HARK Presents Broads + LK @ NAC 15 February 2018

 

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Another lovely evening at Norwich Arts Centre for this HARK Presents night, which had the added bonus of a rare set by LK who performed beautifully and dreamily for a perfect warm up in front of perfectly complementary moving images projected onto the back of the stage.  Ethereal, atmospheric and spellbinding, it was a treat to hear.

 

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Broads too played with some stunning projections and also a host of guest appearances, including Milly Hirst, Stacey Gow, Joe Bear and Christian Hubbard.  The start of the set was quite electronic but built up as the guests came and went to include vocals, electric guitar, bass, and drums with some heavy rock-outs too. Incredibly varied and most enjoyable.

 

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Thursday 15th February 2018
8:00 PM
Pay What You Can Afford
Standing

Broads + LK

Broads are a Norwich-based 2-piece who merge programmed electronics, synth drones and gradually-unfolding melody into a delicate, spacious wall of sound. Their HARK show marks the launch of their fourth full-length release, Field Theory, which has been supported by Arts Council England and Norwich Arts Centre.

Bringing the band favourable comparisons to Mogwai, Boards of Canada and My Bloody Valentine, Field Theory is Broads’ most focused and carefully-executed release to date. Drawing on themes of repetition, drone and incremental builds, the 11 tracks on the album take in brooding, lazy synth swells (‘Toze’, ‘Lund’), motorik electronica (‘Tiamat’, ‘Let Me Take It From Here’) and slow-building, dynamic post-rock (‘The Lecht’) – as well as the occasional moment of driving synth/dream-pop bliss as evidenced on recent single ‘Climbs’ which features vocals by long-time collaborator Milly Hirst. Having previously shared stages with artists such as Plaid, Mercury Rev and Winter Villains, Broads cut across elegantly between genres and should not be missed by admirers of Grouper, Stereolab, Purity Ring, Max Hecker and Sylvan Esso.

For this show, Broads will be joined by Milly Hirst, Joe Bear (Alto45), Stacy Gow (Magoo) and Christian Hubbard (EPIA).

“It is music which seems to roll over you in waves, it builds slowly cocooning the listener in fuzzy warmth and claustrophobic loveliness. And whilst it does all of that it also feels like a defining moment for music. It feels as if barriers, which up until now have kept certain genres from socialising, have been crossed and trampled to dust. This feels not just an important musical step, this feels actually groundbreaking” (Dave Franklin, Dancing About Architecture)

www.broadsofnorfolk.bandcamp.com | @Broadsofnorfolk

LK weaves together atmospheric loop-based soundscapes with reality-melting vocals. Listen to her EP ‘LAND’

lkmusic.squarespace.com | @lkmakesmusic

 

At the end of this gig I dashed over to the Owl and was lucky enough to catch twenty minutes or so of Painted Heathers, a band who have grown on me a lot, in large part due to these two most recent gigs. The expanded line up has helped create a huge sound and style which is now their own. Very impressed.   After this there was still time to catch some blues over the road where The Split Whiskers were half way through their second set for Fine City Blues at The Murderers.

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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“Good Evening, We Are The Fall”, Mark E. Smith tribute night @ NAC 14 February 2018

There was something perfectly apt about eschewing the tradition and commercialism that is the modern day Valentine’s in favour of heading to Norwich Arts Centre for a date to pay tribute to the Mark E. Smith of The Mighty Fall, as John Peel used to say.  Mutual admirers who kept their respectful distance in their lifetimes it is hard to avoid the wishful thinking that they are perhaps both now chatting, laughing and sharing a pint talking about music somewhere together.

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It says much about Norwich and its individuals that we had someone who was a massive Fall fan who is also a dj with a comprehensive collection of Fall vinyl, and a willing hosting venue in Norwich Arts Centre who collaborated to bring about this very fitting night for us to listen to these cult classic songs very loud, over a pint with like-minded people. It’s exactly what we wanted and lapped up.  The bass in some of these songs is exceptional and few of us can do them justice with the volume at which we can listen to them at home. Well, without upsetting neighbours at any rate.  I absolutely loved hearing Blindness at this volume.

