Norwich Sound and Vision 2015: Day 1 Roundup

By on Wednesday, 14th October 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

For Norwich Sound and Vision 2015, the venues weren’t too far apart (and in two cases, they were in the same building), which meant you could rush from one place to another and get a flavour of nearly every band performing. Or, if you so preferred, you could hang out and stay for nearly all of an artist’s set and then go off to get a nip of something else nearby. Very pleasingly to me as a music editor, there were never queue, which meant I got to see everyone I wanted. Massive thumbs up!

Let’s Eat Grandma and Best Friends @ Norwich Arts Centre

Appropriately, my first band at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015 were a Norwich band. Already drawing comparisons to out there and anarchic artists like Bjork and Micachu and the Shapes, it just so happens that it was one that not only has an awful lot of local hype behind them, NME and BBC 6 Music’s Stuart Maconie of the Freak Zone have already gotten on their bandwagon, and from what I understand, there is already label interest in them. This is all pretty damn amazing considering Let’s Eat Grandma – yes, that’s really their band name (upon further reflection, I’m assuming it’s an editor’s joke, hur hur) – are a pair of young girls who’ve just reached the age of 16. When I was 16, I was in high school, too busy steering clear of bullies to even think about writing songs or being artistic.

Let's Eat Grandma live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

Two pretty teenage girls, with teased and tousled hair; sequined, sparkly tops; and midriffs showing: that’s certainly an image, isn’t it? (At Festival No. 6 last month in Portmeirion, Wales, they appeared in white ballerina outfits and metallic leggings.) While there’s a lot of talk in the industry right now about women in music being objectified unfairly, I expect Let’s Eat Grandma’s music more than anything else to be what will keep these youngsters riding high. Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton, who look like twins when they’re up onstage, say take what they like best out of pop music, then insert it into their own quirky song structures, playing a multitude of instruments while they’re at it. The sound is a little too out there for me, but given the way mainstream pop music is going these days, it can always use a kick in the arse.

In contrast, Sheffield band Best Friends I suppose could be considered ‘settled’, in that they’ve already found a label (Brighton’s FatCat, who signed them this past spring) and they’ve already found their niche in today’s emerging music ecosystem. Unexpectedly to me, their lo-fi surf-y sound was a subgenre to be repeated several times among the artists I saw showcase in Norwich. It hadn’t occurred to me until several different folks pointed out to me that many British bands like the American surf pop thing an awful lot and are not just having fun with it, but are actually doing well with it, filling venues and keeping their fans happy, wild and dancing.

Best Friends live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

Best Friends actually sounded way better to me live than on recording, and this probably best explains their devoted following who come out to their shows. With their loud, brash psych guitar-playing and pounding drums, conducted at an unrelenting tempo, you can’t help but get drawn into their sound. Those devoted fans? They were already down the front, getting lost in the music as they cut a rug in time to the music. Well, as much as you can to such a frenetic noise…

Abigail Blake and True Adventures @ Norwich Arts Centre Bar

Just adjacent to the main stage at the Norwich Arts Centre was another small stage in the bar, which was used mainly for acoustic acts during the festival. At just 20 years old and a self-admitted uni dropout, local singer/songwriter Abigail Blake represents the hope and dreams of many a young, struggling artist wishing to make it big one day. The Coventry-born, Kent- and Norfolk-bred Blake released her debut EP ‘Etches’ earlier this year.

Abigail Blake Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

Initially, she was sat on the stage playing her harp and singing, and while her harp-playing was certainly serviceable, the instrument seemed more of a gimmick and less of a real addition to her songs. I can’t recall whether I’ve ever seen a harpist at a music festival, but maybe I was just I was just looking for something more to sink my teeth into while at Norwich Sound and Vision and this wasn’t it. When she switched to acoustic guitar, Blake seemed more believable. As evidenced on ‘Air’, she has a really nice, gentle, sweet voice, but time will tell where her talent will take her.

True Adventures live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

True Adventures is the stage name of Samuel Leonard Keith Leonard (yes, that’s one person’s name), formerly (or maybe still?) associated with Norwich alt-rock / classical band Wooden Arms, who we covered a few years ago at the Norwich Sound and Vision showcase at Liverpool Sound City. Though it might seem odd to see one man onstage versus his six-person strong band, Leonard is a deft hand at folk songwriting. While his debut single from earlier this year, ‘North Atlantic Ocean’, features his Wooden Arms’ bandmates’ beautiful strings, the beauty of the song still shone through with just Leonard’s warm, robust voice and acoustic guitar. I can also get behind a 21st century musician who favours red legwarmers, proving you can be comfortable, yet still fashionable!

Ducking Punches, Tigercub and Clarence Clarity @ The Mash Tun

Everyone you talk to who was in Norwich in 2013 for that year’s Sound and Vision speaks of a then unknown, then unsigned Royal Blood playing to a room full of A&R men here, so The Mash Tun’s important place in rock history is assured. So it seems natural that the majority of the bands chosen to play the performance space on the top floor of the pub were of the raucous, loud variety matching or at least similar to that of the Brighton band. Ducking Punches are a Norwich band self-described as of the folk punk genre, and when you hear that heavily tattooed frontman and leader Dan Allen has also worked as Frank Turner‘s guitar tech, things start to make more sense.

Ducking Punches live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

While I couldn’t catch most of their set, suffice to say it’s a no-brainer that if you’re a fan of Mr. ‘Wessex Boy’, Ducking Punches are up your alley, with barnstorming tunes, shouty bits of social commentary and a DIY attitude. Seeing Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) badges on their merch stand also made sense in the context of ‘Six Years’, a song Allen wrote for a friend he lost to suicide. It was a stark reminder that suicide is the single biggest cause of death in men 20-45 in the UK and is preventable. For more information on the CALM campaign, go here.

Though Brighton band and Royal Blood’s buddies Tigercub came highly recommended to me by many in town for the conference, they didn’t wow me. Their style of “escapist, post-ironic, post-everything “music isn’t reliant on a clear melody, which is fine when you’re in the mood for that. But what nagged me more was that they sounded like a 21st century retread of Nirvana; having been there for the original, they just weren’t exciting to me. To their credit, if their primary intention in Norwich was to create a wall of sound, they did it. It just ended up sounding very loud and of little else. Am I getting old?

Clarence Clarity and his band from London were also loud, but there was so much going on onstage, you didn’t know where to look, and you couldn’t *not* look. I saw his name on the Great Escape 2015 bill but couldn’t see him then, so I was delighted I’d get the opportunity in Norwich. You can point to similarities between him and the aforementioned Let’s Eat Grandma at the start of my day 1 coverage: to these artists, being ‘normal’ and like everyone else is an anathema, and their rebellion against the mainstream is through their musical expression, however mental their route might be. Elements of electronic, hip hop, pop and rock make their way into the man’s music and live with his band, the experience is feast for the eyes and ears.

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