JD McPherson + Charley Crockett @ NAC 23 February 2018

If a gig is put on by Punk Rock Blues that’s a sure-fire guarantee of quality for me. These nights are superb and even if I don’t know a band I’ll still go because there’s a brand endorsement attached to the name now.

 

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JD McPherson were obviously familiar to me through Red Rooster but Charley Crockett who was supporting was a new name to me.  This gig sold out literally within days of being announced last year and the NAC really felt full, with a noticable air of excitement and anticipation and queues not only to the Arts Centre itself but also for the auditorium and it seemed, pleasingly, that everyone was in there early to catch the opening set.  Charley and his band oozed charm, charisma and brilliant musicianship – and they are the real deal. One of them was playing trumpet and keys at the same time! They charmed the audience and sounded just superb with a great mix of Cajun, blues, honky tonk and Texan country blues, you can hear New Orleans in the mix to.  “People ask me, ‘Hey boy, what’s your music about?’ and I tell ’em ‘About two or three minutes'”  This was their very first gig in the UK and it was soon obvious they were having as great a time as we were, the energy between the stage and floor was wonderful. The songs were varied and beautifully played, many of them having some of the spirit of Hank Williams.  Introducing the last song they invited us to come and chat at the mech table afterwards, Charley saying: “If you like us enough you can buy a vinyl. If you don’t like us you can still give us $20 and we’ll buy ourselves some music lesssons!” Pure class. I bought the vinyl.  I’d have bought both albums if I could. If you like Pokey LaFarge you’ll love these guys too.

 

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“Charley Crockett, a true descendant of Davy Crockett, was born in a poor town in deep South Texas. His early years were spent between Texas and Louisiana, raised by a blues singing single mother in Dallas, and an uncle who introduced him to the big brass sound of the French Quarter in New Orleans where he would later learn how to play guitar as a street performer. In 2009, Crockett showed up in New York City, where he made a living captivating subway car audiences for several years before being discovered and offered a record deal as part of the street group “Trainrobbers.” Deciding to take his chances in a rapidly changing music industry, Charley declined the offer and headed west to California instead. Of mixed Jewish/White/Creole dissent, he has a unique sound blending a rich and diverse heritage of both new and traditional music. Crockett has been compared to many artists from Bill Withers and Jerry Lee Lewis to Dr. John and Citizen Cope. Elusive, rebellious and self taught, Crockett is a true street made original from earlier times.”

 

 

 

There was a good rockabilly crowd in for this gig, people looking so good it could almost have been a Bo Nanafana night. Huge cheers and warm applause greeted JD McPherson as the band took to the stage.  For an hour and a half they played some high energy R&B, rock and rockabilly, and as a friend observed, this could have been straight out of Sun Studios.  The audience were wildly enthusiastic and once again the atmosphere was terrific with a blisteringly good band clearly having a good time too.  They are so tight and with great songs, some real singalongs and a whole lot of joy in the hall as JD McPherson played a varied set which never dipped in quality. The whole band took a collective bow at the end of their encore and received well-deserved, prolonged applause. Nice to see Charley Crockett and his band among that cheering audience too. Superb night, absolute top quality and an early ‘gig of the year’ contender.

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jd mcpherson

jd mcpherson

 

jd mcpherson

 

The previous evening I saw Soyuz Rats at the Owl Sanctuary, in their new, even mightier incarnation which features the amazing Pip on drums.  There was some movement with the drum-kit slowly edging its way over the podium until some heroics from Ryan and Martin kept it in place.

soyuz rats

 

After this I headed briefly to a rammed Murderers where Dona Oxford from New York was playing Fine City Blues, and then to Cactus Cafe Bar for a beautifully relaxed evening of music in one of Shane O’Linski’s regular nights. Arriving just as Of the Clay were starting their set.  I’d not had an opportunity to see them for a few months so this was a real treat, plus a chance to get hold of their recently released splendid EP (Thanks Joe!), it’s an absolute pleasure to have recordings of these songs I can now listen to between their gigs!