 

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The wonderful Wee Davey (aka Dj78) had turntables set on on the floor just in front of the stage whilst a brilliant film he put together of MES and The Fall was projected behind him. The synchronicity could not have been better, among the footage, memorabilia and photos we had film of MES laughing hysterically during the audio playback of his Final Score football results and haircut comments to the presenter, with maps of Lancashire during Lay of the Land. It all synched beautifully and fortuitously. It wasn’t a gig as such but it sure felt like one and I kept getting the impulse to applaud loudly after each song.

 

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I spent the entire night soaked, trying to dry my sodden coat on a heater after a downpour of Mancunian-esque proportions befell Norwich just before the gig which I and many others were caught in and felt sure Mark E. Smith was having a last little dig at Norwich (Hit the North was inspired by his desire to get back home from our flatlands) but there was plenty of affection too and they delivered countless amazing gigs here over the years, some recent classics including an uncharacteristically smiling MES at Epic in 2012, and another I was at in the LCR in the 80s when the gig was so good he apparently ordered a free drink for everyone still present afterwards. So legend has it anyway, I missed out.

 

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the fall, john peel sound and vision festival, epic, norwichthe fallthe fall @ epic

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the fall

 

This tribute was fantastic too, to hear these incredible songs played loud was such a thrill, the only thing missing was someone wandering about fiddling with all the knobs and volume controls!

 

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If ever anyone wanted an introductory gateway into the weird and frightening world of The Fall just ask Dj78 for a copy of tonight’s request pages from his notebook and you’ll have one heck of a playlist.

 

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RIP MES, and huge thanks to the wonderful Dj78 and NAC for a healing and celebratory night of music which was a fitting tribute from Norwich to Mark E. Smith, which also highlighted a lot of what I love about our music community, and this most special of venues.  Another nice touch was the “Foldin’ money u skinny rats” donation box for the East Anglian Children’s Hospice.

 

By way of tribute following the sad passing of Mark E Smith, for one night only DJ78 (Davey Guttridge) is reviving his occasional disco event “Good evening, we are The Fall”, spinning nothing but an eclectic and personal selection from the group’s 30-plus studio albums and 50-plus singles and EPs, all on the original vinyl.

 

The legendary Peel Sessions may also make an appearance, despite being released on new-fangled compact discs.

 

More often found performing with his wind-up gramophones, Davey is a long-time fan, an occasional guest on BBC 6 Music and has worked for many years with the John Peel Archive, cataloguing and photographing John’s extensive collection of LPs.

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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INHEAVEN + Thyla + GRACELAND @ NAC + Robert Powell tribute 9 February 2018

The previous evening I heard the tragically sad news of Robert Powell’s shocking and untimely passing and like the many other people who knew him I spent many hours in a state of shock and confusion and wondering if was a weird, bad dream or some ghastly misunderstanding but sadly not.  A great presence on the Norwich live music circuit Rob’s was a familiar face to just about anyone who has attended gigs with regularity over the past decade or so.  Often seen quietly and discretely moving from one vantage point to another to capture not just a shot of a band but to portray the whole picture.  We often chatted as our paths frequently crossed at innumerable gigs in the city over the years and he told me how he liked to tell a story of the gig so his photos would include not only the performers onstage but also the technicians, crew, audience, venue and details like the set times, plus some fun scenes backstage or in the outside smoking areas, capturing the atmosphere of the entire event and he had his own distinctive signature style. I thought of him as a “sniper-snapper” as he had a great knack for picking off a long-distance shot of someone in the crowd without them having the slightest inkling at the time and I’d always recognise one of his photos even before seeing the watermark.

