It was a great pleasure to venture ‘over the border’ to catch these two lovely Norwich acts playing in Ipswich. Having seen Heart of a Dog and Milly Hirst only a few days earlier on the Norwich leg of their tour, I just could not resist the opportunity to see them play again in a different location, a sort of pre-birthday treat to myself.
It’s a while since my last visit to Ipswich, it seems to be a town full of roadworks at the moment. After a bite to eat I located the venue and met again with the lovely Milly, Jon, Sam and Ian, who made my day with their smiling recognition and welcome, and later on they were joined by Will from Port Isla. Bar 16 is a modern, long-ish rectangular wine bar style venue, with the very small stage at the far end of the room in the corner, which could be a bit challenging acoustically with the bar running alongside most of the length of the room, but it was nice and fresh, modern with lots of wooden decor and Banksy reproductions on the walls. There was not room for Jon’s drum kit on the small stage, so he was positioned right at the front, with Sam singing behind and Ian to his side, and the guesting Will Bloomfield from Port Isla was on keyboards just to the side of the stage.
I have to confess, I know absolutely nothing about the first band, and struggled at times to hear the lyrics of the singer (through no fault of her own), so please excuse my somewhat sketchy review of them. They are called Elly Tree and are an Ipswich band. They play a style of folk with a frequent East European flavour. As I mentioned, I struggled to catch much of what the vocalist said and sung but two of the songs which seemed most memorable to me seemed to be called Spiral Staircase, and Bazouki. I enjoyed the Russian-style songs. They played a pleasing set featuring mandolin, African drum, guitar and vocals, and seem to have a keen local following. Links to their Soundcloud below.
By the end of their set and during the interval the bar area had becoming considerably noisier. I don’t think I was the only one who was concerned how this would impact on Milly’s quiet and mellow, thoughtful set, which demands to be listened to. A further big concern was that literally moments before taking to the stage Milly badly gashed a finger on her right hand whilst opening a door backstage. Undeterred she took to the stage, mentioned to the audience this incident and offered her apologies in advance, adding that this was “the most rock ‘n’roll thing” that had ever happened to her! A few gasps from a concerned and sympathetic audience then settled somewhat as Milly bravely played the first few bars of Kampala Roads, and by the time she sang the first lines the entire venue had fallen silent. I’ve witnessed this effect on a few occasions but this was as dramatic, in fact more so, than any other time. I did not hear anything from the audience other than rapturous applause after each song until the end of her set. Quite how she managed to play in such obvious pain and discomfort I do not know, but the trooper and professional artist that she is, she bravely played and sang on, performing, amongst others, Rose, Unmade Bed, and accompanied once again by Jon Allen, and Will Bloomfield, A Book or a Film. Midway through the set I looked around the room, and all I saw were faces transfixed and heads bowed listening to every word, a very attentive audience. A memorable performance by a very special talent. I was attempting to mentally add up the number of times I have seen her perform but I have seriously lost count now, and each time I hear her voice it feels like receiving a gift. Special.
Following Milly was, of course, Heart of a Dog. Their sound today was somewhat different from the Bicycle Shop, perhaps a little harder but playing to a new audience I think it needed to be, to grab the attention, and grab the attention they most certainly did. Watching the crowd I saw many dancing and swaying and if they were more familiar with the band’s work I am sure they would have been singing along too, although they managed this very well for the howls on Hits From the Shows, the set’s penultimate song before another walk into the audience and a rendition of Berlin with Milly Hirst, which I think went down very well.
Another lovely live set from these marvellous people, I had time for a few words with them before having to dash off for the last train back to Norwich but I am still “buzzing” from this show and hope they have many new converts from the tour, Milly and Heart of a Dog are the hits from the shows 🙂
words and photos by richard shashamane 2013
Heart of a Dog http://www.heartofadog.co.uk
Milly Hirst http://www.millyhirst.co.uk
Will Bloomfield / Port Isla http://www.portisla.com
Elly Tree https://soundcloud.com/elly-tree
words and photos shashamane