Another classic year which felt just as full of truly special local highlights as the previous year, possibly even more so, and not just musical ones either, although there were plenty of those, it also included a trip to Wembley where Norwich won their play-off final against Middlesbrough.
Of 233 gigs in 2015 seeing well over 350 different acts, these are just some of my favourite moments. I never thought I’d top the number of gigs I saw last year and certainly don’t expect to match this ever again but however difficult it can sometimes be to head out in the evening, when there is so much fantastic musical talent in our own city it can be hard to stay home.
January started the year where 2014 left off with a Bo Nanafana “VertiBo” extravaganza at The Talk, and the first gig which felt especially memorable was the sellout Addison’s Uncle album launch at the Arts Centre, it really felt like they took their place alongside the city’s musical premier leaguers and deservedly so. Good songs delivered in a unique style by genuinely lovely, hard-working and talented people. The same month also gave us an album launch from the superb and intense Grazing Saints at Open for Tilting Sky.
The NAC hosted another couple of highlight gigs in February too, a lovely event featuring Raevennan Husbandes, The Black Feathers, and Lewis & Leigh in which we were also treated to a guest appearance from BJ Cole with the lovely Raevennan. The other gig was a contender for my gig of the year, the outstanding and charismatic Handsome Family. I just loved that gig and it will live long in my memory.
In March there was a splendid gig at The Blueberry for Loveloudly, featuring Jessie and the Earthquakes, and WreckAge. My first time seeing WreckAge who have quickly made themselves one of my favourite Norwich bands. 4D Jones also played one of the best pub gigs I’ve seen, certainly one of the fullest, at the Ribs of Beef.
4D Jones played another blinder on election day, at Jug Jaw’s Beat Club before any of us heard the devastating and disastrous results which crashed our moods. I would never have imagined seeing a gig at the end of results day that would be a contender for gig of the year and indeed had to really push myself to attend a gig at all but that’s testament to the brilliance of Belle and Sebastian, who were outstanding at Open and actually made me feel unimaginably better.
May was turning out to be a stunning month for the city, which hosted the Big Weekend at Earlham Park, some BBC Introducing gigs at Open, including an excellent line up of Daisy Victoria, Real Life Charm, and The Bohicas. The Norfolk and Norwich Festival, and of course Norwich’s successful trip to Wembley. Some of the highlights from this superb month included The Neutrinos with BK & Dad at NAC, who also hosted the Sunday Night Beat Club gig with the ever brilliant Mammal Hands, Fishclaw, and The Horo Quartet. I should also mention a lovely launch night for Chad Mason’s album at the UEA Drama Studio.
June brought us the excellent Red Rooster Festival and a very proud moment where Milly Hirst, one of my favourite artists from anywhere, played a beautiful set from the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury which was streamed live. Huge congratulations to Milly!
June also brought us a wonderful night at Open for the Dove and Boweevil album launch, the Dove and Boweevil Band seem to have scaled new heights this year and their album is sounding great, really doing them justice.
Anyone who saw Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra when they visited Norwich with the Rainbow Girls in 2014 will know what a class act they are but they truly excelled themselves at Norwich Arts Centre in July with another gig of the year contender. That unplugged session in the bar afterwards was just unforgettable!
Grapevine at Bedfords is always a night of high quality music and fun and this month was no exception with a superb line up that featured Morganway, Don’t Lose Heart (who also released an excellent CD in 2015), and The Bronze. Morganway are a band who have been fantastic every time I’ve seen them, great songs, sound, musicianship … and Yve’s voice and spirit! Please check out their album, and also Don’t Lose Heart’s excellent CD produced by Jose McGill who has done a fantastic job of presenting this lovely duo at their best.
Of course July is also the month that features the amazing weekend of the Lord Mayor’s Celebrations, and also the Lanes Fayre, so we had an outdoor Bo Nanafana stage in a car park where The Shooting Stars played a storming set, as well as music in NAC, St. Margaret’s and a host of other venues, including The Neutrinos playing in their front room and Milly fresh back from a triumphant Glasto appearance.
Yet another gig of the year contender took place at The Waterfront in August, the legendary Sonics in their first visit to Norwich in their 50 year history, ably supported by BK & Dad. Other notable gigs included the triumphant reunion of The Phantom Cowboys, the visit to Norwich of Tony Brook who joined Dove and Boweevil on the lovely Albatros in Wells inbetween a number of Norwich gigs, a superb OddBox night at The Murderers with WreckAge, Grazing Saints, and Blisster. There were also amazing scenes at a packed Open with queues all around the building for the visit of … Jeremy Corbyn, who spoke brilliantly in a hugely positive and inspiring gathering.
