Onefest : Sheffield Leadmill – live reviewOnefest Sheffield Leadmill
March 2020

Onefest Facebook page

With the aim of connecting disparate music scenes and bridging the North/South divide, the Onefest event took over Sheffield’s Leadmill for a successful Saturday of events.

The festival is a mixture of intriguing panels and brand new bands that stretched across many genres and reflected the youthful diversity and breadth of ideas that makes the UK music scene so thrilling the moment. 

There are many showcase events across the world these days but most of them are conveyer belts for new bands touting for deals, which is fair enough, but it’s great to be at something that has real thought behind it. Onefest is attempting to construct social change and inspire ideas and action from its content and showcase new talent at the same time in a successful and well curated event.

Sheffield is the first part of an ambitious two event programme with next week’s London show at Earth (more details here) being the culmination of serious grassroots work.

The presence of the brilliant jazz player Shabaka Hutchins at the event, in his role of curator, lends the whole of Onefest a heavy clout. Shabaka is the driving force on the new jazz scene and his various projects are all equally enticing, although LTW particularly loves The Comet Is Coming for its textures and sounds and its sheer cosmic driving force. 

Shabaka’s musical breadth of ideas and scope of ambition is mirrored by Onefest and his genial presence is a real morale booster and magnetic empowerment for the youthful bands that play in-between each panel discussion.

The panels themselves deal with key issues like the north/south divide or practical information like, how to pitch a brilliant idea to film and TV and there is a women’s workshop before the whole event culminates in

Shabaka Hutchings being interviewed by Teju Adeleye. 

This whole section is well thought out content with hand picked and diverse and engaging panellists that discuss key issues unpicking the problems and finding solutions. 

The north/south divide is the key issue at the Sheffield event and the angles are interesting with some musicians, like Doncaster’s Bang Bang Romeo finding ways to deal with it. The band talk about utilising the physical space of their home town to create their own distinctive style unhindered by the music biz and then embracing London when they need it. They, like the other panellists, though, still feel that the years of neglect from the capital city have not done many of the great Northern towns and cities any good and there is a feeling that music that was once the escape from this is now the driving force in its recovery. Onefest articulates these themes and ideas and creates a great platform for them.

Instead of the usual panel format with the ‘experts’ on stage –  the topics are discussed in the round with is really effective. The young bands are brought into the discussions and the democratic platform sees a flow of ideas and the building up of connections that is surely what these type of events are about. It’s an engrossing and successful discussion format and throws up many curveballs and ideas.

Band wise in-between the talks there is a diverse series of sets from a thrilling collection of young bands. Jelly Cleaver marry a powerful rock undertow with political songs for the new young generation and a great skronk jazz breakdowns. They are totally original and quite wonderful and their ambitious music is delivered with a powerful and successful focus. It can’t be that long before they become festival favourites.

Join The Din formed in Portsmouth before moving to London and are part of the capital city’s new young jazz scene. Again they straddle a grown out of indie roots with the freedom of jazz and create a hypnotic blur of wild sound. 

There is also an indie band with curly hair and matching checked shirts whose name somehow escapes me. They look like they are playing their forth gig but somehow manage to grab magic out of the ether combining the sort of psyche indie pop of Temples or Toy and nodding towards Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd and sound surprisingly adept at capturing that lysergic pop especially with their set ending ‘Space Rock’ which, if there is any justice, will become a late evening BBC 6music six staple.

Ambitious and full of ideas, Onefest is a bold breakout from the usual format. It’s proactive in creating platforms for new bands and throwing ideas into the air and looking for new ways of thinking. 

The first of many events it will be a key game changer right at that point of confluence between breaking perceptions and breaking brilliant young bands and joining people together and events like this will see cultural and social  impact.

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