An evening in the Park! This was a small precursor to what looks like the most promising “Swindon Shuffle” (the annual event showcasing the best in Swindon bands) since I’d been paying attention to it (not as long as I should have been, I’m somewhat ashamed to say), with the Shuffle organisers putting on a taster for said event at this, the 150th Annual GWR Swindon Children’s Fete, as it stretched lazily and languidly into an overcast but humid and warm evening. We’d been considering taking the kids to the Fete anyway, but the presence of the in-form Shudders, plus the startling Raze*Rebuild, served to confirm our attendance!
We left it late, parking in the Outlet and wandering under the railway bridges to the Park for 5.30, finding a lot of the stalls packing up as day-tripper families dispersed. Still a few things to do, though, and we made a bee-line for the Helter Skelter and Hook A Duck stall, bumping into Rich May and family in the process. We also met Rach’s friend Rachel and her kids, and us grown-ups chilled by the performance area to the sound of a couple of Swindon Academy of Music young performers, while the kids hared around letting off steam. Eventually the serious bands showed up; Tim and The Shudders joined us for brief chats, vocalist Danny unfortunately suffering with a seriously croaky voice, and the Raze*Rebuild boys conducted an early and fiddly soundcheck. Kasey wanted to meet the band, which I arranged, the band taking it in good humour just before they took the stage; thanks boys! “Songs Of Praise” co-promoter Ed then introduced them onstage at 7.15 with a big push for the Shuffle itself, vocalist Simon then deferring to the children on the slippery dancefloor in front of the stage by promising, “not to swear – well, I promise to try not to swear!”
Raze*Rebuild were great again – I honestly wasn’t being flip or patronising when I tagged them as “my new favourite band” after their recent devastating Vic performance, gig 991; this lot are so seriously right in my wheelhouse they might as well be picking out curtains and home furnishings for it! If distilling and encapsulating the best of pre- and post-grunge US alt-rock and “popcore”, purveyed by the likes of Husker Du, Buffalo Tom, even Jimmy Eat World, into a shiny, upbeat and ridiculously catchy whole, wasn’t in itself enough, Raze*Rebuild then deliver said fayre with vim, venom and fire, following the lead of strong-armed, sinew-bulging and kinetic, scissor-kicking vocalist Simon Hall. The guitar mix was a little blowaway, as one would expect from a small open stage in an increasingly windy early evening field, the sound overall lacking the power and fulsome potency of that Vic showing, but no matter, the band made up for it in dynamism, honesty and humour. After anthemic fist-pumping opener “Back To The Fall” and the almost Joe Jackson-esque stripped rhythmic verse of “Jaded Heart”, Simon remarked, “I thought we’d scare you kids away! I underestimated you – fair play!” to his increasing junior moshpit, and later challenged Logan (who’d been taking a watching brief down the front) with, “I’m going to make it my mission to get you up on your feet!” A couple of cheesy and suitably rough-handled covers filled out the set, but the originals shone through, the bleeding raw Buffalo Tom-isms of “Kat I’m Sorry” being my highlight. They concluded a splendid set with the comment of, “I honestly thought we’d clear this place!” to the kids, and with the Jimmy Eat World-esque tear-soaked emo power ballad “Sand In The Petrol”. Now I can’t wait for their Shuffle set this Friday…!
The Shudders were on in short order thereafter, as the wind picked up and the darkening clouds threatened to unburden their contents. “The Shudders with man-flu!” announced Danny, his broken croak then totally failing to hit the high opening line to a nonetheless galloping and rambunctious singalong “Words Of A Fool”. He then advised, “when my voice goes, you get to nominate which of us carries on [singing]!” (Tim apparently being the crowd favourite here), but thankfully it held up through the Blue Oyster Cult 70’s riffery and “Grease” glam stomp of “No Angels In The Slipstream” and the subsequent, lovely and pastoral “Sunrise”. “Thought I Saw You” was initially understated, affected by a similar paucity of guitar oomph as that which hindered Raze*Rebuild’s early numbers, but took flight eventually, and “Sorry”’s powerpop stylings saw Danny nurse his voice to the finish line, dropping an octave for the 2nd chorus after failing to get anywhere near the high notes first time around – poor chap!
A couple of oldies and a thank you to the leaden skies, “for the rain holding off!” then preceded their final number, newie “Star Bright”, which was my highlight of this brightly delivered and well-chosen set tonight. Ed had made reference in his introduction to the 7-year gestation period of their current album, which saw the light of day earlier this year, so by that token we might get to hear the slow burn opening and excellent soaring backbeat chorus of this number on record in, ooh, 2023…
Brief goodbyes and Kasey happily scrounging signatures from The Shudders for her list, then it was off for one last Hook A Bag for the kids, then home for 9.30 to lay tired heads to rest. A fun evening out in itself, and a successful taster for the main event coming this weekend. Shuffle up next!