@ Sorby Hall & The Grapes
It’s a shinier, sleeker Champion Kickboxer that’s emerged over the summer. They always had the songs but often gave the impression of a ‘one wheel on my wagon’ band. There were always wheels waiting to fall off as they rattled through sets containing time signatures which appeared to perplex the band as much as the audience, one always expected to see them fall apart, ending up dazed in the chaos of their own wreckage. Obviously they’ve spent some time tinkering away like musical mechanics until they had converted their old jalopy into something far sportier. But even a CK Ferrari would have a cheesy strip on the window reading Sam’n’Neil’ n’Tom’n’Sam. Sandman thinks they are great.
Over the two gigs we saw them play last month one thing is obvious - that they’ve reached a stage where they’ve actually realised they are pretty damn good. They must have had some inkling previously but the impression was that the applause of the audience came over more as the comfort of strangers.
Soundwise people always seem to compare them to Pavement, and there’s certainly an element of the skewed in they do but the overwhelming feel seems to be something resolutely English, a touch eccentric but certainly heartfelt. A rough approximation would be if Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci had come from the wrong side of the border.
Songs like ‘The Waltz’ with its wonderful four-part harmony chorus are crafted yet still retain a lovely sense of wonder - Tom as a songwriter really stamps something that is recognisably his on all his work. (They didn’t play ‘Butch Cassidy loves Running Scared this month - perhaps because Anna the trumpeteer is not around but it’s a song that only Tom could, or would write. Deeply romantic with an eyebrow raised just enough to steer clear of bilge but not enough to render them worthless through cynicism.
But if we champion Tom then it’s worth remembering CK aren’t backing musicians fitting themselves round Tom’s muse. Sam B the bass man’s ‘Jellybean’ is one of the best things in the set. Haven’t got a clue what it’s about but in a boozy stupor in a rammed Grapes it seemed to be the loveliest thing Sandman had heard in months. We suspect Sam M the guitarist has had much to do with the increasingly powerful sound of the band, the last to join he seems to be the final coat of paint that gives CK their new gloss. Neil on drums is that rare thing, he’s as much about complementing as driving the music, for some reason he always looks rather bewildered when he plays,as if he’s wandered into the wrong exam but is willing to give it a bash any way.
Last point CK seem to like people and people seem to respond to them. They also play kazoos and egg shakers and Sam B wears fluffy tiger mittens and hats. Would you buy a second hand motor off ‘em? Sandman might.
My Computer / Midus Blue
@ The Barfly
The Velvet Underground sung about Sunday Morning, but no-one has really summed up that Sunday evening feel. It’s that thought that you haven’t done your homework, that you have to get up for work, that there’s something that needs to be done. You can’t relax. You need to relax. But there’s no way.
Unless perhaps you go and see Midus Blue. They offer chilled out, jazzy hip-hop that rolls along without any real surprises, but keeps your head nodding throughout. Steering clear of traditional hip-hop cliches, they have two MC/vocalists, one male and one female, with a band tighter than an undilated badger’s arse in the depth of winter. Although hardly balanced on the cuttingedge, Midus Blue have the potential to make a crossover into the mainstream very easily. It would be easy to compare them to an act like Faithless, as they could seamlessly occupy the same populist ground – but Faithless are shit and Midus Blue aren’t. Rolling their set to a close with an up-tempo drum and bass number, they leave the crowd grooving, wanting that little bit more.
Mancunian lot My Computer are the next up, and fall into the category of ‘bands who sound a bit like Radiohead’. Not in a Coldplay and Travis way (who sound fuck all like Radiohead – they’re just miserable twats who’ve heard High and Dry and thought they’d make a career re-writing it over and over again), but in that they’re actually trying to do something new with the guitars/ keyboard format. They have a guy who sits at the back who does the beats and two acoustic guitarists who double up as keyboard players. The line-up’s completed by a bassist and another guitarist The opening song is really good, with fractured beats and acoustic guitar verses, that doesn’t really follow any traditional song structures. However they lose it a bit in the middle as the beats become more formulaic and some of the guitar solos sound a bit like Chris Rea. It all picks up again by the end though, as they take it back to being more obtuse and lose the vocoders that littered the set. Even so, what they are doing is quite original, and if they let themselves go a bit more they could be really exciting prospect.
