Efterklang.

23RD FEBRUARY.
@ QUEENS SOCIAL CLUB.

REVIEWER - BEN ECKERSLEY.

For a cold Wednesday night in February, the Queens Social Club was packed in anticipation of an evening dedicated to semi-legendary Danish band Efterklang. Their performance was preceded by An Island, Vincent Moon's film about the band, and their extended set received a rapturous response.

An Island sees the band return to the childhood home of three of their core members, the Baltic island of Als. It's a beautifully shot tribute, dwelling on close-up abstract camera work, with organic sounds such as footsteps and the drumming of rain on a roof amplified to absorb the viewer in the texture and feel of the place. The band are filmed performing in several unconventional situations - the back of a pick-up truck, at a primary school with children sat cross-legged on the floor playing xylophones - but my personal favourite was a tremendously touching acoustic rendition of 'Alike', with the band's parents joining in. It's a wonderfully made film, only marred by a couple of rather dull interviews between the songs, reminiscing over childhood bus journeys. There are plenty more screenings of the film happening and if you'd like to organise one yourself you can do so for free, as long as you guarantee a minimum of five people attending - visit www. anisland.cc for more information.

And so, to the band. The core quartet of vocals, bass, drums and multiinstrumentalist/ producer Mads Brauer are augmented by a guitarist and the skilled Broderick siblings Heather and Peter on violin, flute, piano and guitar, the instruments combining to create a multitude of rich textures. They performed new album Magic Chairs in its entirety, with just a couple of songs from Parades, and to the initiated it was clear to see how much their song writing has matured and developed. Eschewing the tendency of many bands to expand and augment over time, Efterklang have condensed the scope and range of earlier material into shorter songs and more focused ideas, performed with a smaller but better utilised ensemble and allowing us to hear the complexity of the writing more easily. What was presented tonight was a concentration, not a reduction of the imagination of the band.

Live, they still allowed the songs to develop. There is a confidence in the material that even appeared to stand up to moments of improvisation as they took ideas and ran with them. 'Raincoats' really stood out as rhythms of great complexity yet subtlety jostled with each other. The audience became ever more entranced, with rapturous responses followed by expectant silences. The band seemed to feel the electricity in the room, as singer Casper Clausen exclaimed "this isn't England, it's Sheffield!" Efterklang are a marvellous band producing music which is warm and absorbing. Live, they open up new layers and textures to reveal music that is richly detailed and fascinatingly complex. Simply put, I doubt I'll see a better gig this year.

Renegade Pixies

5TH MARCH.
@ DIRTY LITTLE SECRET.

REVIEWER - LUCY HORWOOD.

A secreted gem buried away in the industrial labyrinth of Shalesmoor, Dirty Little Secret is one of those back alley hideouts you would have trouble knowing existed and even then is still remarkably tricky to locate. Kitted out with fairy-lit outdoor massage and face paint tent and a makeshift movie den, the organisers had transformed the industrial space with the glitzy workings of a summer festival.

The evening was set to unveil the sunny sound of Hot Feet, a blues trio who had breezed down from Bristol's rural treasure Stroud to lighten up the Northern winter gloom with what they call 'folk n roll' , a fusion of genres borrowed and adapted to create an authentic take on folk music. With vocals as smooth as butter, lead singer Marianne's striking tones were accompanied by drums, bass and remarkable guitar riffs that paid homage to Led Zeppelin. Like Sandy Denny, only fresher and bearing an intricately handmade ukulele and a charango. From then on Greentop Circus ran rampant around the stage, providing a mixed bag of marvellous frivolities. A man clad in zebra skin, cowboy hat and novelty hula hoop proceeded to perform a striptease, spinning the hoop around various parts of his body. An absurd woman in a strange suit and goggles who pronounced herself our tour guide, but who I think must have been the compère, crawled on and off the stage through clouds of smoke insisting on taking the audience on a safari journey with her rubber duck Albert. It was all utter madness.

As the rum and ginger beer continued to flow and the place filled with mouth-watering aromas of homemade curry, the cabaret was in full flare. A juggler throwing floating fluorescent colours around the stage was the overture for the pièce de résistance, a spectacular performance from an incredibly flexible young trapeze artist resembling Betty Boop in her shiny red leotard, twisting gracefully in and out of a suspended hoop. Spoken word and the familiar soulful lyrics of Delia, a favourite from the Off the Shelf poetry evening, were followed by the comic guitar musings of Alex the Duck Tamer.

While I negotiated a 60p body massage (yes, 60p!), Bell Hagg Orkestra exploded on to the stage with a frenzy of knees-up gypsy ska. I was back in time to be immersed in the infectious energy and usual hysteria of yet another manic performance, which gave way to the laid back yet fullflavoured two-tone beats of The Banana Flavoured Dub Cats. For those who like to keep things rolling, the downstairs murky rave dungeon blasted electro-swing and techno until the crack of dawn.

