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Special Agents

@ The Casbah
Nice gig. Left me wondering why more kids don’t pick up the Hammond instead of guitars. Apart from the obvious reason that you can’t pick it up and swing it around like it’s a big penis.


Special Agents specialise in organ driven beat pop. Think of The Tornados, TV spy shows or an uptight Booker T and The MGs. They’re vaguely part of that strand of the Sheffield scene which roots itself in 60’s style instrumentals and Garage Rock. Fellow travellers Texas Pete were lurking in the background. They’d make a good bill together as they mark two very different points of the same compass, The Pete arriving via Link Wray and The Pixies.


What they’re playing sounds deceptively simple but as a band they’re tighter than a badly scared scrotum. Agent Rob’s guitar is razor sharp, the rhythm boys, Chris and Scott are spot-on but it’s birthday boy, Agent Geoff, who really sticks out, hammering his organ (make your own gag up, I can’t be arsed) swooping and shaking like a pissed conjuror.


Above all SA are dead good fun, songs with titles like ‘Davros’ and ‘Death Probe’ are not designed to examine the audience’s psyche but to make them dance. And more than a few of them did.

Apologies to the support bands as we arrived late. We’d been to a Pop Centre meeting and Mark Sandman would have collapsed if we hadn’t taken him for a curry (Sandman recommends SB’s). We’ll catch yer later.
Jack Tractor



@ Barfly

A while back Wales was, quite hopefully, and, perhaps, even more patronisingly, called The New Seattle. But where Seattle pumped out some of the most vibrant and important rock n’ roll bands ever to straddle God’s green Earth, Wales, at best, gave us the doped-up genius of Super Furry Animals, and Stereo-chuffin’-phonics. Recently, though, the Valleys have spawned a creature that for once makes the Seattle comparison not too ludicrous. Enter: Mclusky.

The Cardiff three-piece are, perhaps, the most vital, shoutiest band you’re likely to come across this year, or indeed any other. With Pit Bull Terrier-esque guitarist Andy Falkous and bespectacled bassist Jon Chapple alternating vocal duties, this band are like a freight train of rock, with the audience hapless damsels tied to the tracks.

It’s rare to see a band combine such snarling venom with a good sense of humour (the charmingly titled ‘The World Loves Us And Is Our Bitch’ being a fine example of this). The frequently amusing onstage banter never detracts from the pure sonic pounding given by the music.

‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’, ‘To Hell with Good Intentions’, both bonafide contenders for best songs of the last twelve months, jostle with other future classics, such as new single ‘Alan is a Cowboy Killer’, in a set that’s triumphant, despite feedback problems and a criminally small audience. One day the politely bobbing heads of tonight will be replaced with a full-on moshpit of Mclusky-hoodied minions, frenetically crowdsurfing with hilariously violent consequences. Tonight we’ll have to do with a more restrained, but non-the-less appreciative, crowd.

“This one’s for Steve Lamacq,” says Jon at one point, “no-one call him a squirrel-faced c*nt, or you’re entering a world of pain”.

The squirrel-faced c*nt is right to champion them; for once the buzz surrounding a band is perfectly justified. One day Mclusky will rule the world.
Pete Mella

@The Boardwalk

With inspiration coming from the likes of ‘Linkin’ Park’ and ‘A’, it’s no wonder young musicians are following in the footsteps of dance music and going “old skool”, and rightly so. I went to take a look at the young ska band, ‘Skunk-a-Ben’, who were supporting ska legenMcLusky ds ‘Bad Manners’.

Skunk-a-Ben formed five years ago but have only been giggling for one. The group seemed a little nervous and uptight to begin with, needlessly so in my opinion; the quality of the music was unquestionable, it was everything you’d expect from a ska band with obvious influences from The Specials and The Skids.

However I felt that they didn’t bring anything fresh or inventive to the music despite claiming to be part of their own new genre, ska-core (a hybrid of hardcore punk and ska) but as the night went on I saw less and less of the hardcore punk influences and ,really, they just appeared to me as a full on ska band - which is what they did best!

Despite performing with a slight lack of confidencephysically, predominately at the beginning of the set, Skunk-a-Ben never held back musically and so didn’t fail to entertain.
The majority of the crowd seemed a little withdrawn despite every effort to get them involved (probably due to the crowd only really wanting to see Bad Manners). All credit to Skunk-a-Ben, who brushed it off with witty remarks which managed to get them some laughs, and then continued with their music, eventually loosening up and generating a modest group on the dance floor.

The general sound of the music was everything you’d expect from Ska, however nothing new. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because too often we get bands trying too hard to make a point or trying to be controversial rather than just sitting back and letting the music do all the talking, this was an area that Skunk-a-Ben did well

The lack of pretension and ego made the evening very enjoyable. Skunk-a-Ben gig regularly - Contact to find out about their latest gigs and/or about the Sheffield hardcore scene.
Ashly Fusiaski

Special Agents

@The Grapes

It’s strange to say this about a half-empty Grapes on a Wednesday night, but there’s a storm brewing. It’s like that weird, tingly atmosphere you get just before a really good thunderstorm.