 

of the clay

 

There were further enjoyable sets from Monkiboy, the always enjoyable Andrea King who previewed some excellent new songs, plus Shane O’Linski himself. I love these Cactus nights.

 

andrea king

cactus cafe bar

andrea kingshane o'linski

andrea kingshane and alvin

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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Flint Moore + The Visitors + Hot Raisin @ The Owl Sanctuary 17 February 2018

Flint Moore are a band I first encountered last year in a round of Battle of the Bands that also featured Hot Raisin in Flint Moore’s home town of Downham Market and again when both bands were in the final in King’s Lynn.  They certainly put on a show, had a strong local following and had a superb attitude that I admired greatly alongside the mutual respect between the bands.  This was my first time seeing them away from their West Norfolk home turf and it was a nice touch that they invited Norwich’s Hot Raisin to support them on their city date to launch their new EP ‘Reign’, as well as another Norwich band I had not actually seen before: The Visitors.

 

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Hot Raisin were on first and played six or so songs as full electric band, as always in good spirits with natural, good-natured banter and humour to compliment their wonderful and varied songs. They are sounding so tight and comfortable these days, playing and performing with a relaxed ease and joy which transmits that same feeling to the audience. As anyone who was at the wonderful recent “The Room” will testify.

 

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The Visitors look very young, initially perhaps a tad nervous they have a pop-punk sound that reminded me at times of The Primitives, which is no bad thing in my book.  It was infectious fun and had me smiling throughout. Singer Lily-Ann does all the talking between songs and by about the third number she put on an acoustic guitar for a slower number. This gave me the chance to hear the lyrics better and the whole band seemed to visibly settle and grow in confidence from this point. Lily-Ann’s voice was much clearer and stronger and she seemed to really enjoy herself.  The boys did too by the end of the set but just as an observation, and in contrast to Hot Raisin, I couldn’t help noticing the lack of animation or interaction from the rest of the band for a while … up until that final song anyway when they all did let rip and show how much they were enjoying it. That might just be their shtick, which is perfectly cool of course but it was a lot for fun when they all bounced around at the final song.  I note from their Facebook bio however that they are usually a five-piece but I don’t know the story with their other guitarist. What I do know is that they charmed me and grew on me more and more as the set went on. Not sure how I have not crossed paths with them before but I shall look out for them in the future, a lot of fun and I think I could become quite taken by this band, would love to hear their full five-piece sound.

 

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Between The Visitors Flint Moore sets we had a minor interruption as the fire alarm sounded, rumours circulating that this was caused by Hot Raisin boiling a Pot Noodle in the Owl’s green room are unfounded and wide of the mark.

 

 

The top room at the Owl was quite full for Flint Moore and of course that makes it a bit hot in there.  Lead singer Francis is very much the frontman and voice of the band, doing all the talking between songs but with the confidence, personaility and charisma for it. A powerful voice and performer, while on bass Maddy is quietly charismatic too and the perfect visual foil.  They play big songs with big sound and have no lack of self-belief, which is refreshing and I can easily imagine them playing on large stages.

 

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I have a lot of respect too for this band’s offstage attitude, Francis and Maddy were both prominent audience figures dancing to the other acts and generally being supportive, I like that a lot.  A night of strong local, original music, and positive vibes. Cheers to Ryan on sound.

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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AMENRA + Boris + Jo Quail @ NAC 16 February 2018

My third NAC gig in consecutive days was for something a bit out of my zone of musical familiarity, I love a good, heavy and loud gig at the Arts Centre but I knew next to nothing about any of the acts performing on this bill, indeed I’d even forgotten that Jo Quail had been added to the billing at all. Within moments of my arriving the buzzer sounded for Jo’s 8pm set. Despite the early start the hall had a sizable crowd gather near the front where she played her electric cello on the floor in front of the stage – there was not a spare inch of stage space left such were the number of amps, the like of which I have never seen at NAC, and not to mention the huge gong for Boris’ set immediately after Jo’s.

