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Drum[roll] / Pokey Lafarge / Tramlines.

by Now Then Sheffield

7th July. Dirty Little Secret.

Reviewer - Ben Dorey.

Drum[roll] have been making a name for themselves on Sheffield's house and techno scene in recent times with a series of high profile bookings bringing internationally touring DJs to intimate venues. July's instalment saw them move to the recently opened back rooms of Dirty Little Secret at CADS, in my opinion one of the most exciting new spaces to open in the city recently. The line up brought Amsterdam favourite Patrice Baumel and Francophile electrohouse guru Ivan Smagghe for (I think) their Sheffield debuts.

Baumel was at the controls when we arrived, in the depths of what seemed like an atmospheric and lengthy transition towards a dance floor destroying drop. It was disappointing to say the least when this expired into the introduction of another song with a whimper. A great deal of elaborate manipulation with effects followed this, at points seeming impressive but never really leading into the following tune with the sense of progression that gives the genres he specialises in energy. This was combined with a questionable selection of tracks that was too all over the place to maintain overall cohesion. My interest started to wane as the music took a departure towards vocal house, as did the numbers of people in the room. I finally followed them upstairs when Baumel dropped Blur's 'Girls and Boys' on the back of a tech house track. Good tune - completely inappropriate situation. Only the most fervently intoxicated seemed to disagree.

Thankfully the Collect residents were able to provide disappointed partygoers with a strong blend of throbbing house in the small second room until Ivan Smagghe took to the stage much later than billed. This moustachioed Frenchman provided a much welcome change in direction, playing harder than previous sets I've heard from him and catering well for the post 4am crowd. Blending technically interesting electro synth action with surging bass lines and punchy kicks, his tune selection was not exactly inspiring but the progression and DJing expertise led to a set that ticked all the boxes that Baumel missed and reinvigorated the crowd. Dangernoise Soundsystem, which some were complaining was too quiet, accentuated the razor edges of Smagghe's electro sound nicely, proving to me that the lack of energy up to that point was more DJ than sound related.

All in all, a good night in a superb venue for the genre, but it was a shame that it got going so late that many in the crowd had left by the time things improved. Drum[roll] are trying hard to bring new acts to Sheffield and the failure of one of these names to live up to expectations should in no way detract from their efforts to move this city's rediscovered love of all things techno into new areas.

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21st June. Greystones.

Reviewer - Jack Unsworth.

On 21st June the Greystones saw an unforgettable set by Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, an American roots band from St Louis, Missouri who play a blinding amalgam of blues, ragtime, western swing and skiffle.

The support act was Sheffield's own Billy Martin Jnr, a guitar playing singer-songwriter whose accent would change from Deep South American to South Yorkshire with well-placed comic timing. His songs consistently conjured up images of the American. He sang about steam trains and shoe shines, and told stories about characters who would not seem to come from Hallamshire, but rather from the old Chicago or New Orleans. His blues riffs were jazzy and groove driven, with a voice so gravelly at times that it could have been used to lay roads, before lifting up again to a sweet tremolo. With a very impressive harmonica player accompanying him on some tracks, the songs all whacked a powerful punch and made for an impressive start to the evening.

Now, on to the main act - Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. Pokey himself plays guitar and sings in a 1930s chirpy manner, with a cheeky smile that reminded me strangely of George Formby. The double bassist played an impressive skiffley bass line and occasional solo, and a lead guitarist delivered perfect little licks and trills around the vocal line, sometimes playing with a slide. And then there was that other guy, who was a harmonica player, snare drummer and washboard player and very much the showman, adding theatrics to the show just by having such an impressive moustache. I did ask him during the interval if it is dangerous playing the harmonica with such facial hair - if sometimes stray hairs got caught in it and were wrenched out in eye watering pain - but he shrugged it off with bravest nonchalance.

The songs were all originals, good fun, energetic numbers telling stories which, like the support act, conjure up images of older days a continent away. The band were clearly made for dancing to, for jigging, spinning your partner around to. Frustratingly, the audience was largely seated and when my feet and those of the friends I'd gone with could no longer take it, we jumped to the front, imagining that if we began to dance, it would spread like wild fire, the crowd suddenly remembering what this kind of music is really for. After a minute, I turned to see the embarrassed faces of those sitting nearby and realised we had very much misjudged the audience. We soon sat down again.

If you ever get a chance to see this band, then do so, as they will be one of the best you will ever see. Just try to see them where there is dancing room.

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21st - 24th July.

Reviewer - Pete Martin.

A lot of festivals are broadly themed - metal at Download, folk at Cambridge - but Tramlines is a real smorgasbord for the musical palette and my aim was to gorge on (or at least nibble at) the feast.

