This is the one I had been both looking forward too and dreading in equal measure. Well, not dreading but I sometimes get embarrassed when I book bands of this calibre and the only place I can get them a gig is in The Locomotive. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the room at all, especially now that the extras from Jeremy Kyle have been culled to a certain degree, but these are bands who should be playing in decent venues to hundreds of people not bottom end of town pubs to drunken idiots who only came down to watch the football on the telly.
Still, as my motto goes, you work with what you have got (although I still think we should have a crest above the door of a spilt pint and a latin inscription reading “I Guess We Are Not In Old Town Any More.”) Originally the support were going to be the excellent Echo Boom Generation who played for us at The Victoria a few months back and who partied for England during the support acts and then rocked like there was no tomorrow during their own set, but it was not to be. Linda and Emma the guitar and bass front end of the band also play in Kate Nash’s band and when they get the call to play American gig’s, with an international name for real money, understandably everything else goes out of the window. Rob at Electric Harmony, their agent, offered Lionface as an alternate support and so here we were.
It always strikes me about the image people have of rock musicians that somehow they are these swaggering, arrogant prima donnas when nothing could be further from the truth. If those existed it was when money was no object in the Seventies, in cliched films or in local bands who are wondering why they can’t break out of the local scene , not realising that promoters don’t want to spend 6 hours hanging around with a bunch of dicks. The reality is that bands such as Lionface and The Manic Shine have managed to move up though the ranks and get on the national circuit by not only being great musicians and performers, but by being easy people to work with on a technical level and decent people to hang out with on a personal one.
On stage Lionface are a swirling blend of rock guitar, industrial grit, pop awareness and gothic undertones, an singer Kat is an amazing focal point in the eye of this swirling musical storm. The perfect melding of commercial accessibility, alternative vibes, rock and roll punchiness and energetic show. So why aren’t there more people here. Again it raises that question I keep coming back to, why is the average age of audiences at original music shows these days about 20 years higher than those playing the music, where are the teens and twenty somethings?
The Manic Shine take the stage and proceed to destroy any notion of what sort of band you get in Swindon on a Saturday night. Whilst The Victoria and The Rolleston are indulging in popular local bookings that you can see monthly or even weekly around the town, here are a band who if you had paid £40 to watch say, Biffy Clyro at a big stadium show and these guys were the main support, you wouldn’t question the value for money. So why aren’t there more people here. New venue? Geographical location? Old Habits not giving up the ghost? Poor promotion?
This quickly becomes a masterclass in how to put on a rock show, guitars wail, basses pulse and meander, drums pound, players jump and groove, strut and rock out, especially the lovely Hutch the bassist, who seems to be in a one man party, oblivious to what is going on around him and having a ball. This is where rock music needs to be going, forget the nostalgic time trip we seem to be stuck in these days, especially in Swindon, forget the average tribute bands and the rock covers who all seem to advertise playing everything from AC/DC to ZZ Top, forget the constant obsession with hearing Highway To Hell murdered by a bunch of twenty year olds who learn the song but miss the groove (hint, it’s all in the swing of the drums) this is rock music for the two thousand and teens and beyond. So why aren’t there more people here? If I knew that I’d be on to something.
I guess in the meantime I can just enjoy being around creative people and watch them perform first hand, either old friends such as The Manic Shine, a band who have been playing for Songs of Praise for a few years now and whose ethic, imagination, view of the world, both musical and otherwise seems to sit comfortably with our own outlook, and new acquaintances such as Lionface a band who I really hope I can work with again. Maybe that is all you can hope for out of grass roots music, if so, I’m totally happy with that.