Emanuel and The Fear.

23rd October.
Riverside.

Reviewer - Thomas Lebioda.

It's a race that you can't win. When the days of adolecence are counted, childhood memories, wishes and fears start to claim you back. Feeding the textbooks of many young poets and songwriters, dispatching the material the student heart craves for; frames of reference for young middle-class souls inquisitive for a surety of style, a political standpoint and intellectual enlightenment.

Bursting the banks of The Riverside, a staggeringly large group of students from both Sheffield's unis were engrossed in their poetry slam, paying tribute to young non-heroes of mutual age.

"I'm not prepared for this prologue," I thought to myself as I was listening to a selection of sexually charged rhyming monologues, some of which I found very enjoyable. It has to be said that Mark Grist's cameo appearence made it for me. A showman, a poet, one of theirs - a hero. And then most of them left! "Hey guys, this upcoming band has something to say," I thought to myself as they drained off.

Boom - a very low frequency kicked me in the back. Beardy Manchesterbased loop experimentalist Denis Jones had set up his obscure pile of sound-twisting gear opposite the stage, captivating from the first second he delivered a memorable sculpture of an opening performance. Unlike the many loop-based performances I've seen, Denis Jones balances the tightrope of doing something unheard. Battering his guitar from all angles, building up his loops in just a few bars, he somehow manages to play us songs with verses, choruses bridges and harmony changes. It'll probably remain a secret to me how he does that with tonal loops never interrupting the bow of energy throughout his intricately crafted quilts of sound. My experience ultimately turned into a buzz when he started using his acoustic guitar as just a guitar and meandered into the realms of blues and anti-folk tunes.

Meanwhile, the actual stage on the opposite wall became densely populated with the lucid six-piece of Emanuel and The Fear. Their show kicked off just seconds after Jones' girations had come to a stillstand. A ravenous and hiatusless 20-minute block of songs from their latest album The Janus Mirror dashed at the audience. Huge rock riffage framed by orchestral string eruptions and Emanuel Ayvas' erratic singing flooded the room. Ayvas' lyrics - still peppered with social criticism and drama - come across as more mind-tickling than ever. The stunning musicianship of the individual players is one of the most evident attributes of this grand New York ensemble, but the much rockier bias seems to fundamentally weld the elements together.

The band has come a long way. Endless tours and the release of four records in less than half a decade have formed a unique and unspoilt musical niche. Emanuel and the Fear are certainly bound for the bigger stages, and having enjoyed one of this year's best shows in my local leaves me a happy man.

All We All by Emanuel and the Fear

Tame Impala.

2nd November.
Leadmill.

Reviewer - Rob Aldam.

A sold-out main room of the Leadmill bears testimony to the current popularity of Australia's Tame Impala. With the release of their new album, Lonerism, they seem to have finally made their mark in the UK, not just following in the tail lights of fellow Perth residents Wolfmother, but overtaking and scouting new paths.

Young Dreams open up this evening, and the Norwegian band make quite an impression. They have a sound which is reminiscent of many other bands. At times they plough a similar furrow to Vampire Weekend, but their vocal harmonies bring to mind The Beach Boys or Fleet Foxes. Their music is a mix of sunny pop melodies alongside more thoughtful refrains. I'd imagine that this tour is a very important one for them, but they seem so relaxed and laid back on stage. With songs like 'Young Dreams' and 'Fog of War', they are right to have confidence in their own ability.

There's an excited air of anticipation in the packed crowd as Tame Impala emerge on stage. They waste no time, breaking straight into the acid trip of 'Be Above It'. As the crowd are gradually drawn in to their mind-warping miasma of hypnotic rhythms, they run through an accomplished set incorporating most of their new album, alongside a few appetising morsels from their debut, Innerspeaker. The audience is blown out of their reverie by the unstoppable beat of 'Elephant', before it subsides into almost trancelike perfection, ending with an impromptu jazz breakdown. Indeed, what characterises their set is the way they are prepared to play and tease out every song, giving the audience something much more than a mere album playback.

The smoke intertwines with the psychedelic layered textures of their sound, moodily lit and beautifully engineered. It would be easy to compare Tame Impala to bands from the late 60s and early 70s, where their music is clearly derived from, but that would be doing them a huge injustice. Sure, their starting point may be here, but they take those influences, imbibe them, and turn out something fresh and vibrant. Whist their latest album is superior in the whole, the songs that stand-out for me tonight are 'Solitude is Bliss' and 'Desire Be Desire Go' from Innerspeaker.

