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Best of 2022: Local(ish) Live Shows

With 2022 finally being a proper return to live music here’s a look back at the ten best gigs in the local area (and areas around). In no real order, that’d have been much too difficult.

Keg/Anna’s Bones/The Famous People – Three Wise Monkeys, 19th January 2022

Starting the year off well was this Music Venue Trust Revive Live show, a lineup of local and national acts, on a Wednesday night of all days, which was actually well attended! A debut Colchester show for Anna’s Bones, a band who’ve then spent most of this year playing everywhere, and an incredible headline show from Keg, with witty lyrics, danceable music and an energetic delivery.

The Meffs/Fashoda Crisis/Ecto Peach/Dead Caress – Colchester Arts Centre, 22nd July 2022

It’s always nice to be around for that tipping point where the local act you’ve seen a bunch of times in their relatively short existence as a band is suddenly filling much bigger venues and somehow retaining the energy of their performances in smaller spaces. People travelled from far for this show, the pit was one of the liveliest I’ve seen at the arts centre, the set itself worked perfectly, from the video intro to the very last note. Giant inflatable footballs included. Excellent support acts too.

Gig For Ukraine – Colchester Arts Centre, 27th March 2022

Notable for a few reasons. One, a great lineup put together very quickly to raise money for Ukraine. Two, it was mothers day and that may have led to the most unlikely audience Jøtnarr have ever played to. The mums loved it. She’s In Parties played a blinder too – it’s unsurprising that they’ve made waves this year.

Rad Pitt EP Launch – Classic and Custom, 26th August 2022

For their EP launch, Rad Pitt clearly decided they wanted to do something a little different, forgo the usual setting, add a pizza stall, that kind of thing. Setting up in Classic and Custom, a warehouse in Colchester, the luxury motorcycles get moved to the side letting the usual chaos of a Rad Pitt show unfurl. A great night in an interesting location (with a great set from Tundra too) ending perfectly with a crowd getting locked in a business estate while someone found some keys. Would do again.

Rev Simpkins – Chapel of St. Peter-on-the-Wall, 3rd September 2022

Admittedly I wasn’t far off missing this gig (just because tickets are sold by the arts centre doesn’t mean that it won’t be an hours drive and a walk to get to the venue) but I’m so relieved I didn’t as this was nothing short of perfect. The setting was stunning, the way the performance shifted as the sun set and the candles illuminated Matt and his band and just the structure of the show itself, with some sets from members of his band in the first half and a full band, unamplified, set in the second half. What a location too.

Chris Fox – Cambridge Folk Club, 2nd December 2022

Chris Fox kindly played one of the first shows we put on back in 2016 and it was incredible to hear just how much he’s progressed in those six years. Backed by John Parker on double bass and Toby Shaer on violin, Chris sounds fantastic this evening. Every aspect of his performance has matured; the vocals sound fantastic and his guitar playing has definitely jumped quite a few levels. I’m particularly in awe at his use of the loop station – as someone who’s used them for years I’m always impressed by someone absolutely nailing their loops each time and he’s just perfectly on it.

Goldblume, Collars, Helen Robertson – The Blue Moon, 17th March 2022

My first surprise tonight is how different The Blue Moon is compared to the last time I stepped foot in this building, as a 17 year old, when it was The Man On The Moon – it’s not a dive anymore, it’s a wonderful space. Goldblume are (or were, as they’ve split since) some of the nicest people in the (extended) local scene so it’s always good to get to hear them perform – they make technical music sound effortless and fun. My first time seeing Collars too who put on a great show – their name has been everywhere this year, totally unsurprising when they put on shows like this.

Nordic Giants, Arabrot – Colchester Arts Centre, 22nd February 2022

Neither bands are from here (although can you really assign a location on Nordic Giants?) but this is a show I’d hoped for for years. Nordic Giants are on a different plane of existence than other bands when it comes to visuals – the costumes, the short films, the way the projections are positions on stage; it’s all thought through to incredible detail. I wished they’d play Colchester Arts Centre at some point and the combination of band and venue didn’t disappoint.

Pussy Riot – Colchester Arts Centre, 1st November 2022

Pussy Riot’s reputation for protest and art certainly precedes them and this is one of the most sought after shows in town this year. I was pleased to somehow grab a ticket before they changed over to the much more fair ticket ballot but I know a lot of people who were unsuccessful, so clearly there were a lot more people who wanted to see this show. The show itself was really interesting. Mixing music, spoken word, projected videos and acting this was no doubt more challenging than the average show around town.

Pet Needs – Colchester Arts Centre, 16th December 2022

Pet Needs have put in the work this year. They’ve been given some great opportunities (playing Europe and America with Frank Turner certainly hasn’t hurt them getting out there…) but they’ve made an effort to connect with audiences in every city they’ve performed and, tonight, it shows. I arrive in town early afternoon and there are a lot of people wearing their merch en-route to the pub while they await the arrival of the band for an instore at Flaming Gun Tattoo. The instore fills up, some people have to watch from outside. I speak to someone at the Arts Centre who’s flown in from Baltimore for the show, having seen them four times in the states this year. Madness. That’s really what creates a good show in the evening; it’s a local show but it’s actually bought people from all over the country, more than a dozen people from overseas, to our town. They’ve progressed from playing energetic shows to local crowds to playing energetic crowds who’ve created a community amongst themselves.

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