Excelsum Superbum / Stone Golam / The 1st Attrition
@ The Grapes
Welcome to Friday metal night at the Grapes. Openers The 1st Attrition thrash their way through a frantic set without taking many prisoners. Subtle they aren't. The band have all the right licks in the right places but the mix lets them down a tad and it's hard to tell if they are a three piece or a quartet, as the vocals(?) are coming from front of stage somewhere in the audience! Still the guys are crowd friendly and give a good account of themselves.
Doom merchants Stone Golam, on the other hand, provide the soundtrack for the end of the world. The trio use a blend of bludgeoning Armageddon guitar and searing vocals 'a la Filth' that hammer and cauterize the braincells into submission and in the claustrophobic environs of the Grapes provide an atmosphere of inevitable chaos and destruction. The band are tight and work hard, their sound is calculated and precise giving their paeans of downfall and ruination a fine edge. A fine set.
Headliner's Excelsum Superbum are a band with a growing reputation, touted as Sheffields first, and so far most successful, stoner/doom band. It's a rep they live up to! Tonight the quintet power their way through a non-stop ferocious set. Bassist Joe and skinsman Podge drive a mean and muscular engine, allowing guitarists Jim and Stocky to hammer the punters with a series of shattering steamroller riffs; and then there's frontman and vocalist Big Si who steers the whole shebang, in fine gravel voiced Wyndorf style, through a diabolic set laced with booze, pandemonium and annihilation that culminates in the epic closer "Down with the Devil" (available on the bands current EP). The thing is that the enormous beast of sound that is ES now really needs a bigger stage. Let's hope they get one soon.
Series 7 / Kimeera / Mybe / Acacia Avenue
@ Barfly & Casbah
Sandman HQ called on your roving reporter to cover not one but two gigs in our fair city tonight, so donning my best music hack trenchcoat I ventured into the frosty November night with my trusty notepad and pen, and a crisp five pound note for beer money.
First stop the Barfly, to catch the mighty Kimeera once again. My opinions in Sandman #1 still stand, and the bigger stage gave the band more room for their fantastically shonky angst-rock wig-outs. Sebadoh sprang to mind this time, which I wish I’d have thought of last time I reviewed them, cos it would have made me look clever.
Following them were Series 7. Good tunes, but the singer thinks he’s one cool dude, and bases himself on the likes of Amen’s Casey Choas. In reality his clichéd rock posturing, which ranged from scissor kicks to a hilariously failed attempt at speaker-climbing agility, brings to mind a black-clad Andrew WK. Still, makes for entertaining viewing.
Wrapping myself back up in my scarf, gloves and galoshes, I make peg it up to the Casbah, where I’m greeted with Chesterfield’s own Blink 182, Mybe. Whatever your opinions of jokey punk-pop, this is one band that always make for a good show, as they’re a bunch of lads who could make a more than adequate career on the stand up circuit if this punk lark goes pear-shaped. Brilliant, as usual.
Finally came Acacia Avenue, another punk act, but this time rooted in the heyday of the 70’s rather than the groin-fixated types of today. It quite apt they were rocking the Casbah tonight (see what I did there?), for they were a doing a very good Clash impression. Which of course, isn’t a bad thing at all.
So another night in the Steel City covered, with no expense spared on this journalist’s shoe leather. Grrrr… they should really pay me more than this, you know.
@ The Leadmill
What’s the point in being The Vandals? In fact what’s the point in being any pop-punk band? For years the likes of Green Day and Blink 182 toiled in obscurity while grunge kicked off and everyone sat in their rooms being miserable. Then, all of a sudden someone remembered that three chord guitar music was allowed to be fun and a few bands were allowed to grace the mainstream. Then it all went nu-metally and po-faced again, and now it’s the likes of The White Stripes, who are y’know, like so punk, just guitar and drums, it’s like whoa dude! Punk rock! So while everyone sits around and theorises about how the whole current crop of noisy little tykes are some defining new movement, is there any point being in a pop-punk band who sing about dis-proportioned heads? Well, yes. There is. Why? Because it’s still fun, and it’s OK to have fun. Honest. And The Vandals do fun just about as well as anyone else. Even though their new album may not exactly be great step forward in the evolution of man, or even a great step forward in the evolution of The Vandals, put them on a stage and they’ll get anyone in the crowd dancing. It’s a simple formula – a memorable melody, a few harmonies, a proper ‘rock’ guitar solo – all played at breakneck pace. Oldies such as ‘Oi to the World’ and ‘People that are Going to Hell’ spread the mosh-pit almost to the back of the Leadmill, while ‘My Girlfriends Dead’ leads to a spontaneous break out of the conga that by the end of the song is about fifty long. A riotous ‘I Have a Date’ finishes the night off, with an unsuspecting couple dragged out the crowd to neck on stage while punk rock mayhem clatters around them.
