65daysofstatic.

6th May.
Queens Social Club.
Reviewer - Sam Walby.

Rock fans living in Sheffield have undoubtedly seen a performance or three by 65daysofstatic, but tonight was something a bit more adventurous. As part of Sensoria 2011, the four-piece decided to revisit their live soundtrack to the 1972 sci-fi film Silent Running, originally commissioned by the Glasgow Music and Film Festival back in February. Taking in their trademark energetic bursts of heaviness and unnerving near-quiet sections, the band played along to the full 90-minute feature-length, keeping the original dialogue intact.

Seated in the suitably 70s Queens Social Club, I was surprisingly drawn in by the film, with its low budget robotics and penchant for wide-angle space shots, and an increasingly manic and finally stoic Bruce Dern busying himself with maintaining a large ship containing the Earth's last nature reserves while it orbits Saturn. I suspect it might have got on my nerves without the 65days reworking, although Dern's righteous anger when discussing nature with his shipmates was moving, if overblown and a little comic.

While it's fair to say that the rescored soundtrack wouldn't stand alone as a particularly stunning album, the intricacy and accuracy of its delivery was impressive. Loud bursts of sound accompanied explosions to the second, and intervening pieces of speech lurched along menacingly with the help of deep sub frequencies and crackles of static. Lonely piano motifs returned again and again, gradually morphing to give the audience something to keep hold of as the action unfurled on stage and on screen. Analogue synths glistened as though lifted straight from the 70s.

As with all good soundtracks, it always felt like what you were hearing was only the tip of the iceberg, like at any moment something gigantic would erupt from the speakers and engulf you.

If I was to find one criticism of the performance it would be that the instrumental sections were sometimes a little too separated from the plot. There were quieter sections as dialogue began, but on the whole it was four minutes of talking followed by four minutes of loudness, followed by more talking. Granted, I haven't seen the original film, but I felt more eerie ambience was needed to allow the audio and video to stand comfortably in unison.

Kong.

2nd May.
The Harley.
Reviewer - Gordon Barker.

First up tonight were Wet Nuns, the only Sheffield band on the bill. The pair have had an immense run as of late, swooning crowds new and old with their boot-stomping blues, Deep South drawl and fantastically energetic live performances. But tonight these Yorkshire hillbillies suffered from poor early attendance, a lack of crowd involvement and infuriating technical difficulties which culminated in an abrupt goodbye and Terrance throwing his guitar to the floor. A real shame, but it also shows that these boys are no longer an opening act.

After a brief interlude we were introduced to These Monsters, a three-piece from Leeds. This group instantly stepped up the tempo of the evening, first showing their disgust at having to drink water then exploding into an intoxicating set. While the other two members are more than competent, most of the focus was drawn by the vocalist/guitarist, who constantly shifted back and forth in a reckless flounder adding a requisite physical presence. The live sound was not what I was expecting after listening to their latest release, mainly due to the fact that there wasn't a saxophonist. This shifted them from the much more proggy sound on record to heavier riffage that the likes of These Arms are Snakes and High on Fire would be happy with. All in all, good high-paced rock and roll.

After a bit of sound checking the stage was left bare and the crowd expectant, but none of us were expecting what appeared. A short, wellfed fellow wearing nothing but his boxers and a bizarre mask stepped on stage. As soon as we noticed he had the words "Meat" and "Balls" written on his abdomen (accompanied with crude drawings) he moved forward and began to chant "meatballs" in a shrill rhythmic fashion whilst throwing processed ham and cheese into the crowd. We were bewildered but somehow transfixed. This freakish cabaret went on for what felt like ten minutes, before the band joined him on stage and the "meatballs" man left without any explanation whatsoever, never to appear again.

Kong were, for want of a better word, intimidating, physically and musically - all in red, wearing terrifying manikin masks with fixed expressions and smudged make up, the bassist just in red boxers with the set list crudely scrawled on his chest. They blitzed the room with their own brand of discomforting spazzy noise rock. Each song was preceded by confusing banter, shouts and murmurs, while the bassist and vocalist refused to blink and drank straight from a bottle of whisky.

Constant energy and erratic time signatures built from a purposefully badly performed grunge-cover medley. The vocalist even pulled the drum kit apart for unsuspecting crowd members to play freely. A powerful display leaving you, like them, a dribbling nihilistic mess. Unsettling, unnerving and wholly inspiring.

Gang Gang Dance.

11th May.
Ruby Lounge, Manchester.
Reviewer - Imogen DeCordova.

