Tag Archives: Norwich

Gig Review: Hip Hatchet – The Bicycle Shop, Norwich. 14/01/2014

15 Jan

Hip Hatchet

He’s a long way from home and his band aren’t here but as he stands alone on a cosy stage, board games piled high and nameless fish exploring their tank behind him, Philippe Bronchtein, aka Hip Hatchet is bringing a little piece of America with him tonight. His inspiration comes from the road on which he roams and with such a vast expanse of countryside available to him in the States, there are many highways and byways to experience, strangers to meet, women to fall in and out of love with and whiskey to be drunk. All of which is here with him tonight, that backpack of memories has made the trip with him and there are yarns to be spun.

Tucked away underground in a town which, with its beards, tattoos, good beer and nice people, is as close to Portland, Oregon as he has found so far, the intimate setting of The Bicycle Shop is sold out and the audience is hanging on his every word and note. A deep, rumbling voice 30 years older than its owner fills the room and barely a word is uttered as tales of woe, of love, of laughter, heartbreak, redemption, optimism and despair take hold of each and every one of us. For little over an hour we are his, enraptured and captivated as his musical dexterity, remarkable as it is, is surpassed by the kind of lyrical deftness and intelligence that would have many a poet laureate kicking the cat in fits of jealous rage. Not just because of their cleverness and evocative imagery, but because each one is imbued with powerful emotion and meaning. Not a line or word is wasted or superfluous.

He is an incredibly engaging character, bursting with an easygoing charm and charisma. Not many people could drop out of a song halfway through to explain an upcoming reference, the slip straight back in and still have the audience in peals of laughter when the reference is made. In between singing his stories, he tells us more, of where a song comes from, of 3 day drives and the people he met, of the kindness of strangers and fences that were scaled when it ran out. The warmth and genuine affection for his friends, for his travels and indeed for us, his audience and listeners is evident and reciprocated tenfold.

With us as his orchestra, Philippe conducts our mood and our emotions, bringing us to joy and despair as he pulls on our heartstrings with these elegant and compelling moments of blues, folk, Americana and incredible storytelling.

At the start of the evening we are challenged to name the five nameless fish. By the end of the evening, only two have been christened. We are too busy travelling down the road with Hip Hatchet, sitting with him in his dusty Subaru as the tumbleweeds roll past, the mountains loom ahead and poetry trips from his lips and into our souls.

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Review: Wooden Arms – Wooden Arms EP

22 Nov

Wooden Arms

Certain types of music just feel right at a certain time of year. Bright brash colours and upbeat melodies full of urgency and rhythm suit the summer months, while slower more considered sounds tend to fit the colder, autumnal and winter months. The debut EP from Norwich based Wooden Arms falls very much into the latter category which is possibly why, having been released in July, it now feels like a perfect listen on these darkened, ice-laden evenings.

Full of gentle, ebbing melodies that drift and glide like birds on a breeze; this eponymous release is often balletic in feel. Ambient sounds; be they deep cello or light violin, music box light or portentous dark piano, ripple and flow like a mountain stream. “Chariclia” in particular is an evocative and fantastical tune. Like crawling through a tiny gap in a bramble laden hedgerow to discover a hidden and wondrous world beyond. A world that opens out and up, where trees reach beyond the sky to the stars above and snowfall drifts down slowly to enchanting woodland floor.

In fact, snowfall would be an appropriate visual accompaniment to all of the Wooden Arms EP, it’s that serene and enchanting. The violin opening of “Noah” is that moment as daybreaks over a silent an undisturbed winter morning, snow covered fields lay dormant, immaculate and beautiful. “Hollow” could be a walk through a Christmas market, ruddy cheeked and full of mulled wine and mince pies, cold outside but warm and contented within.

Elsewhere, “False Start” has a more reflective feel to it; like a wizened old man rocking gently in a chair on his porch looking out at the vast expanse of countryside before him. The sun is dropping beyond the horizon and the sky is turning orange and pink, the world is his but he sees only the past, memories and regrets floating on the breeze of reminiscence.

Yes, some music suits certain times of year better than others, and as winter is coming, Wooden Arms may prove to be the perfect soundtrack to those long dark nights.

The ‘Wooden Arms EP’ is out now and available to buy digitally or on limited edition hand-printed CD.