 

Generous with his time and support he always remained positive and encouraging to others, happy to have a chat and catch up with everyone.  I last saw him just a few weeks ago at the Arts Centre when the Wolf Number were headlining. One of his favourite bands, whom he’d eagerly spoken to me about several times.  It had been a while since we last bumped into each other so we had a good catch-up between sets. He told me how happy he was in his job at Wex Photo and enthusiastically showed me the camera he had won there in the Christmas raffle and which he was using for the first time at a gig.  His passing is so sad and sudden and is a huge loss for the Norwich music community and an even greater loss to his close friends and family. A generous, supportive and honorable man of integrity. A true gent.  Known to many through his Facebook page Music Art Study, and as admin for the group Secret Norwich, his years volunteering at BBC Introducing in Norfolk and many other photography roles. My initial meeting with him was when I first started delving more seriously into gig photography quite a while back now. Rob was the first person to come up to me at a gig and have a chat about photography, cameras and of course music.  This has continued at so many gigs over quite a number of years and I shall miss bumping into him and our putting the world to rights and then balancing that with our enthusiastic shared love of music and photography. There was always a good chance of seeing him if one of his favourite bands were playing, of which there were many, such as Dr. Clyde, Solko, The Wolf Number, Mammal Hands, The Woodland Creatures, Feral Mouth, HANK, The Piratones, Killamonjambo, and a host of others.   Maybe when the time is right some sort of tribute gig with a projection of his photos might be a fitting send off  (uncannily, three of those – Dr. Clyde, HANK, The Wolf Number – are all on the same bill at Epic on 30 March). On Facebook itself it’s touching the way people are showing their respect and feeling of loss by changing their profile pictures to ones taken by him. It shows just how many of us he photographed over the years, he even snapped me! It also shows the closeness of the music community. Rest easy, Rob, and thanks for all the encouragement, kind words and friendship over the years. I hope you knew how much I respected you as not only a photographer but as a good, decent person with integrity too.

 

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An excellent and fun photograph of Rob, taken a few years back by Ga Chun Yau. Thank you Ga.

 

So, having Rob on my mind most of the previous night and all of the day I was not feeling in the best of spirits to head out on a cold and damp February evening but as NAC was the last place I saw him it just felt right. Thinking about it now, the Arts Centre is a church, where we all gravitated when Bowie died, and only now do I realise the poignancy that I was here seeing a band called “InHeaven”! Plus of course there are not many more effective healers than music and the company of like-minded people, so where better than the NAC. I could certainly sense Rob’s presence here.  It was a good decision to come to the gig, which was also my first opportunity to view the excellent photography exhibition “Visible Girls” by Anita Corbin.

 

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Opening this Pony Up night was the wonderful GRACELAND whom I felt I had not seen for a while.  I really enjoyed their set and with INHEAVEN’s backline of amps they sounded absolutely immense.  They dedicated a song to Rob and were otherwise in jocular mood, their mix of attitude and self-deprecating humour is just right but they sure can let the music do the talking too, they sounded phenomenally powerful and the set was a joy to experience.  They previewed a new instrumental (or one which “Just hasn’t got words yet”) which Rosie said after “We f—ed it up but you know what? We don’t give a shit!” with a beaming smile on her face.  I certainly didn’t notice what went wrong with it as it sounded amazing to my ears and got a great reception from the crowd. A very fine start to the evening’s music.

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After a swift break it was the turn of Brighton’s Thyla to take the stage.  I immediately loved their sound, some of which took me right back to the sounds of the early 1980s and I certainly picked up on a Cocteau Twins influence in among that post-punk sound I love so much. Superb guitars, great bass and drums and a varied set that had me wanting to hear more. I liked Thyla and hope they will be back here soon.