All in all then, they do exactly what it says on the tin – fast, funny and fun, and if you can’t find a place for that, then you can shove your oversized head up your dis-proportioned ass.
@ Under The Boardwalk / Get Me To The World On Time
The Motherfuckers follow the garage punk ethic to the limit: Primitive riffs. Primal beats. Self-confidence. Self-loathing. Blatantly plagiarised songs!
To attune to “teen punk” mentality The Mofos immerse themselves in mundane, mind-numbing jobs, thus honing a lack of respect for The Man. They over-indulge in tequila and bourbon. Some have even reverted their sex lives to the level of the frustrated teen. The result is a web of sound to rattle yer teeth and gird yer loins!
The Motherfuckers arrive on the makeshift stage wearing Halloween skull masks. Nice touch, but the replacement Frankenstein masks are just the ticket.
“There Ain’t No Use in Trying At All” admits bassist Steve to an infectious Stooges-like racket. Vocalist Mark shows his disdain for collusive careerism in “Company Dragster”, bellowing “I know you’ve been talking to the man! I know you’re a corporate cock-sucking whore!” For a change, the constant intake of JD and Tequila sharpens rather than dulls the performance, which peaks with the pounding arrogance of “Make you mine” and an appropriate cover of The Electric Prunes song “Get Me To The World On Time.”
While on the night the lacklustre sound system failed to deliver much oomph, The Mofos still proved they are garage punk as god intended it. With the intensity of The Sonics, the madness of The Monks and the tailoring of The Hives, you’d do yourself a disservice if you miss their next gig.
If you want to discover some original garage punk, check out ‘Get Me To The World On Time’ before it’s too late...
@ Juju Club
Sandman can’t stop ourselves. It’s dub reggae and sandman is impelled by the laws of crap music writing to employ a sunshine metaphor. Like the sun came out over the Boardwalk at 10 ‘o’ clock at night. Like the sun. On acid. Oh yes. Easy isn’t it?
We were expecting something a little darker than this Manchester four-piece flung at us. This sandman’s first night in Sheffield found him in one of the city’s less clever clubs - featuring the kind of DJ who really should never have progressed beyond a mobile kid’s disco. The kind of man who loves comedy baseball hats and constantly stopped records to demand the that the torpid crowd sullenly flapped their hands back at him. It is a painful memory and for a brief sphincter tightening second we had flashbacks when NR amble on stage and the MC - like a beefcake version of the the skinny fella in Stereo MCs - makes the same request of the an audience primed by a classic mix of ska, reggae and dub. No need to worry, this lot were absolute class (they topped the French reggae charts last year went down a treat at Glastonbury.) Theirs is a rich, sweet, inclusive dub and provoked the kind of dancing that suggest one or two mental chains have been checked into the cloakroom for the night.
1600e / Lazy Dollies
@ The Deepend
It’s not every 5th birthday party I look forward to attending, but when it’s at The Deepend and Lazy Dollies are invited, you know you’ll be getting more than jelly and icecream. 1600e kicked off the celebrations and, just like the Cortina they’re named after, the’re loud and destined to go a long way. Front man Nick Cooper is driven along through a much varied songbook by Rich Martin (surely not La Vida Loco bloke?) on rhythm guitar and the excellent Karl Kelly on lead. The engine is provided by drummer Rich Jones and the strangely named ‘Indy’ on bass. Some of Nick’s vocals were a little inaudible at times - rememberlads, you don’t have to be loud to be good...and 1600e are good...much better than the Fiesta I once owned.
Lazy Dollies are full of energetic, coherent, musical ability that never fails to hit the spot. Julian Jones’ compositions are thoughtful, lyrical, and powerfully delivered. The arrangements are varied from gig to gig, complemented by Darren Killeen’s solid bass playing and outstanding harmonies, and tight and neat drumming from Simon Cooper. Russell Weaver must be the most under-rated musician around. His work on ‘Funny Old World’ and his own composition ‘Weekend’ (on which he also takes over lead vocals) has to be heard to be believed. And I guess I’ve just answered the question posed earlier, in ‘These Days’, where musical ability and performance skills rank 3rd and 4th behind dodgy haircuts and mis-timed dance routines...where’s the need for quality?
