Sunday, 1 May 2016

986 THE SHUDDERS, Fake Walnut Dash, Swindon The Locomotive, Friday 29th April 2016

Can we squeeze another April gig in? OK, why not, considering it’s Tim’s band of alt-Americana troubadours The Shudders, whom my friend Rich Craven rather accurately recently described as “The Violent Femmes of the West Country”. Albeit maybe with fewer backwoods murder ballads…! Anyway, another local one then, and quite a late one as well, given that Rach was swimming mid-evening, and in any case the musical festivities don’t kick off at bottom-of-town bar venue The Locomotive until 10 p.m., so no rush to head on out!

Early evening was spent watching “SHIELD” and the excellent “Daredevil” before Rach arrived home just after 10, just having enough time to question my sanity on my late departure as we passed, like ships in the night, at the front door! Parked up behind The Mail Coach and wandered in about 10.15 to find support Fake Walnut Dash already under way. Pleasant surprise No. 1 was that the gig was very amply attended, my attempts to maintain entertaining discourse with the likes of Tim, promoter Dave Franklin and Dean, being punctuated by a number of, “excuse me, pardon me,”s from punters squeezing past in this admittedly compact and bijou room. Pleasant surprise No. 2 was Fake Walnut Dash themselves; apparently their first ever gig, they played a funk-beat heavy, delta blues melange which evoked a New Orleans honky tonk bar band at times, a little schizophrenic sonically, but a band determined to have a good time and pass that same vibe on to the assemblage. Pleasant surprise No. 3 was that one of the dual vocalists (in matching “Shoop” t-shirts) was the esteemed Mr. Gaz Brookfield’s lady, Mr. Brookfield being in attendance himself to support her.

Unfortunately, it appeared that much of the crowd were likewise part of the opening band’s entourage, as once they finished, there suddenly seemed to be a chunk more room to move around, as The Shudders set up for their 11.00 start. Also, I was once again irritated by the proliferation of drunk people (mainly scantily-clad women, sadly) entering, exiting and entering again, jostling repeatedly and uncaringly past my stage-front spot in their lairy beer haze. Was I ever that vacuous in my cider-soaked youth? Actually, no, scratch that… I was probably worse...

So, a late one, with a thinned-out crowd, including a smattering of disinterested and lairy slappers swaying around, present to herald the band onstage. Hardly ideal circumstances for The Shudders, but they came out of the traps purposefully, noisily and stridently, kicking off with ramshackle, singalong oldie “Words Of A Fool”, and following that up with the intricate guitar and bouncy harmonic powerpop of “Sorry”. An early “Sunrise” was the one token slowie, the maudlin delicacy of this 70’s US West Coast vibe-drenched number the best sounding song of the set, but at odds with the rootsier, rockier rest of the performance. This wasn’t a time to fuck about with the ballads, as a subsequent, Replacements-style bar-room blues-riff powered “Thought I Saw You” attested to. Time instead to rock! Brand newie “Star Bright” (“hot off the presses – please don’t judge us if we don’t play this properly,” remarked Danny) had a delicious ascending riff and a stomping drum-propelled choral hook, and the boys even delved back in time to the fiddly diddly Irish jiggery-pokery of “Lost And Broke” and the groovier, raw-boned bluesy rock of “Yellow Flower Stare”. Final number, a strident, well-judged cover of Neil Young’s classic “Rocking In The Free World”, closed out an entirely apposite, perfect Friday night bottom of town bar rock set, the boys resisting calls for an encore. Job done, no need!

A few words with the boys, and also with Messrs Franklin and Brookfield afterwards, before the time bumped up to my parking expiry and I headed off with Dean in tow.  A tough one, this, but in trying circumstances The Shudders, for me, pulled off a minor triumph and should be pretty pleased with themselves for tonight’s work. Well done boys!

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