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Wet Nuns & Guests / The Altered Hours

by Now Then Sheffield

5 March
Academy

The tragic news of Alexis Gotts' death in November 2014 hit Sheffield a lot harder than he probably would have ever imagined. Leki was a recognisable face around the city, known not only for being an incredible musician, but as a sincerely good guy. After spending some time out attempting to come to terms with their loss, a group of close friends decided it was the right time to put together one hell of a tribute show in honour of the late drummer of Wet Nuns.

The whole show was a raging success, with strong sets from each of the hand-picked bands stepping out onto the huge stage at the Academy, quite the change from the sort of venues most of them are used to playing. Punk favourites Sievehead played a killer set, as they always do. Baba Naga, the other band to have started up with Alexis on drums, hypnotised the audience with swirling visuals, psychedelic sounds and a returning visit from their very own shaman.

The main event was an emotional triumph and the perfect send off. Stating that the intention wasn't to recreate Wet Nuns, Rob Graham brought on a handful of friends to play old material, with a couple of special covers. Wet Nun and Guests was a one-off experience like no other, which every person in that audience will remember for the rest of their lives. The set concluded with a stage full of brilliant musicians playing their hearts out in memory of a dear friend, the perfect finale.

A final speech revealed that £10,550 had been raised for Mind, and Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, an incredible impressive haul for two very important charities to the friends, family and fans of Leki. There's always time to donate, even if you did miss out on the evening.

Tasha Franek

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11 March
Audacious Art Experiment

After intimate liaisons with the Picture House, the Audacious crew returned to their Harwood Street home last month for a triple-pack of hazy, dreamy and altogether somewhat fuzzy groups. First, grinding garage rock from Sleep Terminal, with gangly lead singer Joe Ashe bent double over his acoustic guitar, attacking it like Elvis Costello on the edge of a meltdown. As usual at TAAE, the room was as packed for the first two acts as it was for the headliner.

Sandwiched between heavy, guitar-centric bands, The Skipping Forecast brought a welcome change of pace, with their gentle, lilting songs only occasionally interrupted by bursts of harsh static from Luke Twyman's folk-bespoke Kraftwerkian console. It speaks to the strength of Sophia Pettit's voice, and the beauty of her delivery, that she could be heard with crystal-clear clarity in an environment where more nuanced music sometimes struggles. Behind them, a VHS of Jason and the Argonauts played on a small black-and-white TV.

On headline duties were Ireland's Altered Hours, currently taking their blurry psy-rock around the UK in support of new record, In Heat Not Sorry. Drummer Nora Lewon held down deep, rolling grooves, allowing her bandmates to leap off in directions uncharted, bending song structures to their will and sabotaging them when necessary. The opening number featured an electronic effect that sounded unnervingly like a car screeching to a sudden stop, again and again.

They're way out there, but not afraid of earthy riffs and angst-ridden heart-on-sleeve lyrics. "Sometimes I feel like I could dig an early grave / Sometimes I wish I could lie down and feel safe," sang wiry haired guitarist Cathal MacGabhann, closing the night with the propulsive single 'Dig Early'. As MacGabhann told the crowd, "There should be one of these in every city."

Sam Gregory

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21 March
Plug

There was a lengthy gap between DIIV’s 2012 debut album, Oshin, and the follow-up, Is The Is Are, released in February of this year, and the New York dream rock outfit seem to be bringing their sense of time-keeping to a live stage near you during their latest UK tour. Ambling on to the Plug stage shortly after their billed set time of 9:15pm, they proceeded to fine-tune their sound check for about half an hour before finally giving the nod to the projectionist to start the visuals, and, with a brief acknowledgment of Sheffield being the hometown of Pulp, they were off.

The first half of the set largely saw them alternating between old album and new album, with some of the first record’s best cuts – 'Human', 'How Long Have You Known' – surfacing fairly early on. The lead singles from Is The Is Are also came and went surprisingly quickly, and their generation-spanning audience was eager to repay ‘the hits’ with a buoyant energy and even the occasional crowd surf. Frontman Zachary Cole Smith – somehow strangely looking the spitting image of Justin Bieber, or at least from where I was standing – seemed to be more or less enjoying himself at first, soliciting song requests (most, if not all, of which ultimately went unfulfilled) and joining in the evening’s running chant of “Scrumpy Jack!”.

The delayed start and the front-loading of their best-loved material led to somewhat of a slump in the crowd’s buoyancy as eyes darted towards wrists when 11pm (on a Monday night) came and went, and even the late appearance of first album favourite 'Doused' couldn’t muster much of a second wind. Following game yet clearly drained chants for an encore – which Smith duly dubbed “the lamest ever” – they finally brought the curtain down on a 20+ song set. A not unwelcome tally, but one that would’ve tried a patience or two by the time it finally came to a close.

Jack Scourfield

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16 March
Picture House Social

It's a chilly Wednesday evening on Abbeydale Road, but the old Picture House is full of warm, sunny music. Your humble correspondent was expecting an evening of shoegazey stuff, and every band on the bill certainly relies on effected guitar tones, but things are rather more varied than that.

First up are the appropriately youthful Virgin Kids, who sound very 90s in the way that only kids born at the tail end of that decade ever manage to sound. They play short, Pavement-esque ditties with a hint of the Violent Femmes about the nonsense choruses. They seem to only have one song, but it's a good song, delivered professionally.

