It is, I suspect, the rallying cry of a whole section of the collective music masses in unexceptional (in the kindest of ways) towns such as Swindon, who don’t get exactly what they want when it best suits them and have it on a plate. Nothing ever happens in this town! The reality is that a lot goes on in such places. You just have to accept that it might not always be your first choice, it might not be in your go-to pub or venue, and it won’t always be on an evening that fits in with your work patterns. But, I would say that supporting such gigs whenever you can, ensures that such grassroots scenes remain fertile, eclectic and worth the artist’s effort.
I find Thursdays often very satisfying nights, especially for someone of my tastes. Thursday is the day when venues don’t have to cash in on the bigger, more prominent or better-selling bands (and I get that venues are businesses first and foremost, cultural promoters second) and so allows room for less established, newer, perhaps more niche acts to get a look in by providing space that maybe doesn’t have to turn a profit in quite the same manner as the weekend bookings.
And so it was that a couple of weeks ago, my trusty, more discerning and infinitely cooler sidekick and I found ourselves at The Tuppenny watching Phil King. The Tuppenny is known for booking an array of roots, folk and alt-country acts (among other genres), and against a backdrop of discerning and tasteful bookings in such genres, Phil was one of the best I have seen there in a long time.
A fingerpicking acoustic guitarist, his ability to mix melody and lead playing, create lush backdrops for himself, write engaging songs and pick exactly the right covers was unbeatable. He wandered authentic blues pathways and nostalgic folk byways, offered upbeat and energetic anthems as well as contrastingly deft and delicate acoustica. Superb!
About halfway through his second set, we remembered that there was another band we had loosely earmarked to watch on that night, and so, after dropping a few quid in the tip jar, we found ourselves at The Victoria just in time to catch Chasing Dolls.
There is no shortage of young, alt-rock bands doing the rounds at the moment, but there is something about Chasing Dolls that makes them stand out. It is why they made my top three picks from this year’s Swindon Shuffle. Whilst the songs are undoubtedly good enough, they both kick arse and cut the mustard, it is the quality of the live show which sets them apart. A whirlwind of energy and euphoria, audience engagement and a feeling of revolution and disquiet bubbling up from the depths. I have often wondered to myself why there isn’t a new musical backlash underway at the moment, given the dark clouds gathering politically and the hopeless situation that society has put today’s youth in. Punk 2.0, where are you? Perhaps closer than you think.
Stopping for one last drink as the final notes of their set faded out into the night meant that we bumped into none other than Terry Chambers and Steve Tilling of EXTC. Always good company; a few drinks with these two stalwarts of the scene was the perfect way to round the night off. (I only hope that given that the planned, free local show by EXTC was later cancelled due to illness, it wasn’t me who infected Steve, considering I have been coughing up internal organs for the last ten days. No, I’m sure it wasn’t my fault. Everyone seems to have this bug at the moment. Why be so hard on myself?) Any way, as nights go, pretty rewarding.
Thursday, it’s the new Saturday! Discuss…