Sally Doherty / Jim Taylor
@ The Grapes
The Grapes is packed tonight, causing a sweltering heat aided by the fact the crowd is wrapped up for winter. It also doesn’t help that everyone’s jostling for space at the back as someone thought it would be a great idea to fill the front of the stage with tables for a cosy café-style ambience.
So, with a sweaty atmosphere that you usually associate with a thrash metal gig, we watch Jim Taylor and Sally Doherty, two of the leading lights on the local folk circuit.
Jim Taylor is a great singer / songwriter, backed only by his acoustic guitar and two harmonising backing singers, one of which being his girlfriend. A top-notch set of cracking songs, helped along by some humorous spousal banter and the fact one kind soul switched the ceiling fans on half way through. Phew!
Sally Doherty is undoubtedly one of the greatest talents we have in this city. Probably Sheffield’s most elegant star, her fusion of orchestral instruments and incredible soaring vocals is always a treat.
Tonight, Sally was without her full band, the Sumacs, and performing with a sparse arrangement of cello, accordion, keyboard and her own flute. The effect was a supremely atmospheric performance, her voice at times sending a shiver down your spine.
It’s very rare you can watch classically trained musicians of this calibre and not sense any air of pretension. Sally Doherty is a versatile performer who sings Folk, Latin and Jazz, and whose projects in Italy have won national awards. It’s about time she got equal acclaim over here.
So a wonderfully sweaty folk night down the Grapes, and another occasion to prove there’s more raw talent in Sheffield than you canshake a stick at.
Easyworld / Little Nikita / Medium 21
@ The Leadmill
Openers Little Nikita seem to go with the idea that if in doubt scream your head off. Their Vines-esque screeching certainly gets the evening off to a raucous start. The singer, as well as thrashing his guitar round like Craig Nichols, also has possibly the most psychotic eyes ever to gaze down off the Leadmill stage. Medium 21, by contrast, play a set of instantly forgettable indie-schmindie songs. A definite lull in the proceedings, but it, fortunately, doesn’t dampen the crowds’ enthusiasm for Easyworld. From the first song to the last, they are totally engaging.
Three songs in and singer Dav James Ford has already thrown off his jacket and tie and drenched himself in water in commendable rock star-tantrum fashion, before sitting down at his keyboard to play the beautiful ‘This is Where I Stand’. Lurching from fragile acoustic numbers like ‘Til The Day’ to edgy rock (like new song ‘The Other Man- less pop and more punk, but sounds great all the same). No surprise then, that the highlights are new single, ‘Junkies’, with Ford playing what looks like a ukulele (‘a bit George Formby’ remarks one punter) before the powerful chorus and the fantastic ‘You and Me’- complete with every member of the support bands joining Easyworld on stage for a Royal Variety Show style finale, Ford writhing around on the floor and an except from Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bootylicious’ in the mid-song breakdown. And even after all that they finish with new song ‘Goodbye’. Bootylicious? Absolutely!
@ 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.
The Interiors / Free Radicals
@ The Boardwalk
Sandman was particularly keen to catch this gig since The Interiors had just won our Demo Competition with a couple of tracks that caught our ear. A snotty voice over a tight, driving Beachbuggyish thump. So it was a disappointment tonight that after the gig we had to nip back home and check the demo again to make sure we hadn’t got the wrong CD. The Interiors haven’t actually been around that long as a three-piece and the general impression was that of a band lacking practice. Basically they were messy and untogether. It didn’t help that they ended up going on last as the audience were drifting off - why do people pay to get in a venue than fuck off when their mate’s band finish?
Still, on the basis of the demo we know they’ve got something decent boiling away. Bob Cassidy’s got the sort of snotty voice which you either love or hate and we’re firmly on in favour of it. There’s some decent lyrics as well and Adam, the other singer, has a jumper type thing which makes him look like a wasp. More gigs should solve it as they’ve got the energy and songs in the bank.
It was a first gig for the Free Radicals tonight having only formed last November. Furthermore their drummer had only joined them a week ago so fair play to the band for putting together a pretty tight set.
