Bo Nanafana Presents … The Office Xmas Party @ The Talk 9 December 2017

It felt like a long wait for my first full-on Bo Nanafana of the year but what an event it was … one of the classic Bo nights.  The Talk looked especially gorgeous and there were the usual nooks and crannies of surprise happenings, two stages, loads of djs, cabaret, live music, an up for it audience dressed to the nines, a terrific atmosphere and a top crew working behind the scenes, making the place look lovely, sound great and working smoothly … no wonder Bo Nanafana is held in such high regard and why when someone goes once they come back time and time again. This is how to party.

 

Bo Nanafana Office Xmas Party 2017

 

If next spring Bo Nanafana does not return to its rightful place as the centrepiece of the Festival events at the Spiegeltent then someone will be seriously missing a trick, in my humble opinion, with something as special as Bo on their doorstep, It is something I have really missed at Norfolk and Norwich Festival in recent years, it’s just not the same without at least one Bo night during the festival.  We are exceptionally lucky to have Bo Nanafana in our fine city, it should be supported and treasured.

 

Bo Nanafana Office Xmas Party 2017

 

Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s The Office Xmas Party; occupational festive therapy starring 

🌭King Salami and the Cumberland 3 Rhythm’n’Blues-Punk Maestros 
🍌Asher M Tea Sexual gentleman and comedy genius
🎺Captain Flatcap swing and ska, funk, folk, and filth with shit loads of squelch!
🏊🏼‍♀️The Two Wrongies Synchronised Swimming in a wrong styley
🎅🏽Bad Santa & 🤓Mental Elf, 
🖨🍆The Stationery Cupboard of Love starring Floyd and Holman with added photocopier 
🌽Rude colouring
💃🏽Free and easy dance class. 
🌟 DJ Thyroid & Vincent1000 (Le Freak Brothers) bring you The GoodTimes Retro Disco, spinning everything from Disco Anthems to Guilty Pleasures with glitter balls, spangles and tight sequinned jockstraps ( I made that last bit up)
🎩Shellac DJs swinging out in the Madmen Room

👠💼Dress fancy, think Madmen, David Brent, Moneypenny, Power Dressing, Branch Managers, Xmas Jumpers, Denholm Reynholm, Gordon Gecko, Pepper Potts

🎁Please bring a wrapped present (must cost no more than 50p, comedy value imperative) for the Secret (Bad) Santa

🎉Tell your boss, invite your staff, self-employed…. treat yourself!

🎟Tickets on sale at Soundclash NOW and on Eventbrite in a week’s time
£17.50 in advance and £20 on the door.

🌪What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

 

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The whole event was superb value for money, the crowd almost drunk the taps of the Talk dry (again!) and the atmosphere … just incredible! It started with a Swing City dance class, while the Shellac Collective djs played in the other room and a GoodTimes disco of 80s favourites went down very well indeed in the main hall.  The extraordinary Two Wrongies justified their name with an act that prompted gasps and sounds from an audience I don’t think I have ever heard before!

 

Bo Nanafana Office Xmas Party 2017

 

Headline band King Salami and the Cumberland Three were the perfect act, and having seen them at Red Rooster in the summer I was sure they would be. At Red Rooster they played during my favourite few hours of the whole festival, a run that included The Hanging Stars, Guadalupe Plata, Cale Tyson, Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, and Danny and the Champs. Playing here some punky rock and roll to an enthusiastic crowd, with bonkers scenes for Do the Wurst where King Salami was almost dragged off stage when he got his maracas caught up in a passing strap, this is no euphemism, it was glorious mad.  He was dragged back from his sickbed, in a dressing gown, for a terrific rousing encore.  Talking to them afterwards I think they enjoyed this and had as much fun as we did.

 

 

king salami and the cumberland 3Bo Nanafana Office Xmas Party 2017Bo Nanafana Office Xmas Party 2017

 

 

 

Massive thanks and congratulations to the legendary “Queen Bo” Helen Stonely and her amazing and dedicated crew who helped make it happen, The Talk and all the performers, and not forgetting the wonderful audience. It was a special one.

 

More photos here.

 

Bo Nanafana Office Xmas Party 2017Bo Nanafana Office Xmas Party 2017

 

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The Mystery Lights + SLEAZE @ The Owl Sanctuary 6 December 2017

Punk Rock Blues returned to the city, this time at The Owl Sanctuary, and brought us two great bands. The Mystery Lights from New York City and the excellent SLEAZE from London town.

