Honey Bees Blues Club – Happy Birthday King Bee!

Held to coincide with organiser and all round local legend Martin Bedford’s 60th birthday, this month’s Honey Bees Blue Club at the yellow arch studios was always going to be a special one. The venue was buzzing and filling up with many faces from Sheffield music scene, gathering in anticipation of a night of musical excellence.

On the walls a display of Mal Whichelows atmospheric photography and Sampa Mulenga’s excellent on-the-night artwork, showed just a few of the gigs arranged and supported by HoneyBees and Martin himself, and in the lobby the most excellent vegetarian burritos made by the Queen Bee herself, Nicki Harris. Out in the courtyard a screen had been set up showing the best of HoneyBees gigs and provided entertainment for those seeking a quieter environment.

First up was the Honey Bee Howdens, led by Sieben’s Matt Howden who played a three song set written specially for the occasion. Consisting of a harmonica, bass guitar and violin, along with use of beats, tones and the whisper of two day old stubble, they used a loop box to build up the layers of each song, leading to a fantastically surreal and complex sound.

Bang Bang Romeo followed, with lead singer Anastasia Walkers striking stage presence and incredible voice bringing a hard rocky edge to the evening. Blasting into the epic ‘Johannesburg’ with wailing guitar and strong vocals, the band continued to mesmerize with songs including ‘Chemical’ and ‘the Mainz’ culminating in ‘Invitation’ which had Anastasia stood up on the speakers, imploring with the crowd ‘don’t play with my heart’. A brilliant set from a fab band; watch out for their future gigs.

James Taplin took to the stage next with Mick Holmes (his best friend in the whole world) and a rather fetching pair of pink converse. In a complete change of tempo and tone he started up with Fats Dominos 1949 classic the Fat Man, and played a classic stripped back blues set on with an acoustic guitar, Mick’s harmonica and James’ clear and strong blues vocals. Interspersing these with his own tracks such as ‘Anti-depressant Blues’ and ‘Suburban Living’ , James and Mick gave the assembled crowd a traditional blues sound combined with modern and sometimes cheeky lyrics which you really found yourself smiling and nodding along to. Brought back for an encore we were treated to a truly respectful and beautifully sung version of Mr Bojangles that lifted the hair on the back of your neck.

And last but most certainly not least the Downtown Roots appeared with an unassuming ‘ello’ and played a set made up of their best known songs and a few classics thrown in for good measure. New song Diggety Danks got an excellent reception, with a slower bass and more mature sound. Co- writer Saxbob swift joined them on stage for the roots classic eyes wide open and as a special treat for both the birthday boy and the crowd, they were then joined on stage by Matt Doxey and Chris Wragg from the Mudcats Blues Trio to perform Red House. One of those special almost once in a lifetime things, the now crowded Yellow Arches stage rocked to the magnificent collaboration between the assembled musicians. Moz and Chris had a lengthy and entertaining guitar battle and although it is not clear who won, the appreciative crowd cheered them on. The birthday boy joined the throng on stage as Moz passed out the ‘Makers Mark’ and asked everyone to join him in a toast to celebrate the occasion. A brilliant and eclectic evening showcasing the variety of live music that Sheffield has to offer.

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