It’s a real Sheffield special over at the Leadmill in the shape of two up and coming acts The Wired and The SSS, effectively sharing the bill and selling out the venue. Not everyone can sell out the Leadmill and many act can claim to have by virtue of selling out the smaller of the two rooms, but here it’s the larger more prestigious room these acts have packed out and they should both take pride in that achievement.
Before we get onto the local talent, I’m pleasantly surprised and thoroughly impressed by support act Franko Fraize. Born Frankie Dean, Franko hails from Thetford in Norfolk and once described himself as a “typical twenty-something working class British man”. His music encompasses rap, ska, reggae, rock and pop and has recognisable nods to such classic acts as Madness, the Police and the Specials alongside newer acts like the Ordinary Boys, the Streets and Jamie T. Comparisons are obvious with Rat Boy, who has a similar cheeky young geezer swagger to his music, except with Franko Fraize it seems a little warmer and genuine and not quite as ramshackle or upstart-ish. Having toured with the likes of Mike Skinner, Franko’s act is polished and his patter is spot on, having the crowd easily on side and joining him in some interactive banter.
Franko belts out memorable tracks such as “Trouble”, the beautiful “Running” which closes the set and the sublimely catchy “Oi! Oi!” and keeps it real right down the end, apologising for his lack of merch stand (too expensive at £25 to hire!) and having to duck out early to get his van home in time. He seems 100% authentic unlike many blokey acts who trade on “geezer culture” and unfortunately tend to come across as idiotic rather than patriotic. Franko is the opposite of all that, seemingly like a proper top bloke whose personality shines through his lyrics and talent (a musical equivalent of Danny Dyer?) which is perhaps why there’s more of a sense of longevity about him and an impression of someone surely on the cusp of stardom.
• All or Nothing
• Nightlife (aka Phil Collins)
I had the pleasure of seeing The Wired’s lead singer Caleb Smelt doing an acoustic set at another Sheffield venue recently, so was looking forward to seeing how everything would come together alongside his bandmates to a packed house. The band do not disappoint and are energised by the excited home crowd of fans, friends and family. The group were originally formed at their high school sixth form and now Caleb, Jacob, Richard and Harris are practically old hands at commanding an audience after playing venues around the country and looking ahead to a slot at Sheffield superfestival Tramlines.
With tracks like “What Are We Doing With Our Lives” and “Summer Sun”, they capture a slightly timeless and summery vibe with tunes which sound like they should be soundtracking cult indie film montages and Caleb’s vocals sounding like a mixture of indie frontman (early Michael Stipe, Paul Draper) and some 1950s heartthrob – perhaps it’s the hair? These songs are absent from their tight set tonight, but the vibe is the same – all indie pop goodness. A cover of US R’n’B act Nolan Porter’s “If I Could Only Be Sure”, which was brought to more people’s attentions through a Paul Weller version, adds another dimension to the act’s set with a cool slice of Northern Soul.
Their set is full of melodic guitar driven songs packed with life lessons and advice belying their youthfulness, such as “Darling Don’t” and “Fit the Feel” which is the pinnacle of their set. The latter track is a cracking little indie anthem with a singalong refrain of “woah-oh-oh”s which stays with you long after the act have left the stage. All in all, a very promising young act who have much to offer and are given a deserved heroes’ welcome.
• Ageing Youth
• Fit the Feel
• Long Lost Days
• A Little Too Young
• Blue Sweater
• Darling Don’t
• If I Could Only Be Sure (cover)
Last on the bill are The SSS who have been around for 3 years or so and can claim such honours as “Track of the Year 2013” for “Snake in the Grass” and “Best Unsigned Band 2015” at prestigious local awards. The band are lead singer Josh, guitarists Tom and Morgan, bassist Cal and drummer Max and are all in their early 20s. They’ve honed their acts across a series of gigs the length of the country and are clearly in their element playing to such a receptive and supportive home crowd.
They rattle their way through over a dozen jangly indie pop hits including two brilliant 1980s covers “Don’t You Want Me” and “99 Red Balloons”, the latter of which soundtracks a euphoric shower of balloons into the crowd. Their own material is rousing and alternatively quirkily pretty (“Juvenile Love”) and instantly anthemic (“Morning Light”) and Josh’s vocals are warm and earnest.
Their latest EP “Love, Lust, Loss” is showcased in full, with all four tracks getting an airing, from the never-more-culturally-appropriate warning of “Eighteen”, to the soaring set opener “Calm Before the Storm” through the moody Coral/Zutons-esque “Pirati” to the lost era gem “Into the Sun” which somehow manages to sound like a Motown classic, a 90s baggy march and a moody 80s new wave song all rolled into one. Comparisons with the Arctic Monkeys are musically and geographically obvious but are especially apt on set closer “Morning Light” which is a pure indie pop gem only an act as good as the Arctic Monkeys (or possibly the Black Kids) could have dreamt up, being all real life and broken relationships but ultimately an indie disco dancefloor filler. With tracks like this in their arsenal, the SSS are onto a winner.
• Calm Before The Storm
• Snake In The Grass
• Told You Twice
• Don’t You Want Me (cover)
• Find A Way
• Stay With Me
• Juvenile Love
• The One You Need
• Into The Sun (Encore)
• 99 Red Balloons (cover)
• Morning Light