Sheffield three-piece Kimeera seem close to ignition throughout their set. The band’s vocalist/guitarist Richard sings (and occasionally screams) with an emotional depth that suggests each lyric is loaded with some dark meaning that he’s not quite letting on. Each song is like a cathartic release of pent-up anger and frustration with the world-breaking point just seconds away. Every howl and slightly insane-looking grimace from the frontman makes you wonder when a full-on singer-rampage will occur. Adding to the formidability of the band is the fact that Richard is undoubtedly the tallest man on the Sheffield gig circuit, towering over bassist Ian, who himself looks about 7’ 8” and a little bit like a giant Thom Yorke.

Musically the band sound somewhere between grunge and the nebulous new genre “no name”, with a hint of Pavement’s spikiness peeping through now and again. The emotional nature of the vocals never detracts from the sheer fuzzed-up onslaught from the guitar and bass. It’s all a bit scary.

Okay, as a guitar-based three-piece, they’re not exactly anything new, but who cares? The most acclaimed bands around, such as The Strokes, The Vines, The Libertines and their ilk, aren’t exactly pushing the boundaries of modern music. Kimeera’s passion and stage presence already sets them above some of the music press-sanctioned muppets that have been clogging festival line-ups all summer. Right at the end, Richard throws his guitar to the floor and dives into the drumkit, scattering it across the stage, before finishing with an unexpected harmonica solo. The storm has finally broken.
Pete Mella

Easyworld / Southpaw / Corleone / Cavil
@ Barfly

First up tonight are Cavil. The Leeds-based quartet play the kind of semi-acoustic indie guitar music that Travis give a bad name to.

Punctuated by stabbing organs and angular guitar riffs, Cavil have developed their own take on what was becoming a very staid format. With a vocalist who delivers songs of lost love in a quintessentially English manner, they manage to produce an intriguing sound that could be worth looking out for.

While Cavil find much inspiration from the eighties, Corleone are very much located in the early nineties. Opening with a barrage of guitar effects, very reminiscent of the time when the likes of Verve and Ride were singled out as the future, they deliver a set dripping with attitude. They are let down a little by the fact that all their songs sound like end-of-set epics, leaving the audience time to wander off. If they were headlining to their own crowd they could be spellbinding.

Southpaw were originally scheduled to headline, and are less hampered by playing to someone else’s crowd. The eagle-eyed will have spotted their guerrilla marketing, encouraging people to ‘Join the Entourage’.

However, on the evidence of tonight’s gig, they could have problems leading rats from a sinking ship. Playing the sort of inoffensive guitar plod that shot the likes of Coldplay to fame.
Southpaw win over some of the audience, but offer nothing new, and the half-hearted ‘rock’ ending to the show serves as reminder of the plethora of ‘nu-garage’ (?) bands, who live it, not just tack it on for effect.

After the previous act, Easyworld really only need to show up with a tune in tow to impress, and they do indeed show up with a singular tune. It’s the one that goes ‘quiet bit, loud bit’ and has been performed by every other trio in recent memory. They have a name that evokes everything that is true about them. Like with Easyjet and the rest of the ‘Easy…’ franchise, they offer an affordable, comfortable, no frills experience, though you know that if you look a bit harder and don’t just take the first one offered because it’s cheap, you’ll end up with a much more satisfying experience.
Sean Carrol

Vex Red
@ The Leadmill

Introduced by some down-tempo techno, and a large video projected on the back of the stage, followed by a great roar of traditional metal sounds Vex Red’s entrance created an atmosphere which many bands fail to achieve. One of the reasons they’re making an impression on the national music scene.

They are a mix of nu-metal and less hard-edged music like Placebo held together with synths and drum machines. It makes them a good contrast to the norm, although they don’t sound entirely original. A cover of Christina Aguiwhateva’s ‘Genie in a Bottle’ finds its way into the set and it’s one of the best things they do. The five produce quite a heavy sound but the sweet vocals seemed to put a dampener on the energy created and left you wondering whether to get up and throw your body around or sit back and listen like a gentlemen.

As good as their entrance was, ‘Vex Red’ failed to sustain the atmosphere by playing what could have been the same song with different lyrics for most of the set. They appeared to be more interested in changing instruments than changing the sound which could have done with an injection of character and definition. Occasionally, they did have a surge of inspiration and, when they did, it was great. Towards the end they got more adventurous and the more creative side of ‘Vex Red’ shone through with instrumentals, electro interludes and a solo performance from the guitarist / singer.

