Cowtown and Avida Dollars: The Bell Jar, Sheffield

A Friday night, raining heavily, London Road resembled more of a murky swampland than the cultural buzz it usually carries in the daytime. However despite the gloomy weather, keen gig-goers, hipsters and locals alike would not be put off to venture down to the now notorious venue The Bell Jar. Such a mix one would assume to be a dangerous chemical alchemy but surprisingly it works and as Avida Dollars took to the stage, excitement bubbled throughout the well packed out little pub. Infamous for their bare-chests, it was a rather toned down affair for the Sheffieldan/Trans-Atlantic grungist-rockers, with only frontman Joseph donning a naked torso and what looked like a dressing gown from Hogwarts. Known for their chaotic stage performances, dives and mosh pits, tonight was somewhat a solemn affair as it was to be bass guitar player Reeves last show with the band.

Quirky guitar riffs, bass-plucking and keyboard slamming created the atmosphere, with Joseph providing the noise, his screams and desperate cries resonating throughout the crowd. Half-way through the set, it seemed the Dollars were somewhat lacklustre in performance, but calls to ‘stick our middle fingers in the air’ in order to ‘feel the vibe’ had them back to their mischievous selves. We were soon enlightened to their not-so with it performance, as they admitted ‘we did quite a lot of drugs yesterday, sorry if we’re not feeling it.’ Honest and yet still rock and roll to the end, Avida Dollars always put on a good show, the emotion Joseph harnesses and interaction between each band member ensures they truly are a sensation for our generation of commercially churned out pop.

The microphone dented, our final mosh to ‘Louie Louie’ and chants of ‘Reeves, Reeves, Special Reeves’ meant despite not witnessing glass-smashing or stage-diving, I was still enthralled by the local Bell Jar specials. Reeves’ last performance may not have mirrored a scene from Breaking Bad, but it was intimate none the less. Reeves, you will be missed.

Following up Sheffield favourites are (relatively) local Leeds’ Cowtown. Born out of the Audacious Art Experiment Records, Cowtown had gone all out – they were each wrapped head to toe in toilet roll. They certainly got into the mummy character as their edgy post-punk electronic tracks were delivered with robotic like movements. Cowtown are already a favourite of mine, as lead vocalist Jon channels David Byrne head twitches and peculiar body movements with ‘Monotone Face’ well-suited for such mechanical sentimentalities. One reason Cowtown are always a pleasure to watch is the sheer civility and graciousness they put into each performance. It strikes me as rare for a band to perform without gimmicks or ‘crazy’ personas, and so as Cowtown finished with the very apt The Mummies’ ‘The Fly’, I left the Bell Jar refuelled and refreshed of music sensibility. It was late on a Friday night and yet I felt rejuvenated and full of hope that whilst bands like Avida Dollars and Cowtown were continuing to create great music, perhaps one day Simon Cowell’s domination over the music industry would be shattered… Well, until the next X-Factor Christmas release anyway.


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