Paul Peace has a nice line in Johnny Marr inflected guitar lines and one of their songs seems to mix a Smith’s style verse with a Grace Jones chorus.
Highlight of the set was not actually musically related. Paul MacCartney once noted that ‘he may be a lover but he ain’t no dancer’ and could well have been talking about the Radicals singer. For no apparent reason, about three songs in, it appeared that a member of the audience had walked up to stage and belted him on the big toe as hard as he could with a hammer. For roughly 30 seconds he exploded around stage in a welter of arms and legs. The odd thing was that it seem completely disconnected to the music which was a steady, soft rockissh type thing.
The band they most reminded us of was Men At Work, the 80s Australian group. he Radicals need some more memorable tunes but have made a reasonable enough start.
Arthur Lee & Love
Obviously word has spread about the success of Love’s performance at the Boardwalk last year. The NMB is packed full to watch Arthur Lee and his men take to the stage to play Forever Changes for the last time live, and it’s an opportunity nobody wants to miss.
Sadly things don’t start well as Love begins with ‘7 by 7 is’. There seems to be something missing, they seem to be going through the motions up on stage. This lacklustre version of one of Arthur Lee’s best compositions threatens to set the tone for the rest of the evening. Things don’t improve as a few more numbers are treated with the same lack of enthusiasm.
But then the orchestra comes out and Love turn their set around as they launch into ‘Forever Changes’ opener ‘Alone Again Or’. It seems that they have been playing at being their own support act, just warming up the audience before they take it up a notch to startle us, and indeed they succeed. The version tonight had all the beauty and grace of the original. And thankfully they continue to put on a great performance as Forever Changes is performed in all its glory. The band seem to be relishing the opportunity to perform the album one more time and want to give it the send off that it so deserves. Arthur Lee, notorious for his temperament, seems to be enjoying it more than most, even joking with audience about being a high-school drop out.
And then Forever Changes ends and the band walk off, only to come back and play the encore. Sadly they perform at the same rate they started the night off, and the rest of the evening becomes instantly forgettable. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter as the audience has seen a great performance of a great album, and the performance of those eleven songs is what’s going to stay with you when you get back home tonight.
Mark Benn, pics Darren Chuck
@ The Casbah
On a cold Sheffield night, the Casbah provided warmth and comfy sofas for the non-Kingdom crowd. The main attraction was former Hybird Echoboy, currently touring to promote his forthcoming third album Giraffe. Distortion, heavy bass and powerchords a-plenty came from the under whelming support The Caesars. Essentially: five guys from Sweden, but not those five guys from Sweden.
Echoboy, whose disappointing real-life moniker is Richard Warren, is responsible for one of those head-scratching conundrums: rock or dance? A full description of all styles and influences crammed into the set would exceed sandman’s 250 word limit. Perhaps the combination of a less self-indulgent Pink Floyd and Joy Division might help explain his sonic creations. But if you’re still confused, he is also the man who might-have-been or might-not-have-been asked to become the bassist in Oasis.
It was not a night for Echoboy to go solo by DJ-ing, instead being joined by his touring band. This included the biggest beast of an organ ever to be contained within the Casbah’s cosy walls. Despite versatile vocal chords and the band’s obvious instrumental talent, the difficulties of re-capturing the immense sound on his studio recordings in live performance remained unresolved. Still, that organ was big. Perhaps the Casbah could turn the lights up a little next time, as the evening was slightly spoilt by the embarrassment of accidentall walking into the wrong toilets. Sorry.
This reviewer had an enjoyable evening. Besides, entry, stickers and badges were free. So why didn’t you go?
Sight & Sound
@ Montgomery Hall, Rotherham
With the Millenium Dome, Railtrack and the war on Iraq getting closer, I was beginning to wonder if the government had anything good to spend our money on.