This night was a tantalising taste of the festival season ahead, and I think all attendees will be hoping to see more from the Renegade Pixies, especially in the more summery evenings ahead.

Pete David & the Payroll Union.

18TH MARCH.
@ THE EARL.

REVIEWER - PETE MARTIN.

Tonight is a charity evening at the Earl featuring a number of bands, DJs and other artistes of variable quality, but I don't have the time nor inclination to cover them all here.

There is an ongoing discussion in Sheffield about the local Americana scene. What is it called? Who is involved? How has it developed? At the forefront of this 'movement' are Pete David & The Payroll Union. Pete has been doing gigs in and around Sheffield for a number of years with various musicians, but has now settled with the Payroll Union, a loose collective currently comprising Paul Heath on bass, Ben Fuller on drums and Joe Field on banjo.

The guys look like they've been transported directly from Big Pink circa 1968 - the hats, beards and suits all evoking that pastoral time. The music has the same bucolic feel and the lyrics are largely US-based, covering 'big' themes like murder, drinking and betrayal.

Opener 'Jake The Pistol' sets the tone for the evening, clattering drums getting the crowd moving and Pete's vocal providing the history lesson. 'St Lawrence River' and '1826' follow. The former is an uptempo stomp that deals with the explorer and cartographer James Cook in 18th century Quebec, while the latter highlights a tumultuous year in US history. The epic 'Ghosts', inspired by Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, featured Ben Fuller's military-style drumming coupled with harmonious backing vocals and dexterous banjo from Joe Field. Puzzled looks from the band greeted 'Emily', but they continued playing manfully, especially Paul Heath's melodic bass. Pete later admitted he'd played the song in the wrong key!

There was a slight misstep with the staccato rhythm of 'Richmond Town', which upset the flow of the set somewhat, but we were back in the groove with 'Sacrifice', based on the Salem Witch Trials, which was lit up by impassioned vocals and harmonica from Pete.

The band are a potent live unit, at once tight and cohesive, then laidback and ramshackle (in a good way). It makes for a great, toe-tapping show. Unfortunately, due to scheduling the set was truncated and they closed with 'There's A Light', taken from their upcoming Underfed and Underpaid EP. A rollicking hoedown, it made for a barnstorming end to their set.

The early finish felt akin to the plug being pulled on The Band to enable the juggler to do his act. The vicissitudes of rock 'n' roll, eh?

Rude Movements

19TH FEBRUARY.

REVIEWER - NATHAN ARMSTRONG.

Some of you may have heard of a little party named Kabal. Perhaps you may have even been lucky enough to venture to Sheffield's very own legendary event in the past. Kabal is an underground rave full of Sheffield's finest skankers, skanking out to the creme-de-la-creme of sonic vibrations that near broke the spine provided by the most talented (and generally homegrown) DJs Sheffield always has to offer. Sheffield's distinctive beautiful noises are the foundation of this genuinely undergroundbreaking mad basement rave. This movement, because that is what it is, has been going for over ten years now. But on Saturday 19th February, a new beast was unleashed in the form of Rude Movements - Kabal's naughtier, hornier younger brother.

A mouthwatering lineup peformed at a secret venue, the whereabouts of which were revealed on ticket purchase or on the night. The main room (aka the Jump Up room) consisted of Sheffield's own Radio 1 DJ Toddla T, garage and 2-step lord Zed Bias and Kabal resident Pipes, Sheffield's cult hero with a smashing dress sense and even better records, who kicked off the shenanigans. MC DRS provided us with his lyrical wit while spitting bars. His latest tune 'New Breed', produced by Sheffield's newest spark Checan, walloped out of the soundsystem to much appreciation from the already aroused rabble.

Feeling the vibrations from the hench soundsystem, Zed Bias provided us with some of the best garage, funky house and bass heavy beats you will ever hear. Then in stepped Toddla T, blowing the crowd away by going 'all over the place' musically (that's how he'd put it). From dancehall to dubstep, bassline to moombahton, the tunes in this room kept my feet moving all night long.

But jumping up is tiring work and the second room provided the perfect antidote. The main function of the Get Down room was simply to champion the benefits of chilling. Playing anything from soulful R&B to classic funk and reggae, this environment provided a smooth vibe in which the old school and new school were blended. The DJs maintaining this atmosphere were Desi Rocca, the FMG and Luke Unabomber with Sheffield soul singer Pete Simpson, whose tender, delicate vocals warped the walls and put smiles on faces.

All in all, the night was immense - big tunes, good vibes and some serious shape busting on the dancefloor. If you haven't been to one, seek and you shall find.