There’s a lot of music in town this week that proves the point that it doesn’t have to be big to be clever; that sometimes the biggest impacts can come from the subtlest of approaches.
Take the Songs of Praise show at The Victoria tonight. Headliners Ethemia work in that age-old troubadour tradition of two acoustic guitars and two vocals and the result is a breathtaking blend of quiet majesty and sensuous, hushed tones.
Antonio Lulic brings open and honest storytelling songs of impressive craftsmanship, and opening up the night is Louise Latham, a pianist who wrings every ounce of grace and grandeur, atmosphere and heartfelt sentiment out of her piano creations.
As if to balance that chilled offering, The Beehive is throwing a party in the form of psy-trancers Zetan Spore, less a band than a riot of euphoric trance, techno, strobe lights and hypnotic beats.
Somewhere in between those two extremes you can find the rocked up blues of Ian O’Regan at The Rolleston.
If you can’t find some music to suit on Friday, then you may as well donate your ears to charity, as it is the busiest night we have had in town for a long time.
Two big events go head to head.
Firstly, there’s McFly’s greatest hits tour which is at The Oasis, but those with more discerning tastes should head down to Basement 73 where one-time Bluetones front man Mark Morriss and ex-Seahorse Chris Helme and take the stage. Incidentally, Helme’s latest album, The Rookery, was one of my musical highlights of last year. Do check it out.
An interesting venture takes place at the Central Library. Pedalfolk combine their love of cycling and folk music by using acoustic transport to get to their acoustic gigs. Pedalfolk are Robin Grey, Tim Graham and Katie Stone Lonergan and have given rise to the colloquial exclamation “Bert Jansch on a bike!”
There are a few tributes kicking about as well. Who’s Next play tribute to Acton’s finest at Riffs Bar, and at The Victoria The Ramonas are an all-girl tribute to The Ramones. Arrive early to catch 2 Sick Monkeys in support. Bateleurs will be plying their European folk meets Americana trade at The Rolleston, and The Parlour Kats aim to bluesrockfunkalise your soul with their vibrant genre hopping tunes at The Beehive.
The final Friday serving suggestion comes courtesy of culture corner as piano duo Clare Toomer and Paul Turner play an edited version of Holst’s Planets, possibly the most recognised suite in English classical music (I’m more of a Samuel Barber man myself).
Saturday kicks off with a bit of ska at The Victoria, with The Nomarks who warm up for local keepers of the flame for all things reggae and rocksteady, The Erin Bardwell Collective. And at The Rolleston, The Beatholes throw a punked out musical curveball into the Beatles’ back catalogue.
If you are looking for something a bit more up market, catch Swindon’s favourite brace of Stevies at The Weighbridge Brewhouse. Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz play acoustic blues and jazz from the pre-war era and manage to dose it with lashings of Latin vibes and that wonderful Django Reinhart gypsy jazz swing. Where’s Stephane Grappelli when you need him?
The Arts Centre on Sunday plays host to the monthly Lazy Sunday Afternoon show, hosted by Mr Love and Justice. This time they invite along The Black Feathers, a brilliant acoustic duo who up until recently have been on a stateside odyssey (possibly making sure The Civil Wars aren’t trying to make a comeback!), and Minnie Birch, who sings “sad songs to make you happy”, apparently.
More great acoustic music can be found at The Sun Inn at Coate that evening. With a voice that is built of pure soul and the ability to blend normally mutually exclusive songs into wonderful new forms, Benji Clements is definitely one to watch. Also on the bill are Drew Bryant and Aiden Moore.
And if that isn’t enough acoustica for you, catch One Day Remains at The Running Horse on Wednesday, a band that takes an intertwining twin guitar seed and lets it take root and grow inside a more traditional band lineup. The result is something pretty special.