Live Review! South Norwood Community Festival – Keeping Live Music Alive ft. Mangoseed, Moses + Phoenix Raven

On March 5 of this year I was at The Victoria in Dalston to see Romances play a headline show, supported by Running Guns and I Know I Know. I never imagined that it would be another six months before I would be at the edge of a stage with camera in hand. For many people it’s been even longer since they’ve had the pleasure of listening to live music in a venue with an audience, and the same for the bands who play to them. I went from four or more gigs a week to zero in a matter of days. When the pubs reopened there was a glimmer of hope that maybe live music would soon also make a comeback, but with obvious restrictions in place. Nothing. Practically everything has been postponed until 2021 – if the bands and venues can survive till then.

One morning recently I was having a casual scroll through Instagram and London band Moses posted that they were playing a gig. Not only that but it was local to me, and by local I mean within walking distance. They were going to be playing South Norwood Community Festival in Stanley Halls, a lovely old arts centre with a 250 capacity theatre, but tickets were limited to just 50. In previous years the festival held its live music events in South Norwood Recreation Ground, which it usually packed out. But these days we have to be grateful for small mercies. The local festival had managed to pull together this year’s festival with very short notice, and put on nights of live music and comedy, and sell them out.

The bill for the Saturday night gig was opened by local girl duo Phoenix Raven, who played a mixture of originals and covers spanning genres from rock to reggae.

South London rock duo Phoenix Raven play onstage at South Norwood Community Festival

Second up were Moses, playing their first gig since January having missed out on being able to tour their fantastic debut album Almost Everything is Bullshit. They were clearly the big draw of the sold-out night, attracting fans from as far away as Liverpool and Essex. I’ve been following the band’s career through its ups and downs since some of their earliest gigs, and they always put on a high energy show of anthemic bangers, with frontman Victor bouncing around the stage like Tigger on coke. Their performance would have won them hordes of new fans if they’d got to play the festivals this summer, as their music is perfect for such audiences. They’re going to have to wait till next year to get the recognition they deserve.

Headliners, South London locals Mangoseed, maintained the energy flow with their fusion of rock and ska. The social distancing rules meant that everyone had plenty of room make their moves, and move they did, both offstage and on.

While I was missing getting out to see live music, I was starting to forget how much it can leave you feeling energised and alive. The buzz from that one evening has revitalised me, but it’s not going to sustain me for another six months. Let’s hope live music events become more of a regular occurrence, with appropriate distancing in place.  I know that in the times BC (Before Covid), I’ve been to gigs where there’ve been more band members than audience members, but they were the days when there was a glut of live music every night. Now we have a live music famine to go with the pestilence. Hopefully people will now treasure live music even more and get out to more gigs to support it at its grassroots where it is needed most.

A huge thanks has to go to South Norwood Community Festival for doing their part in keeping the music alive with a brilliant and much needed event.

Review and Photography by Chris Patmore:

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