Badly Drawn Boy
@ The Octagon
Tonight I could be….” Ponders Damon Gough as he caresses the first few notes from his guitar, “…I could be Jimi Hendrix…I could be Mark Knopfler…Robert Plant….Pete Townshend….S Club seven [Cue great applause from audience] ….hell, I could even be that fat guy off the TV who’s trying to lose weight [cue more audience applause]..but tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be the Badly…..Drawn…..Boy”. At this point, cue audience screams, hands thrown to the air, fainting women and pints spilled down the shirt of yours truly.
Yes indeed, tonight, Damon Gough is none other than Badly Drawn Boy, and with his woolly hat, vagrant-like appearance and ability to woo the audience with three albums’ worth of beautifully crafted melodies, he really does pull it off in his own imitable style.
Perhaps Gough’s most endearing quality over the next two and a half hours is his genuine ability to not bother saying anything unless it’s worth saying - a far cry from the “Everybody scream FUUUUUCK” camp of Sum 41 and the like. In fact, it would not be too much of an exaggeration to suggest that Badly Drawn Boy is funny. Yes, you heard it here first folks, a talented musician with a personality and a sense of humour to match. In fact, there couldn’t be much more of a difference between Damon Gough’s onstage persona and his musical offerings- onstage, he seems as though his mind is somewhere else- he has that Gallagher “I don’t give a shit” quality- and let’s be honest, those clothes are enough to encourage anyone to throw a few old coppers into his open guitar case as he stands on-stage. And yet, his music is carefully crafted and complicated, with that unmistakable voice loitering over inter-twining guitars and keyboards and a driving, yet funky beat from the rhythmsection.
Tonight, Gough finds the perfect mix - just enough offerings from new album “Have You Fed The Fish?” to win over the most discerning punter, and still the old favourites like Pissing In The Wind, Everybody’s Stalking, Bewilder, Silent Sigh, and of course that unmistakable effort that thrust Gough into the public eye two short years ago, Once Around the Block.
“Just Give me something / to keep it pumping” sings the Badly Drawn Boy as he closes tonight’s show “And I’ll take nothing / Just give me something / Just give me something”, but what is it that you want, Gough, for tonight you’ve surpassed all expectations and shown me that you’ve got everything. Tonight, Matthew, I’d really, really like to be the Badly Drawn Boy.
@ Fuzz Club
Forget yer A Bout de Souffles and yer Citizen Kanes. Encino Man is the one. Starring the mighty Pauly Shore and the low of forehead Brendan Fraser it is the everyday story of a cave lad whose frozen (yet perfectly formed body) is dug up, defrosted and taken to school where much neanderthal fun is had. It is truly a masterpiece.
Pink Grease must have been through a similar process except their suspension has only lasted, um, 28 years or so. 1974 is the year we’re plumping for.
Consider this - Charles Shaar Murray on guitar, Dr. Frank’n’Furter’s creation singing, Jerry Harrison on bass and a cast of cast-offs from Warhol’s Factory playing the New York Dolls. It’s fabulous, darling. If Quentin Crisp had been so inclined he would be in this band. It’s homo-erotic roll’n’glam rather than rock, which, let’s face it is often as sexy as a tramp waving his willy in yer face. Pink Grease are also as messy as a teenage bedroom and as desperate and as fun and are precisely the way it should be.
There are folk arriving late at the Fuzz Club to minge about to indie classics who are caught at the door with a smile on their faces, halted by the sound, fury and spectacle of a band truly going off on one.Having only heard their (ace) single we reckon their sound is much closer to the organic-electronic grind of the b-side ‘Manhattan on Fire’, the Greasettes, the man with the Popular Science kit Machine moogling in the background and the sax-man who appears to be gurning with his entire body. Imagine if Morphine had got laid and were into cheap speed. Vair, vair good indeed.
Enjoy them like you enjoy a dandelion clock, it’s lovely while it lasts. Catch ‘em before they blow themselves away under their own steam.
@ The Classic Rock Bar
Sheffield rockers 'Bemused' met through other bands and formed around 18 months ago. Tonight they brought their show to newly revived venue, the Classic Rock Bar on Ecclesall Road. Dave Wilson (Bass), James Cutts (Vocals & Lead Guitar), Gary Wilkinson (Drums) and Steve Middleton (Rhythm Guitar) create their own orginal music and say the're influenced by Radiohead, Muse and Ride. When asked what their plans were they said: ""We have no visions of grandeur, we just want people to enjoy what we're doing"". The people did. No-one went crazy, but no-one went home: which for an originals band with a mixed audience is bloody good going. The mood was lifted by the bands melodic, bordering on cheerful, sets. Stylish yet modest presentation.
