Detestival.

Queens Social Club.
30th-31st March.

Reviewer – Alan Byatt.

Detestival, a two-day music festival curated by anarchic Sheffield twopiece Wet Nuns at the end of March, showcased a number of UK bands who have been wandering the underground music scene for the past few years.

The retro function room of a working men’s club was the faultless setting for Detestival, with the smell of vintage clothing in the air and obscure 70s horror films projected onto the walls. Enter the first band of the weekend, raging upstarts Blood Sport. Dry Heaves continued the grimy punk with the sharpness of early Black Flag. Leeds-based Hookworms then fought through the taunting crowd as the lead singer stormed about the stage. They delivered haunting melodies reminiscent of Spiritualized in a sea of Spacemen 3 inspired distortion, leaving the stage set for Bo Ningen to attack with free-spirited freak beat psychedelia and facial contortions, making for a thrilling performance.

By 9pm everybody was merry with their Kraken chants and heckles as Wet Nuns rasped and roared their way through an all-too-short set of crowd-pleasers, including ‘Broken Teeth’ and ‘Throttle’, mauling over Queens Of The Stone Age and The Cramps for their electrifying, primitive rock. Bluesy throwbacks Wolf People followed with their vintage guitars and groovy drums, pulling inspiration from the hidden corners of the late 60s and early 70s, with standout track ‘Tiny Circle’ reminiscent of Captain Beefheart.

Temple Of Coke opened the second day with ramshackle garage punk and their happy-go-lucky attitude went down well with the jaded audience. Birmingham bluesman John J Presley told poetic tales of late nights and loose women with a voice that resembles Tom Waits after several drams of whiskey, before drone rockers Kult Country took the audience on a supernatural shoegaze journey.

Headliners Hawk Eyes were unfortunately scribbled out of the line-up, leaving the neo-psychedelic Kettering-based four-piece Temples to colour 2013 in paisley patterns with 12-string guitars and kaleidoscopic melodies. The guitar line in ‘Shelter Song’ resembles The Beatles circa ‘67. Headliners by default were the psychedelic Krautrock inspired Toy, opening with the sepia ‘Colours Running Out’ and delivering the Neu inspired ‘Motoring’ with such an intensity their eyeliner started to run. As the feedback rings out from the last chord of hypnotic ‘Kopter’, the band leave to an onslaught of applause.

Leaving you with the feeling that it is more of a cult than a festival, Detestival harbours many of the UK’s finest bands under one roof, boasting a versatile line-up and satanic vibe under the looming, unruly influence of Wet Nuns. Same again next year?

Low Duo.

The Great Gatsby.
6th April.

Reviewer – Paul Robson.

To launch their new album, Dive and Slide Into The Blue, Low Duo held a gig upstairs at The Great Gatsby. Although there was some delay getting started the atmosphere appeared to be jovial.

The Hudares started the show with a mix of melodic, jangly pop-rock in the style of Oasis and Kings Of Leon. During their set frontman David Howard paid a loving tribute to Low Duo by placing them in the category of “good music”. But The Hudares were missing a drummer, which meant that Howard’s vocals and acoustic guitar drowned out the other two band members. Their three-chord anthems really needed the addition of a drummer to give them more of a lift.

Next up was David J Roch, who began with an almost art house performance by singing the song ‘Dew’ accompanied by vocal noises and hand claps. However, this raw urgency soon faded as he slipped into the cliche of the melancholic singer-songwriter. Roch did deliver the performance with intricacy and passion, but it wasn’t very different from a lot of other introspective musicians of his ilk. He even laughed when he realised that an opening line to one of his songs was “I’m going to open my veins”.

The night then finished with Low Duo, who also specialise in songs of sadness and dejection delivered with a burning intensity. The two brothers from Sheffield have a natural synchronisation that is best illustrated by their performance of ‘Ambulance’, the story of a girl involved in a car accident that holds a stark beauty. Halfway through their set they stood amongst the crowd to play an unplugged version of ‘Winter’. The room fell silent, helping to blur the line between audience and performer. At the end of the show lead-singer Leigh Greenwood said that if people wanted to buy their new album they could put what they thought it was worth into a small piggy bank. Standing in a dimly lit room listening to sad songs might not sound like a typical Saturday night, but by the end the crowd appeared to be strangely uplifted.

Soweto Kinch.

Millennium Hall.
19th April.

Reviewer – Tim Feben.