 

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For some inexplicable reason this was my first time seeing INHEAVEN even though I was at the same venue at the same time they were playing some years ago for NS&V when Let’s Eat Grandma were headlining in the hall.  I can only guess that the music in the bar overlapped with that in the auditorium as I certainly saw Milly Hirst, Chris TT, and Matt Watson play sets there before I headed to the main hall for Let’s Eat Grandma.  Anyway, they are spoken of highly by all who have seen them. With a wall of backline amps their almost retro sound is certainly big and anthemic, with a crashing drum sound which isn’t altogether to my own taste but the whole sound was very much to the taste of those going wild at the front. I loved the bass and guitars as well as the passion, energy and enthusiasm they play with which transmitted gloriously to the mosh-pit, it did feel like watching a band on the cusp of big things, there were beaming smiles throughout the set both from the stage and those having a blast down the front.

 

 

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Their forty minute set ended about 11pm and with no encore; it was decent and enjoyable  but didn’t quite grab me enough to make me forget my aching knees – which seems to have become a barometer of how much I enjoy a set lately.  GRACELAND and Thyla however made me forget everything for a while and were my highlights from the night, they might not have had quite the same volume as Inheaven but they had good variety, songs and memorable sets.  Everyone on the night played with great spirit and I was glad I made the effort to be there as it’s good to lose oneself in music and also good to talk with fellow gig-goers and the lovely people at NAC about Rob.  Norwich has a fantastic music community but this is a big and sad loss. Rob will be remembered for being a thoroughly decent chap and the wealth of wonderful photographs of a vast number of musicians and fans over many years. RIP Sir!

 

INHEAVEN want to be the kind of band you’d have patched onto your bag at school. The kind of band that changes your life when you’re a young teenager growing up – in whose music and ethos you want to invest beyond just adding a few tracks to your Spotify playlist. The kind of band they felt the music world was lacking when they decided to form a few years ago.

 

After meeting bassist Chloe Little at “a really crap gig” and bonding over their shared taste in music, the pair embarked on an audio-visual project, recruiting their neighbour Jake Lucas on lead guitar and Joe Lazarus on drums. To test out their creative compatibility, Little put together a 30 second video of images and asked Taylor to write music over it. Things clicked into place pretty fast. “It was kind of like, ‘Something needs to change , we really need to take control of our lives and change things’ and I think you can hear that in the first recordings we did.”

 

There’s shades of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine on the nostalgic, cinematic Regeneration – the first song Taylor wrote – though there’s a little more melody and a little more bite than the ‘90s shoegazers. Naming themselves after the infamous lady in the radiator scene from David Lynch’s Eraserhead, INHEAVEN wasted no time getting the word out – though in their own, unique way. They set up a mysterious website with hidden videos, made fanzines (band mood boards, which they still regularly produce), produced their own artwork on Microsoft Word, and sent their songs to blogs around the world. “I’m cringing remembering emailing all these people,” says Little, “because I didn’t know any of them, I just found out who they were and sent this email with big, bold capital letters and the videos. 50% obviously went straight in the junk – hopefully they’re kicking themselves now! But surprisingly, loads of people picked up on it.”

 

One of those people was The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas. “Rory Atwell, who mixed our first EP, forwarded me this email from Cult Records,” says Taylor, “and it said, ‘Us and Julian are loving these songs. Who are they? Where can we get a hold of them?” After a handful of correspondences, Casablancas’ label released INHEAVEN’s first single in America, and “from that point on it started rolling out of control.”

 

In a good way, that is. Now, after gaining support from NME, Q, The Independent and DIY, accumulating several hundred thousand YouTube views and Spotify streams, and – more importantly – accruing a loyal cult following, the band are opening for Circa Waves on tour.

