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It’s Saturday night, and we’re at one of Sheffield’s legendary music venues, The Harley. Anyone in Sheffield who loves live music has this place on their radar. It’s a regularly sold-out venue and promotes established and up and coming bands, since becoming a live music venue in its current state for the last fifteen years. With Aaron Proctor at the sound desk tonight, the bands were looking forward to great sound and great support from a swelling crowd.

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First up were Doncaster five-piece The Kavaliers. From their first track, the crowd bounced and sang along – their bass and drums on the first track ’You Just Give Me Something’ gave them an early Kaiser Chiefs feel. ‘Under My Skin’ showed off Jordan’s drumming prowess with complex tripping beats and high energy throughout. ‘Let Me Feel’ showcased Sam’s guitar melody supported by Matty’s funky and heavier chords which created multi-layered Shed Seven-esque guitar riffs.

Members of tonight’s other bands, Mint, and The Wholls, joined with the crowd as they sang along with ‘The Right Thing’, The Kavaliers’ current single release. An airing of their new song ‘How Could You Know’ showcased it as a possible summer hit as the light and dappled tones of guitars and vocal harmonies from Tom and Jordan took you there even on a nippy March evening.
Jordan told us,

‘Ever the Optimist’ and ‘Atmosphere for Violence’ seemed to go down a treat at this one.’ He was keen to mention a hiccup mid-set.  Thank you to Zak from MINT for sorting Booth’s mic stand out mid song- he was having a mare with that!’

They were particularly chuffed to have been asked to support The Wholls on their tour.

‘Big thanks to This Feeling for having us, MINT and The Wholls each played a great set and thank you to Jonathan [Buck] and Gareth [Burroughs] for getting some cracking shots of the night!’

MINT were up next – Grimsby’s best-kept secret! Charismatic frontman ‘Arabic Angel’ Zak Rashid, sporting vintage DMs and 1970s drainpipes, braces and leathers (think early mod nod) struck us all with his big hair and even bigger stage presence, completely owning the audience with his powerful yet hauntingly melodic vocals.

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Guitarist Lenny Pawson, Bambi Maidens on bass and Sam ‘Veggie’ Chapman on drums kept the music flowing, drawing us closer with their modern sounds layered across a psychedelic arc – think essence of Hendrix with a modern Yorkshire indie twist – a retro dichotomy.

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These guys look set for big things having already had over 350,000 hits for their song ‘Elise’ on Spotify. It is a strangely uplifting anthem with a light melody but desperately darker undercurrents – its popularity has soared with the track having received over 200,000 plays at the end of last year. Beautiful. In a tragic melancholic sort of a way.

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Zak had been keen to play this gig:

‘It’s almost an entirely different set to what people will have seen before. He had been to the Harley before and was determined to play it one day. ‘I love the venue, the food, the staff. It’s all amazing. Sheffield people seem to be kinda similar to the party animals in Cleethorpes and THAT IS AMAZING.’

The boys told me that playing on tour with The Wholls had been a real trip.

‘We are obviously psyched to be on tour with The Wholls, we are stoked to be invited on such a brilliant tour, it’s been nothing but carnage!’

St Oxford took us on a rollercoaster journey which had strains of Arctic Monkeys over shades of Robert Plant throughout. It is one of those tracks you can not stay still to and really set the audience bouncing as the track took off.

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The track which benefits from being seen live as it’s much grittier than the release but both are epic versions. Their boast of ‘music to make you kiss strangers’ certainly proved possible as they sent us on a colourful journey of instant anthems for life’s soundtrack, with diverse influences from Arctic Monkeys to Led Zeppelin. This band scream and shout an anti-now vibe.

For The Wholls, this was to be the penultimate gig of a two month tour. These guys have lived and breathed this over the last seven weeks with home being the back of the van, friends’ sofas or floors and hotel rooms since the start of 2018.

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Joe told us how crashing at friends’ houses has its pros and cons!

‘We played in Birmingham the night before and crashed over our mates just out of town. The idea was a quiet one but we didn’t get there till 2am. And then we started on the poker … we needed something lively in the van the next day. I think it was probably Metallica to be fair!’

But, hey – they looked good on it. This Bedford-based band Tordy Cocchiarella on vocals and guitar, brother Santino Cocchiarella on guitar and vocals, Joe Stevenson on bass and vocals and Daniel De Feo on drums and percussion owned that stage the moment they stepped up there.

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Tordy has all the swagger of Jim Morrison, his cocky charisma and banter irresistible. Their whole demeanour and presence was rock and roll – think Jeff Buckley if Bush jammed with Rage Against the Machine. We asked them what it was like playing in Sheffield.

‘We LOVE Sheffield!! It’s always a great crowd and we’ve been lucky enough to play a few venues around the city. Beers were flowing, with people on shoulders and a stage invasion at the end. Couldn’t have asked for more.’

We asked them which was their stand out track for them.

‘Well a load of the crowd were on stage jumping on our pedal boards for Roll Out so that one probably haha.’

Stand out track for Kate was ‘Going Down’ – just intoxicating with Joe’s guitar melody on point. The boys’ video is absolutely stunning but live it’s even better – you cannot take your eyes of Zak as he struts peacock-like across the stage, occasionally stabbing a finger towards in to the audience with a menacing stare.

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Their amazing cover of Standing in the Way of Control ‘The Gossip’ impressed Chloe hugely – Beth Ditto’s vocals were expertly covered by Tordy. This was quite a homage for the guys to cover what is one of one of The Gossip’s finest moments . The bass player absolutely nailed his colours to the mast with this as he took the floor and owned it.

Joe told us afterwards what a great line-up he felt he’d been a part of that night.

‘MINT and Kavaliers are sound as fuck. We shared merch, shared guitars, shared burgers. Kavaliers are like a Shed Seven/ Cast 90’s supergroup. Their ‘The Right Thing’ EP is online and proves they’ve got tunes. And live they’ve got balls too. Love em. MINT have played with us on a few dates on tour. They sound massive. Pick a tune. They’re all banging but St Oxford is one that live is on another level. They’re touring in May. Go. Buy. A. Ticket. Or three.’

We asked them later if they were recovering from their marathon tour.

‘[After Sheffield] – something like our 38th gig in seven weeks, where we’d normally stay out we actually did drive home and we were shattered in honesty. It’s been amazing and we ain’t stopping yet!’

They still have a London gig to look forward to …

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There seemed to be a real sense of comraderie throughout. We spoke to Joe about that and about the music scene generally.

‘It was the penultimate show of the tour and the last with our friends in Mint so was always going to be special. We especially want to give a shout out to Mikey Jonns and George Holmes at This Feeling and Aaron Procter in Sheffield for their huge support and friendship, as well as you guys and gals at Northern Exposure and also (most importantly) to all the bands out there proving night after night that all the bollocks about guitar music being dead is exactly that – bollocks!’

Get yourselves to that final gig. It is one that must not be missed!

CHLOE COCHRANE & KATE O’BRIEN

PHOTOGRAPHY: MODEL D PHOTOGRAPHY 

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