Songs for Jane Howden

They said that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, but considering how some people avoid paying them, I’m no longer sure about taxes. But, yeah, we will all leave this mortal coil, one day. What’s never certain is what we can do with our time on this greeny Earth. I never had the honour of meeting Jane Howden, but the amount of people her life changed is flabbergasting. 

So it was a fitting tribute that her sister Sarah Griffiths organised a tribute gig at West Street Live. Many familiar faces from the Sheffield community were there, paying their respects in one form or another. Tom Attah started with his always entertaining (and deftly played) blues. Only his acoustic guitar and his blues knowledge, only equalled by his vivacious personality, so peppy and vibrant you’d ask yourself why is he singing the blues. Maybe it was the hangover he was nursing with a glass of orange juice or the price of milk, but whatever it inspires him to rock out the 12 bar blues, he does it ever so well.

Trevor Thomas was on stage, with a few technical problems (mic related), but still playing his part in the tribute. He invited a friend (sorry, didn’t catch his name) to play a couple of songs, including a cover of Violent Femmes‘ ‘Blister in the sun’, a song that has always felt happy and sad at the same time, which gives it such a humanistic sentiment. 36 Other Guys. No idea who they were, but judging by people’s reaction, they had some good history around. They had a good chemistry and I liked the songs, but it was the song about a roadie (which had some real funny cursing in it) that really stuck on.

I always enjoy the folk/skiffle/Balkan sounds of Unsung National Heroes, always strong in rhythm and passion, always delivering that exotic punch that hurts and heals at the same time. Dave Woodcock and the Dead Comedians was the perfect juxtaposition in sound, with the classic rock and roll sensibilities intertwining with the verbose lyrical musings of Dave Woodcock and the minutiae of life.

And then, we had a curveball. An extradimensional band, straight out of the Outer Planes (check your Monster Manual if you are confused) of Manchester appeared the three headed beast that is Dead Sea Apes. Their otherworldly sounds, intricate. Their atmosphere, byzantinic. Their set, maybe a tad too short but loud enough to still linger in the air after all instruments were unplugged. I have trouble listening to Don’t Sleep Dream. Not because they are bad, but because of the emotional memories attached to every song from their magnificent EP, Just a ride. They are a very underrated band, playing some proper space rock and ‘Grow’ is such an excellent tune. ‘Just a ride’ might very well be a lesson by itself.

Firesuite played a one-off set of only covers. Understandable because they were all songs that Jane Howden loved. The re-interpretations were intense, the set was fierce and the emotions were as raw as the feelings conveyed by the original bands (Pixies, Cocteau Twins, Sonic Youth, Half Man Half Biscuit). Loveboat offered their heavy garage punk that might seem meandering, but it’s just waiting to drop a water balloon on ya. Sort of like Stewie saying “mom, mom, mooooommy!”, but with distortion, a few grunge tricks and a sweet Ace Frehley t-shirt. Quite enjoyable.

Black Cat White Cat ended up being the last band in the marathon-like tribute. They always put on an intense set and this is where the gig sort of got weird for me. Not because of the band, but two particularly strange incidents. One was a guy with a thick, strange accent ordering me to tell Black Cat White Cat‘s singer Angela Basson to sing a duet with him. The guy claimed he was a better singer than Meatloaf. Best left unknown. The other incident was olfactory and it was due to a group of women in different variations of the same black dress. One of them had a rather strong perfume that made me go queasier than that time I rode The Sickenator at the Sheffield fair.

But enough tangent, we are talking about Black Cat White Cat and their seedy blues & roll (that’s a genre, trust me). Old tracks that ‘Lucille’ and ‘Fridge’ are always a treat, but it’s ‘Fat Bitch’ the one that really grabs your attention by the lapels and pulls it to the front. This is easily the moment for the band, where all instruments shine through, breaking the apathy barrier that sometimes hinders gigs.

There was a DJ set afterwards, with some tasty musical selections. The tribute was a proper success and you can donate to Brain Tumor Research here. Congratulations to everyone involved!

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Words: Sam J. “nerd for life” Valdés López.

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