One Woman’s Shuffle By Joybells
Six venues, three days, one woman and a bucket load of bands…Let the battle commence
I arrive at The Beehive in heels and a skirt at 6:45 on a Friday! I mean business! The surreal Dali-esque town scape of Swindon all Victorian clock tower cocking a snook at trendy bars and restaurants can be glimpsed from this back street pub on the hill through the concrete skeleton of the Old College in the final stages of demolition. This is the start of my Shuffle…given the Olympics I’m going for gold!
People begin arriving at The Beehive and instruments fill the diminishing space where the bands will be performing. Anticipation steals in like a stalking cat; even the dust hovering in the swathes of evening sun light glisten expectantly.
Skiddy, front man for Black Sheep Apprentice performing a solo acoustic set kick starts the proceedings. Dark lyrics, zealous guitar and passionate vocals seal the first up deal! Capturing an audience ordering their first pint he elicits smiles with his acerbic turn of phrase. When he finishes there are a few whoops for ‘more’ and the night has barely started.
Next ‘The Shudders’, all shanty lyricisms and vocal ties and schisms. Harmonies that blow through poppy choruses like a summer breeze and translate into bright lights for listener’s who like to see music in their head. Folk rock flying a pirate flag, shivering timbers the length of the bar with their well-crafted, clean limbed songs.
The sun is going down but the night is hot. Wanting to experience the eclectic sweep of musical offerings we bid adieu to The Beehive and head down to the Shuffle’s culture corner at Piri Piri, a Portuguese Taverna in a paved Swindon back street. The electric atmosphere is charged with music, chatter and laughter. People spill into the street, wine and beer flow and children play in the shadows. The warm night air embraces the throng and hugs, kisses and animated reminiscence are the order of the night.
We arrive as Mantrasphere, that one man muso mystic Hugh Carroll heads towards the end of his set. Blending mood enhancing mantras with his guitar; he picks the strings like flowers and opens them to the Nirvana light. His gentle voice mesmerizes, the listeners are enthralled; he adds a spiritual glow to the night.
Then the Sensational Swindon Samba go into action. Drum beating, rattle shaking, whistle blowing; manufacturing magic from mayhem. Controlled cadences, pulsing progressions and rhythms thrown out like sweets to children. Everyone’s moving, bums swing, hips sway. Samba rules OK!
We begin listening to ‘The Black Feathers’ a two piece contemporary folk band, high in demand on the summer festival gig scene, but are torn because we want to catch Buswell at 12 Bar. So we leave the Piri Piri party and walk down town. I begin to question the wisdom of heels as we head toward 12 bar, but distract myself by pointing out to my friends the house I rented with a mad punk when I was 21 and relate the “throwing ‘his’ clothes out of the window” story and “the day the wall fell down” story. Thus entertained we arrive at 12 Bar and have a game of pool, where I prove to be a formidable opponent now that live music and alcohol are coursing through my veins.
It’s not unusual to do a double take when ‘Buswell’ take to the stage…they may number anything from 5 to 25. Tonight about half are missing, but with around 12 experienced and skilled musicians performing a synergy of indie folk spliced with classic rock the expectant bodies pressing together in the dark auditorium are not disappointed. Harmonies hug like old friends and incongruous combinations of instruments frolicking in the warm glow of successfully making out in the cool long grass of good music work wonderfully together. Fiddles a many; violins and cello’s, guitars and tambourines, drums and amped up flute. The genie of music has popped out of his lamp and Alakazam! Fusion!
I hear a rumour that they’re playing ‘Rise Records’ tomorrow with whoever’s around to contribute their musical talent, and make a mental note to attend! Music this good doesn’t grow on trees.
This is my last band of the night and we head back to the Beehive. On the way we bump into Plummie, front man of The Racket who promises to get us some Racket badges and stop off at The Rolleston to check my blisters and catch a lively rockabilly band not related to The Shuffle. We start off again and pass the road leading to Piri Piri where a crowd still stands around the Taverna and a general hum of excited chatter reaches us in the warm night breeze. At the Beehive the reggae outfit The Nomarks have just finished their session. Word is, we missed a roof raising performance but hey, there’s always next time.
I talk with everyone and anyone, the buoyant atmosphere isn’t quelled by the lateness of the hour…there really is magic in the air. But eventually last orders is called and so is my cab. I arrive home ravenous, find a fishcake lingering suspiciously at the back of the freezer and manage to cremate it. A cup of tea and I’m falling asleep. What can I say. This woman’s wacked and there’s still two days to go. That’s rock and roll baby…