Skinny Girl Diet + Peach Club + Sink Ya Teeth @ The Owl Sanctuary, Solko @ OPEN 2 December 2016

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The past week or so I have been lucky enough to see some incredible gigs up there with some of the best of the year, in the case of Savages one of my favourites ever. This strong line up from Ideal Surreal at The Owl Sanctuary brought us Skinny Girl Diet from London and our own Peach Club and Sink Ya Teeth. An all-girl line up, and talking with Annie Catwoman afterwards it got me thinking about these great gigs: Savages, PINS, Honeyblood, Low, Sink Ya Teeth, Peach Club, and Skinny Girl Diet … only two men in that list and both of them are in Low!

skinny girl diet

(c) shashamane 2016

Sink Ya Teeth opened the music at about 8:30pm in a rapibly filling Owl with Maria and Gemma looking relaxed, happy and confident, as well they should. In their short career as Sink Ya Teeth they’ve been developing at a fast pace and are continually adding new songs to their catalogue, some of which were aired here like In Out, with hints of White Rabbit. They sounded powerful and are always interesting, ever improving developing and growing. They have become one of my favourite local bands, a tremendous live act with real potential. See them.

In the three or four times I’ve caught Peach Club they’ve endeared themselves to me a lot. These Norwich Riot Girrrls have that certain something that makes them stand out, along with some good natured attitude and spirit, a captivating dervish of a frontwoman in Katie Revell (“Girls invented Punk, not England”) backed by a powerful and cool band with a good feeling of unity and love of what they’re doing. They too are developing their sound and have some killer tunes.

peach club

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peach club

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Skinny Girl Diet from London were relatively unknown to me but they definitely made a big impression.  This trio were cool and quiet at first as they took to the stage and let the music do the talking but they responded to the entusuastic audience and ever-growing moshpit at the front, chatted more and as the energy between band and crowd bounced back and forth the gig just got better and better. An absolute powerhouse of noisy Riot Grrrl grunge they were having a blast, proclaiming with smiles “Norwich is awesome!” as that moshpit got bigger without letting up for a second.  Great scenes and sounds at the Owl for this Ideal Surreal gig. Check out the series of launch gigs for We’re From Norwich, spread over a whole weekend from 17 December at Gringos, The Owl, and Playhouse Bar.

Afterwards I headed to OPEN and arrived in good time to catch some Wayward Natives dj selections and a long-awaited set from Solko. It feels like ages since I’ve seen these boys play though I often see Ash and Jordan out and about at gigs in the city. Incredibly, it may well have been their support slot with The Wailers at UEA last year when I last saw them play.  The OPEN club room looked great with winter foliage decor, by Henry I believe, and my favourite touch being “SOLKO” spelled out in gnarled wood on a pallet.  I’ve missed hearing Solko, they sounded really sweet, tight and looked relaxed and happy, all smiles and with a truly special, warm rapport with their audience.  A lovely set to close the live music, I think everyone would have loved to play and hear more but the live music curfew had been reached but not for the recorded so there were some lovely scenes on the dancefloor as Wayward Native closed the night with some awesome African and Latin grooves. We’re so lucky to have all these musical people in Norwich, Music City UK.

Making my way through an almost deserted city centre on my way home I had my first chance to check out the light tunnel between Haymarket and The Forum.

tunnel of light

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Big thanks to Ash, Hubs, Solko, Open, Sean, The Owl and all the bands.

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Low: A Christmas Performance + Erik Koskinen @ NAC 1 December 2016

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Magical. Low were pure magic at Norwich Arts Centre for their Christmas Performance.  As Will in the bar said: “It’s not Christmas until Low have played”.

low

Low (c) shashamane 2016 http://www.norwichblog.com

 

Initially they were to have been joined by Harkin but illness meant this was not possible though we did have a support slot from Erik Koskinen (who also played a full first set with Low, on lap steel) in another sold out gig at NAC for the first date on Low’s UK tour.  I liked Erik’s country blues storytelling style, accompanied by just his guitar.  He had a good line in between song chat too asking for recommendations for English food and gifts to take home (“Mustard!” was shouted, to which he replied he had tried Colman’s Mustard earlier in the day and liked it) … I also loved the fact he referenced probably the best book store in the city that they all visited earlier in the day, The Book Hive.