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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The Room: Hot Raisin + Walkway + The h Gang + Hot Stove League + The Bloodshake Chorus @ Gorleston Ocean Room 3 February 2018

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the hot stove leaguethe room

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The last time I visited Gorleston’s Ocean Room for one of H’s “The Room” nights was way back in February 2013 when The Vagaband, Stare, Dove and Boweevil et al. were performing.  I was absolutely blown away by the place back then, the first impressions of it are indelible with the beautiful decor and attention to detail.  Without exception, I am sure, every single person experiencing it for the first time on this occasion had the same positive impression as I did five years ago. It is without a doubt somewhere you walk in and just mouth the word “Wow!”

the room

The Ocean Rooms look quite unassuming from the outside but upon entering there is this peculiar Tardis-like effect whereby the place seems twice as large on the inside as it does from the outside, and being circular it feels like a vast spiegeltent given a North African flavour with some of the decorative and tasteful touches.  The sort of place I always think would be perfect for a Bo Nanafana away-day.

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Put together by the incredible Howard “H” Marshall, The Room is based upon the concept and layout of Jools Holland’s “Later” (but without the boogie-woogie piano gatecrashing) and features five acts over five stages and PAs, dedicated soundmen, incredible lighting, projections, seating, two bars and a whole lot of atmosphere and music.

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I arrived early with Hot Raisin and heard their soundcheck and was immediately impressed with the sound from the PA, their soundman Richard nailed it. They sounded clear, punchy and beefy and with the room empty at the time, very loud too.

the room

With the music starting at 9:15 there must have been around about 500 people by then and there was a palpable excitement and anticipation as H welcomed us through a silent mic “That’s the first technical hitch of the night out of the way!” and introduced all the acts who each played a short intro jam.

the room

Hot Raisin were the only band I had seen before this night and playing as full five piece band their first set went down a storm as we went through the stages, each band playing two songs ‘In the round’style before a short break and with a middle set of three songs each, another short break and then a further two songs each before a finale set from the H Gang.  People had a blast with great entertainment from the moment the doors opened to the end of the night. Even The Vagaband and Yve Mary B (both of whom have played here) having the video of An Eye for an Eye projected onto the screens during one of the short intervals.  There was also fun from heavy rockers Walkway who had a dazzlingly light show, big sound and had many people rocking out with them, and the more traditionally ascoustic Hot Stove League who were so good they had a blast of applause at the soundcheck.

the room

Earlier in the day I had noticed a condenser mic hanging from near the glitterball and naively assumed it was for the benefit of the audience ambient sounds until the Bloodshake Chorus started to play and this demonic blood-spattered character started deeply singing Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walkin'” like it has never sounded before. That’s already two fake-blood covered acts I have seen so far this year! (Take a creepy bow, Starcrawler). They looked like a nightmare come to life and get full marks for impact and theatre with well-chosen and performed covers, getting the whole place singing along to Jolene too.  Hot Raisin have, on occasion, played These Boots as well. Things could have become quite weird had they planned on doing that one too tonight.  They play covers but put their own unique, dark twist on them, the band are tight and singer JJ has great range and expression in his voice. A lot of fun … I wonder if they have ever shared a bill with Das Fenster?  That would be tremendous.

the bloodshake chorus

the bloodshake chorus

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It was a tremendous night, all the bands played flawlessly and I felt particular pride and fondness – well, love – for Hot Raisin who were magnificent and were my highlight.  I hope and look forward to more big gigs with a PA and sound like this, as this is up there with their benchmark gigs, like that one at NAC.  All of them a great musicians, the songs are interesting, catchy (all earworms) with beautiful vocals, playing and charming lyrics.  To cap it all they play with a joy, chemistry and a belief in the songs that I find impossible to resist, they are all close friends so there is this lovely interplay, exchanged smiles and delightful glances; at the end of each song band and audience toast each other with hearty “Cheers!” and raised glasses.

Each set had its own character (and subtle costume changes from Tory) and as individuals their own personalities came through, as did the unique, collective Hot Raisin persona which is never less than charming and hugely likeable … but added to that they have wonderful songs and musicianship. They got a great reception and there was brisk business for their two EPs. Effortlessly cool and naturally warm … I love them.

