T.P. Orchestre Poly‐Rythmo @ NAC 19 June 2018

Norwich Arts Centre proved and demonstrated once again – as it consistently does in so many ways – why it is special and why we love it so with this magical gig of varied Afrobeat music on a Tuesday night from African legends: T.P Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, from Benin.

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On a suitably sultry June evening the audience were warmed up further with dj sets from Cameron Black of our own Boiling Point.  As we heard the first percussive sounds coming out of the hall we all filed in from the garden and bar at around 9pm as the band members (all ten of them) took to the stage and it soon became clear the hall was full too, if not a sellout then as near as dammit.  From the off the infectious rythms from the stage drew people closer and closer and it was an uninhibited, mellow but enthusiastic Norwich audience who were dancing in whichever direction I looked.

 

T.P. Orchestre Poly‐Rythmo

Orchestre Poly‐Rythmo

 

The sound was percussion-led, with plenty of brass, keys, guitar and superb bass too.  This is a band who have been playing their brand of voodoo music together for many decades – this tour celebrates their 50th anniversary – with a blend of the traditional music of Benin mixed with influences of soul and funk, Afrobeat, high-life, soukous, and even some latin. This being one of just a handful of UK dates, and apparently their first on our shores since 2011 having reformed in 2008 when they gained a new generation of fans through the Analog Africa series. We were very lucky to have them here and everyone seemed to appreciate that fact. Big Thanks to NAC for this.

 

 

 

At times hypnotic, always engaging, I often found a piece of my mind was taken back in time to my own past visits to Africa as their energy, evocative sound and special vibe flowed from the stage.  The dancing throng of an audience on a Tuesday night was a beautiful sight in itself to behold too and the band seemed to be having an equally good time.  Then I felt a tap on my shoulder which turned out to be one of the orchestre who had joined us on the floor and was preparing space for an Afrobeat conga dance through the NAC auditorium. Beautiful scenes and absolutely everyone left with a smile on their face. 90 minutes or so of pure, joyous, welcome musical escapism.

 

Orchestre Poly‐Rythmo

 

It would have been good to have seen more of the Norwich African community in the audience. I think the gig was missed by many, somehow, I know a lot of people who would have loved this but who evidently missed the fact it was happening. But still, there were plenty here who clearly loved it and had a great time in a celebratory atmosphere and a magical venue.

T.P. Orchestre Poly‐Rythmo

 

Orchestre Poly‐Rythmo

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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C.W. Stoneking + DLore @ NAC 12 June 2018

“Best laid plans” and all that. Due to some unforeseen circumstances I had all but written-off my chances of making this gig but happily managed to arrive just a matter of minutes before DLore took to the stage in his support slot to C.W. Stoneking for my second NAC gig on consecutive nights, after Anda Union on Monday, and my 36th music act in twelve days.

 

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As chance would have have it, I also saw Dan (aka DLore) just a few days earlier in the city at a beautiful Sofar Sounds session.  In the dark but pretty full NAC hall he played a flawless set that included the likes of single Them The Days (produced by Piratones bandmate Mikey Shaw at the Dub Cavern), Hieroglyphs, Solace, and his one cover of the night, a unique take on Bad Moon Rising.  Slow, dark, sparse and moody.  Think of a male take on Amy Winehouse’s slower and black material for atmosphere and vibe, mixing soul, trip-hop and hip-hop on just acoustic guitar and you’ll have an idea of the sort of sound produced. Artist comparisons can be a bit unfair but both Dan and myself are massive fans of Amy and I can’t help picking up on some of the influence there (a good thing in my book) so I hope he won’t mind.  On a sparse stage in the darkness it must have been a slightly scary environment to bravely start playing in, solo at that, but as mentioned the set was flawlessly played and his songs filled the room to receptive ears. One of Norwich’s many impressive talents and he did himself proud.

dlore

 

 