 

 

Mystery-Light-FB-ad copy

 

Starting off masked and with a Canaries scarf around the neck, SLEAZE were compelling from the moment they began.  This three-piece had a good sound, loud, dark, with dirty bass – slightly unsettling, and they don’t sound like anyone else. This is a good thing.  It was a thrill to hear their music loud and raw and live, and also to watch some fascinating techniques involving gaffer tape on the keys!  Whereas I knew of The Mystery Lights and was looking forward to them I knew next to nothing about SLEAZE other than one video for Rapunzel I saw on YouTube and they were a truly exciting discovery for me. This is why one should always catch the support bands!  Excellent group with things to say.  I bumped into lead vocalist Dafe afterwards and had a good chat, he is a great guy too and I hope to catch them again. Their set was terrific. ‘Nice n sleazy does it every time’.

sleaze

 

 

“I stand by, and will always maintain, SLEAZE are one of the most consistently entertaining bands that ever came out of south London” – Clark Kents Rock and Roll Revue

 

 

The dimly lit Owl stage proceeded to become even darker for the next set, at the band’s request I gather, but we are talking “Mystery Lights” I guess. How apt, they were a tad mysterious in that darkness.

 

the mystery lights

 

This four-piece from New York are signed to Wick Records, which is a subsidiary of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records.  Energetic, enthusiastic and lively they blasted their way through a set of fuzzy, catchy surf inspired by the 60s garage rock and roll sound so familiar to anyone into the Pebbles and Nuggets record series.  They showcased some new songs as well as those on their album and they all sounded great to me, and indeed some of the first generation punks having a ball dancing around to this gloriously catchy and infectious band.

 

 

I loved it, both the bands here are among those making music so exciting again, with that raw, punky edge and songs as catchy as hell.  As the Mystery Lights say in an interview intro to a video: “We like it rough and raw. Nasty. Messed up.” when referring to their preferred sound.

 

the mystery lights

 

 

Mike Brandon and L.A. Solano have been in many different versions of The Mystery Lights under assorted monikers since their teens. In a heroic jump from the small town of Salinas, California to NYC, the band solidified its lineup to now include Alex Amini on bass, and Zach Butler on drums.
 
The explosive live shows gradually became the stuff of legend, as the quintet won their following one fan at a time in dives from Brooklyn to the Bowery. Organically unfolding over the nights months and years, the Lights’ sound has evolved into a fuzz-fueled hopped-up 21st Century take on 60s garage pebbles, and artful 70s punk, that is all their own. 2016 finds these rock’n’roll knights embarking upon the next logical step – unleashing their own brand of kick out the jams on tour and in the studio.
 
When Daptone Records launched their Wick Records rock imprint, they wasted no time approaching The Mystery Lights as their inaugural act. Hot on the heels of the “Too Many Girls”/”Too Tough To Bear” single, Wick officially released The Mystery Lights’ debut LP, recorded at Daptone Records’ House of Soul studio, on June 24 and they’ve been on the road touring nonstop since. Be sure to look out for them!
 
– Jonathan Toubin

 

Though it was recorded to 8-track tape at Daptone’s legendary House of Soul by Daptone studio superstar Wayne Gordon and mixed by Bosco Mann, it was the cutting engineer JJ Golden who called it “the hottest record I ever cut.”

 

“Truly trippy throwbacks to a filthier, more hallucinatory era, (…) “Follow Me Home” comes straight out of that garage tradition, all Hammond organs and straightforward, declining riffs.” – NOISEY

 

 

Mystery-Light-FB-flyer copy

 

 

 

Many thanks to The Mystery Lights, SLEAZE, Punk Rock Blues, Ryan on sound at The Owl Sanctuary, and extra special, big thanks to top man Dafe for the t-shirt! 🙂

 

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The Vagaband – Something Wicked This Way Comes, new album

A month or two ago Jose of The Vagaband was kind enough to give me a preview copy of new album Something Wicked This Way Comes.  I have been mightily impressed by it and think it features some of his best songwriting to date but have only now been able to find the time to attempt to describe it as best I can as it deserves special and careful attention.  We’ll all have our own take on the album and how we feel it. This is just mine…

 

vagaband header

 

The album continues the theme from Medicine for the Soul but is even more of a whole. Cohesive and very much about the thoughts, fears, and reflections of the central character. Some wistful moments but kicking off with the uptempo and punchy title track yet the lyrics reveal the deeper concerns and central themes of change, time moving on, and fears for the future, it can be as much to do with the uncertain times we are all living through and the fear of what is to come for us all as much as for the protagonist.

