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A Magazine for Sheffield

Lone / Richard Dawson / Nope / John Smith / Nat Johnson

7 February
Night Kitchen

Banana Hill cemented their reputation as purveyors of the more leftfield end of electronic music by hosting Lone, Quantic, Spoek Mathambo, and Moomin at The Night Kitchen last month. Lone, known to family and friends as Matt Cutler, was tasked with two sets for the night - one live, the other a DJ set. He took to the controls 20 minutes later than planned for his first jaunt of the night due to a few technical hiccups, but luckily the boys from Nice Like Rice were on hand to keep people moving while the hardware issues were ironed out, having just played a set packed with feel-good foot shufflers.

Just before 3am, with the room having quickly filled with people and anticipation, we were away. Cutler’s trademark polychromatic sound diffused through the warehouse room of The Night Kitchen, matched by the vibrant visuals on the screen behind him, courtesy of Glaswegian musician and visual artist Konx-om-Pax. Before long we were hearing cuts from last year’s critically acclaimed album, Reality Testing, including the tropical roller ‘Begin to Begin’, and ‘Airglow Fires’, a track that perfectly encapsulates Cutler’s sumptuous sound. The set weaved its way through off-kilter beats and colourful chords, dousing the crowd in the scintillating melody that Lone material is so widely praised for.

Despite the quality of the music and the atmosphere it created, I expected something a bit more from what was billed as a live set. Apart from the odd stutter edit there wasn’t much to suggest that what we were hearing was being created in real time. But once 4am came around and Cutler got behind the decks in the main room, he was able to fully demonstrate his ability to get the crowd moving. This set was a darker affair in parts, bulldozing its way through a bounty of house and techno heavyweights. ‘Rave (Dirt Mix)’ from Shed’s Head High alias proved itself as a consistently reliable set staple, with the crowd quite obviously thinking so too.

Aidan Daly


10 February

Back from a period of gestation in Brussels, local lad Jim Ghedi came armed with his now well-known wistful finger-picking style. His opening comprised a set of tracks whose sense of incompleteness only acts as a promise for future re-interpretations from a restless artist who embraces constant transformation.

Next on was an utterly bizarre spectacle, a young Welsh group led by Eugene Capper. After the mental comparisons to ‘shred’ videos had subsided, one couldn’t help vying for each musician as they attempted to overcome confused expressions to reach the end of each song. The cheers at the end didn’t so much seem to be for the crowd’s enjoyment of the tracks, but more in awe that a band could walk the line between incompetence and ingenuity so unawares.

Richard Dawson’s sets are always magical, comprised of a cappella roars, wonderfully tasteful guitar playing and the odd few minutes of improvised stand-up. He conjures up a world of working people traversing an old northern English landscape. Littered with surreal encounters, Dawson summons a magical-realist tapestry of a land whose memories are misremembered through a haze of his own hallucinations. It’s a story of an injured steed that is the most poignant - a tragic tale of a suffering workhorse and the ineptitude of its owners to put it out of its misery. The power and tragedy of the story is heightened by Dawson’s delivery. As he subtly moves the microphone closer to his mouth, the sense of drama is awe-inspiring.

It’s this ability as master storyteller that means Dawson is so revered, a modern day travelling minstrel recounting the everyday man’s struggle in this once feudal, now industrial isle. This Englishness, as well as his embodiment of singer as folklorist, produces a spectacle sadly unlike many others on the gigging circuit today.

Alex Keegan


19 February
Bungalows & Bears

It’s a lovely feeling, the moment you find a gig that you fancy popping along to, only to find it’s free entry. For some reason I often fail to remember that Bungalows will be a freebie, and I’m always pleased as punch strolling through the doors without finding myself out of pocket. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - Bungalows & Bears has to be one of my favourite bar venues in the city. One moment surrounded by delicious Ruby Jean’s burgers, the next immersed in fantastic live music.

