During a conversation with Jose from the Vagaband, the subject of a letter I had published by the Norwich Evening News at the beginning of the year cropped up. I was praising the very healthy state of the music scene at the moment, feeling it is more vibrant than it has been for decades. As well as feeling that Norwich is perhaps rather overlooked by the rest of the country, specifically the likes of ‘Later’ and sections of the music media, it is also felt by many that the local newspapers are probably not as supportive as they could be. This is quite curious, as usually anything with a local flavour is highlighted and prominently featured. Most curious of all is the case of The Vagaband, one of the best bands in the city and one that has had some national recognition and award nominations for their very fine Town & Country album. Aside from a short interview some months ago there has barely been a mention.
Milly Hirst and Heart of a Dog are about to embark on a national tour and are superb artists, Dove and Boweevil are in the final of a national blues ‘Battle of the Bands’ contest, Port Isla feel on the verge of wider recognition and Feral Mouth look like having a busy summer on the festival circuit, and Solko have recently completed a national tour.
We have some great venues in the city too, as well as a wonderful record label, Barefeet Records (BFR) run by Alex Carson, with regular showcase events at the Birdcage, Open, and the NAC. Pete Warner, Iain Lowery, Ian Hudson, Jack Pout and Ash Woolnough, to name just a few, also host some great events for local and national artists at Stacked, OST, Dreams Music, Lovely Promotions, and Hubs. The city’s music scene has not felt so alive for a long time.
Anyway, here is the letter which was published in January.
It was refreshing to read the letter from Ken Mason (EEN 28 Dec. 2012) regarding the Norwich music scene and its coverage. I agree with all of his points and listed examples. This is the most vibrant and diverse I can ever recall the local music scene, even matching the John Peel celebrated Norwich scene of the 80s era.
For whatever reason, the national media do not seem to give the Norwich musicians the credit and recognition that they deserve, but in the tradition of the city we have gone our own sweet way and done different, and it is all the richer for that. I have probably attended more concerts in 2012 than in any year since I was about 18, and the vast majority of these have been local bands and artists, many of whom I was first introduced to during Richard Penguin’s much-missed Acoustic & Eclectic live evenings.
As Ken pointed out, the wonderful Vagaband have indeed produced a first class album, released to critical acclaim and nominated for prestigious awards – having seen them perform live countless times I am aware that they have ample material for future albums of an equally high standard. We should be proud of them and treasure them.
Milly Hirst is another that has also impressed me enormously too, with an astonishing voice used with restraint and subtlety on the most exquisite and moving songs. Feral Mouth continue to get better and better, Balaclava Kid and Dad are just extraordinary, Heart of a Dog‘s gentle but clever songs become rooted in the memory in a delightful way, and further mentions also go to the incredibly talented blues musicians Dove & Boweevil as well as others to have impressed me this year, Solko, Kira J Haslam, Das Fenster & the Alibis, Cakes and Ale and many others. Norwich could easily have an entire episode of ‘Later’ dedicated to its artists and it would be an amazing show. Sadly that is not likely to happen, but I would like to think that it won’t be too long before we can proudly watch one of our own on national television.
I would urge anyone interested in good music to check out and enjoy some of the unique talents currently performing in the numerous lovely venues in our fine city, on any given week pubs, cafes or the Arts Centre, Epic, Open and others are hosting musical events with audiences transfixed by beautiful songs, or dancing in joyous celebration of the talent on our doorstep. In these difficult times music is more important than ever. Move to the marvellous Vagaband, be moved by the mesmerising Milly Hirst, and discover some of the gems we are blessed with in Norwich at this time.