Sheffield gets cold and snowy while the gig goes on tonight. That pitter-patter? That would be five inches of snow hastily settling on and around Queens Social Club. I’d like to think I knew all this was going as outside, making my journey home ever harder and heavier. But I didn’t. Instead, I spotted the Balkan Bandits’ frontwoman dart between doorways, adapting the comic sneak of a cartoon thief.
Like a good sitcom, the premise (Yugoslavian folk band play pop tunes) just need be strong enough to cradle the resulting wackiness. In that respect, the Bandits do not disappoint. ‘I Will Survive’, rebuilt as an oompah stomp, proves conclusively that dancing pre-dates disco; a song about a space programme incites mass pogoing; they do a really good rendition of Star Wars’ ‘Cantina Music’ at one point, for six seconds. And so on. Later, the Balkin Bandits fire processed cheese squares when we start to flag, sparking pandae-fucking-monium.
Electric Swing Circus take a slightly different tack. Two singers, one in white one in black, lead the mainly acoustic band through a string of film/swing songs with brash big beat knobs on. But frustratingly, each member’s playing is continually put under the cosh by the next drum machine breakdown. Obviously the band want to have it both ways, serving both a traditional gig and a hyper-kinetic, accessible dance show, but it’s a difficult feat keeping the ‘swing’ side relevant while the ‘Electric’ side smacks you in the face. Everyone gets The Beat, so it wins, at least at a live show. Club hit and woeful genre landmark ‘We Speak No Americano’ (a perfect storm of lazy sampling and dull production, devoid of interest) might be great live – it’s got no swing at all. Conversely, Electric Swing Circus do swing, but the swing largely plays second fiddle.
None of which stops Queens Social Club becoming a rave, with Electric Swing Circus coming back on at the end to finish us off. On the whole, tonight is something of a triumph for Na Zdrove, who’ve been organising nights like these in Sheffield for six years now, pulling in festival-sized acts such as SC without corporate sponsorship or little of the marketing machine behind them. This packed out gig is treatment to the diverse, independent events that you can find all over Sheffield – if you know where to look.