 

red rooster - vagaband photoshoot

 

Sorrows get drowned on One for the Road which is bright and spirited though still with an underlying “I’m tired and I wanna go home” mood.  There’s a Beatles Glass Onion moment for me with one or two of the lines, such as “I got a monkey on my back and he’s dragging me down” and a later ” … the monkey is me .. ” reminding me of “The walrus was Paul”.

 

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On There’ll Only Be One Elvis the mood is more nostalgic, looking back to the time when “I was listening to Elvis on my Dansette stereo”, that carefree time of youth seen from a position where responsibility, global change and awareness, as well as time have changed perspectives.

 

midwinter moonshine, the vagaband

 

Bouncing back with Not My Day to Die and some resolute defiance it marks the core of the album for me, four or so back-to-back songs that are among the greatest Vagaband moments thus far, really strong songwriting and performances.  There’s no way the singer is being taken down during this song (“If they lay me in the coffin pull me out before I’m cold ‘cos Heaven knows it’s not my day to die!”).  I really love the defiant tone of this one.

 

midwinter moonshine v the vagaband

 

Eye for an Eye features guest vocals from Yve Mary Barwood, brilliant Norfolk solo singer and lead vocalist with Morganway.  It’s sombre, sober, reflective and wise  (“an eye for an eye and all the world is blind”), it has a great clarity set to a background fitting of a spaghetti western saloon in a ghost town.

 

morganway

 

The mind is now weighed heavy with memories, fears, concerns, uncertainty, regret, and the loss of youthful dreams but Mexican-flavoured Black Eyed Sally is one my favourites of all the album and tells of Sally and her “tongue of the devil and the sting of a bee”. 

 

oxjam - jose mcgill

 

It’s immediately followed by another of my favourites, the sublime Bright are the Stars.  This is simply a very beautiful song and the songwriting is pure Jose “Long is the road that winds for you”. It’s classic Vagaband.

 

Spiritual Man almost has a Ray Davies feel, and probably has a nod in that direction but this one too is classic Vagaband with all the instruments to the fore and giving that familiar vaudeville, New Orleans-esque jaunty jazziness to it while remaining distinctively themselves.

 

That sound continues on the song that closes the album: Zoetrope (a pre-film animation viewing device) and the yearning to go back in time (“take me back to how it was before … what about all the plans we made before … what were we hoping for?”), favourite tunes going out of style “but they’ll soon come back, if only for a little while”.  The constant wrestle of not being able to hold on tightly enough to a moment to prevent it slipping out of our grasp and passing through our hands. Resonating with photographers too, trying to always live in the now whilst also attempting to capture moments.

 

It’s a mature and beautiful piece of work from the entire band, with a stunning production. Professional, clear and unfussy without distraction, a brilliant job from Jose and Greg with great performances from the whole band and the guests.

 

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Pre-official release copies of the CD (no vinyl this time) will be available at their annual Midwinter Moonshine gigs at Norwich Arts Centre. Yes, “gigs” plural.  The traditional 21st date has already sold out so a second has been added on the 20th.  The first features support from The Arlenes and Murphys Lore, and the second has The Shackleton Trio, and Yve Mary B, with Hank Jd Sleek dj-ing honky-tonk, western swing and Americana in the late bar, where, of course, hot toddies will also be served.

 

 

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The Sweetbeats + The Cuckoo Clocks @ NAC 2 December 2017

 

sweetbeats

 

Hypnotic, melodic, psychedelic and flavoured with some West Coast, Country, and Paisley Underground vibes, beautiful harmonies and with a touch of electro and rock, The Cuckoo Clocks were a revelation. I could close my eyes at times and almost make believe I was back in the era of the much-missed Long Ryders. Quite different from The Sweetbeats but the match worked well.

cuckoo clocks

 

 

Based in Sheffield and making their first appearance in Norfolk The Cuckoo Clocks evidently got a skewed impression of our wonderful St. Benedicts, only seeing one pub but all of the Cash Converters. At least they were music ones.  Please come back again and see what this street is really all about 🙂  For the introduction to Spellbound there was a whoop from the back of the hall and it was soon clear why as this was a great song, as was the epic and life-affirming Broken Stone.

