Bridie Jackson and the Arbour

28 October
Shakespeares

Newcastle's Bridie Jackson has received much acclaim for her recent second album, New Skin, and some of the supposed comparisons made for an intriguing evening at Shakespeares.

The support act is local folk musician Carl Woodford and his opening piece is a revelatory exhibition of intricate fingerwork and technical hubris. His hands move around the body and neck of the guitar like a dervish. Jazzy chords merge into Indian raga and he uses the guitar at times like a percussion instrument. A recognisable tune and rhythm emerges, before the piece ends and everyone can take a breath.

Bridie's quartet begins with latest single ‘Diminutive Man’, which sets the tone for the evening with Jackson's clear voice meshing seamlessly with the complementary backing of cello, violin and percussion. ‘Peace’ really highlights the varied palette of Jenny Nendick's cello, with its plucked rhythms and bowed, mournful phrases.

Next up is a version of Pink Floyd's ‘Fearless’ and, although initially this may sound an unlikely source of material, the lyrics do convey a similar bucolic tranquility (“......just wait a while for the right day/and as I rise above the tree lines and the clouds/I look down......”). The overall sound is restrained and subdued, and on a couple of occasions sound from downstairs bleeds into the room, once, ironically, on ‘Ellie’ - a song about noisy neighbours.

The band are currently in the middle of a UK tour and Bridie recounts that they have played in a variety of venues - museums, churches, a launderette and the next night they are due to play in a former hairdressers.

Penultimate song ‘We Talked Again’ is possibly the highlight. Bridie moves from guitar to keyboards and the band excels itself with a sympathetic backing of subtle percussion and triple vocal harmonies. The ensemble then builds up the tension, before a brief, poignant coda. After the set is finished Bridie provides an engaging, impromptu cameo when, while packing up the gear, Foreigner's ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ is blasted over the PA and she shows her rock chick roots with an impassioned mime. The trumpeted comparisons to Norah Jones and Joanna Newsom are, on tonight's evidence, rather fanciful, but the Arbour are undoubtedly an entertaining and talented folk band.

Pete Martin

Bunga Bunga

11 October
Night Kitchen

Bunga Bunga have been doing their thing in Sheffield for a while now. After putting on their first London event at the start of October, they returned to the Night Kitchen with a line-up featuring stars of the new grime wave Murlo and Mumdance, and ex-Roll Deep member Trim.

Born and raised in the East Midlands, Murlo now resides down South, a move which has obviously shaped his music towards more dancehall and grime inspired beats. Opening proceedings in room 1 like a greyhound round Owlerton race track, he shows no signs of slowing down as the set progresses. Suddenly he drops DJ Q’s ‘Armagiddion’ and the room really comes to life. Gun fingers, Red Stripe flying and a surge forward. Murlo knows how to please a Sheffield crowd.

By the time Trim, Obese and DJ Begg wander on stage the Night Kitchen has started to fill up. After recent collaborations with Funk Butcher, Paul White and Toddla T, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that Trim was straying from grime. That may well be, but tonight we’re treated to a set of classics including ‘Duppy’ and ‘When I’m Ere’. It could be the rewinds, Trim’s crowd interaction or just the nostalgia of it all, but as they finish there’s a mass exodus to the smoking area. Nobody was missing any of that set.

After the energy Murlo and Trim provided it feels like the crowd is flagging a bit when Mumdance walks on. After working with Novelist on one of the best grime tracks this year, it’s hard not to expect a bit more from him. Then again, a set made up of mostly his own work wasn’t going to be everyone’s bag. A good way to end the night but I can’t help feeling the two artists who went before him could have done it just as well, if not better.

As always Bunga Bunga put on a solid night. The Night Kitchen remains a great venue for a rave and the Sheffield crowds will always be a bit mental. The city needs events that take risks. Hopefully we’ll see more of this new grime wave up here in the near future.

George Springthorpe

Death from Above 1979

24 October
Plug

Death from Above 1979 have always been somewhat of a benchmark band for me. After they released their debut album ten years ago they did the mandatory tour and then called it a day completely, stating very clearly that the phoenix would never rise.

But DFA were kept alive by their fans. Whenever they were talked about it was never in the past tense, always present. Making their reunion official a few years ago, the trunked duo have made it very clear how they feel about bands that are not willing to call it a day and the dangers of people always expecting a follow-up album.

This ethos and in-the-moment energy is completely translated into the DFA live experience. Performing to a sold out Plug, they play with an intensity and obvious personal joy that so many other live acts would do well to follow. They are on that stage because they want to be, and that feeling passes through to the crowd. With no introduction, just a simple wave, they smash through as many songs as they can, only stopping briefly to joke with the crowd whilst changing an instrument or resetting the drum kit.

The sheer technical prowess is entertaining enough. If you are trying to reverse engineer just how in the hell they fill the room with two instruments, I wish you all the best. With squeals and loops that fill what tiny gaps remain, DFA are a constant rhythmic charge, switching between disco-infused, slowed-to-a-halt blues and straight up chaotic noise.

