Friday, 11 May 2012

GIG REVIEW: All Day Festival at The Kings Arms, Melksham

After the likes of psychobilly legends Frenzy and South West punk heroes Far-Cue stopped playing gigs at The Parson's Nose, Melksham wasn't a particularly great place for live music. The biggest event the town has managed in recent years was a Wurzels gig, while organisers of the yearly Party In The Park seem to think that good headline acts consist of Queen, ABBA and Bon Jovi tribute bands. However in recent times the town's live music scene has seen something of a revival. The regular gigs organised by Mel Austin's Mobsta Music have proved to be a great showcase for local artists and young talent, and last year the bricks and plaster of the Parson's Nose were given a firm shaking as hometown noise merchants Thought Forms and Bath duo The Hysterical Injury treated the venue to an incredible night of sounds that will be remembered for years to come. 

Aside from the actual gigs taking place here, other promising things have started to happen: some of the town's finest acts such as Hell Death Fury have been causing a stir playing shows elsewhere in the UK, while Thought Forms stunned crowds during a North American tour with the legendary Portishead. Add to this the arrival of the fine music played by Melksham's very own radio station, still not yet broadcasting live but already producing a range of top quality podcasts than can all be heard on their website. This is what happens when a town is lucky enough to be home to a certain section of people who have a truly dedicated passion for music. 

One man who has long involved in Melksham's music scene since his school days is Dom Bailey, who (along with Leo Goodhind and Keith Johnson) is in charge of the town's Nine Volt Leap recording studio, a place previously described on this website as "a hotbed of creativity". A while ago Dom came up with the idea of putting on an all-day live music event at The Kings Arms, a fairly traditional and smart establishment, not usually known for hosting gigs. Today Dom's mini-festival passes everyone's expectations, as well as his own. 

Luckily the weather hasn't been too unkind and the outside of the venue is packed with families, the bar packed with drinkers and the large room at the side of the pub is filling up with enthusiastic music lovers. A better turn out than most would have expected for a gig at a Melksham pub. This particular reviewer arrives at about 5pm, sadly missing out on the first two acts of the day but luckily not missing out on the impressive Andrew Bazeley, a superb guitarist who clearly has a deep passion for vintage blues. While pub goers chatter further back in the room, other members of the audience move forward to listen in more carefully as Bazeley delivers an insightful history lesson, bringing back to life the music of Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton with his superb acoustic riffing.

The rain may have not made an appearance yet, but the skies outside seem to be an ominious grey. However the inside of The King's Arms is basking in the glorious Caribbean sunshine that the excellent Antigua Joe brings with him. Despite the musical backing being provided by an iPad this as great as one-man reggae covers get. The man's voice and delivery are most admorable and like Bazeley before him, Joe has a lifelong love for this music and knows every word and note like its second nature. Serving up a delicious dose of reggae anthems that all stay faithful to the forms of the originals, a lively 'Message To You Rudy' sends the crowd into a mass singalong, a tough 'Concrete Jungle' impresses everyone and a closing 'No woman No Cry' is dedicated to Joe's departed sister.

Terrapin offer interesting textures and careful, elegant guitar work. Each member of the group seems to be brimming with ideas of how to deliver their parts. A diverse range of influences makes for a musical jigsaw that somehow seems to fit into place with ease. Luke Bailey's mournful vocal lines are perfectly complimented by the equally emotive voice of Audrey Tietsz, while Leo carefully picks out intriguing guitar sounds, providing added texture and ambience. Then there's organiser Dom who is also a member of Terrapin, behind the drum stool forming a composed and tight rhythm section with Reno, carefully keeping the momentum and every so often slipping into relaxed grooves. There's the subtle folk elements, hints of soulful psychedelica and ear catching melodies that make a possible debut release from this band something to look forward to. Ghostly hints of 'Ok Computer'-era Radiohead meet elements of PJ Harvey and the haunting vocal parts match the the solemn beauty of the arrangements brilliantly. This is beautifully capacious and blissfully atmospheric music capable of winning many admirers. Mysterious and solemn melodies that are certainly ear catching, as well as suited perfectly to the two excellent vocalists that deliver them. 

Hell Death Fury crank up the volume and launch into a terrific set that packs in as many tunes as possible. Showcasing a couple of new tunes, the band mostly bash out numbers from their debut album 'Free Porn', a record recommended for anyone who enjoys angry guitars and hyper ska rhythms. Maybe it was because they were playing to a home crowd or maybe because they are on a roll, HDF are at their very best tonight, absolutely ripping into each and every song with a savage energy. After singer/guitarist Bean's saxophone comes out for a storming version of drug-induced mental illness anthem 'Green Lane' they launch into the hard funk of 'Afkudobaka' and everyone witnessing it is hooked. A dub interlude sends warped sounds ringing through the air before the band immediately launch into an ear splitting new song, and an insane version of 90's dance anthem 'I Wanna Be A Hippy' is followed by an jubilant rendition of Choking Victim's 'Crack Rock Steady'. This evening the band seem louder, tighter and fuelled with more energy than ever before. Each song is delivered with blistering anger, and for sure THIS is their time. The crowd seem hooked and surely this is a good encouragement for this excellent group. 

While Hell Death Fury do a fine job at unleashing the heavy stuff, Port Erin follow with a set of songs that burn slower, and have the audience listening carefully. When they play, it's obvious that each one of them takes great joy and pride in delivering every twist, turn and progression that emerges from their music. With their second album currently being worked on at Real World studios, they perform with real confidence and seem to relish every moment of every song. They also seem to be finding a more clear direction for themselves, the atmospheric guitar lines caressed by thick, smooth bass pieced together with some superb, crisp sometimes stunningly delicate work on the drums courtesy of Cerys Brocklehurst. Their sound is spacious and progressive, with hints of psychedelica and jazz. Singer/guitarist Reuben delivers each line with sincerity, sometimes evoking the gentle croon of Elbow's Guy Garvey and wrestling the emotion from each chord. Capable of creating such gentle grace while also occasionally slipping into subtle funk moods, the melodies burst with tender emotion and the interesting build ups lead into soundscapes not common in the music of most three piece bands.

The Daturas produce a short set of brilliant numbers that fuse together some beautiful sounds and deliver some instant and addictive hooks. The lively acoustic guitar is complimented superbly by sunny melodies and wonderfully placed pedal steel as folk meets psychedelica and skiffle meets magical indie pop. Singer Joe Chowles vocals are met with some truly enchanting three part harmonies and the  There will be comparisons to Fleet Foxes, Mumford And Sons and Arcade Fire while perhaps there may be hints of Cat Stevens and Kings Of Leon, but The Daturas piece their sounds together in a way that makes their musical output stand out and makes their sound enjoyable and interesting. A fantastic way to top off an excellent day of live music. 

As the equipment is packed away and the people begin to leave the venue, the mood is a jubilant one and every single person there is commenting on what a great day this has been. Of course it should be done again soon, and of course the organisers of Melksham's Party In The Park can learn a lot from this. People want to hear exciting new bands capable of breaking out of this town and taking on the world, and today is surely proof that the countryside towns of Wiltshire are home to such acts. Full credit to Dom, Leo and Keith as well as every other artist involved in this event. Superb.

Below is a video of Terrapin's 'The Glasses That Fidn't Fit Me' from the King's Arms gig. This video was filmed and directed by Warren Pullinger of

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