Erik Koskinen

Erik Koskinen (c) shashamane 2016

 

The auditorium was full well before Low came onstage and there was a strong sense of anticipation and excitement in the air.  I felt in the minority being one of those about to experience Low live for the first time but I quickly realised how special they are and why they are held in such high regard. It also explained why there were so many local musicians and artists assembled for this gig.  The playing is often understated making the louder moments all the more powerful for that. For an hour or so they played a selection of Christmas songs, something that isn’t exactly one of my favourite genres but that all changes with the way Low do them.  They bring a darkness and melancholic beauty to the songs, some of which are achingly intense but always beautiful.

low

Low shashamane 2016

 

low

 

low

Low (c) shashamane 2016

 

low

Low (c) shashamane 2016

 

At one point Alan Sparhawk introduced a song as “Shaky” …  for a brief, horrified moment I thought it was going to be that Shakin’ Stevens Christmas song – “Shaky” obviously does not have the same connotations in Minnesota as it does over here – but it turned out to be John and Yoko’s Happy Xmas (War is Over) which was an absolutely sublime and joyous thing with a large section of the audience singing along.  The set also included Blue Christmas and Silent Night from their collection and their famous version of Drummer Boy, plus new song Some Hearts (At Christmas Time).  They achieved the near-impossible in making me think of Christmas with fondness tonight.

 

 

 

low

Low shashamane 2016

 

After Santa’s Coming Over, Alan explained about the video and the story behind the headshots of the childen in it. Checking it out today it makes the song seem even more intense and unsettling.

 

 

Ever-humble they seemed a tad awkward – endearingly so – and unsure of how to handle the end of set/encore thing and said they’d “… be backin a minute and a half, … if you want us to?”, which of course everyone did. The encore turned out to be a one hour Low set from the trio.  This was a fantastic showcase for what Low are all about, highly effective and (for the most part) light percussion, gorgeous vocals and harmonies plus perfect bass and keys. The overall sound was just sumptuous but Wow can they rock out too!  Alan’s guitar sound is incredible and so powerful.  I’m a big fan of space in music, and noise too and this is something Low do to great effect. Letting the songs breathe, everything is crystal clear but when they let rip it makes all the more impression.  There were hints of The Besnard Lakes  (another great NAC gig) in the louder moments, and some Radiohead in the softer ones but they are always, gloriously and magically, uniquely Low. They left the stage to huge cheers and responded with a thumbs up and the promise that “2017 will be awesome!” After 2016 I think we all deserve that.

 

This was a truly beautiful gig in a run of exceptionally good ones (people are still talking about Savages last week) and they enchanted me throughout the near two hours of exquisite magic.

low

Low (c) shashamane 2016

 

 

 

Big thanks as always to all at NAC.

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Honeyblood + PINS @ NAC 29 November 2016

 I’d spent most of the past week reliving that incredible Savages gig at UEA (a week on I still feel it’s one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever been to in my 35 years of attending concerts) so as I headed to the Arts Centre on a bitterly cold Tuesday night I was just in the mood for some punky spirit and loud guitars and that’s exactly what I got.

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Honeyblood

 

The NAC felt pretty much full and must have been as near as dammit a sell out for the latest offering from the brilliant Pony Up.  It’s worth mentioning too that the Tilting Sky gig just up the road in the Bicycle Shop was also sold out for Lee Gordon, Rory Hill, and Ginny Dix. 

honeyblood

Honeyblood shashamane 2016

honeyblood

Honeyblood shashamane 2016

 

PINS

PINS shashamane 2016

 