the cuckoo clocks

 

Musically they were just wonderful, country-tinged but with elements of the likes of Fleetwood Mac – think a more country Morganway – the early arrivals to the NAC hall loved it and lapped it up. They played their album in full and in order, rather like the Sweetbeats were to do later.  During a pause for tuning vocalist Tracy Deakin (who has a fantastic voice) observed “This is the moment when the vinyl would be turned over…”

 

the cuckoo clocks

 

For a six-piece their sound is obviously quite full when it needs to be but again, like Morganway, they know when to bring it down and let things breathe giving that spacious, sparse sound I love so much.  They draw from a large melting pot of rich ingredients, there might even be a trace of dub seasoning in there too giving the country psychedelia a delicious flavour.

 

 

the cuckoo clocks

 

Their singer observed at the Arts Centre “Beautiful venue. We love the arches. But we don’t love barriers”, referring to the barrier at the front of the stage. I hope this barrier is not a permanant fixture, it feels so un-NAC.

 

cuckoo clocksthe cuckoo clocks 5

 

the cuckoo clocks

 

I’ve not seen the Sweetbeats in ages but none of their wonderful vibe and sense of occasion for their gigs has diminished. A stage adorned with flowers and fairy lights and an audience so up for a good time and a catch-up, that is exactly how it was. I saw so many people I handn’t seen in ages and between acts there really was a great social feel. The band sounded great, keys and horns especially, with guitar, drums and bass giving the dubbier moments great depth.  Of course this gig was also about the launch of their new album, Girl Overboard.

 

sweetbeats

 

The audience, and band too it seemed, had an absolute blast with plenty of dancing throughout the set and an atmosphere which was simply joyous and positive.

 

the sweetbeats

 

The Sweetbeats were launching their new album and played it straight in its entirety and carried through for ninety plus minutes, going right into some old favourites, including the likes of No, No, No, A Bridge Too Ska, and, for the encore, Barbecue. The full auditorium audience danced and skanked throughout and the feelgood factor was off the radar. We’ll be doing similar all over again for The Vagaband’s Midwinter Moonshine in a couple of weeks, now with a second date added to cater for demand!

sweetbeats

 

Sweetbeats really are the perfect party band, infectious ska rhythms and a special inclusive and happy vibe to their gigs.

 

sweetbeats

 

sweetbeats

 

Saturday 2nd December 2017 
8:00 PM 
£10.00 adv | £8.00 adv concs | £12.00 door
Standing

+ The Cuckoo Clocks + DJ Habibti in the bar

This triumphant fourth album from The SweetBeats draws on the band’s Rock Steady roots, with frostings of Dub and hints of Motown, Northern Soul and Dancehall.

Dance all night to the joyful sounds of The SweetBeats as they blend self-penned songs with twisted versions of the classic Ska, Reggae, Bluebeat, Soul and dub tunes that inspired them. Jamaica is where this music starts – the journey ends in bliss. The soaring saxophone and double-trouble trombone energise your soul while the sweet vocal harmonies entrance your heart. Chunkin rhythms and addictive riffs keep you rocking all night – Resistance is Futile!

The Cuckoo Clocks

“Sheffield’s finest The Cuckoo Clocks bring their own unique blend of West Coast Pschedelia and Country tinged Soul. With their intricate songs layered with luscious 6 part harmony and hypnotic lines the band are currently promoting their latest album “Frontiers of a Seductive Mind” which has already received critical acclaim from Richard Hawley and Rob Da Bank (Radio 1). Not to be missed.”

 

sweetbeats

sweetbeatsthe sweetbeats

 

 

Big thanks to Piers and The Sweetbeats, Norwich Arts Centre, and The Cuckoo Clocks.

 

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Current Undercurrent @ Jurnets Bar 29 November 2017

Wednesday night and the gigs still keep on coming.  A damp and dreary night and some fatigue were slight hurdles but I’m glad I made it to Jurnets, a few minutes before a prompt 8pm start with no fewer than seven acts picked by Shane O’Linski for this final Current Undercurrent of the year, collaborating with Ryan and Off With Their Records for a live podcast recording.

 

jurnets bottle rack

 

Morris English eased us in with some quite beautiful guitar instrumentals, a short set which nevertheless made a favourable impression on me.