Luckily it turns out for once they have and tonight was the conclusion to some welcome government funding and a chance for young, talented people to have the chance of getting their material professionally recorded and produced for free at the Sight & Sound Studios near Rotherham. Tonight provides the opportunity to perform in a showcase demonstrating the talent and creativity of local bands to an audience as diverse as the musicians themselves.
The night kicked off with some acoustic solo acts and a bluesy keyboard artist and seemed to create a great social atmosphere as everyone began to realise how rare and exciting a night like this is. Then to scare all the old folks, punkers Voice of Brain took to the stage followed by D-Rail and Purple Sticky Punch who, between them, threatened the structural integrity of The Hall.
With people coming from all kinds of musical backgrounds, including producers, DJs, engineers as well as musicians, it was truly a community coming together in musical and traditional terms. On the CD, which provides just a snapshot of the local scene, Kanvas and Laconic also feature. With free food as well, you can’t say fairer than that. More nights like this please, Mr Blair.
Warning / Goldfish
@ The Grapes
This Manga spiked reality I`ve landed in is packed with a, mainly, young and excited crowd.
Goldfish are a fresh faced fuzz guitar gang and there’s a lo-fi salute to his dead goldfish. Fantastic!!!
Warning are up next. Unison powerchords / High green, urban, heavy metal warriors with songs like the melancholic ‘Bottle of Pain’ and honest, heartfelt anthems for the disenchanted. Best lyric “I couldn’t be free if I tried.” Nice.
Exit 4.2 are candy apple pink. The two front men, Ekke and Joe, are a comedy double act. Somebody give these guys a youth TV show quick. “A piano fell on my head and now I`ve got problems” / “I want some cheese and my mums on her knees inhaling fumes from the TV.” Scrape my mind with that lyric one more time.Accurate speed riffs, harmonics and sickly swirling guitars then droning pulsating heavy petting in this flashing sweetshop. It`s a trashy school night out and these pornographic adrenalised hormonal buzzheads are wrapped around a lead brick.
They’re way too sweet. Official band girlfriends and the skatepunk moshers love this band and their snarling disposable teenage heat ray. Sandpaper and amyl throbbing guitars are enough for this cute mosh.
They do a speed rock version of Bryan Adams ‘Summer of 69’ and I think to myself , as I feel nostalgic for them already, yes, these probably are the best days of your lives. And they might just know it.
Midnight In Moscow
@ All Things Electric
Even though we’re a black and white magazine most of the photos we get are taken on colour stock. This means we have to whack ‘em through photoshop and and take the colour out. When Nasreen, Midnight in Moscow’s singer, leaves the stage it has a similar effect. Quite simply she’s a star.
Winding up the stairwell at Charles Street the unplastered walls lend the distinct impression that you’re enetering a ghetto style crack house so it’s a relief to find All Things Electric in full swing. Only the fourth night in and it’s getting to be a fixture. Looking round there’s plenty of fresh, excited youngsters who are no strangers to the make-up box mixed in with lots of familiar faces from the music scene. Phil Oakey, to whom the ATE crew, surely owe some sort of debt is in tonight proving heritage is not all castles and folk stories.
Midnight In Moscow get onstage just before the witching hour and it’s eveident they’ve brought a crowd with them. Three men sat behind synths and drum pads are fronted by a beautiful, amazonian singer with the kind of presence that befits her stauesque frame. She’s clearly having a blast, delighting and terrifying the men in the audience with a belter of voice and the kind of shape throwing a potter would proud of.
Mixing live and decks based music can be a tricky thing and the drop in volume between the DJs and the band is noticeable - it’s club night and the volume should be rattling your chest. but MIM just get on with it. It’s not that easy to define their sound, there’s a slight house element although the music can be a touch disjointed and there’s a definite 80s edge to some of the synth sounds - lots of vovoder too. Midnights In Moscow haven’t done too much live work and in some parts it shows. We get a while into a tune and want to dance but it breaks off into a skittering drum pattern which breaks it up. It probably works great in the studio and we’d certainly have a listen at home but live in a club it’s perhaps a little too clever.