Overall, a good performance with well used visual aids makes them well-worth seeing, probably not one for the die-hard metal fans though.
Ashly Fusiarski

Diamondhead / Induced
@ The Boardwalk

A glance around tells you that the last time Diamond Head played Sheffield, twenty years ago, at least a third of tonight’s audience hadn’t been thought of, let alone born. Refreshing. So, is this cult curiosity or Metallica motivation?

Perhaps it’s openers Induce; a local four-piece whose honest workout leans heavily on current cd “Hell and Retribution”. “Firefly” sets the pace, somewhere between the Black Crowes And The Cult, while vocalist Andy Sawford floats around Morrison/Wyndorf territory, especially during “Stoned and Dethroned”: a solid band and set.

Doubters could dismiss this Diamond Head tour as a chance for a couple of jaded old has-been’s to push the old hippo out again to wallow in the mud of past glories. Think again.

‘Head perform tonight with an energy and commitment that puts many of their erstwhile contempories and detracting young pretender wannabe’s to shame. A set culled from their sometime brilliant, sometimes horrendous back catalogue, plus shots from more recent acoustic outings, take you on a rollercoaster ride that never falls below ‘good’, sometimes reaches ‘excellent’, and reminds the audience why they were once seriously touted as the successor’s to Zeppelin.

While current backline Wilcox, Moohan and Brennan keep things tight and solid in defence, attacker’s Brian Tatler and Sean Harris keep the momentum relentless up front. Tatler shows he can still bludgeon riffs with the best, while Harris’ vocals soar effortlessly; without the stall’s and power losses now displayed by some of his former rivals in the NWOBHM. “Calling Your Name”, “To The Devil His Due” and “In The Heat Of The Night” provide changes in range and tempo, while metal faves “The Prince”, “Helpless” and earblistering monster “Am I Evil?” provide the headbangers at the front with the chance to go mental. Winner!

Hoodz Underground
@ Phonetics

Po na na is at first glance an unlikely host for some of Sheffield’s best clubbing nights. Under 200 hundred tonnes of concrete car park lies an Middle Eastern theme bar, complete with fake palm trees and all related psuedo Arabic décor. But it works and you forgive them because the quality of the nights (Remedy, Urban Gorilla, Scuba, and Phonetics.) is excellent.

Phonetics is an ideal stage for UK hip-hop to show its muscle, and by all accounts it’s healthy; with acts like Roots Manuvre gaining mainstream acclaim. But Phonetics also thrives on its interaction with Sheffield’s own hip-hop scene, not afraid to put its money where its mouth is; it regularly pairs local acts with touring outfits. The audience love it either way (whether they’ve have paid attention to who’s playing is debatable), they know what they’ll get when they go to Phonetics and they know they won’t be disappointed (not always true of local rock gigs), a club night is always a safe bet.

I paid attention to the flyer, and was pleasantly surprised that Hoodz Underground were performing a live set. Call me a traditionalist, but I was slightly disappointed when the Hoodz took to the stage: seven guys and some decks. Where’s the drummer, bass etc.? I have to say I was expecting a Ujigami style outfit.

Not drinking enough hampers my ability to dance, so I was content to stand at the back and listen. The Hoodz have quite a dark take on hip-hop, it’s simplistic, but effective. The underlying themes are interesting and original; the music is quite atmospheric at times. However, the Hoodz are many and not only was the stage quite busy, so was the MC-ing. The songs eventually began to blur into one another and although the vocals were rhythmic, not enough attention was paid to differentiating one vocalist from another, a case of too much to say and not enough room to say it in. Nonetheless, they connected with the crowd and plenty of people were dancing. All in all the Hoodz Underground are demonstrating that Sheffield Hip-Hop is developing, it just needs to be taken to the next level.

Sheffield Jazz and Swing Festival
@ Art: room

Saturday: 8Some Reel. What a way to kick off! Pete Lyons led a collective of top class musicians through his own compositions with enthusiasm, drive, and a whole lotta skill. Not for the purist (so I was told), but who gives a toss? Good is good...and these guys are. Go see ‘em. Nuff said. The Blue Banana. Festival co-organiser John Naylor’s most recent incarnation. Wonderful arrangements of some classic songs kept solidly in check by the brush strokes of drummer DuncanAnnible, dependable double-bassist Mike Fleming and the agile fingers of pianist Ryan Taylor. They all also produce some first rate harmonies. And I thought ‘swinging’ was something totally different...

Sarah Jay Band. Our Lord Music God Shez Sheridan deputised in the unavoidable absence of Sarah Jay (we all wish her well). In a hastily put together set featuring special record breaking flautist (see later), Henrik Linneman-the sounds were so smooth you never once saw the join. But then...that’s what we’vecome to expect.

Sunday: Rosie Brown’s vocal dexterity is known throughout the city and beyond. She, and the band breezed through two sets for an audience who were with them from the beginning. A perfect start to what was about to become a perfect day.

