Sound City Ipswich made it’s debut this month. Keith Goldhanger went along to see the sights and watch the bands.
There’s not a lot to look at around Ipswich once you’ve walked past the football ground and photographed the statue of the former Ipswich Town and England manager Sir Bobby Robson. Rows of buildings next to each other from every decade going back hundreds of years are worth staring at for a while even if many of them are currently boarded up, probably listed and certainly in need of someone spending some money to restore the potential beauty around the town. We couldn’t even find the (not very) much rumoured blue plaque to commemorate the location where Phil from Extreme Noise Terror used to park his car. It doesn’t matter, the bands will be along shortly and once they do we’ll probably forget where we are until someone called Nigel, who used to be in a band called Bum Gravy, taps us on the shoulder after 25 years. Ipswich then, not the same colourful picture you can paint when in Liverpool for their Sound City but in both cases it’s the present day that counts more for some of us. We’re not that bothered that The Addicts aren’t on the bill today.
Any town full of music-loving people with more than one venue should at least once hold an event such as this. Brighton, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff, Leeds and numerous others have now cemented annual events in their neighbourhoods over the past two or three decades, and as Ipswich have now proved, they have a town worth visiting and have a few venues and pubs to experience some of our favourite bands in. Some of the local acts are muscling in too, however we missed The Stupids and are saving Gaffa Tape Sandy for Cardiff Sŵn Festival. There’s always been something going on in this area just as there is everywhere, and it’s always important to include local talent when curating these events.
For the first Ipswich Sound City event we have three venues plus an outdoor stage in the town square. The line up is impressive enough to get us on the Friday lunchtime eastbound train out of London and as it won’t end until late, we still have a whole weekend ahead of us to recover.
We begin the evening with PEANESS who provide us with a pleasant and polite performance to gently ease us into the evenings proceedings. Even though we’re pleased to be witnessing this at an early evening hour we’re not sure this would work so well after closing time. There are however some clever subtle messages this trio are conveying. In Oh George they sing about how let down their family were and it all sounds so sweet and lovely until we suspect that the George they’re probably referring to could be the one with the surname Osborne; and in Breakfast when they sing ‘I’m not really sure exactly what they’re hoping for, I’m not really sure they knew what they were in for’ the listener remembers the intro when they told us this it was about Brexit (we’d already forgotten being told that bit). Sweet sounding songs disguised rather well between gritted teeth.
Less than 24 hours earlier PLASTIC MERMAIDS completed their biggest headline show inside London’s Scala featuring five additional backing singers, a couple of violins, two or three trumpets, confetti cannons and a pre-prepared audience in attendance to be moved and elated during the hour and a half that they were onstage. Tonight in the smaller Manor Ballroom they’re back to the basic five piece but with just as much equipment and the injured frontman Douglas Richards, who a couple of days ago broke his hand when some of that equipment managed to sandwich itself either side of the part of his body that usually decides what notes he’s playing on his guitar. For tonight’s set he concentrates on the tunes he can play on the piano, and a room full of punters suddenly realise they’ve walked into something wonderful that they’ll be digging deeper into another day. Tracks from the debut album along with a couple of earlier tunes are performed during the much shorter appearance today before they scoot off fast to try to catch the midnight ferry back to the Isle of Wight. The band have been away from home over the past few weeks whilst completing their first long and successful UK tour, and hopefully by the time the next one occurs one would expect another trip to East Anglia to be included.
Time to visit the towns’ newest local favourite BESSIE TURNER who bounces onto the stage, proceeds to wave and say hello to a lot of people she recognises inside the great hall of the Corn Exchange, playing us a selection of tunes she’s started to regularly perform around the Suffolk area over the past couple of years. Starting with Words You Say she keeps us interested from beginning to end with a very confident performance.
