Diane Cluck.

20 April
Riverside

This Easter Sunday treat was sweetly opened by a Sheffield three-piece consisting of Nat Johnson (guitar, vocals), Hannah Browne (flute, accordion, vocals) and Katherine Jackson (violin, guitar, vocals) - a calm, coy performance with a clever sense of humour and a range of catchy sounds with ever-changing minimalist support from various instruments. Nat Johnson & Friends set the stage for a very special evening of female artists with versatile artistic imprints.

Diane Cluck from Charlottesville, Virginia plays guitar, vocals, squeezebox and several percussion instruments. On her three-month European tour, New York resident Isabel Castellvi brilliantly accompanies her on cello and backing vocals. Cluck’s songs range from old-time folk to anti-folk. Her voice is very mature, controlled yet intuitive. Castellvi’s virtuoso playing ranges from ethereal melodies to jazzy bass rhythms, and she delivers the perfect rounding to a gorgeous musical experience.

Cluck has been associated with Regina Spektor, Jeffrey Lewis, Kimya Dawson and other protagonists wearing the anti-folk label. Although mostly known as a solo performer, her collaborations with CocoRosie and Toby Goodshank clearly show an experimental edge. Among the many mesmerising moments that turned the upstairs room at the Riverside into a bit of a temple, ‘Roma’ was the most outstanding - a staggeringly cool, bluesy cello bassline accompanies white-pine brush percussion and chant-like vocals about her faraway grandma, who came out to see her show at the age of 90.

The first encore ‘The Turnaround Road’, a ballad about a cul-de-sac taken from her 2004 album Oh Vanille / ova nil, brought the room back to an atmosphere that made me remember a visit to the Side Walk Café on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Her latest album Boneset came out in March and shows that Diane Cluck is at her best, which for her seems to be a steady state.

Thomas Lebioda

Detestival.

18-20 April
Queens Social Club

Wet Nuns are no longer with us, but Detestival marches on. The pair’s brainchild featured performances by both of them in different guises. Rob joining Bromheads to perform a Wet Nuns song was the highlight of that set, whilst Baba Naga kicked off Sunday.

This year stretched out over three days, the first day saw impressive performances by Lola Colt, who unfortunately as yet don’t have the songs to match the talent, and the band of the weekend, Sleepy Sun. The San Franciscans struggled to fit into the general ethos of the line-up, but after a slightly precarious opening, they won the thinning crowd over.

While Saturday got off to an explosive start with Seize the Chair’s energetic performance, the elephant in the room (and an elephant may well have helped to fill Queens to a respectable level) was the dwindling audience. Whilst PINS and Slaves put in powerful sets, it was hard for them to inject energy into an almost empty room.

I’d been told to go and see Bad Breeding and thankfully I followed this advice. Those Stevenage lads have something a bit special about them and play music how it should be - full of energy and passion. Bad Guys opened with a song about Tonka and the amusement continued throughout the set, including a “true story” about a prostitute.

Menace Beach have been frequent visitors to the city of late, and for a band seemingly moving forward musically at a rapid rate, they are welcome to return as often as they like. Despite a few sound issues, they almost persuaded me to part with money for a t-shirt that didn’t fit. The festival was brought to a close by That Fucking Tank, who delivered a high intensity sermon full of musical craft and sonic frenzy.

Detestival may have stumbled rather than marched on this year, but it’s a great festival for the city and hopefully will be back, with a newly injected lease of life, next year.

Rob Aldam

Joe.

25 April
Audacious Art Experiment

Having been a fan of Joe’s micro-sampling, high production style since he released the highly addictive ‘Claptrap’ four years ago, having trouble explaining his style to people, and from fellow fans telling me his sets mainly consisted of disco oddities, I had high anticipation for this night.

But Joe was not the only pull to this event. It was to be my first visit to the Audacious Art Experiment space. After being warned that we definitely needed to get down early, my obvious commitments as someone who was reviewing the night, and the attraction of a B.Y.O.B. event, I found myself in this tiny and loveable space at least three hours before the usual accepted norm for nights like this. The venue consists of two rooms - the first being a chill out area lined with sofas, whilst the main room itself continues the amazing DIY atmosphere with a huge stack of speakers and LED rope lighting. The space is simultaneously endearing and energetic with the lingering effect of that one amazing house party we’ve all been to at some point - everyone very into the music and atmosphere, relaxed, and without that scary staring guy in the corner who definitely wasn’t invited.

Joe announced his arrival on the decks by shifting the mood from a disco groove into a deep and crisp bassy minimalism I was hoping for. This did not last for long, as he shifted to and fro between clunky rhythmic house akin to his Hessle Audio releases and soulful disco jams. Only playing small snippets of his well-known tunes, his selection and blending of them was on the same refreshingly bizarre level as his latest release.

Bat Makumba is a special night and so at home in Audacious. I can’t imagine it translating to other venues so easily because it would be hard to recreate such a focused and embracing environment. The two go hand in hand, and that in itself is a great thing.

Gordon Barker

See Emily Play.

25 April
Bishops’ House

As I approach the 15th century Bishops’ House at the top of Meersbrook Park, I’m reminded of the witches' house in Hocus Pocus. I can tell that See Emily Play's single launch tonight is going to be spell-binding.

I arrive in time to find a cosy crowd watching support Low Duo bathed in blue light. The two brothers weave vivid and intense stories through Leigh Greenwood's powerful imagery, told with gripping vocals enhanced by Adam's moody, minimal guitar playing. ‘Ambulance’ and ‘No Happier’ demonstrate Low Duo's talent for creating an atmosphere that keeps you on the edge of your seat, while ‘Keys Inside The Door’ is one chapter in the bigger tale that is their new EP, Everything Was Blurred. They finish with the more positive pop tune ‘Bloodhound’.

Next to play under the beams of this ancient living room is folk artist David J. Roch. Carrying on the witchcraft theme, he starts with ‘Idle Hands’, which he assures the crowd “will make devils of us all”. Like black magic, Roch's songs are dark and enchanting, which he balances with light banter with the audience. ‘The Lost Child’ breaks glass hearts with its intriguing guitar riff and impressively high, choir-boy vocals before strumming to a triumphant ending. ‘Lie In No One's Arms’ shows Roch's range of styles. He plays a World War I homage and one more heart-breaker before much deserved applause.

See Emily Play opens with new single ‘What To Do’ with help from her brother, backing vocalist and acoustic guitarist Tom Ireland. Her soulful vocals effortlessly bounce on the poppy rhythm. Next is a cover of Pearl Jam's ‘Even Flow’, with captivating vocals and funky guitar making a strong song in its own right. Emily switches to her keyboard for an emotional outpouring of songs including the Ludovico-style ‘Memo’ and the beautifully happy ‘The Best Day’. Back on acoustic guitar, she continues to fill the room with positive vibes, before closing with ‘Miss Penelope’. This is followed by encore, ‘The Train’, and warm applause for a smiling, appreciative Emily.

Phoebe Seymour