Lead singer Dan Storey is full of nervous energy ahead of their headlining slot at Shakespeare’s, Sheffield not just because it’s a big, exciting gig, but because he fears they might have oversold on the tickets. The room is already fairly busy by the time opener Felix Renshaw takes to the stage and absolutely heaving when Sadly Dan play their energetic slot, but it makes the atmosphere electric.
To kick things off, frontman of the band Femur, Felix Renshaw plays a short solo set of howling blues and almost-improvised downbeat country-flavoured music. There is something engaging about his intensity and concentration which has the audience rapt.
Sandwiched between him and the headliners are Django Jones and the Mystery Men, a sprawling band who fill the small stage with both people and presence. By their own Facebook categorisation, they straddle funk, blues and rock and at different times during their set, they are as wild, compelling and maverick as early Red Hot Chili Peppers, as anthemic as any big stadium rock band with a country tinge and able to switch from yelping, scornful punk to wistful ballad.
Lead singer Will is the kind of lead singer a band desperately needs, literally throwing himself into things, diving from the stage repeatedly to get in the faces of the front rows, sweaty, intense and entertaining with a voice that insist you must dance along. Huge crunchy bluesy riffs and thunderous drum solos underpin the set and would be enough to bring any main set to a satisfying end, let alone from a support act.
• Oo Aa
• Fuck You
• Fast Shit One
• Spider in My Shoe
• 16 People
• Feet on the Ground
• Hound Dog (Elvis Presley cover)
• Slow Dance
Which brings me onto the main event, the intriguing, inventive Sheffield two piece, Sadly Dan. Roping in their guest trumpeter to be their MC, dressed in referee black and white, they are announced as if engaging in a huge wrestling rumble and both Dans bound to the stage in fetching lycra one-pieces and sweatbands to the entertainment of the eager audience. Newish on the block, it is heartening to see such a rousing reception.
Their frenetic set incorporates some deft guitarmanship, stonking drumming and in Dan Storey, some intensely delivered vocals which are wryly witty, deadpan and very Sheffield. Drawing comparison with a number of other sonically intriguing acts like IDLES and Slaves, there is something uniquely engaging about the duo. They easily fit alongside such punkish, howling agitators, but there’s also something comically knowing and witty about the lyrics and delivery which hints more at other Northern heroes like Pulp, the Arctic Monkeys and John Cooper Clarke. Straddling genres, they even manage to dip into Spaghetti western mode on a couple of tracks, the most impressive being the mariachi-tinged “Savage” which sees them turn all “Seven Nation Army”, if said song were the centre of a Quentin Tarantino montage sung by Alex Turner. It’s all terrifically entertaining, quirky and brilliantly calculated.
“Who said you can’t have a band with a gimmick?” Dan Storey suggests as he first takes to the stage in his red spandex and by the time they’ve brought the house down and offered the eager crowd an encore in the shape of the Joe Pasquale classic “I Know a Song That’ll Get On Your Nerves”, it’s clear that gimmicks aside, these boys are talented and the slightly-bonkers twists are just the icing on the cake. Threatening not to stop until everyone leaves, the duo are weary, sweaty and hoarse, but keep good on their promise. I finally leave as one of the last standing, if only to give the lads a well-earned rest, but I was as keen as everyone else to see what other tricks they might have up their sleeves.
• Time Warp
• My Feelings Are Hurt
• A Love Song For Cara
• Have Love Will Travel (The Sonics cover)
• Ere Gilly, Lend Us Some Baccy
• Frankie You Can’t Play the Keyboard
• I Know a Song That’ll Get On Your Nerves
Check out Sadly Dan on their social media pages (Facebook and Instagram.), if only for the random self-deprecation and passive aggressive comic banter with their followers, see my review of their new track “Savage” and see them live ASAP!