Grapevine @ Bedfords, with Al Lindsay & Oli Arditi, Rebecca De Winter, Fern Teather, and Blood Bird – Norwich 13th November 2013. Review and photos.
It was that time in the month for Steve Howlett’s regular “Grapevine at Bedfords” night, which I missed last month due to having the cold/flu lurg, and Grapevine was not the sort of place where I thought my barking coughs would have been appreciated! So it felt like ages since I’d last been here but I’d clearly not been forgotten as I saw many familiar faces and smiles and hellos 🙂 On this occasion I even had some food before and during the early part of the gig. This was a revelation! So fresh, flavoursome and tasty, the only word I have to describe it is “Sumptuous”! Apparently everything is prepared freshly on the premises, even down to the bread and pasta, so I would fully recommend having a meal with your music, you will not go home hungry for food or music such is the fare on offer.
I’m not sure I can think of any other music night in Norwich quite like this. Steve has worked hard for years on Grapevine but does it with youthful enjoyment and enthusiasm, as well as a genuine love for the music, artists and audience that is highly infectious and uplifting, with a unique bond between promoter and audience, it’s also clear that the musicians all adore him too. The audience is highly respectful and it is a really civilised, convivial and relaxed atmosphere. People can either come along and enjoy the music whilst sitting at a table with a meal, or simply with a pint at the bar, music is the centrepiece of the evening in this gorgeous room.
With his easy, personable charm Steve introduced the first act of the evening, Fern Teather, from Suffolk. This young lady plays gentle folk a style reminiscent of Suzanne Vega, with a smooth and expressive voice with an ease and purity which is very captivating for the listener. She was accompanied by Carl Scott and Sam Thurlow on percussion and guitar, and was received with much appreciation by the audience.
After a short break Steve introduced Rebecca De Winter, singer and pianist from Bedford. She has a delightful and friendly onstage personality and explained that the results of a survey showed that residents of Bedford were “the unhappiest in the UK” and maybe this explained her melancholy, sad songs. She does this with great charm and wit though, and the residents of Bedfords were far from unhappy and took her to their hearts. She even performed a radically pared down and slowed down interpretation of Rhythm is the Dancer which totally worked and was quite inspired. Tonight she debuted a new song for its first live airing which was quite beautiful and probably my favourite from her set. By the way, her ‘merchandise stall’ is amongst the most charming I have ever seen, being a lovely arrangement in a vintage suitcase.
For the next act, Steve had something of a surprise treat for us. Chris and Steph from Kill It Kid happened to be in Norwich (and played the Birdcage last week) working on a new project called Blood Bird. Steve persuaded them to perform a short teaser set ahead of their appearance at next month’s Grapevine. From the moment they started I knew we were in for something special. Chris’ blues guitar is amazing, and they both have a rough, grungey, rawness to their brilliant voice. I loved them instantly, especially the deep blues song they introduced as having gone down like a lead balloon in front of a hardcore folk audience in California who hated the blues. Perhaps that should be worn as a badge of honour, this particular track was my highlight of the night and I think they are magnificent. There is something of the Kurt Cobains about Chris, especially in Unplugged in New York mode. They have a great chemistry too, clearly working on the same wavelength and I’ll be sure to catch their full set next month, especially as I missed out on the opportunity to buy their CD which they had only completed that very morning.
And so with the evening coming towards the final act, it was the turn of Al Lindsay, also from Suffolk, to take to the stage. Immediately likeable, humourous and engaging he had the audience won before he’d strummed a note, but when he did it was an absolute pleasure to hear his songs. Folksy, bluesy and with a very soulful, natural voice. After a song or two solo he was joined by Oli Arditi on upright bass, and then Sam “Bongoboy” Thurlow on, er, bongos. They worked sensationally as a trio and delighted the audience right up until it was time to close the evening.
Another very successful night at Grapevine, thanks to all the acts, to Steve, Stuart on sound, and also to Glen and all his lovely staff at this quite beautiful and unique venue. I urge anyone to try it out, the food is the best I have ever tasted in Norwich and as for the music … well even if I don’t know any of the names on a bill for a night Steve is hosting, such is his reputation and judgement that he can always be relied upon to bring special musicians to Norwich with his ear for quality control. An added bonus is that they always seem to be extremely nice people too!
My next visit to this venue shall be on 28 November for the visit of Clive Gregson, with support from our very own Jose McGill of The Vagaband.
Bedford based Rebecca De Winter is a brilliant, quirky and slightly theatrical singer-songwriter whose piano-based alt-pop has been likened to ” opening an old wardrobe door and stepping into a fairytale land of almost childlike, certainly retrospective, fantasy ” It’s her first visit, and not to be missed.
Fern Teather is based in Suffolk, where she has already established a sizeable following for her fresh, contemporary songs. She has recently recorded an excellent EP with our friend David Booth ( The Recording Booth ) and enlisted a band for a fuller sound. They’ll be joining her for Grapevine appearance too. Another new face, and one you’re going to love.
Al Lindsay is another Suffolk-based artist, and I’ve not seen him for around 7 years. A chance online encounter has put us back in touch and served to remind me just what a fine singer and player he is. A superb guitarist and blessed with a fine voice with unforced soul, he’ll have your feet tapping and lift your heart.
As usual, we’ve kept the admission down to a measly £5. We’d rather have a full house than full pockets …in fact all door monies go back to the performers, so please come along and support them.
Music starts just after 8pm, but please come early to be sure of a table, or, better still, book yourselves in for a bite to eat before the show….the food is all home-made from scratch ( yes, even the bread and pasta ) and is excellent. Just ring Bedfords on 01603 666869 and they’ll be delighted to reserve your table for the evening.
If you’re looking for a musical night out with some quality live music, a warm and friendly atmosphere, great food and drink, and an opportunity to be part of an attentive, listening audience you’ve come to the right place !
Hope to see you there !
words and photos © all rights reserved, richard shashamane 2013