C.W. Stoneking may be familiar to a lot of Red Rooster regulars (many of whom were present tonight, some of us still recovering but still gigging!). This Aussie bluesman on the first date of his solo tour also made a low-key entrance, apologising in advance for being a bit rusty and unwell (“I even tried one of those anti-snoring strips to breathe easier but just ended up with this hickey on my nose!”) Playing solo acoustic and for the most part under a single spotlight with just the occasional plume from the smoke machine for company onstage he was quietly charismatic, self-deprecating and hugely entertaining.  Everything was at its most miminal from the lighting and the stage itself. Once tuned into his style and humour one realises this is a master old-time blues, ragtime, hokum, jungle (book) blues storytelling craftsman unafraid of experimenting or drawing attention to any mistakes or failings (“Damn. That’s not the right verse, is it?”) but getting the crowd to be his band, trying out new stuff (“I saw an English band do this on YouTube. They sounded posh!”) and when things went slightly awry closing a song with “Well, thank you for coming to the amateur open-mic night. I was the guy on guitar with a hickey on his nose!” before asking for the lights to be dimmed and the mic switched off whilst he blew his nose!  So down to earth and humble and yet he kept a full NAC audience rapt and entertained throughout. A real entertainer putting on a show in its purest form.  At one point I myself felt a weird hay-fever, throat-tickle moment that proceeds an awkward coughing fit so I stepped outside into the foyer so as not to break the spell in the hall and noticed that there was not a single audience member either in the foyer, garden, nor even in the bar replenishing their refreshments.  This is quite rare and tells you all you need to know about how C.W. Stoneking held his audience captivated for well over an hour and a half but always with gentle humour, brushing aside any mistakes (it’s always about how such things are handled, nobody’s here to listen to a CD recording) and his fantastic blues playing and stories. We even had some yodelling and plenty of audience singing along too.

c.w. stoneking

I have depleted funds these days so couldn’t buy any merch but talking of CDs, the table was a delight with posters, t-shirts and beautiful looking vinyl albums. No CDs though. (“Does anyone still buy CDs?  I don’t think so!” he said onstage) but vinyl feels like the only way to listen to him, it would certainly be my choice … apart from the live show itself of course.

A near full-house enjoyed a tremendous, engaging, personal and intimate gig from a musician apparently without ego, happy to make jokes at his own expense and seemingly from another time and place who quietly and gently went about his charming business of sharing great songs and stories in a way that made us all feel connected and in on something very special indeed.  That’s exactly what it was. Something very refreshing about the no-frills “It’s-all-about-the-music” nature of this gig, which was full of charm, character, great music and a whole lot of respect for the artist (despite his own digs at himself), I love the way he spoke to the audience like he was simply speaking to another person in a small room or bar such is the intimate atmosphere created.

c.w. stoneking

 

c.w. stoneking

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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Anda Union @ NAC 11 June 2018

This was Anda Union’s third visit to Norwich and my second time seeing them. Only two nights at home for me since Red Rooster I was certainly feeling the tiredness but was glad I made it out (it was never really too much in doubt) and pleasingly the attendance for the gig looked very good, especially for a Monday night.  Over the course of two sets of 50+ minutes or so they played a wide breadth of traditional Mongolian folk music covering the subjects of horses (plentiful), drinking (a lot), as well as celebratory events, dances, laments, ancient song competitions, plus family with one song in particular being all about motherhood and the important role of the maternal figure. Many aspects of traditional Mongolian culture were covered.

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Clearly they have built up something of a local following in Norwich and this is no surprise as their live shows are fantastic and something one wants to experience again and again.  This was a seated gig but it was standing room only for their return and the audience was surprisingly mixed and spanned many decades.  When the band made their low-key entrance onto the stage the crowd were respectful but a little bit on the hesitant, shy and self-conscious side as is often the case with seated gigs but they soon warmed up and became vocal, especially when the lively, engaging and animated vocalist joined the others and came on for their second number.  It was all fun and connection from this moment on with plenty of engagement, clapping along and even a few whoops and hollers too on the faster songs.

