Amyl And The Sniffers/C.O.F.F.I.N/Piss Kitti –
The Leadmill, Sheffield, Saturday 19th November, 2022
Nobody likes November. It started getting dark here in Sheffield in the middle of the afternoon. It is drizzly and cold, but down at the Leadmill, there are some bands playing who are guaranteed to make this a noisy November night.
The red neon Leadmill sign stands like a beacon in the dark guiding us to the promised land. The queue is around the block and it’s not even 7pm yet. Everyone has a big grin on their face and chat excitedly. We can hear a band warming up.
The people I see and speak to are a diverse mix. Late teens to middle-aged. Punks, Metalheads, students... bank clerks... We soon learn that the evening is behind schedule and the doors remain shut until almost 8. This will have consequences later.
The opening band for tonight are called Piss Kitti and hail from Liverpool. I had not heard of them before, but many people mention how excited they are to check them out. The lights dim and the band play a short intro before the charismatic Vocalist, Esme Davine, leaps onto the stage.
She is wearing a stylish beret and a Sonic Youth t-shirt, and swigs from a can of cider. Their songs are short and shouty, but strangely mesmerising. They remind me of an early 90’s Riot Grrrl band like Bikini Kill.
They all have brilliant stage presence and play an accomplished set. Having built up a solid fan base and judging by the reaction of tonight’s crowd, I see a bright future ahead. I’d love to see them again.
Next up are a band from Sydney, Australia called C.O.F.F.I.N which stands for 'Children Of Finland Fighting In Norway' (I’m glad I looked that up!) Like their unique name, this group are certainly not boring.
They have been touring with Amyl and The Sniffers for some time now but are not easily classified. They are an all-male five-piece band comprising three guitarists, a bass player, and a manic drummer who also handles the vocals.
They play grungy, down and dirty riff-heavy sounding music and look like the kind of band to be found in a spit and sawdust saloon in the deep South of America. In fact, the big C are fiercely Australian though, and their songs, such as the excellent 'Dead Land', are concerned with injustice and pollution in their home country.
The focal point is Ben Portnoy. He sits centre-stage and his arms are a blur as he pounds the drums and growls into the mic. His shirt soon comes off, his thick glasses clinging to his face. You could picture him in a butcher’s shop brandishing a pair of cleavers instead of drum sticks.
The band attract more and more people towards the stage to get their ears pummelled. As the best support bands do, they loosen up the crowd and build up the buzz of anticipation.
I can now feel the excitement in the air, it's 9.30 Now for the main focal point of the night: Amyl and The Sniffers. Current darlings of the punk rock scene. They formed in Melbourne, Australia back in 2016 and never expected to progress beyond playing in pubs for their mates. They all lived together in a crowded house for a while and learnt how to play and gel as a band – what did the Neighbours think?
Made up of Amy Taylor (Vocals), Dec Martens (Guitar), Gus Romer (Bass), and Bryce Wilson (Drums) they are no strangers to Sheffield. They spent two weeks here in late 2019 recording their self-titled debut album with the legendary Artic Monkeys Producer, Ross Orton. They spent time in the covid lockdowns writing and recording their second and current album 'Comfort To Me', released through Rough Trade Records and it has received across the board rave reviews.
They have been touring all this year in the US and Europe, did the Summer festivals including Glastonbury, and a short tour of the UK before they jetted back to Australia straight after tonight’s show to pick up awards for Best Band and Best Album at the prestigious ARIA awards.
Amyl and The Sniffers are without doubt one of the best live bands around right now. Amy Taylor, bundle of energy personified, is a bona fide rising star. Her lyrics are often angry and confrontational, but she seems the opposite on stage. She never stops smiling and has an endearing giggle and twinkle in her eye. Wearing her trademark tight shorts and vest, she could be here for a boxing match, and tonight, as always, she is ready to rumble.
The opening song is called 'Freaks To The Front'. The audience, a freaky throng, are delighted. ‘Don’t bloody touch me, I’m in a rage!’ the lyrics go. Amy’s arms jerk around staccato like a hyped-up traffic controller. The next songs in quick succession are 'Gacked On Anger' and 'Got You' – both from their debut album.
They capture what I identify as the dual nature of the songs and lyrics. 'Gacked On Anger' is a menacing dirge about having a crappy job and still not being able to afford the rent, while 'Got You' is melodic, breezy, ode to a partner who makes Amy blush just by walking in the room.
These songs, like all their numbers, are short, energetic, contain great guitar riffs from Dec, and have three rowdy voices backing up the chorus. An early song, 'Balaclava Lover Boogie' – still a staple of their live shows follows the song 'Control'. ‘I only wear the ring, so the punch hits harder.’ Wow.
An equally Amy-esque lyric is from the next song 'Maggot'. ‘Everything you touch turns to gold, I can’t wait for you to touch me.’ It is one of their best songs from 'Comfort To Me'. Bass heavy, soaring guitar solo, it never lets up.
By this juncture, the crowd are jumping and swaying from side to side. I have to be alert to stay on my feet. People are crowd surfing near the front. The band are not for slowing down and the next songs are all gems – 'I’m Not A Loser', 'Choices' and the wonderfully titled 'Don’t Need A C**t (Like You To Love Me)'. 'Capital', 'GFY', and 'Security' follow.
Then it's ‘Won’t you let me in your pub, I’m not looking for trouble, I’m looking for love.’ They then play the opening track from 'Comfort To Me' – 'Guided By Angels'. It’s Amy’s declaration song – ‘I’ve got plenty of energy, it’s my currency.’ She sure has. I cannot imagine her ever sleeping.
Her lyrics are often very personal and talk about being an out-going woman in modern society who should be allowed to have fun without feeling threatened. The next song the band play tonight, one of their few mid-tempo tunes, is called 'Knifey'. The song drips with dread, and her heart-felt vocals show her vulnerable side – ‘All I ever wanted was to walk by the park.’ Songs like these are what turn a band from good to great.
'Don’t Fence Me In' and 'Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)' are firm fan favourites and the building’s foundations threaten to shake as Amy struts around sticking her tongue out and smiling. The band react to the crowd’s enthusiasm and are having a blast themselves. The support bands are stood at the side of the stage dancing away, and Piss Kitti’s drummer runs on to give Amy a friendly hug.
What proves to be the last song of the night, 'Hertz', takes the night into overdrive. The song is about the need to get out of the city, drive to the country and watch the sunset. It’s a fan favourite and their most accomplished song to date.
They have played for an hour, a blistering set full of around eighteen awesome songs without pause for breath. We want more, more I tells ye. But, the band have barely played the last note when a thick black curtain descends over the stage.
Never mind, I have a feeling Amyl and The Sniffers will return next year with no doubt fantastic new songs and ready to play the larger venues they deserve. They could have sold out this place twice over, but like when some band called Nirvana played the Sheffield Octagon in November 1991, they have honoured the bookings originally made and created memories that will last.
2022 has been a breakthrough year for the band and the ARIA award wins are the icing on the delicious cake. What can I smell? The sweet smell of success for Amyl and The Sniffers.
Review By Saul Bennett
All Photographs by Blake Sherwin apart from exterior shot of The Leadmill & last 2 Piss Kitti pix that are by Saul Bennett