Dreams Music presents Birds of Hell, Ben C. Winn, and Girl in a Thunderbolt at The Bicycle Shop, Norwich, 3 October, 2013
Dreams Music put on something of a dream line up here at the Bicycle Shop for this lovely gig. Pete and Ben being members of The Sargasso Trio and friends with Maria of Girl in a Thunderbolt, I often see them all out and about at gigs supporting local music. It was a great chance to see a very rare Girl in a Thunderbolt appearance, and hear again Ben’s superb and gentle, very funny poems, and Pete, who is Birds of Hell, has totally grabbed me with his latest venture. It is something quite different and special.
The evening opened with Girl in a Thunderbolt. Maria has a strong presence, and the songs are powerful, brooding and very cool. Her voice is distinctive and unique and the repetition in the electric guitar playing is hypnotic and strong. I occasionally hear something in her voice that reminds me just slightly of someone, I think perhaps it is somewhere between Danielle Dax and PJ Harvey though she has very much her own style and voice which is so clear and versatile. Good to see her and I hope this is just the beginning of some more live performances from this super talent. She had the entire audience totally captivated, more so than I think she perhaps realised herself.
I’ve seen Ben perform a few times, most recently at Jurnets a couple of weeks ago, and although he changes his set each time there are one or two which are sure to become great favourites, one of them already is. The wonderfully written “Thnaks”
(video by The Sargasso Trio at the Jurnets gig)
Opening his set (on National Poetry Day) holding a balloon and reciting a delightful poem about a balloon utopia, he also included a new one about living in Norfolk from the viewpoint of someone from Croydon, marvelling at the innocence of those houses with roadside stalls we are all so familiar with, selling things such as kindling, spring onions and windfall apples, “just place the coins in a tin”. The poems are largely witty but underlying all of them is a great tenderness and love, they are never cruel, just observational, sometimes surreal, but always quite touching in some way. Very impressive.
And so to the marvellous talent that is Pete Murdoch as Birds of Hell. In his face paint he briefly introduced himself and announced that he felt the first three songs were all connected in some way “In my head anyway” – and in mine too. Saying he’d see us again in a few minutes he then launched into Boa Constrictor. The first time I heard him play this it was quite a jolly and amusing children’s song. In just a few months it has become a sinister beast of a song, dark and menacing and utterly brilliant, set to a bouncing ping-pong ball background, I love it to bits. Next was schnitzel and some stunning blues guitar work.
(video of Boa Constrictor at Harlequin Fayre)
Using background effects, controlling an array of pedals with his bare toes, these effects add brilliantly to the mood. He also played that beautifully touching song featuring the 78rpm recording of his late grandmother singing in a choir. I’ve heard him perform this four or five times and it always moves me, and clearly the others listening too.
I honestly cannot think of another act whose performances I enjoy in the same way and on the same levels as I enjoy Pete’s, they genuinely move me. The playing and singing and also the stories and tales, are mostly family related. So honest but again with that always underlying love and affection in them. Just stunning, one of my (many) favourite gigs of the year.
Many thanks to Ian Hudson, Pete Murdoch, Maria Uzor and Ben C Winn
words and all photos © all rights reserved, richard shashamane