Live Reviews

Dustpunk
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Libertines
Colorpool
Bloom Festival
Anti Flag
Leon
PRO-jEKt
Har Mar Superstar
Slomo
Other Music
David Holmes and the Free Association
Pepe Bradock
Coalition

April 2003

S007

Dustpunk with First Day Back / Feedle / Digitonal / 65 Days of Static / AutoFire

@ The Boardwalk

By rights Sheffield should be electro-heaven, the city has been near the forefront of inventive electronic music since before Phil Oakey realised he could only afford half a haircut. In 1990 Warp cemented Sheffield’s place at the head of the experimental music scene. Then they moved to London, Gatecrasher opened, and everyone’s idea of electronic music became one man and his record box. But now it would seem electro is back; first Auto, now Dustpunk.

Organised by local video artists, Media Lounge, Dustpunk focused on experimentation. Sandman just caught the end of First Day Back, a 4-piece who jumped from punk power chord thrashing to Pink Floyd-esque prog-rock stepped through a nifty bit of post-rock clanging and back again. They certainly got the crowd going. Next up: Feedle, a local laptop producer, for me was the highlight of the evening. Covering the whole spectrum from semi-ambient to distorted dance-floor D+B, all with an undeniable edge of quality. Carefully laid beats carry the rhythm but are messed with just enough to keep you guessing, he clearly has an keen ear for music and a glint of childish excitement in his eye.

Musically Digitonal aren’t revolutionary, bang in the middle of Orbital and The Orb (and why not?) their live set however was impressive. Combining synths, live drums, pre-programmed beats and an electric violin for ambient strings they kept it tight throughout. I’d heard about the headline act 65 Days Of Static from friends and I had high hopes. Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed. Their guitar work was run of the mill indie-rock fare, whilst the programmed backing track lacked the complexity or tonal range to justify its presence. Maybe if they’d turned the guitars down and the beats up it’d have exposed hidden complexities, but they didn’t so I never heard any. 65DoS reach for a powerful show like Asian Dub Foundation or Atari Teenage Riot, but, regrettably, fell well short. Autofire were equally uninspiring, cut-down minimalist techno, just a bass drum and hi-hat but for the odd

“Come on!” or “Autofire!” through a microphone. They’d go down OK at 5am in a dirty little club if you were really fucked, but in a half empty boardwalk (most people had left by the time 65DoS finished) they left a lot to be desired. A special mention should go to Media Lounge whose video projections turned what could have been a mediocre night with a couple of decent support acts into an event I’d gladly pay money for. The break-dance exercise video was worth the entry alone.

Will Jones

65 Days of Static

Yeah Yeah Yeahs / Ikara Colt

@ The Leadmill

For me, there are two main problems with gigs at the Leadmill and both have an effect tonight. The first is that they insist on the mid-week 7 ‘o’clock start, which, combined with my faulty alarm clock, causes me to miss the first act. The second problem kicks in as soon as Ikara Colt start playing. Half the people at these gigs either seem to be going just to avoid queuing for the club night, or have just come out for a chat with friends. Ikara Colt playing fails to shut them up, and just means they shout louder. They play a good set though with loud, arty, punky songs, with the lead singer stalking the stage as if looking for a way out. The rest of the band supply the tunes which, after a while, all seem to blend into one. Variety isn’t Ikara Colt’s forte. The crowd that do listen enjoy the songs.

In a packed Leadmill, the expectations are high and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have a lot to live up to. After an annoyingly long gap between bands (they only need a drum kit, and amp for Christ’s sake) the Yeah Yeah Yeahs unassumingly climb on stage and start playing. Someone’s missing. A few minutes later the she arrives and it’s obvious that from now on, Karen O is running the show. She struts around the stage shaking her body, singing and screaming songs about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll from the heart. The whole audience, especially the males, seem enthralled, watching every movement. Most of the audience would struggle to say what the guitarist was wearing, yet they could write a 1000 word essay on Karen’s tights. She loves the attention, and the audience loves her. They shoot through some stuff from their debut EP and some new songs, all with the same lo-fi punky, grungey guitar led sound. By the end of the gig the crowd has had a showering of beer from the YYYs, who in return get a nice collection of thongs.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs do have good songs, but they are about more than just the sound. They don’t just play songs, they put on a whole show and are incredibly entertaining, guaranteeing a good night.

