Live Review:Sisteray, Civic Green + The Novus at Network, Sheffield

This was my first visit to Network, a new, 500-capacity venue in the centre of Sheffield, the love-child of arts-space DINA and vinyl emporium Record Junkee.  It made a pleasant change to be patronising a new gig space instead of bemoaning their demise.

The Sheffield leg of Sisteray’s biggest tour to date included a 3-band support, meaning an ambitious four bands in 135 mins and a potential battle to meet the strict 10.30pm curfew.  I missed the first band, Walls, who hail from Rotherham, and list their interests on Facebook as “Football, beer and birds”. Having bumped into them on my way into the venue I suspect this may not be an ironic list.

Brum-band The Novus were proper punk in a way that says “we can only just play our instruments but we’re getting out there anyway”. Energetic, anarchic, gritty and seemingly not listening to one another at all, they raged through their garage-rock post-punk set.  By the end of their allotted slot, they were flying like a bunch of Red Bull addicts who’d recently encountered a young, wild-haired Iggy Pop-alike and persuaded him to perform out front for them.  At times completely chaotic, at others bold and ballsy, when they came together, they really did come together.

An abrupt change of pace from the intensity of The Novus, Civic Green brought a whole lot of rock and roll to the stage. Songs with a Stiff Little Fingers vibe and indie-tastic tunes that wouldn’t have been out of place in the noughties, this South Yorkshire foursome played a disappointingly stoic set.  I’d read that Civic Green leaned in that direction, but I thankfully saw no sign of Blur-asis.  I’m sad to say they didn’t grab me or shake me around.  They did however jostle me gently towards the bar, which was fine by me.

Then Sisteray’s first song lifted me up, and plonked me straight back at the front of the stage.  The same level of energy that poured, raw and unmanaged from The Novus was cajoled and wrangled by Sisteray into songs with rolling, rhythmic riffs and pointed, perceptive, politicised lyrics.  “Are you happy being a target market, because we are not” shouted singer Niall Rowan, and the audience yelled their agreement.  As did I, although in my case it’s mostly Saga Holidays I’m targeted with these days, and those are actually starting to look like a fun option. That said, the bands Sisteray invoked in my mind would easily qualify for their bus-passes.  Classic punk performers Sham 69, Bauhaus, The Clash, and Buzzcocks could all make a claim for influencing this Camden band.

Sisteray are beautifully balanced musically, and this is equally true of their stage presence.  Except for the drummer (heard but sadly not well seen), the guitarists and singer shared the spotlight, providing an experience as visually entertaining as it was aurally stimulating.

And with the band building to a final-song crescendo, the soundman stopped play and the gig ended like a damp squib.  With only two minutes left, no extra time, and definitely no penalties, the final whistle had been blown.  Such is the downside of a city-centre venue located in close proximity to city-dwellers and with a rock-hard curfew as a condition of the license.

And there ended a full-on evening of indie, punk and politics, with all three bands giving impassioned pleas to vote the Tories out.  It was just a shame it ended so abrup…

Review & Photography by H J Nicol

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