In contrast to the freezing temperatures outside, the NAC was as warm as toast inside and PINS were soundchecking as I arrived and sounding really promising.  I didn’t want to miss this so secured a decent vantage point before they came onstage shortly after 8pm.  There was a real sense of occasion here and the atmosphere was great with super lighting once again at the Arts Centre, and a blue tinged smokey stage they had me hook, line and sinker before the end of the first song.  A terrific sound and a great live band from the PINS girls, with killer hooks, harmonies and melodies, lead vocalist Faith totally commands the stage, and indeed the floor as she jumped down in front of the crush barrier. Fast and loud underpinned by delicious, heavy drums and bass it was clear to see why they have such a strong following loved equally by the girls and the boys in the audience.  They don’t seem to have a weak song in their repertoire and set the bar very high for the night with a blistering and energetic set that even featured a nod to fellow Mancunian legends Joy Division with a magnificent Dead Souls cover. I love PINS, I bought their album (beautiful clear vinyl too!) and can’t wait to see them again, I hope it won’t be long before they return, indeed it was hinted at as I was getting my record signed at the end🙂

 

pins

PINS shashamane 2016

PINS

PINS shashamane 2016

 

 

PINS

PINS shashamane 2016

PINS

PINS shashamane 2016

 

Honeyblood were in Norwich last year, at the Mash Tun for NS&V but I obviously had the usual gig clash and missed them so this was my first taste of the Honeyblood live show, and speaking to friends beforehand who had seen them before I knew we were in for a treat.  A sparse stage set up for a big sound and super projections, this duo of Stina (vocals and guitar) and Cat (drums and vocals) were clearly adored with the floor full before they came onstage. There was a sense of occasion with a good light show and a powerful start whilst inbetween songs they were full of Glaswegian charm, bantering with the crowd and Cat even sharing the peculiar coctail at the request of a curious crowd member. Sure enough the dancing grew and grew and there was a proper mosh-pit going on, it was great fun. Dispensing with the encore tradition at the end they just stayed where they were and asked “Should we just play a couple more instead of doing that ‘walking off behind a curtain and coming back on again’ thing?”  The reply was predictably noisy and affirmative.

 

honeblood

Honeyblood shashamane 2016

 

honeyblood

Honeyblood shashamane 2016

 

 

honeyblood

Honeyblood shashamane 2016

honeyblood

Honeyblood shashamane 2016

honeyblood

Honeyblood shashamane 2016

 

Much as I loved Honeyblood too – they were excellent and had powerful, melodic and memorable songs – it was their “tour sisters” PINS that made the biggest impression on me on this occasion, they totally blew me away with their energy, spirit, power and brilliant songs. I didn’t want their set to end and adored every moment of it. I will probably get Honeyblood’s  Babes Never Die album at some point soon but there was no way I was going to go home from here without the PINS record under my arm.

 

A fine, fine gig from two great bands who provided the perfect tonic for me.

 

 

 

 

Big thanks to Pony Up, Norwich Arts Centre, Honeyblood, and PINS

PINS

PINS shashamane 2016

PINS

PINS shashamane 2016

 

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Savages @ UEA LCR 23 November 2016

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

This was a gig I’d been looking forward to from the moment I saw it announced, especially as I had inexplicably missed their NAC gig in 2013, the outstanding Savages at the Nick Rayns’ LCR at UEA. I’m not a big fan of the impersonal LCR and consequently don’t visit often but dammit, when I do the gigs here are often blinders.  From the moment I first heard Savages I have been a big fan of them, a powerful all girl line-up with outstanding drumming, guitar and bass work, and one of the most charismatic front persons in a band I have ever seen.  Step forward and jump into the crowd Jehnny Beth.  Geniunely exciting and compelling they felt like the embodiment of the band I realised I had been waiting for.  Check out their brilliant Fuckers.

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

Coming onstage to Leonard Cohen’s Recitation / A Thousand Kisses Deep was a nice touch and there was a real sense of excitement and anticipation as they were greeted. Prowling the stage in an intense manner I could imagine from Trinity from The Matrix, engaging with the crowd and whipping the audience into a frenzy Jehnny Beth is just astonishing and the whole band provide a fantastic sensory onslaught.  They make me think of The Matrix in a few ways actually, they’re like a musical resistance, underground movement.  Awakened and enlightened to the truth, fighting for a better way of freedom and positivity. They lead the way and offer the red pill and they Adore Life.

