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South Yorks, South South Yorks

July 6, 2010

As you may have noticed, I’m quite a nice person really. Mostly have good things to say about people.

But today, dear readers, I fight back. I went to a gig last night and feel compelled to review it, not something I do often as much as just saying what was on. But like I say – compelled.

As a last minute fixture, I was called upon by fellow blogger Aurore to head down to SoYo (short for South Yorkshire – nifty) for one of their SoYo Live nights that happen most Mondays. I was already going to be in town for a meeting so I thought I may as well give it a go, as the last time we went we had a great time there and it was packed out full of keen teens (and the rest of us) waiting to see The Violet May – everyone’s favourite up and coming local band with the boy from the Arctic Monkeys’ cover.

I arrived part way through a set from ‘Spit n Strings‘ – a hip-hop duo consisting of Tom on acoustic guitar, and Jim on the mike. First – the positive. They were hilarious. Dealing with a lethargic Monday night crowd is not always easy when one of the main parts of your act is cracking jokes and comedy covers (like, The Fresh Prince theme tune as sung by Jack Johnson anyone?), but they pulled it off with ease and I was laughing away at a lot of the lyrics and jokes. My buddies, a French and a German, were a little lost in translation with the rhymes being in a bit of a ‘SoYo’ accent, but they will learn my friends, they will learn. The negative, I’m afraid, was that I just didn’t rate them technically. I wasn’t engaged by Jim (MC Mannerz)’s rapping and frequently found myself wishing his delivery was better. That said, he was incredibly confident and I think that with time the act may improve, especially as they only formed last year. I also found issue with the lyrics on one of their songs, ‘Sheffield Streetlights’ – a lament almost to the street prostitutes of Sheffield (and worldwide). I think it’s fantastic that pop, hip-hop, rock etc are taking this subject to a more intelligent place than the absurdity of the American popular hip-hop scene, but unfortunately their message was really wide of the mark. The end of the song implied that prostitution is ‘taking our girls’ – denying the agency of the sex workers. I know that this is a political difference but I do sometimes wonder whether people think about the ins and outs of such subject matter – it’s really not enough to feel sorry for or worry for the welfare of sex workers – you have to fight for their rights too. Kudos to both of them but I can’t help thinking I’d rather go and watch them as a stand up act.

After that was Goldsoul – seeing them on the lineup my mind was wondering what they’d sound like – being the band sandwiched between a standup/acoustic/hip hop duo and the atmospheric Violet May, it could really have been anything…Goldfinger? Goldfrapp? Santogold? Nope. These guys were making me angry by the end of their warm up, and not for the good heavy rock reasons. I really wanted to like this band because they were having such trouble with the effects pedals and the feedback off the speakers I felt like they needed a boost. Unfortunately I couldn’t persuade myself, or indeed those around me who either had their fingers in their ears because of the distortion or were trying hard to work out what was going on underneath it. The band visually looked like they all wanted to be in different bands…we had Paul Weller, Dave Grohl…it was great. I don’t care that much about a band’s look but this did strike me. However the biggest bugbear was just that this band was all over the place. The fact that the singer/guitarist’s distortion pedal kept cutting out really showed how much they were relying on it and made myself and some other gig goers question his technical ability. I think the point is that he could be an incredible guitarist but we would never have known – whatever your genre, effects are meant to enhance and not drown the sound. The whole sound initially came off as a louder Oasis wannabe, but later my friend pointed out the similarity to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and we were convinced of their influences (which are not bad, but distinctive). Low and behold I checked out their Myspace and there both bands were. At least they know their sound, I guess. I guess my main issue with this band is that due to the above mentioned and the fact that the vocalist seemed surplus to requirements (it really looked like a group of guys who just wanted an excuse to thrash their instruments about), they were quite dull and reminded me of a lot of the gigs I used to go to when I was younger. I guess I’ve become more discerning these days (in my old age – ha!) but perhaps that’s because the local scene has blossomed so much since the Arctic Monkeys kicked off that we expect more from unsigned bands now. I am willing, however, to give Goldsoul the benefit of the doubt considering they had a lot of technical issues and hope to see them in better circumstances another day when I hope they will prove me wrong.

So last one, The Violet May – these guys are playing so frequently now it’s hard not to become some sort of minor groupie. For me this is also largely because my aforementioned foreign language assistant friends all got to know the band months back and hang out with them at their gigs – clearly having that foreign charm gets you meeting all the ‘cool kids’. The guys definitely picked the night up and were on good form. I saw them a couple of weeks back and Chris’s propensity to play with expensive light fittings and attack the audience with a mike stand is endearing to some, largely entertaining, but irritating to others…I think I sit on the fence. He’s definitely making some strides for the anti-smokin-ban-camp anyway. Sound wise they were excellent, and whatever issues the set up was having was rectified by this point as the atmospheric wall of sound they have created an instantly danceable mood. I’m not going to say much more except that I enjoyed the set, I reckon they’re improving gig-by-gig, and that besides the ‘on-stage-antics’ their sound really speaks for itself. Chris gave me their newer demo CD which I haven’t yet had a chance to listen to but will give it a go on the old stereo.

And so, to the venue. SoYo’s a strange fruit. Saturday nights it’s teeming with tangoed bombeshells and blokes clad head to toe in G Star streetwear. These Monday nights however it turns into a chilled little indie hole, but with nice chairs and clean floors (something I’m sure many grimey shoegazers secretly long for). The line up is erratic so it’s definitely worth checking out their Monday nights – for all my above moans it’s free entry so never a bad place to head. The cocktails are limited and come up at around £5 for what I would consider a long drink but comes in a small glass – not sure if it’s worth it. I ended up dancing barefoot to the DJ after the bands finished – whose setlist came somewhere near ‘wedding disco’  but I loved it all the same. Apparently the security guy told him to play Drum and Bass…sort of glad he didn’t. Cheers for the Stevie too.

So off we toddled on a Monday night singing Ray Charles’ ‘Hit the Road Jack’ in French, English, and German.

Love (I promise), Sheffield

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    July 8, 2010 10:15 pm

    I don’t own a distortion pedal. It were me chromatic tuner’s input that’s frigged, so it were sendin me compressor pedal haywire, as it’s next in the chain. After a couple of songs of it playin up I really couldn’t – and neither could any of the band – be bothered with feytin it. So no wonder we seemed a bit dull. Bit like gettin to work and yer computer packin in every 2mins. Mecks yer feel like just goin home. Hey ho, get yer shiny arse to our Tramlines gig. Frog & Parrot, Satdi 24th at 5:30. Yer more than welcome – in fact, the milky bars are on me. We’ll even dress a-like for your visual stimulation. Any requests? We do a mean Chuckle Borthers. Or just the usual skinny jeans, ripped t-shirt and teck-yer-eye-out pointy shoes? DM esq.

    • July 8, 2010 10:29 pm

      Kudos mate, you are a thick skinned soul. I since saw your (very positive) write up on NME which leads me to think maybe you were having a bad night. I will do my very bestest to catch you at Tramlines, hoping it doesn’t clash with the other gig I want to go to on the Saturday.



  2. Marc permalink
    July 9, 2010 11:43 am

    Thought it was a good night, bit to drunk though me thinks for a monday. We went for Violet May , but i thought goldsoul under the circumstances did well. Saw them at leadmill and was a good gig, some good ol rock n roll.

    • July 11, 2010 7:50 pm

      Yeah I had to control myself it is always a bit boozy for a Monday! I think it’s a great start to the week though and props to SoYo for making it free.

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