Next up are Sprinters, who edge closest to the shoegaze template by reinterpreting the stoned-in-a-summer-meadow melodics of Ride through the slightly more post-rock tones of Explosions In The Sky, but somehow end up sounding more britpop than anything else, though not in a bad way. They also seem to have only one song, but again, it's a good song. Maybe a different key would help?

Now Radical Boy, who feel a bit more West Coast and punky, in terms of both their sound and stage presence. The former is fast, simple and a bit shouty, while the latter is just plain amateur. For fans of that whole Wavves/Reatard/No Age sort of noise, maybe, but not for me.

Texan longhairs Holy Wave head the bill with a set of old-school psyche from the thirteenth floor, a wall of sound constructed from tambourine shuffles, fuzzed-out twelve-strings and mellotron drones, within which someone has seemingly bricked up a bleary and plaintive Wayne Coyne. There's little in the way of riff or melody, with many tunes simply exploring the tension and resolution between a simple pair of chords. But you know what? It's pretty good stuff. I've hardly looked at my shoes all night.

Paul Graham Raven

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19 March
Harley

Saturday night began fast and hard with Sheffield’s own Mensa and Oliver Zee eager to get the party started with some ‘techy’ house. Their youthful spirit lured a small crowd into the Harley, where the sidestepping commenced. Slowly but surely the lights dimmed, and little by little people trickled in and were enticed onto the dance floor. A fairly disappointing turn out meant that was plenty of room to move. Anything bigger than the cosy Harley would have been a little too spacious.

Mak and Pasteman didn’t make an appearance until the early hours, and even then it was only Pasteman who took to the decks. Simple, easy listening, repetitive beats made for a pleasant but plain atmosphere. Fortunately Pasteman’s cheeky but satisfied smile and rhythmic head bopping kept the crowd in good spirits despite a drop in tempo.

The Leeds duo has had significant success since meeting at a party in the west Yorkshire city. Their jungle, techno and house infused music is catchy and normally attracts large crowds. Alongside making their own music, Mak and Pasteman have also kept up a late night show on Rinse FM. Their eclectic selections for radio have attracted diverse audiences and this was evident at the Harley, where university students mingled with middle-aged Sheffielders. Their music certainly does make the people come together.

Mak and Pasteman have recently told Rinse that their tastes are “continuing to get deeper and darker,” and the intensity grew when Pasteman began dropping some seriously body-rattling bass, but something a little lighter might have kept the venue alive. Unfortunately the crowd trickled out, just as it had trickled in.

Jennifer Martino

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27 March
Queens Social Club

On the evening of Sunday 27 March at the Queens Social Club, a particularly receptive audience played witness to the reunion of local indie folk act Monkey Swallows The Universe. Upon arriving at the venue, I noticed a broad demographic amongst the queuing punters.

There were two supporting bands, although their names were not advertised or announced as they played. Both bands, however, seemed slightly incongruous and were a perplexing mix in contrast to the main act. The first band to play featured a snowman playing the drums, one guitarist with a brown paper bag on his head, and another guitarist sporting a large bouffant wig and a dress made of what appeared to be black bin liners. The second band offered decent quality indie rock, but mixing problems meant that the bass guitar somewhat drowned out the lead singer. Unfortunately, during the performance of both of these bands, as well as the headline act, the house lights were never dimmed, and this detracted from the overall atmosphere.

Monkey Swallows The Universe eventually arrived on stage to a warm welcome from the crowd. I must admit I had never come across the band, but I was pleasantly surprised. Lead singer Nat Johnson announced that they were playing their debut album, The Bright Carvings, in full. The band performed a mix of mellow and charming acoustic songs, but it was Johnson's mellifluous voice that added weight and depth. For one track only fellow founding member Kevin Gori took up lead vocals.

As the evening drew to a close, the audience, who by this time were in good spirits and very good voice, were delighted as the finale brought with it a flurry of balloons. Overall, the sound and performance of Monkey Swallows The Universe was pleasing and clearly well received.

Paul Robson

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12 March
The Harley

Newham’s General’s appearance at the Harley was an opportunity for grime veterans D Double E and Footsie to reaffirm why they’re considered to be just that, as well as a chance for several acts from Sheffield to show their talent within the popular genre.

Jayskiltah opened the night and prepared the crowd for the mixture of sounds that would follow later. By the time True Fiction began his set, playing sharp and stripped-back instrumentals topped with hype provided by MC Shinobi, the audience were ready for an intense session of bassline and grime. K Dot and DMK joined the stage to keep the crowd going relentlessly until Newham Generals arrived with DJ J-Cush.

Newham Generals began steadily, and within minutes it was obvious why both D Double E and Footsie hold such a respected position in grime. They performed in sync and in a manner that was natural rather than rehearsed. The energy, heat and hype of the crowd was overwhelming as they performed 'Street Fighter Riddim', 'Hot Water' and 'Big', but the duo kept control of the audience by MCing with clarity and pace.

The final hour of Gett Off was a treat for fans of grime, as Sheffield's DSL selected some of the rawest instrumentals in the genre, which were then handled by Forca’s aggressive but controlled delivery to provide a fitting close to the night.

Gett Off with Newham Generals definitely satisfied fans of grime and bassline, and the night further established Gett Off as an event that is determined to bring performances that are wanted in Sheffield but not delivered enough.

Akeem Balogun

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by Now Then Sheffield

Next article in issue 97

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