True to their word, DFA have not been weakened by constant touring or a need to push new material. They are huge and foreboding, but keep the unique quality of a couple of kids playing a show in a DIY venue. Whilst I would be first in line to see them if they ever tour again, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't. And though that would be a shame, I believe that is part of the magic.

Gordon Barker

Glass Animals

16 October
Plug

The Half Earth is a very talented man. Since moving to Sheffield from Blackpool he's begun to attract a whole swathe of admirers, recently supporting Rae Morris on her UK tour. I've seen him perform several times now and he just seems to get better and better on each occasion. Tonight is no exception.

He's recently been in the studio experimenting with different instruments, and tonight he takes his music to another level. Joined for half of his set by Ben from Peaks, the inclusion of synths adds a whole new dimension to his sound. New song ‘Balance’, along with ‘Pale Waters’ and the stunning ‘Glass’, are given a new freshness and vibrancy. And then there's the voice, which never fails to astound.

The stage resonates to the sound of the jungle as Glass Animals appear, drenched in a neon haze. This is not the Oxford band's first visit to Sheffield, but as singer Dave Bayley points out, it's their first time playing in a venue that isn't a pub. It's an indication of how their popularity has grown in the last couple of years. They released their debut album, Zaba, earlier this year to rave reviews in certain quarters, and whilst it was certainly the work of a very talented group of musicians, it felt like a case of potential not being realised.

This problem is apparent in their live set. Their music is overflowing with clever ideas and inspired touches but it feels shallow. Oddly, at the same time there's a sense of sameness. They do try and mix things up and really go for it on certain songs. Rich soulful vocals mix with inventive instrumentation, wrapped up in a tropical 80s vibe, but all too often it feels like the work of an over-enthusiastic teenager, fumbling around in the dark whilst reading nonsense poems. But maybe it's just me, because the crowd seem to be completely besotted and go, well, totally gooey for ‘Gooey’.

Rob Aldam

Nick Mulvey

24 October
Leadmill

The Mercury Prize is required to meet the same quotas each year it seems; a breakthrough pop/rock protagonist, a veteran experimentalist, some pseudo music noise creator and the token singer songwriter - a slot that was this year taken by Nick Mulvey.

His voice narrates an album made up of sombre, lo-fi songs that will inevitably become the music journalists’ coffee coaster of choice once the Mercury winner is announced. But as forgettable as the writing may be, the feeling within the songs just about translates to the Friday night Leadmill crowd.

Taking to the stage, his temperament is somewhat reserved, shy almost, possibly even nervous, but that doesn’t shatter the intricate playing on opening track ‘April’. Mulvey was brought to prominence in jazz band Portico Quartet, playing the hang drum, but tonight it’s his guitar work that sets the mood.

Mulvey has his moments. ‘Juradinum’, starting with the electric drums, gets the crowd moving in its upbeat nature, whilst his solo rendition of ‘I Want to Go Home’ stunned them into silence. But the only moment where Mulvey’s set bordered on the beauty that deserves a Mercury was ‘Fever to The Form’, a sad number that blends the sound of his four-piece band for the first time in the entire night.

As thought out as his sound may be, as complex as the parts are, his voice fails to grab you by the throat and for much of the night it offers little more than a drone. However, he managed to end his set by belting out radio hit ‘Curucucu’ and finishing with an encore of ‘Nitrous’, which presented the perfect opportunity for a sing-along ending. Large sections of the crowd duly obliged, whilst the rest took it as the perfect opportunity to leave early to continue their Friday night elsewhere.

Will Hitchmough

Hookworms

26th October
Harley

As a band that exist in an area tantalisingly close to the vague beacon of the ‘big time’, it was surprising to see that Hookworms’ Sheffield show had been downsized from Queen’s Social Club to the considerably cosier venue of The Harley. There was no reason to complain though. In fact quite the opposite, as the Hookworms live show is an experience so well-regarded that it increasingly comes only on a large scale and these small venue shows are becoming something of a rarity.

Over the last few years, Hookworms have made them selves synonymous with hard work, integrity and the calling out of bullshit in all its various guises, and it’s a fervor that is wholly present in the live show. This does not negate the fact that they are an incredibly enjoyable live band. They played from both debut albums Pearl Mystic and as-yet-unreleased The Hum, named after a controversial audio phenomenon, and on first listen it sounds as if there’s been a subtle but tangible shift in their operation.

Where Pearl Mystic was relentlessly distant, intriguingly difficult and in some places quite bleak, The Hum promises to be even gutsier, with helter-skelter sound collisions and a focus on melody as much as on the fuzzy otherness of noise music and psychadelia.

As is standard procedure for one of the country’s most quietly brilliant bands, the show was kept compact, intense and wholly unfussy. Frontman and producer MJ powered through the set with fervent, reverberous vocals that left him looking physically and mentally purged. Current single ‘The Impasse’ served as an acutely dizzying marker of what Hookworms are doing as a band right now, with caustic electronic elements, persistent droning rhythms and vocals that push you back as much as draw you in.

Lucy Holt