They finish on an encore of 'Half Full Glass of Wine', which must at least approach the ten-minute mark. Long after they've jammed-out their final kaleidoscopic riffs, you can still feel them eddying slowly into the cold November night.

Feels Like We Only Go Backwards by Tame Impala

Feral Brood.

9th November.
Shakespeares.

Reviewer - Alan Byatt.

Rising from the ashes of Elephant Keys come Sheffield-based five-piece Feral Brood, playing their own form of shivering 60s garage rock, visceral blues, and raw rock 'n' roll at Kelham Island's Shakespeares in support of their newly released debut EP Into The Woods.

Opening the show are Doncaster band Slow Pines, who take inspiration for their melodramatic yet sprightly indie rock from the likes of Pavement and Guided By Voices. In a set that is all too short they twist and turn through heartfelt melodic moments to jagged and erratic jolts of disorder.

The tight rhythm section is held down by Russ Frisby and drummer Eric Miller, who sound as if they could puncture your chest with an overwhelming sense of release, laying the foundations for keys player Tom Goodwin's boogie-woogie and jazz stylings. Meanwhile Phil Goodwin and Dan Williamson's vocals work together seamlessly with sharp melodies that complement one another, giving a warmth and texture to wrap the raucous, blood-curdling riffs within.

Feral Brood play to a function room in which the heat is almost unbearable, and yet this only adds to the intimacy. They crash in with the thunderous, Jack White summoning blues of 'Machine', boasting a roaming psychedelic organ and a main riff that could get its hooks into even the least receptive of listeners. 'Out Of Sight' calls to mind 60s psychedelic garage rock by the likes of The Sonics and The Fuzztones with guitar lines that challenge those of Neil Young. The jangling melody driven 'You Are The Sea' and 'Cold' show Goodwin and Williamson's entwined harmonies evoking The Byrds with a jaunty yet solid rhythm section.

Watching Feral Brood release their blistering rhythm and blues infused rock - even more furious as a live experience - you get the sense that the band are having the time of their lives, and this is reflected in the audience. Throughout the night they move from heavy distorted blues, matching the likes of The Black Keys, to the tight songwriting sensibilities and undeniable Englishness of The Kinks.

For a group that has a million fairgrounds playing inside their heads, they hide it well in the form of catchy, primal rock 'n' roll, leaving the audience with the feeling that they've endured an evening of electroshock treatment; stimulated, thrilled and shaken.

Machine by Feral Brood

Music is Free.

19th November.
West Street Live.

Reviewer - Tasha Franek.

Always a big fan of supporting our local young talent here in Sheffield, I had pretty high expectations for the very first Music is Free event, hosted by Hookline Events. With the promise of a night filled with music ranging from acoustic to funk, a charity raffle and free cakes for everybody, what was not to love?

The night started very slowly, which I suppose is to be expected from an organisation this new and unadvertised. The crowd was a little sparse and somewhat reserved. A huge shame actually, as the first act on stage, Uken Dixon, definitely had the potential to get people skanking to his soulful reggae covers, mixed in with some of his own material. The next act was Urban Giraffe, minus their drummer, performing a brilliant acoustic set. Lead singer Sam Christie's voice was on point, as they sang acoustic renditions of their own material, alongside a cheeky Gorrillaz cover, which provoked the first real audience participation of the night.

Drinks were flowing and the regular crowd beginning to filter in. The atmosphere really began to kick in as we were treated to the best performance of the night from Brute Foresight. A lively and exciting collective, they filled the stage with classical instruments and freestylers alike. Finishing with the fantastic 'Babylon' from their debut demo, they left everybody in the audience desperate for more. Keep an eye on these guys; I can only see great things in their future.

The last band on stage was the beautiful SoulFunkful, whose name pretty much gives it all away for those of you who haven't heard of them before. With heavenly vocals over the coolest, funkiest, most effortless riffs and beats that I've heard in a long while, there wasn't a single person in the room who wasn't moving to the rhythm. A selection of soul and motown covers gave everybody some common ground, before they produced some of their original material, which gave the greats of the genre a run for their money. The band are now focusing on recording until 2013, but they're definitely worth checking out in the New Year.

All of the money raised from the gig is headed straight to Hookline's preferred charity - Friends Of The Himalayan Children's Care Home, a small independent charity that will without a doubt appreciate the donation. A brilliant night all round. Fingers crossed that the next one, set to happen in January, will draw in a bigger crowd, as it rightfully deserves.