Category Archives: Reviews

All Ears at Oxjam: BISON

Words: Ella Wildin

Bison: a self-described ‘orange monstrosity’. Photo credit: Jon Hobson

Bison: a self-described ‘orange monstrosity’. Photo credit: Jon Hobson

Those who have seen the music video for Bison’s song ‘Barry’s Bar’ will notice the resemblance between that dreary drinking institution and the Queen’s Social Club, where the band played on Saturday night. The décor screams staff Christmas party all year round, the hanging tinsel hasn’t twitched since the eighties and ‘the bar staff don’t laugh they just grimace’, as the song goes. Fond as I am of this stalwart venue, warts and all, one barman repeatedly refused to give me and my friends tap water. Not cool at all.

But anyway, rewind. Water was imperative because Bison’s brand of Ska induces a crowd resembling a bovine stampede – built like a brick shithouse and moving with no elegance whatsoever. Just how we like it. This is why white people like Ska so much, it’s so manic that you can just throw your limbs around in an ad hoc way with little regards for rhythm. Oh, aside from that die-hard guy who appears at the front of every local-music-gig in Sheffield incorporating Tai Chi into his dance moves. Queens on Saturday was no exception.

10+ of them were on stage, a self-described ‘orange monstrosity’ in construction worker uniforms and football strips howling: ‘You think that you are looking like a gangster, you’re not a gangster boy. I know your mum’. That, though, is the beauty of Bison: their total lack of pretention is symptomatic of their city and its inhabitants.

Force Majeure

Saif Mode rolled out entrancing analogue synth arpeggios which hung weightlessly

Saif Mode rolled out entrancing analogue synth arpeggios which hung weightlessly

Words: Sam Gibbons

Force Majeure’s debut night saw the Moor Theatre’s main space taken over by an eclectic mix of electronic experimentation and dancefloor-oriented bass music. Entering the venue was a striking experience – the high-ceilinged room felt especially cavernous as Force Majeure resident Greg White made the most of a formidable sound system with a set of atmospheric droning and crushing noise. Lighting was kept to a minimum, save for a silent black and white film being screened on one of the walls, and as the crowd began to filter into the darkness, White’s set segued into rough techno, setting the mood for the following act; the live set of local duo Saif Mode. As classic Channel U garage and grime videos took over the visuals, the pair rolled out entrancing analogue synth arpeggios which hung weightlessly, until techno-indebted live percussion wormed its way into the mix, getting feet moving and shoulders swaying through the crowd.

Force Majeure massive; Greg, Jonny and Xav

Force Majeure massive; Greg, Jonny and Xav

The eclectic musical ethos of the night was perfectly represented at the point that Timbah took to the decks, following up Saif Mode’s psychedelic live jams by opening with Young Thug’s weirdo trap hit ‘Danny Glover’. A shift in the night’s tone had occurred, and Timbah proceeded to rip through a high energy set, drawing for a riotous but intelligently executed mix of grime, jersey club and bassline. Headliner Iglew was on next, with a set thick with the emotive strain of grime he currently works within but keeping it varied by throwing some dancehall and US rap into the mix. Beatific crystalline melodies and skittering 808 hi-hats reverberated through the space while the melancholic, weightless nature of these productions still retained dancefloor push thanks to their heavy bassweight. Closing the night were Sheffield trio Wölfe, who delivered an hour of bangers ranging from UK Funky to speed garage – much to the delight of a now very merry crowd (whose joyous reaction to GUNDAM’s bootleg of T2’s Heartbroken led to a more than well-earned rewind and a lot of cheering).

All Ears were out in force

All Ears were out in force

Nights in Sheffield featuring the newer varieties of instrumental grime and ‘bass music’ can feel infrequent, especially in comparison to the proliferation and variety of house and techno nights across the city, and it’s even rarer that these two apparently divergent scenes should overlap. Because of this, Force Majeure’s first night felt especially exciting and beyond any more pontificating about genre cross-pollination it was just a whole lotta fun – I’m very much looking forward to seeing what they do next.

 

 

Festival No. Ears

Festival 6 pavilion

The pavilion stage, the epicentre of the village and the symbol of 6’s eccentricity.

