Even by Norwich standards the number of gigs happening is phenomenal and the pace relentless. Trying to stave off tiredness until the following week, the second day of NS&V found me grabbing some pre-gig chips at the Grosvenor Fish Bar (even here was packed out) before making my way to the beautiful Octagon Chapel for the early start that was Sound of Silents. A wonderfully moving and well put together night of music and archive film, all with a Norwich theme by Charles Scott and from the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) as well as a slideshow of photographs from the recent exhibition celebrating Magdalen Street by Katherine Mager, “This is the Place”.
It was undoubtedly the highlight of NS&V for me, a perfect marriage of film, music and venue, obviously put together with a great deal of love, consideration and dedication by all involved. There was some lovely footage, I was really affected to by the film of lost streets, courtyards and alleys … these streets have souls.
Pete Murdoch of Birds of Hell, playing with a full band, played a live score which was extraordinarily moving and poignant, set as it was against the archive film of carnivals in Norwich before moving onto marches and then memorials to the lost sons of the city. It was extremely powerful and very affecting indeed. I saw Pete play somewhere recently, a short time after the tragic death of Nick Cave’s young son, and Pete played a new song he had written upon hearing the news – Our Beautiful Boys – written as one father writing to another. It had a rather different context tonight with the footage of soldiers setting off to war, very tender and full of empathy before seguing into a song full of anger, rage and confusion which again was totally apt for the waste of life. I was absolutely in awe at how this was all put together with the tone just right throughout. I think it touched everyone.
That was the case for the whole night. Milly also performed a live score on a similar theme, of boys returning home in eternal boxes, to the images projected above whilst she sang and played a haunting harmonium in a piece which lasted seven or eight minutes. Her beautiful, expressive voice singing these words over the hugely atmospheric harmonium was highly emotive and it was hard not to well up.
Before the final set of the night she sang again, with Sam of True Adventures, and Jessica Alice, from high up in the chapel whilst Mammal Hands set up below.
It was a blessing and a treat to hear them play in the Octagon Chapel with its lovely interior and gorgeous acoustics. They explained beforehand the nature of their improvisational technique and apologised if its duration didn’t match that of the footage (it did.)
They are such an incredibly talented band, very humble and modest too but I’ve never failed to be blown away by their music, which again accompanied the footage well, I have a clear image in my head of Jessie’s drumming whilst film of a blazing building was shown.
An utterly memorable night of flawless music full of feeling and the whole event so lovingly created with great attention to detail and sensitivity. I felt quite emotional at the end and felt ready to leap to my feet for a standing ovation. It was sublime.
By the time it finished however, it was still only 9:30pm (observing the Chapel’s curfew time) and I made a quick stopover at Norwich Arts Centre before heading to The Murderers for Rope Store. Finally having my first drink of the evening at 10:30pm in an absolutely packed and heaving, sweaty Murderers with a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation. Rope Store, all nine of them, did not fail to deliver, blasting out 60s pop riffs and melodies, some Style Council-esque songs and a final few numbers with a distinct Blaxploitation 70s funk-soul feel which everyone adored. As I felt the last time I saw them, I think the girls really shine when both Georgie and Gemma are together at the front, they seem great together. The crowd absolutely begged for more but I think the band had exhausted their entire repertoire by then. Still, it gave everyone time to draw breath, cool down and catch up. With an extraordinary number of gigs going on (twelve that I knew of, as well as all the NS&V gigs we had Jim Jones’ new band at The Waterfront, Grazing Saints and Dr Clyde at The Owl, The Rumble, Big Alabama, Thinking Men at Open, and of course a strong line up at Jurnets. The Murderers seemed to be the meeting place for everyone after all their respective gigs and any fears that so much music on one night might affect attendances proved unfounded as everyone was relaying tales of the gig they’d just come from and how full they were. #NorwichMusicCityUk
Timberhill was full of musicians and music fans deciding whether to carry on the night. With a few friends I headed to The Plasterers after-party until way too late, whilst Joe of Grazing Saints headed in another direction and somewhere on his journey lost his guitar! It is always pleasing to get affirmation of people’s goodness and I was delighted to learn today that he will be reunited with his guitar. Someone did find it and seeing some Grazing Saints CDs inside the case did some detective work and managed to track down Joe. A pleasing story indeed.
