ONE WEEK IN BARNSLEY… The Best of Barnsley Live Arts and Music

What a week. So much to do and nowhere near enough time to fit it all in. With a couple of exhibitions to choose from and at least seven gigs in just one Friday night it’s hard to pick and choose what to see sometimes.
Here is what I did pick…

First up was the private view of POP! and PIN-UP at The Civic…
POP! DESIGN • CULTURE • FASHION is a touring exhibition from London’s Fashion and Textile Museum. The Civic have hosted a number of the museum’s exhibitions in the past but an exhibition such as this one, is surely to cross over and attract much more people than usual, as the scope here is quite wide. The exhibition successfully explores the influence of the 1960’s popscene on not just fashion, put furniture and product design, print, advertisements, concert posters and packaging.
Despite the small scale of the gallery at The Civic, you need well over an hour to take everything in.
P1060578 Some of my favourite exhibits were the framed Polypops pop-out gift box, which reminded me of the illustrations in my old school songbooks and reading books in the early 80s.
One exhibit that really struck a chord with me was a long sleeve shirt that had an all over repeat print of a fried breakfast! Now that’s my kind of print.
P1060582I couldn’t quite tell if it was Barbie or Cindy because of the big sci-fi bucket head piece she was wearing, but that was really cute. Something tells me though, that only Cindy would be that daring.
But for me… the Dansette Record Player was easily the most beautiful thing there. I’d love one and is a catch for any collector of music.
On the Civic Panorama, overlooking Mandela Gardens, is Pin-Up by Fiona Stephenson, the latest in a series of exhibitions by local artists. Fiona is a wonderful oil painter of 40s-50s era pin-up models. Fiona often uses real models in her work and is a tribute to the great American painter of pin-ups, Gil Elvgren. The original oils on display are cheeky and sexy in equal measure (and for sale). You got to check this out and support a very brilliant local talent.
It was a great turn out for the opening evening. The building was awash with art and fashion lovers alike. In fact the Panorama was packed with fashion students too as Barnsley College fashion students has designed outfits influenced by 60s and 70s pop, using the colours of the Union Jack. They were all on show here for all to see that they did a great job with it too! Various local designers were also there along side members of a number of local bands, such as Imoko set and The Black Lamps. It was like Barnsley’s very own Kings Road.

I managed to get to two venues that night, The Cafe Bar at The Civic and later The Courthouse. The Cafe Bar Live hosts some great evenings of acoustic music and you can get a beer for as little as £1.50! Their line-up consisted that evening of An Orchestra of One, whose instrumental piano arrangements ranged from jazz to symphonic rock and Shannon Lassu, who already played a number of local festivals last year and many open mic events. She has a wonderful voice and her versions of famous songs and her own originals fuse seamlessly together.
Headlining that event was The Rolling Down Hills who are now making a name for themselves on the locallive scene. Simon and Lewy originally started playing together back in 1996 for a few years but drifted apart when Lewy went to university. Lewy soon after started playing with his borther Scott Doonican in a band called Laskiampari. It is only in the last year that Simon and Lewy got back together and started writing again.
All previous sets had been your thirty minute support slots but this one was well over an hour and flowed brilliantly. Many of the songs are reminiscent of Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains unplugged and you can tell that Lewy is influenced by a plethora of singers from earlier generations, such as Jim Morrison and Nat King Cole. They played no covers and each song is lovingly crafted with uplifting choruses. The newer songs, came across as much more experimental and not as anthemic as older songs like Victorious and Feelings but they were my highlights nevertheless. Great turn out too. Expect to see bigger gigs for them over the summer as they have just been announce to play the Live in Barnsley Festival.
Following that line-up I went over to The Courthouse to see Shermer, but I also ended up catching the last few songs of a band called All Down But 9 as well. They were quite good actually. They leaned heavily towards those Springsteen inspired rock bands such as Gaslight Anthem and The Hold Steady.
I know I’ve praised Shermer loads of times here, but they do everything so well, and now with an extra guitarist to fill out the sound, their songs sound even bigger and and even more vibrant than before. I couldn’t stick around for the whole set because of a 4am start the next morning, but catch these guys when you can. They too are playing Live in Barnsley. Have some of this video!

It was a rough one for me. Way too much Bud and Jack in Rebecca’s because they’d no stock of real ale! The bands more than made up for it though.
The event was organised by Wakefield’s Long Division and acted as a preview for their forthcoming Festival.
Opening was Barnsley’s The Exhibition. It had been the first time I’d seen these guys and the first time they’d played for a long while, but I’d been a big fan of their Of national Importance Records Releases. This gig featured a short set from them but also a new line-up. It was hard to make ou the lyrics but live they sounds like a mix of The Foals, Bloc Party, Hope of the States and sometimes Yeasayer. They’re a really interesting band and definitely one to look out for this summer.
Next up were The Michael Ainlsey Band and aside the that name, I really enjoyed these guys. They were shambolic and fun and had a lazy groove which reminded me of early Weezer. Some bugger said they were like Nirvana! Don’t think so. But they did have a definitely ‘slacker-rock’ vibe to them and hints of The Lemonheads.
Michael Ainsley, the tall lanky lead singer played acoustic guitar with distortion (which I personally love), and was backed by a motley crue of potty mouthed sods who happen to also be genuinely funny inbetween songs too. Come back to Barnsley soon please.

The lead band tonight is one of Barnsley’s brightest new talents, Aztec Doll. Now I’m a massive supporter of this band. Singer/guitarist Roxy has bigger balls and bigger effects pedals than most of the boys. Backed by Lee Garforth on bass, with his reight sharpe suit, eyeliner and curly guitar cord and then shrouded in darkess at the back was Jack and Joel on keys and drums. What a sound! Now, I tell you what, I’ve seen PJ Harvey and Roxy is just about there! Circa To Bring You My Love with hints of JuJu-era Siouxise, The Cure and Belly. They played the songs from their debut EP which are so familiar to me now but they also played a couple of new songs, my favourite being one which was keyboard driven.
As the light came up, I felt like I had been watching The Word circa 1993. I’m Damn proud to be in amongst a town and a scene that produces talent like these guys. They’ve been playing Wakfield often and still do, but I hope to see them back in Barnsley soon.


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