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Jo Quail plays with an intensity that is absolutely captivating building deep, dark layers using pedals and loops and even bravely played a work in progress – “Imagine it’s a load of Lego bricks on the floor … something that hasn’t been assembled yet” which even in this form turned out to be breathtaking.  The half hour set flew by and concluded with probably my favourite of all these pieces, an epic Gold.  The music every bit as intense as the performance and delivery and certainly one of those “Wow!” moments.

 

 

A mere five minutes or so and it was time for Boris to take to the stage.  As mentioned, I came into this gig with little knowledge of any of the acts and no real expectations, I was just in the mood for something loud, powerful and different. This gig seemed something quite out of the ordinary and I was right on that score.  The stage was so full of amps that the monitors had to sit on piled up flight cases on the floor and the smoke machines billowed out so much smoke that they obscured the amps, and most of the band members.  I could just occasionally make out the sillhouetted double neck guitar on the right.  I have never seen anything like this at NAC, the lights, the projections, and then the volume. Hugely powerful and intense, I really couldn’t see too much of the band but it was interesting watching the audience, a sea of silently nodding heads among the drifting smoke, with the occasional horned hand puncturing the mist.  The set went on for a long time, probably ninety minutes or so, and although appreciating the incredible visual show – which was hugely impressive – it took me a while to be grabbed by the music, most of which to my untrained ears initially sounded samey and like the closing bars of an epic, thunderous song which went on and on and on … but then something did seem to click and it took me to some place else and I became more tuned into it.  There was something of a religious congregational feel about it all and it was certainly an onslaught of the senses.  I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like without the volume and “Would I listen to this at home?”, and sadly I do not think I would but in the live setting it is certainly a powerful spectacle and proved a hard act to follow.

 

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Boris are behind this, somewhere.

 

Unsuprisingly the take down of this set up took a lot longer than the five minutes between Jo Quail’s and Boris’ sets but when AMENRA came on they were a little less loud but no less intense.  In a night of over three hours of such intensity and the sheer onslaught on the senses plus five gigs in three days I was flagging and feeling the sensory overload, or just not feeling it from AMENRA … it was actually my eyes rather than my ears that told me to call it a night before the end of the set. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it all. It was an extraordinary evening and I’m glad I experienced it, especially to see NAC like that (even the merch took up half of the bar!) but BORIS made a much greater impression on me than AMENRA though it is interesting how everyone I have spoken to seems to have a totally different experience of the gig. One of the things I love about music. Having been there the previous night it still seems like a minor miracle that so much could have been set up so quickly, it must have been a phenomenal amount of work. Everything felt slightly different; familiar but yet vaguely unfamiliar, which together with coming to a gig with no expecations gave quite an edge to the night’s events.

 

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AMENRA

 

It was an interesting night, a heck of an experience and although not entirely my thing I didn’t dislike any of it but it was Jo Quail whose music most resonated with me and whom I am most likely to look out for and listen to again.

 

jo quail

AMENRA AND BORIS CO-HEADLINE

THE TWO RESPECTED HEAVY MUSIC LUMINARIES JOURNEY TOGETHER THROUGHOUT FEBRUARY AND MARCH

AMENRA last month released Mass VI via Neurot Recordings, and have been performing select shows in support of the album including an unforgettable album release show at the AB in Brussels. As always with AMENRA, their art comes directly from the souls of the musicians involved. They can establish connections with their listeners more profound than almost any other band because they are direct heart to heart connections, and thissynergy is especially resonant during their live performances. This also notably marks the first full UK tour for AMENRA.

Boris meanwhile, have just returned from a mammoth tour celebrating their 25 year anniversary, and the release of their 23rd full-length album Dear (Sargent House). These latest dates will give audiences in the UK and mainland Europe a chance to experience Dear live, and catch Boris in their element. Boris embrace the excess, pushing their myriad of approaches and stylistic forays to points of intoxicating absurdity. Dear fortifies their monolithic wall of sound while also allowing the individual band members to explore the nuances and intricacies of minimalist riffs played at maximum volume.

