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A Magazine for Sheffield

BBC Music Day / Lush Spectra / The Unsung

15 June
Wah Wahs

The theme of this year’s edition of BBC Music Day was the power of music, a fitting subject as its full force can be felt on a daily basis when it brings people together. Whether it’s an impromptu rendition of the Jeremy Corbyn song by an uprising of young folk or a lonely busker belting out some hits to earn another meal, the power that music possesses can lift people onto another level.

Here it was displayed in all its glory with a selection of local bands taking centre-stage in the midst of the quirky Mexican eatery Wah Wahs, located on Chesterfield Road. First up were indie pin-ups The Sherlocks, who brought acoustic renditions of their anthemic songs which united their young following into a lively singalong. Next up was Delirium, whose powerful rock sound could equally be heard clear as day in the newly-opened terrace.

The highlight of the afternoon was a psychedelic duo who go by the name of Them Sardines. They effortlessly plodded through their set with aplomb and could quite easily have been practising in their front room in front of a goldfish and a cactus. The final act, Rehash, managed to pack in the biggest crowd of the day, who were treated to a short set which gave the impression that they’re destined for bigger things.

In between bands, punters could be seen devouring baby-sized burritos, generously-topped tacos and authentic nachos. Many of them then made their way next door to The Tramshed, where the guys from adjacent record store Spinning Discs opened up their collection for the customers to delve into. This added to the laid-back vibe of both venues and was the perfect end to a day that clearly displayed the power of music.

Stephen Greenwood


10-11 June
Sheffield General Cemetery

Billed as "diagrammatic music, focal listening and non-linear time consciousness", it wasn't entirely clear exactly what two days of Lush Spectra would involve. It was a must-see regardless, with Mark Fell putting together an astounding line-up of international experimentalists for this free, unticketed event, including Oren Ambarchi, Éliane Radigue, Jana Winderen and Laurie Spiegel, among others.

The venue was Sheffield General Cemetery’s newly-restored Nonconformist Chapel. Hidden deep inside the cemetery's dense, overgrown foliage, you felt a world away from Ecclesall Road's nearby Saturday night thrum. The scene was like a vapourwave dreamscape, with incongruous seaside deck chairs scattered between crumbling tombstones and the chapel's imposing neoclassical portico lit in a surreal bright purple.

The chapel's interior is now a pristine white cube that had been fitted out with an eight-speaker surround sound array for the occasion. I had high expectations for the sound quality given Mark Fell's reputation for meticulous site-specific sound design. German percussionist Limpe Fuchs opened proceedings on Saturday night with an unamplified performance, but demonstrated the chapel's excellent acoustics as the resonant timbres of her homemade instruments were given plenty of room to reverberate in the chapel's high ceiling.

Next up, Crys Cole really did test the sound with a low volume collage exploring the limits of audibility and forcing the audience into the 'focal listening' advertised. Even a trace of noise bleeding from the amplifier into Crys' delicate construction of scratches, murmurs and drones would have scuppered the whole endeavour.

These two performances set the tone for the rest of the event. A balance of acoustic and electronic, traditional and contemporary was maintained throughout. A focus on slow, quiet and deliberate transformations dominated over obvious musical gestures.

Even as the Saturday night session stretched into daybreak on Sunday morning, it was reverie, not revelry, which dominated. Lush Spectra was a refreshingly different musical event in Sheffield and a highly successful experiment that deserves to be repeated.

Michael Hobson


26 May
Bank Street Arts

The Unsung is a new spoken word and music project from award-winning Sheffield poet Genevieve Carver. Accompanied by a brilliant live band, the performance consists of a series of poems celebrating people whose lives were lost in the service of music. Presented as a ‘funeral party’, the atmosphere is jubilant and upbeat, despite the sadness of the stories it tells.

The subjects of the poetry are the forgotten heroes of music, so you won’t hear David Bowie or Leonard Cohen mentioned here. Instead you will learn about the victims of the crackdown on music by religious extremists in Mali and of Sandor Feher, violinist on the Costa Concordia who, after helping passengers off the boat, drowned when he went back for his violin. There’s the unknown senior citizen who died during a performance in a care home and Scott Johnson, drum technician for Radiohead, who died when the stage he was sat on collapsed. Carver’s poetry is filled with universal human experiences, from everyday mundanity to raw emotion. The words are bittersweet but celebrate the full and rich lives of the people in them.

The live accompaniment featuring Sarah Sharp (violin, keys), Tim Knowles (guitar) and Brian Bestall (drums) create a fantastic sonic collage, both framing and adding depth to the poetry, adeptly jumping from afrobeat to gypsy folk to symphonic styles led by the words. Uniting the stories in the poems, music becomes a central character in its own right. Crossing the cultural divide of different lives, music is shown to be a universal language shared by all of humanity in its flawed brilliance, and perhaps indeed something worth dying for. The whole show is a deep, profound but ultimately joyful experience.

Ben Eckersley


Next article in issue 112

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