Laura Benn

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The Libertines

@ The Leadmill

Oi! Pete love! D’yer fancy a cigarette?” Pete Doherty, one quarter of The Libertines reaches out a sweaty arm and takes a Marlboro Light from a girl in the front row. The same girl who, funnily enough, happens to be your Sandman correspondent. They steal our cigarettes. They invite us all on stage. They revel in our love. Welcome to the world of The Libertines.

Plucked relatively recently from obscurity, The Libertines have been uniquely boxed and packed complete with their own manifesto and philosophy. Tonight at The Leadmill they’ve come packed with their best armoury even Tony Blair could wish for. Dirty yet friendly rock n roll, new but 70’s-Rockers sounding pop songs lifted from sparkling debut “UP The Bracket” reminds us that at last some British talent can rival some of our American competition. The energy emitted from stage makes their music come alive.

Towards the end of the fun-packed and vibrant set, the now bare-chested Carl and Pete look in to each others eyes for one last time in that kind of –oooh, is that sexual chemistry or just bandmateyness ambiance- and they are off leaving a whirl of cigarette ash on the stage. More venues to play, more friends to make, more soundtracks to provide. We’re all left hoping that their search for the Albion will bring them back to Sheffield very soon indeed.

Laura Benn

pic: Shari Denson

Colorpool / Stag / Hidden Suns

@ Sheffield vs... At The Grapes

When you live in the concrete behemoth that is Sorby Hall of Residence, you can expect to have a cold for all but one week of every month. So, poised as I was to write my first irreverent-yet-endearing review for Sandman, I was standing at the back of The Grapes’ tiny upstairs room with too many layers on and not enough tissues. In addition, any utopian visions I had of the local gig scene were shattered within minutes of entering the pub. Be warned: it is never ‘all about the music.’ Even if the outfit’s right, it is still frowned upon to order a pineapple Breezer. Sigh. It did not bode well.

So praise be to Colorpool. It was great to watch a band that seemed as happy to be on the stage as they would be playing air-guitar in the garage back home. I don’t know if it would have the same effect on c.d., without the old-skool rock’n’roll flailing of limbs and chipper commentary, but the mosh-worthy instrumentals reminded me of the Foo Fighters before they went all ‘serious rawk music’ on us.

Stag followed, seriously slick, polished and precise, the lead singer could really wail... But after Colorpool, I just wanted a little more good ol’ fashioned movement and a lyric that clawed annoyingly at my brain for the following weekend (think Colorpool’s opening song).

As for Hidden Suns, the Night Nurse had kicked in by this point, but I caught them at the Halls Tour the week before. All I can tell you is that you need ENERGY just to tap your toe along to this band.
All in all, good clean fun. Much better for you than Lemsip.

AF

Bloom Festival

@ The Grapes

Thanks to Ladytron, Peaches, Electric Six and friends, electronica has become one of those ultra-cool genres. The ultra-cool people were out in the Grapes to enjoy the annual Bloom Festival, and although cross-dressing / intricate eye makeup weren’t an entry requirement, I wish I’d put in more effort than my jeans and t-shirt combination.

As the stage was adorned with flowers, it looked as though the Bloom Festival would be an interesting exploration of the clash of electronic music with nature. This didn’t happen. Instead, Ralph & the Ralphettes’ DJ set - accompanied by Phosphene’s visuals – developed the anticipation of an exciting evening. Unfortunately, listening to David Bowie and watching an arty slide show turned out to be the highlight.

First up were Scuff. It would be better to not dwell on the lyricists’ skill-less couplets, including ‘loo’ and ‘va-va-voom’. The English language is a beautiful thing, and besides, rhyming dictionaries aren’t that expensive. The music was barely related to the vocals and didn’t develop beyond a few random squeaks. It was lamer than the karaoke list in the 80s Music Bar (which doesn’t contain any Human League).
Wunderlich promised to be ‘non-stop erotic cabaret’, but the misspelt poster should have been a warning. After dragging a wooden grand piano cutout onstage, Mr Wunderlich gave a keyboard recital of primary school standard. Whilst wearing a blue wig and backless top.

