Dreams Music & BFR presents Cocos Lovers, Birds of Hell & Will Varley @ The Birdcage, review
This was a gem of a gig at the Birdcage on Friday, and was a deserved sell out. The back room was already almost full by the time the engaging and entertaining Will Varley took to the stage. He had me hooked before he’d finished his first song. The hirsute singer-songwriter had the audience in stitches of laughter at times, with his lyrics and his chats, but beneath the humour are some very serious issues, and some great, barbed lines directed at the government, bankers, inequality, misplaced priorities and other worthy targets.
Don’t miss the opportunity of catching Will play live if he visits anywhere close, I bought his CD – Advert Soundtracks – which comprises most of his set and it is equally brilliant. He delivers occasionally in a similar style to a young, English Dylan. I am sure he has probably been compared to him before and is sick of such comparisons, as he does have his own style of writing and certainly his own voice. A friend of mine was put in mind of Loudon Wainwright III and I can see this.
I was interested to hear the next act, Peter Murdoch from Sargasso Trio playing with Birds of Hell. Sargasso Trio unfortunately don’t seem to play live as often as I’d wish so this was an opportunity not to be missed. Another excellent writer, despite saying he was incredibly nervous Pete delivered a storming set. A particular highlight was when he introduced a song about his grandmother whom he had never met, and having recently discovered a tape of one of her choral performances and being able to hear her voice for the first time. Pressing ‘play’ on the tape machine he then started his own song, with his granny joining in at the end of the song. It was incredibly beautiful, moving and powerful, not to mention totally memorable. By turns bluesy, folky, witty, always captivating this is another act to see at any possible opportunity, a brilliant set that was over all too soon.
Chatting with Richard Penguin whilst waiting for Milly to come onstage at the NAC last weekend, he remarked upon the songs playing on the PA. I thought it had an African tinge and he explained they were indeed quite Africa-influenced. That band is Cocos Lovers. Without apostrophe. Earlier in the day they wowed the Norwich shoppers whilst busking in the city, and I spoke to a few people who were in attendance having been converted by their busking set. Hailing from Deal, in Kent, there are influences of Deep South Americana, Irish, English and of course African in their music, which works joyously. Most of the African sound comes from the guitar which has a real southern African feel to it, whilst the acoustic guitars are more folky and jiggy, especially with the fiddle or saw. This six piece also includes bass, trumpet and drums, and occasional harmonica and saw! They had the hot and sticky, sweaty, packed Birdcage dancing for the entire set and begging for more at the end, a wonderful, hard working and proper band in it for the love of playing and entertaining. They are back in Norwich in September, playing at Open with Heart of a Dog and Gerard and the Watchmen. Should be a good one!
A quite fantastic night of music, I am so glad I went, although yet again there were at least four gigs in the city I’d have liked to have seen but one cannot see everything, and I certainly have no regrets about picking this one.
words and photos by richard shashamane