Call me Russ L

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: November 2014

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, Food, Linklog, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage by Russ L on 29 October, 2014

And with this post, I prove to myself that I am still capable of writing one of these posts. The James Brown Rule appears to be writ large this month – if you really want to see them and they’re particularly old, then make sure that you definitely do go to see them when they come to your area. Because they die. They all die.

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.

(Throughout the month, I think) (EDIT: Nope, it actually finishes on the 1st. Prior to me editing this, then) – Erica Nockalls exhibition @ Havill & Travis Gallery, Harborne, Birmingham – Yer lady who is now affiliated with The Wonderstuff and whatnot. This is a combined-arms operation, where you can bring a pair of headphones (standard mini-jack connection, I’m assuming, but I don’t know about these things nowadays) to examine her paintings and hear her new album at the same time.

Up until the 15th – George Saxon & John D. Briscoe’s “A Record Of Undying” @ Vivid Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – An exhibition showing the ways in which Mr Saxon (consensually) documented Mr Briscoe’s dying and then death. I’m sure there’s a higher-minded way of saying this, but it sounds morbidly fascinating.

Saturday the 1st and Sunday the 2nd – Dawn French @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – Weird sidewards thought provoked by this – I can’t think of any other comedians with the same name as a nationality. There must surely be loads, though.

Saturday the 1st – “The Hundred Years War” (B2 Stage) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – 40 war poems written between 1914 and 2013. With music and images. This sort of thing is probably very important, given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Saturday the 1st – “Clamber Up The Crucifix” (not sure about a theatre company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A telegraph operator in the trenches. Possibly giving another meaning to the latter part of the old lineman’s adage of “Up poles and down holes”. Again, I will say that this sort of thing is probably very important given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Sunday the 2nd – Holst’s “The Planets Suite” (CBSO Youth Ochestra) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Just play “Mars” so we can all go home. (Disclaimer: I don’t really mean that).

Tuesday the 4th till Saturday the 8th – “My Perfect Mind” (Told By An Idiot, Young Vic & Theatre Royal Plymouth) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – Lear, as learned by an actor who had a stroke halfway through. Decay portrayed through decay? Form and content, you see.

Wednesday the 5th till Sunday the 9th – Wagner’s “Ring” cycle (Mariinsky Opera) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – A full Ring cycle by the Mariinsky opera in Birmingham! Alas, it costs like you’d expect it to (although there is a thing for cheaper tickets here).

Wednesday the 5th – Pam Ayres @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Her teeth are actually fine, you know.

Wednesday the 5th – Billy Idol @ The Academy, Birmingham – After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I must have some sort of semi-conscious fetish for popular music artistes named “Billy”.

Wednesday the 5th – John Mayall @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The man who gave Eric Clapton his first big break. That was a long time ago, though, so don’t hold it against him.

Wednesday the 5th – Lacuna Coil @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Spiralling nothingness is an excellent synonym for a goth-metal band name. I’m still looking for a drummer for my Lacuna Coil/Black Sabbath/Carina Round tribute band, who will be called “Lacuna Sunrise”.

Thursday the 6th – Bo Ningen @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Utterly utterly nutterly Japanese pysch-rock loonies. On the bill with Band Of Skulls, who are a quite-good 70s-influenced hard rock band and might be worth seeing too.

Thursday the 6th – Motorhead @ The NIA, Birmingham – What are Motorhead doing playing at the National Indoor Arena, I mean really now. This is going to be uncannily like the “four people and a dog” scene from “Bad News”.

Friday the 7th and Saturday the 8th – “This Was The World And I Was King” (Hook Hitch Theatre) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Children use folk music and Robert Louis Stevenson to cope with their father being away at the front. As is becoming my mantra, I will say that this sort of thing is probably very important given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Friday the 7th – “Collector Of Tears” (Gobscure) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Tears are collected from various people over the span of four hundred years. That is genuinely a very striking thought.

