One day later than planned, thanks to last night’s impromptu White Lies gig, I’m finally out Shuffling! This, the 13th annual celebration of all things fertile and creative in Swindon’s musical scene, represented the 5th time that I’d sampled its’ delights, yet (as per last year) due to family commitments over the weekend, also represented a Friday night only “one and done” Shuffle experience for me. If that were so, I’d picked the right night, with the Mighty Raze*Rebuild headlining events at The Victoria, this time in their full-on amped-up band mode. So, after medical considerations conspired against my dancing to their recent Regent set, tonight also represented an opportunity to rock out to da Raze once again!
Preparations were duly made, so it was a be-shorted, knee-strapped and lenses-clad Sheriff that rocked up the hill just after 8, after watching an absorbing Wimbledon men’s semi-final, to meet with the Raze boys early doors at The Vic. This wasn’t my initial musical destination, however; the band schedule at tonight’s 2 venues seemingly fell into 2 broad categories, namely jaunty indie pop at The Hop, and grunting rock piggery at The Vic! As my musical tastes arguably fall Midway (Still?) between these 2 generic categorisations, I was planning to split my time between the 2, so it was first off to The Hop, a new venue this year, to catch the last knockings of ABSTRACTION ENGINE’s early set. A droney, haunting and morose US alt-rock/ indie influenced final number, with suitably doleful lyics (“falling by the wayside” and suchlike) made me hark back to late 90’s Boston band Wheat for comparisons, and make me regret staying at home for the tennis, particularly when I ran into Beef in this amply-attended upstairs room, who informed me that this final number was a fair representation of their set. D’oh! Anyway, I was now here, and seated near the front for next band up, introduced by Shuffle co-promoter and Hop compere Ed Dyer as, “the band who change their name every 10 minutes!” – no longer Shore or Rainy Day Fund, this was now STAY LUNAR. They pretty much epitomised this stage with some, well, jaunty indie pop, falling between the Byrdsian C86 gauche yet bright and breezy jangle of the likes of The Razorcuts, and slightly blander, more anodyne Haircut 100 type fayre. Nonetheless, it drew quite a crowd, who were all prepared to groove out; “you may have noticed I’ve got a lot of family here,” commented the curtain-haired blond vocalist which was true, most of them dancing in front of our seats!
After a few numbers, I noted very little variation in Stay Lunar’s material so cried enough, and popped back to The Vic. The rather excellently-named COBALT FIRE were about to kick-off; apparently the new project of local veteran chanteuse Ells Ponting, and if so this was quite a departure from my previous viewing (back at Treefest 2012, gig 854!), Ells swapping low-key acoustica and Postal Service covers for more strident, operatic dark rock. Some dirty, grungier moments appealed to the early 80’s Goth in me, but at times it felt a little overblown, plodding and operatic, making me think of Evanescence which for me is never a good comparison. Still, I really liked her final number, a dark and dramatic manifesto number called “Fuck Pretty” with some spot-on lyrics, and kudos to Ells for challenging herself and her audience with a dramatic new direction.
Back to The Hop, for TALK IN CODE’s funky and slightly baggy indie pop last knockings in front of an appreciative and mobile crowd; then I was faced with my Shuffle clash dilemma of the night… how much of WYLDEST’s set could I catch before I needed to bail out for the Raze set? Luckily, consultations with Ed revealed The Hop had a strict 11pm curfew and The Vic was running late, and I was also buoyed by the presence of Raze drummer Jamie behind me, Jamie partaking of Wyldest’s early numbers whilst waiting for the shout from Si at The Vic. So I was able to avail myself of most of Wyldest’s set, and I was glad I did; Zoe Mead’s dreampop vehicle have developed commensurably since my last band encounter (when, as Wildest Dreams, they opened the 2014 Shuffle for me), the 3-piece plying a very beguiling blend of woozy, hazy and ethereal dreampop, some darker, atmospheric and chiming guitar driven shoegaze (second number “Rolling Waves” reminding me of 90’s indie soundscapers Kitchens Of Distinction, no less) and some shinier, poppier yet quirky material recalling Belly (viz. later number “Alive”). Zoe herself was a charming if slightly nervous frontperson, commenting on my Death Cab For Cutie t-shirt after a rambling song intro, and pointing out her parents, both rocking new album t-shirts!
I’d managed to catch most of the set, but time was now bumping up to 10.55, Jamie having left 10 minutes earlier, so I handed a watching Shuffle co-conspirator Dave Franklin a tenner, with strict instructions to get me the Wyldest CD – and the setlist! Hotfooting it over to The Vic, I had time to get a drink in before RAZE*REBUILD kicked off their headlining set in front of the hardy and appreciative Shuffle faithful. The initial couple of numbers felt controlled and confident, particularly a rather splendid actually yet almost laid-back “Face For Radio”, but the boys really cut loose with the rock after an epic “Kat, I’m Sorry”, the subsequent “New Leaf” powerful, potent and punk-tastic, compelling me to really rock out down the front.
As ever, Raze were an awesome rock beast tonight; less ragged and ramshackle than the recent Regent gig, tonight it all felt well-honed, well-practised and precision-delivered. Well paced too; “Sand In The Petrol” giving this whirling dervish a necessary mid-set breather, before “Jaded Heart” slowly picked up the pace, Raze again cutting loose with a brilliant anthemic double of “All The Gear” and new single “Troubled Minds” (look out for that video, folks!). The boys made light of tonight’s one slip-up (well, the only one I noticed, anyway…), Si commenting to Matt, “you’ve ruined my slickness!” after a counting-in error to final set number “Poison Air”, but made up for it for me, introducing a brilliantly swooping, soaring and rocking encore “Back To The Fall” with, “this one’s for Dave… to be honest, they’re all for Dave…!”. I didn’t even mind the punctuation point of their Queen cover of “Don’t Stop Me Now”; this was a triumphant set, the essence of Raze*Rebuild, and more than worthy headliners tonight.
An end to proceedings then, but not the end of the night, as Ed and I enjoyed a late-night Mr. Cod and chat before I wearily headed off, home for 1. One and done again, but thanks to Wyldest and particularly Raze, it was well done again, Swindon Shuffle!