Neu Vogue finished the evening with their not unpleasant ‘postmodern synthpop’, but by then it was too late to recapture my interest.

The Bloom Festival. It could have been good. But it wasn’t.

Jacky Hall

The Libertines

Anti Flag

@ NMB

Punk bands Bickle’s Cab, ZSK and 5 Knuckle got the crowd going nicely. Especially when the lead singer of ZSK decided to strip naked for their last song. Luckily his guitar covered his modesty.

When Anti Flag finally came on stage, they didn’t burst into song like the others. Oh no, they decided to give us a poetry reading. How much more rock and roll can it get?! To be fair, the poems were about Blair and Bush and the crap they’re causing. So we’ll let them off.

When they did start to perform, the crowd went crazy. I don’t know if it was because they were pissed by then or if they really loved the band. I’d say it was a combination of the two.
Anti Flag are fantastic instrumentalists and great songwriters. They are deeply political and have their heads firmly screwed on. “It doesn’t matter what your hair looks like, what colour your skin is, or your sexual preference” shouted Chris Head. Good man.During the set, Anti Flag belted out songs such as ‘Fuck Police Brutality’ and the emotional ‘911 For Peace’, which was inspired by September 11th.

Disappointingly, the time came when lead singer, Justin Sane, declared “we only have one song left”. So they did ‘Die for Your Government’ and disappeared. The crowd, however, wouldn’t budge. Sure enough, Anti Flag returned to give us a two song encore which ended a superb gig...well, superbly.

Charlotte Stokes

pic: Peter Stanners

Leon / Tosca / The Maker

@ The Casbah

It’s rare when you get the chance to watch up-and-coming bands for nothing so I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth tonight.

However, it seems that the rest of Sheffield aren’t as keen as the turn-out is sparse at best as The Maker take the stage. The lack of atmosphere does little to dampen their enthusiasm as they waste little time in unleashing their powerful brand of beat-rock that falls somewhere between The Music and Halo, as harmonies a-plenty echo through the slowly expanding throng. ‘Silence Is No Sound’ and ‘In Our Lifetime,’ stand out in a tight set that also includes a dubious pub-rock style jam that proves to be the only blot on their copy book.

By contrast, Tosca are something of a disappointment as their mid-nineties groove meanders along sparking more than a passing resemblance to The Bluetones and Supergrass but without the energy, or indeed, the face furniture of the latter. ‘Magic Bus’ is a prime example of the lack of edge possessed by a band that should, maybe realize that it isn’t 1996 any longer.

Finally Leon take the stage to a somewhat muted reception from the remainder of the crowd who have decided to make it a late one. Leon are polished and tight with the harmony driven pop-rock combination that even draws one or two stragglers to dance drunkenly before thinking better of it. Maybe it was me but the crowd’s attention seemed polarised between the bar and the dancefloor. Even I waver as something that sounds like Space making another comeback reaches a climax, as a loyal brunette wiggles her hips to the poppy rhythm filling the smoke-filled air.

However, the over-riding story of the night has to be the night itself. Come-on Sheffield, turn up and support your music, otherwise it won’t be just the Barfly that closes its doors!

Steven Davies

PRO-jEKt / NeuVogue

@ The Grapes

Mention the existence of an electro-Goth band to anyone not aware of this genre and they may well giggle. But titter ye not, it’s true. The slightly scary PRO-jEKt have managed to span that very divide. But did the subculture of choice for disaffected teenagers living in isolated rural areas need fusing with ultra-cool urbane pop?

Local retro-electro band Neu Vogue filled the support slot intended for Lupine (indisposed due to a bad throat). Their half-hour set began promisingly but a keyboard break-down occurred and confusion ensued. For people accustomed to technology, why didn’t they have a back-up plan? Instead, vocalist Oliver Prime’s ‘improvisation’ of the same poem - twice - was exceptionally unimpressive. Still. Robot Building - a new addition to their material – was rather nice. And amusing.