We saw Royksopp at the AUTO fetsival and MIM have a similar problem - it just ain’t that interesting watching men at work on keyboards. Nasreen fills the stage and when she’s gone it just seems so much emptier. They’re headlining the Bloom festival at The Grapes at the end of the month. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare in a more conventional live setting. We’ll definitely be watching out for this lot.
@ The Boardwalk
Kent’s neigbours were on Jerry Springer’s show recently. Par for the course, by the sounds of it, if you live in trailer park country in the poorest county of Mississipi. He’s a longhaired, wiry man with a National Steel guitar held together by gaffa tape and willpower. While he appears too aimiable to have been messing around at crossroads at silly times at night he is a bluesman and one of those musicians determined to keep the music very much alive.
Yorkshire’s always had a bit of a mutual love affair with bluesmen. Legends such as Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker were better received here than at home in the early 60s and - bizarrely - Champion Jack DuPrez settled down in Halifax. The audience tonight are probably of an age with Duchaine and appreciate the intimacy of a set made up largely of the familiar - Willie Dixon’s Little Red Rooster, Fever, Sweet Home Chicago - and interspersed with his own, sweet, slightly countrified, songs.
By and large he a Delta blues player, thumbpick and slide, heavy on rythym and melody. His guitar, passed on to him by an old hero of his, belies its age and has a sweet, resonant tone you don’t get from playing along to Stooges’ records. It’s a style older than recorded sound. Originally from Minnesota DuChaine has a drawl like a slightly fired up Garrison Keillor and sings like it’s easy.
While not quite the same as hanging out on his porch steps - pints of Abbots and packets of beef and onion crisps don’t quite equate with moonshine and grits he creates a comfortable space in which he can spin his stories about cousin-powered politics in his hometown. There’s plenty of hokum here but it makes a nice change to have a two-way thing going on between stage and audience. For me the highlight of the night is ‘St James’ Infirmary’ which DuChaine first heard as Josh White’s New Orleans funeral tune but actually originated as a folk song from Leeds. It’s moving and powerful and a nice reminder of the potency of live music.
Trailerpark Trash / Chemically Abused Rats / Psycho Logical / High On Caffeine
@ The Boardwalk
So. What is an Ainsfest? Apparently it’s when your guitar teacher, who happens to be a member of the headlining band, puts a gig on at a city centre haunt and you and your band get to play as the supports!
The dominant thought on entering the Boardwalk this Saturday evening is that anyone here over 16 is probably a parent! The place is packed to the rafters with rabid rugrats. But that’s the point, the place is packed. When most teens and tweenies are at home watching the latest installment of Pop Idol - The Shite Leftover From The Series Before Last, these people have come out for some metal. And that’s what they get.
First on are High On Caffeine who thrash out three minute punk metal anthems like good ‘uns and, as with the rest of the bands on display here tonight, show a fair amount of what has influenced them and brought them to this point in their short careers. To someone who was actually alive and around in the 70s this bunch sound surprisingly of that era. Maybe it’s just listening to their dad’s old punk vinyl so much, or, which seems more likely, their youth lends them that enthusiasm and venom so apparent at the time. Highlight of the set is “Nailbomb” and although they need to be a bit more together musically the nostalgia trip was more than worth it.
Psycho Logical are, influence-wise, a whole different kettle of fish. Kids brought up on mother’s milk, Metallica and Nirvana, whose “Polly” they open up with. The thing that strikes about this trio is that more than any other band on the bill they have their own style, sound and identity which stays with them throughout the set, whether playing their own stuff or covers. Indeed their cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” leads to mini metal mayhem with sprogs moshing dementedly left right and centre. Due to late running their set was cut short; shame.
Tonight was Chemically Abused Rats first gig, and it showed. That’s not to say they were bad, it was just that they didn’t seem to know where they’re coming from yet and it was a bit tentative in spots. Standout song though was “Facism” which showed that there are better things to come.
