A Saturday night in The Fine City is the perfect time for a night of hip-shaking rock. Kicking off the night was Norwich stoner rockers KAMENSKO. It was reassuring to see a good amount of the local music community had come down early to catch the band’s groovy riffage. Playing tracks from their forthcoming EP and their current material, KAMENSKO blitzed through their set with guitar solos aplenty. Clearly humbled by the turnout and crowd response, the band stumped up the good vibes which continued throughout the evening.
Up next were the Midlands rock n rollers WOLF JAW. Last month saw this loveable trio play three sets at Download no less, and they treated The Waterfront Studio like any stage at Donnington. Spoiling us with new tracks from their forthcoming debut album as WOLF JAW as well as gems from their time as THE BAD FLOWERS, the band were addictive to watch; dungaree-clad Dale Tonk’s bass face, drummer Karl Selickis’ energetic drumstick twiddling and flying hair and front man Tom Leighton’s distinct gritty vocals and raucous guitar playing made for a blistering live show. WOLF JAW sounded huge and would give any headliner a run for their money, proving three is the magic number when it comes to making a monstrous impact on the live stage. Playing at the barrier and getting the crowd involved got everyone on side and in the palm of their hands. If these chaps continue the rest of the tour in this manner, they will and truly cement themselves in the music world as WOLF JAW.
After the riotous second set, tonight’s headliners CROBOT had a hard task to top what we had just witnessed, but the American groove rockers absolutely smashed it. It was impossible to take your eyes off charismatic front man Brandon Yeagley. His bejewelled waistcoat, allure with his mic stand tricks, and most importantly his talent as a rock vocalist will surely make him a legendary rock star. The chemistry between all members was something special and any interaction between each other was comedic, yet real. However, they made sure the crowd felt part of the family, even inviting one young punter to play the last riffs of the night.
Treating fans to lots of new songs from their soon-to-be-released album Motherbrain, CROBOT also entertained the room with snippets of BLACK SABBATH, TOTO and…Ghostbusters. In an age of super serious bands, playing their super serious music with super serious stage presence, it is so refreshing to watch a band who are both professional yet visibly still having the time of their lives. This sense of fun is infectious and dominates the atmosphere. Guitar slinging, harmonica solos and clambering on top of monitors (and each other), CROBOT are full of tricks and mischief which is a dangerous combination when coupled with the grooviest riffs. Their energy didn’t dip for one second ensuring everyone left the venue a hot and sweaty mess and a massive smile on their face. An absolutely blinding evening, tonight will go down as one of the best Norwich gigs of the year.
Queuing outside The Waterfront this evening was an interesting affair, with hardcore kids and metalheads standing in line with quite a few of East Anglia’s middle aged folk. Why exactly? Well Heather Small was playing the other room tonight which encouraged a few impressions of “What have you done today to make you feeeeel proud?”. Well Heather, I’m not necessarily proud of what I’ve done, but I am proud of my bros in NERVEWRECKER. You might remember I recently reviewed their latest EP Murmur and it was great to finally see them when they opened the gig tonight. As it was a Wednesday evening the Waterfront Studio was slowly filling up but it was great to see local support for the Norwich doom lads. It was going to be one of those nights where people stand a mile away from the front but after a couple of songs there was enough nodding of heads to show at least the punters were enjoying it. “This is a fast one!” quipped vocalist Ed Bell before the band plunged into the slowest song EVER. In a live setting the majority of songs sounded like the same chord, add this to the band being submerged in smoke and you’ve got a doom fan’s paradise. They’re impeccably fun to watch, pulling out all the moves like a band 1000x faster, but they won over a new legion of fans to tonight.
After NERVEWRECKER we all needed a boot up the bum to wake us up out of our doom trance. Luckily the steel-toed boot came in the form of GOD COMPLEX and my word, they captured our attention. They reminded me of early EVERY TIME I DIE and their energy on stage was contagious. Frontman Harry Rule struts and raves and holds his head in his hands like a man possessed but it’s bassist Alex Chan who steals the hearts with his expressions and stage presence. They had a terrific grungy turn part way through the set which made me think of CANE HILL and I loved it. A fantastic set, they ended up being an unexpected highlight for me and proof it’s always worth seeing opening bands (I never understand why people go out of their way to avoid opening acts). One British band to watch for sure.
CONJURER were up next and things took a heavier and more serious turn. They were flawless and incredibly impressive, with vocalist/guitarist Dan Nightingale opting to scream without a microphone at one point which earnt him top points for stage presence. The band were tight and you could see why they’re getting a great reputation in the scene. The next time I see them on a tour, I’d be extremely surprised if they weren’t headlining. Amazing.
The Waterfront Studio had filled up quite a bit more by the time the main event was about to start. EMPLOYED TO SERVE got on stage with their matching Warmth Of A Dying Sun windbreakers and the aesthetic worked because they sure as hell looked like a band, a unit. When they played they blew me away with their confidence and charisma and they played with the same professionalism as a band who have been doing this for decades. The mix was spot on and they sounded just like they do on record. Guitarist Sammy Urwin demanded the crowd get involved and people finally wormed their way to the front. Mostly playing songs from last year’s Warmth Of A Dying Sun, EMPLOYED TO SERVE gave it their all and vocalist Justine Jones sounded equally as brutal as she does on the CD. Only a few minutes into their set you could understand why there is so much hype surrounding them. A disgustingly heavy and talented band who can deliver the goods live – what’s not to like? When the opening riff for their finale, I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away) rang out, the venue descended into chaos (should be noted no gig is a gig without a man doing the worm in the middle of the pit). A spectacular gig, these British hopes are destined for great things. Catch them live in small venues while you still can.