Hallé.

31 January
City Hall

On the last day of January a busy City Hall welcomed the Hallé Orchestra to Sheffield for their first of several scheduled visits in 2014. The program for the night featured (yet more) Benjamin Britten, Jean Sibelius’s majestic Violin Concerto in D Minor and Stravinsky’s Petrushka.

The night kicked off with a pre-concert talk, featuring Trisha Cooper interviewing the Norwegian soloist Henning Kraggerud. This was an interesting addition and a nice way to break the often stony relationship between classical musicians and their audience, especially with an interviewee as charming as Kraggerud. Most interesting perhaps was his demonstration of his 18th Century violin, an object of great beauty that would go on to provide the musical climax of the evening.

With the talk over, first up was Britten’s ‘A Time There Was’, a suite on English folk tunes. Like so much of Britten, this was a disorientating experience, with the more lively numbers featuring erratic leaps and jumps typical of his style providing a stark contrast to slower, pastoral pieces like ‘The Bitter Withy’. Britten’s sense of playfulness was carried off nicely by the orchestra but after a year of hearing his compositions everywhere I am starting to tire of his style.

Next up was the highlight of the evening, a dizzyingly virtuoso performance of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto by Kraggerud, who made use not only of his instrument’s immaculate singing tones in the nostalgic second movement, but also its percussive timbres with a vigorously attacking style in the faster sections, bringing things to a stunning close before the interval with a solo encore that filled the whole hall.

After the break, conductor Andrew Gourlay was always going to have an issue bringing things back to such a pitch. The orchestra’s rendering of Stravinsky’s bizarre narrative score certainly got close, with sections of musical humour nicely balanced with late romantic seriousness, but the Sibelius piece certainly stole the show and was easily worth the price of a ticket in itself.

Ben Dorey

Kent DuChaine.

9 February
Greystones

You could be forgiven for never having heard of the sublimely named Kent DuChaine. This Minnesota-born bluesman has been doing the rounds since the 60s and has played alongside almost every blues legend you care to mention, but it’s clear that Kent still loves the small gigs and the die-hard fans.

His two-hour set in the backroom at the Greystones is as much a history of the blues and the men who shaped the genre as it is a conventional gig. In between classic songs by the likes of Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf, the packed audience are treated to tales from DuChaine’s remarkable life – how he met Muddy Waters, drove across the Deep South in a sky blue Cadillac, jumped on board the Rock Island Line with a guitar in his hand and no idea where he was going. You know, the usual stuff.

He’s a master storyteller, charismatic and utterly infectious in his love of the blues. Even as his long white hair falls about his face, there’s something wonderfully childlike about his admiration for the bluesmen of old. In amongst the classics are some of DuChaine’s own songs which, in the fine old blues tradition, mostly involve the injustices perpetrated by his three ex-wives. He sings every song with great humour and almost always has a smile on his face. It’s impossible not to like the guy.

DuChaine’s guitar playing is also a real pleasure to watch. Leadbessie, his octogenarian resonator guitar, sounds sweeter than the day she was made and is as much a part of the act as Kent himself. Because he’s so steeped in the history and traditions of the blues he’s always got a different playing style at his fingertips, and it’s fantastic to see an expert craftsman use his tools.

Time certainly hasn’t withered DuChaine’s musical talent or his gift as a raconteur. If you love the blues you’ll find him equal parts entertaining and educational, and a hell of a long Cadillac ride away from your standard pub blues gig.

Edward Russell-Johnson

Liquid Steel Sessions.

14 February
Yellow Arch

On this, Clinton’s most romantic day of the year, there certainly are an awful lot of people who would rather not spend a quiet night in with the person they love, choosing instead the shadowy rooms of Yellow Arch Studios. Romantic? I wouldn’t say so, but there was definitely love in the air.

To mark seven years of weighty bookings LSS treated us to a line-up showcasing all sides of the multifaceted Bristolian duo Kahn & Neek, who play back-to-back sets as their alter ego Gorgon Sound with Roll Deep original Flowdan taking MC duties. These guys deliver everything I was hoping for and more, moving from the thuggy, over-powering dubs of Gorgon Sound into the raw and darkly energetic grime that Kahn & Neek do so well. Flowdan complements this dark side so aptly, dipping into more recognisable verses such as his near iconic lines from The Bug’s ‘Skeng’. The music and MCing, both lyrically and in terms of delivery, mesh perfectly, all foreboding and unforgiving. Carrying on after Kahn & Neek can be no easy feat, but Checan once again shows that he is a highly adaptable and inimitable force on the local scene.