Friday the 7th – British Sea Power @ Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre Space), near Coventry – With a brass band in tow. I really can see that working well.

Saturday the 8th till Sunday the 16th – The Grand Slam Of Darts @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Obvious YouTube Link is obvious. Is Barry Hearn still alive? His son deals with the boxing now.

Saturday the 8th till Saturday the 15th – “King Lear” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre Company – Cordelia? I barely know ‘er.

Saturday the 8th – The Wailers @ The Academy, Birmingham – Doing “Legend”. On the one hand, this nostalgia-do-an-album-tour bit has gone a bit far when they’re even doing ‘em for best-of albums. On the other hand, it’s The Wailers doing “Legend”. Choices to be made.

Saturday the 8th – The Neville Staple Band @ The Oobleck, Digbeth, Birmingham – This’ll be probably be good, but The Specials themselves are playing later in the month…

Saturday the 8th – Mark Steel @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre Space), near Coventry – So this is a “Back In Town” tour one rather than an “In Town” one, which I think means one with comedic observations about towns in general (such as I saw at The Mac the other year), rather than comedic observations about the specific town you’re in (such as you’d hear on the radio). I think.

Saturday the 8th – Louis Robinson’s Damba La Bamba @ The Symphony Hall foyer in the ICC, Birmingham – I didn’t know about this, but apparently there are a series of musical picnics for 0-7 year-olds, and this is one from your erstwhile Destroyers fella. Damba La Mamba (soy capitan?).

Sunday the 9th – Bellowhead @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Spiers And Boden aren’t together as a duo anymore (which is a shame – I saw them in May and they were ace) but you can still see them as part of Bellowhead, with a cast of thousands of other band members too.

Monday the 10th and Tuesday the 11th – “Not About Heroes” (Blackeyed Theatre Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Yet again, I will say that this sort of thing is probably very important given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Monday the 10th – “The Trial” (Music Theatre Wales/The Royal Opera/Theater Magdeburg/The Scottish Opera) @ The Rep Theatre (The House), Birmingham – Philip Glass’ opera, built out of Kafka’s “The Trial”. There’s nothing in that sentence that I don’t like.

Wednesday the 12th till Sunday the 16th – Slava’s Snowshow @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – This really is visually astonishing. Worth borrowing a child for an excuse to go and see it, if you don’t have one. And I hate children.

Wednesday the 12th till Saturday the 15th – “Miracle On 34th Street – The Musical” (Coventry Youth Operetta)@ The Albany Theatre, Coventry – I dunno if this is your post office version or your bank note version.

Wednesday the 12th till Saturday the 15th – “Othello” (Frantic Assembly/Theatre Royal Plymouth) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – Here sold under the name of “Shakespeare’s Othello”, just in case you were confusing it with… Verdi, I suppose.

Wednesday the 12th – Hannah Silva’s “Schlock!” @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – The female body reconstructed by means of ripping up and then combining “50 Shades Of Grey” and Kathy Ackers’ “Memoriam To Identity”.

Wednesday the 12th – Ben Frost @ Eastside Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – Yer man who did the opera version of “The Wasp Factory”, doing an improvised (I think?) bit in collaboration with one Greg Fox of Liturgy, who I know nothing about.

Thursday the 13th – Lady Gaga @ The NIA, Birmingham – Per-per-puh-puh-poker face, Granville.

Thursday the 13th – Cockney Rejects @ The Robin 2, Bilston – I always get them mixed up with Cock Sparrer. With semi-hilarious consequences.

Thursday the 13th – Street Eaters @ Talk Bar, Birmingham – Ferocious punk/post-punky stuff from Californ-I-A. Apparently many of their gigs have been “dense basement shows in the Midwest that turned into swamps; shows in haunted German schools-turned-squats, medieval French catacombs, smoke filled Japanese practice rooms, and abandoned Hungarian aluminum (sic) factories”. I expect this may seem a bit boring to them in comparison.

Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th – Mark Thomas @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – The “Cuckooed” tour, in which he relates the story of BAE Systems employing people to spy on him.

Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th – “Dorothy Towers” / “Only On Sundays” @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – A double-bill with the LGBT residents of a tower block, and the most laddish laddest lad falling in love.

Sunday the 16th – Focus @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Yodeedodleay yodelaey yodelaey etc. etc. etc.

Sunday the 16th – Dr John @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – I am really really looking forward to this one. They call him Doctor John, the… night triiippuh…

Tuesday the 18th till Saturday the 22nd – “Oh What A Lovely War” (The Arcadians theatre group) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham) – This sort of thing is probably very important given that etc etc etc. Alright, you’ve heard it already. It disgusts me, though. I really, really hate that stuff. Shame on them. Also, here’s a play.

Tuesday the 18th – The Roy Wood Rock’n’Roll Band @ The Robin 2, Bilston – It is nearly Christmas.

Tuesday the 18th – Charlie 2na @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – You can tune a hip-hop, but you can’t tune a fish.
Wednesday the 19th till Tuesday the 2nd of December – “The Pool” @ outside Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – Big concentric circles that you can jump on to make it light up with different colours. This sounds amazing.

Wednesday theFs 19th till Saturday the 22nd – Welsh National opera @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – I’m not sure what the theme of this season is, but you have Carmen on the 19th and 20th, Mosè in Egitto on the 21st, and Guillaume Tell on the 22nd.

Wednesday the 19th and Thursday the 20th – “Islands” (Caroline Horton & Co/China Plate/Bush Theatre) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Studio Space), near Coventry – About offshore tax havens. I don’t approve of them.

Wednesday the 19th – John Shuttleworth @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Oof!

Wednesday the 19th – The CBSO’s “Spirit Of ‘45” @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Not as war-celebratory as the title might suggest. This is a programme of music including Shostakovich’s 9th and the sea interludes from Britten’s “Peter Grimes” (AKA the best opera that they’ve yet come up with).

Thursday the 20th – The Specials @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – It’s not quite as exciting as it was a few years ago, when they came back and we were all thrilled that we’d get finally to see The Specials (maybe ‘again’, for those older than I), but still – The Specials~!

Friday the 21st – Robert Plant @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Robert Plant walked past me once. He looked confused. This is a true story.

Saturday the 22nd till Sunday the 29th – “The Judas Kiss” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – David Hare’s play about Oscar Wilde’s life and thoughts after dear old Bosie knifed him in the back.

Caturday the 22nd – The Supreme Cat Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Catcatcatcatcatcatcat.

Saturday the 22nd – Jim Moray @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – It took until the third time that I’d seen Jim Moray before I could remember anything at all about him. I loved his folksy business from thereonwards, though. So I suppose we all win in the end.

Sunday the 23rd – The Gaslight Anthem / Deer Tick @ The Academy, Birmingham – Two very different visions of Americana.

Sunday the 23rd- “Madama Butterfly” (Ellen Kent International) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – The Ellen Kent production of “La Bohème” that I saw about a year ago was an absolute shambles, but let’s assume that they’re not like that every night.

Tuesday the 25th till Saturday the 29th – “To Kill A Mockingbird” (specific touring cmpany?) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Embarrassing admission #381: I spent a long time assuming that Harper Lee was male, for no reason whatsoever.

Wednesday the 26th – Delain @ The Academy, Birmingham – Noun, Dutch symphonic (sic) metal band. Very definitely not the gerund verb, slowing something down.

Wednesday the 26th – Sharon Van Etten @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – Wonderful singer-songwriter type with a name that always seems really verbally dissonant to me, although I can never understand why. Biblical Dutch forests or somesuch?

Wednesday the 26th – “The BFG” (Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – The Big Fu… no, sorry, The Big Friendly Giant.