PRO-jEKt are the musical equivalent of an American-teen-slasher-horror-flick. You’re hiding behind your hands / cushion, but don’t know whether it’s out of fear or hilarity. The lead singer kept staring. And pointing. Intimidating stuff from someone dressed in a latex waistcoat. Unfortunately none of their rage filled angsty songs were particularly distinguishable from the next. Just imagine heavy breathing on microphones, distorted guitars, screaming and… a drum machine. Despite the average music, the show they put on was worth the rainy trek down West Street: head-banging, cock-rocking entertainment. Not bad.

But then again, I’m scared they might fly through my window in the midnight hour and suck my blood. So I thought they were excellent.

Jacky Hall

Har Mar Superstar

@ The Fuzz Club

If I was a badass ghetto rapper like J-Lo I’d be R-Ma which nearly sounds that same as Har Mar. Har Mar Superstar was, for one night only, playing in Sheffield at the best club night in town: Fuzz Club. Har Mar Superstar played after some boring indie band called The Vessels. You know how it is, I’m quite a big indie fan but to be honest about 70% of it is boring shit that all sounds same.

Har Mar came on alone backed by some sort of music system with all his music on it. He was wearing bottomless trousers which were obviously a piss take of Christina Aguilara. He was also wearing his famous pants and a T-shirt he later threw in the audience and a red silk jacket which he took off before performing his first song.

He was brilliant all night, like Prince on acid, just taller fatter and with a pencil moustache and a mullet while playing his funky hip-hop, fucky indie funk. He was sex crazed as a girl in the audience reaches out he gets her hand and puts it on his groin and starts thrusting. I also felt him up. That was good, I always turn gay when drunk.

Bob Mara

Anti Flag

Slomo / Faded Starlets

@ The Deep End

This is how gigs should be – support band comes on, warms the crowd up nicely then the headline band march on and the blow the place open. Even better when the headline band are from within a mile of the venue and turn out to be one of the city’s best kept secrets.

Faded Starlets are an odd mix of glam and straight forward rock – the singer looks like he’s auditioning for Muse and the keyboard player’s legs must get draughty since so much of them are visible. Slow to start (anyone hear the singer for the first few songs?) they find their feet and impress a decent size crowd with songs that get us thinking of less oblique earlyish Pulp. Worth seeing again.

Clearly, determinedly, loudly notches above the run of the mill Slomo quickly demonstrate their slick and sleekly powerful sound. There’s lights! There’s dry ice! There’s Dave Gledhill who knows how to write songs! And sing them! Backed by a great band with the best female backing harmonies Sandman’s heard for a long time!

Apparently Dave’s one of those home studio wizards who’s been buried away recording stuff, biding his time until everything’s ready to show the world. Touring with Soft Cell has honed this lot into something quite formidable. Reference points were clicking away, Alabama 3, Stereo MCs, Morcheeba – not all bands Sandman has a particular fondness for but the pop dynamics were so much stronger, ‘Accidental Joe’, ‘Love, Hate, Devotion’ are just great lyric-led songs drenched in powerful beats and styles marinated in clubland but blessed with great hooks, and ‘The Crocodile and The Goldfish – the encore – was just great. Boom! Indeed.

Look, we love the shambles that are often pub gigs but just every now and then it’s great to get one where it’s so damn perfect. Hands in the air for both the band and Mr. Sievwright for getting the best sound we’ve ever heard in the Deep End.

Jack Tractor

pic: Tracy Welch

Other Music

@ The Point

19th February. The overwhelmingly bizarre circumstances of my key breaking off in the front door of my house will tell you two things – firstly, how damn cold it’s been in Sheffield recently, and secondly, that I managed to miss the first set of the evening by the headliners but I managed to catch George Haslam & Paul Hession’s performance. It was a set grounded in the lyrical lines of classic jazz standards but veering off in to the righteous clatter of free improv. Hession is undisputed as one of the UK’s greatest free jazz drummers yet there was the slightest hint of discomfort between his trademark superfast patter and Haslam’s fantastically fluid playing. Swapping effortlessly between baritone and alto, there was a great ease and underlying structure to Haslam’s sax which Hession at times struggled to match, though all was saved by a deft bit of cymbal scraping at the end to bring things back nicely.