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HARK Presents Broads + LK @ NAC 15 February 2018

 

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Another lovely evening at Norwich Arts Centre for this HARK Presents night, which had the added bonus of a rare set by LK who performed beautifully and dreamily for a perfect warm up in front of perfectly complementary moving images projected onto the back of the stage.  Ethereal, atmospheric and spellbinding, it was a treat to hear.

 

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Broads too played with some stunning projections and also a host of guest appearances, including Milly Hirst, Stacey Gow, Joe Bear and Christian Hubbard.  The start of the set was quite electronic but built up as the guests came and went to include vocals, electric guitar, bass, and drums with some heavy rock-outs too. Incredibly varied and most enjoyable.

 

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Thursday 15th February 2018
8:00 PM
Pay What You Can Afford
Standing

Broads + LK

Broads are a Norwich-based 2-piece who merge programmed electronics, synth drones and gradually-unfolding melody into a delicate, spacious wall of sound. Their HARK show marks the launch of their fourth full-length release, Field Theory, which has been supported by Arts Council England and Norwich Arts Centre.

Bringing the band favourable comparisons to Mogwai, Boards of Canada and My Bloody Valentine, Field Theory is Broads’ most focused and carefully-executed release to date. Drawing on themes of repetition, drone and incremental builds, the 11 tracks on the album take in brooding, lazy synth swells (‘Toze’, ‘Lund’), motorik electronica (‘Tiamat’, ‘Let Me Take It From Here’) and slow-building, dynamic post-rock (‘The Lecht’) – as well as the occasional moment of driving synth/dream-pop bliss as evidenced on recent single ‘Climbs’ which features vocals by long-time collaborator Milly Hirst. Having previously shared stages with artists such as Plaid, Mercury Rev and Winter Villains, Broads cut across elegantly between genres and should not be missed by admirers of Grouper, Stereolab, Purity Ring, Max Hecker and Sylvan Esso.

For this show, Broads will be joined by Milly Hirst, Joe Bear (Alto45), Stacy Gow (Magoo) and Christian Hubbard (EPIA).

“It is music which seems to roll over you in waves, it builds slowly cocooning the listener in fuzzy warmth and claustrophobic loveliness. And whilst it does all of that it also feels like a defining moment for music. It feels as if barriers, which up until now have kept certain genres from socialising, have been crossed and trampled to dust. This feels not just an important musical step, this feels actually groundbreaking” (Dave Franklin, Dancing About Architecture)

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LK weaves together atmospheric loop-based soundscapes with reality-melting vocals. Listen to her EP ‘LAND’

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At the end of this gig I dashed over to the Owl and was lucky enough to catch twenty minutes or so of Painted Heathers, a band who have grown on me a lot, in large part due to these two most recent gigs. The expanded line up has helped create a huge sound and style which is now their own. Very impressed.   After this there was still time to catch some blues over the road where The Split Whiskers were half way through their second set for Fine City Blues at The Murderers.

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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“Good Evening, We Are The Fall”, Mark E. Smith tribute night @ NAC 14 February 2018

There was something perfectly apt about eschewing the tradition and commercialism that is the modern day Valentine’s in favour of heading to Norwich Arts Centre for a date to pay tribute to the Mark E. Smith of The Mighty Fall, as John Peel used to say.  Mutual admirers who kept their respectful distance in their lifetimes it is hard to avoid the wishful thinking that they are perhaps both now chatting, laughing and sharing a pint talking about music somewhere together.

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It says much about Norwich and its individuals that we had someone who was a massive Fall fan who is also a dj with a comprehensive collection of Fall vinyl, and a willing hosting venue in Norwich Arts Centre who collaborated to bring about this very fitting night for us to listen to these cult classic songs very loud, over a pint with like-minded people. It’s exactly what we wanted and lapped up.  The bass in some of these songs is exceptional and few of us can do them justice with the volume at which we can listen to them at home. Well, without upsetting neighbours at any rate.  I absolutely loved hearing Blindness at this volume.

