Epic Studios in Norwich hosted a night of pure rock and roll on this Tuesday night which was once again another busy evening of music, theatre and Norfolk and Norwich Festival events around the city.
Now, one may think of blues trash, preacher rock 'n' roll as a particularly American beast, and that Swiss Alpine villages are more associated with traditional folk music than "185% Blues Trash" (as the sign at the back of the stage proclaimed), well not where Reverend Beat-Man and his extraordinary upbringing in a mountainous settlement near Bern are concerned, he brings it all together in glorious style. More of which in a bit.
This gig was put on by Punk Rock Blues in association with Gluttonous Mutt and the crowd was warmed up by a fine selection of vinyl 45s by the Voodoo Boogie djs ahead of the first live music of the night from Ravenous Hounds. I think this was only about the fourth gig for this new band who feature members of Beast With a Gun, Savage Island, and Juke and the All-Drunk Orchestra, all of whom are bands I have really enjoyed seeing over the years. Anyone familiar with any of them will know about their love of energetic, garage-y, dirty, blues-y rock 'n' roll played with a punk-spirited energy and what great live bands they all are/were. Ravenous Hounds have a sax which adds a little bit of a Sonics flavour but they obviously have a range of wider influences and I think their only cover may have been a Gun Club song. Mightily powerful through the Epic PA and with some great guitar work, there was no bass but nor was there any shortage of bottom-end sound either. Two guitars, sax, keys and drums, powerful vocals, it was all good stuff, played in the spacious venue to a modest-sized and therefore somewhat self-conscious audience. Ravenous Hounds nevertheless impressed me a lot once again, their sound and their setlist growing considerably since I saw them at their debut gig at the Rumsey Underbelly some months ago, the sound has become bigger, heavier and rockier. They are another band who'd be brilliant at something like Red Rooster, they are so good live and always worth catching, playing the music they love and are passionate about which shows in every chord. A breath of fresh air for fans of this sort of music, of which I am one and always look out for their gigs.
Soon it was time for the headline of the night, founder of Voodoo Rhythm Records Reverend Beat-Man performing with "classically trained and later classically untrained multi-instrumentalist" Sister Nicole Izobel Garcia. Beat-Man plays deep down raw, swampy, dirty blues trash, in the best possible sense. Rock 'n' roll to get lost in. All the way from ... the mountains of Switzerland. As it was, as soon as they took to the stage the audience members peeled themselves from off the walls and moved forwards. We were not many but we were enthusiastic and this was much-appreciated by the Beat-Man. After a wonderfully dark and theatrical opening he started to tell us some stories, including his weird tale of growing up in a village where "everyone looks like the Reverend Beat-Man" (you'll have to see him play to learn that story). The vocal delivery of some of the songs was deep and throaty, so much so it was at times like hearing someone sing through a didgeridoo, it was almost throat-singing!
He sang, played guitar and kick-drum, whilst Sister Nicole Izobel Garcia (in full nun outfit) also sang and played drums and percussion with some super 60s organ keys too. Inscrutable and expressionless throughout she was mysterious and captivating with much style, her lead vocal songs delivered in Spanish. Beat-Man said she was raised in India and Africa but who knows the full story here, I think Mexico was mentioned too. There was a tour-only LP by the two of them on the fascinating merch table. I, and seemingly everyone else in the venue, snapped one up at the end of the gig.
Between acts I had been speaking with a good friend who told me about the previous Reverend Beat-Man gig in Norwich some twenty years earlier, and that the set then included ... wrestling! Reverend Beat-Man evidently remembers the visit very well too, recalling it and his memories of our city during the encore, describing Norwich as a "crazy city full of cat-lovers! Everyone here has at least one cat, I love that!" As if we could love him any more, he is a cat fan too and proceeded to then launch into Let Me Be Your Pussycat with an introduction of: "This is for all those cats who have gone, and the cats of today!"
The set passed by all too quickly as everyone was enjoying it so much. It was fantastic fun and surely one of my most enjoyable gigs of the year so far, everybody seemed to be dancing, either near the front or in their own world further back and lost in the music. A "celebration for those that have come along to the congregation" attitude even though the room was not full, I love that attitude very much. It's taken me a heck of a long time to discover and see Reverend Beat-Man but I sure hope it won't be another twenty years before I see him again. This was terrific.