Wooden Shjips at NAC 03/06/2019 - Review
On the final night of their spring tour, Wooden Shjips played to a sold-out crowd at my favourite Norwich venue, the Norwich Arts Centre. The support for the gig came from the Russian psychedelic shargazers, and (somewhat surprisingly) Norwich regulars Gnoomes. Three hours of psychedelic shoesgazing drone music in a beautiful church on a warm summers evening, what more could you ask for?
When Gnoomes took to the stage at 8pm it was clear in their previous (4 or 5) Norwich shows they had established a strong following. This was the largest crowd I've seen come in time for support at the venue and when they started playing it was clear why. With elements of krautrock, psych, and shoegaze, the group mesmerised the crowd with their 45 minute set. The lucid synths, motorik drums and effect fuelled guitars filled up the church with their incredible and loud sound. During their performance it was very unclear where one song stopped and the next began. However, this just added to the psychedelic and cathartic experience that the band gifted to the audience. Everyone who watched that set, from Gnoomes fans to people (inc. me) who had never heard of them before, witness something special. Keep an eye out to see when they play Norwich again, it is definite not a performance you should be missing.
After a short break, the crowd swiftly moved back into the venue in time for the start of the main event, Wooden Shjips. The venue at this point had reached that level of warmth where you're not uncomfortable but you start to feel a bit hazy. This accompanied with the incredibly beautiful and hypnotising psychedelic projections, painted the perfect scene for Wooden Shjips to paint there music on top of. For the following hour an a half I got completely lost in a world of my own with Wooden Shjips' tight drums, fuzzy guitar and mesmerising synth sound-tracking the experience, Lead singer Erik "Ripley" Johnson's vocals were often lost in the overwhelming wall of sound coming from the instruments, often coming across as far away murmurs. It was almost like someone talking to you when you're asleep, a distance calling which gets lost in your trying to understand it. The lack of clarity in vocals may be in issue for some however, for me it just fed into the dream-like experience that was felt in that church. The same can be said for the lack of movement and talking in between songs from the band. Though this may have quelled some peoples experiences, I personally do not think that talking or movement were needed from the band or from the performance they were giving. The music they were creating does not require any charm from them, just a patient dedication to the sound they are creating, and it is that which they did incredible throughout the set. Each song slowly built up into a monumental sound usually starting with a intense and repetitive drum pattern and ending in a glory of fuzz, psychedelia and garage rock.
I came into the set not knowing many of their songs and coming out of it I cannot really tell you the tracks they played with the exception of tracks like 'Staring at the Sun' and their cover of Snapper's 'Buddy' which closed their set. However, Wooden Shjips are not the type of band where people are waiting for specific songs, the audience are not here to shout along to lyrics. They instead come for the overall psychedelic experience that their music creates, where you can just close your eyes and lose yourself in the awe-some sounds. Overall the gig was one of the best musical experiences I've had in a while. I don't often go to gigs by myself and when I do I am usually very conscious of the fact I'm by myself. But during both the acts at this gig, those thoughts never came to mind. I found myself just focusing on the incredible music being performed and escaping from the monotonous worries of day to day life. All in all I had a great time.