The Picture House Social in Sheffield has long been known for being one of the cities “in” places when it comes to amazing niche music, so it came as no surprise that Magic Wands chose it as the venue to stop off at on their Abrakadabra tour. Supporting Magic Wands were Sheffield’s own dream-pop five-piece Grigio, who have slowly been making a name for themselves in the local music scene.
From the start Grigio’s sound reminded me of the old dusty Velvet Underground tapes that are still hiding in my basement somewhere, but updated to the 21st century. With their creative and youthful energy, the Sheffield-five launched straight into a set that was a true revelation.
Undeterred by the fact that only a handful of people, including Magic Wands, where there to witness an emerging band making its mark, Grigio laid down a slick set of goth-pop tracks that sounded like Fields of the Nephilim had a music love child with EMF.
With an exquisite rhythm section and boundless spunk, Grigio are a prime testament to the fact that the Sheffield music scene is alive and kicking. Watch out for them when they play the Night and Day Café in Manchester in the New Year.
A short interval later Magic Wands picked up their instruments to an eagerly awaiting audience. It was hard not to smile when lead singer Dexy Valentine announced “We’re Magic Wands from L.A., California, it’s great to be in Sheffield.” Competing for crowds on Guy Fawkes Night was always going to be a tall order but those who shied away from the visual spectacle in the skies to witness the auditory one in the basement of the Picture House, clearly made the right choice.
Magic Wands are known for their melodic, catchy songs that centre on their main influences – magic, love, and dreams. Their current tour is a prelude to their third studio album Abrakadabra, which is due out in early spring 2018, under the north-London Dirty Water Records label. In anticipation to the new album, Magic Wands have shared their new single Loveline, which will make you forget about space and time and teleport you to an alternative world in an instance.
From the very beginning, they married a very refined sound with a primal edginess that few bands manage to pull off. The slow dreamy yet energetic songs that reminded me of a poppy Cure, however with their own distinct sound, were all well received by the crowd. Underneath the rather raw and quirky, and rather psychedelic at times, Brit-pop vibes the reverb-heavy surf influence made it clear that Magic Wands are a Californian band.
As the set progressed, the intensity picked up and lead guitarist Chris Valentine came more and more into his own. However, when singer Dexy Valentine proclaimed “We’re the Magic Wands and that’s all we got”, that was that. A great evening all round!
The thing that I love most about Magic Wands, and Grigio for that matter, was that they transported me right back to those dingy squats that I saw so many great and creative bands in when I was a teenager, growing up in Brussels. It was clear that both bands were not making music to hit the big times, but that they actually had something to say and needed to express themselves. Magic Wands are a fantastic band to see live and in case that you missed them on this tour, make sure to see them in May 2018 when they are back in the UK, and pick up a copy of Abrakadabra once it is out.
Review & Photography by Gunnar Mallon. Magic Wands at Picture House Social, Sheffield on 5th November 2017.