 

anda union

 

anda union

 

The set was varied in tempo, we had the frenetic (ten thousand) Galloping Horses, traditional dance music, and an especially moving song delivered by another vocalist, her unaccompanied voice was haunting and evocative, the only other sound audible in the hall being from a few birds chirping outside of the NAC which fitted well. It was so atmospheric! There were a couple of other solo pieces by various members too, giving the sets many different layers and opportunities to experience the incredible individual talents on the stage.

anda union

During the interval I was asked at the bar how many there were onstage, changing my vantage point for the second set I counted seven, plus the two other vocalists who joined them occasionally for a few songs in both sets.  As well as some incredible throat-singing (it was hard to ascertain where the whistling sound was actually coming from at times) we had drums, flute and a two-stringed fiddle/guitar-like instruments called ‘morin khuur’, the strings actually from the hair of a horse’s tail as was explained during tuning, and indeed with horse head carvings on the neck so they are known as horse-head fiddles. 

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The styles are rich and varied and from throughout the Mongolian regions. Anda Union do a most fine job of promoting the music and culture of Mongolia and this was once again another fascinating and hugely enjoyable live musical experience.  To my naive ears one or two of the slower, almost shamanic numbers late in the set had a bit of a feel of native American chants what with the vocal style and hypnotic drumming, it was trance-like. Others had a Chinese element to the sound but overall one could only visualise a place most of us have not visited … the Mongolian plains and grasslands, with the important place horses have, and the colourful culture of the land.  Amazing music that can make one fall in love with an unknown region. 

anda union

On their previous visit I not only bought the album but also their DVD which I now have a strong urge to watch again. Anda Union gigs are events which are also educational and which give a little window into Mongolian life and culture, they are excellent ambassadors for their land.

anda union

Thanks to Anda Union, and Norwich Arts Centre, I hope to see this magical pairing again sometime, I can’t imagine anywhere better in the city to experience this, who else brings us the ‘real deal’ Mongolian traditional folk and throat-singing?  Anda Union clearly love it here too and they each of them emanate such a warm and positive energy from the stage with their presence, personalities, and of course the music.

 

More photos soon.

 

Video excerpts below from their previous NAC visit:

 

 

 

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Sofar Sounds Norwich: Dlore + Sefo Kanuteh + Phoebe Troup, 9 June 2018

Saturday night saw the return to Norwich of another Sofar Sounds ‘secret’ gig with the location of the venue only sent to ticket holders 24 hours beforehand and the performers kept as a mystery until the night as an intimate evening of music unfolds.

 

sofar sounds

 

A kind host opened his flat to the select audience of 30 or so and with Chad Mason on sound and compere duties he introduced the first of the performers around 8pm, who turned out to be one of my favourites, Phoebe Troup. Her short but delightful set was warmly received and closed with Come Back Deer Tick, which I felt was especially emotional as this was her last song of her last gig in Norwich, at least for a while anyway.  It was a privilege to be part of the audience for it, I love Phoebe’s songs very much and this was a treat.

 

sofar sounds, phoebe troup

 

Chad was in very fine form going off on a tangent about nuts but also doing a fantastic job of introducing the acts, getting everyone relaxed, juggling the sound and the numerous video cameras.

 

sofar sounds norwich, phoebe troup, chad mason

 

After a short break he returned to introduce the next guest, Sefo Kanuteh. A superb musician from West Africa who has been based in Norwich for some time.  I’ve seen him many times over the years but not for a while so this was another treat.  Flawlessly playing his kora (which he also constructs), he delighted the audience, many of whom were hearing him for the first time. He has a new album almost in the can and due for release soon so watch out for that.

sofar sounds, sefo kanuteh

 

The night’s final artist was DLore, playing a solo set but many will know him as a singer-guitarist in The Piratones.  As with all the acts his set here was acoustic and unplugged and he too was well received.  Perhaps for everyone the night was an enjoyable but unusual gig which at the end of he described as “Really nice. F***ing weird but absolutely lush!”  His next gig is at NAC on Tuesday, supporting C.W. Stoneking, with another appearance at the same venue on the 24th for the Norwich Refugee Week closing party.

