Archive | September 2013

soundCHECK 218 – September 26th 2013

What’s that curious silhouette on the horizon? It’s getting closer. And closer. Why, it’s this week’s music pelican! And my, he has a veritable bounty of delectable news-nuggets stowed in his horribly dysmorphic bill. Just as well too. Us North Devon music fans need something to rekindle the spirits following the sad news of BetaFest’s cancellation.

Yes, this week’s soundCHECK was set to be a paean to all that is great about North Devon’s DIY music scene, a semi-literate rundown of who best to watch at 2013’s sweaty second instalment of Devon’s finest underground indie festival. But no. BetaFest’s cancellation put paid to that idea, forcing soundCHECK to rely on the arrival of an imaginary bird to introduce its weekly music column. (Good job he showed up. He’s normally extraordinarily unreliable on account of his terrible addiction to sleeping pills and ITV’s Loose Women.)

Exercising admirable restraint and diplomacy, BetaFest organiser Tobias Kennedy-Matthews refused to cough up a salacious, finger-pointing sound bite that would have, for once, injected soundCHECK with some semblance of edgy dynamism. My apologies for his unspokenness. But my professional sources – who am I kidding? It was the music pelican – have told me that Tobias was led horribly astray by promises from booking agents that never materialised.

BetaFest’s cancellation is a genuine shame. It is one of the best events in the local music scene’s calendar and Tobias works tirelessly to make it happen, with the selfless motives of bringing new bands into our region and celebrating the vibrancy of underground music in North Devon. His work is habitually unthanked.

Happily, all is not lost. You can still get merry watching Scholars, Fighting Fiction, The Dead Betas, Oh Captive and Framework at The Palladium this Saturday evening (28th) for the bargainous price of £3. Quite how many more chances you will have to watch riotous shows like this is extremely uncertain given Tobias’s recent woes with BetaFest. You’d be well advised to get there nice and early. Doors are at 7.30pm.

If all that doesn’t strike you as quite sandy enough, then head coastwards to The Thatch in Croyde tomorrow night (Friday 27th) to see the ever-popular Small Town Jones (, who sings with the throaty husk of a man who has stood with his mouth agape during storm force headwinds on Braunton Burrows. Devon’s best exponent of acoustic alt folk? You’d be hard-pressed to find finer.

And you’d be even harder pressed to find a more luminously promising musical talent than North Devon’s 13-year old Kiera Osment. Listen to spellbinding new song What If at and you will see what I mean. Armed with a genuinely affecting voice and an ear for a haunting melody, North Devon will do well to keep this young girl quietly under wraps, just for now, while she hones her prodigious talent into something quite special.

Finally, Spectres – formally of North Devon, now of Bristol – have released a brand new track and an accompanying video that is nothing if not disturbingly weird. Search YouTube for ‘Spectres – Lump’ and feel baffled for five minutes while your lugholes are pounced upon by thunderous drums and rabid guitars dripping with feedback. It’s the Spectres way.

Now, say goodbye to the music pelican. SAY GOODBYE.

CONTACT: You know the deal by now. Tell me your local music news and I’ll write about it. jharper[at] | @testforpulse

soundCHECK 217 – September 19th 2013

Growing up in North Devon has its perks. The beaches. The countryside. The Milky Way. But nothing quite compares to the curious wonder of being ensnared by the local dialect – the defining feature of which is a Byronic love affair with the letter R. For the North Devon native, the opportunity to enunciate a passionately over-pronounced R is usually too good to miss. As for the hardcore among this linguistic clan, well, they brandish an R so sharply rhotic that it strips the flesh from your aural canal as it scrapes towards your cochlea, slashing through your ear drum with the same respect a whirring chainsaw would show for a puppy. Extended conversation risks serious injury.

With all that considered, the current festivities at The Red Barn in Woolacombe seem a trifle strange. Today (Thursday 19th) the surf-haunt is encouraging its patronage to take part in, wait for it, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, inviting guests to don the relevant attire, throw back a rum or two and – you guessed it – talk like a pirate. Shivver me timbers etc and so on.

Now, The Red Barn is a mighty fine drinking hole. But clearly the management has never been to Barnstaple Pannier Market on a Friday morning. Captain Cook himself would require his very keenest ear to grasp some of the idiolects on offer, which to the average Joe on the street are all but indecipherable, m’dear. Like I said, it’s a dialect of wonder and joy and vibrance, indelibly written into our fair region’s cultural parchment. But inviting the people of North Devon to talk like pirates is like inviting a bear to horrify The Journal’s sub-editors in the woods.

If you like rum and horseplay, involve yourself. But if you are keen to evade the swing of The Red Barn’s cultural cutlass, there is alternative entertainment. Wille & The Bandits ( travel from Plymouth to The Thatch in Croyde tomorrow night (Friday 20th) to perform their critically-acclaimed swampy, rootsy folk-rock. Something of a coup considering they have opened for really, really big artists like Deep Purple, Joe Bonamassa and Roots Manuva. Alternatively, for something a little more stripped-back but featuring equally slidey folk-guitar, watch Jim Blair this evening at Lilico’s – the very same venue where eighties legend Dave Sharp of The Alarm will be performing solo next Thursday (26th September).

Next week: BetaFest, which lives on despite being forced to walk the plank.

CONTACT: Here’s how this works: send me your local music news and I will write about you. jharper[at] | @testforpulse