Eddie Prévost is another legendary figure in British improv, going back to the 60s as a founding member of AMM, the uncompromising free noise ensemble with which he still performs today. Here, he was playing with some much younger colleagues for he is heavily involved with workshops bringing the jazz ‘to the kids’. OK, that’s overstating it a bit, but he seemed somewhat out of place with his younger cohorts, who look more impressed to be playing a gig than anything else. Their reverence for their mentor and the situation somewhat stalls the flow of what could be far more powerful in more experienced hands. Prevost held things together well with his trademark drone n’ scrape, and it’s always a pleasure to see such highly revered improvisers at local events. Other Music do this sort of thing about once a month and have been ‘bringing New Sounds to Sheffield’ for 19 years. So get with the new thing.

Chrome Smith

Other Music

@ The Point

7th March. Disappointing. Although the headline band were all very talented, their music didn’t inspire me and somehow missed the sparkle of a really good gig, probably because the main aim of the band seemed to be to make the most unpleasant noise possible.

The music was all improvised, which left the band free to experiment with tone and dynamics. Tim Hodgkinson, the slide guitarist, used a violin bow on different parts of the instrument to change its timbre. Most of the sounds he made were harsh – hitting and scraping like a beginner on a violin. In some of the quieter bits he played harmonics, which were more pleasant to listen to. Thomas Lehn played different samples using a mixing desk, and so couldn’t create as many different timbres. Roger Turner (the drummer) was the best of the three, though. Most drummers use more than just a standard kit for free improv, but Turner had more extra bits than he had drums! The temptation when faced with so many options is to forget about playing in the conventional way, but Turner managed to throw in a few beats.

Between the two main sets was a sopranino sax solo by Martin Archer, which included improvisations around tunes he had written. Although he seemed a bit nervous and uncomfortable, Archer still had stage presence. It seemed like he knew what he wanted to do, but had problems carrying it off. Overall, Archer’s music was the opposite of the main band’s – pretty good but let down by technicalities.

Harriet Commander

David Holmes and the Free Association

@ The Tuesday Club

DJ and producer David Holmes has been doing his thing for a long time now. His solo work on earlier albums like 'Bow Down to the Exit Sign' and 'Come Get It, I got It' as well as his soundtracks to the films Out of Sight and Ocean's 11 combined obscure yet accessible funk and soul of the 60s and 70s with his own killer productions. However, it is since he has put together his own 'Free Association', more of a collective than a band really, releasing the album of the same name he has really been able to impose his creativity. So it was with great anticipation that myself and a few hundred like-minded individuals went to the Tuesday Club. The atmosphere was electric and I have to say that Holmes has picked his men well. With himself on sampling duty on the decks, a sexy female vocalist and an insane male one, the band kicked ass. All carried off with huge amounts of style and energy by the two front (wo)men the 'Association' started off with 'Free Ass-O-C-8'. Things really began to blow up with powerful hip-hoppy number 'Don't Rhyme No More', moving through the soulful 'Whistlin' Down the Wind' but the night really climaxed in the club with the awesome 'Everybody Knows'. It was at this point that I thought I was gonna die from a combination of too much alcohol, over excitement and the fact that everyone else in there had had too much to drink and were over excited and therefore were crushing me to death. However, as I'm sure you've guessed, I made it and this near death experience has made come out the other side inspired to preach the gospel of the, as it would appear these days, nearly always life changing Tuesday Club. Now get your asses down there.