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Localism Rocks! Part Two – The Next Big Thing 2013

7 Nov

Next Big Thing

Yesterday we waxed lyrical about the importance and accessibility of your local music scene and during our effusions, we mentioned the Next Big Thing competition, the final for which is this weekend (Saturday 9th to be exact). As it’s actually a reasonably big deal here in the east, Ed Sheeran won it in 2008 dontchaknow – the organisers do mention it occasionally, we thought we would continue getting into our local spirit by bigging up the finalists in a little gig preview.

But first, a little background on the competition itself, from Future Radio Station Manager, Terry Lee; ” The Next Big Thing is the best up and coming music competition in the Eastern region, with a list of former winners who speak for themselves. Last year’s winner, Raevennan Husbandes, may well go on to be as successful as Ed Sheeran, who won in 2008,” and Outline editor, Emma Garwood; “At Outline, we proudly cover all the amazing acts coming in to the region to perform, but increasingly, we don’t have to look beyond our own regional limits to find staggering talent and musicians with national and international potential. The Next Big Thing brings that talent to the surface, to the attention of new fans and a wider recognition, which they deserve.”

Entrants are welcome from across Norfolk and Suffolk and the winners will get a slot at Homegrown Festival 2014 as well as studio time to record a music video and sessions; a professional photo-shoot and (this is not actually a prize) no doubt some coverage from us.

This year we are being treated to a particularly diverse musical line-up in the final with an eclectic range of genres represented. Good luck to the judges coming up with a suitably fair evaluation method for this lot!

In alphabetical order (naturally) the finalists are.

Dr Clyde

Dr Clyde

They say: Energetic foursome playing a worldly blend of danceable music. We have many influences ranging from jazz to metal, making a weird and wonderful sound which forces your feet to dance and your face to contort ’til you are drenched in sweat and your feet are blistered.

We say: Frantically skittish and almost deranged one minute, softer but no less engaging the next. They are like a musical jambalaya with ingredients thrown in wildly and a steaming plate of delicious filling aural food the result.

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They say: Four piece alternative rock band who draw influences from Jimmy Eat World, Mae, Paramore and other bands in the genre. Freyr boast catchy songs and a powerful live performance.

We say: Radio friendly alt sounds á la Sum41 but with the welcome addition of some female vocals and more coherent riffage. From the respectable side of rock (that’s not a bad thing), they’ll make you sweat, then probably drive you home after.

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Koi Paraga

Koi Paraga

They say: A contemporary folk quartet, crafting songs of deep thought and heartfelt sincerity. A singer-songwriter, virtuoso guitarist, double bassist and vocal gymnast-cum-percussionist, have joined forces in search of a new shore and invite you on their journey, “a journey… between Radiohead and Mumford & Sons… like being transported into the centre of a Hemmingway novel.”

We say: Genteel folkers with an ear for a tune and a knack for spinning a yarn within them. Intelligent and engaging arrangements compliment clever harmonies. Radiohead and Mumford & Sons might be stretching it, but there is much hidden away in here to discover and enjoy.

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Mega Emotion

Mega Emotion

They say: We started out just wanting to make dance music. We love the mesmerising regularity of it. But we love guitars too, and really missed the rawness of bands like Sonic Youth or the Pixies. So we went back to the drawing board. We ended up with this blend of austere sequenced drums, overlaid with the warmth and energy of both girls drumming live, and a never-ending battle between synths and guitars.

We say: Seventies guitars and neo-disco basslines give way to brash, angular riffage and dark electro flashes to create future sounding retro-pop with attitude.

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The Thinking Men

The Thinking Men

They say: Imagine The Rolling Stones jamming with The Doors while Tom Waits takes the mic; this is the sound of five-piece alternative rock band The Thinking Men, their live performance reverberates with infectious, foot-stomping anthems that will have you hooked.

We say: Foot stomping is right, big brash bluesy noise that will have you jumping and stamping around to tunes that are more catchy than they have any right to be. They made it to the final last year, can they go one better?

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They say: Lyam Bewry, 19 yrs old. Initially I started making music using Nintendo Gameboys, a Commodore 64 and circuit bent junk and now have moved on to retro inspired EDM which I’ve been producing for around 3 years.

We say: Throw your hands up and prepare to get down. Funk infused house with a plethora of bells, whistles, handclaps, horns and just about anything else you can think of thrown in for good measure. Oh, and the beat, the incessant and banging beat.

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So there you have it, a very quick summary of the finalists. Frankly, we have no idea who is going to win and it’s all going to come down to how they perform on the night. We’ll be there for what promises to be a very enjoyable evening, if you want to come along, click the poster for more info and tickets.

