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The Shakespeare in Sheffield is one of those traditional public houses that remains totally untouched by corporate franchise; no sign of the little laminated menu of dreams, nor the smell of vinegar that usually goes with it. This is a pub that beer drinkers like to frequent and which coincidentally this weekend, was playing host to the 6th Autumn Beer Festival, with no less than 30 different beers on offer, each proudly boasting such names as Wild Boar Mad Pig, Axholme Pumpkin Porter and even Art Baby Anarchist to tempt your palette. The dimly-lit cluster of noisy ground floor bar rooms were a hustle bustle even by 7.30pm as the bar staff behind the beer-soaked bar offered their recommendations to their thirsty Friday night clientele.
The upstairs function room by contrast was slightly less populated as the new Scots quartet Salt House, having survived a frustrating day of traffic jams and heavy motorway rain, prepared to take to the stage for the fifth concert in their short six-date inaugural UK tour, which had already seen appearances in Newcastle, Manchester, London and Edinburgh. Having launched their debut album LAY YOUR DARK LOW in Edinburgh at the beginning of the week, the band, consisting of Lauren MacColl on fiddle, Siobhan Miller on main vocals and harmonium, Ewan MacPherson on guitar and Euan Burton on double bass, delighted the small gathering in Sheffield with a set made up mostly of material from that album.
Starting with Euan Burton's Setting Sun, the silhouetted quartet performed ten songs on the back-lit stage, including the traditional Katie Cruel and Little Birdie, both confidently sung by Siobhan Miller, together with a handful of self-penned songs including Ewan MacPherson's Strong Dark Souls, which opens the new record and Freshwater Salt, a 'rant about those days when you feel like everyone's out to ravage your bank account', a song with enough sodium chloride references to fill the dwelling of the band's name and also a song about 'solidarity and hope.'
Finishing with their own arrangement of David Francey's uplifting Morning Train, the band reminded us once again that we are all riding on the same train. With their tightly arranged songs, the well-rehearsed band gelled together throughout the set, returning for an encore of Kieran Kane's You Can't Save Everybody, leaving no one in any doubt that a fine new outfit has been launched and one that should potentially make its mark on the festival circuit next year.