Although I’ve had my eye on the headliners for a while, it was garage punk favourites Sievehead who really drew me into the show. I’ve been meaning to catch them play in their natural habitat, The Lughole, a few times but unfortunately missed out. Having just released a new 7'', the new material went down a storm with not only the usual Sheffield punks, but Bungalows regulars as well. Lyrically strong and at times quite emotional and atmospheric, these guys are about as accessible as the punk scene gets, and it was nice to see them play a fresh crowd.

Nope, another Yorkshire favourite, made the treacherous journey from West to South to headline this evening. Another band causing a stir in the world of all things DIY, the four-piece Leeds/Bradford supergroup make a really interesting sound, a sort of psyche meets punk. The tracks seem to bleed into each other, keeping the crowd transfixed. Although Bungalows was about as packed as I’ve seen it for a Thursday night gig like this, I managed to get a peek at the aesthetics of having duo drummers facing one another, something I’ve never seen before which definitely got everyone talking.

Tasha Franek


20 February

Whilst the rescheduling of this gig may have ruined one mother's 60th birthday, John Smith and Dennis Ellsworth ensure that it's well worth waiting for.

Dennis Ellsworth is avoiding the snow and ice in his native Canada with impressive intensity. This is his second appearance at The Greystones in the last two weeks, and if tonight is anything to go by, he's welcome to stay around for a lot longer. Playing songs from his last two albums, ‘Rudderless Day’ is the highlight. He commemorates the anniversary of the death of his beloved cat, Winsloe, who met his end at the jaws of an angry canine, before ending with the beautiful ‘Shines The Sun’, leaving us with a tantalising glimpse of what we can expect from his new album.

John Smith is proof that a musician can make a living without a record label. His last album, Great Lakes, is truly a majestic feet of songwriting and musicianship. Tonight he brings those songs to life. A rapt audience is enchanted by his spell, with the renditions of the beautiful ‘Great Lakes’ and ‘Lungs’ sure to last long in the memories of everyone. He sheds the accompaniment of his band to perform ‘Perfect Storm’, ‘England Rolls Away’ and ‘Axe Mountain’. You can hear a pin drop. It ends with ‘To Have So Many’ - the first love song he ever wrote, but she's dead to him now.

If life was based on merit, John Smith would own the lofty perch currently occupied by Ed Sheeran in the hearts of the masses.

Rob Aldam


6 February

Nat Johnson has become something of a local legend in Sheffield, first coming to our attention in 2004 as the front-woman of Monkey Swallows The Universe. After various musical projects including Nat Johnson and The Figureheads, she's back with a solo album, Neighbour Of The Year. Tonight brings the tour of her beautifully folk-tinged album to a close with a sold out, sit-down show at The Greystones Backroom.

Magpies are supporting with the kind of music you would expect to hear in the emotional montage moments of quirky indie films. The bearded frontman's lethargic vocals, the trumpet and double bass add elements of tragedy, and although most of their songs are calm, gritty and progressive guitars give them a darker edge. The third song is more optimistic, with energetic strumming and jubilant trumpet, before ‘I Am A Cat’ and ‘I Am Not A Cat’ reveal the band’s animal philosophy. The frontman admits he “doesn't do banter” and this only adds to the air of mystery and intrigue surrounding Magpies.

The audience are attentive as Nat Johnson softly explains she will be playing a “retrospective set” with a selection of songs from each album, starting with ‘Sheffield Shanty’ from the first Monkey Swallows The Universe album. The audience hang on every soothing reference to a rain-soaked Broomhill and Walkley, and it quickly becomes clear we are in for a treat.

Finally, she plays material from her new album, including a stripped back version of ‘Not Now Horse’ and the melancholy ‘Dog’, before enchanting album track ‘Neighbour Of The Year’, with ghostly guitar effects and percussion from her band. She finishes on a hopeful note, with beautiful harmonies from her two female band members accompanied by a touch of brass and banjo. Judging by tonight's captivating set and the warm reception, Nat Johnson is a treasured local artist.

Phoebe Seymour


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