We nip back to the Manor Ballroom to make sure we’re inside the room in good time for Dublin’s THE MURDER CAPITAL who we feel it’s never too soon to see again. Before this however, we’ll stand with full attention and have a look at SIR WAS who we know nothing about except what we read on our phones, as the Swedish trio set up their gear and plod away through some uninspiring sluggish songs that would make anyone pine for a big meal at a table as opposed to dancing on one, which is what many of us would rather be doing by this stage of the proceedings. The twin vocals are great and the bottom end of the Moog that we can feel from the base of our feet is great, but we could have done with some disco stomping rhythms so we could then compare the band to Jungle.
THE MURDER CAPITAL know how to create tension. Get the gear set up, dim the lights and play a couple of tunes by Burnt Out, a band fronted by a friend of theirs who died this year that has obviously affected the band. These two tunes that many of us may not have heard before are touching intense songs themselves and cause one or two of us to investigate the whole story. This band are obviously succeeding in achieving some additional recognition for this guy named Paul Curran, whose music can be found here. We’ve returned home to listen to Burnt Out and you should too.
The Murder Capital look like a bunch of blokes straight off the set of Shameless. The bass player is trashing his guitar before a tune has begun; James McGovern on lead voice is the hardest looking bastard you’ll see playing a tambourine this year; and between the two, not one button is undone all evening on their shirts. Eyes are locked either to the dead air about twelve inches in front of them or closed emotionless, as the band (who don’t even appear to acknowledge one another) glide seamlessly though a bunch of tunes we’re sure everyone has already fallen in love with, or is about to fall in love with. Moody Delta Five chopping guitars with Joy Division, Gang of Four or more recently Savages influences along with reminders that we always need to be prepared for the ceiling falling in on our lives and that we need to remind our friends and family how much we love them. Chilling, brilliant and some genuine passion from a band about to take on the world over the next couple of years and succeed. We suspect you’ve already heard their album, if not then you will. The band leave the stage and many in this packed room stagger out into the cool night air believing they’ve just seen the best band there is to see at the moment.
Back over at the Corn Exchange, corn is literally being exchanged by DINGUS KHAN (main pic) who we think are beginning to adopt a more mature side to their show for the first couple of moments – but then we realise we are not ten minutes in and Mick Squalor still hasn’t actually worked out how to put his guitar over his head or plug it it, a naked man has appeared from nowhere, been accidentally been hit on the head by the same guitar and Guitarist Tom (seen earlier in a more relaxed position of Bessie Turners bass player) gets to feel the full force of a returning cob of corn full in the face. Well, at least no one is throwing up or pouring drink over their faces, we say to ourselves, as some kind of compensation. Squallors’ voice and those of the rest of the band (three are drummers) are strong, rousing and important to the music Dingus Khan create. At least four of the band members are singing backing vocals, a couple of superb-on-first-listen new songs are thrown in and we realise this huge stage the band are appearing on is slightly more practical than when we saw them a couple of years ago in the pub literally across the road from where we are tonight. Visiting Ipswich without getting to see Dingus Khan would be like going to Paris and not be bothered about at least standing underneath the Eiffel Tower or walking along the seafront in Southend and not looking at the pier. You have to witness the town’s main attraction wherever you go, even if strictly speaking they’re from Maningtree, which is a few miles down the road on the Essex border.
Finally it’s left for SNAPPED ANKLES to end the day’s entertainment and for forty minutes we get repetitive synth throbbing, distorted vocals, drum rolls aplenty and a big bass drum echoing around the vast hall. All of a sudden we feel we’re back at the Batcave in 1983 and Alien Sex Fiend have decided to change their appearance from drug-fuelled zombies to that Hazey Fantayzee who haven’t had a hair cut for thirty years look. Some of us still prefer to hear the tunes by this band one at a time and preferably in the comfort of our own homes though. Knowing you’re in a room watching Snapped Ankles in 2019 is a sign it’s well past your bedtime, but before retiring there’s the hurdle of all those bands congregating outside the venue that all seem to know each other and all have one thing in mind – relocating somewhere to get another beer at three o’clock in the morning.
Ipswich has won us over – hopefully those in charge can make it happen again next year and hopefully add at least another day so we can visit more venues. We’d like another chance to see The Stupids one day too, and a hammer and nail would come in handy for Phil Extreme Noise Terrors’ blue plaque that some of us need to commission before returning.