LJQ & Friends: Henrik Linneman spent more time on stage this weekend than Ken Dodd’s ever done. His passion for Jazz and Sheffield is equalled by his heavenly flute playing. The solidity of the rest of the band lifted the sets evenfurther. By the look on their faces, they enjoyed it as much as we did.

Convenience Shopping. As one of the band members commented to me post gig “We’re not used to audiences like this”. God knows why. I’m sure they’ll become so. Ballsey saxaphone, mucky trombone, thundering bass, complicated piano made to look so easy, drumming tighter than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm...oh, and that bloke on the flute again. So much talent, it makes you wanna spit. What a day...what a weekend...what a life.
Steve Haythorne

Sigur Ros
@ The Leadmill

It’s another tricky midweek European fixture. Up tonight it’s Icelandic outfit, Sigur Ros, playing in Sheffield for the first time. Support act Coil have been shuffled off for the evening, and so Sigur Ros kick off early, with some of the audience still outside the ground. Filthy Rich was there from the off, and I’ll hand over to him for round-up and analysis of the first half performance.

“With pre-match entertainment abandoned for lack of quality, Sigur Ross had it all to do in the first half. From the off they played with a slow pace, but none the less looked fully in control of proceedings. With an attractive quartet providing support and sophistication from the wings, front man Jonsi Birgisson was given a lot of space to control play with his natural, expressive game. He put on a superb crowd pleasing technical display for most of the first half, occasionally peeling off to the flanks and combining well with his peers. Although it wasn’t till things got heated towards the end of the first half that Sigur Ros started to display what a well organised unit they truly are.”
Thanks Richie.

“As the evening progressed, Sigur Ros began to take a firm grip of the proceedings. Changing the tempo at will, they sold some outrageous dummies, to take the play where they wanted. The deftness of touch showed as they brought their unique brand of European flair, which left many of the English premiership looking like pub teams in comparison. A stirring finale left the sell-out crowd rapturous, and they returned to the stage to receive the applause that was more than due to them. No extra time was needed, as the result was never really in doubt. This season could well see Sigur Ros move up into the big leagues, and more performances like this would suggest that they could be a force in the game for many, many years.”
Sean Carrol

Chicken Legs Weaver / Mains
@ The Casbah

Harmonicas. Double bass. Tales of woe and darkness. Yes, my friends, it’s Blues night down the Casbah…

First up, the modern blues combo Mains shuffled on to the stage, looking slightly sheepish, fluffing the name of their first tune, and having trouble keeping their guitar attached to the strap. As soon as the songs kicked in, however, all traces of nervousness were vanquished, and the band gave us some of the most professional and established songs to grace the Casbah for a good while.

Switching between female (ethereal and haunting) and male (shouty fella from Gomez) vocals, Mains performed a storming set, including a mighty fine single due for release in, of all places, Australia.
As good as Mains were, they were well and truly out-rooted and out-tooted by veteran scary old men of the Sheffield scene Chicken Legs Weaver. Everything about the band, from the portentous lyrics to the sinister slide guitar, places the listener in a very dark place indeed, somewhere directly between the Bayou and the Wicker.

You half expected to see an old man rocking gently in his chair as you left the Casbah, as tumbleweed twisted its way past Cole Brothers’.

Tonight saw some of the best musicians on the local scene bring music back to its roots. In a world of nu-metal posturing and whiny emo self-indulgence, it was good to see the rawness of how it all began. And on the dancefloor a lone young rocker unironically moshed his way through Chicken Legs Weaver’s cover of a 20’s blues number. Perhaps there’s hope for the youth of today after all.
Pete Mella



Dark Angel

@ The Deep End

Dark Angel (yes that is his real name! cool eh?) claims to be on a spiritual journey which he expresses through many varieties of music, tonight I got a glimpse of their new album, which like the previous two, is mostly soul; 'pure soul' as Dark Angel puts it.

It made a refreshing change to see a guitar been played properly, Plinio Dourado (originally from Brazil) was inspirational to many especially to a much less experienced guitarist like myself. There was definitely a Brazilian/Espanic feel to the guitar playing which worked well with the vocals provided by Dark, whose performance was a good one. Well sung and a good physical presence, lyrically however I found it a bit bland. However in saying this, the more I thought about it, overall the seraphic guitar playing and smooth sounding vocals made this a decent night.

To sum the night up more accurately I'd say go see them play, preferably with your boyfriend or girlfriend rather than a bunch of mates on the piss and honestly, I think 'One dark Angel' would say the same thing!

Ashley Fusiaski




Live Reviews

Special Agents





Vex Red


Hoodz Underground

Sheffield Jazz and Swing Festival

Sigur Ros

Chicken Legs Weaver

October 2002


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