Next Big Thing Poster

Localism Rocks! Part One – Local Music for Local People

6 Nov


Here at Alphabet Bands, as we gaze out across the vista of our fine city of Norwich, we like to think that we are generally very supportive of acts from within the city walls and the vicinity, as well as promoting the best new music from around the world. We film sessions with local acts, write about and feature them and include them in our fabled collection of Alphabet Bands. We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves as we discussed this with some people we met at the Norwich Sound and Vision Festival recently. Except, as we spoke, we realised our efforts probably weren’t that impressive after all. In fact, only two of our Alphabet Bands are Norwich acts and both are now seemingly defunct as well.

For such a relatively small city, there is a tonne of musical talent here; diverse, exciting and covering practically every genre you could think of. They used to say of Norwich that there was a church for every week of the year, and a pub for every day. Now that we have been officially classified as the most Godless city in England the number of churches feels less important. We suggest a re-jigging of the saying to read ‘a pub for every day of the year, and at least a band a day for that matter’.

Why are we telling you this? Because local music is important, and there is probably a lot more of it in your city/town/village than you realise. There is certainly more here in Norwich than we realised. Of the 97 acts listed as performing on the Sound and Vision website, around 20% were from the city or the surrounding area, and while we knew some of them, we didn’t know them all. Nor did we know all the people we met at the various music panels who were singers, or musicians. When we took part in short-listing acts for this year’s Next Big Thing competition we had heard of hardly any of the acts (not entirely a bad thing as it meant we went in with no pre-conceptions). And then there are all the other bands that we do know about that didn’t enter the competition.

Again, you may ask, why are we telling you this? Because we, like many others we would wager, have become so obsessed with finding new music online, that we have almost forgotten about looking for it on our doorstep. We go to our fair share of gigs, but that’s mostly to see the touring acts that are passing through and the presence of any high quality local bands is simply a bonus. But where do these touring bands start out? Gigging in their home town. London Grammar burst on to the scene at the end of last year, have had a chart-topping album, appearance on Later… and are headlining dates across the UK and beyond. Yet rewind a couple of years and they were playing shows across Nottingham and at the University.

Now of course, not every band you see is going to be the next London Grammar, but there are a lot of great bands waiting to be discovered out there, not more than a few miles from your doorstep.
Small bands playing small gigs can offer a much more intimate and personable experience, you might get to know them, hang out and buy them a beer (they might like that). Social media had made big acts more accessible than ever, but it’s not quite the same as sitting down and enjoying a cold (or hot) beverage with a band and chewing the fat after a show.

Go and support them, if they are good, let them know. That encouragement could be all they need to get more gigs, record more songs and go on to be the next band to break into the mainstream and rule the world. We’re not saying it will happen, but for a couple of quid, probably less, it’s got to be worth the chance no? We’re certainly going to make more of an effort to go and see local bands in the city and if they are great, we’ll tell you all about it right here.

Listen: Mega Emotion – “Brains”

20 Sep

Mega Emotion

You know all those preconceptions you have about sleepy Norwich? All the stereotypes you have heard about and all the objects and persons that reside within our Fine City that the rest of the world likes to rib with affectionate banter and ridicule?

Forget them. They are done. The amazing new three-piece Mega Emotion has put them away in a glass jar and smashed the ever loving piss out of it with a sledgehammer. This is the new Norwich and it’s about to blow your freaking mind.

Named after an ice-cream (that’s right, a flipping ice-cream) Mega Emotion has just the one demo online right now but if these girls and a guy can continue to create the crazy exciting and intense sounds of “Brains”, we are all in for a treat.

Seventies pop guitars and neo-disco basslines soon give way to brash, angular riffage and dark electro flashes while legwarmer wearing Zombies lumber about, hunting down their prey. Dayglo socks, global hyper-colour t-shirts and fuck-off massive shoulder pads to support the weight of their boomboxes are de-rigueur for this neon-Zombie chic as bedlam ensues all around.

“Brains” is big, bold, raw and powerful. Like the concentrated force of 100 drunken Delia Smith’s calling out the world for a rumble on the Prince of Wales Road at 3am on a Saturday, it doesn’t give a crap who comes calling. It is going to destroy you with its massive hooks and chaotically brilliant sound.

Mega Emotion, we salute you; take our brains, we won’t be needing them anymore.

”Brains” is out now and available to buy from the Mega Emotion Bandcamp page.

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