Ever since moving away from bigger cities, I’ve been yearning for something of greater music gravitas to come to Norwich. Thankfully, these calls were answered last month with Wild Paths Festival showcasing everything local to the east of England, as well as bringing a huge variety of soul, jazz, rock, punk and so much more to the city from around the world for an exciting weekend of music. But the good news didn’t stop there; with an abundance of local street food pop ups, industry-based events, art installations, a diverse, gender-balanced line-up and enough Redwell Wild Paths Orange IPA to sink the city, it looked to be a weekend to remember.
My weekend started on Friday evening with local heavy-math rockers HANK upstairs at the Shoe Factory where the acoustics were amazing, allowing them to flex their full platter of sounds and growls, ripping off the ceiling off St Marys Works and setting the perfect stage for Orchards playing later in the evening. I then made the short trek across the city to catch Bristol punk rockers Heavy Lungs who brought a lively, stomping mix of anger and passion. Danny Nedelko, lead of the band, half danced and half threw himself around Voodoo Daddy’s open floor with disturbing and hypnotising energy. I could have sworn the drummer was going to pop by the end of the set. I would have loved to catch Norwegian alt-rockers Pom Poko and, ahead of her third full album, neo-classical experimental giant, Anna Meredith. The fear of missing-out was only heightened when I heard such good things about both sets.
Saturday highlights included WRECK at Karma Kafe. They kicked the party off early with a shot of garage punk, bringing FIDLAR-levels of party-filled bliss but moving away from less whine and more bite in their voices. The relaxed but dark anger of Jay Reatard and the Stoogey big riffs won me around to having some beers and a jump around. I managed to catch a short set from Billy Ulbach whose folk story-telling was emotive and sent powerful waves beyond his fragile soothing voice. It was a beautiful change of pace as I came down over songs about the innocence of nature and nurture. Next for Cub Sport who were a spectacle of east coast Australian dream electro-pop which, accompanied with the dazzling lights, lulled me into a lucid sway. However, highlight of the day goes to noise rockers KULK who might as well have uprooted Last Pub Standing. Their fuzzy doom reverberated the walls and forced the crowd into a powerful writhe. Jade also is an incredibly inspiring drummer, and a much-needed figurehead for young women in heavy music. I look forward to hearing big things from them in the future.
On Sunday I managed to get down for an intimate amalgamation of synth-pop and jazz from Virginia Wing downstairs at the Shoe Factory before heading up a floor to catch a bit of Sharky’s smoothness – both enthralling despite the technical difficulties. Afterwards I made it to half of indie-folk giant Jose Gonzalez’s set for a big blue closer. He played great as expected, I just wish he’d covered Nick Drake. The evening ended with the Jazz Jam closing party showcasing performances from a range of musicians from the weekend, as well as talented guests from the audience.
With such a large and diverse selection of bands I was spoilt for choice; my only regret is that I didn’t see enough. All that can be asked of Wild Paths Festival going forward is that it keeps true to its local-community-led approach while still aiming even bigger and better. Ben Street, Jack Ames and the rest of the Pizza Club Promotions team have pulled off something truly special for the city, and as an avid music fan I am very grateful. I really hope it is here to stay and can grow and support itself over the years to come. Until then, my post-festival stories and blues can soothe.