The following day was not an early start for me but at about lunchtime I made my way to the always lovely Magdalen Celebration street fair. If there is one thing I could change about this event it would be to get the council to close the road to traffic, and in particular the buses, for those four or five hours a year. Nevertheless it was a great atmosphere with music everywhere, several stages and memorable sets from Sefo Kanuteh, and The Anna Mudeka Band. I felt I only caught a fraction of all the event had to offer but even caught an unexpected set from the recent internet sensation that is Pirate Joe during a sneaky visit to Looses, before a much needed and excellent bite to eat from one of the stalls on the street (I chose some delicious Iranian food.)
The only downside to the day was the news of the rumours surrounding the police presence and forensics tent outside St. Saviour’s where a body had been discovered earlier in the day. Very sadly it appears at this stage that it was a homeless lady who was well known in the area.
As soon as Anna finished her set under the flyover (where she as always had everyone dancing, surreal as this was under the flyover with squeaking airbrakes from the passing buses) I moved off to the Forum Library for some more NS&V music, just catching the end of Cove Hithe’s set before Dove and Boweevil, and a sensational set from Emily Winng and her band who were joined at the end by the twenty-piece Norwich Samba band (and dancer) for Lovesong in front of 200 people IN THE LIBRARY! It was amazing, and loud, and bits of ceiling apparently fell. Gloriously brilliant and another festival highlight for me (and a great many others).
One of the acts I was most looking forward to seeing was the wonderful Daisy Victoria at the Mash Tun but due to a late and unavoidable cancellation from one of the acts of the night the set times were rejigged, throwing my plans into chaos and meaning I missed her completely which I was quite disappointed about. I did however see some superb acts at The Norwich Arts Centre. My new discovery of the festival was Steeple Remove … whom I must stop calling Staple Remover. From Norwich’s twin city of Rouen they were superb, with a really beefy sound and hints of all kinds of influences ranging from Suicide, Spacemen 3, Mogwai, Cocteaus, Hawkwind, Sonic Youth and more. When they finished it was a dash to the bar for Wreck Age, with a bassist who’d only been with them for eight days … you’d never have guessed. Brilliant as always, I can’t wait to see them again at The Owl Sanctuary with BK&Dad supporting Acid Mothers Temple.
Playing only their third gig after their debut gig at the same venue a month or so ago, and a Bestival slot, the wonderful Graceland again made a big impression on me. Confident, sassy and witty with great songs and great sound. I loved them.
The festival was closed with local favourite Port Isla playing a confident set despite Will being beseiged with piano pedal difficulties but he seemed unflappable and handled it really well.
Utterly exhausting but a totally memorable and fun few days which is the nature of festivals, and so is the fact that I still missed lots I’d have liked to have seen, especially Pins and Daisy Victoria but I did have a fantastic time. As well as seeing many, many familiar faces around I saw lots of unfamiliar ones too which is a good sign. Either I am straying from some familiar territory or there were lots of people watching live music who perhaps don’t usually do so. If so that is great news and another mark of success for this welcome event on our calendar which feels as though it is growing and going from strength to strength.
I enjoyed so many excellent acts and saw over 30 sets over the week but my NS&V highlight, indeed a highligh of the year, was Sound of Silents at the Octagon Chapel. Special and unforgettable.
Big thanks to all the NS&V team, Cinema Plus, the Magdalen Celebrations volunteers, and of course all the musicans and everyone involved in a remarkable and successful few days throughout the numerous events and festivals over the city, for all the time, effort, talent and creativity put into it all. It was unforgettable. Now I need some rest 🙂
words and photos (c) richard shashamane 2015