The Classic Rock Bar was set up by Buffy and Mad Sass as both an experiment and a reaction against the actions of pub companies and money men that have time and again shit up the backs of Sheffield's rock drinking community. The ethos is clearly and passionately laid out by Sass (DJSportsman, Wap, Other Side, Yorkshireman's Arms). ""All I'm trying to achieve is a pub full of people having a belting time - real people who like real music, the rockers are the best crowd around and they deserve it. Making a living is a side effect of getting it right. ""The building housing the Classic Rock Bar is due for demolition in the summer but ""the ideal will live on in another incarnation"". Such is the determination of the team.
Evil Hearted Me / We Start Fires / Dead Like Harry
@ Sheffield vs... at The Grapes
Three bands hit the Grapes tonight, united not only by their three-word names, but also by their love of synth-tinged indie.
Dead Like Harry are quite an odd, but natty, little band. Fronted by a man who makes Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch look like Henry Rollins, they weave theatrical storytelling lyrics with some rather nice female backing harmonies. If they continue along this vein, this band could well become left-field indie heroes, and it’s refreshing to see such fine songwriting in a band that doesn’t make you feel like you’re watching a group of session musicians.
Newcastle’s We Start Fires are a female pop punk band (with the obligatory bloke drummer) who have a perfect blend of squelchy synths and a slightly more serious take on Kenickie-esque femme-pop. If your cup of tea is a bunch of giggling Geordie indie chicks who know how to rock (and come on, who’s isn’t?) then go seek out this band now.
Finally, Evil Hearted Me, a band that have been gigging round these parts for a while, and are an amiable and rather talented bunch of lads. They’re a bit schizophrenic music-wise, however, and maybe could do to decide if they’re bouncy and funky, spiky and punky or dark and synthy. They do all these exceedingly well, but this incoherence goes against them after the self-determined individualism of the previous two acts tonight.
Yet another night of top quality local (and not-so-local) talent crammed into a venue about a big as a large telephone kiosk. Meanwhile Toploader play the City Hall. Where is the justice in this goddamn world, eh readers?
@ The Barfly
There’s a real Rock revolution going on. Scarily exciting new bands just keep springing up everywhere. Even here on the doorstep of sunny (ahem) Sheffield.
Since Britpop there’s not been any real guitar-music to get worked up about. Now there’s dirt, tears and sweat. But to be part of this “revolution” you don’t have to be American or being in a band starting with ‘The’ and Sheffield-based Fixated are here to prove exactly that point. They’re honest, passionate and real.
As we all know, local bands round here vary as often as the price of naan bread in Balti King. But Fixated have something quite special going on. The trio must be the tallest band in history as they tower over the reasonably full Barfly. But, not ones to let their heads disappear in the clouds they stroll about selling their demo cds with almost endearing enthusiasm.
Unsurprisingly they sell out quickly - everyone wants a part of them. Everyone wants to say they were there that night, when they heard a local band play some old-school yet original rock and roll.
Guitarist and singer Tim Hampton is completely at home on stage. Get him an open fire and an armchair and he’ll move in indefinitely. Softly-spoken and friendly off-stage, his persona and charisma shine the minute he picks up and guitar and swivels his hips to their instantly likeable songs. (Such as “The Rose”, “Bend Your Ear” and “Can’t you See” to name a few). He’s clearly enjoying himself, and he’s not the only one. Drummer Dan Potter sparks off his band mates and comes along during the fifty minute set. They give off the impression they are a band that work as one. Dread-locked bassist Jono West multi-tasks by adding harmonies to complete their fresh, energetic creations.
They are definitely worth keeping an eye out for. If only to be amazed by the fact they’ve already got a roadie.
Judging by the effect on the dancing audience we are all left, if you forgive the cliché, Fixated. And you know what, they don’t even wear a uniform. Bloody hell. Talk about revolutionary.
Tonight The Corporation plays host to an evening of no-nonsense, back-to-basics, balls-to-the-wall, rock n’ fuckin’ roll. Kicking off the four-band bill, The Mingers seem to have only one speed throughout their set. Guitars and drums are hit as fast as possible from one song to the next, so it seems like one long song with a few little breaks for banter.
Next up are Buzzkill, and they plough a line of rock spiced up with a tiny brass section consisting of saxophone and trumpet. And indeed they do rock. They benefit from the best mix of the night, you can even hear the vocals, although at times the trumpet is left out a bit, not that that really detracts from the show. They play tight, retro-tinged numbers full of riffs and chugging chords and hopefully will be one we’ll be able to see again.
