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Sophie Ellis-Bexter brings ‘The Song Diaries’ to ‘Amazingstoke’ Basingstoke (or ‘Roundabout City’ as it’s often known) sits proudly to the south of the midlands, just a stone’s throw across a valley at the source of the River Loddon. Developed following World War II to accommodate the London ‘over-spill’; the town is fondly referred to by it’s resident’s as ‘Amazingstoke’. I didn’t know anything about Basingstoke before seeing Sophie Ellis-Bextor perform at ‘The Anvil’ on the penultimate night of her ‘Song Diaries’ tour. Following six successful studio albums and a music career spanning over two decades; Sophie continues to research every town she performs in, making each crowd feel special and unique. Supporting Sophie on her tour is 26 year old singer/songwriter Alice Jemima from Devon. Alice delivers a sweet and seductive set with unique ethereal vocals complimenting her original electro-pop sound. Alice treats us to an original collection of songs including ‘Dodge a Bullet’ ‘Liquorice’ and a sultry smooth cover of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ before performing ‘Icarus’ a catchy song she had co-wrote with Sophie herself. It’s not long before the stage is filled with musicians and the sound of violins, harps and clarinets can be heard warming up for tonight’s headlining act. Dressed in a glittering turquoise gown, Sophie gracefully walks on to the stage with an effortless air of glamour and all the confidence needed to stand in front of an orchestra with ease. Kicking off the show with full orchestral renditions of hits including ‘Young Blood’, ‘Love is a Camera’ and ‘Music Gets the best of me’; Sophie is warm and engaging throughout as she…
Red Rum Club at Sheffield 02 Academy It’s the first night of Red Rum Club’s tour and tickets to Sheffield’s O2 Academy have already sold out. Town Info were given the opportunity to catch up with the band following their sound check as they prepare for one of their biggest gigs outside of Liverpool. All dressed in black and without a glimmer of nerves to be seen, the band warmly introduce themselves with a confidence that leads us to believe they have done this a thousand times before. So how long have the band been together? ‘Too Long’ Francis answers with a grin before pausing to give the question some serious thought. ‘As Red Rum Club we’ve been together about 3 years.’ The rest of the band start laughing and tell him he has in fact been saying that for the last 4 years. “Ok, we got serious about 3 years ago. But before then we were just all local lads, playing in different bands.. just messing about for 12 years.. but we got quite good then..” They may only be promoting their debut album, but it’s been a busy couple of years for Red Rum Club. With gigs in Glasgow, the Isle of White, London and Glastonbury Festival. The band even tell us about their ‘Soju fuelled’ trip to play at Zanadri Fest Seoul South Korea this time last year. Whilst the guys don’t tell us exactly what happened in South Korea, I can’t help but laugh when I hear someone mention that ‘Joe thought the toilet was Si’s suitcase…’ Whilst Red Rum Club may have…
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An Evening of Songs and Stories with Graham Nash at The Forum, Bath I’m ashamed to admit that I had never heard of Graham Nash before being invited to see him at Bath Forum. The venue, having originally opened as an art deco cinema in the early 30’s, sits modestly on St James Parade opposite the train station in the ancient Roman city of bath. It may only be Thursday evening but as we take our seats in one of the largest auditoriums in the South West, I can’t help but notice how many people have come out tonight to see the Grammy award winning musician and co-founder of The Hollies, Crosby Stills & Nash. As Graham humbly walks onto a stage decorated with an accumulation of candles and acoustic guitars, the audience greet him with an ovation reserved for only the mast talented and respected of musicians. Their prominent reaction only intensifies my curiosity (and indignity) of not really knowing much about who this man really is. Originally born in Blackpoool, Graham formed the Hollies with school friend Allan Clarke in the early 60s before becoming an American citizen in later years where we met with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young in Los Angeles. His distinctive vocals and iconic harmonies compliment the songs beautifully. From The Hollies first US top ten hit ‘Bus Stop’, to the more folky Moroccan inspired ‘Marrakesh Express’; the acoustic guitars alone set the scene perfectly, removing the need for a drummer or bassist. Graham surprises us with a moving rendition of Beatles classic ‘A Day in the Life’ before claiming that “there will never be…
