Having a Hoot in Norwich..
Norwich is a strange place to get to – in my head getting Snotty to train up to Loughborough so that we could head from there made sense, Norfolk’s main (only?) city is kind of across and down a bit from there, and going via Stevenage would’ve been a massive L shape. Blindly following my Sat Nav though took us most of the way back there before hopping over the A1 and into East Anglia. Ho hum! I had kind of assumed it would take me on a more direct cross-country route!
After negotiating a bit of traffic we were soon checked into the Travelodge in the city centre and in the market for something to eat. Along with Dave and Caroline we were off towards the venue, and found The Woolpack nearby that provided us with food and drink, and some riffraff in the form of much of the band arriving shortly after – and Mick too. Scott was in trouble for what he described as ‘long distance darts.’ They provided some pretty awesome bangers and mash in a Yorkshire pud.
Shortly before heading off Dave had summoned me outside for what could’ve been a sinister conversation – it turned out to be quite the opposite – and soon enough we were off to the venue. The Owl Sanctuary unfortunately didn’t have any owls in it, although I don’t suppose they would’ve appreciated the noise levels once the acts got started. An administrative complication meant Waggy et al didn’t actually know The Lagan were up first, so a bonus for us but I guess extra faffing with sound-checking, but it all went off pretty well in the end. The front bar area was in a horseshoe shape, with the venue out the back.
And wow, it was pretty compact. A ramp down the side from a small balcony near the sound-desk leads ominously down to a concrete-floored mosh-pit with two pillars to one side. With no back-stage area linked directly to the stage to speak of the bands entered the stage through the crowd, and soon enough The Lagan had taken their places and got us underway to blast through a short but incredibly energetic set that had the crowd moshing by the time they got to their rendition of I’ll Tell Me Ma.
They finished off with a rousing rendition Same Shite, Different Night. Highlight of me was The Good Ship Lagan, a shanty-tastic re-rendering of What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor and Star of the County Down. Whilst simply comparing acts with others can be disingenuous it’s sometimes the easiest way to try to describe them – reminiscent of Roughneck Riot, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly were the best compliments Mick and I could come up with. Glad to have seen them again, even for a short set!
In the meantime back in the bar one of the folk there had a couple of pet rats merrily sitting on his shoulder/in the hood of his top. They were very friendly and either intrigued or freaked out people as they passed. Ratties are lovely though, and whilst perhaps loud music venues probably aren’t the best place to take them I’d love to see more of them in pubs!
Back in the venue Gaz Brookfield was ready to take the stage – there was a familiar but tweaked set list – starting as he has been doing with Land Pirates Life then Diabetes Blues and its reprise and on to Godless Man. But then an addition of Deathbed which was most welcome, it’s one of my favourite songs by Gaz. His set was a little cut down since we had three acts on so it was quickly on the über strong finish of Bigger Man, Let the East Winds Blow and Thin.
A good crowd had mustered for Gaz, plenty familiar with his work so it was pretty much a massive singalong right from the off – and certainly the crowd-participation parts for his last couple of songs did not disappoint. There was a bit of time to catch up with more familiar folk and get talking to some new faces too – the excitement in the venue was pretty palpable, although you could see folk making the mental calculation about how many people were there to squeeze into the supposedly 150 capacity venue. It was going to be a very warm, sticky and tight squeeze in there!
The intro music started leaving Ferocious Dog to get to the stage through the mustered crowd. Gallows Justice is a great statement of intent to open a set, leading straight into Poor Angry & Young as we’ve become accustomed. A nice surprise was the reintroduction of Living On Thin Air so basically taking the opening of From Without for the first three tracks. Ken had introduced it by saying they’d forgotten how to play it – but that clearly wasn’t the case, it got an energetic response from the crowd that’s for sure. At some point I’d taken a massive forearm smash to the throat which was bloody painful and has left my throat still sore – the poor bloke who inflicted it was most apologetic though, ha ha!
A change of pace and mood brought A Verse for Lee, The Glass and Lee’s Tune, then into Unconditional before Too Late slowly brings the pace back up and leading into Freeborn John. Dean announced he was being the board. Plenty of people had kindly pointed out the assorted lighting rigs, cables hanging from the ceiling and other potential obstacles – indeed, once I’d been legged up onto Dean just in front of the lighting rig even Kenny was worriedly gesturing at the proximity – but it was okay, I’d cased it out this time!
There wasn’t quite enough headroom to get fully vertical but well, I didn’t fall off – perhaps the dismount was a bit ambitious but no harm done! Ruby Bridges leads into Marikana Massacre – by which point my shoelace was trailing dangerously round a pretty brutal mosh pit, I found a little quiet spot by John and Ellis’ monitor to re-tie, the latter grinning down at me finding my dilemma pretty hilarious. The main set canters through older songs On The Rocks, Criminal Justice, Quiet Paddy, Hell Hounds, Freethinker and Mairi’s Wedding Part II.
It was as hot and sweaty as we’d feared it would be. It was a pretty pointless endeavour for the band to get off the stage to come back for an encore, so immediately announced they’d do a couple more songs – launching straight into Slow Motion Suicide and following up with Raggle Taggle Gypsy. A cracking set, great sound, brutal-but-fun moshpit. Admittedly I was suffering with a bruised throat but it seems to have sorted itself out now so no harm done.
A bit of time was spent out in the front of the venue nattering with folk before we decided to wander tiredly back to the hotel – not least for a shower in my case, all my clothes were absolutely drenched in sweat much more so than normal. It was the first time for the band in Norwich and by gosh I’m sure it won’t be the last, a cracking venue, crowd and performance – and back to the hotel relatively early before a trip across to Bedford beckoned the next day.