Dog Toffee play loud, raucous tunes with a Wildhearts-y bent. I’ve seen them once before and they were good. And tonight they’re good as well. Probably better in fact than before. But their set wasn’t impressive enough to make a lasting impression, and trying to remember details of them a few days later is causing me problems.
I know next to nothing about tonight’s headliners The Hunns, except that the tall lass that used to be in Nashville Pussy is in the line up. Loud punk seems to be the order of the day, and damn fine punk too, although as per usual they could be playing instrumentals for all the vocals you can hear. Duane Peters is a charismatic enough frontman, shaved head, random tattoos, jiggling and twitching around the stage getting in everyone else’s way, which makes for entertaining viewing. To be honest, when The Hunns came on their set didn’t grab me as much as I was hoping. The most interesting part of the show is the finale of their set, where ex-Nashville girl Corey takes to the dance floor inches from the front of the audience and performs a fire-breathing act. It’s not everyday a 6’ 5” woman blows flames from her mouth a foot from my face and it makes an impressive and attention-grabbing end to an otherwise okay performance.
Beachbuggy / Texas Pete
@ Under The Boardwalk
Appropriate that Beachbuggy should pick the Get Me To The World On Time night to fine-tune their motorik rock’n’roll. They’re are in pitcrew formation tonight, lovely red overalls giving the impression that Under The Boardwalk is hosting a literal garage band on its fast grown garage night.
Texas Pete get on first however and take a little while to warm up. They don’t seem as loud as usual, the PAs problem rather than theirs, and it impedes their efforts at selfmaiming until the last half of their set. Eventually they locate the blue touch paper and hammer through their brand of fucked-up surf rock while acting much like the molecules in water do when heated rapidly. Dizzy stuff.
What Beachbuggy do is very simple. It is music of the tight-arsed, on the nail, thumping variety and basically it catches the audience like trim, suited rabbits in a halogen spotlight. Jack Straker leads the charge, looking not unlike a rock’n’roll Alan Bennet or even a younger and cooler Boris Johnson but it’s the duel drummers, stereo for the eyes, who fuel the mayhem.
Maybe if the Jesus & Mary Chain were solid and organised mechanics instead of lairy pissheads they might have sounded like this. Alan McGee has notoriously up and down taste but got it dead right with this lot. The new stuff they played sounded much like a spacier variant on the older material but with some bigger melodies. If we could make out what Jack was singing we’d let you know but we’ll just have to assume it was all about cars.
Apparently they’re going to make a video. Anyone can come along but they will have to dress as bees. I think we might.
Purple Sticky Punch
@ The Upstairs, Barnsley
With one of the most explosive entrance’s I’ve seen in ages, PSP would soon prove that they’re not for the faint hearted or for the pretentious musicians that take their work too seriously. PSP are a heavy, up-tempo band, who instantly created a party atmosphere with their opening song, “Saturday”. More importantly however they managed to sustain it throughout the set by not going down the same old road of low rumbling vocals with an over used double bass drum pedal running through the whole set. In fact PSP have done quite the opposite and and gone for high end vocals, screaming guitars but evened out with a ‘glug, glug’ bass sound and punchy drums. PSP are great performers as well as artists which was shown with their on (and off!) stage antics which lifted the atmosphere further.
The band were rock solid in their performance, this is a triumph in itself considering how fast they played and any evidence proving that the drummer has recently been replaced was nowhere to be seen. It could be argued that the band know the songs too well and have gradually got a lot faster since the recording of ‘Too Fine Line’ (the EP). This wasn’t so much a problem but a shame for anyone who didn’t already know the songs as it was easy to miss some aspects which make Purple Sticky Punch so individual and exciting, but the most exciting thing about PSP is that they’re always changing so I can’t really complain!
Overall, it was good to see a more comical, less depressing approach to the genre but still having all the energy in the world. Definitely worth seeing.
BPM / 1600E
@ Carpe Diem, Leeds
Inner ring road-rage must be a rite-of-passage that all bands face when attempting their maiden gig in Leeds City centre. Brownie points straightaway then for 1600E - not only for finding Carpe Diem but also for making it a triumphant foray out of the confines of South Yorkshire.
If haven’t seen these guys yet, kick yourself. And then kick yourself some more and carry on kicking until you do see them. And when you do ? Prepare for a proper ass kicking because it is fast becoming a 1600E specialty.
