Mammal Hands album launch at Norwich Arts Centre, with GoGo Penguin. 11 September 2014
I do so enjoy the musical journey – there is so much great music around and so much to discover. I grew up listening to a lot of punk, new wave, indie, folk, reggae and dub and back then I never imagined that my future self would be at a jazz gig, stroking my chin in a musical reverie and afterwards thinking it was one of the best gigs I’d been at all year. That’s how it was though and my musical tastes have constantly developed and broadened in all directions, and very rewarding it is too (and I do still listen to a lot of those early favourites too). As for this gig, I’d been looking forward to it immensely. I have a lot of time and respect for Mammal Hands who just seem to get better and better and are creating some extraordinary and brilliant, beautiful music. They played a marvellous set recently at Harlequin though on that occasion I was trying to be in several places at once I was still able to enjoy and appreciate their fine sounds from just outside the tent housing the main stage.
They shared the bill with GoGo Penguin, from Manchester, who I was massively impressed by. This trio on double bass, piano, and drums were a revelation, fresh from their nomination for a Mercury Music Prize this week. The piano is beautiful and accomplished and the huge beast of a bass was deep and powerful played superbly by Nick Blacka. The pianist (Chris Illingworth) and drummer (Rob Turner) were both at the front of the stage too, with Nick in the centre. Mammal Hands had a similar layout and I loved being able to see both drummers performing so closeby with all the intricacies of their style, it’s highly visual and I’m surprised more bands don’t do this. The drumming was fascinating to watch and sounded sensational, at times they had a real drum n bass sound going on. Astonishing.
GoGo Penguin did make mention that it was their first visit to Norwich as a band, and that it most certainly would not be their last as they loved performing here to a respectful, attentive, but highly enthusiastic audience. They also mentioned their Mercury nomination in a very endearing, understated and humble way, to great applause. It’s easy to see why they have been nominated, great songs played superbly by talented musicians their set was genuinely mesmerising.
That’s a word which could equally apply to Mammal Hands’ set. Three quiet, humble and charming, brilliant musicians with a very special chemistry between them. Jesse too is an incredible drummer and percussionist, with brothers Smart, Jordan and Nick, on sax and keys also playing with a deceptive ease the sound was really breathtaking with so much subtlety and clever arrangements and also a wealth of influences seeping into the mix. I often feel sure I can hear traces of the Ethiopian funk and jazz of the 70s so lovingly gathered together on the Ethiopiques series. The loud, enthusiastic and prolonged applause and cheering at the end of each song visibly touched the band who like GoGo Penguin seemed to really enjoy their set and the exchange of energy between stage and audience.
There is a lot of love and respect for Mammal Hands in Norwich, as evidenced by the large number of musicians who also came out to this gig as part of a well deserved sell out crowd at the Arts Centre.
After the gig I got my copy of the new album Animalia which the band kindly signed, and have been listening to it today. It is every bit as wonderful as I hoped and expected, a beautiful work. Incredible to think this band have only been together a couple of years but I guess with talent and chemistry like that time is not important.
Everyone I spoke to seemed to hold this gig in the same esteem as myself, the words I was hearing again and again were “sublime” and “special” and it would not be possible to find a bad word to say about this lovely event, the closest I heard was about the red stage lighting! The reaction was overwhelmingly positive for this event. It was that kind of night where the audience as one were blown away by the incredible talent, musicianship and crafted songs being performed and I am glad the venue was full to appreciate this gig and to have been there myself. However much one enjoys a gig it isn’t always the case where everyone enjoys it as much or be aware of just how unanimous a feeling that is and how everyone equally seemed to share the same experience. This was such an occasion though.
I would also strongly recommend viewing the video to Mansions of Millions of Years as well. As a music fan but also as a photographer I find this video sumptuously beautiful and every single frame of it would be a photograph I wish I had taken. Gorgeous.
I also had a quick word with Nick of GoGo Penguin after the gig, congratulating him on a superb gig, the nomination, and also to urge them back to Norwich again. He said they had a fantastic night and loved playing here to this audience and would definitely come back. I just regret that I did not have enough money to buy their albums too but that will happen another time, this was Mammal Hands’ night and I just had to buy Animalia. Hopefully V2.0 will do well at The Mercury Prize and bring GoGo some wider recognition, acclaim and success – they deserve it. I have confidence that great things await Mammal Hands too.
Special mention should also be made to the sound engineers as the sound was absolutely spot on.
Many thanks to Mammal Hands, GoGo Penguin, and Norwich Arts Centre
Words and photos (c) all rights reserved Richard Shashamane 2014. Photos not to be used without permission