Live: Pet Needs / Ben Brown / Ecto Peach

Voodoo Daddy’s, Norwich January 20, 2023

by Paul Hammerton

Independent Venue Week kicks off with the Colchester music scene transported for the evening here to Voodoo Daddy’s.

The compact room is perfect, with even more intimacy than Norwich’s other small venues.

Ecto Peach: Soulful yet seething (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Ecto Peach: Soulful yet seething (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

Ecto Peach describe themselves as “middle-aged angst”. With their leopard print guitar cabs, yellow body suits and singer Lou Brett’s bright red mess of hair, middle age has never looked so colourful.

Their huge Britrock riffs kick the evening off with a bang. Brett’s soulful yet seething vocals mixed with guitarist Matthew Burrows’s wall of effects bring to mind Skunk Anansie at their most furious.

The man behind the mask: Ecto Peach bassist Sam J Hornsey (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
The man behind the mask: Ecto Peach bassist Sam J Hornsey (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

Brett alternates between looking like she’s ready to rip someone’s head off and looking like she’s having the time of her life. They certainly make more than a few new friends this evening.

Alone on a stage decorated with fairy lights, Ben Brown – the “best songwriter in the world”, according to his homemade recycled T-shirts and tote bags – plays mellow acoustic guitar, paired with a great voice and some nice self-penned songs.

We've got his number: Ben Brown (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
We’ve got his number: Ben Brown (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

Hailing from Manningtree, he immediately establishes a rapport with us. Not only do we get the obligatory Facebook/Instagram details but his mobile number and home address, too, just in case we need to get in touch – and a plea to check out his range of gift cards.

For his last song he is joined by a drum machine as he “plays” the lead guitar lines vocally.

Ben Brown quickly establishes a rapport (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Ben Brown quickly establishes a rapport (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

His quirkiness is enjoyable but it is his voice and the range of songs that leaves us wanting more.

After many months of worldwide travel as support for Frank Turner on his Neverending Tour Of Everywhere, this is the opening night for Pet Needs on their UK headline tour.

They arrive with their customary frenzied energy. While the low ceiling on the stage restricts the vertical motion of frontman Johnny Marriott, he makes up for it with sorties into the crowd.

Frenzied: Johnny Marriott (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Frenzied: Johnny Marriott (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

At Voodoo Daddy’s, the divide between stage and crowd is pleasingly blurred. Marriott’s brother George on guitar is no shrinking violet, either, and the whole venue is soon rocking.

Bassist Rich Gutierrez starts the gig in a bright pink hoodie (part of the new merch range, apparently) but as the temperature rises it’s soon discarded.

George Marriott is not exactly a shrinking violet (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
George Marriott is not exactly a shrinking violet (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

The set is an excellent blend of tracks from the band’s first two albums – a treat for those who had their first introduction to the edited highlights of Pet Needs during their September support slot for Turner at UEA.

The standout songs – and the ones that get the loudest responses – are old favourites Spin Cycle and Tracey Emin’s Bed as well as a new song, Yeah!, which was written only three days ago.

Johnny checks first: “Is this a safe space to try this one out?” It sure is, and it goes down a storm.

Rich Gutierrez on bass (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Bassist Rich Gutierrez (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

We get to hear some of the singer’s life story and his attachment to Norwich, including how he met his wife in Mercy and his experience studying psychology at UEA. There’s even a psychology experiment at one point – a long silence that leads to a mix of nervousness and amusement in the crowd.

It’s inevitably a longer set tonight than when Pet Needs supported Turner, which lets them show off the variety in their songs, including a pared-down Nobody Ever Warned Us that starts with only the Marriott brothers on stage.

From left: Rich Gutierrez, Johnny Marriott and Jack Lock (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
From left: Rich Gutierrez, Johnny Marriott and Jack Lock (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

Visually, they are better suited to a larger stage, but the sound quality here is excellent – hats-off to the Voodoo Daddy’s crew. In particular, the backing vocals are much more prominent tonight and really help the performance.

It all ends without an encore but with an enormously warm reception as the band leave the stage through the audience.

Tonight demonstrates the importance of our smaller venues for both audiences and performers, and makes us realise just how lucky we are to have places such as this in Norwich.

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