Sheffield is home to a few things that have made life infinitely better. The Yorkshire city is the home of Hendo’s relish, which immediately elevates any food to Michelin star quality. Still, no invention to come out of South Yorkshire has been more critical than the Arctic Monkeys.
The City of Steel has always had a tightknit relationship with electronic music, notoriously giving birth to iconic techno label Warp Records. Electronic pop pioneers like The Human League also called the city home, but Sheffield’s musical heritage had fallen into the shadows. Then, on June 13th, four teenagers from High Green introduced themselves on stage at The Grapes, and the tide changed within their 25-minute set.
Of course, in reality, Arctic Monkeys’ journey to superstardom didn’t take place overnight, and it would take two years of honing their sound in venues like The Grapes or The Boardwalk before they’d begin to reap the rewards of their hard work. However, soon enough, Arctic Monkeys sparked a scene that brought Sheffield back to being a hotbed of exhilarating new music.
Playing their first-ever show was the first brick that Alex Turner and his bandmates laid down on their road to glory. It didn’t take long for Arctic Monkeys to quickly descend into a colossus more giant than they could ever have imagined in their wildest dreams.
They came armed for their first show and prepared as though their life depended on it. Only two songs in their set were originals, and they will be familiar with their diehard legion of fans who were there in the early days long before the confusing transatlantic accents or leather jackets.
‘Ravey Ravey Ravey Club’ and ‘Curtains Closed’ would both make their way on to their unofficial debut album, Beneath The Boardwalk, which spread like wildfire across the internet in 2004 and played a vital part in Arctic Monkeys’ rise.
“We had practised so much beforehand, and it was a major deal just to go and play somewhere,” Alex Turner recalled to The Telegraph in 2013 about the band’s first show. “I’d never been on a stage in my life before that.”
Turner had no great plans for what the band could become, and he added that his only aim was “just to get to the end of the night and pull the bird that I fancied that I’d got to come down! I don’t think I opened my eyes for the whole set. But that 25 minutes – wow.”
That first show is a moment that he remembers as fondly as headlining Glastonbury, and Turner’s life was never the same after he caught the bug of performing. It didn’t matter that it was a half-empty Irish pub down Trippet Lane; to him, it was paradise.
The rest of their set was full of covers which paints a picture of the early influences that shaped Arctic Monkeys during their first chapter. Unsurprisingly, there were covers of The White Stripes, The Strokes, and The Beatles.
The High Green band threw in some more left-field inclusions, like ‘Rockafeller Skank’ by Fatboy Slim, which exists online, and is as raucous as you’d imagine. They also delighted the crowd with a cover of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and even sprinkled in a version of The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’.
The concert at The Grapes venue only had a smattering of faces in the audience, but the memory of that night is something that Arctic Monkeys will forever cherish. Just two years on from this performance, they were household names and the most talked-about country in Britain by some margin.
See their setlist from that famous show below, and treat yourself to a slice of audio of Arctic Monkeys racing through renditions of ‘Ravey Ravey Ravey Club’, ‘Curtains Closed’, and ‘Rockafella Skank’.
Arctic Monkeys first-ever setlist
- ‘Ravey Ravey Ravey Club’
- ‘Curtains Closed’
- ‘The Rockafeller Skank’ (Fatboy Slim cover)
- ‘Black Math’ (The White Stripes cover)
- ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ (The Beatles cover)
- ‘Teenage Kicks’ (The Undertones cover)
- ‘Hotel Yorba’ (The White Stripes cover)
- ‘Harmonic Generator’ (The Datsuns cover)
- Unknown cover of The Vines
- Unknown cover of The Strokes
- Unknown cover of The Jimi Hendrix Experience