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Black Stone Cherry at Caerphilly castle If Friday night was reminiscent of my teenage years; carefree summer evenings filled with brit pop infused indie bands and Bacardi Breezers, Saturday is about to take me back to another era entirely. The hard and heavy southern flavoured rock and roll of Kentucky band ‘Black Stone Cherry’. It’s been over 10 years since Chris Robertson’s raspy vocals and hard-hitting guitar riffs tore through my speakers one morning whilst listening to Planet Rock’s ‘Breakfast With Alice Cooper’ show. With musical talent way beyond their years and ‘that voice’, I was thrilled to discover that Black Stone Cherry were only on their first album and not another band that I’d regretfully missed out on by being born a decade or two too late. Black Stone Cherry were the band I’d always promised myself I’d see, yet here I am almost 14 years later about to see them play for the very first time. With the unique fairy-tale setting in the historic grounds of Caerphilly Castle making it almost worth the wait. Opening for what is probably one of the most popular southern rock and roll bands of our time is no mean feat, but one man who’s not one to back down from a challenge is Torquay’s very own Kris Barras, delivering a blisteringly fresh take on the blues that inspired him to pick up a guitar at 6 years old after listening to childhood hero and guitar legend Gary Moore. With their Nashville inspired blues and no-nonsense ‘Rock and Roll Running Through My Veins’, you’d be forgiven for thinking this…
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The Zutons at Caerphilly castle. As we approach the sun-soaked outskirts of Caerphilly Castle it almost feels as though we are coming home. It’s been a year since we were last here with legendary pioneers of rock ‘Thunder’, yet the raw excitement and anticipation radiating through the castle walls remains. Another sunny afternoon tricks us into believing there is a secret dome overlooking the Castle grounds; protecting us from any looming threat of stormy clouds as it welcomes us with open arms. Whilst the number of Orchard gigs we have attended reaches double figures, the three-time regional promoter champions have once again surprised us with a diverse variety of exclusive headlining acts. And what better way to kick off the weekend than an adrenaline filled punk infused performance from Hertfordshire’s very own indie band ‘The Subways’? Originally catapulted to fame in 2004, the triumphant motley crew famously won Michael Eavis’ competition for unsigned bands granting them a slot at Glastonbury Festival. Almost 15 years later it’s clear to see why they won. The Subways ferociously work their way through an energised set list of teenage angst and convivial chaos. With hits including, ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘Girls and Boys’ and ‘We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time’, the band’s infectious interaction with the crowd combined with their trademark catchy riffs are the perfect way to start any Friday night. Time flies when you’re having fun and it’s not long before ‘The Zutons’ take to the stage, starting as they mean to go on with the opening track from their debut album, ‘Zuton Fever’. As they…
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Clean Bandit, Mabel, Van Morrison, Corinne Bailey Rae at Bath Festival Finale Weekend Thousands of people turned up to join in the celebrations of Bath Festival Weekend Finale.  Saturday the sun was reaching very hot temperatures and the acts that were playing brought in the younger crowds. The energy of the festival was at an all time high. After the introduction acts had performed Jaz Karis got the party started, although she was an unknown artist to me; she brought a great opening R&B/Soul vibe to the festival. Bristol Born Raleigh Ritchie (Jacob Anderson) was next on stage; well known for his role as Grey Worm in Game of Thrones . The singer-songwriter and rapper entered the stage wearing a space helmet, bringing the stage and crowd to life with his highly energised performance. Like Jaz Karis, Jacob Banks singer and songwriter from Birmingham also brought  a strong R&B and soul vibe to the stage. Jacob Banks became the first unsigned act to ever appear on BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. Mabel, the daughter of Neneh Cherry and Cameron McVey was next on stage. The Spanish-English singer/songwriter really got the crowd going, with lots of screaming and excitement as she arrived on stage. Mabel’s contemporary R&B vibe fitted perfectly with renditions of “Don’t call me up” and “Finders Keepers“; her first UK top 10 single. The final headliner act brought the first day to a close with Clean Bandit. The Electronic dance-pop group has dominated our radios during the last two years with their hits. On this sunny evening at The Bath Recreation Ground they did not disappoint. They were definitely a crowd favourite…