 

morris english

 

He was followed by a debut performance by new duo Battle Shultz, who are the latest collaborative project by birthday boy Iain Lowery and Al Soutgate.  Switching between vocals and guitar this was a beautiful set with some lovely melodies, lyrics, mood and harmony. I really enjoyed this.

 

battle shulz

 

The changeovers were fast and the sets coming along quickly, and next up was Monkey Boy – “neither a monkey nor a boy” but familiar to most of us as Mark of The Neutrinos.  This too was a highly enjoyable set with some great guitar playing and lyrics.

 

monkeyboy

 

He was followed by another excellent musician on acoustic guitar, the brilliant Pat Falgate who entertained us with some Brazilian and Portuguese flavoured instrumentals, and was later joined by Bridget Holmes (of Playhouse) to accompany Camille Davila on her set. She tonight was playing electric guitar, and charmed us as she always does with her lovely songs. Bridget hit just the right mood with her flute and backing vocals too whilst Pat’s guitar was sumptuous. Camille has her album Hi-C re-released on Goodbye Records on Friday.

pat falgate

 

camille davila

 

camille davila

 

They were followed by the always on-form Ben C. Winn and the Panache.  Iain Lowery back onstage providing drums as Ben played baking tray and “key-tar”.  Tales of driving irritations, “let’s not do rounds tonight”, and annoying student neighbours struck a chord with most, even us non-drivers, as well as the frustrations of life’s more mundane daily cleaning chores “After the washing-up there’s always one more cup!  Bollocks!” hitting something of an Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Invisible Girls meets Chas and Dave mood but for the most part the set carried a similar charm to Jilted John’s punk concept album masterpiece but creating something uniquely their own.  A set of such entertainment there wasn’t even space for Bag in a Tree. Superb fun.

 

ben c winn and the panache

 

At the end of the set the audience broke into a spontaneous rendition of Happy Birthday to Iain … with some wag calling for “Speech!” which hit me squarely in the funnybone! 🙂

 

iain lowery

 

To close the night on a slightly quieter note, Joey Herzfeld played at the Jurnets piano and was joined by Jacob Solstice on guitar (who also played with the Panache), with a few numbers accompanied by Iain jamming quietly on drums, in an all-originals set which concluded with Seedy.  In fact, come to think of it, I think every song played tonight by all the acts were originals. This was a great showcase for some of the perhaps slightly underground Norwich talents and the diversity of its music and talents. Everyone was just wonderful. It was well-attended, had a lovely atmosphere, and great sound.

 

joey herzfeld

 

ryan

 

Shane O’Linski hosts another night on Thursday. WolfsVolk at Cactus Cafe Bar with performances from Winter Visitors, Lisa B, Fiery Fred, French Dog, Gemma Khawaja, Joey Herzfeld, and DR Jones and the Ornithologists. He also appears at the event “Exposure” at Norwich Arts Centre on 12 December which will be recorded for BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction.

 

Late Junction’s Verity Sharp hosts the latest in BBC Radio 3’s series of showcases for experimental music around the UK. Sets from improvising three-piece Hymn, the project of trumpeter Chris Dowding, singer-songwriter Shane O’Linksi with a group specially assembled for this event, and the duo of violinist Laura Cannell and electronic artist Andre Bosman, aka Hoofus.

Doors 7.30
Show starts 8.15

An edited recording of this event will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Thursday 28th December at 11pm

 

Meanwhile, Jacob and Ryan will be at the Owl Sanctuary, also on Thursday for Lift Off, where Host, PreDawn, and Jacob Solstice and the Cosmic Order will all be playing in a night of  post-rock, psych, jazz and prog.

 

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Mark Lanegan @ Norwich Waterfront 28 November 2017

No photo pass for me this time but I was nevertheless keen enough to catch Mark Lanegen in Norwich to just go along and enjoy the gig without a camera.  The thing is though, within minutes of the first support set, from Joe Cardamone  (of Tenebrous Liar), I was seriously wishing I could be photographing!   Initially a short, and somewhat unsettling film with score, once he came onto the front of stage to sing in front of his projections it became a sonic attack of noise and sensory overstimulation with flashing images and strong silhouettes.  I don’t say this unkindly as it was powerful stuff and he has the sort of profile that makes for extraordinarily strong silhouettes and shadows (that I wished I was photographing!). Coming on looking like a Man Who Fell to Earth-era Bowie and sounding somewhere between Fad Gadget and Pete Murphy it was all quite compelling, if not necessarily something I could imagine listening to at home.  It was a brutal assault on the senses which had me worrying for my hearing, headaches and nightmares. Again, not necessarily a criticism.  It was an assault on the senses and during the set there were a couple of unpleasant shouts, which I genuinely did not know whether it came from the PA or a loud animated conversation nearby. That is how disorienting it all was.

