Last night, at The Owl Sanctuary in Norwich, I finally got to see a band that is still talked of in reverential tones by those 'in the know' when it comes to the history of rock music from this region. Magoo formed in the early nineties, and via records released firstly on local label Noisebox, and then later on Scottish 'indie' label Chemikal Underground, were on the brink of national and even international recognition. They played the CMJ Music Marathon in New York and Glastonbury Festival, and recorded a total of six sessions for John Peel on BBC Radio 1. Their albums got favourable reviews but, as has so often happened with bands from Norfolk they just managed to slip off the radar before they had built up sufficient momentum to keep domestic interest alive.
Twenty years later and the band are still active, rehearsing and recording at guitarist Owen Turner's Sickroom Studios near Kings Lynn, and so when I heard that they were back in Norwich for a headlining gig at The Owl Sanctuary I simply had to keep my diary clear.
On a slightly drizzly yet incredibly mild Friday night in November the centre of Norwich was packed. As well as the beginnings of the usual weekend revelry this Friday there was also the free fireworks display from the Castle grounds to draw in the crowds, and so it was a packed Owl Sanctuary to which I finally arrived just before ten o'clock. Too late to see first band up, Witchers, but not too late to catch most of the set from Post War Glamour Girls, a nice tight four-piece from Leeds headed up by charismatic singer James Smith - not afraid to leave the comfort and safety of the stage and deliver his vocals from the auditorium floor, and backed by James Thorpe on guitar, drummer Ben Clyde, and some deft bass playing from Alice Scott. I don't know if it was their first visit to Norwich, but based on tonight's show we'll definitely have them back. Definitely justified tonight's admission fee alone. Hope we were worth their petrol money down from Yorkshire.
Post War Glamour Girls
As soon as the stage is cleared of Post War amps and instruments Magoo are up and sound-checking. Their air is one of relaxed familiarity - it would appear that most of the audience either knows them, or is with someone that knows them, reinforcing what I had been told about their local following, even twenty years on. Drummer Stacy Gow comfortably positions himself behind his kit before realising that he has nothing to drink. A quick SOS and an audience member dutifully returns with a glass. Dappily dressed vocalist Andrew Rayner assumes a position right of stage leaving Owen Turner on bass to front up the band tonight, whilst Dave Lake carefully arranges his array of guitar pedals to the left
Whilst Rayner's characteristic vocals and rapid guitar work take us through the setlist, including songs going right back to 1996, guitarist Dave Lake is extracting an amazing array of sounds from his guitar pedals whilst throwing in some cheese-grater action for good measure. Gow is relaxed and smiling, but keeps everyone together with steady drumming as they rattle through a series of short but schnazzy post-punk numbers with just a hint of BritPop swagger. The pace is certainly quick enough for sweat to be visibly dripping off Turner's tousled locks by the time the set ends, even though he comments that they 'still have another seven songs to play'. Beaten by the clock, perhaps, but not by the passage of time. These guys still enjoy playing, and the audience still loves listening.
Magoo's music and gigs can be followed via The Sickroom Studio's website at http://www.thesickroom.co.uk/magoo/
Post War Glamour Girls can be found at http://postwarglamourgirls.com/