Huge thanks and appreciation to the 2014 Oxjam committee as well as all the generous artists playing for free, and all the volunteers, sound engineers, sponsors and venues.
Following on from Thursday’s Oxjam Launch I spent the majority of the event at Bedfords Crypt, hopping across the road occasionally to catch the likes of Addison’s Uncle, The Vagaband et al. It’s testimony to just how full the line up was that I failed to get to The Birdcage at all (much as I wanted to) nor the Owl Sanctuary, and sadly missed the excellent Horo Quartet at The Murderers. 30 acts across five venues, all for £5 per venue, or with a £10 wristband entry to all of them (£6 for those lucky and wise enough to pick up earlybird wristbands) fantastic value.
On a miserably wet first-day-of-autumn-feeling October Saturday after another very late night the previous evening for The Jim Jones Revue I made my way to the lovely and welcoming Bedfords Bar to see Matt Watson, Steve and Jan setting up the PA and lighting, Matt giving Steve Howlett a crash course in the workings of the sound desk. He must have done a fine job of tutoring as the sound in the Crypt was beautiful all evening.
Tom Malachowski unfortunately was unable to play due to work commitments and as he was already helping out Matt stepped up to play the slot at the railway timetable festival start time of 4:50pm. Matt played a fine set, reigning in the louder tracks for a well suited acoustic atmosphere of slower numbers including a terrific Buttons, a couple of covers (Great Leap Forward – Billy Bragg, and The Cake – Miles Hunt) and a singalong finale getting the festival at the acoustic stage off to a lovely start. Matt has just released a super new album, called Grounded funded by pledgers, the CDs of which he had just proudly received a few days earlier.
Marvellous Natalie Lake was next, today playing other half Rupert’s guitar which she found a little awkward with the tight guitar strap so very sassily just removed it and threw it over her shoulder after her first song. Her growing confidence more apparent with every gig it would seem. The all too brief set included Robin, Without Him, Angel at the Bar as well as covers Failure and Send Me on my Way but alas no Leave Me Be which is something of a favourite of mine.
Natalie was followed by 16 year old Phoebe Robinson, an emerging local talent who has apparently only been writing/singing for six months. She’s another with a great voice and some very astute songwriting. I’ve seen here once or twice before but today missed a little bit of her set during a dash to the brilliant Grosvenor Fish Bar for some much needed fish and chips and my Oxjam wristband even earned me a 10% discount! Well done Grosvenor.
Gabriela Eva is a relatively new name to me but I did see her out and about several times during the recent Maui Waui Festival in Suffolk, either hula-hooping splendidly, performing in the big top somewhat spontaneously with The Skipyard Rockers, or playing solo at the Flavour Parlour. She’s clearly a jazz fan and there were definitely some moments where one felt the amazing voice of Amy Winehouse, and she played a cover or two including Just the Two of Us.
Next on the bill was the superb Emily Winng (someone who CAN carry off a “This is what cool looks like” t-shirt), playing with a few friends, all well known in their own right. Every time I have seen Emily play she’s been brilliant, and totally different each time too. She’s got such a great, gutsy voice with some very cool tunes and lyrics. Other half Ben even joined in for a number or two. Great set and one of my many highlights.
As soon as Emily finished I dashed for a while across the road to get some photos of Addison’s Uncle. I could barely get in the door the place had become so full, and the atmosphere was terrific with loads of dancing and smiles everywhere. They closed their set with a singalong B1159 – the video for which has been making some waves locally of late – and closed with a storming The Devil Went Down to Georgia, which gave their own Georgia a super platform for her truly stunning fiddle playing.
The Vagaband were scheduled to play next so it made sense to stay where I was – not that I’d have had much choice in the matter as it was barely possible to move inside Karma by this point. When they did start the set they basically used the first song to soundcheck to keep within the time constraints and even this caused wild scenes. It’s not often we get the chance to see the full eight-piece band playing in a venue like this and the crowd lapped it up. It was truly rammed and impossible to get decent photos so I just enjoyed seeing these great musicians play their hearts out. Daniel is worthy of mention here too who not only played this set but was also on the committee and due to dj in the same venue at the after-party until the early hours!
I slipped out at about 9:30 just as the set was ending to try and catch the end of the Woodland Creatures’ set and also the evening’s closer at the Crypt, for me the unmissable Milly Hirst. I did however miss the Woodland Creatures who were just finishing as I arrived but caught all of Milly’s exquisite set. Being so busy with the also excellent Wooden Arms there are not so many opportunities for solo gigs which only makes them all the more special. For me a Milly gig is about as close as I get to a religious experience and it was divine in this setting. We were even treated to the rarely heard live and exceptionally beautiful You Are Lovely, and excitingly a brand new one which I really liked the sound of. Milly’s voice is sounding so pure and expressive, and truly beautiful, and as usual the set seemed to pass by in seconds as she introduced Mary as the closer, which is another big favourite of mine. The brilliant Milly Hirst provided another major highlight of the day for me.
The next half hour or so was spent chatting in very convivial company in the Crypt and when I saw Robbie arrive he told me that The Murderers were running somewhat late and that the Horo Quartet were still playing when he left there a few minutes earlier, so I headed that way to try and catch them. Unfortunately they had finished by the time I got there but the Thinking Men were playing as I arrived, playing with great gusto to an enthusiastic and hot crowd. The Murderers has certainly changed a lot since I was last in there, the stage arrangement and sound is a million times better than it was. I found it a bit disappointing last time but they’ve really worked things out and got it right now and it looks a good set up.
The live music over for the night I headed back to Karma with Jose for the after party music only for us both to be refused entry for wearing hats!! This comically absurd and surreal twist could not dampen in the slightest what was a fantastic day but it was a door policy so mind blowingly ridiculous one could only laugh. A shame though that someone who had performed onstage for free in one of the day’s highlights for a charity gig was not allowed back in later on.
Nevertheless, we instead closed the evening with a drink at a more welcoming establishment with a lack of chapeauphobia and reflected on a day of superb music, and I was only sorry that there was still such a huge amount I did not manage to cover but that just goes to show what a full line up was on offer at amazing value for money. Well done to everyone involved, not sure about hat’s off to Karma though 😉 Seriously, it was a brilliant day and all involved should feel immense pride.
Here is a video compilation of just a very small selection from the vast array of talent on offer throughout the city.
Many thanks and congratulations to Oxjam Norwich, Bedfords Bar, Steve Howlett, The Vagaband, Milly Hirst, Jan, Robbie, Dickie, Glen, Simon, Matt Watson, Grosvenor Fish Bar, and the tirelessly giving nature of Robbie and the team. Early counting indicates that more than £5,600 has been raised this year, well done to all, and thanks to all who donated. More photos to come…
Words and photos by Richard Shashamane 2014. Photos not to be used, copied, or downloaded without permission.