Thursday was another sizzler as this heatwave goes on and on and on but there was a great atmosphere in the city as I caught a couple of sets from the Vagaband on The Walk (sounding superb) as part of Head Out Not Home, with a cooling pint inbetween outside The Garnet after the endless water guzzling. This was followed by a lovely fish and chip dinner from my favourite chippy, The Grosvenor Fish Bar (thanks Duane!) listening to the Keno Kings outside the Birdcage and I even managed to catch sets by Georgia King and Dlore, playing the stage on the NAC front lawn, beautiful voices and for a couple of numbers at the end they performed a few songs together, harmonising wonderfully.
At 8pm the NAC doors opened its doors and everyone headed straight to the bar for a cold drink, it was one of those rare occasions where it was so hot there were jugs of water on tables – they were needed – and on the Mission Hall stage Hank Jd Sleek was spinning some honky tonk tunes. The Arts Centre was full of honky tonk, country blues, soul, boogie-woogie, cajun, and western swing.
Over on the main stage at half past Big Steve Arlene was joined by his good buddies Henry Greenwood on blues harp and Will Fergusson on keys. The 30 minute set flew by and they sounded superb, Big Steve throwing in a couple of covers by Springsteen and Waylon Jennings alongside his own brilliant originals. He’s a fine lyricist and conveys emotion in these stories so well, and with Will’s gorgeous piano work and Henry’s haunting harmonica there were extra layers of atmosphere. Fabulous stuff. Steve is a true artist expressing his deepest feelings in song, and a really good guy too.
Charley Crockett played his first gig outside of the USA at our beloved NAC earlier this year supporting JD McPherson for Punk Rock Blues, and wowed the audience so much they were promply brought back to headline this show. Red Rooster material if ever there was one, perhaps they’ll be back for that next June.
In an incredibly hot hall his energy levels didn’t seem diminished on this the last date of the UK leg of their European tour, twisting and grooving to his blend of honky tonk, blues, Cajun jazz, boogie woogie, and a very healthy amount of soul, even getting the withering audience to dance along too. The music is infectious and so is the spirit, Charley is clearly an artist who means it, loves what he does and wants to make a real go of it. He’s the real deal and has the stories and the talent, backed by a terrific band too, great guitar, bass, piano, accordion and trumpet, the first half of the set was played without drums but they were joined by their stand-in drummer about mid-set. Eminently charming, charismatic and friendly he had a long line of people wanting to shake his hand at the end and get merch signed. Hopefully big things are to come for him. The first hint of this came in the most unlikely of settings, closing last weekend’s Andrew Marr show on BBC. About time Charley Crockett appeared on that!! One could just make out Andrew Marr slamming the table and cheering at the end of the performance.
A lovely evening, in an ideal world I’d have preferred it to be a few degrees cooler … maybe ten degrees cooler … but it gave everything an authentic Southern flavour, there was even a Lone Star flag of the Texas state draped over the piano. The mood continues tonight with Hank Jd Sleek opening the Borderline for some more of this kind of thing at the Reindeer.
Afterwards there was even time to catch a few sets at the end of Peter T’s weekly open mic night at the Walnut Tree Shades, including Slightly Offensive Steve. I’m rather partial to this characterful pub full or characters and music. On a day where I saw the Vagaband, The Keno Kings, Georgia King, Dlore, Big Steve Arlene, Charley Crockett, Hank Jd Sleek, Slightly Offensive Steve et al. Norwich had a real festival feel. All of this on a Thursday too, plus all the gig clashes that included Fine City Blues, and Grapevine. It really is Norwich: Music City, UK.
Many thanks to Charley Crockett, Norwich Arts Centre, Grosvenor Fish Bar, and Outline Magazine. My review for Outline will appear soon.
Charley’s new album Lonesome as a Shadow is out now. I got mine on vinyl and signed after the gig.
Listen here to Steve Arlene’s Americana show on Future Radio where he interviews Charley Crockett.