Tuesday, 11 July 2017

1,046 THE HALL BROTHERS, The Sulks, Bradley Cowtan, Swindon Faringdon Park “GWR Children’s Fete”, Saturday 8th July 2017

An event fast becoming a staple on my gig schedule is the “Swindon Shuffle”, mid-July’s annual gathering of local original acts over 4 days and 4 venues; another event therefore also appearing with annual regularity is this, GWR’s Children’s Fete at Faringdon Park, given that Shuffle guru Ed Dyer organises a late afternoon musical stage as a “Shuffle Sampler” taster for the following week’s festivities. With other stalls and amusements for the kids to blow their (and our!) cash on, it’s a nice way to while away a lazy late afternoon, particularly if the weather’s favourable… which this afternoon it was!

We headed out late afternoon, parking at the Outlet and arriving at the field for 5. Again, things were rounding up with a few stalls already gone, and most families already having called it a day. However, my main reason for attendance was just about to start, namely my favourite local band Raze*Rebuild’s singer and guitarist Si and Matt Hall, due to play a duet set at 5.05. They were tuning up onstage, so I wandered over near the front, meeting up with my fellow Raze*Rebuild fan Paul Carter and his charming family. In short order our compere (an odd old chap in a fancy beige suit) introduced them on, Si then remarking, “that’s the first time anyone’s stood on tiptoes to reach my mic!”

With Si manhandling a fat acoustic and Matt on his usual amped-up electric, fleshing out the sound on the rockier numbers and providing more intricate fretwork and riffery of the slower ones, this almost felt like a Raze*Rebuild “Unplugged” performance. Although it would have been nice to hear “Back To The Fall”, it was understandable that they’d omit this and other more dynamic rockers, kicking off instead with an apposite “Face For Radio”. Also understandably, it was Raze’s slower, more understated numbers that sounded better performed as a duo; “Kat I’m Sorry” was heartfelt and lovely, “Sand In The Petrol” still carried a big, widescreen hook, and the plaintive, yearning ballad “You’re The Chalk” was the best sounding song of the set, Si’s impassioned vocals a feature as he really warmed to his task. However, if the true test of the hallmark (pardon the pun) of songwriting quality is how it holds up to a stripped-back treatment, then this evening’s numbers all shone in that regard.

Newie “Rhythm And Rhyme” was subject to some technical hiccups, understandable given they were playing in a big windy field, and Si joked whilst tuning, “it’s not as easy as we’re making it look!” A cover of Northcote’s rootsy Americana number “Worry” rounded off a fine set, indicating the boys are in good form leading up to Raze*Rebuild’s Shuffle set.

I then met up with the family in the circus skills tent and we headed over to the Hook A Duck and Swingboats for the kids to burn through cash there. I therefore heard most of The Sulks’ set from a distance; I enjoyed their second number, an energetic 60’s influenced driving Britpop number almost recalling Supergrass, and some of their later stuff recalled the modish rhythms and strident strut of The Enemy, before a slower, sludgier bluesy riff-fest to finish. Not bad, although I need to check them out in a smaller venue to form a proper opinion. Rach and I then checked out talented young Bradley Cowtan’s set; he’s come on in leaps and bounds since his Saturday lunchtime Shuffle set at the Library last year, the increased confidence apparent in his performance. Swapping between guitar and ukulele, and with a genial stage presence to augment his nasal, drawling vocal delivery, he and his band played some fun, upbeat and slightly ramshackly folky material, interspersed with a couple of covers (a George Ezra song and a reading of Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”) and one slower “sad song” which Bradley still confirmed was “chirpy”! I enjoyed his penultimate number best, a darker and rockier beast, but overall this was an entertaining soundtrack to a sunny Saturday evening catching some rays.

A bit of food before heading off home, after another fun late evening at the Fete and a nice taster for next weekend’s real main event! Ready to Shuffle now!

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