After the success of 2008's Saint Dymphna, Gang Gang Dance have been touted as serving up a perverse tropical holiday cocktail that shouldn't taste as sweet as it does. Tonight they saunter through a mish-mash of tracks from latest offering Eye Contact. The gig is part of Future Everything Festival, although there's nothing particularly festive about the individual performance prices and I'm still not entirely sure what the occasion is.

Opening with 'Adult Goth', a sexy mongrel of a tune with high-pitched guitar effects on top of a bunch of club synths that makes you feel like you're in an 80s soap in soft focus, riding in 'pon camelback through the Sahara. Dymphna classic 'House Jam' is transformed into a shimmering disco number. "You know how many people have asked me about that song?" singer Lizzi Bougatsos asks playfully, referring to the scandal involving Florence and The Machine and her obvious theft of parts of the track on her smash hit single 'Rabbit Heart'.

There are hints of the carnival atmosphere that a GGD live spectacle should provide, but no band that sounds as uplifting and multifaceted as they do on record should be responsible for a gig as comparatively dull as this. Three songs in the atmosphere of the Ruby Lounge suits that of the tunes being produced as someone starts passing a bottle of tequila around the crowd. Initially punters look at it with suspicion, but eventually succumb to its lubricating effects - limbs loosen up and the spirit of Aga Doo is evoked.

No one seems particularly bothered that they haven't got Tinchy Stryder along to collaborate with them on 'Princes'. Albeit a rough, acquired taste, Bougatsos' purposefully out of tune vocals somehow feel more genuine, more heartfelt. In between beating on her makeshift limited snare and cymbals kit, she smiles a gappy grin and makes a sly dig in her shrill New York accent at someone sitting moodily in the corner on their computer. Fair enough. This is Manchester's Northern Quarter after all, and what kind of a person takes a laptop to a gig?

I was prepared for more visuals or perhaps some projections, but was instead provided with a bloke waving a makeshift bin bag flag around on stage and making hand signals to the crowd. He seemed like a strange novelty drunk gig goer who had stumbled from the realm of mortals into the realm of the gods. As it transpired this enigmatic revolutionary is a touring part of the band.

Conveniently ending with an extended version of 'Bebey', the instrumental opener from Saint Dymphna, the band and audience interaction concludes on good terms. No doubt they'll be appearing with their newly acquired Bez at festivals across the UK this summer.

Wild Beasts.

14th May.
City Hall.
Reviewer - Pete Martin.

The Grand Ballroom, buried within the bowels of the City Hall, is an art deco masterpiece. It's much underused as a live venue, so whenever anyone does play there it is automatically an event.

Summer Camp start things off with their pretty pop confections. In front of a kitschy slideshow they play songs from last year's Young EP. Jeremy Warmsley plays guitar and controls the backing tracks, while Elizabeth Sankey's strong vocals initially evoke a 60s idyll, but as their brief set proceeds some 70s, 80s and contemporary influences surface. There are occasional similarities to She & Him and Slow Club, but Summer Camp have a certain knowing innocence, evidenced when Elizabeth likens the venue to Camelot or something out of Harry Potter.

Perfume Genius' Learning was one of 2010's best albums and Seattle's Mike Hadreas plays his bruised, deeply personal songs accompanied by an additional keyboard player who adds colour to his simple piano. The lo-fi lullabies are full of tales of substance abuse, self-harm and depression, performed with an aching sensitivity that is cracked but beautiful. Hadreas saves his best-known song 'Mr Peterson' - about the abusive relationship between a pupil and his teacher - until near the end, but by then the chatter from the bar has increased to an annoying level and almost drowns out the delicate web being woven on stage. Some people prefer Guinness to genius.

Wild Beasts have received near-universal acclaim for their third album Smother. Since forming as a duo in 2002 as Fauve (the French term for Wild Beast), they have expanded their line-up and their palette of sounds to become one of the most interesting bands around. A great deal of attention has been focused on Hayden Thorpe's countertenor voice, but there are other pieces to the jigsaw that are equally vital.

Chris Talbot's malleted polyrhythms provide a solid platform for the layers of voices and instruments to weave complex but complementary patterns that both intrigue and satisfy. They play songs from all three albums, highlighting the band's growing confidence in their playing and songwriting. As the title suggests, the songs from the new album are claustrophobic and dark. They swoop then calm before breaking loose again and climaxing in a spine-tingling crescendo, while others are clammy with a brooding menace. Their lyrics tell tales of fumbling and frustration, of domination and braggadocio.

The first two encores are 'Lion's Share' and 'All The King's Men', on which Hayden and Tom Fleming try to outdo each other with their vocal gymnastics. They seem genuinely thrilled by the obvious adulation from the crowd and reward us with a towering performance that, together with the excellent support and idiosyncratic venue, will take some beating this year.