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

On a short tour of just two dates we were lucky to have them in Norwich but the LCR was inexplicably far from full, the gig clashing with The Damned at The Waterfront for Punk in the East, though I am not sure how much effect that would have had, it was however much more comfortable for enjoying the gig and there was a bouncing, enthusiastic throng at the front, the audience was quality over quantity and as soon as the band struck up it felt full and, for the UEA, surprisingly intimate and that’s down to their charisma.  Initially finding us typically a little quiet everyone soon loosened up and Jehnny Beth later remarked “You’re not really so shy after all!” – there was a lot of mutual love and a tremendous connection between band and audience and we were even treated to a Marianne Faithfull cover (Why D’Ya Do It?), as “something special for you”.

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

I think they played for over an hour and a half but I had lost all sense of time, the set seemed to exist outside the realm of time, it was so immersive and compelling, several times Jehnny Beth jumped into the crowd and was carried along as she sang.  The rest of the band too are captivating to watch and an absolute powerhouse. It’s hard to imagine that there can be many better live bands on the planet than Savages at the moment.  There have been many outstanding gigs I have seen this year but I think this one is destined to be remembered as one of the best and most memorable I have ever been to.  They play brilliant music and deliver it in a way which is very, very exciting and they made me feel really young. There was a palpable buzz after the gig and we all knew we’d seen something extremely special.  I cannot recommend Savages highly enough, a band with presence, intensity, dramatic live gigs and the songs and musicianship to back it all up, they just have no weakness. The singer is outstanding, the drummer tremendous, the guitarist fantastic and the bassist brilliant. The whole sum of these parts is something quite extraordinary. Girls leading the way again.

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

savages

Savages shashamane 2016

good sad happy bad

Good Sad Happy Bad, who opened for Savages at UEA shashamane 2016

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Steve Tilston, Milly Hirst, Chad Mason @ OPEN 19 November 2016

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Norwich had yet another Saturday of countless gig clashes, most notably No Holy Men with their EP launch at Norwich Arts Centre, and The Sisters of Mercy with The Membranes at UEA, Wooden Arms at the Old Shoe Factory, and Steve Ignorant at The Birdcage but I chose OPEN for the Paddle Fast presentation of Steve Tilston, Milly Hirst, and Chad Mason.  I’ve never seen the Club Room decked out with tables and chairs before but it seemed to work rather well, adding a sense of intimacy and respectful silence during the performances.  It was an absolute delight to hear Milly like this with a super sound and total silence from the audience, the only sounds being various mechanical gurgles from the bar which usually go unnoticed but in this atmosphere quite audible.  Alongside set favourites like Book or a Film, Gentle Sailor and Mary we had pin-drop acappella and a brand new song aired for the very first time, written with Iain Lowery as a musical response to poetry created by young people inspired by the WWI poem The Fierce Light, both of these were set highlights for me.  Milly claimed to be feeling “rusty” having had a quiet year for live gigs but I found it just magical and was especially pleased to be able to enjoy the songs in this way and truly immerse myself in them. No other artist springs to mind who seems to speak to my soul in the same way that Milly does.

 

 

All the running orders for the sets were rejigged and it was headliner Steve Tilston who came onstage next, ahead of the loud party in the Banking Hall next door.  It was my first time seeing him and he had an engaging, story-telling manner between songs and of course played the songs themselves beautifully with some stunning guitar work. Even when he did make a mistake he joked mid-song “I’ve been playing that song about 30 years and made many mistakes on it but never that mistake before!”

 

Chad Mason had remarked a few times before the gig that he was feeling rather “dickie” but he was so professional that he still played the gig and was flexible enough to play last and with an extended set in a way that one would never have guessed had he not mentioned it … until the very end where he had to literally run off stage.  He was still witty, chatty and played flawlessly playing a few numbers each from both albums and continuing the World War theme all performers touched upon. He’s a better man than I and I salute his professionalism and commitment to honouring the gig so well.