They look good, sound better and they know it. Howling like a young Dave Gedge with soul, vocalist Nick Cooper relays skewed snippets of the world according to guitarist Richard Martin, one filled with sex-toy obsession, snatched supermarket liaisons and “noughties” urban angst. These guys want to give you a good time and tonight they never let up. The songs mutate into country stomps and psychedelic rock-outs (“Karl’s Daydream” & “The Sweetness and the Light”); even the slower moments (“Lemon Day” & “City Lights”) don’t stop the momentum and in “Northern European” they possess a lapel grabbing headbutt of a song that demands a wider audience.
Although tonight, 1600E are dictionary definition of “hard-act-to-follow”, exiled Sheffielder Paul Young and the three-piece that he nominally leads - BPM - get on stage, breathe deep and pick up the baton, crashing straight into pop nugget thrashabout “Cherry Lips”. How far BPM go into the music biz stratosphere depends entirely on how much they apply themselves because tonight rattling through a shortish set with venom they shine very brightly indeed. They have tightened up the nuts and bolts of their sound, adding new songs (“Steve McQueen”, “Humble Pie”) that broaden their familiar retro punky-pop core. The swelling crowd lap it up and get louder as the set reaches a singalong crescendo with “Gimme Love” and “The Woo-Woo Song”, the former being possibly the catchiest number you will ever hear.
They beg for more but to no avail - we are left with a very sweaty room, two very satisfied bands and some Christmas cheer as Slade and Roy Wood start booming out of the PA. Quite magical.
@ The Grapes
Bhuna’s fanbase is growing. As well as the token friends and relatives in the audience many are present due to word-of-mouth, on the premise that Bhuna are ‘a good band.’ These are simple words with an accurate sentiment.
Their sound is difficult to describe. They oddly and cleverly juxtapose styles, incorporating elements of punk, rock and very slight touches of country. At one point they move from a crunchy punk song ended by a wild scream into soft-rock album track ‘Be my Love’, which offers strong vocals and an uplifting chorus. Embodying a traditional sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll attitude, they swig from bottles between songs and smoke cigarettes between chords. Frontman Scott requests that in the interests of ‘safety’ all drugs should be handed over to the band and later he yells ‘if you want us to play more you gotta scream and all that shit, we’re a rock band!’ provoking loud cries of ‘Bhu-na! Bhu-na!’
The band is clearly passionate about the way they feel music should be, discarding the manufactured mainstream as exemplified by ‘Pop Idol’ in favour of genuine personal expression. Scott tells the audience that they’re going to play a ‘nice song’, before launching into the opening of Gareth Gates’ ‘Any One of Us’ and then urging us to go home and play anything, from the Ramones, to the Beach Boys, to Nine Inch Nails, just as long as it’s not Darius. No fear of that however. Judging by their encouraging reception the chances are that Bhuna will be the music of choice on many stereos tonight.
Urban Gorilla's 1st Birthday
@ Fez Club
One year ago Urban Gorilla unleashed its monkey business on the world. Built on the solid foundations of the Tuesday Club the promoters of the infamous night decided it was time to branch away from their hip-hop and drum n' bass dominated dub and bring forward a sound which had been muffled in Sheffield. The sound of break beats. And what a success it's proved to be.
Rising from a mid-week night to one of the best weekend nights in the North, Urban Gorilla has hosted some of most talented DJs on the scene. From the smile-inducing Plumps to the dark and funky Freq Nasty they've consistently captured that dirty, uplifting, unique style and brought it to a mass of happy faces. And their first birthday was to be no let down.
Apart from the rather shaky start with Chris Bibby from NYSushi's garage set the rest of the night was spot-on. A filthy collaboration of house, techno and electronica, all fused together with hard-hitting breaks. Richard Thair from Red Snapper fame headlined the night with a set built on more diverse beat driven house which had the devoted regulars loving every second of it. While resident Geoff Ticehurst (pictured above) topped it all off by playing some of the highlights such as Delgado's 'Coffee Beats', Stanton Warriors Re-mix of Tim De-Luxe's 'It Just Won't Do' and The Slammers 'Raw As Fuck'. It may only be a baby but Urban Gorilla's captured a feeling that most Sheffield clubs only dream of. Long live the monkey madness.
Multiverse 3 / Shogunnaz
@ Tuesday Club
The first act was The Wu-Tang sized Shogunnaz, a team of at least eight MCs and one hard-working DJ. The Shogunnaz took the stage in groups of two or three rappers each, showcasing a decent but not very distinctive brand of hip-hop. The groups sounded best when aggressive, spitting out trade-off rhymes over fight-music beats. A big MC wearing an Allen Iverson basketball jersey stood out from the other rappers. He rapped like a professional, commanding and rhythmically precise. The rest of the group sounded like eager students. Their rhymes tended to rush out and hit the beat a little haphazardly. The shogunnaz ended their set with a six-rapper freestyle session, a risky move which proved that the MCs can deliver when they rap without a net.
