Blessa seem to have been playing things sensibly of late. Unwilling to be thrust too hastily into the limelight, and despite already hyped to be Sheffield’s next big export, they only have a handful of songs committed to tape that are readily available, and barely any decent photos in the digital realm.
It’s rather apt that, due to an earlier afternoon projector theft, Blessa are bathed in darkness in the corner of a chilly Montgomery Hall. Just like their online presence, their faceless and brandless manifestation just lets their music do the talking.
Tonight they are launching their new single ‘Between Times’ which, as a title, describes Blessa perfectly. There are clear late 80s/early 90s alt-pop influences in their sound; the flanged guitars of The Cure, the dreamy understated vocals of Mazzy Star, the dynamic rhythm section of Echo and the Bunnymen. But at the same time, there’s something fresh about Blessa’s sound too, breathing life into a withering, once boisterous, local scene. It’s none more apparent on the single’s flipside ‘Bloom’. A galvanising beat lays the backdrop for gloomy and nostalgic chords while vocalist Olivia Neller’s melodies are as infectious as they are homespun. They close the set with the single itself; teeming with such sophisticated pop melodies that it’s hard to believe this material has been written by such a young band still finding its feet.
Earlier, Best Friends brought a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Frantic, balls-out rock n roll cut from the same cloth as the likes of Libertines and Walkmen. Sometimes it can feel like the wrong kind of nostalgia; the performance-over-musicianship philosophy can be endearing at times, but otherwise borders on grating. The slurred vocals, the lowest of lo-fi soundscapes, the fast-as-you-can tempos – all of which don’t seem as authentic as it purports to be.
Night Flowers sit closer to Blessa musically, but with more of an adolescent attitude shared by the likes of Belle and Sebastian. Perhaps that adolescence carries across too plentiful; their girl/boy shared vocals are pleasant enough, but they leave the stage without really giving the listener all that much to remember them by. However, there are clear pockets of potential and the sheer passion of the lead male vocalist may be enough to help them be realised.
Opening tonight’s proceedings was The Half Earth, a solo artist armed only with a guitar saturated in cathedral reverb and a near-operatic voice. The highlight of the set is ‘Fox’, Conor Stephenson’s nature-themed lyrics floating on minimalist guitar-play is unassuming but extremely effective.