The Half Earth + Support: Savills Barbers, Sheffield

Bored of predictable gigs at the usual venues? Sofar Sounds organise gigs in cities all over the world and are dedicated to bringing you surprise acts in interesting and secret locations. It’s easy to attend one of these gigs and it’s absolutely free (but donations are very welcome). Just sign up to the Sofa Sounds mailing list and each month, they’ll send you a list of upcoming gigs in a number of cities. Click on your city and you will be put on the gig guestlist. Simple. The only catch is, you find out the venue 24 hours before the event and you won’t find out the acts until you arrive. This month, Sofar Sounds Sheffield have selected the beautiful, award-winning, Savills Barbers on Division Street as their venue. Now to see who will be playing…

I soak up the quirky, cosy surroundings, including the old-fashioned barbers chairs, framed sailor tattoo drawings, stained-glass lampshades and the Sofar Sounds bunting and fairy lights draped over a deer’s head, at the far end of the room. Singer/songwriter, Josh Kemp is first to play in front of this backdrop. He plays catchy pop-rock with melodic layers of guitar and vocals, with help from a loop pedal. Kemp has a positive, lovable presence and the crowd are easily convinced to clap along to light-hearted song, ‘Four Letters’. He moves onto a strummy song with interesting heartbeat drumming, and finishes with the amusing, ‘The Hangover Song’, with impressively fast singing, bordering on Ed Sheeran-style rapping, before singing choruses of “I’ll never drink again.” Ah, yes. We can all relate to this guy!

Next is Laura James & The Lyres. Laura James’ guitar and lilting, folk vocals captivate the crowd, whilst Ben Eckersley’s cello gives ‘Strangers’ an emotive edge. The audience are so absorbed, they watch in complete silence. As the song finishes, tweeting can be heard and James laughs, realising there are two pet birds in the room, singing along. The most heart-breaking song features James’ vocals, beautifully fluctuating over the words, “You are loved”, as if she is crying. She finishes with the chirpier, ‘Roof Tops’, about a house she lived in with low ceilings, in Liverpool. Laura James & The Lyres are a fascinating act, whose most melancholy songs are their most enchanting.

The Half Earth is tonight’s headliner. His reverberating electric guitar and echoing high-pitch vocals have a haunting and atmospheric effect, which can be calming one moment, and surprisingly noisy and chaotic, the next. Single, ‘Glass’ demonstrates this, with sparse buzzing strums and angelic vocals which build to an almost aggressive climax. ‘Come Whatever’ has deeper vocals with dark, angsty guitars, before he finishes with the fittingly named, ‘End’. It’s no surprise audiences were singing The Half Earth’s praises when his acoustics blessed Sheffield Cathedral for Tramlines last year. The Sofar Sounds organisers thank the small, but mightily applauding audience, before Savills shut shop. Now the only question is, when and where is the next Sofar Sounds gig going to be?

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