March~! As usual, this is the month of Crufts, Flatpack festival, Saint P, and lots of opera. There are other themes this time around, though – if you so wish you can make it the month you’ll remember for whisky, for folk music, for two-tone ska, for walking around the place, or for Brechtian alienation. Check out this little lot and make your choices…
Standard disclaimers: I can’t ensure that these events will go ahead, that they’ll be good, or that I will be going to them. This is just a list of things I found that looked like they might be interesting, so please do not contact me to ask for your event to be included. That’s not the way it works.
Until the 15th of March – “Never Try This At Home” (Birmingham Rep Theatre & Told By An Idiot) @ The Rep Theatre (The Studio), Birmingham – About Saturday morning kids’ telly and described in the promotional letter as “Tiswas starring Vic and Bob directed by Brass Eye’s Chris Morris”. That’s the best description of anything that we’re going to get until the Wildflowers gig on the 8th.
Throughout March and on until April – “Epic Encounters” (i.e. Brecht a-plenty) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – There’s a whole imperial pile of Bertolt Brecht-related stuff at The Rep. You have A Life Of Galileo from the 28th of Feb till the 8th, The Mother on the 15th, a film showing of Baal (David Bowie version) on the 25th, The Threepenny Opera from the 27th till the 12th of April, a day of talks about Brecht’s dramatic theories in practice on the 27th, a day of talks about Brecht’s politics on the 29th, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle on the 29th. You also have some one-step-removed stuff too (Eisler, Eisler and Bunge, Weil, of whom I’d only heard of Kurt Weil).
Saturday the 1st through to Monday the 17th – St Padraig’s Day Festival @ all around Digbeth, Birmingham – All sorts of snake banishin’ stuff, with the actual parade (third biggest in the world etc.) on the 16th.
Saturday the 1st until Saturday the 8th – “Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – You can probably expect more of this sort of thing now that all of the soldiers are coming back from colonial wars again.
Saturday the 1st – Boxing (EJKO Promotions) @ The Town Hall, Walsall – Punchy punchy punchy punchy.
Saturday the 1st – “Punjabi Wolves King Of The Ring” @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – I’m not 100% sure what this is, but it seems like white-collar boxing (non-professional punchy punchy punchy punchy) with roulette tables to play on.
Saturday the 1st – “Whisky Birmingham” @ The Bond, Digbeth, Birmingham – Top’n’tail the month with fermented grain mash (see also the 29th).
Sunday the 2nd – Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival Of The Animals” (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – This sounds like a brilliant one for the young’ins. “Carnival Of The Animals” will be performed with introductory narration from the lady who played Laa-Laa in “The Teletubbies”, and you’re invited to come dressed as your favourite animal. I don’t see how anyone could possibly lose.
Monday the 3rd till Wednesday the 5th – “Blink” (Soho Theatre and Nabakov) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – Don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink and you’re dead. They are fast. Faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t blink. Good Luck… No, wait, that’s something completely different! This here is about two shy individuals falling in love.
Tuesday the 4th till Saturday the 8th and then Tuesday the 25th and Wednesday the 26th – Welsh National Opera’s “Fallen Women” series @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham/Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton/The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – The “Fallen Women” series, because we all know about opera and its sexual politics. At The Hippodrome you have Verdi’s La Traviata on the 4th and the 8th, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut on the 5th and the 7th, and Hans Werner Henze’s newer Boulevard Solitude on the 6th. At the Newhampton Arts Centre on the 25th and the Midlands Art Centre on the 26th, you have Errollyn Wallen’s Anon, as part of WNO’s (wonderful) youth & community programme.
Tuesday the 4th and Wednesday the 5th – “How To Occupy An Oil Rig” (AC Stockton) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Studio), near Coventry – A “playful and provocative show about protest”, in which you get to play with plasticine! You can’t lose. (Oooh ooh ooh I’ve just seen that it’s at The MAC on the 20th, too).
Tuesday the 4th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – A holiday, a holiday, the first one of the year. By ‘holiday’ I mean ‘Fairport Convention gig taking place round these parts”, obviously.
Wednesday the 5th – Michael Chapman @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Blues/folk/occasional noise. Chappo seems to be coming back into fashion again of late (a bit), and I approve of this.
Wednesday the 5th – Chris Wood @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Given that he used to be in a duo with Andy Cutting called “Wood And Cutting”, I reckon he should collaborate with Carrie Tree. And maybe The Roots? No, that’s just silly.
