Last night saw Northern Exposure at The Frog and Parrot, our first collaborative event with the fabulous Division Street venue. The ethos behind Northern Exposure is that we support musicians and their music by giving them the exposure they deserve and the recognition they have earned in the way we welcome them to our nights and support them while they are here. Nick Simmonite at The Frog and Parrot has a similar ethos in the way he hosts events. Beverages (alcoholic and a rather gorgeous lemon, honey and ginger tea for the singers) and weighty platters of tasty food served at regular intervals along with our party bags showed the bands real Sheffield hospitality!
Our four bands arrived to be met by the great Aaron Procter who’d been running around preparing the performance area and sound well before they got there. As Paul and Alex arrived from Riffly, all set to film the event for us tonight, we knew we had all bases covered and just hoped that we’d enthused the locals enough to bring in a healthy audience.
The evening could begin and in the words of Jess from Calva Louise, ‘We know we’re going to have fun – we’re ready to party!’
Civic Green started the night off and while we had come to expect a mellow indie sound from the boys’ earlier tracks and a gentle vocal from Danny, we could hear a definite shift to a rockier vibe as soon as their set began.
Andy and Brad are cutting much heavier performances which really works and we all had slight instrument-envy over their glossy red Epiphone guitars. Liam on drums held it all together with some really clever drumming – some trippy, some thrashing – all over the delicate lyrics we’ve come to expect.
Forever was my favourite from their set. Danny’s vocals were on point – he’s been working on his voice and I’m sure the Frog & Parrot honey and lemon tea had something to do with it!
It’s a clear shift for them in to a new sound and it works really well. Even a problematic amp at the start of their set didn’t faze them and in true NE spirit, Tom from Fluorescents handed over his amp and all was saved. The evening could continue.
Rich from Bang Bang Romeo was impressed: ‘Really enjoyed Civic Green’s set, their song writing in particular holds a lot of potential!’
Fluorescents were up next, moving everything back in the stage area to make a little space as ‘We’re really heavy and we like to move around a lot!’ Cited as a psychedelic, grunge, dirty rock n roll band, the Fluorescents now have a line-up of four after their female guitarist, Kamisha, joined them 18 months ago. With Joel on bass and Gavin on drums they create a loud and grungy noise which then evaporates in to light psychedelia before descending back to heavy rock again. The lead singer, Tom, was absolutely right when he said they had a sound that was more on the heavy side – grunge, rock, bordering on a dark punky sound with a smattering of metal. Definitely our heaviest band of the night.
Their track, Gypsy Jellyfish, started with a heavy grunge rock and then gradually moved in to more psychedelic sound amid a heavy drum beat. This band play around with many different genres such as reggae, heavy rock, metal, grunge with occasional heavy Led Zeppelin-inspired stadium sounds. I was a hop, skip and a jump from the stage area and they presented heart-shaking drum beats with a raw raucous punk sound. People stood all around with some head banging throughout.
‘Pretty Fuck You is a track on our EP, ‘Tom said. ‘We’re not in to politics usually but this one is directed at Theresa May.’
It’s an angry explosive tune, playing around with the tempo and genre. The crowd loved it and they finished to standing applause.
The bands all sat and chatted together during set changes, and as the rain came down in sheets outside, people continued to enter, taking refuge with us for the evening.
As Calva Louise took to the stage, with Jess on vocals and lead guitar, Alizon on bass and Ben on drums, the mood changed. Travelling all the way up to us from London, this was their first time playing in the north and the crowd were not familiar with their sound. They look so striking – it’s always good to see a female fronting a band anyway, but Jess just commands respect from her demeanour and amazing vocals.
‘Well, this is my first time in Sheffield,’ she started. ‘This is great!’
The bands cheered and from the moment she started singing her songs, she had the crowd in the palm of her hand. People sat at tables stood up and joined the already swelling crowd and people walked in off the street as the rain subsided and their pop-punk melodic harmonies between Jess and Alizon just bounced off the crowd. Her range was incredible from breathy vocal to shouting, screaming back to gentle harmonies again – think Belle & Sebastian meets Dead Kennedys.
