Thursday 10 August 2017

Sonic Youths Celebrate Three Years of Showcases at Norwich Arts Centre

What a day for a third birthday party! It is August, but the rain started about lunchtime and just got heavier and heavier and heavier as the afternoon progressed. Even by early evening it was still coming down so hard that I had no option but to get the car out if I was going to attend the celebrations organised by Annie Catwoman at Norwich Arts Centre to celebrate three years of her Sonic Youths Showcases.

Open to all musicians of any genre, as long as they are between the ages of 14 and 19, Sonic Youths has provided a regular platform for young acts with original material who are either looking to make the move from practice and rehearsal to performing in front of a live audience, or just want to experience the atmosphere of playing in this prestigious venue.

Submission of demos in either audio or video format is invited by Annie, who then curates a lunchtime showcase in the Adnams Mission Hall Bar every three months or so. And once she has gotten her claws into you, you will probably be invited back to take part in further Sonic Youths events, either back at NAC or at various festival stages across the region. So far this this year Sonic Youths have had a stage in Norwich city centre as part of YNAF for the Lord Mayor's Celebrations, organised a couple of #ICYMI ('in case you missed it') reunion shows, and also curated a stage at Latitude. And as her sonic youths ultimately grow and fly away Annie continues to follow them all, posting updates and news via the Sonic Youths social media pages.

So tonight we have five acts performing, three on the main stage and two in the Adnams Mission Hall Bar. First up on the main stage is multi-instrumentalist and singer Hydra Lerna, known to many of us as Abigail Blake. Still playing her trademark harp, but now with a sound that capitalises on her growing production and studio skills, Abigail's new material seems to be advancing away from her earlier fusion of dubstep beats overlaid with twinkling loops, and is now entering a phase of self-exploration and new sounds. However, the harp has not yet been abandoned, and we are also treated to a recently composed instrumental piece that seems to take inspiration from her own personal hero, Agnes Obel.

In the bar Flora Pechey is already on stage and waiting to go. She has a confidence that defies an appearance of vulnerability, a voice that is gentle yet is clearly capable of reaching the big notes, and a songwriting style that is peppered with moments of unique phrasing that seem to possess almost hip-hop etymology. 

We'll Be Detectives perform tonight on the main stage as a three-piece, fronted by guitarist and lead singer Jonny Briggs. They are grungey, but without falling into the trap of trying to be or sound like Nirvana. Their own description of 'alternative rock bangers for everyone' seems to sum them up perfectly. Great songs executed with real stage presence.

Back in the bar one of the most talented of the new wave of Norwich singer-songwriters is setting up. Finn Doherty is a record company A&R person's dream - chiselled good looks, confident and personable - and possessing a sackful of songs deftly performed on guitars backed up with an array of pedals, samples and loops. As he plays, a group of girls move forward to surround him and begin to dance. Blend the musical DNAs of Ed Sheeran and Declan McKenna and you could create a singer more valuable than a bumper bag of bitcoins. But do it quickly, before this guy makes it big. 

The final act nearly doesn't make it beyond the first two lines of their opening number when Peach Club vocalist Katie Revell suddenly and without warning hits the stage, leaving the rest of the band not knowing quite what to do. Apparently the band had been throwing some shapes in the dressing room earlier when Katie had twisted her knee. Hopefully it is nothing more serious. The way she went down it looked as though a ligament might have snapped. A chair and an ice-pack are quickly located and rushed onto the stage, and Katie bravely re-starts the set from a seated position. But it isn't long before once again the energy and sounds of Peach Club prove impossible not to get up and dance to, even if you are the injured lead singer. Getting better and better with each and every performance, Peach Club have a defiant riot-grrrl politic and attitude that the music business desperately needs. Just take it easy in those pre-show warm-ups.

Hydra Lerna website -

Flora Pechey on Soundcloud -

We'll Be Detectives on Bandcamp -
We'll Be Detectives Facebook -

Finn Doherty on Soundcloud -

Peach Club on Soundcloud -

Sonic Youths Twitter -

The next Sonic Youths showcase will take place at Norwich Arts Centre on Saturday 9th September. Check out for further details.

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