I just adore the Rainbow Girls and had been looking forward to their return to Norwich for some time, their gig at Norwich Arts Centre lived up to expectations and it was pleasing to hear so many friends seeing them for the first time describe it afterwards as their gig of the year. They too played a short set in the bar afterwards, with Feral Mouth, great scenes, great times and a great album. I loved their first album but this follow-up is so good it even blows that one out of the water. A band on a roll, they love what they do, do it for all the right reasons and have fun doing it but they sure can play. A group who have become very close to my heart, and it’s fantastic to see everyone watching them for the first time reacting in that same way. It’s an infectious lust for life.
In October John Lydon returned to Norwich UEA with PiL and I was delighted to see he has most certainly not lost his mojo, a set just shy of 2 hours with no drop in standard throughout he and his excellent band made me forget I was at a gig in the drab and depressing LCR. I think this was actually better than his previous gig here in about 1982. Please play Open next time though John, the UEA as a venue is just ghastly.
An unexpected gig at Platform 12 by Miss Mute was also a beautiful delight.
On a curious evening where I forced myself out to catch a set by Natalie Lake, who as it turned out was sick and had to cancel, I instead had the good fortune to stumble upon a set by a great new talent, Isaac Gracie, at The Plasterers, and on the same evening the rather wonderful Hot Raisin, and Mr. David Viner at OST.
The definite gig of the month, and possibly the year (and one of my favourites ever), was Acid Mothers Temple, BK & Dad, and WreckAge at The Owl Sanctuary. I have never experienced a gig in quite this way and everyone I spoke to afterwards was saying much the same thing. One of the most special gigs I’ve been to, just superb. October also saw the Norwich Sound & Vision Festival, which thrillingly for me curated and hosted an exhibition of my photographs at Norwich Arts Centre (Thank you!) but musically my highlights were Sound of Silents, beautifully staged at the gorgeous Octagon Chapel with live scores from Mammal Hands, Birds of Hell, and Milly Hirst, and later on the same night some great scenes for Rope Store at Odd Box. Steeple Remove, WreckAge and Graceland also impressed at NAC whilst Emily Winng closed her set in the Forum Library with a 40 piece Norwich samba band! Brilliant!
Halloween night fell on a Friday and Bedfords Crypt was the location for a Voodoo Boogie Halloween special … I’ve never seen the place so rammed (both bars sold out of alcohol on the night!) and the sights were amazing with simply incredible make up. The Crypt was hot and heaving as the collective of djs chose perfectly from 9 til 2am and the dancing never stopped.
November was another rich month, Dove and Boweevil used some unfortunate circumstances where Lauren with flu had to use her voice sparingly to their own advantage and had the great idea of bringing in some guest vocalists to rotate, this was a stroke of genius and was one of the best D&B and Fine City Blues nights yet. My Red Rooster standout, Robert Chaney visited Grapevine at Bedfords on another memorable night alongside Blood Bird and Hot Raisin. Norwich favourite Danni Nicholls returned to the fine city to tour her new album in a beautiful special, special Grapevine in Bedfords Crypt, The Wailers provided a beautiful, quite spiritual night of Marley classics at UEA, and surprise gig Dubioza Kolektiv who provided some gloriously bonkers fun.
Even in December there is no let up in the quality gigs, some absolute belters were James Leg, and Space Eagle at Jug Jaw’s Beat Club, Savage Island, The Greenback Mantra, and Sink Ya Teeth for OddBox at The Murderers, the absolutely stunning set by No Holy Men for Tilting Sky at NAC, and of course The Vagaband’s Midwinter Moonshine, arguably the best one yet.
I feel lucky that I’ve been able to see Morganway and Yve Mary B numerous times this year, I love what they do. Here is a clip of Morganway at The Birdcage in December.
Another special year of music … and we still have New Year’s Eve to come, be it at Bo Nanafana with Alabama 3, The Black Horse with The Vagaband, or wherever amongst the many venues hosting live music, there are still gems to see the year out with.
This is in no way intended to be a comprehensive list but just a few of the stand-out personal memories from each month 🙂
(c) shashamane 2015