Sheffest 2001

Sheffield Corporation

17 March 2001

What a great day. No really, it was a great day. Ok, I'll admit, the first 20 minutes looked like we were heading for another thumping, but then we pulled it around, and that Howley try just before half time was not only superb, but the catalyst for the second half performance. And old Marky Taylor, great runs and passing out of the tackle, some great tries. Then they let them back in. Hide behind the settee time, before Jenks does the honours. What do you mean you want to read a gig review. Man, I just do not expect Wales to go to France and win, let alone score 40 odd points and partake in a breathtaking game. I'm having my moment of glory here.

And besides, I reckon I know why they won. And it's due to the Sheff-fest. How? Well, it's the first time this year that I've watched a Welsh game without consuming alcohol to get me through it. Because I'd decided to drive up to the Sheff-fest. And Wales won they're first game this year. Coincidence? I think so, but hey, it's a tenuous link into reviewing the gig, and that's what counts.

Yeah, Sheff-fest. Loads of bands apparently. I think it had been going a few hours by the time I get there to witness a band playing a bunch of Sepultura covers. Uh. How can this be put. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Play your own stuff. The vocalist blokey even threw in "fuck shit up" and counted to 4 in (bad) Portugese. Nooooooooooooooooooooooo. Go and look in the mirror and shake the head in shame. Any redeeming factors in their own material are null and void.

Next are a band who say they are called Mine. Fronted by some girl, they're obvoiously popular, as a swarm of people make their way down towards the front and dance along. The first song is not good. It's marred by a terrible guitar tone, and the vocals are completely drowned out. Things improve, but though popular, the material fails to really make an impact on me, though the guitarist throws out a few totally unecessary guitar dude licks that just don't fit in with the songs or the style of the band.

Next are Gold Blade. Uh, I'm in 2 minds here as to whether they were so crap it was funny, or whether they were just crap. Uh, I think it may have been crap. They audience that was around has departed, which makes the vocalists admirable attempts at crowd interaction by shaking hands rather pitiful and embarrassing, as he's almost having to plead with people to walk foward and offer their hand. He talks about brothers and sisters, asking some people their names. "Ah, brother somename". The music is kind of garagey punky clashy sort of thing, but there are bands doing it much better. And despite the fact that the vocalist really hams it up and tries to interact and put on a show, it's kind of summed up by the way he drops the microphone on a few occassions and once disguises it by falling on the floor. Next.

And next are earthtone9. As the intro starts there's a frightening sight. Nope, the cling film shorts aren't on display. The sight is that the already busy dancefloor gets busier, as people actually walk down the front to watch, rather than walk away in apathy. I like Sheffield, but I've been harsh on the place in the past, but this fair near restored my faith in mankind. At least for a day. It's a club night sure, but there's a crowd that's at least half the size of the one that was here when et9 played with Pitchshifter here recently. And rather than seeing the negative of that figure, you should see the positive. I was extremely surprised, and pleased to see so many people actually taking an interest. It may not be an avalanche, more a snowball gathering momentum, but it finally does look like some people are begining to take an interest. It's been a long hard road, and there's a lot of work left ahead of them, but it's finally begining to look like it might happen.

So, as per usual the earplugs go in. And within 30 seconds of Approx Purified opening the set, the earplugs are out, as it appears that the band that have a love affair with their equipment (see their tourdiaries on the website to see what I mean) are continuing that incestuous affair. It's quiet and the guitars appear to be AWOL. But removing the plugs reveals the answer. They're suffering from the same awful mix that plagued Mine (and so maybe puts their performance into context a little bit). It's far too trebly in the tone (sound, not the band), and it means the subtleties of the guitars are lost, and instead it's just a blanket of noise. It's not really a problem. If it was like this on studio recordings, then it would be a problem, but this is live, and part of the whole experience of the live gig is that things are not always perfect, and it's those little things, those imperfections that are such a crucial part of seeing a live band.

