The Vagaband, Falling From Trees, Lank Smith & the Pythons at Jug Jaw’s Country Club, Bedfords Bar, Norwich. 24 November 2014
The inaugural Jug Jaw’s Country Club moved upstairs from Jug Jaw’s regular Crypt setting to the top room at Bedfords, for which all the tables and chairs had been removed to make way for all the vintage PA equipment and of course to free up the floor for dancing.
Chris and Steph started the evening off in their Blood Bird incarnation, both their voices sounding stop-in-one’s-tracks powerful and husky, before being joined after a couple of songs by Hello Bear who when they are all together like this are known as the Jug Jaw’s house band Lank Smith and the Pythons. Tonight’s music although still through the analogue equipment was a bit more acoustic than usual and the band played a blues, country and rockabilly set featuring mandolin and a double bass. They sounded terrific and I think closed their set with Wagon Wheel, which of course is also a number the Vagaband have frequently been known to cover.
I very much enjoyed hearing Falling From Trees, who I have only caught fleetingly in the past. With a new EP recently released I’ll make efforts to catch them again, another band led by a sensational voice with all the band having an obvious chemistry.
Following on from them the stage appeared to be invaded by twenty or so people, whom we quickly realised were the community gospel choir, singing a song or two before making way for the Vagaband.
It was a rare treat to have the full band here tonight, especially welcome as they played the bulk of the magnificent new album Medicine for the Soul. They sounded full and powerful and the room’s acoustics as well as the analogue sound suited them perfectly. I was so glad Greg was here, co-writer of much of the album his work on keys meant that some of the ghost train fairground Victoriana effects translated brilliantly into the live set with that vaudeville feel, and every member of the band at the top of their game. As well as some old favourites we had Whistling Song, Town With No Name, Medicine for the Soul, Gabrielle, Black Sheep and Cisco Wine. A couple of these I was hearing live for the first time, they did not disappoint. In fact they were set highlights for me. As people know, I loved Town & Country but the step up as a band from that to Medicine for the Soul is quite staggering. It has an altogether darker theme and more reflective mood though that is not to say it is without its upbeat moments too, and has something of a concept album feel – I’d love to hear the whole thing performed live one day. Lovely to see Steve Arlene in the audience on the night of his birthday, with the band leading the audience through a chorus of Happy Birthday. Finishing off with an encore of Ole Felixstowe to conclude a brilliant night of music it was almost impossible at the end of the evening not to be confused as to what day it was, such was the feel of a Friday or Saturday night one had to keep reminding oneself this was the “dead night” of a Monday. The Vagaband are in sensational form at the moment and that album is a belter. Get yourself a copy or a download as it has been officially released this week and will be given a local launch at The Blueberry this Friday, ahead of a few London dates. Steve will be back at Bedfords on Wednesday for a special Grapevine also featuring Clive Gregson, who visited the same venue about a year ago.
A few of other recent gigs were a warmly informal OST with Natalie Lake and FloorBoy, the Malaya Blues Experience at The Walnut Tree Shades, and the splendid Echoes in the Well at Micawbers Tavern. Natalie, playing with a heavy cold and worried about her voice lasting actually played some of her best guitar work.
richard shashamane 2014 photos (c) all rights reserved