It is Friday night after (another) less than perfect week of work and an evening at NAC is very much required. Tonight, we are treated to three very different acts and boy oh boy did they deliver the shot that I needed.
Thanks to a navigational error - why did I forget that Cattle Market Street is closed, dammit? - I miss the beginning of Trapper Schoepp’s set but what I see is wholly impressive. Schoepp is a confident, entertaining raconteur with a fine line in between song patter (although a friend suggests that this tells you all you need to know about the songs without having to listen to the lyrics and I kinda get that). There is a bit of Dylan, a touch of Springsteen, a dash of Josh Ritter and a smidge of the Alarm’s Mike Peters in the delivery. At times, the guitar touches on Michael Chapmanand the late, great Jack Rose but is simply high quality Americana for the most part. It is nowt new but Bumper Cars, Ferris Wheeland the Ballad of Olaf Johnsonare damned fine tunes.
The Wood Burning Savages bring something entirely different to the party. Their sound has its roots in punk and post-punk but takes that into rousing anthemic rock territory. Politically and socially aware but never preachy, this is bordering on brilliant. Michael and vocalist Paul lay down some steering guitar whilst bassist Daniel and drummer Elliot lay down heavy dub rhythms that bring to mind early Killing Joke or PiL. Add in the fire of Stiff Little Fingers and the energy of Ashand it is a compelling sound. Someone should - no, make that MUST - bring this lot back to Norwich for a headline slot soon.
And now for the main event. Let's get the obvious out of the way. Like the Pogues, Levellers, Gogol Bordello or the much missed (by me, anyway) Bootscraper, Skinny Lister mix folk and punk. For all that, though, they do it in a way that is wholly different to the aforementioned bands. Almost as soon as they start their set, I stop taking notes, I am too busy bouncing around.
With the exception of a couple of slower numbers, this is a fearsomely high energy performance. Drummer Thom might be anchored to his kit but he is a blur of limbs. The other five don’t stop moving, with co-lead vocalist Lorna and her melodeon/mandolin playing brother Maxwell both deserving particular mention. Scott’s double bass seems to spend almost as much time above his head as it does touching the ground. That is not to say Daniel (vox/guitar) and Sam (guitar/concertina) are exactly motionless. The - some would say notoriously reserved - Norwich crowd take the energy that is coming off of the stage, ramp it up and feed it back to the band with non-stop bouncing and singalongs. Hell, there are even a few people doing jigs and reels.
With a set like this, what they play almost doesn’t matter but Geordie Lad, Hamburg Drunk and This Is War were definite highlights. Skinny Lister are more than decent on record but live is the perfect environment for them. This audience love ‘em and they seem to genuinely love the audience back.
Go check ‘em out. You will not be disappointed.