Thursday the 6th till Sunday the 9th – Crufts @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Diggedy daaaaaaaawgs~!
Thursday the 6th till Saturday the 8th – “Emma” (Sutton Arts Theatre) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A Jane Austen adaptation co-written by Doon Mackichan of The Day Today/Brass Eye/Smack The Pony/etc. That strikes me as quite nifty.
Thursday the 6th till Saturday the 8th – “Dialogues des Carmélites” (Birmingham Conservatoire) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Do you know what nuns are for? They’re for operas by Francois Poulenc. (Also: it really really is a shame that this clashes with the WNO at the Hippo, surely that could have been avoided).
Friday the 7th – The Dublin Legends @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Née The Dubliners. They were an enormous amount of fun at Moseley Folk last year.
Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th – “Entertaining Ideas” festival @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – “A weekend of inspiring talks from engaging speakers, celebrating Town Hall’s rich heritage of public speaking”, it says, which probably wouldn’t be a remarkable thing if the tradition was a strong as suggested, but still. Jonathan Meades’ talk about Birmingham could be a good ‘un, I think.
Saturday the 8th – “Stargazing” (Language Alive Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – Galileo’s defence of his theories of planetary motion, for 7-11 year olds. I suppose you could call this another one-step-removed adjunct to the Brecht series mentioned above.
Saturday the 8th – Puccini’s “La Bohème” (Ellen Kent International) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – I saw the first act (before leaving) of this production a few months ago and it was pretty shambolic, but presumably the surtitles won’t be malfunctioning every night and this isn’t at the vile Grand Theatre. I will say that Elena Dee was pretty magnificent as Mimi (although it’s had to tell for certain whether she’ll still be singing the role here or not. They choose not to make these things clear).
Saturday the 8th – Wildflowers @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – Wildflowers at the Sunflower, flower. Harmony-laden Americana, with a lead singer who has apparently been described elsewhere as “the punk Dolly Parton”. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any better things to be. If you want to make a weekend of your poppy Americana stuff, then don’t forget that… (EDIT: Postponed until the 25th of April, whereupon it’ll be at The H&H).
Sunday the 9th – Dar Williams @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – … Dar Williams is playing the following night.
Sunday the 9th – The English Beat @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – One tone. (N.B. This seems to be the version of The Beat without Rankin’ Roger).
Sunday the 9th – “Only Fools And Boycie” with John Challis @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A talk from Terrence Aubrey Boyce himself. Maaarleeeeeeeeene…
Tuesday the 11th – “Pregnazi” (Birmingham Ormiston Academy) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – I nearly just dismissed this without even looking at it on the grounds that I’m really, really fed up of “Nazi” being used as a suffix in descriptions of “anything I don’t like”. This, though, is apparently about a baby in Walsall that is born with Hitler’s face. I reckon that probably happens all the time. They’re all imprisoned and forced to live slave-like existences in the cellar of The Starting Gate (Walsall reference whoooooo).
Wednesday the 12th and Thursday the 13th – “The Sistren” (Gazebo Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Mary Wollstonecroft, Claudia Jones and Emma Lloyd all in the same play, which sounds good to me. It’s also on at The Drum on the 26th.
Thursday the 13th till Saturday the 15th – “Pronoun” (Belgrade Youth Theatre) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – The tale of a teenager finally deciding to do something about his body having been birth-assigned the wrong gender. As an aside, I believe Finnish doesn’t have gender-specific pronouns. That should be the international lingua franca.
Friday the 14th till Saturday the 20th – Still Walking Festival @ various places in Birmingham – The festival of unusual guided walking tours that seems to happen at decidedly irregular intervals. Walks include tours concerned with mystery boulders that spread to the Midlands from Wales during the last ice age, and the city’s corners – check out the programme.
Friday the 14th – Katherine Priddy / The Cadbury Sisters @ Ort Café, Balsall Heath, Birmingham As I’ve said before, Katherine Priddy’s version of “Beeswing” (a song that eeeeeveryone seems to be doing nowadays) is the definitive one (unless, I suppose, you count “Carmen” in its entirety). The Cadbury Sisters’ forebears probably used to own all or most of the neck o’the woods where this gig will be taking place. So there’s a talking point.
Friday the 14th – “Heterophobia” (Outspoken Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – A heterosexual attempts to come out in a homosexual society. I faintly recall Martin Amis writing a short story like this, sensitive fellow that he is.