Thursday the 27th till Sunday the 30th – The BBC Good Food Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I’m really looking forward to the BBC Bad Food Show, which will presumably follow.

Thursday the 27th till Sunday the 30th – Birmingham Tradfest @ various venues in Birmingham, mostly in Digbeth – Loads of Irish folk gigs. Includes Frankie Gavin, but not the one you’re thinking of. Although he might be knocking around, who knows.

Thursday the 27th – Dreadzone @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – This’ll probably be good, but Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry himself is playing about twenty miles over…

Thursday the 27th – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry @ Warwick Arts Centre (Student Union Copper Rooms), near Coventry – Nothing that I could possibly type here would be adequate.

Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th – “Choose Your Own Documentary” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – As the name might suggest, a documentary in which you get to pick between options about what happens next. YOU are the narrative etc. etc.

Friday the 28th – Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – It is still hard to imagine that the fella from The Housemartins is the fella from The Beautiful South, but I do like both.

Friday the 28th – Chas & Dave @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – So, a few years ago they announced their last ever tour.

Friday the 28th – Eliza Shaddad @ Ort Café, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – Folk-blues type in “Doing a gig whilst not being on the same bill as Michael Chapman” shocker.

Satuday the 29th – Revolt @ The Coal Vaults, Coventry – Amazing feminist/LGBTQ gig-come-club-night that everyone should go to. Your line-up for this time is over here.

Saturday the 29th – Goodnight Lenin @ The Institute (Library Room). Digbeth, Birmingham – The launch gig for their long, long-awaited album.

Sunday the 30th – Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s “The Movie Doctors” @ Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – Hello to Jason Isaacs etc etc. I don’t actually like films, y’know.

Super Sounds are here again

Posted in Music by Russ L on 7 June, 2014

Oooooh, it’s Supersonic Festival time again, or rather it was on the 30th and 31st of May. I like Supersonic, as those fool enough to have looked at this blog before might know. There wasn’t one last year (instead we had Bring To Light, which was a kinda-sorta Supersonic-lite done in combination with the Library Of Birmz opening celebrations), but it’s back, it’s in its natural home at The Custard Factory, and it’s in ‘Limited Edition’ form (read: smaller and over two days, just like it used to be in the olden times). I hope that this means that the having-Supersonic-in-October experiment is over. It had a good run and the brief bursts of rain and dither-inducing cold were a thousand times less severe/frequent than they might have been expected to be for the time of year, but I do think that it would only have been a matter of time until there was a serious weather-stinker.

Further nostalgia for the ghosts of Supersonics past came from the fact that it all took place in spaces around the pond again! Said water feature wasn’t drained for a stage, which was a bit of a shame – I always felt that the outside/pond stage was one of the defining features of Supersonic. Even after they stopped using it. I didn’t see anyone jumping in for a quick swim, but I imagine that somebody did at some point.

There’s also a new restaurant and venue in place of the old Med Bar, called Alfie Birds. Outside of the fact that I find the name “Alfie” to be entirely insufferable (“Alf” and “Alfred” are lovely names. “Alfie” strikes me as being as vile as vile can be), they name themselves after Mr Bird but don’t appear to serve anything with custard on it. Something has gone awry somewhere, and for a change I’m confident that it’s not my fault.

I don’t actually like custard. That’s not the point.

Finally, the main stage: an erstwhile unused bit in the far corner. It’s a big room, sure enough, and grubby enough to satiate those who are particularly into the noisy-sound-as-reflection-of-urban-decay tip. Musical vibrations were causing chips of paint to fall off the ceiling. You could theme an entire blog post around using that as a metaphor for… something or other. I’m not going to bother trying. Even I have trouble parsing my own nonsense nowadays.

Let’s have some brief thoughts on the acts and artistes I especially liked:


~ Anta – Sabbath riffs combined with what would have been called solos if they’d been played further along the guitar neck. There used to be loads of instrumental bands like this. Maybe there still are, I dunno. All of that sounds cynical but I liked ‘em, they shifted some air.