 

His image is strong and he makes lighting a cigarette indoors seem like an act of subversion, defiance and provocation but I guess it is simply part of the show … while the image of a cross is almost an ever-present during the visuals, by far the most powerful moment for me, however, was his singing “I am the last man standing” in front of a projection of drone RT footage of an apocalyptic-looking and destroyed Aleppo in Syria.

 

joe cardamone

 

Next on was Duke Garwood, who in my opinion was the unfortunate victim of some poor sound.  Maybe it was where I was standing but I still got enough of a feel of his works to be impressed with the songs and what he is doing. I’d really like to hear him how he is supposed to be heard though.  There was a real cinematic quality to it and some lovely sparseness.

 

duke garwood

 

I’m not nearly as familiar with Mark Lanegan’s catalogue as I should be, becoming a fan relatively late and playing catch up but I absolutely love everything I do know and am particularly fond of his Blues Funeral era Cave-esque work, and he most certainly did not disappoint. Sounding every bit as whiskey soaked, gravel-voiced and dark as I expected and backed by a powerful band, thankfully the sound was pretty much spot on again for the headline set.  I suddenly realised when he came onstage that the Waterfront was packed, as was fitting. It was a compelling set and Lanegan’s voice is simply one of the best and most distinctive in music. Again, some of the songs felt so cinematic too.

 

 

They all looked quite moved as they went off after their encore and about ninety minutes in total with an appreciative crowd and good atmosphere.  It was a great set and quite unforgettable.  Not a set about being showy or gimmicky, it was just all about the music. Bloody great music.  I expected it to be good and got something even better. As the lights go up we’re thanked again from the stage and told to congregate at the merch table where Mark will be in about quarter of an hour to chat, sign, or just shake hands. It is highly tempting but I’d only probably end up spending yet more money I can ill-afford on vinyl but, but, but … there are tour-only vinyl recordings up for grabs!  I just about manage to to resist and step out into the cold, dark, damp air, pull my collar up and head home reflecting on another great gig. Somehow this weather just feels right tonight.

 

November has seen an extraordinary run of incredible gigs, to which this one is added to Starcrawler, Daddy Long Legs, The Tubes, Mammal Hands, Mammut, The Magic Band, Sleaford Mods, Katie Spencer etc.

 

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Mammút + Broen @ NAC 27 November 2017

November is the month that just keeps on giving, musically at least, in Norwich.  Even if it does also seem to deliver Christmas these days too. 

mammut

 

In a moment of madness and fatigue a few days ago I almost contemplated sacrificing this gig, I was so tired after a hectic schedule of gigs and write-ups.  The need to recharge batteries however was heavily outweighed by the desire to see Mammút (Mammoth) from Iceland. Check out any of their numerous superb sessions on the brilliant KEXP channel and you’ll quickly see why.

mammut

 

Mammút are melodic and catchy and beautiful and addictive. They are also darker and heavier than you think they are—maybe they tricked you? This is true though: Mammút craft distorted and beautiful lullabies while maintaining a solid grasp on melody and an eternally independent spirit.

In support they had the uniquely creative and indescribable Broen from Norway, once again highly complimentary about Norwich and who featured amongst their number players on drums, synth, guitar, vocals, … and tuba!  I thought the tuba was used, to good effect, as bass, though could have done with being a tad higher in the mix, at least from where I was stood.  Broen are an extraordinary band, making sounds with wizardry I could not begin to figure out and dressed in creative and eye-catching stagewear.

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Musically it was totally unique, at any moment they seemed able to switch from electro, jazz, dance, rock and rap. I think my favourite was the penultimate song, building from a chiming guitar intro as the band sat on the stage, culminating in something quite amazing.  Full marks for inventiveness and exploring new sounds.  They also mentioned onstage that they’d spent a couple of days in Norwich, exploring and walking about, telling us how beautiful it is and how lucky we are to live in this city.