Be seeing you…again

Words: Alex Taylor

There exist few music festivals in the UK where one can – within a day’s leisure – dance a ceilidh in a piazza, rave to disco under a canopy of rhododendrons, and watch Grace Jones power through a full set of songs whilst she deftly performs the hula-hoop. At festival Number 6 this year you could do all of these three. All said activities were set amongst the immersive faux-Italianate architectural masterpiece of Portmeirion village and against the backdrop of Snowdonia National Park. The stunning location of this fiesta is undoubtedly Number 6’s unique appeal. These days it seems that festival-goers increasingly want something more than just an auditory experience. And why not? With ticket prices for many four-day events nearing the £200 pound mark, it seems that organizers cannot get away through simply billing a few big names and crowding punters into a field.

The Parade went through the village daily, enchanting old and young alike.

The Parade went through the village daily, enchanting old and young alike.

            Of course, beautiful scenery does not by itself constitute a music festival. But here Number 6 did not fail to deliver, boasting an extensive mix of music old and new, electronic and acoustic. The weekend’s headliners (asides from the indomitable Grace Jones) were Belle & Sebastian, Metronomy, and James – all of whom delivered solid if not particularly mind-blowing performances. A plethora of DJ acts managed to keep the punters’ bodies pumping and included Greg Wilson, Horse Meat Disco, and Craig Charles, among many others. The days could be spent by ambling through the woods, where four different mini-stages provided beats aplenty to get involved in, and by watching a range of guitar-based acts, including Squeeze’s Chris Difford and newcomers Aero Flynn. And of course, no Festival Number 6 would be complete without its annual performance from the Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir; suited men who roar through a mix of traditional and contemporary songs. Their take on Elbow’s One Day Like This rivals the original.

The weekend also included an array of talks, comedy shows, and interviews with the likes of Steve Coogan and Daisy Eris Campbell. Indeed, the festival bills itself as a ‘bespoke banquet of music, arts, and culture’ and so, as with location, the organisers of 6 put much effort into shows that are not primarily music-based. Food also features as very much part of this cultural package, although one may gasp at the £65 + vat per head ‘dinner at Clough’s’. However, a great range of stalls offer reasonably priced, quality festival food such as mustard mac ‘n’ cheese and steak sandwiches.

The main stage at Festival no 6.

The main stage at Festival no 6.

Fans of festivals who largely go for the music, and might I hasten to add dance music, should by no means be put off by the festival’s eclecticism. The site is large enough – and broad-ranging enough – to spend both day and night partying. Neighbouring festival, Gottwood, host their own stage in amongst the scotch pines near to the village, and a floating pontoon makes for an unusual dance for lovers of house and disco. Whilst music in the woods ceases at dusk, there are enough stages in the main arena to carry on the party into the night. Festival Number 6, no doubt I will be seeing you again.

All Ears at Shambala

There's something special about this place.  Photo credit: Carolina Faruolo

There’s something special about this place. Photo credit: Carolina Faruolo

Shambala has built up quite a reputation over the last 15 years, this year with a promise of live music, slam poetry, puppet shows, African drumming, roller discos and an intriguing workshop called Sunday supplement cock drawing, we thought we should go on down and check it out.

Me and My Friends

Words: Ella Wildin

I caused a lot of baffled looks, at Shambala, when I told people I was going to see Me and my Friends. People find it strange that you’re pointedly excluding them from the category of ‘friends’, and that you think it possible to visit yourself. To their relief Me and my Friends are, in fact, a band.

Me and My Friends at the Son Cameleon Stage. Photo credits The Jam Jar Collective

Me and My Friends. Photo credits The Jam Jar Collective

So a small herd of Sheffielders tripped their way across the lake to the healing fields for this seamless fusion of folk, reggae and afrobeat from their sister city Leeds. Take off your shoes, take off your socks and into the Koo Kou’s Nest stage, the rafters of which were weaved with foliage and giant origami birds. A psy-head who was with us made a U-turn when he saw that the crowd were all sitting cross legged – too fucking mellow for a Saturday night. Within a minute of our arrival though, Nick Rasley, guitarist and vocalist, had summoned everyone to their feet with just one swift hand gesture. No vocals needed. The tempo was stomping upwards along with the crowd. And we were locked in. Nick Rasley’s strumming and Sam Murray’s clarinet bouncing off the tent walls and Emma Coleman’s cello pulling us back to the stage.

It’s hard to compare them to anything but, to use a Sheffield framework, somewhere between Mango Rescue Team’s flamboyant ‘tropical’ reggae and Solana’s joyous gypsy-folk is where you’ll find Me and My Friends. And you’ll be seeing them at Haggler’s Corner soon, for sure.

