Night Flowers

23 January
Audacious Art Experiment

The Audacious Art Experiment saw one of the year’s first interesting musical stop-offs in Sheffield. London/Hull band Night Flowers headlined a night at the ever-ambitious DIY space that was stylistically and emotionally broad.

The first act, The Skipping Forecast, played acoustic folk that was characterised by harmony, with an interesting vocal tension between male and female counterparts. It was a steady start – simple, distant and clever.

Then there was Elk who, as a side note, happened to be fronted by my friend’s former English teacher. As recent recruits to the Audacious label, they were performing in simultaneously the most relevant and most daunting location. It was an unassuming start that evolved in to indie pop with grubby inclinations.

Tye Die Tapes’ post-punk representatives Pjaro were, as ever, noisy and thoroughly well loved, playing music that was fun but with an underlying sense of menace.

Headlining the disparate carousel of acts were Night Flowers. Like their name would have you believe, musically they mess about in the overlap of delicate and dark, playing gutsy shoegaze. Vocalist Hester Ullyart made the performance, with soft but insistent vocals that complemented the five-piece’s angry ebbs and flows.

They played tracks mostly from last year’s self-titled EP, notably ‘Neverland’, which arcs with broad optimism but also an acute sadness. If ever a song could sound sarcastic, it would be ‘Embers’ - upbeat and melodic, but with a defiant something lurking under the surface. It’s hard not to draw parallels between them and the oft-cited The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. That said, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart themselves come from a prestigious canon of woozy, happy-sad shoegaze, of which Night Flowers are compelling additions, and bring something of a bittersweet Northern sentiment.

Lucy Holt

Mr Mendel

24 January
Harley

A night at the Harley is never a dull affair, particularly if it’s hosted by Banana Hill, Sheffield’s most colourful promoting duo who live for the excitement of beats from all over the globe. In typical fashion, crowds were pretty slow and steady towards the beginning of the night, but it wasn’t long before the man of the hour, Mr Mendel, had packed out the dance floor.

A native of Amsterdam, Mr Mendel is known all over Europe for his globally influenced style. This marathon set never took a step back or gave anybody a moment to relax, each exotic track filling the audience with an overwhelming urge to move. With echoes of sounds from all over the world, the set was always going to be eclectic, but there was a playful and passionate through-line weaving the three-hour mash-up into one perfectly crafted piece. Sampling a few familiar tracks with music which was so much fun, you felt like you knew it all anyway. There wasn’t anybody in the room who wasn’t having a fantastic time. Having focused mainly on hip hop in his early career, it was clear to see that Mendel has evolved into something much more than that, without entirely leaving those roots behind. Nowadays he is said to only have one condition when making his selections – “As long as it’s good, soulful music.”

As a resident of various clubs back home, I’d be really interested to see Mr Mendel live in Amsterdam, as I’m sure what was already an energetic and exciting set would flourish in a familiar setting. For the travellers amongst you, look out for his name if you’re passing through for a guaranteed night of fun.

Tasha Franek

Seven Tors

23 January
Leadmill

Until fairly recently, playing the bigger venues in Sheffield was largely restricted to touring bands or local acts who've ‘made it’. We're not a city blessed with a plethora of good smaller venues, so it's great to see local musicians being afforded the opportunity to shine on a bigger stage. Sadly, this opportunity is often limited to fairly generic indie bands, but tonight at the Leadmill Seven Tors head up a bill which epitomises some of the often overlooked talent living in the city.

Robberie are a band who never fail to make me smile. They are indie pop to the core, singing songs about ex-boyfriends, bird watching and being a geek. I've only seen them play in very small rooms, but they easily make the transition. They deserve much more recognition than they get.

Lomas appear to have added a harder edge to their sound. They've always had that in their arsenal, but it seems to be a theme running through their newer songs tonight. The quartet have clearly got talent and myriad ideas, and occasionally it all comes together. They need to build on aspects of songs like 'Lose Your Mind' and take it from there.

Pocket Satellite make a (sadly) rare appearance in Sheffield. Since they formed back in 2009, they've (partially?) relocated to London and evolved from being an acoustic folk pop act to a more rounded and more assured band. The five-piece have a lot of support if the now packed Steel Stage is anything to go by. If they can sustain regular touring and releases, the band could be poised to have a big year.

Seven Tors' music has also developed markedly since I last saw them. They've morphed into a fully-formed pop beast, and the move away from a folk-based ethos is clearly working for them. They look at home in this environment and it will be exciting to see where they go from here.

Rob Aldam