I started with Emily Jane Stancer at a noisy, early evening Frog & Parrot. She opened with a cover of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', which sounded quite disconcerting being played on just acoustic guitar. Her set was split between covers and original material, something that she is working on with Mark Gouldthorpe. Indeed her first ever gig was supporting Artery at the Academy almost 18 months ago. This could be an interesting partnership. My next two potential gigs were washouts - one no-show and one band playing at a different venue at an earlier time. About half of my weekend's itinerary didn't materialise, in fact. Ah well, tomorrow's another day.

Another acoustic start to the day - this time Chloe-Jade Simmons at Henry's. Her self-penned songs are paeans to love and loss, with her beautiful voice and gently strummed guitar providing a sparse but very effective sound. I've not heard anyone sing the words "fuck it" so charmingly. Onto the revamped upstairs room at the Shakespeare, a much missed venue. You can't have a music festival without an Icelandic ukelele player, can you? Eliza Newman sings very simple songs (including one ditty about the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap) in a joyfully simple way, and her enchanting stage manner, including that seemingly patented charm from her homeland, won her many admirers.

Bar 27 is a trendy bar with a trendy clientele and the first band looked ominously like the local branch of the Haircut 100 fan club. They were dressed and coiffed just so, but the Bluehearts then proceeded to unleash a barrage of controlled noise that was totally at odds with their foppish appearance. A very pleasant surprise. Russ Palmer has written a handful of the best songs to come out of Sheffield in the last few years and his band The Unfortunate Incident played a great set full of those quirky, funny, uptempo tunes. Catch 'em while you can.

One of the most anticipated gigs was at the City Hall Ballroom where the I Monster Awkestra played with special guest Mal from the Cabs. This was such a perfect marriage of two iconic Sheffield artists and the Awkestra really brought the recorded material to life with pulsing rhythms, wailing sax, funky guitar and throbbing bass. We were taken back to Cabaret Voltaire's heyday with 'Sensoria' and 'Nag, Nag, Nag', both benefitting from the extra muscularity of the extended band. Then, perhaps as a nod to Charlie Collins, who played percussion tonight, they played a great version of Clock DVA's '4 Hours'. A mesmerising performance.

A packed Harley welcomed an aural assault from the Chapman Family with their four guitar frontline. There was no let up in the intensity of their performance, but it was all one-paced and there wasn't enough light and shade to mark them out as anything special. Big queues at the Bowery and the Washington meant it was the end of Tramlines for me (deadlines meant that Sunday went unreported).

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24th July. Rude Shipyard.

Reviewer - Ebony Nembhard.

The Rude Shipyard proved a fantastic finale to a great weekend of creativity. This year had a great line-up, which included the likes of Sieben, Fuzzy Lights, Stephanie Hladowski, 7 Hertz, Carl Woodford, Actual Midgets, Squalor, Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon and Mark Wynn.

As usual, Sally and Ric did not disappoint in providing a wide range of artists for the event and the coffee flowed freely, as did the people arriving to enjoy the entertainment.

A personal highlight was the improvised yet compelling collaboration between James Barlow of local band Actual Midgets and travelling duo The Suitcase Cinema. The performance saw the screening of 1982 documentary Atomic Café, accompanied by insertions of live music.

The 16mm film reel, composed of candid footage and propaganda from the 40s, 50s and early 60s, displayed striking imagery, over which the band played a soundtrack of steady drum fills, soft vocals and a manic sax, creating an atmosphere which can only be described as catastrophically exquisite.

Not only did the film highlight the profoundly inhumane nature of nuclear warfare, but managed to morph its destruction into something tragically humorous, deeply engaging and hauntingly beautiful.

Josh T Pearson.

24th July. Leadmill.

Reviewer - Sam Walby.

Fresh off the back of his debut album, Josh T Pearson was surprisingly upbeat as he took to the Leadmill stage - surprisingly, because Last of the Country Gentlemen is a record packed full of heartbreak and sober longing.

Appearing late after a less-than-inspiring set by Jersey Budd, who sounded like the bastard lovechild of a Bon Jovi, Liam Gallagher and Bob Dylan threesome, Pearson was in good humour, jokingly trying to get the audience to settle down for what he described as his "sad songs". A packed room happily obliged, and he delivered five delicate, country-tinged songs of love and loss to a near-silent crowd, including the bitter 'Woman, When I've Raised Hell' and his oft-praised reworking of 'Rivers of Babylon' (inspired by Willie Nelson's version - "We don't have Boney M in the US").

The mid-set banter was enjoyable and the dynamics within any given song were absolutely staggering, but it all ended far too quickly. Next time he should have a whole evening to himself.

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by Now Then Sheffield

Next article in issue 41

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Time to check up on one of the sons of Sheffield, Mr Tom J Newell, long since departed to the docks of London Port to ply his trade on the r

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