Sea of Bees: The Bowery, Sheffield

What better place for folk than the Bowery, with its cosy, retro glam-gran living room vibe? Man Made was an unexpected and welcome surprise. Just take one man, add one electric guitar to one loop pedal and hey presto! Who needs a band when you’ve got this much talent in one finger? He has a softer style than his Manga grunge style might suggest. From his opening song onwards, I thought of Idlewild and Snow Patrol with their electric, but melodic sound. His vocals had the tone and lyrical sincerity of Gary Lightbody, particularly in the strummy and subtley sad, ‘Don’t thank God’. There was another song in which I was impressed by layered guitar riffs and bassy undertones which almost gave the impression that there was a drum beneath it. His last song, ‘Happiness (We’re All Invited)’, was intriguing and atmospheric. Though heavy in places, his progressive rock is heart felt and emotionally hits you. With his haunting, dark but delicate sound, Man Made is certainly an artist with spark.

James Walbourne plus his band brought upbeat country fun. Their first song had an American country feel, as did the second, titled, ‘The Hill’. These are the kinds of songs that make you want to jump into a pick up truck and drive down a long and dusty highway. ‘Nothern Heights’ was closer to home with Irish folk vocals and banjo style guitar. It then progressed into a thigh slapping, arm linking song laced with ‘ye-ha’ shrieks. This and the line ‘…killed her in the churchyard’ was enough to convince me that I had been transported to a barn dance. Speeding up towards the end it was met with excited applause. In their next musical concoction, Walbourne played an instrument that looked like a ‘green sleeves’ style loot, whilst a member of the band continued on double bass and another played the wash board. Finally was ‘Cocaine Eyes’, a twangy, jaunty country song. James Walbourne and the band came across as very together and very entertaining.

By now the bar to my left is getting ridiculously busy with the usual Friday night drinkers. Despite feeling like a sardine in a can, I did appreciate the cute and quirky duo, Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou. When I say cute, I mean in the way that they appeared so comfortable in each others presence, it didn’t matter how many people watched. Secondly quirky is the only way to describe Trevor’s vocals combined with Hannah Lou’s higher vocals that twirled around his. The first song was upbeat and had an optimistic sixties feel with the pair holding a guitar each and singing into the same microphone. ‘The Allotment Song’ had a quaint, old fashioned feel and would have had a fantastic atmosphere had it not been for the loud talkative crowd. Hannah Lou’s vocals were particularly high in ‘Concorde’ and ‘Cheap Wine’ had a similar country style to that of James Walbourne. Overall, the two were pitch-perfect and had great chemistry. Trevor’s is a voice I cannot compare to anyone.

Like Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou, female duo Sea of Bees create quirky and harmonious folk vocals whilst each are armed with acoustic guitars. Julie Baenziger’s vocals in their opening song combined with her blond sidekick’s were dreamy and dipped unexpectedly. ‘Gnomes’ had a slight Kill Bill feel owing to the American country guitar and Japanese style vocals. Baenziger, in her denim and dark bowl cut hair started to remind me of a cross between Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding whilst by the third song, howling like a possessed Kate Bush. Despite their amazingly haunting and atmospheric voices, Sea of Bee’s songs did start to sound the same. Could it simply be that their vocals spoke volumes more than their strumming guitars? All I know is, it was time for this sardine to leave the can.

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