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the hot stove league

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There are some gems of venues throughout Norfolk and not all of them are in Norwich, Howard is showing what spectacles can be put on in such places and all credit to him, it must be a phenomenal amount of work, a real labour of love, but because it is done through love of the music it works as that comes across through every single detail of the night. Huge credit to him and his crew and all the artists, they all made for a truly special and fantastic night.  From a photography point of view it was a joy to snap, if only all stages could be so well lit!

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the bloodshake chorus

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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The Hempolics + Skipyard Rockers + Take Your Time DJs @ NAC 2 February 2018

I confess to not knowing too much about the Hempolics until I found their listing for the Norwich Arts Centre gig, checked out some videos and their album stream and immediately fell in love with their sound.  This gig and their vibes were most welcome.

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The Take Your Time djs were warming up the sell-out NAC crowd before the gig and between sets, plus Norfolk reggae-dub band Skipyard Rockers who came on at about 9pm for their excellent support slot.  It’s a few years since I’ve had an opportunity to see them but they have been busy. Personnel changes, recording and some notable gigs, like the previous night’s support slot to the legendary Mykal Rose at The Waterfront, they sounded tight, big and infectious. I love their style and was pleased to be one of the recipients of their CD.  There’s another album on the way too so watch out for that.

 

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It was starting to feel really busy at the NAC but there were not many faces I recognised. However, one of those that I did was H, who the following night was putting on The Room extravaganza at the Ocean Rooms in Gorleston.  More on that to follow.

 

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10:30pm and The Hempolics came onstage to warm applause and played a wonderfully catchy and engaging set that personally was just the tonic after a trying January and tough week, it helped me in ways they cannot imagine so thank you for that Hempolics.   Grippa and the band played an intro before they were joined by another vocalist, the charismatic Nubiya.  Their set was infectious, interesting and irresistible.  Elements of dub, reggae, hip-hop, rocksteady, dancehall and roots this was glorious stuff.  If Massive Attack had collaborated with Amy Winehouse or Hollie Cook it may have sounded a bit like some of this but Hempolics have great variety and their fantastic album (sensationally beautiful as a gatefold double disk red vinyl) is a delight from start to finish. I feel it will become one of my favourites.

 

 

 

 

The coolest gig of the year so far for me, healing vibes coming at the right moment and music to put a smile on the face. I want to see them again, they are destined for greatness and my most refreshing, exciting new discovery in the reggae scene for many a year.

 

 

‘The Hempolics are the best band in the UK–but nobody knows it yet…’ – Maxi Jazz (Faithless)
 
‘Real vintage lofi reggae inspired soul music for the 21st century city scape people’ – DJ Vadim
 
‘Great summer vibes. Puts a smile on my face. And amazing live too!’ – Eliza Doolittle
 
‘The best thing I’ve heard in ages. Best new reggae band on the planet’ – Chris Hawkins, BBC6
 
The Hempolics are out to put those organic rootsy vibes back into music; with their fat radio-friendly hooks, bumping sound system bass and a wander lusty, ineffably real sound all of their own…
 
London’s The Hempolics are out to put those organic rootsy vibes back into music; with their fat radio-friendly reggae hooks, bumping soundsystem bass and a wanderlusty, nostalgic yet entirely of-the-moment sound all of their own.
 
Over years of recording top international talent The Hempolics enigmatic leader, Grippa Laybourne, has been carefully honing his own masterpiece and selecting a gang armed and dangerous enough to execute it. Their debut single Serious on the Reggae Roast label caused an instant stir, hitting number one in the 2010 UK reggae charts and was playlisted on Massive Attack’s BBC takeover. Their latest releases have maintained success with a sync to the worldwide trailer for new Coen Brothers and George Clooney film ‘Hail, Caesar!’ and latest single Me Love To Sing has been playlisted by BBC6 Music with support from Steve Lamacq, Lauren Laverne, Rodigan & Don Letts.
 
