Rope Store, Emily Winng, Mallie for The Tilting Sky at Norwich Arts Centre, 29 August 2015
This was yet another gig I was looking forward to tremendously. I very much love the works I have heard from the fascinating Rope Store, my own particular favourite earworm of theirs at the moment is the insanely catchy That’s Not Good Enough, a song Mr Jason introduced on the night, hysterically and yet weirdly accurately as “Hendrix plays the Grange Hill theme”.
The NAC just seemed to get fuller and fuller throughout the night with dozens of musicians in attendance and by the time Rope Store started there also seemed to be a gloriously ridiculous number of musicians onstage too, at least nine, possibly ten, it was hard to tell! We had guitars, keys, horns, drums, glockenspiel and all sorts of charming gadgetry – at one point we even had Chad Mason on bottle percussion (I hear that went well in soundcheck!) and the added tension with the uncertainty of Conor being able to make it back here in time for the gig at all having to travel back from a set elsewhere with Box of Light at a festival, with Chad on standby ready to deputise on bass if need be (Conor made it), the band also features the excellent Tom Eagle on drums.
Rope Store have appeal in abundance, with superb songs, catchy with a delicious 60s feel for the most part (although I do get bits and pieces from other eras too, a bit of 80s Paul Weller/Style Council flavour on the song (I think) called ‘Only You’) and a great visual presence. To begin with Georgie Cox and Gemma Dietrich were right at the front of the stage, both looking amazing and with a nice shared energy and dynamic. I think they should both stay at the front, they work well together. Gemma on vocals looks as though she could easily be one of the French Yé-yé girls, indeed there is something vaguely French about some of the band’s songs, and the insanely catchy melodies, whilst others like Never Too Late to Love have a Spector-esque “Wall of Sound”.
Hatched in a Norwich nuclear bunker working with analogue equipment this is a project which I hope will run and run. It was clear the band were having as much fun as the wildly enthusiastic audience was. This was great fun, I want to see Rope Store again, and again, as soon as possible.
Unfortunately I totally missed out on Tom Happy’s set (though a friend who did catch it was full of praise) but as testament to the value for money of this gig I still caught three acts. One of whom was Mallie. The first time seeing them for me. I liked the first song enough but they sort of lost me after a few songs and I would have liked a bit more variety though they did play with great enthusiasm and gusto to plenty who were having a blast down the front and it’s very early days.
Now, Emily Winng and her band I have seen quite a few times and always love what they do, and it gets better and better. Tonight her set raised the bar and as a whole provided a real “moment” … the feeling in the auditorium of joy, wonder, excitement, appreciation and just “Wow” amongst the audience was palpable. She got everyone dancing and the band – now a five piece (including husband Ben on drums) – was terrific as the sound took in all kinds of influences, including calypso. Percussion led with guitar from a certain Mr Lowery and of course Emily’s sensational voice. Powerful, raw and feisty she is a powerhouse of energy and to finally be able to appreciate her on a big stage with a punchy PA was an absolute delight. Everybody present was blown away by this set, probably the only person who didn’t realise quite how brilliant she was was the ever humble Emily Winng herself. Have no doubt, this was a sensational set. I had some friends with me seeing her for the first time and they too absolutely adored it.
The previous day I was at The Murderers to see Serious Sam Barrett, a regular visitor to Norwich and a good pal of Feral Mouth. A keen skateboarder he explained that on his last visit to Norwich he broke his wrist quite badly in a skateboarding fall and was really concerned for his guitar-playing prospects. Incredibly just two months down the line he is back on the road and I would never have guessed. His guitar playing on that 12-string was perfect and a very appreciative audience enjoyed all his songs, appalachian, bluegrass, rock, a lovely Pine Hill Haints cover, and more. He was great and it was a very pleasant atmosphere.
Thankfully the noisy crowd earlier having a raucous post-office drink oblivious to the fact a gig was taking place didn’t stay long enough to hinder Sam’s set but I was initially a bit worried for the duo, comprising Solomon Amos on banjo, and the guitarist whose name I did not catch. They played some very fine stuff, one song in particular I would love to hear again.
The night ended in lively and vibrant fashion at Bar Tapas with such an inclusive and positive atmosphere.
Many thanks to Norwich Arts Centre and Craig Hill at TTS, and Bar Tapas
words and photos (c) richard shashamane 2015