@ The Fez Club
Maintaining its reputation as being, arguably, Sheffield’s most discerning discotheque, Scuba played host to ever-excellent duo The Idjut Boys, at an evening of splendid sonic delights that had the floor rockin’.
Responsible for reminding us that the fusion-dance style called Disco was, in fact, quite good, (despite being tarnished by lowest-common-denominator retro theme nights in North Wales full of slappers and guys in wigs) with output such as their pretty tidy Saturday Night Live mix album, Conrad and Dan did not disappoint, delving deep into their bags and pulling out underground roots Soul of the highest quality. And then they mashed it all up with instructions given to them by a futuristic space alien that liked to dance. Some of the snippets that could be heard included an emotional, instrumental cut of Bunny Sigler’s “By the Way You Dance”, which (legend has it) was the record Larry Levan always used to listen to when he was decorating his Christmas tree (it’s true – he told me last week); another moment in dance witnessed the fabulous, string-sodden bomb “Dance with you” by Carrie Lucas (the stringo bit in Armand van Helden’s Uropa-smash “You don’t Know Me”). The crowd were properly loving it - despite being rather thin on the ground, begging thequestion: What are you all dancing to out there? As a finale we were treated to the magnificent Steely Dan’s “Do it Again” (wow!), which prompted a burst of action-dancing to be quickly improvised by some of the more creative clientele. It seems that the only idjuts on that night were the ones who forgot to turn up.
Sheffield Stop the War Coalition Benefit Night
TENSHUN! BY THE LEFT. QUICK MARCH. RIGHT YOU 'ORRIBLE LOT. WE'VE GOT A WAR TO STOP. ANSWER WHEN I CALL YOUR NAME: Headcharge (Present!), Juju Club (present!), Remedy (present!), Scuba (present!), Phonetics (present!), Tuesday Club (present!), Urban Gorilla (present!), Ridimtion (present!), NTA (present!), Planet Zogg (present!), 0S1 (present!), Dub Central (present!), Durban Poison (present!), poetry from Tim and Paul, Mim, Sheffield Samba band (present!), not forgetting those nice people at The Corporation (present!) AND OFF WE GO.
The night after the STW benefit Peggy Seeder came and played The Boardwalk. She's in her late-ish 60s and she plays folk the old skool way. She's been writing protest songs, and protesting for around 50 of her nearly 70 years. At one point she was telling the audience about an even older woman, who has been protesting even longer than herself. "She does all the important work of objecting." said Peggy.
Not unlike all the fine folk who put their time and effort into putting on an event that was both a fine, fine, party and the raising of a small voice against a big wind. Quite apart from the politics on the larger scale it was good to see an event that reflected what a community can do rather than a disparate collection of individuals. From the moment the Sheffield Samba band paraded through the City Centre streets to the wind down, the STW party served as a reminder that dissent isn't simply throwing rocks or swallowing ideology wholesale but honest expression. Oh yeah, the crowd were cool too.
Everything flows and nothing changes. Twenty years ago a Sheffield label released an anti-war compilation LP. Wargasm, featuring The Dead Kennedys amongst others topped the Indie charts for weeks and weeks that year. The link between that protest and the Stop The War Benefit is Headcharge man, Jamie Smith. "There was a whole group of people running punk gigs at Marples and one of the lads ran Pax Records. We put the album together and off it went. Simple as that. I've since seen it in Record Collector magazine so it's become a bit of a collectable item," he says. There are obvious parallels between Punk and the current Underground club scene and Jamie, proving old habits die hard, was approached by Sheffield's Stop The War coalition to organise the benefit gig at The Corporation. "The best thing about it was seeing all the other promoters working together and forgetting their little differences. Last night was about bringing everyone together - something that's been lost over the years. The vibe was fantastic."
The culture of protest seems to have been eroded since the Eighties but Jamie points out, "the more people get out there the more people will hear about it." Hopefully this event will become the rule rather than the exception. What a night.
@ The Arches
"There's something about Sheffield and Techno music, it just never seems to get it right," I'm informed during a conversation about Sheffield's failure to provide us with a quality Techno club such as 'The Orbit' in Leeds. At first I agree, but a week later I find myself entering the 5 year old 'Headcharge' for the first time, with a few hundred people who will soon become the greatest people I ever met - until next month that is.
