Below the Radar: Sheffield

Where do you find good music in Sheffield on a wet Sunday evening? You can visit the usual music venues, or you can scratch below the surface, turn down a different sidestreet and discover something more challenging and intimate.

Gabby Young has just undertaken a mini-tour of vintage shops in England and she stopped off at Bang Bang Vintage to play a solo set in front of an appreciative shopful of fans, employees and curiosity-seekers. And her dad. She is from London via Wiltshire and has been mentored by Al Stewart, sharing a stage with him on dates from Oregon to London. She is promoting her album ‘We’re All In This Together’ and, though this was recorded with her 8-piece band, she played 5 songs from it accompanied only by her acoustic guitar. As a child she sang with the National Youth Choir and briefly considered an operatic career, so it is no surprise that her voice and range are impressive – frequently letting her voice soar and swoop. Simple versions of ‘Like A Virgin’ and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ perfectly showcase the purity of her pipes. It will be interesting to see these songs fleshed out by a full band, and with much early interest from Croatia and Australia, 2010 could be a big year for this big talent.

Down the round is Archipelago Works, an old cutlery workshop, which is hosting an evening of acts on the Singing Knives label. The artists play in a room 15 feet square, which only allows about 30 people access.

Ross Parfitt performs 2 pieces – the first has him hitting half a hi-hat at 10 second intervals. Sometimes he dampens the sound with his other hand to alter the pitch and attack. The piece finishes with more violent strikes as the sound echoes around the confined space. The second piece finds Rick playing funereal chords on a Bontempi reed organ.

The Whole Voyald are a duo performing guitar meditations – one plays slow, single notes while his partner plays controlled feedback, accompanying himself with sub-operatic shrieks. The single piece is brought to a climax with violent stabs at the guitar producing sheets of atonal noise.

Italian duo Alberorovesciato play a mainly percussive piece, with conventional drums and cymbals strewn on the floor together with a variety of “found” objects (butter dishes, sugar bowls, knitting needles). Rhythms are revealed, then discarded as new and more complex patterns are sought and shared. Quiet, contemplative passages are followed by intense bursts of flailing arms, clattered drums and smashed cymbals.

2 little-advertised shows from either end of the spectrum show that your musical diet needn’t be restricted to guitar bands at conventional venues. And with entrance fees totalling £3 you can’t use cost as an excuse not to broaden your musical education.