• Amy

LIVE REVIEW & GALLERY: Neck of the Woods Festival @ Earlham Park, Norwich

29th May 2022

Let's start off by saying I was giddy with excitement for this festival. Norwich is so often overlooked for things like this so it was amazing that the city was playing host to such an amazing lineup of bands. On the day I was awake before 6 and up and ready to leave by 7! I ended up having to go into Norwich early to get a haircut and eyebrow wax just so I didn't spend a couple of hours pacing around my flat waiting to leave!

When it was time to make my way from the city centre to the venue I realised despite being a Norfolk girl and having been to Norwich a million times I had no idea how to get to Earlham Park and the festival buses that were meant to be running were non-existent. Looking at the map I saw it was near the Uni so I decided to head there and work out where to go. I got off the bus with a load of people looking as lost as me, I started walking and found the masses figured I must be going the right way!

Once in the festival was a neat little set up with two outdoor stages, two tents, a few food vendors, bar, VIP lounge and some other bits. It wasn't a massive set up with loads of merch and stalls but it was enough and worked well for the size of the festival.

After meeting up with some other photographers (I always feel better when I see people I know and who know the ropes) it was time for the first of many bands, Norwich's own Youth Killed It on the main stage! Slight panic shooting as my new lens had got itself in manual focus and being a rookie I had no idea what was going on but I changed to another lens and got snapping! The band's genre is hard to describe and they were definitely heavier live than what I’d listened to on Spotify. I would put them somewhere between Nu-Metal and Rapcore. They have a unique sound and the band radiated charisma which I really enjoyed. The set even included a song about a cat called Molly!

After Youth Killed It was time to make my first visit to the Propaganda tent for the second Norwich based act Lozeak. From listening to her recorded I expected a somewhat poppy sound so was surprised by how heavy the set was. It is undeniable she has a wonderful powerful voice which is really showcased on her cover of a ballad I didn't know. She also seemed like a very sweet lady showing lots of appreciation to the crowd for watching her. She finished her set on Hate Me Too, her most commercially successful track to date, which is a song I'd played a lot prior to the festival. It was a real crowd pleaser with lots of people singing and dancing along.

Back across to the mainstage for The Lottery Winners. These were great fun to watch and frontman Thom was so animated and lively, at one point directing a comment to the photographers asking us "what pictures have you pervs been taking?" He also encouraged the fans to join his Only Fans which was 50% off as he only has half a penis! I have to confess at times Thom's larger than life personality attracted more of my attention than their music, give the man his own show! Musically they were chilled, jangly indie pop which somewhat reminded me of the Kaiser Chiefs, easy on the ear and sure to put you in a good mood!

Back to the Propaganda tent for Delights from Manchester, I was excited to see these. They have a slightly funky indie sound with catchy choruses you just have to tap along to. The tent was fairly empty but they had a loyal fan base who sang every word. Their multi-instrumental frontman ooze personality and their stage presence was that of pros. For me the highlight came at the end of the set with their reggae-ish mash-up of Never Gonna Dance Again, Gangsta's Paradise and Back to Black, a work of pure genius.

Another trott back to the mainstage for Lauran Hibberd from the Isle of Wight who had energy by the bucket load and a real sincere, sweet, humble demeanour. She even treated us to a new song "Im Insecure" about her IBS, shouting to the crowd that "girls poo too." Her sound is a little indie, a little poppy and a little arty, her style and voice are very unusual and she was a pleasure to watch. Her set ended on Still Running (5k) which is a great song that sounded even better live!

Guess where I went next?! If you said the Propaganda Tent you'd be absolutely right! Next up was former The Voice contestant Beth McCarthy. I have to be honest I was left a little indifferent listening to Beth on Spotify and chose to go and see them based solely on their visual aesthetic from a photography point of view and I'm so glad I did! They were the standout act of the festival for me! Again they came across as the sweetest most genuine person with the biggest smile that lit up the whole tent, and their voice is out of this world! They had no band with them yet they still managed to fill the whole stage and make themselves known. From the more electronica start to just them and a guitar going "back to where it started" the set was captivating and emotional. Their cover of Teenage Dirtbag was great fun. "If You Loved Me Right" was perfect both musically and in sentiment, talking about being called crazy in a relationship splitting up and realising the only reason you were crazy is because they made you that way (I’m sure we’ve all been there!). The set was incredible and after seeing Beth live I revisited them recorded and enjoyed their music a hundred times more. Sometimes you need to watch an artist live to fully make sense of them. If you get the chance to go and see them live I guarantee you'll love it!

At this point I'd planned to break for food but decided I wasn't hungry so made my way back to the main stage for The Snuts. I'd not listened to them before and had no idea what to expect. What greeted me was lots of attitude and swagger and a sound similar to that of the Libertines. The set was held together largely on the notion of "Fuck the Jubilee" which while I'm not royalist I found a little boring. They seemed to be trying too hard to be confrontational. I have to confess they were musically okay but they did fall a bit short for me so I bailed after a few songs to see what else I could find.

At last I finally ventured into the Waterfront stage to see STONE. The stage was incredibly high and was the first time my 5ft 2 stature and photography really struggled! It sucks being short sometimes! STONE were another I'd been excited to see, the band are from my favourite city, Liverpool and when listening to them recorded I loved that I could hear their Liverpudlian accents coming through in the vocals. I really like hearing regional accents in music. Like The Snuts, STONE were big on attitude and swagger but in a more genuine, sincere less contrived way. The band blends indie and punk with big riffs, raw vocals and an overall sound that makes you want to jump in the mosh pit!

