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A Magazine for Sheffield

Hurray for the Riff Raff / Wyrd Folk / Shambala 2012.

5th September.

Reviewer - Rob Aldam.

The Backroom in the Greystones has become a great venue to watch live music since the sad demise of the Boardwalk. As well as the high quality and quantity of artists playing there, it's always nice to enjoy a pint of Thornbridge's finest.

Although they are minus a double bass player this evening, it doesn't seem to affect Grassoline one bit. The Chesterfield band played a selection of bittersweet songs from their debut EP, Mountain and Grave, alongside newer material. They are heavily influenced by Americana, and their music is heartfelt and vibrant.

Despite almost being dwarfed by her own guitar, Alynda Lee Segarra packs one heck of a punch. The lead singer and creative force behind Hurrah for the Riff Raff has an intriguing past. After running away from her home in the Bronx at the tender age of 17, she hopped freight trains across North America, before becoming part of The Dead Man Street Orchestra and then eventually settling in New Orleans and forming the band.

She takes to the stage on her own and opens with 'Ramblin' Gal', a song from the band's recent album Look Out Momma. I'm immediately struck by her voice. Not only is it incredibly sweet, but it holds a surprising power and resonance. Similarly to the great Etta James, her vocals often threaten to burst out and overpower the music, but they never do. She is then joined on stage by the rest of the band, wielding a menagerie of instruments including double bass, violin, guitar and harmonica.

They play a mixture of tracks from their current album, new material and some older songs. Lead single 'Look Out Momma' goes down a treat, as does 'Little Black Star', a song taken from John Jacob Niles' American Folk and Gambling Songs. Hurray for the Riff Raff are clearly influenced by many different artists, but put their own unique spin on the material. A common theme running throughout is a connection with the Deep South. Whether it is a cover of Irish singer-songwriter Paul Brady's 'The Lakes of Ponchartrain' or of a Ramblin' Jack Elliott song, they breathe fresh life into every note. You can see the respect and love they have for traditional roots music.

But what makes Hurray for the Riff Raff a cut above similar acts is the quality of their own material. Whether it be a dance number like 'Take Me', the more sombre 'Blue Ridge Mountains', or 'Ode to John and Yoko', their music showcases an impressive range of depth and variety. Whilst the number of performers on stage continuously fluctuates, the best moments come when Alynda Lee is up there by herself.

The first number of a well-deserved (and refreshingly not pre-planned) encore is a song for her father, a Vietnam veteran. This tops off a night of wonderful musicianship and craft.


9th september.

Reviewer - paul robson.

'Folk, acoustic and roots music with a hint of sedition' was the slogan used to describe Wyrd Folk 3: The Peasant's Revolt. In the hands of organiser David Paskell, Wyrd Folk 3 definitely lived up to its billing. Hosted outside at the Riverside Cafe Bar on a warm September evening, the air was filled with quality ale and wry, political quips. All the artists played a solo acoustic set, lending each performance a raw immediacy. Though protest singers littered the gig, people weren't force fed militant ranting. Instead they were invited to absorb the music's message in a cheerful and care-free atmosphere.

To open the gig David Paskell played a set of songs concerning past experiences that were both profound and seductive. This helped set the tone for the Nottingham musician Misk Hills Mountain Rambler, who followed with a mix of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and a thousand blues players. In fact, Woody Guthrie's influence was strongly felt throughout the evening.

Next to follow was Phillip Hartley, who delivered tales of South Yorkshire spiked with a perceptive and dry wit. Every musician engaged in a little humorous chat between songs, which helped to ease the mood, especially when Steve Chapman Smith made a flippant innuendo regarding his black bouzouki. Armed with effects pedals, guitar and a microphone, Steve Chapman Smith touched on political topics past and present including the Thatcher era.

It was a shame that there was such a limited turnout for an enthralling show. This was mentioned by the main act Joe Solo, who thanked the small but spirited group. Seated with a guitar, harmonica, tambourine tied to his thigh and maraca attached to his ankle, he became an irrepressible one-man band. He went on to deliver a bewitching performance with a mixture of social rage and eccentric glee. For his final number he passed a collection of homemade percussion around the audience and asked the group to participate in a basic rhythm. This moment fittingly blurred the line between the performer and the audience in an act of unity.


22nd - 25th august.
market harborough.

Reviewer - ben jackson.

I should start by saying that since I first discovered it all those years ago, Shambala has easily held the mantle of my favourite UK festival. So the question for me this year was not "will it be good?", but "will it be as mindwarpingly incredible as last time?"

Shambala has always been a festival far more renowned for its overall carnival atmosphere and general sense of freedom than somewhere you go for the big-named headliners. So when I saw that this year's promo was boasting a pretty uncharacteristically stellar line-up, and promised to be bigger than ever, it led to mild trepidation on my part. It was really born of a fear that this not-too-big, not-too-small, Goldilocks' dream of a party might lose its hitherto perfect balance of intimate yet vibrant revelry. I had also heard murmurs that security had been beefed up as a result and was reliving the horrors of V Festival's fascist, gorilla-handed pricks having all but ruined my weekend years back. I was way off on both counts.

It's no secret that we love Shambala here in Sheffield. In fact, the sheer size of the Sheffield contingent has always meant that you find yourself camping with pockets of different friends and bumping into familiar faces all weekend. This year this was truer than ever, and the bookings seemed to reflect the perfect fit Shambala is for us Sheffielders, with several homegrown acts taking to stages of varying sizes across the three days I was there. We had representation across the genres from the likes of staples of the Sheffield reggae scene Riddimtion, dancehall-come-bass music trailblazer Toddla T featuring the lyrical stylings DRS of Broke 'n' English fame, and dub-hop leviathan Roots Manuva.

Although I'm not usually one for the main stage, particularly when there's a UFO with lasers and drum 'n' bass on site, Roots Manuva made it straight onto my agenda and he did not disappoint. Resplendent in a white suit that only a handful of living men could pull off and headwear that made Daft Punk look like wallflowers, he smashed it from start to finish, with a truly amazing crowd response to every tune. Suffice it to say that when he dropped 'Witness', the crowd could probably have been heard in Broomhill. Shambala really comes into its own on Carnival Day, when an ever growing procession made up of some of the best costumes this side of Rio tours the whole site, gathering finally in the main arena to a thundering crescendo of colours and sounds. And then there's The Woods. Ohh, The Woods.

They do strange things to you, but not in an unpleasant way; quite the opposite, provided you don't mind deciding on a whim that your clothes are a burden, or that starting a commune with four complete strangers is easily the best idea you've ever had.

To begin to describe the quality, diversity and charm of the multitude of workshops, eateries, entertainers and activities of all kinds would require a double page spread, with more to do than is possible over a weekend. I suppose that means I'll have to go back next year, which again promises to be not too hard, and not too soft, but juuust right.

Next article in issue 55

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