 

sofar sounds, dlore

 

Everyone was kindly invited by OPEN afterwards as guests for Huey Morgan’s NYC Block Party.  I was carrying my immensely heavy camera bag with a bad back so didn’t last too long but there was a great atmosphere with a fun and varied selection of tunes.

 

Well done and thanks to all the acts, Georgie, Chad and the Sofar team, the host, everyone who came along, and to OPEN as well.

 

sofar sounds, phoebe troup, dloresofar sounds, dloresofar sounds, sefo kanuteh

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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Norm’s @ The Crypt: Gladboy + The Bad Apples + The Lantern Men, 8 June 2018

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NORM’S presents..
Fri 8th June – GLADBOY + The Bad Apples + The Lantern Men + DJ Col Wolfe (Spoke Records) @ The Crypt, Bedfords, Norwich.
£5 ticket/door – Doors open 8pm.

MR JASON’s Birthday Gig #1 (of 2)

Gladboy will be extravaganzing your Friday night at Norm’s, with special guests, excitement, and GREAT SONGS. Their current single sounds to me like Supergrass playing Richard Hell & The Voidoids “Blank Generation”, in the middle of Pink Floyd’s “Apples & Oranges” instrumental freakout section. That. Is. Good!
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The Bad Apples & their drums/guitar/vocals rock’n’roll duo thing have been going from strength to strength over the last few years, and I’ve read the live reviews to prove it! One of the good things about them being a duo, is that it’ll leave plenty of room on stage for me to set up my cookery demonstration. Unless they rock out a lot.. Eggs might get broken.. And hearts.. Hmm, maybe my cookery demonstration will have to wait until I have some more demure bands playing..
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The Lantern Men play Broads Beat / Shed Rock / Post Junk / Norfolkabilly (garage rock’n’roll in standard parlance), tipping their hats to Link Wray, Sonics, Thee Milkshakes & The Cramps.
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Spoke Records‘ Col Wolfe will be spinning freakbeat, psych, library, garage rock, and all sorts of amazing 45s between the bands. 
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PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD, and invite all your friends to this event page.

NORM’S brings you the bestest bands at least once a week at The Crypt, Bedfords, Norwich. http://normsnorwich.uk/

My latest visit to Norm’s at Bedfords Crypt was for the first of two gigs sandwiching Mr. Jason’s birthday, this one featuring Gladboy, The Bad Apples, and The Lantern Men.  A noisy and enthusiastic audience enjoyed all the acts tremendously, in a great venue with Norm’s signature quality sound.

the lantern men

The Lantern Men

the lantern men

The Lantern Men

the lantern men

The Lantern Men

 

Wroxham’s The Lantern Men kicked things off in fine style with a set of brilliantly trashy garage rock and roll.  A sprinkling of covers from the likes of the Ramones, a superb version of Thee Milkshakes’  Out of Control, and I think Love Potion No.9 was in there too.  This humble band are so good, I can well imagine them playing more gigs on the Norwich circuit and attracting the dancing crowd who will absolutely adore them.  A rocking Cramps vibe at times but also some “East coast” surf.

