Norwich Sound and Vision Festival (NS&V13) 9-11 October 2013
NS&V 2013 was launched on early Wednesday evening with a party in the VIP bar at Epic, where Mari Joyce performed with her band, as well as Birds of Hell, and Damien Flynn. I was lucky enough to be here but being a party there was lots of chatter coming through from the bar though all acts managed to put in good sets.
On Thursday my first taste of the Festival proper was an eagerly anticipated visit to the home of The Neutrinos for their presentation, Klang Haus. I can barely call it a gig, it was unlike any gig I’ve been to before. With a small ‘audience’ of about a dozen people they performed in their front room, with a projection on the back wall. It was more like an art installation than a gig and set the bar extremely high for the Festival. In fact I would say it was my highlight and totally mesmerising.
In other circumstances I’d have liked to have taken more photos, but was aware I was in someone’s house and it would have not have felt right, even though I do not use flash. Fascinating performance, and Karen is a spellbinding performer. I’m sure everyone present felt at some point, as I did, that she made intense and prolonged eye contact. Incredible. Engaging. Different. Memorable.
Afterwards we were invited to the barbecue in their courtyard (provided by Harbecue) or a drink in Klang Bar. On the Sunday all present were also invited to a late breakfast at the Bicycle Shop for an informal discussion of the shows. They were to play eight performances over the two days and this was the first. Karen mentioned at the time that it was interesting how already we had settled into traditional audience/stage/band arrangement and that things would probably evolve over the eight shows. I would have loved to have gone again and seen how things changed but with such limited space my friends and I didn’t want to deprive someone else of the opportunity to attend.
After a meal at “Klang Bar” and a cuppa it was time to head for the Bicycle Shop for The Woodland Creatures, who put in a typically delightful performance and I was finally able to buy their beautifully presented live EP. Each cover hand made and totally individual.
At the end of their set there was just time to make a dash to the Artrocker stage at the Hog in Armour for There’s Someone in the Pond. I caught a few songs and then made my way to OPEN for the French Export Showcase
I quite enjoyed MeSparrow but BRNS did not totally grab me as I hoped they might, and I unfortunately missed the final two acts as I wanted to see The Nordic Giants at Cinema City, brought here by Dreams Music for NS&V. It seems incredible to me now that I saw both them and The Neutrinos on the same day. Playing a live score to a series of short films, largely dealing with subjects of envy, greed, and self-destruction, their playing was dramatic, powerful and totally precise. Quite a hypnotic hour or so and once again unlike any other gig I’ve attended.
The following day I again had a very early evening start to catch Paul Hubbard aka Sound of Sight play for OST in the Cinema City bar. With a forthcoming EP on Iain Lowery’s Meat fer Manners label, I am quite taken with his melodic, 1960s sounding thoughtful pop songs, and was pleased to see him looking so relaxed and gaining in self-confidence as an artist. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to see another singer I admire, Raevennan Husbandes, as a gig I had been eagerly anticipating was about to take place in The Assembly Hall.
Once again brought to the Festival by Ian Hudson, this was a perfect venue for Wooden Arms, and I’m sure Alex Carson must have been beside himself with excitement to be playing here. The sound was exquisite, and one was able to hear all the subtlety of the band, I think it’s the best I’ve heard them. Playing largely new songs, only “Noah” and “Separate the Verb” surviving from the original set of the turn of the year, the band tonight included both Milly Hirst and Lydia Walker, returning on vocals and percussion. It was the second time I’ve heard “December” played live. A Jeffrey composition on which he sings and plays trumpet, it fits into the set perfectly, fully of subtlety and atmosphere.
I’d have loved to have seen Mammal Hands play as I really admire what they do, and the evening’s headliners Halls I have seen before when they played at the Octagon Chapel with Wooden Arms in the summer. But I wanted to catch Birds of Hell at The Birdcage, which I sadly failed to do, as he was just finishing when I arrived, so I made my way to The Bicycle Shop again for Will Varley.
I saw Will play in Norwich once before, at The Birdcage with Cocos Lovers and Birds of Hell, a gig I enjoyed immensely so his appearance was something I had earmarked. I bought his album on that previous occasion and his folk storytelling songs are filled with the social commentary, wry observations and wit that I have been yearning for. Tonight he entertained us with songs from his new album which I also bought and have been playing ever since. “As the Crow Flies” continues right where the last album left off.
Speaking to him briefly after his set while buying this CD, we talked about his last appearance in Norwich, and he asked me if Pete (Birds of Hell) “still plays that song with his grandma on 78rpm” which he really loved. I was pleased to tell him he does and that I share the love for that song. Whilst having this chat, pleasingly the soundman had chosed to play Milly Hirst’s EP before the next act, Lisa Redmond came on.
I only caught three of her songs but she has a pleasing folk singer-songwriter style and I was surprised I had not come across her live before as she is a Norwich artist.
Unaware of this fact at the time but my Sound & Vision Festival for 2013 ended with Superfood at the NAC as at some point after that I mysteriously parted company with my wristband, but I ended the evening across the road at the Ten Bells for the Drink ‘n’ Jive IX evening as part of the Fringe Festival. The place was packed and sweaty and full of dancing, and perhaps some of the numbers and atmosphere missing from one or two of the NS&V events which were not exactly packed, but being school nights with awful autumnal weather that is probably not surprising with the vast number of gigs taking place over the city, although the Arts Centre itself seemed to be constantly full.
I’m aware that I missed an incredible amount of good music, and also that I may have made the odd error of judgement timewise but it’s just not possible to see everything, though my personal highlights were The Neutrinos in a performance I think I will always remember, Will Varley, Wooden Arms, and Nordic Giants. The latter being a performance that has rather oddly seemed to have become better and better in my memory in the following days as I have reflected upon it, rather like a fine movie, which makes it all the more apt.
I love these Drink’n’Jive DJs, they can read an audience mood, are unafraid of musical diversity, and create a wave for dancefloor to ride, never afraid to throw in something cheesey from our childhood, or an old classic. Nothing could be seen through the windows from outside, such was the condensation, and the walls were literally dripping. I’ve rarely seen a place so full of people dancing, but it happens at the Ten Bells and people were really enjoying themselves. The inclusion of a smoke machine was a brilliant idea and really creates an atmosphere.
words and photos © all rights reserved, richard shashamane 2013