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Review: The Swindon Shuffle 2009
By Will Walder
BBC Wiltshire

Swindon Shuffle banner (Photo courtesy of Puttyfoot Photography)
This year's event was the first to host a BBC Introducing stage

So the third annual Swindon Shuffle is over.

Featuring the cream of Swindon's music scene and billed as the UK's biggest unsigned music festival, it boasted over 60 acts and seven venues and was spread over four days.

At the moment I'm writing this with aching muscles and a banging headache, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

That's because it comes from dancing like an idiot all weekend to the best live acts you'll see in Wiltshire.

I've got to start with the BBC Wiltshire Introducing stage on Saturday. After watching it chuck down with rain two days earlier, I was worried.

No need though, because the sun shone and set up the day perfectly for Tim 'lock up your flies' Gilvin.

Probably the best way to soothe any thick heads from the night before, he certainly drew people from McDonalds across the way before they went on their way feeling a lot more relaxed than when they started the day.

The two best performances of the day belonged to a Swindon band and a group of gents from Middle Wallop. Slagerij are a band who have played out of their skin every time I've seen them.

Slagerij (Photo courtesy of Puttyfoot Photography)
Slagerij 'bounced around like Zebedee stocked up on E numbers!'

It doesn't matter how many people are there, what the weather's like - I think they'd storm a set even if you hacked their arms off midway through.

By the end of their set they had doubled the amount of people who watching, including a couple who were well into their eighties -not bad for a ska punk band!

Of all the bands of the day, they definitely had the most energy.

Bouncing around like Zebedee after stocking up on the E numbers, Slagerij have the potential to be a great ska punk band, if they had a horn section they'd be unstoppable!

The other performance of the day came from Sion. With a sound that is ready to fill stadiums, Sion were simply amazing.

Watching them at times, it was hard to believe that such a huge sound was coming out of such a small space and credit should go to Bully on the sound desk who got it spot on.

Sion are the closest thing we've got to The Killers at the moment in look and in music and with their reputation for being a hard drinking band who is just out to make a gig as fun as possible, they did exactly that!

This meant that The Alfonz had a hard act to follow and I think that they had to graciously accept defeat to two bands who were better than them on the day.

The Alfonz (Photo courtesy of Puttyfoot Photography)
The Alfonz also played the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury 2009

Adam turned up with his left ear swelled up from the piercing he'd had done during the afternoon, but went on to play a tight, if unspectacular set with their new single 'Sitting On Your Radiator' being one of the highlights.

A quick word about Viva Sleep. Maybe too heavy for the Introducing Stage, they exploded into their set with 'Orchids' and didn't look back. In only their twelfth gig, they were incredibly tight and by the end of the set, the singer could hardly speak and the drummer's arms were literally pulsing.

Slagerij aside, they were the band who I heard the most positive comments about all day. They would do well at The Furnace.

Which brings me to my favourite performance of the weekend. It's always a privilege to see a group of people get together and create something so special that you know you'll never forget it.

Last year I couldn't get in to see Lighterthief at The Vic, which I'm told was a thing of legend. This year I was not going to miss out. This is the second time I've seen Lighterthief and I'll admit that I'm in awe of them individually and collectively.

When you're having a discussion with someone about whose voice you prefer out of Matt Kilford and Sam Bates, it's like having the same chat about the finest Belgian chocolate and the best the Swiss can offer - you're that spoilt!

So when you add Natasha's amazing powerful vocals to the mix, you're suddenly dining in a vocal version of The Ivy.

Lighterthief (Photo courtesy of Puttyfoot Photography)
Stuart Rowe's Lighterthief were one of the highlights of the festival

Put Stuart Rowe's amazing compositions around this which pull from all different genres (some I'm sure haven't been invented yet) and you have a packed out Furnace full of people dancing around madly having the time of their lives.

Simply immense.

And when you talk about dancing crowds, Wiltshire's best live band Old School Tie don't lag behind. They're another band who incorporate styles in a way that you think is impossible to make their own. They do.

Closing the Shuffle at The Vic, they had a large section of the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands.

Controlling the room with soaring guitars, sweeping keyboards and drumbeats which threatened to twist dancing bodies in a way which could have seen the nearby GWH full of dance related injuries. So, a great way to end a brilliant weekend.

Just to give you a quick heads up, watch out for Unfortunate Hero. They were at the Under-17s stage at Riffs on Thursday and showed so much potential that you could have happily put them on any of the other stages.

Maybe that's what will happen, you never know.

That's the beauty of the Swindon Shuffle.

In Pictures: Swindon Shuffle 2009
12 Aug 09 |  BBC Introducing




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