Friday the 4th – Boxing (Tommy Owens Promotions) @ Villa Park (Holte Suite), Aston, Birmingham – Punchy punchy punchy punchy…Hey, Don Broadhurst is fighting! I was under the impression that he’d packed it in. Although (looking it up as I type this) it appears that he’d reached a Prizefighter final since I last had that vague thought about him having packed it in, so that tells you how on-the-ball I am nowadays.
Saturday the 15th till Saturday the 22nd- “An Inspector Calls” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – “Was it you what done it?” “No.” “Ah but if you examine how your prior actions resonate in the world and peoples’ lives then you may find that it was you who, in fact, done it.” “Oh. Bugger.”
Saturday the 15th till Tuesday the 18th – “Uluzuzulalia” (Your Vivacious Voice) @ The MAC (Theatre Space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Pronounced “OO-LOO-ZOO-ZOO-LAY-LIA”, it seems. In this one, families can explore the worlds of “Squeak” (non-verbal) and “Speak” (verbal).
Saturday the 15th – Grand Magus @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – So I had/have a taped copy of their first album from over a decade ago, and always thought that they sounded astonishingly like Soundgarden for a Swedish band with a Very Metal name. I’ve just had a quick listen to a couple more recent tunes on YouTube though, and they nowadays they do sound a bit more like you’d expect them to.
Saturday the 15th – Bad Manners @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Three tone?
Sunday the 16th – Martha Tilston @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – No Watersons/Carthys this month, have a Tilston instead.
Monday the 17th till Sunday the 30th – “Fortnight” (Proto-Type Theatre) @ Coventry in general, it seems – The notion that small change to context can massively change the way that you perceive something is surely a trivial one, but the specific ways in which it can do so are often fascinating to perceive. If you’re knocking around in the CV1-CV7 area then you can apply to join this, but apparently the best stuff is between the 23rd and 29th (so make sure you’re available over those evenings).
Monday the 17th till Friday the 21st – English Touring Opera’s stint @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – I hate The Grand Theatre. There, I said it. That aside, the well-respected ETO are doing Mozart’s The Magic Flute on the 17th, Britten’s Paul Bunyan on the 18th, and the locally-themed/community-based Zeppelin Dreams (composer? Possibly collectively composed. Have a trailer in lieu of this information) about Wolves being bombed by a WW1 Zeppelin (also, I get a feeling that I See What They Did There).
Monday the 17th – Tom Paxton @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Weird to note that the folky described as a “young man” on Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome” album is now 76. Although (given that) I suppose it’s even weirder to note that Pete Seeger has only recently died.
Tuesday the 18th – Spiers & Boden @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – This tour/string o’gigs is the last one in which these motherfolkers will be performing together as a duo, so you if you want to see them then make sure that you do.
Wednesday the 19th – “In Praise Of Elephants” (Farnham Maltings) @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – Hooray! Elephants deserve to be praised! There’s a trailer!
Thursday the 20th till Saturday the 30th – Flatpack Film Festival @ lots of venues in Birmingham – Apparently it’s changed its name to “Flatpack Film Festival” from “Flatpack Festival”, which is a surprise to me chiefly on the grounds that I thought it always was called that. The themes seem to be “food” and “brains”, but as ever there’s a crazy amount of stuff to see – the Kathleen Hanna film, European cartoons that you can create the sound effects for, Yam Yam-ery, holy Ecclescake, mining, a strange little cat, a freaky clubnight, another guided walk, Hugo The Hippo, If Wet, pubs, you name it they’ve got it.
Thursday the 20th – Oysterband @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Do people who want to sound cool say “I preferred them when they were The Oyster Ceilidh Band”? They should, it’d be funny.
Friday the 21st – Stiff Little Fingers @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – So yeah, the modern-day stuff might be a bit wet, but “Suspect Device” remains one of the most amazing songs ever committed to recording. Your other traditional punk option for the evening will of course be…
Friday the 21st – GBH / Drongos For Europe @ The Wagon & Horses, Digbeth, Birmingham – …GBH and Drongos at The Wagon, so take your pick.
Saturday the 22nd till the 5th of April – Frontiers Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Attempting to link Birmingham and New York (different weight classes, I would’ve thought) by means of extraordinary music, they say. You have a contemporisificated version of Mozart’s “Bastien Und Bastienne”, In C, Sarah Farmer, yet more walking tours, and plenty more.
Saturday the 22nd – Boxing (P.J. Rowson) @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Punchy punchy punchy punchy.