 

The Bad Apples launched into their own set with a storming Kick Out the Jams and really engaged the audience with their frenetic, noisy brand of garage punk. This North Walsham duo are getting themselves quite a following.

the bad apples

The Bad Apples

 

the bad apples

The Bad Apples

 

So too are Gladboy, always playing with great energy, showmanship and the right degree of confidence, so much so that they finished with a song they only put together a day or so before the gig!  The UEA and Norwich music communities have sometimes felt a little disconnected from each other in recent years (lacking a small venue like The Village Barn of old), or at least not as connected to each other as they could and shoule be but that seems to be changing again and Gladboy are one of a number of UEA bands making waves bridging that narrow gap and have made a big impression wherever they play (as have the likes of Phoebe Troup, Laura Goldthorp et al. lately) and that can only be a good thing. They even have a song about Nancy Sinatra too! Next up they have a prestigious support slot coming along when they share the bill with the astonishing Starcrawler at Norwich Arts Center later this month. Exciting times.

gladboy

Gladboy

 

gladboy

Gladboy

gladboy

Gladboy

 

Four gigs in four days since Red Rooster and I was exhausted and in back pain but music always heals and this one had that genuinely exciting edge. For a few years Jug Jaw’s Beat Club used to put on occasional gigs in this venue which were also exciting and unforgettable. Norm’s has now picked up the baton and is putting on equally exciting gigs here, at least once a week in The Crypt. Next Norm’s night and part two of Mr. Jason’s birthday week features Ravenous Hounds, Bag of Cans, Space is Big and a few dj sets on Friday 15 June at The Crypt.

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NORM’S presents..
Fri 15th June – RAVENOUS HOUNDS + Bag Of Cans + Space Is Big + DJs Lynch Watson & Tom Eagle + hosted by Jason Overman @ The Crypt, Bedfords, Norwich.
£5 ticket/door – Doors open 8pm.

MR JASON’s Birthday Gig #2 (of 2)
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Ravenous Hounds – The finest bunch of rock’n’roll mongrels this side of the Yorkshire Moors.
https://soundcloud.com/ravenoushounds
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Supported by charismatic & shambolic indie-rock boys BAG OF CANS.
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Space is Big will be bringing up the rear, if you pardon the expression, fresh from supporting The Thinking Men at Open. Punky, fun, and lots of goodness.
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PLUS! Lynch Watson (Ravenous Hounds, Beast With A Gun) & Tom Eagle(Infa Riot) will be DJing before, between, after. 
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PLUS PLUS! Your host Jason L Overman will be making you groan & laugh in equal measure with his pun-based one-liners.
—————————————————-
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD, and invite all your friends to this event page.

NORM’S brings you the bestest bands at least once a week at The Crypt, Bedfords, Norwich. http://normsnorwich.uk/

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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PiL @ UEA LCR 6 June 2018 & OST 5 June 2018

It was over 30 years between my first seeing John Lydon’s PiL in 1983 and more recently in 2015 but this was a most welcome return for Johnny (“I used to live around here!”) and PiL, with the UEA LCR almost full, deservedly so after a brilliant gig last time and very fine recent releases.

Tonight we once again had a dj selection of heavyweight dub vinyl and 1970s roots reggae until Public Image came onstage about 9pm. I’m sure I spotted LKJ’s Forces of Victory going back into the box but alas didn’t hear it.

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A few songs into the set Lydon confessed “I’ve only gone and got the flu again, in’t I?  The hotel doctor put me on antibiotics and now I’ve taken so many I can hardly think let alone sing so if you call that singing so far then you are good friends of mine!”  Very modest really because he sounded good and had just delivered a storming Warrior vocal performance, his is one of THE great voices in music. He proceeded to self-medicate and down some pills with a swig of whiskey, the crowd cheered their approval of his voice and this seemed to give him extra strength, the set really grew in power throughout. I had my own reasons to self-medicate with some excruciating sciatica so reluctantly gave up my excellent vantage point near the front about halfway though the gig to move my legs, which took me in the direction of the bar.  (A friend said we were “handing over the baton to the youngster”!), and the usual bar lottery meant I had a pint of Mosaic that tasted uncannily like cider. Still can’t work out if it was a mistake or a bad pint but the other Mosaic drinkers noticed the same thing. Anyway, even a Lydon with a supposedly under-par voice is still infinitely more charismatic and formidable than anything passing for music in the top twenty of the charts these days, which is basically the same generic, whining bloke in all of those chart positions anyway. We need the likes of Lydon more now than ever.

