De La Rosa / Sailors / Austin Shepherd LIVE REVIEW

First gig proper for Green Man Music whose new nights will be a bi-weekly affair, on Thursdays, with the intention of building a reputation for quality new music. On paper what looks like a solid bill of original music excites the pants off of me!

I get in and meet and greet a few new people. The other half of Green Man first, which was nice, my poster designer Julie Morris and few others. Note the landlords new longer hair style, since I haven’t been here yet this year! And in return he notes my new bleached blonde gone-wrong and ended up ginger style my wife forced on me. I should probably man up a little.

It’s 8.30 and Sailors are just checking, so we’ve made it plenty of time, I didn’t want to miss any of this.

As 9pm comes and goes, I wonder what sort of schedule we’re working to, but I don’t have to wait long though, as Marlborough’s Austin Shepherd kicks off proceedings nicely.

He has been knocking about for a while now, after the demise of his band Pablo a couple of years ago. It was exactly this time last year I first heard a demo track, and was on the receiving end of his first 3 track CD, Wrong Field, when he graced Devizes for a clutch of shows.

Via BBC Introducing sessions and more live shows, he has since developed from a folky-esque singer songwriter, to feature all sorts of keys, electronics, loops and layers. Tonight Austin strips it back to guitar and kick drum, which he proceeds to smash the hell out of both with a very passionate display.

Only featuring 5 songs, the set consisted of the 3 previously mentioned tracks and we were treated to two newbies, all of exceptional quality.

What I love about Austin is his complete lack of pretence. He turns up in a wax jacket, more suited to a farm, which I assume he lives on from his arrival in a battered red Land Rover and his lyrics about fields and old footpaths.

His songs instantly transport me to a time and place in my childhood of walking over Salisbury Plain, such is the strength of his words and the emotive tune of his guitar.

Austin dropped his plectrum in his last song, continuing through the pain barrier to continue his strafing of the guitar, more akin to Bristol’s Oxygen Thief’s aggressive disregard of his gear, than a pale farm boy from mid-Wiltshire. A bloody hand was his war wound and a heroes appreciation his reward from the crowd.

After a wee rest bite, more resulting from the blasted smoking ban than anything else, we are treated to Sailors best ever live performance. This is not an overstatement – they have played a lot of shows with a lot of their heroes, forever trying to raise their game – tonight without pressure, they get up and do what they do with aplomb and style.

Thanks has to go to Darren Simmons, who despite a creaking PA, manages to get the best sound for the band I’ve ever heard. Their almost silent, discreet intro makes the room holds it’s breathe before slamming into set opener “Crocodile Tears”.

It is LOUD. Very loud, and instantly impressive. The band hitting well above their collective weights, since they are all so skinny – they plough through another 5 song set, 3 from their debut EP – which got a lovely review from Green Man in the advertiser that night and two brand spanking new ones from their recent BBC Introducing Session and studio outing. New track “White Candy” stands out with an even more developed distinctive glitchy, techy guitar riffs. This band cram a lot of ideas into songs without over doing it – and if ever a band we’re going to take this style of music to accessible masses in 3 minute pop songs, This Is The Band.

So it’s down to local boys De La Rosa to finish proceedings. Their front man Samual Schwenk a bit of a legend, for his consistently exciting dances and splits down the front of many Swindon shows, and he is on form again tonight where he danced for Austin, and attempting to dance to Sailors, before admitting defeat for their rhythms being too technical.

Samuel plonked (the only word to describe the action!) a bottle of house white on the stage before he took to it, a statement of intent if ever you saw one – and the band kicked off into the now familiar (with me) set.

After self confessed lack-lustre performance in Devizes last week, any reservations for a repeat are quickly dealt a swift blow, as the band erupt with a magnificent display on how to layer guitars, build walls of noise and break barriers between audience and band. Personal favourite “Don’t Follow” going down well and their dedicated fans down the front, who made the trip to Devizes, knew the words to other songs too, giving the band the appreciation they deserved and needed to give the performance they gave.

This was truly an incredible night of new music, witnessed by about 70 people, all of whom probably had some link to the local scene. I counted 5 promoters in the room, graphic designers and writers – a proverbial who’s who of Swindon’s music scene.

Not one act dropped the ball all night, all going away with elevated impressions of their wares and self satisfaction that the scene, based on this evidence, is in great shape. Credit to the promoter, Green Man Music too, for not only booking an excellent bill but also trying a new approach to raising money for such nights with a pay-what-you-feel option. In theory there should of had 100’s of pounds in the buckets, in reality it scraped £50. (Dave can give more feedback about that) Make of that what you will, but hats off to Green Man for having the balls to try something new.

Kieran Moore.


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