Anthony Witter, blogger and NE buddy looked over at me open-mouthed. ‘These are fucking on fire!’ he shouted.
Charlie from Time sellers joined us to comment. ‘These are really good!’
In their track, Getting Closer, Jess sings, ‘Think I’m getting closer to what I try to become, I look good on my own …’
Their sliding guitar scales over the harmonies created a psychedelic Disney hybrid with delicate harmonies, providing a real contrast here.
Outrageous was a real favourite and had the audience joining in with the ‘la-la-la-la-la’ as Jess and Alizon jumped around stage over swinging skipping rhythms under rocking, punky riffs. Even her screams were poetic! Their final song, ‘I’m Gonna Do Well’ is their new single- available on vinyl and usual online platforms. Jess’s guitar solos had us all mesmerised – she did not drop a note.
Their final guitar battle brought even more in from the cold – you could not walk past the Frog and Parrot window without being drawn in!
As Rachel put it, ‘I have just been the most blown away I have ever been, and Calva Louise have just gained their biggest new fan!’ Make that two, Rachel – they were off the scale.
As their set drew to a close, Jess shouted, ‘We want to thank Kate and Rachel for a great night -you are incredible!’
Aw. Thankyou Jess!
Amazing band. Watch. This. Space.
At this point I spotted the boys from Blackwaters wandering in. They’ve recently moved up to Sheffield and are now finding their favourite local haunts. They joined Rich from Bang Bang Romeo at the balcony who was over from Doncaster with friends. Rich had this to say: ‘The night was stolen by one band that have been recommended to me a few times and I wasn’t disappointed. Calva Louise took my breath away more times than I could count: musicality, stage presence, energy – it was a masterclass. I’ve not seen a band like it in years.’ James from Blackwater’s also commented, ‘We only managed to get here for the last two bands tonight but me and Max thought Calva Louise were fucking brilliant. I wasn’t bored at any point during the set and I haven’t had that in a long time. Fucking bangers! They’ll be on big things very soon.’
Our headlining band, SKIN had travelled over from Bristol, on a seven-hour expedition that left OJ slightly frazzled on arrival. However, they were quick to put the drama behind them and presented us with a set worthy of a headlining position. Crowds stood round head banging to the heavy bass and drum beat. They opened with Hades Snare playing repetitive, trance drums before moving out in to lighter chords.
The band don’t shy away from any subject matter and present their experiences raw and delicate to the crowd from mental health to relationships all over hypnotic heavy rock. There is a real influence here from The Pixies throughout with nods to The Smiths on occasion – poetry and punk combined. OJ is very charismatic and while his vulnerability is evident, his confidence on stage is unshakable.
With lyrics in like, ‘You cut out your heart because you thought it was broken, I cut out mine because I wanted to bleed’, I was captivated. Here’s a video made by a SKIN fan which is perfect for our pre-Halloween review. Think The Simpsons meet The Walking Dead …
Joel from Fluorescents had this to say about them:
‘It’s really good to see bands who are passionate about doing their own thing and are not afraid to do their own thing. It’s quite refreshing. It’s not what you play, it’s how you play.’
We do need to say a big thankyou to all the bands – for their commitment not only to playing fantastic sets but to supporting each other tonight and for their professionalism throughout. We also must give a big shout out to Aaron Procter who managed the sound brilliantly and to Nick Simmonite and his fabulous staff who helped make the night run so smoothly.
Rich from Bang Bang Romeo caught me as the evening drew to a close. ‘If the talent level is anything to go by, I’ll be making NE events a mainstay in my calendar. Wicked night.’
Thank you Rich!
And now we’ve just got to do it all again next month!
Calva Louise play the Frog & Parrot on the 14th December… https://www.facebook.com/events/364800957304331/
Check all our events at https://www.facebook.com/NorthernExposure2017/