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PiL have a stong and settled lineup these days that includes Bruce Smith (The Pop Group, The Slits, New Age Steppas) on drums, Lu Edmonds (The Mekons) on guitars, bouzouki and baglama, and Scott Firth on bass.  All credit to Lydon for doing the gig feeling the way he did anyway – he even had his own spittoon onstage! -and powered through. The crowd admired him for it and were onside with him.  He looked like a preacher at the pulpit … he had a congregation listening to his every word.

The set was a mix of recent material, which is strong, and a generous sprinkling of older numbers from throughout their 40 year career thus far. Highlight for me was probably Flowers of Romance but we were also treated to This is Not a Love Song, Rise, Death Disco, Open Up, Body, Warrior, and of course Public Image itself.

Perhaps not quite hitting the immense heights of that superb 2015 show due to his flu but it was still an excellent gig and we should be grateful it happened at all. Johnny seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself though, despite his flu, which seemed to make it feel all the more special. What a band too! Both gigs far more memorable for me than that 1983 visit.

The previous night saw the welcome return of OST to Cinema City.  The music now held in the courtyard due to a puzzling redesign of the bar (presumably the eye-watering beer prices are funding that) but the courtyard is a beautiful for the music, if chilly on this particular evening.  We were treated to excellent sets by Kimberley Moore and Alfie Carpenter (joined by Sian Croose), Dawn Chorus, and the superb Of the Clay.  At one point before the music started a nestling bird fell from its nest, unharmed, and spent a large part of the evening behind an amp, chirruping with perfect timing when Kimberley sang of “grounded birds”.  OST will be back in three weeks and then fortnightly until September.

alfie carpenter

Alfie Carpenter

kimberley moore

Kimberley Moore

of the clay

Of the Clay

On Thursday at Fine City Blues’ weekly night at The Murderers we saw the welcome return of Dove and Boweevil after Lauren’s extended travels.  The Murderers looking more like Fine City Purple and Blues, there was a full crowd and the band sounded fantastic, rich, full and warm, the Hammond organ and sax giving things a beautiful soulful Stax-like vibe and they were all playing with obvious relish. More of this please!

dove and boweevil

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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Red Rooster Festival 31 May-2 June 2018

red rooster 2018

The end of May (what a lovely phrase that is) means Red Rooster time!  My fifth experience of this wonderful little festival.  A bit of a delayed and confused entry to the site for me meant I missed most of the first set whilst I setting up camp but there was however still ample camping spaces to choose from. This definitely felt like the best Red Rooster yet though, it was most certainly the strongest lineup.  I could barely recover from one outstanding performance before it was time for yet another.  So many incredible highlights, the thrill of seeing Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Pokey LaFarge, Worry Dolls, The Bonnevilles, and Daddy Long Legs again, to being blown away by new discoveries such as Yola Carter, Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band, McKay & Leigh. Add to that a exceptional performance from a new-look The Vagaband that was as exciting as I have ever experienced by them, in front of a rocking crowd of noisy enthusiasm.  The addition of Mark “Boweevil” Howes has changed the dynamic and sound in a brilliant way. Plus of course Yve Mary B brings magic to everything she touches. They sounded energised.

 

johnny cage and the voodoogroove

Johnny Cage and the VoodooGroove opening the live action for Red Rooster 2018

the vagaband at red rooster 2018 1

The Vagaband. A sensational, exciting set to a packed crowd.

mckay & leigh

McKay & Leigh, one of my festival highlights … twice!

