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Collect / Lau / The Lemonheads / The Bootleg Beatles

by Now Then Sheffield

10th December. DLS. Reviewer - Clare Whitty.

Collect has come a long way in the last two years. From free house parties in a small studio next to the old Niche building on Milton Street to big name DJs playing in three rooms of the labyrinthine Dirty Little Secret. It's location on Smithfield suits the name of the venue, as it is a bit of a mission to find, hidden around the back streets of Shalesmoor.

Although it was like conquering a maze to find the night, it was well worth it once there. The main room (or Grand Hall as described on the flyer) was busy from the start with fans of dirty electronic beats filling the dance floor to boogie along to Raudive, a.k.a London-based minimal techno producer Oliver Ho. His two-hour set of experimental techno was interesting and fun to dance to, even though he managed to make a few unfortunate mixing mistakes. This didn't stop the enthusiasm of one particular woman, who climbed up onto the top of the mighty Danger Noise Audio rig and managed to pull out a cable, causing the middle part of the set to sound a bit flaky. Once fixed, the sound returned to its usual rinsing standard and Raudive finished with whoops and cheers from the many impressed punters.

Italian tech-house DJs The MiniCoolBoyz were on next followed by a few Collect regulars. The dance floor remained full until the end, the crowd impressed with the mixture of talent, excellent sounds and quality visuals.

Two up-and-coming Sheffield labels, Itchy Pig Records and 2019 Records, occupied the smaller 'Weights' and 'Pipe' rooms. Downstairs, Itchy Pig provided a mix of electro and deep house which was kick started by talented DJ Moodymanc from 20/20 Vision Records. The Manchester-based DJ got everyone moving with his deep beats and afterwards the room remained as busy as the main room all night.

The Pipe room next to the main room had a selection of dubstep and bass music combined with various MCs which gave an extra dimension to the variety of sounds available. Upstairs, the chill-out area offered massages and mulled wine for those who wanted a bit of relaxation during the busy, fun-filled night.

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6th December. Greystones. Reviewer - Ben Eckersley.

Lau are a trio hailing (mostly) from Scotland. A supergroup of some of the UK's finest folk talents, they combine to make something very special, which incidentally is anything but folk music. Currently touring their second studio album Arc Light, they performed a wide-ranging set showcasing their freewheeling ability as musicians and the wide array of musical styles they have at their fingertips.

The trio is made up of Aidan O'Rourke (from Oban) on violin, Kris Drever (from the beautiful Orkney Isles - you should take your next holiday there) on guitar and vocals, and Martin Green (the band's only southerner) playing accordion and occasional bouts of Wurlitzer organ. All three are highly respected in their own right, and can be found performing with just about every famous name on the folk scene. I saw O'Rourke play with his old band Blazin' Fiddles a couple of years ago in Ullapool, and it was clear then, as now, that he was born with a fiddle in his hands, such is his natural ease on the instrument.

I've seen many virtuous attempts to modernise and update traditional Celtic music, from the folk-acid house of Peatbog Faeries to the folk-disco of the Treacherous Orchestra and the folk-punk of Dropkick Murphys - all brilliant, all entertaining (well, maybe not all...), but all lacking the true depth and integrity that is needed to move them from the realm of pastiche to true originality. Lau, meanwhile, have managed to create something genuinely innovative and exciting while hardly seeming to try. I get the impression that they sat down at the outset and agreed that there is no unbreakable rule. In doing so they have ceased to be a 'folk' band, having escaped the burden of tradition that weighs down so many young folk acts, but in many ways are still the truest folk band that I have ever seen, having redefined a genre in their own terms without resorting to just tagging themselves with another style.

On stage, they brought all the life of a Scottish ceilidh with them, with the funniest inter-song banter and storytelling I've heard in a while. They played original songs as well as new interpretations of traditional tunes, and with every song conveyed their willingness to be led by the music. Their sound was bolstered by an array of pedals and live loops, creating an highly textured sound, with Drever's hypnotic guitar patterns accompanied by layers of rich accordion chords, after which Green would manipulate the looped sound of clicks made with the stop switches on his accordion to create glitchy beats reminiscent of their recent work with producer (and Kieran Hebden's best mate) Adem. At other times, O'Rourke would play a slow and gentle air, but though stripped right back, Green and Drever would still use adventurous time signatures and harmonies to accompany him. Even when playing a traditional reel set, there was a palpable sense that the music could lead anywhere, and certainly wouldn't lead where you expected.

By experimenting with technology and being completely open to new ideas, combined with tremendous skill and musicianship, Lau have redefined folk music and are one of the best live bands I've seen in a long time.

Lau - Live 2011 Horizontigo (free download) by reveal records |

8th December. Plug. Reviewer - Tom Childs.

It's A Shame About Ray is an album that soundtracked many happy miles for me this summer. As I cycled the ten miles to work and ten miles home in the tropical Essex heat, Ray and his band of misfits kept me company and I will always be grateful to The Lemonheads for introducing us.

The album is a catalogue of troubled youth, yet it is this inescapable youth that imbues tracks such as 'Confetti' and 'My Drug Buddy' with an exuberance and nonchalant easiness that can't help but make you grin. Evan Dando, the original Lemonhead, bases a good deal of the songs on troubled relationships with friends, lovers and drugs, but his major-key chords and Dinosaur Jr-esque guitar flares form an aesthetic that acts as the perfect mantra for the teen slacker.

It is Dando that we first see lope onto the stage tonight, somewhat dazzled with the pink light and Christmas décor of the Plug stage. He instantly looks out of place, squinting and standing statuesque as he rattles off a few songs with only his Les Paul for company. Tracks like 'The Outdoor Type' impress with their witty lyrical observations, but for all his protesting to the contrary you get the feeling that given the choice between the packed main room at Plug or the great outdoors, Dando would take the latter.

After the suspiciously country and western opening to the show the other Lemonheads bound onstage. Dando mutters "We're gonna try and play the album" and they set off with 'Rockin Stroll.' Technically the songs have lost nothing with age, the passionate chug of 'Rudderless' and the Nirvana-on-valium swing of 'Ceiling Fan In My Spoon' pleasing the eager crowd immensely. That said, something just doesn't feel right.

The irony that once spurred on the songs' melancholic subject matter with the vim of youth is sadly lost and the band's attempt to recapture this leads to a futile pursuit of youthful abandon by men whose youth has been long abandoned. It quickly becomes "An Evening with The Lemonheads", as opposed to the kind of nostalgic scuzz I had been hoping for.

I don't begrudge The Lemonheads though. Nearly 20 years ago they released a great album and I consider myself lucky for having seen it played live. Coincidentally enough, the album that kept me going over miles of tarmac this summer is accompanied tonight by footage taken from the front of the band's tour bus as they entered Sheffield. An album that I associate with the breeze in my hair and summer air in my lungs is tonight played alongside graphics of sleet and morbid grey motorways. I suppose that's a better metaphor for the band than I could've come up with.

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by Now Then Sheffield

Next article in issue 46

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