Sheffield Jazz has been on brilliant form of late with the last month’s programme packed with top jazz bands from across the field. Soweto Kinch, normally a stranger to Sheffield pastures, represented a potential peak in this run of form. Evidently others felt the same, as I found myself stripped of my ticketless compadres at the door of a sold-out Millennium Hall. To the unfamiliar, Kinch has been building a collection of conceptual albums that switch between hard swinging jazz and choice hip-hop grooves, spinning tales of his home, heritage and experiences, namely life on the estates of Birmingham. Tonight’s show followed suit, based around a new album exploring the seven deadly sins. A pat on the back for those who can name all seven and haven’t seen the film 7 in the last year.

Opening the show was a high octane sax-led swinging number, on which each member of the Soweto Kinch Trio earned immediate respect from the crowd, particularly Kinch himself, whose alto work is formidable. A powerhouse performance blown full of ideas, clever hooks and some delightful tone. Equally impressive was his charisma and command of the audience, which was by and large an older, politer crowd than most hip hop artists are used to playing to. From track two onwards he had the crowd interacting on the hooks and singing along with his intelligent lyrics, hanging on his every word, as the themes moved through each of the seven sins.

However, I have to say that the trio format for this gig killed off any chance of it being an unmissable performance, despite the quality remaining high throughout. I find the sax-led trio (sax, drums and bass) trying at the best of times. The lack of harmonic interaction between Soweto and Femi Temowo - a guitarist not present on this tour who has featured in the band since the first time I saw them almost a decade ago - was all too obvious, robbing both the jazz and hip hop tracks of some of their depth. Replacing live instruments with computer loops rarely has a positive effect and wasn’t helped by the limited sound potential of the venue.

Aside from this, these were three fantastic musicians on fine form, and despite the restricted line-up they were harnessing some serious energy by the encore of the set, which was nigh on sublime. An artist always worth a look, both live and on record.

Blackbeard’s Tea Party.

Greystones.
19th April.

Reviewer – Thomas Lebioda.

With Mick Jagger sexyhips, frontman and singer Stuart Giddens stands on the left side of the stage, occasionally playing melodeon, leaving room to keep the focus on himself being tastefully cool in the corner besides his magnificent band.

The percussionists Dave Boston and Liam ‘Yom’ Hardy - on djembe and cajon - share a stand of cowbells and just a splash in their midst. An earthquake of a sound. The playful tightness of the delivery instantly and weirdly reminds me of... Am I watching a tight jazz fusion performance, without any fusion jazz involved?

Tim Yates is one of those types who plays his bass too well. Slapping, tapping and sprinting through scales - basically everything that every other instrument in an ensemble should do, but on the bass. Usually this is considered as far from cool as the equator, but not in Blackbeard’s Tea Party, where the mind-blowing collective musicianship maintains all standards of cool.

I am puzzled. Is that because guitarist Martin Coumbe looks and plays his Les Paul like a West coast surf rock dude? Baseball cap, lascivious moves and riffage that could easily have originated in the repertoire of Third Man Recordings in Nashville. No, just Blackbeard’s Tea Party playing English folk music. Fiddleress Laura Barber is playing folk tunes more like rock riffs. Standing centre stage, she throws determined glances through her fringe as she turns round to the other band members. Turning back to the audience, she throws everyone a sweet and genuine smile and shakes her hips for a little pirate dance.

Rapper group Sheffield Steel suddenly appears, swinging their blades to a wild tune blasting from the stage and dancing the already roaring crowds into thorough hysterics. Cooking traditionals and popular singalongs à la Fairport Convention with surprising elements, this exceptional formation brews an elixir that also reminds me of bands like Primus, Gogol Bordello and Mr. Bungle. But it’s the folk tunes that make the admittedly tasty pints of annoying Thornbridge go down faster and faster. An unbelievable performance and a well-deserved reverie.

Opening act The Black Hares deserve no less of an encomium. Playing old friends like ‘Hogeye Man’ and ‘Johnny’s Gone To Soldier’ and dirty, dirgy tunes such as ‘The Darke Tune’, this is a folk duo definitely worth remembering. Fiddler and classically trained tenor singer Manny Grimsley plays his fiddle so powerfully that I occasionally worry he’ll shred his bow to bits. Accompanied by Benjamin Trott, who continuously surprises with the most interesting voicings you could possibly squeeze out of a folk guitar in standard tuning, the performance cuts through the bone like brain surgery on ever-so traditional English and Irish folk.