"We apologise for interrupting your disco" is Karl's opening gambit, though the people down the front don't seem to disappointed. Then it's into tat twam asi. What can I say about this song that's I've not already said before? It's just about a year now since I first heard the Alpha Hi EP recording, and in that time it's just gone from strength to strenght. It's such a perfect song, all the disparate elements merging together so well, the guitars, the melody, the rhythm, the chorus, the instrumental section. The song can do no wrong, it's just one of those songs that is utterley perfect in it's conception and execution, and is the best song to have been written in at least the past 5 years. p.r.d. chaos is next, the subtleties lost in the mix, but as it's a great song it doesn't matter.

As Star Damage kicks in, the pit explodes and I see at least one person exiting rather sharpishly with a bit of a scared look on their face. But the pecularity doesn't hit in until Yellow Fever. One of the more laid back songs, see the first crowd surfer of the night, who gets on stage and dives. To Yellow FEver of all songs. I'm sure there's logic to it, but well, it's completely lost on me. He repeats the feat. After the 5th time Karl interrupts the chorus he's singing, "that's original" is just one of the comments that emerges, but still the basketball shirt man is diving. To be fair he's doing decent dives, none of this fucking around on stage trying to hold a conversation with the band, but it's just totally out of context with the song. Eventually as he tries to make it back on stage, he's repelled by the friendly feet of Karl. "This is a democracy we operate within, and the people at the front are getting their heads kicked".

Binary 101. I can't believe that the first time I heard this song I was pretty non-plussed. Admittedly it was 3am at the time, I'd been given a tape of the album and was desperate to hear it. Now, well, tour de force was a phrase invented for songs such as this. So many layers and movements, to watch a band in this day and age of such cheap, direct, obvious songs winning people's hearts, to watch a band attempt something like this that is so opposed to those one dimensional leanings is a joy to behold. And this time they make it all the way through, "thanks for listening, it's taken us ages to get that end bit" or something similar comments Karl. Utterley utterley superb. "Does anyone listen to the Radio 1 rock show?" asks Karl to zero response "or maybe you just can't hear me", leads in of course to Evil Crawling I. "just one more song before you can return to the underground dangerous sounds of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park" assures Karl, following up with the classic "you can like us, we're on MTV as well now" in reference to the video for tat twam having been played on MTV2. Maybe it explains why Dave has been playing the gig in rock star shades. And it's the return, at least in the gigs I've seen recently, of Withered. Which predictably gets the biggest pit of the night, and Karl responds accordingly by adding a little bit of vibrato stylings to the chorus, just to fuck with people's minds possibly. As it ends, Karl leaves the stage, Joe, Oz and Dave turn their backs and launch into a jam, Si still pounding away on the drums with the ever present smile, Oz and Joe eventually leave, allowing Dave and Si to finish pounding it out with a wall of feedback around them. If it turns into a song, it'll certainly satisfy those fans of the band that like their excursions with noise. Surely it can only be a matter of time before the glass bottle solo returns.

I have to admit that Lost Prophets were due to follow them. But they weren't due on stage until 12.30, and I don't fancy hanging around for an hour or more to see them. Besides, it's been a great day and I'm mentally drained from that match, so I have to take my leave now.

Another long review. There's a surprise. Why? Well, I've seen et9 over 25 times now. And each time I see them, I find lots to write about. I guess that's part of the reason I like them so much. Each time, there's something different. They don't move much, Karl doesn't say much, once they settle on a setlist, it doesn't change much. But it's indicative that music ultimately is about what it does to you, the emotion, the personal feeling it gives you. You can have all the flamboyant stage sets, the exhuberant frontman, but if the music doesn't move you, it means nothing. With et9, it's almost a contradiction. They're not an expressive band, yet every time there's something happens, something that's said. There's more entertainment in a purely musical sense, than the most extravegant of live sets. Basically I guess you could say, in a time of shallow music, that's exactly what they're not. And they're getting better.