Once a multi-roomed coaching inn, Shakespeares is heavily patronised by musicians, story-tellers, poets and lovers of all things cultural. At just shy of 200 years old, it’s a wee bit crumbly, but it can still host a cracking gig. And this was one such hellacious happening from Sheffield promoters Macho Music is Stupid.
I was a bit less than sparkly by the time I shuffled up to the Shakespeare, so I was really quite glad to be shaken awake by a surprisingly loud local indie-pop combo known as The Sweet Nothings. Their unpolished but sprightly performance was seriously smile-worthy. Drumming from the school of The Jam, simple, solid bass, and some really quirky synth sounds all came together over me. I felt myself falling for this eardrum-wrangling, jolly, glittery band. It was a fun first date. I’d like to see them again.
Once a threesome, now a pared down pair, All Girls Arson Club are uber-cool, very funny, and they really know how to rock a mullet. With all the best punky, slacker-pop tunes and a Runaways vibe, they will tell you they haven’t practiced. But they probably have. And they have real skills. They make tight drumming and a conglomerate of chord changes look even easier than finding something weird on the Wish website. A duo with real chemistry, watching them is like being in on the in joke. Slightly surreal, a bit rude and pretty witty, All Girls Arson Club make the mundane meaningful. And they giggle while they do it.
Cornering the market in miserablism, The Just Joans sometimes wafty, always catchy tunes may sound as though they are all about flowers and pearls and pretty girls, but they are most definitely not. They make cynical, pithy and mildly depressed sound like a fun way to be. And fun they are, as long as you like your humour pitch black.
From bouncy to ballady, this Glaswegian indie-pop sextet played solid, synthy, un-sappy songs to a delighted crowd it seemed they had brought with them from Scotland. Even the obligatory “photographer at the front” (the very talented Michael Prince) was a fellow Scot. I felt like I’d rocked up at a family gathering without an invite but that no-one really minded.
If The Beautiful South and Kirsty MacColl made a pact to form a band that fans of the Proclaimers might turn to on a dark and dismal night in December, they may well have created The Just Joans. Their perfectly constructed, quietly uncomplicated melodies probe the darker side of love, and like melodic Valium, rock you into a state of unruffled languor.
Review and Photography by H J Nicol