Multiverse 3 (two MCs, one DJ) were celebrating the release of their new EP, out on Rek Records (www.rekrecords.com). I liked their songs and they clearly care about (and enjoy) what they are doing, but they weren't breaking any new ground. The beats and rhymes in both sets were adequate but not innovative, and boring hip-hop can get very, very boring. This show proved that there is a respectable Sheffield hip-hop scene, but the rappers and DJs followed the underground hip-hop formula too faithfully for my taste. Multiverse 3 and the Shogunnaz could both stand to be less respectable and more original.
Nelli Rees @ The Casbah
Russian jazz singer Nelli Rees dresses like the Terminator by way of the Matrix, slithers through slow-burn ballads like Sade, growls low notes like Sarah Vaughn, and, on the eponymous track of her album Jazz Noir, raps in French. The band (as tight a group of musicians as you could ask to hear) plays a kind of contemporary jazz fusion: a mix of 70's style jazz-funk, drum&bass, continental hip hop and Morcheeba-style groove ballads. All six instrumentalists are phenomenal players, but none of them wasted time on grandstanding during their one-hour set on Thursday night. The drummer made necksnap transitions from funk to swing to breakbeat with the apparent ease of a top-flight scratch DJ. The bassist was consistent, versatile and funky; everything a bassist should be. The guitarist made himself noticed without a single extended solo: his sound is all wah-wah, funky riffs and immaculately placed licks. The keyboard player moved from soulful rhodes flourishes to honky-tonk piano to electro synth-sounds with unshakeable composure. The tenor sax player, who sat out several numbers, plays with a foggy vibrato that's reminiscent of Sade's sax player. Her solos were beautiful and she has chops to spare, but I would have liked to hear her step out harmonically a little bit more than she did. The trumpet player plays with a rich, juicy sound, even more so when he plays flugelhorn. He is the group's main soloist and his tasteful cool-jazz solos were full of harmonic surprises and some refreshing flirtation with dissonance.
Nelli Rees is at her best when she is blending styles. One of the standout tracks of the night was a cover of the '70s soul classic ""Use Me"" given the Massive Attack treatment, with a crawling tempo, ascetically spare bass line and plaintive torch-song vocals. The eighth song of the night, my favorite, started with a drum&bass beat that actually seemed to swing a little, then whipped through a series of brief solos tied together with infectious guitar lines. This is contemporary jazz fusion, or trip-hop jazz or whatever you want to call it, the way it should be: Nelli Rees and her band borrow from the conventions of electronic and sample-based music without bowing to them. If you care about contemporary jazz, try to catch this group when they come around again.
@ Scuba / Phonetics
German broken beat scientists Jazzanova descended on Sheffield with their legendary brand of beats, styles and rhythms. Known by music lovers for their jazz indebted releases and slew of fine reinterpretations for a diverse selection of artists. For those who want to hear more, check their fine Remix Collection on Compost from 2000, which does more justice than their own album released this year.
Disappointingly, not all six members made the trip over from Berlin, but the pair-who did come proved to be fine exponents of the group's sound and musical influences. This night was a collaboration between Sheffield's real House fanatics Scuba, and underground Hip Hop and jazz-breaks purveyors Phonetics. Held in the eastern styled Po Na Na, home to Phonetics, as many jazz-beat-house connoisseurs were squeezed in as possible. The battle to get from one side of the club to another unfortunately took some enjoyment away from the night's proceedings.
The warm up seemed more geared to the Phonetics crowd than Scuba, with a wealth of Hip Hop and jazz-steeped breaks. The selection included Blak Twang's filthy ""So Rotten"". The Germans took over, and thrilled the packed dance floor with a varied collation of House, beats and breaks. It was a pleasure to hear a diverse selection, even if the order of programming could be questioned. Tracks that stuck out head and shoulders above the rest included Osunlade's sweet content remix of Jazzy Jeff feat Erro's ""Rock Wit U"", and Sade's caring ""By Your Side"". Jazzanova was an ambitious booking, which was only-made a reality by the co-promotion from two of Sheffield's most forward-looking club nights. It was a unique event, which differed in atmosphere and musical vibe to that of a 'normal' Saturday at Scuba or Phonetics.
Badly Drawn Boy
Evil Hearted Me
Purple Sticky Punch