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Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Cardiff Castle Oasis are a band that’s always been very close to my heart, having seen them perform at least 17 times over the last two decades. Whilst I’m undoubtedly excited to be seeing Noel Gallagher perform at Cardiff Castle with his High-Flying Birds, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive. Following a two-year creative collaboration with renowned producer, DJ and composer, David Holmes, Noel Gallagher will be showcasing a brand-new expansive sound with experimental anthems from his most recent album ‘Who Built the Moon?’. Joined by an array of backing singers and percussionists, it’s ‘half the world away’ from the band that fearlessly took the 90s by storm with their first single ‘Supersonic’ and critically acclaimed albums ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory?’. I secretly wonder how Noel will adapt to the role of front man without the confident swagger of his younger brother and endless back catalogue of Oasis crowd pleasers to fall back on. It’s a brave step to take for the Oasis ‘Chief’ so far outside of his comfort zone and in front of so many fans, many of whom will surely be thinking the same as me. As we approach the outskirts of Cardiff Castle the atmosphere is infectious as fans of all ages fill the castle grounds; relaxing in the evening sun and laughing as they pose for photos in the medieval stocks that overlook the Castle entrance. Orchard have once again done a superb job of selecting another unique and magical backdrop to showcase one of their many prestige…
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Miss Divine UK Finals – 2018! The sun sparkles against the river Usk as we arrive at the modern Riverfront Theatre in the heart of Newport.  This is the first time Miss Divine UK have held their grand finals at the impressive venue and it’s the perfect setting for the crowning of this year’s Queens. The competition is high and there’s an air of excitement as contestants from all over the United Kingdom arrive at the theatre with shared hopes of taking home their very own Miss Divine title. The girls have worked exceptionally hard to earn their place as a contestant in one of Wales’ most empowering beauty pageants; after having already won their divisional titles. Glamorous ball gowns, high heels and glittering crowns are carefully escorted through the reception area as the girls make their way backstage in preparation for the busy day ahead. It’s not the first time we have joined Miss Divine UK in their grand finale celebrations. After attending their first crowning ceremony the year before we were in awe of the determination, hard work and passion radiating from all of those involved; attributes which have become fundamental to the pageant’s success. This year I have been given the unique and exciting opportunity of joining the Miss Divine UK judging panel; gaining an insight into all the hard work put in by everyone involved. We will be scoring the girls based on a variety of different qualities and the great work they have carried out throughout the year working tirelessly to support a wide range of charities and communities. Joining me…
Diamond Head bring Lightning to the Nations at Cheltenham’s Frog and Fiddle Walking into the Frog and Fiddle, I give my name to the friendly doorman in exchange for a red cross hastily scrawled across my hand; granting me access to Diamond Head’s intimate sold out gig. Costing only £8.80, the entry fee is remarkably modest for a band known to have played in stadiums supporting the likes of ACDC, Sabbath and Iron Maiden. The band that ignited the fire of new wave heavy metal in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s. Their debut album ‘Lightning to the Nations’ famously inspiring metal giants Megadeth and Metallica with their iconic guitar riffs and menacing vocals. You can feel the excitement begin to build as the bar soon fills with thirsty Diamond Head fans of all ages. From the older rockers of the early 80’s to the teenagers only just old enough to order a pint at the bar; the pure diversity of Diamond Head’s fan base prove they are still a force to be reckoned with. A treasured secret to not only those who were lucky enough to see the original line up first hand, but to all of those who have discovered them since. From the outside, the Frog and Fiddle is a small venue; conveniently tucked away in the charming Brewery Quarters of Cheltenham Spa. It doesn’t appear to be much bigger than my local pub, however as I make my way towards the darkness of the barn where the band will be soon be playing, I realise there is more to this unique music venue than meets the eye. I take a…
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