LIVE: Long Live Ant Allen @ The Leadmill, Sheffield

By Liam Knowles

In May 2021, Dead Harts drummer and Skull & Bones Boys Club founder Ant Allen passed away following a history of mental illness and addiction. Due to pandemic-related restrictions in place at the time, his funeral attendance had to be limited, and as Ant was a popular lad, this didn’t sit well with a few of his friends. Fast forward to September, and 900ish people have gathered at Sheffield’s iconic Leadmill venue to see a slew of great bands, raise money for a couple of charities and, most importantly, celebrate the life of a man who was clearly loved by many.

Hull-based newcomers Newmeds may have been billed for one of the earliest slots of the day, but that doesn’t stop them from pummelling the crowd with their eclectic brand of rock’n’roll-infused hardcore. Imagine a blend of Every Time I Die, Queens of the Stone Age and Daughters and you’ll be somewhere close to imagining what the early punters experienced as their intimidating vocalist clambered over their heads for 30 minutes, backed by swaggering riffs and effortless groove. ‘Nothing Is Heavier Than The Mind’ is the highlight of the set, so if you fancy checking this band out you should start there.

Next up it’s melodic hardcore veterans Demoraliser, one of the many bands to come out of mosh retirement just for today. Demoraliser, or “Demozza” to the initiated, were a huge part of the UKHC scene in the early 2010s, but disbanded in 2015 and haven’t been seen since, until today. Judging by the crowd reaction, they’ve been very much missed. From the second the lights go down, before the opening swell of ‘Pretender’ has really even started, The Leadmill is a flurry of arms, legs and inflatables. What follows is 30 minutes of pure chaos. At one point a man crowd-surfs on a blow-up unicorn. There’s a cheeky Terror cover. Everyone is having the absolute best time. Are Demoraliser the most original, interesting band on the lineup? No, not by some stretch. However, are they the most fun? Very possibly.

With the bar set extremely high after the above acts, can Feed The Rhino make their set count? Of course they fucking can. They may not have been absent for as long as Demoraliser, but their return has a lot of people extremely excited, none more so than vocalist Lee Tobin who spends the whole set with the biggest grin on his face, eyes wide and wild, clearly thrilled to be back doing what he loves. Raucous, groove-laden tracks like ‘Featherweight’ and ‘The Burning Sons’ sound absolutely huge, and the band play with a vibrancy that bands half their age would struggle to muster. Their set is so perfectly executed, so full of life and energy, that it seems like a crime for this to be a one-off. There’s been precisely zero talk of the band doing anything else after this show, but maybe if we all wish for it hard enough, something will happen.

Expansive post-hardcore heroes Palm Reader are next to take the stage. Last year Palm Reader released the incredible ‘Sleepless’, and the people at this event are lucky enough to be among the first people to hear stunning tracks like ‘Hold/Release’, ‘Willow’ and ‘A Bird and its Feathers’ in a live environment. As always, the band play to perfection, their sound a perfect mix of shimmering beauty and emotional devastation. Josh McKeown is a mesmerising frontman, one of the UK’s best in fact. Every movement he and his bandmates make feel so organic; there’s never any sense of choreography when watching Palm Reader, and yet they’re always impossibly tight and this set is no exception. Older tracks like the chaotic ‘Swarm’ and the relentless ‘Internal Winter’ also help solidify why Palm Reader are one of the best, if not the best band in the UK underground. Their set felt disappointingly short, but it was still an absolute pleasure to behold.

There’s a palpable tension in the air before Dead Harts begin their performance, with good reason given the circumstances, but whatever emotions people were feeling before it started, Dead Harts changed those feelings into joy. Their set is absolutely wild, every beer-soaked riff punctuated by crowd-surfers and mic grabbers, not to mention some very ill-advised circle pits on what had become The World’s Slippiest Floor™ over the course of the day. This may be the first Dead Harts show since 2016, but tonight it feels like they never really left, and they can walk off the stage safe in the knowledge that they more than did Ant proud.

After an emotional set from Dead Harts, the event doubles down on the sadness with an incredible set from Landscapes, another band to come out of retirement for one last bittersweet show. Landscapes just sort of disappeared without any formal breakup announcement in 2017, so it feels right for them to get a proper farewell show whilst also being able to pay tribute to a departed friend. With their sound sitting in the Modern Life Is War / Defeater realm of emotional melodic hardcore, they’re easily the most raw sounding band on the lineup, but that doesn’t stop them from giving a high-energy performance that has the crowd absolutely enraptured.

There couldn’t have been a better headliner for this event than the reinvigorated, dual-mouthed, post-metal behemoth that is Devil Sold His Soul. Whilst Landscapes’ music is emotionally heavy, it’s coated in a bleak sense of despair that wouldn’t have been the right endnote to this celebration. Devil Sold His Soul are emotionally heavy, but their sound is one of hope and triumph. Awash in blue light, the band fill the room with feedback before devastating the sold-out crowd with ‘The Narcissist’ from their stellar new album ‘Loss’. Duelling vocalists Ed Gibbs and Paul Green are a force of nature, tearing up the stage whilst the impossibly tight band plays behind them. Alongside a couple more new songs, we’re treated to a handful of tracks from across the band’s discography. ‘An Ocean of Lights’ from 2010’s ‘Blessed & Cursed’ feels particularly cathartic, but it’s set closer ‘Hope’ that truly provides the perfect message to end the day. As the closing line of “I know that we’ll be just fine” rings out, it’s clear to everyone in the room that Ant Allen has had the send-off he deserved, and that music can bring people together better than anything else in the world.

If you missed the show but want to contribute to Ant’s incredible legacy, please make a donation to Music Minds Matter and / or Project 6 Sheffield.