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The same definitely applies to Mammút too, they simply cannot be defined nor categorised by one song, and nor would they wish to be (to their great credit).  I’ve not seen them play live before but Ian at NAC has seen them many times and is full of praise for them.  Any viewings of their online videos where there are sometimes influences of  “Radiohead joined by Bjork”, Xmal Deutschland, Siouxsie and the Banshees, or even Patti Smith, are all blasted out of the water by the unique set and sound they deliver onstage.  Incomparable.  They are dark too.  Powerful, intense, compelling and brilliant.  I’m not sure I’ve seen a set like this since Savages with Jehnny Beth and the equally inscrutable presence they share.  There were moments I was not sure what they were feeling onstage, everyone was checking each other out but the NAC was less than half full and Mammút were fresh off a run of sellout gigs. This being Norwich and a cold Monday night the audience were certainly into it but not “Mammoth” in number, though polite and courteous and appreciative rather than boisterous and demonstrative but that’s just how we can be sometimes.

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Once again the crush barrier was in place – I’m not sure if this is now a permanent fixture – but perhaps it creates a psychological barrier as well as a physical one.  I certainly feel that to a degree it hinders the intimacy and closeness between band and audience that I love so much about NAC but there are surely good reasons for its presence.

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I am most definitely a late arrival as far as discovering Mammút is concerned (they’ve been together for since they were 13 or14!) but already have my favourites, one of those is Salt, which they played early in the set.  Definitely a highlight of the night, which was full of intensity and inscrutable moments where both band and crowd were sizing each other up and trying to read minds.  The set probably didn’t quite scale the unrealistic heights and expectations I had for it but that’s through no fault of Mammút’s efforts … I just think that on this occasion it was the somewhat disappointing size of the crowd … and the barrier, which was, well, a barrier.  Mammut still gave it their all, at one point vocalist Katrina and Arnar on guitar sparring in some gloriously weird head-duel.  For the most part Katrina had the mic in her hand and put the stand behind her and it struck me just how rare it was to see a stage so totally devoid of mic stand clutter. It made it all the more beautiful, for a photographer at any rate.

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They came back onstage after some earnest and appreciative hollering and clapping to deliver an extraordinary rendition of Kinder Version, magnificent actually.  Hopefully they will be back in Norwich, if so, let’s fill the venue next time, they deserve it!

At the end of the night I bought a couple of albums, not unreasonably I think Katrina noticed my choices and was a bit disappointed that I had only selected older ones rather than new release Kinder Versions, until I explained that I only had funds for two purchases and the ones I chose were just about impossible to find in the UK –  (I am hoping that my assumption that the new one is easier to locate proves true or I will feel a right fool!)  –  I really admired and respected this attitude, they have often stated they want each release to be better than the last. It shows that essential self-belief, pride and value for each release and I love this a lot. I just hope she believed my reasons … which were honest!

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Icelandic bands often resemble a force of nature, and Mammút are no exception. What’s more, the quintet’s spectacular new album Kinder Versions is exactly the kind of volcanic presence that is sorely lacking in 21st century rock, likewise their unpredictable and uncategorisable shape-shifting sound, like a very modern twist on psychedelia.
 
Mammút is Icelandic for ‘mammoth’ – the name that singer Kata Mogensen, “plucked out of the air,” when she joined guitarists Alexandra Baldursdóttir and Arnar Pétursson, bassist Ása Dýradóttir and drummer Andri Bjartur Jakobsson for their stage debut,aged just 14. Kata is the daughter of bassist Birgir Mogensen, a former bandmate of Björk back when they were young post-punk adventurers, a questing spirit that Mammút have also unconsciously adopted, though without ever discussing what kind of music they’d play. “We’re so close as a band, we have no limits for each other, no boundaries, we just follow our gut instincts,” says Kata.
 
It’s worked from the off: they quickly won the Músiktilraunir ‘battle of the bands’ and thereafter nominations and awards at different Icelandic Music Awards: their third album Komdu Til Mín Svarta Systir won three of its eight nominations in 2014, including Album (Pop & Rock) and Song (Pop & Rock) for their epically slowburning single ‘Salt’. And with vocalist Kata Mogensen now singing in English, there’s a chance much more of the planet will discover what their homeland has known for a while.

 

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Setlist:

  1. Encore:

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Many thanks to Mammut, Broen, Ian, and all at NAC.

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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