 

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The wonderful Wee Davey (aka Dj78) had turntables set on on the floor just in front of the stage whilst a brilliant film he put together of MES and The Fall was projected behind him. The synchronicity could not have been better, among the footage, memorabilia and photos we had film of MES laughing hysterically during the audio playback of his Final Score football results and haircut comments to the presenter, with maps of Lancashire during Lay of the Land. It all synched beautifully and fortuitously. It wasn’t a gig as such but it sure felt like one and I kept getting the impulse to applaud loudly after each song.

 

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I spent the entire night soaked, trying to dry my sodden coat on a heater after a downpour of Mancunian-esque proportions befell Norwich just before the gig which I and many others were caught in and felt sure Mark E. Smith was having a last little dig at Norwich (Hit the North was inspired by his desire to get back home from our flatlands) but there was plenty of affection too and they delivered countless amazing gigs here over the years, some recent classics including an uncharacteristically smiling MES at Epic in 2012, and another I was at in the LCR in the 80s when the gig was so good he apparently ordered a free drink for everyone still present afterwards. So legend has it anyway, I missed out.

 

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the fall, john peel sound and vision festival, epic, norwichthe fallthe fall @ epic

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This tribute was fantastic too, to hear these incredible songs played loud was such a thrill, the only thing missing was someone wandering about fiddling with all the knobs and volume controls!

 

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If ever anyone wanted an introductory gateway into the weird and frightening world of The Fall just ask Dj78 for a copy of tonight’s request pages from his notebook and you’ll have one heck of a playlist.

 

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RIP MES, and huge thanks to the wonderful Dj78 and NAC for a healing and celebratory night of music which was a fitting tribute from Norwich to Mark E. Smith, which also highlighted a lot of what I love about our music community, and this most special of venues.  Another nice touch was the “Foldin’ money u skinny rats” donation box for the East Anglian Children’s Hospice.

 

By way of tribute following the sad passing of Mark E Smith, for one night only DJ78 (Davey Guttridge) is reviving his occasional disco event “Good evening, we are The Fall”, spinning nothing but an eclectic and personal selection from the group’s 30-plus studio albums and 50-plus singles and EPs, all on the original vinyl.

 

The legendary Peel Sessions may also make an appearance, despite being released on new-fangled compact discs.

 

More often found performing with his wind-up gramophones, Davey is a long-time fan, an occasional guest on BBC 6 Music and has worked for many years with the John Peel Archive, cataloguing and photographing John’s extensive collection of LPs.

 

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INHEAVEN + Thyla + GRACELAND @ NAC + Robert Powell tribute 9 February 2018

The previous evening I heard the tragically sad news of Robert Powell’s shocking and untimely passing and like the many other people who knew him I spent many hours in a state of shock and confusion and wondering if was a weird, bad dream or some ghastly misunderstanding but sadly not.  A great presence on the Norwich live music circuit Rob’s was a familiar face to just about anyone who has attended gigs with regularity over the past decade or so.  Often seen quietly and discretely moving from one vantage point to another to capture not just a shot of a band but to portray the whole picture.  We often chatted as our paths frequently crossed at innumerable gigs in the city over the years and he told me how he liked to tell a story of the gig so his photos would include not only the performers onstage but also the technicians, crew, audience, venue and details like the set times, plus some fun scenes backstage or in the outside smoking areas, capturing the atmosphere of the entire event and he had his own distinctive signature style. I thought of him as a “sniper-snapper” as he had a great knack for picking off a long-distance shot of someone in the crowd without them having the slightest inkling at the time and I’d always recognise one of his photos even before seeing the watermark.