As you may have guessed it was a fantastic night, and my eyes were open for the first time as I realised that clubbing is not defined by "Club Wow" and nights out around Barnsley, but by places like these and the people that go to them remaining uncorrupted by things like commercial trance and the "cum on then!" attitude, all of which are a far cry from 'Headcharge'.
From the lovely women with big hair, to the guy in the wheelchair this was multiculturalism at its peak which was reflected upstairs with a very eclectic set ranging from ska to house with a lot of diversions in-between, great stuff! On the main floor downstairs the music was also fantastic which just added to the already fantastic atmosphere, everyone dancing all out and grinning at anyone they happen to make eye contact with.
It was the good type of techno, full on, boomy, distorted stuff with an acid edge that keeps you dancing all night and leaves you wondering where 3 hours just went! With so many open-minded, up-for-it people in one place good things happen, and great times are lived, and if I ever live to be an old codger I'll refer to nights like this as 'the good old days!' Highly recommended.
El-P / RJD2 / Mr. Lif
@ Tuesday Club
RJD2 kicked off the show, a showcase for New York hip hop label Definitive Jux, with "The Horror" off his new album Deadringer. He then worked three turntables through a DJ set that mixed head-nod scratchrobatics with fist-pump ass-shake funk. After about an hour Boston-based rapper Mr. Lif came onstage. Definitive Jux CEO, rapper and producer El-P joined him a few songs later. Like in almost any hip-hop show, lyrical intricacies got lost in the speakers but the performers made up for it with raw energy from the MCs and superior DJing from RJD2, who also added extra vocals and beatboxed. Between songs, El-P delivered scathing attacks on George Bush's foreign policy. Then, in the middle of the song "Stepfather Factory," RJD2 cut out the beat and El-P delivered his lines to absolute silence, broken when someone yelled "you're full of shit!"
El-P froze. "Who the fuck said that?" he demanded. "Come up on stage and I will punch you in the fucking face." A skinny guy weaved up to the front and yelled something. BAM! El-P's hand shot out and cuffed the kid twice. The kid got pulled away, and El-P finished the song.
I'm from Washington DC and I'm embarrassed about George Bush too, but to lecture about America's abuse of power and unchecked aggression and then hit a fan half your size from the stage? After the show, El-P told me it was a matter of "respect". That's the same macho bullshit that keeps America's murder rate high and our foreign policy belligerent. Musically, El-P is leading a revolution. But politically, actions speak louder than words. For all his knee-jerk radicalism, he's just part of the problem.
Remedy 6th Borthday
@ Po Na Na
A legendary name in Sheffield clubbing, Remedy have worked tirelessly over the years to get where they are now, bringing a variety of finer sounds to the dance floors of Sheffield. Remedy celebrated their birthday in style with the help of trusty resident Jason Drew and Scottish guests, Sub Club residents, Harri & Domenic Capello.
The past twelve months has seen a number of exceptional nights at Remedy, featuring DJs as diverse as eclectic maestro Mr. Scruff and Detroit legend Carl Craig. It is a long time since Remedy started all those years ago in the tiny Raynor Lounge of Sheffield University, and since then, the night has gone from strength to strength. Remedy has made its home at a number of clubs, and for the moment resides in the intimate Arabian flavoured surroundings of Po Na Na.
The night has reflected the best that techno and house have to offer, serving up international talent alongside Sheffield's finest DJ talent. Harri & Domenic Capello are rarely seen DJing together outside of their soon to be re-opened Glaswegian home, so to have both of them playing at Remedy was something special. They thrilled the Remedy faithful with a selection of Techno influenced House which included Daniell Spencer's yearning troubled "Deep Freak (In Me)" and Marshall Jefferson's classic piano-tastic anthem "Move Your Body".
Jason Drew had previously warmed things up with a trademark set of top quality house cuts, which included a recently remixed version of Random Factor's desiring "What I Need". The usual friendly atmosphere combined with a busy but not, over-packed Po Na Na produced a first class event. The added attraction of a free mix CD to the first 250 through the door proved to be the icing on the birthday cake. The CD, lovingly compiled and blended by Jason Drew and Mark Armstrong, sums up the night's music policy perfectly. An ideal way to start the weekend.
Sheffield Stop the War Coalition Benefit Night