 

chad mason

Chad Mason

 

milly hirst

Milly Hirst shashamane 2016

steve tilston

Steve Tilston shashamane 2016

 

After the gig I headed with friends to Jurnets Bar for this month’s Cave-In, it’s been a while since my last Cave so I thoroughly enjoyed it, and seeing so many familiar faces there.  The night ended with a drink to salute the Paddle Fest success at OPEN.

 

cave in

Liz at Cave-In

 

norwich market

 

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Ideal Surreal 3-floor shebang @ Karma Kafe 18 November 2016

Having already been struck down with the dreaded lurg twice this autumn and not having been out of the house in a week I wasn’t sure I’d make it to this gig at one point but I thankfully revived in time even though the cycle ride in was exhausting.

 

There was a really healthy crowd for this one which I hope has raised enough to fund the next We’re From Norwich release.  I spent most of the evening on the middle ‘acoustic’ floor for the likes of Hot Raisin, Mari Joyce, Andrea King (with David Bryce on sax), and Eloise Shaw but did venture upstairs for the official debut gig by Organisms featuring Joe Quinn and Lizzy Burt, plus an incredible headline from Dr. Clyde. I felt greatly for bassist Joe who recently lost his father Sean but maybe the gig helped in some way.  They were remarkable and powerful, with audience packed and dancing I could feel the floor shaking beneath my feet.

 

 

andrea king

 

hot raisin

 

The event closed with dj sets, the middle floor also bouncing, whilst Chad Mason dj-ed in the basement area, where I spent most of the latter hours of the gig.

 

#norwich #instamood #steampunk #dreams

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The Extons, Violet Kicks, LK @ Odd Box, The Murderers, 11 November 2016

The Extons, Violet Kicks, LK for Odd Box at The Murderers. Maya Law at The Owl Sanctuary for EA Dames, plus Dan, Georgia & Freddie, Maya Law, Phoebe Troup, D’Lore at The Bicycle Shop.

 

November’s Odd Box at The Murderers got off to a late start as we all had to wait for the England v Scotland game to finish (does anyone really still watch England games?) so I relocated to The Owl Sanctuary to catch some of the EA Dames female artists showcase instead and would indeed hop between the venues several times during the night.

violet kicks

Violet Kicks debut gig shashamane 2016

 

Just before 10pm LK (aka Lucy) bravely took to the stage in front of a loud boisterous Murderers  pub crowd but also a sizable number of people there to hear her play her beautiful and haunting Cocteausesque sounds, impressing a number of people hearing her for the first time.  I’ve been following Lucy’s music for quite a while now and her progression and development has been really pleasing.  Tonight, as well as for her music I was also full of admiration for her courage playing what must have seemed a daunting first set at a late hour in front of celebrating football fans.  I’m pleased to say LK won that fixture. Buy here EP here: http://lkmusic.squarespace.com/

 

Next up was a debut gig for Violet Kicks a quartet featuring some familiar faces, notably Jessie on lead vocals and Connor on drums.  They made a big impression with an enthusiastic, theatrical delivery.  Very visual and with the songs to go with it too, I look forward to seeing them again soon.

 

violet kicks

Violet Kicks shashamane 2016

 

 

 

King’s Lynn’s The Extons didn’t get to start their set until gone 11:30pm but still played their garagey rock with gusto and energy, the bassist at several times either on the amp towering over the drummer or among the dancing audience. Fun stuff.

 

Between Violet Kicks and The Extons I was again at the Owl, just in time to catch a set by Maya Law who was in fine, confident form. Her duet of Amy’s You Know I’m Know Good, with Hannah, was a great crowd singalong.  I hadn’t expected to see Maya on this occasion and did indeed see her earlier in the week for a lovely send-off for Dan, Georgia and Freddie of The Piratones who are headed to New Zealand for about six months. They played a set (joined by Maya), as did Dan, Maya, and the wonderful Phoebe Troup. This was a lovely way to wish them well in the homely Handlebar of the Bicycle Shop. Happy travels and adventures Dand, Georgia, Freddie!

 

 

 

 

 

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