After STONE I decided it was time to get some food, I'm not keen on dodie who was playing on the Main Stage and knew after this my schedule was pretty packed. Mooching around the food vendors I was disappointed with the veggie options with most of the vans offering chips cooking them in the same oil as meat. I finally found one where the chips were okay and had them with a big dollop of cheese sauce. I’ve got to admit while they didn't look appealing they tasted amazing and were inhaled within a minute! My recommendation for next year is a better choice of food stalls, if I'd been vegan I'd have been pretty screwed!

Chips eaten I walked past the Kili Presents stage and stopped to watch a few songs by a high energy punk outfit. They were great and while I didn't see much they were very instantly likeable with great energy. Unfortunately owing to some artists pulling out and stage changes I'm unsure who they were which is a shame, possibly Alex Neal but I couldn't be certain.

Next I went back to the Waterfront stage to watch The Academic but they were having loads of technical issues and as a result were very late starting so I opted to head back to the Propaganda Tent and watch a bit of George O' Hanlon. Walking in the tent almost everyone was sitting on the floor as if they were sitting round a campfire listening to him sing. He commented that normally he would perform with a full band but to be honest after a very rowdy, loud festival it was nice to take the pace down a bit. George has a lovely voice and nice, homely stage presence like watching your mate perform. He mentioned that he'd played Dot to Dot in Nottingham earlier in the day so he's clearly a very hardworking young man.

I feel like we've not been over to the mainstage for a while, well it's time to head there now! Sea Girls were the band I was most excited for and they didn't disappoint. It was big, anthemic, stadium filling rock. From crowd pleaser "Do You You Really Wanna Know" to "Paracetamol Blues" which was an absolute gem live. My favourite "Hometown" blew me away; their set didn't miss a beat once. These lads are pure talent both as musicians and songwriters and they have the warm, friendly stage presence to make them even more endearing. They're ones to watch, if they're not headlining Glastonbury in a few years I'll be amazed!

Next up were Miya Miya. I had no intentions of watching them but realised I had a gap and decided, after a quick Google, that of the bands playing these guys had the best imagery for photos. I made a good choice! These would be my second favourite band of the festival! On later investigation the band from Berkshire have amassed quite the following on Spotify and have featured on a variety of songs but other, far bigger, artists. On paper Miya Miya shouldn't work, a pop singer, a multi-instrumentalist indie singer, a barefooted guitarist who looks like he belongs in the Strokes and an alt rock drummer but on stage it was fire! The two styles of vocals combined perfectly to give an overall sound that was incredible! The crowd was small but they had a faithful few who knew every song and as I stood their more passers-by stopped to give them a listen. I'll admit Miya Miya are a curveball, something really unique but something really bloody good! I’m excited to hear more!

Off to the mainstage again to cover a band I've reviewed before DMA's. Their stage presence is questionable, acoustic guitarist Johnny seemed more animated and talkative than when I'd seen them at the UEA but singer Tommy still barely spoke and often turned his back to the crowd. I felt a little put off the first time I saw them but now I've come to realise it's just their thing, maybe it's stage fright. The sound was still a blend of indie verging on Briptop and power rock which was incredibly catchy with great danceability. Their sound was well suited to a festival setting with the D-D-DMAS chant still echoing around the crowd long after the set had finished. "Silver" stood out to me with its powerful sound and lyrics. I definitely enjoyed them more this time round.

Time for my last visit to the Propaganda tent to see Little Comets from the North East. I was surprised I was the only photographer who chose to shoot these, the rest clearly opting for Yokonda. I like Little Comets. I like the fact they do everything themselves just for the love of making music. They have a charming stage presence and a hardworking, honest indie sound. You can tell they enjoy what they do, the singer even commenting that he was getting married at 11am up North the next day so the festival was his stag do. I really enjoyed the set but wish I'd taken a bit more time to listen to them beforehand, I feel they're one of these bands you enjoy more if you can have a sing-a-long!

Bringing the festival to a close was The Kooks on the mainstage. I know a lot of people who don't like The Kooks and think they're indie by numbers but I personally think they're great. It's catchy, feel good, grab your mates, grab a beer, have a dance upbeat indie that doesn't always take itself too seriously. They have a fun stage presence and handle themselves like the hardened professionals they are. I have to confess I'm only familiar with the first record which they relied heavily on for this set, owing to it turning 20 this year, but haven't listened to it in full for years. I really enjoyed "She Moves in Her Own Way," it's a classic and one of the few songs I'm word perfect on but still nodded and bounced through all the others. They're a band with an infectious, but not overbearing energy andt have a knack of making you feel happy. They played for about an hour and a quarter before announcing this was their last song. They then sauntered off, some geering ensured before they came back on for the encore. They played a song I didn't know before finishing on “Naive” which was amazing live and a perfect way to end what had been a perfect day.

It was time to get back to the UEA and find my taxi amongst drunken people, who were struggling to walk straight and were loudly talking about how they had already decided to pull sickies the next day feeling knackered, but buzzing!

Same time next year? I really hope so!