With their amazingly eclectic forthcoming album sounding swelled by guest appearances from various international talents such as Maxi Jazz and Paolo Nutini – to name a few – The Hempolics have been brewing up a musical storm. The album entitled ‘Kiss, Cuddle & Torture Vol. 1’ has been recorded in back to basics fashion throughout the bedrooms and home studios of the band producing an infectious mash-up of Reggae, Electro, Hip-Hop, Dancehall, Rock and Pop. Although the weather out might be dull London-side it’s strictly sunshine vibes, resplendent with huge hooks and festival-friendly choruses.
 
Take your eye off The Hempolics at your peril. Ital business!

 

 

 

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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The Wolf Number for OddBox @ NAC 19 January 2018

After not getting to bed until 5am from that epic journey home seeing Starcrawler in London the previous night it took a massive effort to head out again on this cold, damp evening as I am still emerging from a mid-winter hibernation but I was well-rewarded for doing so.  A full and varied, almost continuous run of music from OddBox in the NAC auditorium and the Adnams Mission Hall Bar culminating in a glorious headline slot from The Wolf Number.

 

odd box

The Joel Benjamin designed event flyer-poster.

 

Things kicked off with a set by Corinthians from London and if the lead singer looked familiar that’s because he is known to many of us, being Mac who also drums with Wooden Arms.  Although not the most animated of stage acts the songs were pleasing and well delivered and I’d happily listen to some more of their music at home but there could be a tad more onstage dynamism and presence.  The stage itself felt somehow different having been re-assembled after the recent HARK gig, like coming home to find a chair has been slightly moved!  I think it was actually that the PA stacks had moved a few inches but whatever it was worked and sounded well.

 

corinthianscorinthians

 

The one aspect of the nice idea of continuous rolling music is that invariably it will get a bit “chatty” in the bar as people file out of the hall to refresh and exchange views but David aka The howtocuredyslexia Band was unfazed and delivered a highly engaging set of his clever songs. Fans of Mr. David Viner should check him out, and vice-versa.

 

the howtocuredyslexia band

 

Almost as soon as he finished it was time to head back into the hall for the long-awaited live return of The Lost Levels who provided one of the highlights of the evening. Their well-crafted and melodic set absolutely flew by but hope they’ll play again soon, it was a delight. More please.

 

lost levelsthe lost levelsthe lost levels

 

The intriguingly named Volko Trio were unable to play on the night so there was time for some catch-up in the bar and as the NAC seemed just about full it was interesting to note just how many local musicians were in attendance and plenty of familiar faces.

 

wolf number

 

the wolf numberthe wolf numberthe wolf numberthe wolf number

 

Largely through word of mouth (always the best of recommendations) The Wolf Number have quickly become one of the must-see Norwich bands. Alas, since seeing them under a starry sky in late August on a magical night their subsequent appearances have been plagued for me by the typical Norwich gig-clash – a healthy problem but frustrating nevertheless – and last time the clash was with Starcrawler at The Crypt, Urban Voodoo Machine at OPEN and a whole host of other clashes.  This gig though felt truly triumphant and magnificent, headlining to a large and appreciative crowd (possibly a sellout, certainly close to it), sounding fantastic and playing in front of gorgeous projected images.  Deserved headliners and the undoubted highlight of the night.  A very fine band and great people, this trio create dreamy instrumental soundscapes. Check out their recent EP – The Bunker Sessions – which is available as CD and download, you can also read my review of it for Outline Magazine here.