 

Generous with his time and support he always remained positive and encouraging to others, happy to have a chat and catch up with everyone.  I last saw him just a few weeks ago at the Arts Centre when the Wolf Number were headlining. One of his favourite bands, whom he’d eagerly spoken to me about several times.  It had been a while since we last bumped into each other so we had a good catch-up between sets. He told me how happy he was in his job at Wex Photo and enthusiastically showed me the camera he had won there in the Christmas raffle and which he was using for the first time at a gig.  His passing is so sad and sudden and is a huge loss for the Norwich music community and an even greater loss to his close friends and family. A generous, supportive and honorable man of integrity. A true gent.  Known to many through his Facebook page Music Art Study, and as admin for the group Secret Norwich, his years volunteering at BBC Introducing in Norfolk and many other photography roles. My initial meeting with him was when I first started delving more seriously into gig photography quite a while back now. Rob was the first person to come up to me at a gig and have a chat about photography, cameras and of course music.  This has continued at so many gigs over quite a number of years and I shall miss bumping into him and our putting the world to rights and then balancing that with our enthusiastic shared love of music and photography. There was always a good chance of seeing him if one of his favourite bands were playing, of which there were many, such as Dr. Clyde, Solko, The Wolf Number, Mammal Hands, The Woodland Creatures, Feral Mouth, HANK, The Piratones, Killamonjambo, and a host of others.   Maybe when the time is right some sort of tribute gig with a projection of his photos might be a fitting send off  (uncannily, three of those – Dr. Clyde, HANK, The Wolf Number – are all on the same bill at Epic on 30 March). On Facebook itself it’s touching the way people are showing their respect and feeling of loss by changing their profile pictures to ones taken by him. It shows just how many of us he photographed over the years, he even snapped me! It also shows the closeness of the music community. Rest easy, Rob, and thanks for all the encouragement, kind words and friendship over the years. I hope you knew how much I respected you as not only a photographer but as a good, decent person with integrity too.

 

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An excellent and fun photograph of Rob, taken a few years back by Ga Chun Yau. Thank you Ga.

 

So, having Rob on my mind most of the previous night and all of the day I was not feeling in the best of spirits to head out on a cold and damp February evening but as NAC was the last place I saw him it just felt right. Thinking about it now, the Arts Centre is a church, where we all gravitated when Bowie died, and only now do I realise the poignancy that I was here seeing a band called “InHeaven”! Plus of course there are not many more effective healers than music and the company of like-minded people, so where better than the NAC. I could certainly sense Rob’s presence here.  It was a good decision to come to the gig, which was also my first opportunity to view the excellent photography exhibition “Visible Girls” by Anita Corbin.

 

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Opening this Pony Up night was the wonderful GRACELAND whom I felt I had not seen for a while.  I really enjoyed their set and with INHEAVEN’s backline of amps they sounded absolutely immense.  They dedicated a song to Rob and were otherwise in jocular mood, their mix of attitude and self-deprecating humour is just right but they sure can let the music do the talking too, they sounded phenomenally powerful and the set was a joy to experience.  They previewed a new instrumental (or one which “Just hasn’t got words yet”) which Rosie said after “We f—ed it up but you know what? We don’t give a shit!” with a beaming smile on her face.  I certainly didn’t notice what went wrong with it as it sounded amazing to my ears and got a great reception from the crowd. A very fine start to the evening’s music.

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After a swift break it was the turn of Brighton’s Thyla to take the stage.  I immediately loved their sound, some of which took me right back to the sounds of the early 1980s and I certainly picked up on a Cocteau Twins influence in among that post-punk sound I love so much. Superb guitars, great bass and drums and a varied set that had me wanting to hear more. I liked Thyla and hope they will be back here soon.

 

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For some inexplicable reason this was my first time seeing INHEAVEN even though I was at the same venue at the same time they were playing some years ago for NS&V when Let’s Eat Grandma were headlining in the hall.  I can only guess that the music in the bar overlapped with that in the auditorium as I certainly saw Milly Hirst, Chris TT, and Matt Watson play sets there before I headed to the main hall for Let’s Eat Grandma.  Anyway, they are spoken of highly by all who have seen them. With a wall of backline amps their almost retro sound is certainly big and anthemic, with a crashing drum sound which isn’t altogether to my own taste but the whole sound was very much to the taste of those going wild at the front. I loved the bass and guitars as well as the passion, energy and enthusiasm they play with which transmitted gloriously to the mosh-pit, it did feel like watching a band on the cusp of big things, there were beaming smiles throughout the set both from the stage and those having a blast down the front.