(Thanks to Ramblin’ Wreck for the following videos)

We also had superb local band sets from Ida Mae, Big Steve Arlene (with Henry Greenwood and Will Fergusson), Lucy Grubb, 4D Jones, Yve Mary B and the Wild Boohickeries and so much more.  It was a great festival.  My review for Outline should be published any time now but here are some photos from a wonderful weekend. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Yola Carter, Pokey LaFarge, Daddy Long Legs, McKay & Leigh, Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band (who I absolutely loved … Rainbow Girls spirit!), The Bonnevilles, Los Chicos, and the Vagaband all provided amazing sets. I didn’t quite manage to see everything I wanted but that was impossible as everything was good and sometimes happening simultaneously. I gave it a darn good try though.

The weather held out, all except for fifteen minutes or so, the music was incredible, the vibe friendly and relaxed and the grounds beautiful. The Euston Hall grounds set in a quiet village with a population of just 130!

dana immanuel and the stolen band

Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band

dana immanuel and the stolen band

Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band

ida mae

Ida Mae

slim cessna's auto club

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club

worry dolls

Worry Dolls

dana immanuel and the stolen band

Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band

red rooster

dana immanuel and the stolen band

Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band

dana immanuel and the stolen band

Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band

dana immanuel and the stolen band

Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band

the bonnevilles

The Bonnevilles

It was great to see The Bonnevilles again after seeing them at NAC with James Leg. A large and enthusiastic audience made their pleasure known in a powerful set.

the bonnevilles

The Bonnevilles “Dirty Photographs”

lucy grubb

Lucy Grubb

lucy grubblucy grubblucy grubb

lucy grubb

Lucy Grubb, with a very fine band around her continues to make staggering progress each time I see her. This was a standout set to a rapturous reception.

All I knew by McKay & Leigh before the festival were a couple of songs, one being a fine track called “Analogue” but I now consider myself a bone-fide fan after catching not only their main stage set but also the completely different bonus second set they played on the Little Red Rooster stage an hour or so later, by which time I was already sporting their t-shirt. I got their CD too and would have bought anything else they had if their suitcases hadn’t gone AWOL. They are the real deal and one of several festival highlights for me. Clever songwriting performed so clearly, a lovely easy-going engagement with the audience, charming tales of their dog, bars, cars, cowboys and a crystal clear story of their own Major Tom character’s solitude on Intergalactic Shipwreck Blues.  I rather fell in love with McKay & Leigh, they have a beautiful chemistry, great warmth, gentle humour and so much charm that you feel you know them. Storytelling songwriting at its best. I was pleased to shake their hands and come away with a signed album.

worry dolls

Worry Dolls

worry dolls

worry dolls

Worry Dolls were familiar to me from their OPEN gig a while back and after finding them as they arrived on site looking for the stage they told me of their drummer’s challenging journey from Somerset which included a flat tyre. You wouldn’t have guessed from her brilliant performance. It’s clear to see why they were among those chosen to perform at the recent UK Americana Awards Show in Hackney. Another strong set from them which left me with several earworms.  I already have their album on vinyl from their Norwich visit.

worry dolls

Friday’s headliner Pokey LaFarge played a hugely well-received set to a packed audience. A good selection of favourite songs and this is the way to do audience participation.  It was superb stuff.

pokey lafarge

Pokey LaFarge

little folk

An early morning set from South Wales’ Little Folk

 

Due to the Howlin’ Woods tent and catching up with friends it was a very late night but I started Saturday with the relaxed and soothing vibes of Yve Mary B and the Wild Boohickeries (who are Lauren Dove and Mark ‘Boweevil’ Howes) at the Little Red Rooster stage.  The perfect, gentle start to the day.  Breakfast followed and then it was over to the main stage.

yve mary b and the wild boohickeries

Yve Mary B and the Wild Boohickeries

 

4D Jones put on a belting show as first main stage act of the day, the biggest stage I’ve seen them on.  Norwich’s own Dr. Feelgood I however also heard them described by compere Paul Mills as “Norwich’s oldest boy band”, and elsewhere as the “Finest rhythm and blues band north of the River Waveney”!  They always put on a show, with smiles on their faces matching those of the audience. A lot of fun as always and they too got a great reaction. And sold out of all their CDs before I even reached the table.

