Emerging from the safety of a recording studio housed within a former nuclear bunker hidden somewhere in Norwich, Rope Store came and set up stall within Norwich Arts Centre on Saturday night as headliners of Craig Hill's 'Tilting Sky' event. For some, myself included, it was the first chance to check out this intriguing group of retro-popsters headed up by a certain Mr Jason. Others seem to have been in on the secret for some time, and are here to renew the acquaintance.
Tilting Sky have, as usual, pulled out all the stops to pack the evening with musical talent. Whilst I couldn't get in to see the wryly-named Tom Happy kick off proceedings, and only managed to hear local four-piece Mallie from the foyer, I was there complete with pint in hand ready to enjoy Sargasso Trio member Emily Winng and her band perform immediately before Rope Store. I've seen her once before (at Gravy Records Summer Party) accompanied by the band, and the result is a ballsy mix of summery alternative calypso, with a lyrical prowess that really grabs your attention and keeps it throughout her set. Whilst Sargasso continue on hiatus, its good to know that Emily is still out here performing.
A total of nine musicians take the stage to perform as Rope Store tonight. Mr Jason oversees everything from right of stage on guitar, lead vocalist Gemma Dietrich commands the centre ground, whilst around her the rest of the band arrange themselves, with two saxophones to the fore, and keyboards, bass, drums and guitar squeezed in somehow at the back.
Having heard the tracks that Mr Jason and Gemma have produced down in the bunker, I am already in love with the authentic re-creation of the 60's style that they have achieved by recording straight onto 8-track with analogue equipment and by using just the one microphone. Having got the attention of Tom Robinson, amongst others, with 'Get Me Out' and 'Stop', they have since added the poignant 'Never Too Late To Love', and the gorgeous 'That's Not Good Enough' to the content of their Bandcamp page. Can they cut it in front of a live audience, albeit a friendly Norwich Arts Centre crowd, before setting off to the likes of the trendy Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch in September?
Well, if last night was anything to go by, they'll smash it. Bill, on sound, has managed to get the levels of everything just right, and the choice of retro dressing by some and essential 't-shirt and denim' by the rest creates just that right balance that shouts homage rather than pastiche. We all know that it is the music that is paramount, but neither are we so naïve not to realise the importance of appearances either. Gemma's monochrome outfit of leather jacket, tu-tu style skirt and trainers, brings a contemporary sassiness to the overall look.
We will find out how they fared in Hipster-land when they return to play The Murderers in Norwich on October 9th.
Buy some, or all, of their recorded tracks via their Bandcamp page at http://ropestore.bandcamp.com/ , and keep up to date on social media via https://www.facebook.com/ropestoremusic or https://twitter.com/ropestoremusic