So to Trailerpark Trash. If the younger bands showed themselves to be products of the grunge generation, then TT took us back to the early 80’s and a fledgling Iron Maiden and “Killers”. Must stress though that the band are not IM copyists. They have their own sound and style, but it is good to hear some of the older influences coming through. Opener “Marty Feldmans Eyes” kicked things off great in party mood but then curiously went straight into an instrumental “Cosmic Waves” (very “Genghis Khan”). Lost a few of the audience there guys, could be later in the set really! Proceedings picked up again though straight after and it was helter skelter full-belt towards the finish line. Band and audience carrying each other with “B.A. Baracus” and “Automaton” proving well worthy and crowd pleaser “John Pienaar 70’s Porn Star” to finish with. The band’s straw poll of the audience; who do you like the most Metallica or Busted came out in favour of San Francisco’s finest: so everythings all right then. The futures bright, the futures metal!
@ The Everyone Centre
It's not a local shop for local people, it's at the Everyone Centre, innit?" Or so I heard some bloke in the pub say beforehand. And it's the last League of Gentlemen reference that needs to be made in relation to The Shop. However, it's a good description, as The Shop is very much for everyone (and it's local if you live in Sheffield). There's no dress code or any of that rubbish, and the music policy is not defined by one style for the entire duration of the night. DJ's Mr Hijinx, Nicky P, Chiv & Law, Dubs and Valerio serve a mixture of drum and bass, hip-hop, house, breaks, beats and assorted floorfillers for the enjoyment of a mixed crowd who are definitely up for a party. Midnight evaporates in a sea of hugs and cheers, and thankfully not a hint of Auld Lang Syne — Groove is in the Heart is definitely a far more preferable way to see in the New Year. It sets the tone for the rest of the night and puts a smile on the faces of everyone in the Everyone Centre that lasts till dawn. After a year moving from a shop in Sharrow to the Arches, then down to the Everyone Centre for a pre-Christmas warm-up, The Shop has set out its stall as an alternative to the main-stream of Sheffield club-life, and its nights have reflected the diversity of the crowd it attracts. Eschewing the traditional acid-tech-no-trance that proliferates the outskirts of the city centre of a weekend, The Shop offers something a bit different, and it's a policy that is obviously welcomed judging by the sell out crowd tonight. As the lights come on, and as the crowd drift out at the end of the night the prevailing feeling is that it's been a wicked night, and it's gonna be a fucking wicked year. Entertainment and an over-riding sense of optimism? You can't buy that. But you can get it at The Shop...
@ Sheffield University
Being gay is a waste of time' declared Manchester's HomoElectric, at some point in the past. I suppose any scene (an ambigu-ous term that I'm going to loosely define as a social group that share the same cultural...err, I can't be bothered) loses its momentum and potency as it is quantified, capitalized and homogenized (pun sincerely intended), as usu-ally happens when too many 'normal' people infiltrate such an organization. That declara-tion shook things up, made it all outrageous again, by poking fun at the very same scene from which it originated. Bizarrely, the overly-defensive seriousness which it attacked marched to a soundtrack of High-NRG disco, bad Europop purveyed by arbitrarily designated 'Gay Icons', and mediocre Italian piano house. Which is near-ly as disturbing and laughable as Kim Jong ll's love of "Titanic". Hence, HomoElectric's suc-cess is derived from playing an eclectic mix of old and new sounds, to an open-minded and culturally informed crowd. It is with a similarly-derived success that hosts and DJs Lionel Vinyl and Easy Tiger operate room 2, at Sheffield University's gay and gay-friendly monthly, "Climax". As can only be expected from a duo experienced enough to know how to DJ to (not at) a room full of peo-ple (only 10 people in the UK actually have this ability.) They strike a perfect balance between accessibility, enlightenment and excitement, on some kind of magical, three-armed trio of scales. With a musical knowledge that allows full-blown, Levan disco to sit comfortably alongside hip-hop, raw funk, RnB, house, and soul (as well as bhangra, electro and more leftfield sounds), and a technical prowess to match; it is more importantly their understand-ing and rapport with the crowd which creates such a good vibe. It's not everyone's cup of tea. Most people, gay or straight, aren't really into music much. Not all gay people like good music, just like not all white, middle-class males like hip-hop (actually that's a lie — it doesn't include me though, 'cos I'm a member of the Polack aristocracy). Not all trigger-happy tyrants like shit films. As they say on "Last of the Summer Wine", 'each to their own'.