The second room was curated by LSS sister night Clarks. Alongside Clarks residents Frenzy D and Dutch, The Dutty Inspectors provided hours of unbelievable dancehall, bashment and soca. This room had a constant party vibe, free and fun loving. I found myself revisiting again and again as it was a perfectly opposing, but not contradictory, escape from the intensity of the main room.

LSS have always hosted strong nights and when they put together bigger line-ups like this it’s a real treat, but the main strength that really shines through is that they don’t need to rely on big name headliners. Kahn & Neek, and especially Flowdan, are figureheads of their scene, but when the acts placed around them are on a par it’s clear this was a booking to celebrate their birthday – because they would enjoy it and it would be a great event – rather than a business decision.

Gordon Barker

Floating Points.

15 February
Hope Works

With rain postponing the football, it certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of revellers attending the first Hope Works club night of the year.

Hope Works is an abandoned warehouse that has been converted for music and the arts. With plenty of other venue hosting electronic music to contend with, Hope Works attempts to add to a city renowned for its music history by creating its unique take on the club scene. While it is still relatively new on the scene, it is carving its own reputation and has featured some big bookings of late. Attracting a great line-up is always key to cementing the folklore of clubs, and Martyn and Floating Points were two examples of this.

By midnight the crowd began to trickle through the graffiti covered warehouse and you could feel the atmosphere developing. The pulsating beats lingered in the space and before long the place was full.

Often events like this which promise a lot are let down by a poor sound system, but tonight this fortunately wasn’t the case. Every kick and snare was executed perfectly and came through crystal clear.

Martyn warmed up the crowd with delightful drum and bass and house. But it was the headliner who unsurprisingly delivered the best performance of the evening as Sam Shepherd, a.k.a. Floating Points, brought a lull-free set to Sussex Road.

Floating Points has previously stated he doesn’t play his own music in his DJ sets and that trend continued tonight. But Shepherd, who has a PHD in Neuroscience, knows just as much about music as he does the nervous system, intertwining jazz, house and other electronic delights into a seamless mix, illustrating why he’s one of the most talented producers currently around.

The performances, much like the entire night, went hand in hand because everything seemed so effortless, so controlled and ever present. With great evenings like this, there’s no reason to suggest that Hope Works isn’t going to cement its place in Sheffield club history.

Brady Frost

Gold Teeth.

7 February
Night Kitchen

Warehouse parties aren't anything new in Sheffield and neither are Gold Teeth. They've been running weekly hip-hop nights at The Harley and DQ for years, so I was pretty surprised when they announced they had booked Ejeca and Citizen for their first warehouse party at the newly refurbished DLS, now known as The Night Kitchen.

Sheffield’s underground music scene prides itself on intimate venues and atmospheric parties which only a certain niche of the city’s residents are aware of. This was far from the case tonight. The room was busier than I’ve seen it in a long time and was probably even sweatier than the night Dense and Pika played during Tramlines last year. Nevertheless you've got to give it to them – both Gold Teeth and The Night Kitchen hit the nail on the head with this one.

It was the most genre diverse night I have attended in a long time. In the warehouse room upstairs Citizen played everything from house to soul and techno, shortly followed by a highly anticipated set from Ejeca, who strayed from the norm and played a funky amalgamation of drum and bass and techno for the majority of his time behind the decks. Downstairs in the basement, residents from local nights and promoters like Banana Hill and Nice Like Rice warmed things up for the Gold Teeth residents who took the main slot, effortlessly fusing hip hop with house and garage.

It's safe to say Gold Teeth’s debut warehouse party went down a storm. After only a few weeks of renovation The Night Kitchen is shaping up very nicely. The sculptures and artwork produced by local volunteers really bring colour to the venue and the newly installed visuals were loved by each individual raver harmoniously. Highly recommended.

Gold Teeth’s next warehouse event features Oneman and New York Transit Authority at Yellow Arch Studios on 8 March. The next big one at The Night Kitchen is Session Victim, PBR Streetgang and Hesseltime on 21 March.

Liam Taylor