The great irony of Swindon’s music scene is that for all this talk of supporting live music and people posting banners to that effect on (anti)social media sites, the fact remains that it is a very small proportion of the population of this town who seem to have any musical curiosity, though I’m sure the same argument could be levelled at any number of parochial, non-university, dormitory towns. Stick on a nostalgia trip such as a Green Day tribute band or a bunch of punk survivors who have been playing the same set since before The Clash called it a day or a band featuring someone your brother-in-law works with and the effort seems to be made. Bring something new and genuinely furthering the cause of new music and people seem to have better things to do.
Last nights Songs of Praise gig showed a lot of the problems very clearly. The line up was always going to be a bit of a gamble anyway. The headliners, Steel Trees were down from Sheffield for this one gig, though the fact that they were stalwarts of prominent festivals like T in The Park put them a few ranks above your average itinerant wandering minstrels. Nasty Little Lonely, from Bristol, were similarly new to the town and it was only openers I Am In Love who were local and even they were an up until now studio project playing their first live outing.
The local draw did just that, had a decent crowd and lapped up their 90’s college rock meets melodic end of grunge and things looked like the makings of a good night. But the typical thing took place. After their set there was an en mass exodus that the night never recovered from. One of the great things about Songs of Praise is that the line ups are always very compatible, the idea being that if you like one of the acts on the bill you will probably like the others, none of this eclectic line ups borne of desperation that some other promoters seem happy to run with that sees heavy metal bands on the same bill as folk singers. Yet still most people didn’t feel the need to stick around and support the visiting bands.
Nasty Little lonely ran through a superb set of warped, industrial post punk, meandering from Ministry style mayhem to aggressive L7 style Riot Grrrl salvos as thick with tangential noise bursts as it was laden with solid grooves and tribal back beats. Steel Trees managed to crank things up a gear even from here and their punked out grunge wandered into more metallic deliveries and crossed boundaries into hardcore territory.
Great sets from all concerned but the point I’m coming too is this, if you only make the effort to support the bands that your mates play in, won’t you end up with an isolated and incestuous scene, untroubled by visiting out of area bands? It seems to me that most of the moans and criticism about the state of Swindon’s music comes largely from those of a heavier musical persuasion, so where were they all? The grunge fans who turn out for the Nirvana tributes, the rockers who can’t get enough of badly played forty year old classic rock tunes and those who claim that the local scene is stagnant whilst sitting at home listening to Dark Side of The Moon on endless repeat.
With the likes of The Cadbury Sisters, She Makes War, Gaz Brookfield, Brawlers and many more great original acts lined up to play in the next few months, we seem to be building up to a healthy musical situation, something we have been missing for quite a few years but the momentum will only be maintained if people make the effort and show the promoters and venues that they want something more than the same local Ellie Goulding wannabees and metal tributes. Time to take a side people!