 

 

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Their forty minute set ended about 11pm and with no encore; it was decent and enjoyable  but didn’t quite grab me enough to make me forget my aching knees – which seems to have become a barometer of how much I enjoy a set lately.  GRACELAND and Thyla however made me forget everything for a while and were my highlights from the night, they might not have had quite the same volume as Inheaven but they had good variety, songs and memorable sets.  Everyone on the night played with great spirit and I was glad I made the effort to be there as it’s good to lose oneself in music and also good to talk with fellow gig-goers and the lovely people at NAC about Rob.  Norwich has a fantastic music community but this is a big and sad loss. Rob will be remembered for being a thoroughly decent chap and the wealth of wonderful photographs of a vast number of musicians and fans over many years. RIP Sir!

 

INHEAVEN want to be the kind of band you’d have patched onto your bag at school. The kind of band that changes your life when you’re a young teenager growing up – in whose music and ethos you want to invest beyond just adding a few tracks to your Spotify playlist. The kind of band they felt the music world was lacking when they decided to form a few years ago.

 

After meeting bassist Chloe Little at “a really crap gig” and bonding over their shared taste in music, the pair embarked on an audio-visual project, recruiting their neighbour Jake Lucas on lead guitar and Joe Lazarus on drums. To test out their creative compatibility, Little put together a 30 second video of images and asked Taylor to write music over it. Things clicked into place pretty fast. “It was kind of like, ‘Something needs to change , we really need to take control of our lives and change things’ and I think you can hear that in the first recordings we did.”

 

There’s shades of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine on the nostalgic, cinematic Regeneration – the first song Taylor wrote – though there’s a little more melody and a little more bite than the ‘90s shoegazers. Naming themselves after the infamous lady in the radiator scene from David Lynch’s Eraserhead, INHEAVEN wasted no time getting the word out – though in their own, unique way. They set up a mysterious website with hidden videos, made fanzines (band mood boards, which they still regularly produce), produced their own artwork on Microsoft Word, and sent their songs to blogs around the world. “I’m cringing remembering emailing all these people,” says Little, “because I didn’t know any of them, I just found out who they were and sent this email with big, bold capital letters and the videos. 50% obviously went straight in the junk – hopefully they’re kicking themselves now! But surprisingly, loads of people picked up on it.”

 

One of those people was The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas. “Rory Atwell, who mixed our first EP, forwarded me this email from Cult Records,” says Taylor, “and it said, ‘Us and Julian are loving these songs. Who are they? Where can we get a hold of them?” After a handful of correspondences, Casablancas’ label released INHEAVEN’s first single in America, and “from that point on it started rolling out of control.”

 

In a good way, that is. Now, after gaining support from NME, Q, The Independent and DIY, accumulating several hundred thousand YouTube views and Spotify streams, and – more importantly – accruing a loyal cult following, the band are opening for Circa Waves on tour.

 

inheaven

 

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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The Room: Hot Raisin + Walkway + The h Gang + Hot Stove League + The Bloodshake Chorus @ Gorleston Ocean Room 3 February 2018

the room

hot raisin

hot raisin

the hot stove leaguethe room

the room

the bloodshake chorusthe bloodshake chorusthe bloodshake choruswalkway

The last time I visited Gorleston’s Ocean Room for one of H’s “The Room” nights was way back in February 2013 when The Vagaband, Stare, Dove and Boweevil et al. were performing.  I was absolutely blown away by the place back then, the first impressions of it are indelible with the beautiful decor and attention to detail.  Without exception, I am sure, every single person experiencing it for the first time on this occasion had the same positive impression as I did five years ago. It is without a doubt somewhere you walk in and just mouth the word “Wow!”

the room

The Ocean Rooms look quite unassuming from the outside but upon entering there is this peculiar Tardis-like effect whereby the place seems twice as large on the inside as it does from the outside, and being circular it feels like a vast spiegeltent given a North African flavour with some of the decorative and tasteful touches.  The sort of place I always think would be perfect for a Bo Nanafana away-day.

