Sheffield’s city-wide Tramlines Festival is a great opportunity for any local band; a captive audience that for one weekend is completely immersed in all the best new and up-and-coming artists the city has to offer.
One such artist is long-time friend of On Record, Screaming Maldini – although to call them ‘up-and-coming’ perhaps doesn’t do them justice. Following the success of their debut album last year, they’re currently working on a project entitled xii which involves them releasing a free track for every month in 2014. Couple this with their first record’s retrospective rise to the top five of Japan’s Alternative Music Chart – and a subsequent Japanese Tour – and you’re left with the makings of a pretty successful year.
Back on British soil, they were rewarded for their endeavours with two favourable Tramlines bookings: a headline slot at The Harley on Saturday followed by a set at Sheffield Cathedral on Sunday night.
The former was plagued by technical issues; blown speakers and broken mics meant they could only play 20 minutes of their allotted hour, and when they did finally get on stage the sound was far too muddy to do their extravagant instrumentation justice. The one positive was that it did allow them to briefly return to their ‘living room tour’ roots and play a completely acoustic track to a momentarily hushed – and largely packed out – bar.
It was, therefore, fortunate that they’d put so much work into the cathedral show. Rather than treat it like any other gig, they opted to exploit the acoustics of the venue to full effect and appeared on stage accompanied by a 20-strong choir and a selection of cellists. The several hundred fans who’d given up their Sunday night were, accordingly, amply rewarded.
Acoustically, it was tremendous; the band’s huge sound perfectly complimented the size of room to create an audio-wall. The set, which consisted almost entirely of songs from xii, was designed to utilise the choir to full effect. It was when the choir was really allowed to shine through – most notably during ‘Bearings’ and ‘Summer Somewhere’ – that the music really took flight.
The show moved nicely between the more melancholic end of Maldini’s spectrum – see ‘Abyssinia’ – to the likes of ‘Soweto’, which even had the stoned lads next to me (who spent a large part of the evening discussing how “smoking hot” the bassist was) moving their feet.
Perhaps the one downside was that the choir and strings weren’t given a prominent enough spot in the mix to take centre stage more often, but this in turn was part of the fun. The nature of the space meant those in different parts of the crowd heard different things – and I’ve no doubt that, had I fought my way to the front, I’d have been rewarded.
Once again, Screaming Maldini proved themselves as a band determined to do things differently. However, their extravagance is in no way gimmicky, rather it represents a desire to give fans something new and something different with every song and at every show. They’re determined to make something of themselves, and as long as they remain this way, it seems they’ll keep looking for innovative ways to expose people to their music. This, both for the band themselves and for Sheffield’s music scene as a whole, can only be a good thing.
Photos by Dan Sumption.