I was chatting to my friend after their set, as Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band were setting up and soundchecking.  They piqued the interest of both of us and we were so glad to catch this set.  A Badass fun attitude and a great sound, they put me strongly in mind of when I first saw the Rainbow Girls.  Talking about their night before and how they didn’t know how they had even made it on stage in time they were funny, relaxed and so much fun. We both loved them, everybody did. Strong songs and engaging interaction. “This one’s about my favourite thing”, “What’s that?”, “Codeine!”  If I’d had more money left I’d have bought their entire back catalogue too but came away with new album Come With Me.  Loved this band and they put a big smile on my face.

big steve arlene

Big Steve Arlene, with Will Fergusson and Henry Greenwood

Big Steve Arlene with Henry Greenwood and Will Fergusson also played a lovely and well-received set on the Little Red Rooster stage, as did Ida Mae who closed the night there with a powerful set that got everyone dancing and singing along.

yola carter

Yola Carter – sensational

Inbetween were some extraordinary sets on the main stage.  Yola Carter literally moving people to tears with her rock and country inflected soul.  A truly remarkable and powerful performance with one of the best soul voices I have ever heard live.  Another standout, and a deserved winner in the Best Song category of the UK Americana Awards in London earlier this year.

los chicos

Los Chicos, climbing the lighting rig

Los Chicos were crazy rock fun, the singer performing a section of the set from up high in the lighting rig and also getting the audience as one to singalong a chorus of “Shit!” on We Sound Amazing But We Look Like Shit.  Hilarious, but they do sound amazing.

The most exciting name on all of the bill for me was Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. I was so looking forward to this after seeing them last year in Norwich and they didn’t disappoint. It was even better in fact with the atmosphere of the much larger crowd. My favourite set of a festival with an extraordinarily high calibre of music.  Slim Cessna and Munly climbed down from the stage and shook our hands before climbing over the barriers and singing among us while the amazing band played powerfully and quite unlike anyone else.  Pedal steel, keys and bows, bass, drums, double-neck guitar, and two banjos. God I love this band. Those in the know describe them as the best live band in the world. I’d go along with that.

The quality didn’t drop for a moment and the next set was from the incredible Daddy Long Legs to a packed crowd. Powerful, enegetic and raw, I think everyone loved them. How could they not?

daddy long legs

red rooster

Over the two days and three nights I think I caught at least part of 26+ sets and still missed many I hoped to see. I enjoyed them all though I didn’t quite connect with Alabama 3, probably because I was too much on the periphery of the big tent at the time.

alabama 3

The site was clean, had loads of toilets which were regularlay cleaned, ample food outlets and choices though a friend did make the valid observation that although some outlets were serving food with recyclable cutlery etc. there was no place to put them for that purpose afterwards, there needed to be “Any other recyclable items” or “green waste” bins alongside those for tins, cardboard and so on, but other than that it’s hard to see how anything about Red Rooster could be bettered. It’s a gem.

Packing away on Sunday morning and noticing the field slowly emptying I was pleased to see that just about everything was cleared away. People bagged up and disposed of recyclable waste and rubbish in the allocated areas and the site seemed to be left almost exactly it as it was found, which is just as it should be but not always the case at all festivals.  There was a respect here.

4d jones4d jones4d jonesthe vagabandthe vagaband

the bonnevilles

 

red rooster

Wood carving at one of the stalls

Definitely the best Red Rooster yet, totally marvellous. A non-corporate breath of really fresh air!

red roosterred rooster

Thanks to Red Rooster, Outline Magazine, Wee Davey, and Rupert Orton.

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@RShashamane

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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