Lights Down Low
@ Under the Boardwalk
Following November's conspicuous absence, Kid, Disco Dad and the Gapper screwed the dimmer back on and turned it way down for a post-turkey party par-excellence. Taking the novel approach of occupying a great space and filling it with great music, Lights Down's ship of (wise) fools dropped anchor Under The Boardwalk, for what looks set to be a beautiful marriage of concept and venue. Considering the time of year - falling between a celebration of gluttony and another of for-getfulness - the party's magnificent attendance (helpfully boosted by a gang of good looking cockneys) was a testament to how special the party is, and how much it really matters to people. In a fairly short time (the first detona-tion was March 2nd, last year) the once-a-month gathering has grown into something of a legend among folk who like a bit of dancing and courting and such. Sheffield's infamous Yard crew took to the old ones and twos to full effect, dropping the usual genre-dodging electric eclecticism and leaving no room for pretension or mediocrity (translation: the music was really good). Highlights included Akwaaba's dub chugger "Just Pillau", the sub-lime tech-house of Joshua's "Get Up", the melancholic disco of "Any Love" and the downright genius of "Metro Area 5". It's heartening to find a party where good, soulful music, and a great vibe of inclusiveness and mutual respect among the crowd replace the all-too-common, attitude-laden pretension (and ultimately lifelessness) that has become the status quo these days (unlike Status Quo, who actually rock). But Sheffield has had a long history of great parties since the first days of disco, often pioneering new sounds long before southerners had worked out that they could pretend that they did.
Native State / Reality Breaks
@ The Casbah
The festive season is over. There's no excuse to party now. Time to settle back into the dreary reality of life. But before it's time to put the slippers on and sit back by the fire, along comes 4wd, taking over the Casbah for a night. of music and visuals. And it's rammed as well. With DJ's upstairs playing a wide array of tunes, and live acts and DJ's with interactive visuals downstairs, it's a more than welcome start to the new year. First up downstairs are Reality Breaks who do a sort of decks, computer, key-board based, blues guitar laden stuff that no-one else is really doing. Unrestricted by the constraints of some acts that follow that sort of instrumental line-up Reality Breaks have the ability to jam live, meaning that songs don't start and stop whenever a computer tells them to, creating an organic feel that can be missing from electronic based music. The loose funky hip-hop blues that they offer is also a backdrop for the stunning vocals of the lead singer. Despite problems with the sound, his voice cuts through, and though stood at the side of the stage he captivates the audience with the raw emotion of his performance. Hopefully next time they play the glitches with the sound will be sorted, as the music deserves a chance to be heard properly. Following hot in the footsteps of birth-day boy Chiv's set of house and breaks, are Native State, and the standards set by Reality Breaks are more than matched. A live dub / drum and bass outfit, they chill the crowd out and get them bouncing in equal measure. By the time that they're half way through it feels like it's fifteen days nearer to sum-mer, rather than halfway through the January comedown. Rolling bass and skanking guitar are more than ably abetted by two vocalists who both have a wide range and power while also avoiding obvious dub / jungle lyrical and stylistic cliches. By having all the instrumentation live, and not having to rely on tape loops for beats and bleeps, while putting a new-school twist on the old-school dancehall formula, Native State keep the floor full and keep it moving, and are fucking good at it as well. Filthy Rich rounds the night off with his inimitable mix of dirty breaks, bootlegs and bastard pop, and with the Casbah still busy at 2am on a wet January school night, it looks like 4wd's monthly sessions are gonna be a wel-come and varied addition to Sheffield's club life.
Arthur Lee & Love
Sight & Sound
Midnight In Moscow
Lights Down Low