Dominic Stanley

Pepe Bradock

@ Scuba

This eagerly anticipated date in Scuba's I sub-aqua calendar saw one of France's mostly highly acclaimed and secretive pro-ducers visit Sheffield for the first time. Monsieur Bradock is primarily known in deep house circles for his emotionally charged fiery "Deep Burnt", that set the world alight in 1999. His more recent output has been a slew of weirdly wonderful off kilter dancefloor grooves and abrasive bass monsters. Less well known as a DJ, this night let him prove his worth. Pepe exhibited his skills on the hallowed Scuba decks, instilling the same passion and raw fervour as he manages with his own musical output. His two-hour dancefloor journey encompassed a variety of styles and flavours; from glorious touching jazzually leaning House, to fierce atmospheric techified stormers, gorgeous impassioned vocal outings and experimental key addled grooves. Pepe didn't follow a tried and tested route through the tracks, but instead changed mood and style precisely when it suited him, adding to the impact of his set. The clued up open-minded crowd responded favourably to his selection, apart from the most challenging avant garde moments, which brought bemused looks all around. Choice cuts included Underground Resistance's instructive charged "Transition" and Chris Lum & Jay J's spine-tingling smitten re-rub of soulstress Jill Scott's "He Loves Me". Toko distribution main man Alec Greenough had the job of warming up, and he accomplished it admirably. He dropped jazz flavoured percussive builders and a variety of feel good vocal numbers including Deluxe Pusher's utopian desiring honey toned "Next Lifetime" to get the floor moving.

Jon Freer

Coalition

@ The Casbah

Vivaldi should be resurrected," says Matt, flicking through the latest copy of some well-thumbed drum and bass magazine. Yeah...maybe it would work. For one night only, Thursday nights at the Casbah could bring "Vivaldi-digitally re-mastered." With the help of some clever mixing and a decent MC over the top...the place would boom. The frilly-coated men in the sky would raise their metronomes in a mark of respect and appreciation, witnessing the birth of a new music revolution at Coalition. Somehow it's difficult to imagine the crowd bigging-up the Four Seasons and judging by the queue on the door every week, somehow I don't think Matt, Darragh and Tristan will need to take any advice in the near future. Since starting up March 2001, the guys have bought legends such as Randal, Shy FX, Ray Keith, MC Det, MC Fearless and Grooverider to the Casbah. Why didn't anyone inject some drum and bass into the proceedings sooner? "We like the Casbah because it's dark and dirty downstairs and light upstairs. It creates a nice atmosphere, quite intimate' says 22-year-old Darragh. 'When Sushi stopped the drum and bass scene kind of dried up in Sheffield, so we wanted to start something up." "Putting a night on keeps us out of the pub I guess. It keeps us busy, we love what we do and we get to meet our favourite DJs of courses says Matt sheepishly, sipping his pint. A mutual appreciation of beer and Bad Company bought Mott and Tristan together, after meeting randomly in a bar while travelling round Australia a few years back. Even stranger, Matt and Tristan found themselves together at Sheffield Uni, where Matt introduced Tristan to his childhood friend, Darragh.

"In December 2000 we had a one off night in Brighton where Tristan's from. We thought, yeah, let's bring it to Sheffield." said Darragh. Originally called Turbulence, the name had to be dropped because by mistake they'd nabbed it from another drum and bass night. All was not lost though. After thorough brainstorming and the aid of a dictionary, Coalition was born instead. Two years later, the dictionary now eats ,dust and the night has now become one of the biggest drum and bass knees-up in the city, an achievement considering all three are juggling a degree at the same time. "We've noticed we've got regulars coming from Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham, so we think that's pretty cool" says Darragh, aware that two years on, the night has gained quite a following. Amongst the biggies, such as Mambi Swift who's making the trip from London to play on May 15th, regular DJ competitions are held to promote local talent. The boys also hint that they've got some-thing special lined up for June but they're not giving always any clues. "We're not really sure yet but whatever it is, it's going to be big." "Sweating our arses off", the trio work on average five hours a day and put in £20 of petrol in the car so they can flyer around Sheffield every week. Donations gratefully received, they admit they don't make much money from their weekly shenanigans. "We want to do this while we're young, we might not get much chance to later." Somehow, it's difficult to imagine the guys donning a suit and working 9 to 5 in the next few years...they're having too much dirty fun for now anyway. 

Laura Noble

Slomo
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