~ Ex-Easter Island Head – Fourteen (count ‘em) guitarists, and a drummer to act as the cherry on top. We all know that ‘having a double figure number of band members’ is always a foolproof way of being good live, and so it went with E-EIH. So many guitars all doing the same thing at once produces a pleasingly ringing timbre. The bells on the drumkit made me think of xmas, not Easter. The droney bit had washes of feedback that felt like waves breaking on a Pacific beach, so there’s your Easter Island.

~ Agathe Max – Violin and loadsa pedals (I assume, I couldn’t see ‘em. Seems like a safe bet though). A one-woman orchestra, at times. A one-woman shoegaze band, at others. Ferocious feedback drones (no really: she was the only one all weekend to make my head feel all wobbly) at other times still. Hypnotic at all of the times.

~ Rattle – Two drummers. Vocals acted as a flat layer for the percussive groove to sit upon. They were hypnotic, too, but in a very different way to Agathe.

~ Alien Whale – Ex-members of a bunch of bands that you’ve heard of and I haven’t. Instrumental big rock (moments of 60s psych too, I suppose), and a lot more fun than I initially thought it might be. Some fantastic Eric Clapton-esque guitar-playing faces were pulled.

~ Youth Man – This band seem to be the talk of the town nowadays. Black Flag-ish, maybe? Well, no, they don’t sound like that, but abstractly they do have that Punkfast-into-Sabbath type o’thing. More melodic than all that, though, too ( Dead Kennedys, I suppose). There are definitely better reference points, but I can’t think of them. They were much more ferocious than I expected, given the channels through which I’d heard about them (a lesson about assumptions that is always worth re-learning).

~ Sarah Kenchington – Oh my life. She played a prepared wheel, foot pumped brass that she poured water into, a drumpet (exactly what the name suggests) pointed into a wheelbarrow, and something like a… Oh, I don’t know. Something like a pedal sewing machine built out of percussive instruments, string instruments, and a typewriter. This may well have been one of the greatest things that I’ve ever seen. After Sarah Angliss at Bring To Light last year, it has become more than apparent that it is very important to make sure that you see any ladies called Sarah who build their own instruments/devices.

~ Karen Gwyer – This was some energetic and interestingly layered dance music. Once upon a time I would have been able to tell you what type and (on a good day) maybe even make references, but I don’t remember the words any more. I’m old. My leg ached too much to actually dance but I enjoyed it.

~ Jenny Hval – The artist I was most keen to see, but I somehow hadn’t thought much beforehand about how the actual context would affect her songs. In a great big ol’ room (and amplified appropriately), her whispered confessions and matter-of fact statements become boldly proclaimed boasts. She does boast well, though. Her own manner was adorably sheepish-to-unhinged (“I recently became aware that I am Norwegian, so I’m very polite and then shout rude words very loudly”).

~ Notable absences (to save anyone asking) – It was a shame that Pharmakon cancelled (some herbert tea-leafed her passport, apparently), ‘cos I did particularly want to see her. I did like Sleaford Mods when I saw them last year but they do definitely veer into the territory of a pub bore moaning about other pub bores at times, and so not seeing them here wasn’t the end of the world. I like Swans, too, but (whisper it) I’m not thaaaat bothered. They were getting a bit dull before I wandered off last time they were at Supersonic.

Next one please!

(For lots of links to things that others have said, have a goosey at the Collective Memory).