 

Gramatik           

Words: Jack Lloyd

Photo credits: Cheyanna O'Connor

Photo credits: Cheyanna O’Connor

Gramatik gave a belting performance on the main stage at Shambala, taking the crowds through his disparate influences and styles in chronological order. Starting with his earlier jazzy trip-hop influenced beats from his various Street Bangerz albums, he filled the crowd with a vibrant and soulful energy. Brass and piano samples flaring alongside snappy snares kept the audience jiving away. Typical of Gramatik’s love for real instrumentation, a live performance feel was injected into the show with a trumpet player careering on stage and playing alongside the grooving beats. The set travelled subtly and seamlessly from these jazzy roots to much heavier bass driven melodies in a style reminiscent of Mr. Scruff. It was as if the crowd hadn’t noticed that they had been lured from their funky feet bopping to full blown fist pumping. This meant Gramatik’s later released dub-step influenced glitch ridden tunes had been fully released into the wilderness of the festival. ‘Fruity Friday’ had progressed into the night and Shambala’s suspect bearded ladies were pounding their way around their outdoor dance floor. Wobbles aplenty but still with that grooving style so characteristic of Gramatik.

Spanner

Words: Ruby Baker

It’s the Sunday Night, around 1am and Shambala Festival is now largely a dying beast. Glittery people are trudging in the rain, eating pizza and we are considering doing the same when we hear ‘Now there’s been enough of this hippe shit…’ and we run into the Rebel Soul Stage to find Spanner has taken the stage. Special brew cans aplenty; Spanner stir up the sweaty heaving mass with their militant punk’d up ska. The Bristol band play punk not for ‘entertaining “alternative” consumers or being part of the illusion of rebellion’ and songs such as ‘Punk as Fuck’ is a damning critique of the tough guys and fashion punx of the community. For Spanner the aim for tonight is to ‘strike fear into the hearts of capitalists, cops, bosses and politicians everywhere’ and they certainly find a receptive audience in the Rebel Soul crew. Danceable but with a spiky political message, the bouncing brass and skanking beats is just what’s needed as the festival grinds to a halt. ‘Autonomous Spaces’ sees a massive surge and in a split second someone from the crowd is up on stage joining in with their trombone and a tiny bit of festival magic happens. Much better than your, overpriced, stone baked pizza!

Shambala Stage. Photo credit Carolina Faruolo

Shambala Stage. Photo credit Carolina Faruolo

 

SON CAMELEON by Ru Robinson (DJ)

Words: Sabina Wantoch

Waking up to that dismal sound of heavy rain…. Heart sinks. Tent becomes a submarine of safety. It’s all I have against the swamp of mud and abandoned packaging that I can feel creeping in through the outer layer…

Nightmares of being devoured by a rotting Special Brew box briefly flash through my mind. I hug myself tighter inside my sleeping bag.

Finally I’m up and awake, and it has to be said: the campsite does look pretty depressing from here. Green grass is starting to give way to a dark coloured sludge, my fellow festival-goers transform into hooded blurs. I look up for guidance: infinite greyness stares down.

Self-pitifully, I join the river of Shambalians and just let myself float – float past the toilets, the shops, the sexy-as-fuck girl in the bakery, friends painted blue with horns, distant disco boots, various plastic galaxies, pink hair, blue hair, swinging fur coats, police ravers all cascade past until I am washed up in the most perfect spot I could dream of.

Inside the Son Cameleon. Photo credits Tanglefacearts

Inside the Son Cameleon. Photo credits Tanglefacearts

Welcome to Son Cameleon. Out of the mud rises a rig on peddles disguised as a giant, psychedelic chameleon; and she is beautiful – flaunting scales made from elegant tapestry, huge beaded eyes that turn into whirlpools of technicolour if you dare engage them in a stare! She has an awe about her, as she slowly traverses the landscape, drawing me in like forgotten cider oozing along behind her. Oozing but pumping at the same time – that kind of tentacle stomp that usually emerges at sunrise, when I’m mentally enlightened but physically, utterly wilted. Like the resurrection of a dead banana skin, perhaps.

It’s impossible to stop pumping away to her exotic beats; something vaguely euphoric house but with a tropical twist of drums and sax. Whatever it is, it’s incredible. It lights up the sky with energy and technicolour! I used to think reptiles were too zen, maybe even a bit psychotic in their cold stillness… but Mama Cameleon is a diva. The samba drums amongst the bass inject such absolute funk into her pedalled step: I never thought stumpy reptilian legs could pump so hard. I can’t help but let my human self fully succumb to this wobbly reptile world as I join her many chameleon offspring.