale of persistence and hassling your local promoters. Obviously I get loads of e-mails about bookings and reviews everyday and Familiars were just one of those out of town bands who kept appear in the in-box. The difference was Jim, their basis works in Swindon and suggested that we meet for a beer. Once you make that personal connection a band is much more likely to move from the “must listen to” list to the “future bookings” pile. I have since booked them for shows at Songs of Praise and set up live radio sessions for them. Young bands take note. As a headline band they were perfect. Sweeping, keyboard fronted, commercial music but with an ear for a great song which just happens to have commercial appeal rather than a band forcing themselves down a commercial route. A great way to finish off.

By the end the pub was busier than I had ever seen it, a situation improved on the following night as fans of Colour The Atlas over filled the pub, the courtyard and the street outside, though sadly I was running The Rolleston stage but more of that later.

As we had to finish on time to keep the pub on good terms with the neighbours, well, one neighbour who apparently rings to complain at 10 seconds past 11 o’clock, I managed to run over to  a very busy Victoria and catch the last act, the very brilliant British Harlem.  What a great way to round off a great night.



The Shuffle Diaries – part III


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th-2The Thursday of The Shuffle is when things really get moving. Not only did we have fringe events in the shape of live DJ’s playing at Baila, the new coffee and vinyl emporium that I harp on about all the time in these posts, but also the tribal, sci-fi sounds of Zetan Spore a psytrance outfit whose music wouldn’t be out of place in the space bar scene from Star Wars. It was also the first of the big stages as The Victoria host a collection of the younger indie bands on behalf of Songs of Praise.

My duties that night lay at The Roaring Donkey, helping to oversee the music part of a music and poetry night that we had put together in conjunction with Hilda Sheehan, leading light of The Bluegate Poets.

The musical side of things was provided by David Marx, normally to be found fronting The AK-Poets and Steve Leigh, director of The Swindon Academy of Music and Sound. There was a certain synchronicity to the programming as the two players had been in a band called The Coincidence in their dim and distant youth and now here their were playing the same gig.

As it was a night with a literary bent, the performers were perfect, David’s lyrics having a keenly poetic and descriptive quality, finding romance in the often most unlikely places, referencing literature and geography, the product of a well travel and well read artist. Steve’s music follows a more delicate nature but tackles social commentary, political satire and hopeless romanticism.

The Roaring Donkey was the perfect setting, large enough for live music yet intimate enough for the poetry that came between the music. If you think poetry readings are anything less than rock and roll then you need to check out the modern state of affairs. Although there was the usual, more traditional take on the genre, descriptive and lyrical, painting pictures of rough Cornish vistas, there was also room for humour, satire, some fairly risqué moments and even the downright odd.

As a way of seeing who The Shuffle might develop over the next few years, this stage summed it up. I suspect that the music side of the event has reached its critical mass, after all there are only so many bands, not to mention PA’s, sound engineers etc, but hopefully with the success of this night we can use that to encourage theatre, dance, comedy etc etc into the event, maybe this is the start of something that will develop into a mini Edinburgh fringe type event. Well, you never know.

The Shuffle Diaries – Part II



th-1The Shuffle has a number of what we refer to as fringe events, smaller stages that either lead  into the bigger events of the weekend or smaller gigs that take place in shops and bars alongside big band line ups to act as a breather for the punters and to promote what is going on elsewhere.

This year the first fringe event was the opening party at The Queens Tap on Wednesday. Effectively what we did for this session was hijack…I mean, re-brand Matt Chipperfield’s existing open mic. session, program the acts rather than have the the random and less controllable scenario of an open session and throw open the doors. And what a great start it was. The Queens Tap is a lovely late Victorian building, all high ceilings, ironwork and wood panelling. It serves as a commuter pub, being directly opposite the railway station but is a great and spacious room for live music.

Considering it was only a Wednesday we had a great turnout to kick things off. One of the thinks that I like about being part of the Shuffle programming is you get to chose running orders and it was great to see the first chords of this years event being struck by my good friend and band mate Richard Skidmore, channeling his best “man in black” vibe as he ran through various solo versions of songs that are normally rocked up by Black Sheep Apprentice. (The corresponding bookend to the event came with The Shudders playing the final slot of the wrap party and bowing out with Rocking in The Free World at The Beehive, but more of that later.) This was followed by an act new to me, Andrew Burke, who played a set of atmospheric and luscious songs that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Damien Rice album.

Next up was a act that via my involvement in Secret Chord Records and regular promotional duties, I have worked with many times, Tamsin Quin, a bluesy pop troubadour with a natural charisma and infectiousness that warms the soul of the most unengaged punter. Or to put it another way, I think she is quite mad, in an endearing way.

The ubiquitous Nick Felix rounded off the last of the solo slots, a mix of delicate and intricate playing, world weary vocals but a positive attitude running through his songs. Always a pleasure to catch Nick’s set.

As we moved into the headline slots, our gracious host, Matt Chipperfield, broke out the electric guitar and aided and abetted by a competent rhythm section and an occasional keyboard player rocked out a set of popular covers.

The headliners were also new to me, or so I thought as Tom Stark and The Avengers seemed to be made up of players I normally associated with other bands. What was great about the band was that although at this stage they are pretty much a cover band, it is the way that they approach the covers that makes them stand out from the regular cover circuit bands. Hearing the White Stripes Seven Nation Army played as a lounge jazz swing number really made the point that cover bands can be interesting if you inject some of the bands own personality and ingeniousness into the proceedings. I’m sure that we are all cringe when a cover band launches into a note for note, clinical rendition of Sex Is On fire, or worse, Mustang Sally, and look like they have just invented the wheel.

There was event time at the end for a bit of a drunken jam session, which may or may not have seen yours truly trying to remember the bass lines to Taillights Fade by Buffalo Tom.

We didn’t know it then but this opening show really set the pace of The Shuffle that was to follow.

The Shuffle Diaries – Part I


thThere are a few links in this weeks Linking Inkings below that give you a bit of back ground to what The Swindon Shuffle is so without revisiting too much of the same territory here is a very brief overview.

In the dim and distant past, that was really eight years or so ago a couple of music fans decided to put an event on to help raise funds and awareness for The Prospect Hospice, a local charity organisation that offers care, support and dignity to  cancer victims and their families through the terminal stages of the illness. The idea quickly grew from a back garden party to a multi-venue event hosted in the regular music pubs and venues in town. It quickly established itself as an annual fixture and with an ever evolving format and run by a fluid committee of organisers the event has made it to this the eighth year.

My involvement was a gradual thing, beginning as a punter and friend of those running it, a reviewer of the event and even a musical contributor with a number of bands over the years, it was only three years ago that i became on of the people jointly holding the reins.

So as one of a small group of people who co-ordinated the event, put obviously with massive support from the music community, bands, equipment, sound engineers, venues, bar staff, journalists, radio stations and of course the punters, I have spent a long weekend, well, at 5 days it’s nearer a week, running stages, working with bands, drinking too much and generally having a ball.

Over the next few days there will be an article about The Shuffle as seen from one mans  view point. If I have left anyone out it is probably because I am writing this from my own view point which often means that you get stuck in one place and miss out on much of what is going on. As I am fond of saying, the problem with running The Shuffle is that you don’t get to go to The Shuffle.


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