Archive | September 2012

soundCHECK 169 – September 27th 2012

Straight-laced and squeaky-clean, there’s no doubt that pouting glambot and part-time soul-starlet Beverley Knight will go down a storm with even the most temperate families when she (ever so gently) switches on the Christmas lights in Barnstaple on 22nd November. It’s a booking that will appeal to the masses, but one that stands in stark contrast to the general ambience of the local contemporary music scene, which has far more guts and guile and grit. Ggrr.

The organiser of the annual switch on event, Barnstaple Town Centre Management, does a good job of making sure the local scene is represented each year; a handful of local musicians normally get to perform to the gathered revellers. I just can’t help thinking that poor old Bevs is a bit, y’know, bland in comparison to the region’s most promising underground talent. I mean, great voice and all that. But she’s just a bit like a rainy Sunday.

That should become luminously clear once you wrap your ears around a new compilation curated by local independent filmmaker Ryan Martin. It’s packed to the gunnels with decent songs from aspiring local bands. (Exhibiting a complete nescience for better judgement, Ryan’s choice for the album title was informed by a recent soundCHECK article that obsessed about seagulls and hypothesised that the new compilation could be used as an aural defence against their maniacal death-cackles.) ‘Drowning Out The Seagulls’ is available now to download for FREE from Get on it.

With that little news-nugget firmly despatched, it’s time to look at the upcoming gigs vying for your attention. Local whippersnappers Days Gone By ( take their wide-eyed, floppy-haired, effervescent pop-punk to The Preston Gate Inn in Bude tomorrow evening (Friday 28th), with listenable indie tykes The Ritts from Exeter also on the bill. Like the air into your lungs, entry is free. You hear that? Free.

BBC Spotlight’s favourite hip-hop outfit The Breaks Collective ( are also on their travels as they head to the Exeter Cider Festival on Saturday (29th). That very same day, you can catch pained local rockers Captal ( at The Palladium in Bideford as they warm up the stage for the chewy 70s post-punk of Eddie & The Hotrods. Get excited. Tickets cost £10 and are available from Solo Music in Barnstaple or

I’ll leave you with a pair of inspirational couplets from Beverley Knight’s ‘Gold’, the emotional closing song from the Who I Am album: “What is true and what is real / Finds a way of being revealed / I don’t have to even try / Because I’m certified.” Let’s hope Bev’s slapdash and self-preserving approach to the search for truth does not extend to musical performance.

Got local music news? Email jharper[at] or tweet me @testforpulse.

soundCHECK 168 – September 20th 2012

Spider season is here. Time to write-off a few pairs of pants.

Being alive in September is like being unwittingly thrown into a real life horror film. Any fright-fest worth its weight in cold, skin-tingling horror trades off the fear of sensing something awry. Another presence. Even when you know you’re alone.

Well, in September you genuinely are not alone. Your sixth sense is correctly detecting that something is nearby. And it’s pant-ruiningly huge, with eight legs. Just sat there, all ego and hauteur and fangs. Like the worst thing ever made. Waiting for you to find it before it scuttles off to its godless underworld at a million miles per second.

The only way to make it through spider season without regressing to a feckless sack of gloopy mind-trauma is to keep busy. Make plans. Stay optimistic. You’re with me, right? Make good and use these joy-splattered musical news-shards to puncture your bubble of fear.

Firstly, there’s a new battle of the bands for North Devon’s blues musicians to polish up their harmonicas for. But rather than a £30 bar tab in some sticky-carpeted grime-mongers as the prize, this contest offers bands the chance to play at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in New Brunswick, Canada. (Unfortunately, Google says they still have house spiders in Canada.)

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for emerging or established British blues artists to raise their profile and play on a world stage at this brilliant festival – as well as experiencing the wonders of the Canadian province of New Brunswick,” trumpeted last year’s winners Groove-A-Matics from Gateshead, pricking the ears of every public relations employee within earshot. Registration opens on 1st October and the heats begin on 11th January. You can find out more at

If you prefer a more primal approach to music, then join Vamanos and hit things with sticks. The North Devon based, Brazilian/Cuban-inspired outfit are looking for new members and are willing to train up those who are willing to learn. Equipment is provided. As is the rehearsal space: Littleham Village Hall (just outside Bideford) on Monday evenings from 7pm until 9.30pm. Apparently the band is in demand for festivals and functions and private parties all over the south west. If you would like to find out a little more, email vamanos[at] They won’t bite. Unlike spiders, which do.

Finally, a reminder that the latest helping of North Devon’s best underground music festival Beta Fest gets underway tonight (Thursday 20th) at The Palladium in Bideford. Some of North Devon’s best contemporary music talent will be on show across the three-night residency and tickets are available on the door for each night. Get down there.

There won’t be any spiders. They’ll be repelled by all the awesomeness.

Got local music news? Break me off a chunk and I’ll spit out the crumbs on this page next time. Email or tweet @testforpulse.