The Answering Machine: The Harley Sheffield

Another top line up at The Harley, with this particular night hosted by Threads. Boasting Manc high flyers Answering Machine, Sheffield’s own top notch crew Flying Squad and singer songwriter Mike Hughes.

Having seen Mike three times in the last three weeks including a recent Counterfeit live review I feel it best to keep comments to a minimum. Suffice to say he has a voice so good it can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Tonight accompanied on a few tracks by Bill Bainbridge on harmonica and guitar, Mike’s set is as inspirational as ever. The only downside is the lack of audience numbers, a feature of more than a few Sheffield gigs recently. Maybe due to an overdose of certain bands playing too regularly?

Next up are Flying Squad, who rose from the ashes of the legendary indie punksters Harrisons. Their trademark is rich sounding melodic songs with deep, dark vocals like ‘Militia House’. Described accurately by their excellent front man Ben Stanton as “about death and dark shit like that”. My personal favourites were ‘Haunted House’ with it’s atmospheric guitar and moody vocals and the breathtaking instrumental ‘Dillinger’ with its driving bass. The guys closed the set with another cracker, ‘Fearless Leader’. The small crowd that are here show their appreciation with a raucous send off.

It seems it’s the absent crowds loss as Answering Machine take the stage and blast off at a frenetic pace with ‘Lightbulbs’. Frontman Martin Colclough plays with a very short guitar strap which has the effect of raising his guitar to chin level. This in no way prevents his ability to drive the band forward with, what seems at times, controlled chaos. With bassist Gemma Evans bouncing from start to finish it’s a very visual, high energy set with a refreshingly raw sound.

They are boosted by backing tracks on some songs; like the bells and jangling keys on standout track ‘Emergency’. The band also give new track ‘Hospital Lung,’ a first airing, with an edgy pacey beat, it slots in the set seamlessly. The Answering Machine are an exciting quartet, who started life slowly as a duo after Martin and Pat Fogarty met at Uni, followed by the inclusion of Gemma on bass and a drum machine quirkily named Mustapha Beat. Until eventually finding a human drummer in the form of the dynamic Ben Perry.

Their debut album ‘Another City, Another Sorry’ was released a few months ago to much critical acclaim and on the basis of tonight’s set it’s definitely on my Christmas present list.

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