A Handful Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands (end of April)

Posted in Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 20 April, 2014

There’s not going to be any possibility of a Lots post, so here are just a handful of recommended and/or eyecatching things for between now and the rest of the month:

~ Birmingham Opera Company are doing Mussorgsky’s “Khovanschina” (here retitled “Khovanskygate: A National Enquiy”) every even-numbered day from the 22nd up to the 2nd of May, in a big tent in Cannon Hill Park (not that disused picture-house that always has the carwash signs on it in Harborne, as I swear it was originally supposed to be. I’m sure I haven’t just made that up. It would be a bizarre thing to imagine, wouldn’t it?). You have to pick a numbered seat when you buy tickets, but it does appear to be the usual walk-amongst-them B-Op thing. If you listen to nothing else that I ever tell you, pay heed to the fact that you must always go to every Birmingham Opera Company production because they are always amazing.

~ The Shout Film Festival is taking place between the 23rd and the 27th, mostly at The MAC but at a few other venues too. Lots of LGBT-themed filmy goodness.

~ Dan Stuart, erstwhile of country rock types Green On Red, is at The Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath on the 24th. I do quite like his recent “The Deliverance Of Marlowe Billings” album. Jace Everett is laying too, and whilst I haven’t had a listen to him yet (and I do want to get this posted without any further delays, so I’m not going to do that right now) I gather he did the theme music for one of those television programmes that you like so much.

~ If you want to make it two nights in a row of Americana offshoots at The Hare & Hounds, Wildflowers are there on the 25th. This is the gig that was meant to be at The Sunflower Lounge last month prior to postponement, and while it’s a shame that we won’t be able to say “Wildflowers at The Sunflower” we will be able to point out that the evening involves both flora and fauna (Wildflowers/Hare/Hounds, you see). As I mentioned recently, the singer has elsewhere been described as ‘The punk Dolly Parton’. I still can’t think of a better thing to be described as.

~ Damo Suzuki (of Can fame, as you know yourself) is playing at The Chuckery Club in Walsall on the 25th, which is pleasing (given that The ‘Sall hasn’t quite been a hotspot for international touring artistes during recent years). Apparently a nine-piece band has been assembled for a freaky-deaky jam with him.

~ “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” will be taking place at The Hippodrome on the 27th, although it isn’t one that’s being recorded for broadcast (I didn’t know they did dark matches). Mornington Crescent.

~ Clutch are playing at The Academy in Brum on the 29th. They’re the best rock-band-as-such going nowadays, ah-reckons. Also by far my most-seen foreign band.

Playing With Posh Chairs – disconnected and incoherent thoughts about Game Of Thrones Series 4, Episode 1

Posted in Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 9 April, 2014

So it’s come to this. I warn you that this may contain spoilers regarding series 4, episode 1 if you haven’t watched it yet.


Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – March 2014

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 1 March, 2014

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 – Schostakovich’s fifth symphony (CBS) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The one that got him out of trouble after he’d been in trouble. Before the next time he got in trouble.

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 till Saturday the 15th – “Fiddler On The Roof” (Music & Lyrics/Mayflower Theatre) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Get down from there! Oi Vey.

Tuesday the 11th – Rodriguez @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – This is not a gig, it’s an outburst.

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.

Thursday the 13th – The Selecter @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Two tone!

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 14th – 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?

Saturday the 15th – “Little Red Hen” (Language Alive/The Play House) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – 3-6 year olds can help Little Red Hen plant her wheat, with puppetry and fresh bread.

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.

Sunday the 23rd – The Four Tops / The Temptations @ The NIA, Birmingham – Going Loco Down On Cloud Nine. Walk Away, Rolling Stone.

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 – The Webb Sisters @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Laughin’ Lenny Cohen’s backing singers, doing their own thing.

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. (Edit: Cancelled. So many gigs seem to be being cancelled lately).

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

Posted in Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 14 February, 2014

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.

It would appear that I have started to do Muay Thai training

Posted in Combat Sports by Russ L on 30 January, 2014

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).

A fragment of fiction

Posted in Modern Living, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 9 January, 2014

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

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, Food, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 6 January, 2014

Hey, there’s been more stuff too.


End-Of-Year Count 2013 – Books

Posted in Books, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 December, 2013

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.



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