BY GUEST CONTRIBUTOR CHAS DE WHALLEY
Now, if you’ve been holding your breath for a headbanger, you need hold your breath no longer. Four piece Dog Of Man last graced the SSC back in 2020 during dem ol’ dark days of Covid. They mark their return with an acerbic hardcore anthem ‘Headonastick’ which will mangle your mind by combining a heavy metal accordion – what(!?!) – and finger-shredding guitar riffs. Half the band are based in Stroud while the others live in Brighton. How they get it all together when torn so far apart is a mystery but, if you believe their online ‘press cuttings’, they’re a veritable force of nature live. This we have to see.
Where would the SSC be without Mr Marko’s Outer Space Emporium? 2023 marks the fourth time they – that’s keyboard wizard Mark Thompson and chanteuse Anne Garcin – have beamed down to join us from whichever solar system they call home. True to form, this year’s entry ‘Cosmic Eye’ takes you to where synth pop goes supernova and gets sucked into the black hole of psychedelia before emerging into an alternate universe where nothing is quite what it seems but everything is connected! Does that make sense, Dr Spock? Thought not…
Born and raised in Stroud but now domiciled in Eastington, local eminence gris David Ireland last graced the competition in 2020. As well as being a singer-songwriter with solo albums to his name, David is also an artist, photographer, historian, poet and novelist – and can frequently be seen behind the counter in Stroud’s award-winning vintage fashion boutique Time After Time. Clearly a man who knows a thing or two about quite a lot, his cryptic word play and Dylanesque delivery provide the perfect platform for a ‘Two Wheel Town’ which seeks to shine a light on Gloucestershire’s present through the lens of its past. And is full of historical riddles for us all to puzzle over.
Beginning to make a name for himself out there in Spotifyland, Stroud rapper and hip hop merchant Layman (aka Harry Greenstreet) tells us that his song ‘Zone Out‘ is about getting lost in daydreams and finding comfort in exploring his own mind, relaxing and being content with nothing but his own thoughts. Since this is a family show we shan’t say what we reckon that all means but … Musically ‘Zone Out’ is truly blissed out. It glides along on a sinewy bass and drum groove, leading into an immediately hummable refrain and topped off with a tiny touch of spacey electric guitar! Far out and solid, as they used to say.
You can’t say that FRANC aren’t ambitious. A five piece ex-Art College outfit, they claim they came up with their band name by juggling the letters of their individual first names. Yes, that’s right. Just like ABBA. And what’s more they’re hoping that winning the SSC could be the springboard to fame and fortune. However we suspect that FRANC’s tongues may be ever so slightly in their cheeks? Not about winning the contest of course, but because their entry ‘Without You’ has absolutely nothing Scandanavian about it at all. Rather it’s a refreshingly winsome piece of classic English folk rock.