Tuesday the 25th – Lethal Bizzle @ The Institute (Temple Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – You don’t wanna bring armshouse, I’ll bring armshouse to your mom’s house, you don’t wanna bring no beef, bring some beef you lose some teef. I bet he doesn’t perform any of that stuff anymore.
Wednesday the 26th and on until Saturday the 19th of April – “Spanish Golden Age” season (Belgrade Theatre, Theatre Royal Bath and Arcola Theatre) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – New translations of three rarely-seen plays from Habsburg-era Spain, by Lope de Vega and Tirsa da Molina. I don’t know a thing about any of this, but “Don Gil of The Green Breeches” is an amazing title.
Wednesday the 26th – “Mad(e) In Hades” (students of the University of Birmingham’s Master Playwriting course) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A re-telling of Heracles. Insert the stock “Euripedes trousers” joke here.
Wednesday the 26th – Goldfrapp @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – I’ve honestly never been able to decide whether I prefer their Marlene-Dietrich-clouded-in-Gitane-smoke stuff or their Madonna-choking-on-Soft-Cell-fumes stuff. Having said that, I haven’t heard anything at all that they’ve done for several years and so they might well have had another five modes since then.
Thursday the 27th till Saturday the 29th – “Our House” (Bimingham Ormiston Academy Musical Theatre) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – The Madness musical. I generally tend to view these things about as well as I do tribute bands, but I gather that this one has some social commentary to it. Or I may have got that wrong. I do like Madness, anyway.
Thursday the 27th – Azealia Banks @ The Academy, Birmingham – I’ve not enjoyed anything I’ve heard by her anywhere near as much as I did 212, but that one is so glorious that this gig might be worth it for that alone.
Thursday the 27th – Dan Whitehouse @ The ICC (Symphony Hall foyer), Birmingham – Doing the Folk For Free thing, which (as the name suggests) is free. I will not mention a certain television actor lookalike.
Friday the 28th – ABC @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – A gold lamé suit being, of course, the best armour to protect you from poison arrows.
Friday the 28th – Jack Bruce And His Blues Big Band @ The Robin 2, Bilston – The forgotten, sane, member of Cream.
Saturday the 29th – Mozart’s Requiem (Birmingham Choral Union) @ The University Of Birmingham (The Elgar Concert Hall), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Dies irae, dies illa, dies et cetera.
Saturday the 29th – “Going Dark” (Sound And Fury) @ The MAC (Theatre Space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – 75 minutes in the dark, telling and (to a lesser extent) showing the tale of a photographer losing his eyesight.
Saturday the 29th – Midlands Whisky Festival @ The Town Hall, Stourbridge – Top’n’tail the month with fermented grain mash (see also the 1st).
Just a select few things to see and do in the West Midlands, out of the Lots Of Things that are happening
In the absence of a LOTTSADITWM post (there’ll be one for next month, definitely. Possibly. Hopefully!) I thought I might list just a few things that look like they could be fun in the latter half of February. Usual disclaimers apply.
~ This is so deliciously bizarre that I couldn’t possibly fail to give it a shout somewhere: the 18th sees The Birmingham Bullring Fishmongers Championship take place at the Birmingham indoor markets. Apparently there are competitions for the best fish display, and for feats of knife skill. The fact that this is a thing that exists in the world is a fact that makes me smile.
~ The 19th of February will be blessed to see Bernadette Russell’s “366 Days Of Kindness” be performed at The Arena Theatre in Wolves. I saw this in December (briefly making mention of it somewhere in the murky depths of this post) and loved it – Bernadette spent a year making sure that she did something kind for a complete stranger every day, and chronicles it in this. It’s definitely worth seeing.
~ Over in Coventry, the fifth Revolt will be taking place at The Coal Vaults (née Taylor John’s House) on Saturday the 22nd – a DIY feminist/LGBTQ based gig/clubnight/space. (Post-)Punky sorts (Hooker) are your headliners, but there are more bands and spoken word artistes and zines and all sorts of what-all.
~ Abie’s Miracle Tonic are doing the Folk For Free bit at The ICC/Symphony Hall foyer on the 27th, and they’re a huge amount of fun. I can damn-near guarantee you that you won’t get any other chances to see a free gig by a great band who mix folk, skiffle and advertising jingles anywhere else that night (you just watch now, there’ll turn out to be another one…).
~ Finally, Castle Gallery in The ICC has an exhibition of pictures of Marilyn Monroe. There are a massive number of reasons regarding why this is a good thing, with the applicable ones depending on the angle you want to approach it from.