 

The Wolf Number - Bunker Sessions EP Artwork

 

Post-gig catch-ups and Rainbow Girls shirt synchroncity 🙂

 

hot raisinscott, mary, me

 

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@RShashamane

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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Starcrawler @ OMEARA, London 18 January 2018

In recent times a lot of the capital’s music venues have been closing at an alarming rate as a result of the difficult costs and gentrification. It can be sad and depressing reading seeings lists of lost venues.  I headed down to London to see one of my favourite bands from last year, Starcrawler, at the Omeara near London Bridge.  Upon chatting to the refreshingly friendly staff and security (I can think of a venue or two who could learn from this place) and reading up on it, it was really heartening to discover the venue only opened within the past year or two, bucking that trend of venue closures.  I wish it well and can’t praise the place highly enough, everyone was chilled out and friendly, it’s safe, beautiful and has great sound and lighting.  Being one of the earlier arrivals I was quite surprised when I learned it was 350 capacity, it is deceptively spacious and one of those places that seems to feel bigger as it fills up. Good sightlines with a gentle sloping gradient and a couple of steps (one of which I almost missed at first – my eyes!) meaning the stage is clearly visible from all areas. Atmospheric too and an altogether excellent and highly satisfying gig-going experience, I felt quite at home here and it’s the closest I have felt outside of the city to our beloved Norwich Arts Centre and I cannot give higher praise than that.

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starcrawler

Starcrawler’s Norwich gig at Bedfords Crypt in November was one of my absolute favourites in a vintage year for live music in our city, in fact November itself was a vintage month.  Since then their album has been completed and was being officially released the following day though copies were available here but mine has long been on pre-order so I hope it arrives soon!

starcrawler album

Opening the night were the first band I have seen to actually adopt that name from the old joke, of Free Money.  Lively, tight and enthusiastic they warmed things up nicely.  I particularly enjoyed their more frenetic songs.

Anticipation was building nicely as we edged toward 9:30pm when Starcrawler were due to take the stage (there was even a poster warning about the “immersive performace”) and there was loud excitement as Henri, Tim and Austin (who I don’t think I even saw on this small stage from my vantage point) started up, with Arrow soon following, in a straight jacket with wild eyes. One of the most compelling and exciting showpersons I have seen in a long while, Henri too is another visual focal point as he leaps, jumps and throws shapes with these massive riffs, reminding me at times of The Jim Jones Revue. Tim and Austin on bass and drums complete this brilliant and very tight line up.  Arrow was soon breaking free of the straight jacket, occasionally dripping fake blood and commanding the stage in a way that was just as captivating as it was the first time I saw her.  It’s quite a small stage so there was still that sense of intimacy, which was pleasing. This band must be seen in a small venue soon because I think they could become massive. 

starcrawler

At Chicken Woman and the close of the set Arrow manically drew her bloodied fingers across her throat and once again dived off stage, ran through the audience and disappeared, Henri soon did similar and slung his guitar around someone’s neck and quite a few of the crowd ended up on stage, one of whom brilliantly said into the mic … “We’ve been Starcrawler. Thank you and goodnight!”  Only a 35 minute or so set but they played just about everything and certainly gave everything.  Wild and unpredictable.  So good to have some theatre and genuine excitement back in music, and what music!  I love the songs and the energy, everyone in the room did. There was a throng of people at the merch table afterwards. The band have such a wealth of influences which they make into something genuinely fresh and unique. Bits of the Pistols, Stooges, Nirvana, Wobble-esque bass, the theatre of Ozzy, Iggy and so much more, to become the glorious Starcrawler. The most exciting new band for a long time.

starcrawler

starcrawler

I only have a few phone snaps this time and they were from the side but the sightlines here are great and I was really impressed with the lighting. The sound was that perfect volume where it is neither too loud nor too quiet where you wish it to be louder. It was spot on.

It was well worth an away day gig although the storms of the previous night meant the trains were only running as far as Ipswich. Except the last train which wasn’t running at all so the Norwich bound passengers were put onto the Essex train which then went on to Ipswich followed by a ninety minute coach journey from there to Norwich but with a driver in good humour after what must have been a challenging day.  I finally got home well after 4am and very cold but still in good spirits, especially having earlier in the day seeing a sign in London for … Whiskey Ginger.

Thanks to Robert Balazik for this video which I have just discovered.

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@RShashamane

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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