The Academy is the latest addition to Sheffield’s already glittering line-up of gig venues.
Previously used as the legendarily cheesy Roxy nightclub, the building has stood derelict for well over a decade before the financial might of a brewery group came to the rescue.
It’s only been open since April, but has already paid host to bands such as The Kooks, The Human League, Reverend & The Makers and KT Tunstall.
Tonight the smaller, second room was crammed in anticipation of seeing one of the most blogged-about bands of the year.
Formed little over a year ago, Black Kids’ rise has been nothing short of stratospheric. With a debut album produced by Bernard Butler set for release this month, support slots with the likes of Kate Nash and Metronomy and a place on the prestigious/ubiquitous BBC Sound Of 2008 poll, it seems they’re the name that every hipster wants to drop.
Which made the atmosphere when the five-piece from Florida stepped on stage a bit strange. Despite being in possession of some of the most feel-good, infectious and danceable pop songs you’ll hear all year, for their set the Academy crowd seemed oddly unmoved. Those people who weren’t chatting to friends or texting intensely were focused on filming the gig on their mobile phones, rather than actually, you know, enjoying themselves.
Maybe it’s a by-product of the hype – that it creates an unavoidable cynicsm amongst people that no band can be that good. Yet Black Kids are that good, as they proved by tearing into the title track of the upcoming album Partie Traumatic, with its Franz Ferdinand style guitar riff and nagging chant of “hugs and kisses from the girls and the boys”, and then effortlessly sliding into the fun, funky and fresh Hit The Heartbrakes.
They’re compelling to watch too – Reggie Youngblood’s afro is impressive enough, but he’s upstaged by his sister Ali on keyboards, contributing Go Team! style backing vocals, grinning coquettishly at the audience all night and dancing round the stage like a thing possessed. It’s refreshing to see a band who actually love being onstage, rather than glowering moodily at the audience.
Yet a few nods of the head were about as enthusiastic as Sheffield’s audience got during the first half of the gig. And then something very odd, and very welcome, happened.
As the opening guitar riff of Hurricane Jane burst out, everyone went absolutely wild. The entire Academy was suddenly transformed into a heaving, sweaty, raucous indie-disco, with every soul jumping up and down and singing along to the highlight of the band’s free EP Wizards of Aaah. As Ali Youngblood said as the song drew to a close: “I don’t know what the FUCK just happened there…but keep it up!”.
And keep it up is what we did. There was mass audience waving of the hands during I Wanna Be Your Limousine, frenzied frugging to Listen To Your Body Tonight and absolute mayhem erupting for I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You. It was as if the shutters had suddenly fallen from the crowd’s eyes as they decided: “Oh ok, they are that good”.
As befits a band with only one, yet to be released, album under their belt, it was a short set but a thrilling one. Yet by the time the closing Look At Me (While I Rock Wichoo) came around, the audience had been well and truly converted, with not a YouTube-uploading camera operator to be seen. Sometimes it’s good to know that occasionally the hype is deserved.