the room

Put together by the incredible Howard “H” Marshall, The Room is based upon the concept and layout of Jools Holland’s “Later” (but without the boogie-woogie piano gatecrashing) and features five acts over five stages and PAs, dedicated soundmen, incredible lighting, projections, seating, two bars and a whole lot of atmosphere and music.

walkway

I arrived early with Hot Raisin and heard their soundcheck and was immediately impressed with the sound from the PA, their soundman Richard nailed it. They sounded clear, punchy and beefy and with the room empty at the time, very loud too.

the room

With the music starting at 9:15 there must have been around about 500 people by then and there was a palpable excitement and anticipation as H welcomed us through a silent mic “That’s the first technical hitch of the night out of the way!” and introduced all the acts who each played a short intro jam.

the room

Hot Raisin were the only band I had seen before this night and playing as full five piece band their first set went down a storm as we went through the stages, each band playing two songs ‘In the round’style before a short break and with a middle set of three songs each, another short break and then a further two songs each before a finale set from the H Gang.  People had a blast with great entertainment from the moment the doors opened to the end of the night. Even The Vagaband and Yve Mary B (both of whom have played here) having the video of An Eye for an Eye projected onto the screens during one of the short intervals.  There was also fun from heavy rockers Walkway who had a dazzlingly light show, big sound and had many people rocking out with them, and the more traditionally ascoustic Hot Stove League who were so good they had a blast of applause at the soundcheck.

the room

Earlier in the day I had noticed a condenser mic hanging from near the glitterball and naively assumed it was for the benefit of the audience ambient sounds until the Bloodshake Chorus started to play and this demonic blood-spattered character started deeply singing Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walkin'” like it has never sounded before. That’s already two fake-blood covered acts I have seen so far this year! (Take a creepy bow, Starcrawler). They looked like a nightmare come to life and get full marks for impact and theatre with well-chosen and performed covers, getting the whole place singing along to Jolene too.  Hot Raisin have, on occasion, played These Boots as well. Things could have become quite weird had they planned on doing that one too tonight.  They play covers but put their own unique, dark twist on them, the band are tight and singer JJ has great range and expression in his voice. A lot of fun … I wonder if they have ever shared a bill with Das Fenster?  That would be tremendous.

the bloodshake chorus

the bloodshake chorus

hot raisin

It was a tremendous night, all the bands played flawlessly and I felt particular pride and fondness – well, love – for Hot Raisin who were magnificent and were my highlight.  I hope and look forward to more big gigs with a PA and sound like this, as this is up there with their benchmark gigs, like that one at NAC.  All of them a great musicians, the songs are interesting, catchy (all earworms) with beautiful vocals, playing and charming lyrics.  To cap it all they play with a joy, chemistry and a belief in the songs that I find impossible to resist, they are all close friends so there is this lovely interplay, exchanged smiles and delightful glances; at the end of each song band and audience toast each other with hearty “Cheers!” and raised glasses.

Each set had its own character (and subtle costume changes from Tory) and as individuals their own personalities came through, as did the unique, collective Hot Raisin persona which is never less than charming and hugely likeable … but added to that they have wonderful songs and musicianship. They got a great reception and there was brisk business for their two EPs. Effortlessly cool and naturally warm … I love them.

hot raisinthe room

hot raisin

hot raisin

the hot stove league

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There are some gems of venues throughout Norfolk and not all of them are in Norwich, Howard is showing what spectacles can be put on in such places and all credit to him, it must be a phenomenal amount of work, a real labour of love, but because it is done through love of the music it works as that comes across through every single detail of the night. Huge credit to him and his crew and all the artists, they all made for a truly special and fantastic night.  From a photography point of view it was a joy to snap, if only all stages could be so well lit!

the bloodshake chorusthe bloodshake chorus

the bloodshake chorus

the bloodshake chorusthe bloodshake chorusthe bloodshake chorusthe room

 

all rights reserved (c) shashamane 2018

@RShashamane

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Norwich: Music City, UK

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