Archive | February 2014

soundCHECK 238 – February 27th 2014

If you are in a band, chances are you are pretty skint. So like most other fiscally-impaired gadabouts, you have three ways of getting to Exeter: Old road, link road, train. The old road so often seems like a good idea; the variety of the scenic route. Hmm. Really? Those relentless twists and turns and sweeping arcs of the road are enough to bring on a full-blown panic attack in any hungover passenger, while anyone fully sober had better have a cast iron stomach if they are to avoid redecorating your vehicle’s upholstery. Then there’s the link road. The A361 as it’s known on the street. It comes with the titillating promise of speed. Unless you get stuck behind a tractor. Or a caravan. Or a caravan. Or a caravan. And lest we forget the curiously disproportionate amount of reckless, feckless imbeciles you are forced to share the road with, whose insouciance for such trivial a concern as road safety thrusts you into a videogame-style environment where survival is based on dodging the lunatic. As for the train? Well, the beauty of the trip from Barnstaple to Exeter is well-documented. You could sit back and drink in the bucolic vistas if only your attention had not been fully recruited by the imbecilic chatter of the couple three rows in front of you, who apparently think their idle natter is of such gravity that the entire carriage need to hear it. And that curious smell twisting up through your nostrils. Is it wee? Or is someone eating chicken-flavoured crisps? Let’s just hope for the latter.

The cold truth is that travelling to Exeter from North Devon presents some tough decisions. And if you are a local band or artist keen to avoid them, you should probably stop reading right now. You see, Mama Stones are offering you the chance to perform in the courtyard of Exeter Castle at the After Dark Party – part of the 2014 Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink, a title that, rather fittingly, is something of a mouthful.

It says here that the winning acts will have the opportunity to support the Mama Stones House Band at the After Dark Party on the night of Saturday 27th April. To enter you need to make a video of you performing and post it to bianca[at] All videos will be uploaded to YouTube and the five with the most likes will be invited to perform at Mama Stones on Monday 22nd April. Judges will then pick the winner to perform at the festival.

The deadline for entries is Saturday 19th April. That should be enough time to figure out how to negotiate the trip to Exeter should you be successful. Hell, there’s even time to develop an app, wait for it to go viral and then sell it for millions. Then you could fly by chopper. Like I’m going to do. Given the roaring success of Angry Birds and Flappy Bird, I’m expecting my crossover – Angry Flaps – to be a smash hit.

CONTACT: Making music in North Devon? I live in perpetual hope of your contact. jharper[at] | @testforpulse

soundCHECK 237 – February 20th 2014

What’s that monstrous hooting? Why, it’s the confession klaxon of course! And it’s sounding because I have one. A confession I mean. A big one. An unbosoming of such magnitude that I’m not only ashamed to share it with you, but genuinely terrified of the consequences. Alas, I am duty bound to deliver edgy journalism. And I’m damned if I’m going to let such trivial items as crushing embarrassment and pant-wetting fear stand in the way. Gather round.

Okay. Here goes. Since December I have been harbouring approximately 1.47 litres of water in my hot water bottle. Effectively I have removed it from the water system. I want to liberate this water, but doing so will just make the floods worse. I’d find it impossible to sleep at night with that weight on my shoulders. It would be like trying to drift off with Craig David spread-eagled across your torso. (Have you seen him these days? The guy’s packing some serious muscle. The kind of freakish mass you acquire in a desperate bid to get some attention after the world has stopped listening to you sing.) Now in the context of the estimated 326 MILLION TRILLION gallons that make up our planet’s water system, the 1.47 litres of wet stuff resident in my hot water bottle may seem inconsequential. But here’s the thing. It might actually be 1.48 litres. I did fill the thing to right up near the very top. And, you know, if everyone refused to empty their hot water bottles maybe half of the UK wouldn’t be underwater. I’m doing my bit.

With the country’s apparent transformation into Waterworld still ongoing, it may seem a little off-kilter to start waxing lyrical about the summer festival season. But with iconoclastic insouciance, that’s what’s about to happen. And it’s good news. Because us North Devoners have a brand new festival to look forward to. It’s called Somersault and you’ve probably heard about it by now. What you may not know is that it is being organised by the same team behind awesome festies like The Great Escape, Lovebox and Wilderness. So there’s a legitimate reason to get excited.

Jack Johnson and Ben Howard are confirmed headliners. And there’s a tonne more to be announced. (Probably worth emailing the organisers if you’re a local band.) The 5-dayer located in Castle Hill promises an eclectic array of events, including activity excursions to Exmoor for pony trekking, hiking and whatnot; and to the coast for surfing and windsurfing. Though by July I suspect that shuttle bus may not have to travel quite as far as the coast if it keeps raining. Or I decide to empty my hottie.

Find out more and keep up to speed with developments at

CONTACT: Got local music news? Tell me so I can write about you. And it. jharper[at] | @testforpulse