That’s just a few things to hold you, then. There’s loads more going on, of course. Have a look around yourself! I’ll always still be here if you need me.
I know this is the case because of the aches that I can currently feel.
So far I can tell you that A) I’m every bit as rubbish as I expected to be; B) K-Star Legacy in Quinton is a nice, beginner-friendly place; and C) oh lord it aches.
(Edit: It’s good, though. The thought occured to me that that the above might suggest that I’m regretting it. That’s not the case at the present).
The condensation that had formed on the outside of the pint glass caused it to slip straight through Rowan’s fingers. Joachim violently jerked his legs away from the splash that didn’t come anywhere near him.
“Y’see, that wouldn’t happen if they didn’t over-chill the ales. It’s a good job it wasn’t full”.
“I’ll tell you what’s a good job, it’s a good bleedin’ job that I could get out of the way quick enough. Darnell does enough moaning about me smelling of booze as it is”.
For a brief second Rowan thought about asking a difficult question in response to this, but quickly decided to let it go. He placed a couple of beermats at the edge of the pool of alcohol that was now spreading across the table, breathing in the newly released scent.
“Ah, the divine fragrance that results from IPA being released into the wild… Actually, it smells foul like this. I prefer it in the glass”.
An adjustment to the position of the beermats did little to halt the expansion of the spillage. Rowan rubbed his fingers together, drying their moist coating of beer.
“And now my fingers smell”
“I get fed up with how frequently you say that.”
“It matters not, I suppose. It’s not like I have anyone to smell them for me these days.”
“You used to get Poppy to… smell your fingers?”
“I would have liked to, but she wasn’t into it.”
“I wish I could be completely certain that you were joking.”
They went through the motions of chuckling, each fulfilling the social obligation that they expected the other to expect, each well aware that any genuine laughter or warmth was at least a few pints away.
“Why do they call ‘em fingers, anyway? I’ve never seen ‘em fing” added Rowan, hoping to keep the bonhomie going.
The beer puddle reached the edge of the table and steadily began to drip down to the floor. Rowan began to smile as he realised how the gentle thud of droplet hitting carpet sounded like a cat’s pawstep, before he realised that Joachim was saying something to him.
End-Of-Year-Count 2013: Talks, films, music that doesn’t fit into ‘pop’ or ‘opera’, exhibitions and attractions, sport, animals, barbeque, miscellany
Hey, there’s been more stuff too.
I am actually quite happy with my total of having read 53 books this year. Admittedly that did include “The Dandy Annual” and a couple of graphic novels, but on the other hand I actually read “The Anatomy Of Melancholy” so yah boo sucks to you all.
It’s a relief to be able to say I actually saw more plays than could be counted on my fingers this year, even if it still wasn’t a huge amount. And even if the first half of the 2013 was entirely feeble in this particular regard.
Not as many as last year, but I don’t think 14 is too bad.
Righty-ho then, I’m not going to be going to any gigs in the next few days and so we can safely start doing the list posts with this one. I like lists!
Links to all of them, if you should want such a thing:
1st: Frank Sidebottom – Christmas Is Really Fantastic
2nd: Layers – It Feels Like Christmas (Now)
3rd: James Brown – Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto
4th: Hard Skin – Ding Dong Merrily Oi! Oi!
5th: The Muppets – Sleigh Ride
6th: Destiny’s Child – 8 Days Of Christmas
7th: Bob Dylan – It Must Be Santa
8th: Nightwish – Walking In The Air
9th: John Fahey – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
10th: Eels – Christmas Is Going To The Dogs
11th The O’Jays – Christmas Ain’t Christmas (Without The One You Love)
12th: Jim White – Christmas Day
13th: Isaac Hayes – Mistletoe And Me
14th: Johnny Cash and Anne Murray – I’ve Got That Christmassy Feeling
15th: Kate Rusby – Sweet Bells
16th: Mark Nevin – Christmas Cake
17th: The Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)
18th: Tom Lehrer – A Christmas Carol
19th: Run-DMC – Christmas In Hollis
20th: Halford Supergroup – We Three Kings
21st: Tom Waits – Silent Night/Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis
22nd: Garfield – Can’t Wait Till Christmas
23rd: Bootsy Collins – Boot-Off (AKA Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
24th: The Muppets – It Feels Like Christmas
If it wasn’t obvious, I was going for things that weren’t necessarily obscure but certainly weren’t on all of the compilations and continually played in the background of everything.
It’d be harder to do this again next year, having already used all of the above up. I may nevertheless try. We’ll see.