Call me Russ L

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: September 2011

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 31 August, 2011

There really is a lot this month, with a whole metric heap of interesting events (and the customary Brum tendency to describe most of them as ‘festivals’, whether this is in the least bit sensible or not). I’ll warn you, though – the sheer amount of good stuff means that there will be date clashes, and plenty of them.

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.

Already started and ongoing – “Home Of Metal” @ lots of different venues in Birmingham and the Black Country – The big celebration of the fact that Heävy Metäl came from hereabouts continues. A metric bagful of different things are happening so it might be easiest for you to just look at the listings (or the map), but the fun includes Judas Priest stage costumes at Walsall Leather Museum, Bat Walks at Haden Hill, and some actual real metalbashing.

Thursday the 1st till Saturday the 3rd – Debbie Tracey’s “Death Of A Beauty Saleswoman” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Gaining the world and losing it again in the comedy world of cosmetics.

Friday the 2nd till Sunday the 4th – The Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park, Moseley, Birmingham – Another strong line-up this year, with Billy Bragg, Tinariwen, Pram, Badly Drawn Boy, Gruff Rhys, Michael Chapman, Eliza Carthy and loads of others in beautiful Moseley Park. I’m actually looking forward to this more than that other Brum festival I normally look forward to so much, this year.

Friday the 2nd till Sunday the 4th – Brum Punx Picnic @ outside The Adam & Eve, Digbeth, Birmingham – Involving English Dogs, Eastfield, Rotunda, Poundaflesh and a cider-barrelful more. See also the 9th and 30th for more Digbethy punk (well, actually, there are always punk gigs in Digbeth all the time, just keep your eyes open if you’re interested).

Friday the 2nd – Dolly Parton @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Fresh from giving out books to the children of Rotherham. No, really.

Friday the 2nd – “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” (Townsend Productions) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – I may be the only lefty in the world to consider the book massively over-rated, but this two-hander stage version could nevertheless be of some interest.

Saturday the 3rd/10th/17th/24th – “Project Pigeon” events @ New Art Gallery, Walsall – Over the four Saturdays you have (respectively) a talk, an exhibition, film showings and an auction, all of our feathery friends.

Saturday the 3rd – “The Owl And The Pussycat” (Hiccup Theatre) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – Acting, music, puppetry and two entirely endearing creatures. I’d like to see The Monkey And The Capybara staged too.

Sunday the 4th – Jimmy Cliff / Toots And The Maytals @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – I really, really wish this wasn’t at the same time as Moseley Folk. But it is. So there we are.

Sunday the 4th – Ian McKellan @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Apparently he started his acting life at the Belgrade in Coventry, so here (fifty years on) he’ll be reminiscing and answering questions. Hopefully with “What I do is, I pretend to be them.”

Sunday the 4th – The Rotary Club Country Music Festival @ Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Yes, that’s The Rotary Club Country Music Festival, held at The Botanical Gardens. I think this proves that you can string any possible sequence of nouns together and come up with something that actually does exist in the world.

Sunday the 4th – Handel’s “Dido And Aeneas” @ The Conservatoir, Birmingham – The opera being operated by students from the Conservatoir.

Monday the 5th – Public Enemy @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Doing “Fear Of A Black Planet” all the way through, because apparently now all bands that have been around for more than ten years are legally and morally obliged to do a tour where they perform one of their albums in its entirety. Should be good, though.

Tuesday the 6th until Tuesday the 4th of October – The West Midlands Human Rights Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham and Wolverhampton – Showing “a range of films that investigate the notion of human rights in the 21st Century as measured against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Apt, just lately, given that a lot of people seem to have suddenly decided that they want coppers to be allowed to stamp on their heads.

Wednesday the 7th – Daniel Martin Moore @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – If the Moseley Folk Festival wasn’t enough folk for you folks, then here is some more folk (of the American persuasion).

Friday the 9th till Saturday the 22nd of October – “The Importance Of Being Earnest” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – A Handbag etc etc etc. See also the 17th.

Friday the 9th – Varukas @ The Old Wharf, Digbeth, Birmingham – Y’see, I told you – there’s punk in Digbeth, all the time. This might help, now that I think about it.

Saturday the 10th till Saturday the 17th – “Talking Heads” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – The vaunted monologues by Alan “Gordon” Bennett.

Saturday the 10th and Sunday the 11th – Artsfest @ lots of places in Birmingham – It’s the annual free Artsfest and, typically, we’re only a fortnight away and it’s still a bugger to find out what’s actually happening. Guillemots are playing though, apparently, and I’ve no doubt that the CBSO will be doing the big proms-y bit with fireworks.

Saturday the 10th – Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) @ The NIA, Birmingham – Headlined by Jim Wallhead vs Frank Trigg and Paul Daley vs Jordan Radev, which is actually quite good when you think about it.

Saturday the 10th – Jazzie B @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Your man there from Soul II Soul. I assume this would be a DJ set, although I can’t find anything that tells me for certain.

Saturday the 10th – “The Boat That Oxjam Brum Rocked” @ starting outside the Canalside Café, Birmingham – A gig for charidee… on a boat! I don’t know who’s playing, but who cares? It’s on a boat. That’s the attraction.

Saturday the 10th – Switchblade @ The Wagon And Horses, Digbeth, Birmingham – The flyer I picked up says “Swedish veteran drone duo from a bleak punk landscape”. You just try and tell me that doesn’t sound enticing, go on, you just try.

Monday the 12th till Friday the 17th – “The Pitmen Painters” (National Theatre) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – I’m surprised that you can actually see the paintings down a mine.

Thursday the 15th – Cosmo Jarvis @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Your indie-teen version of The Streets. That wasn’t actually meant to sound like an insult.

Friday the 16th – “Showstopper! The Improvised Musical” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Apparently it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Friday the 16th – “Mr Edgar Allan Poe’s Terrifying Tales” (Tin Shed Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Poe by candlelight.

Saturday the 17th of September till Saturday the 22nd of October – “Travesties” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Following on from “The Importance Of Being Earnest”, here we have Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties” at the same place with the same cast.

Saturday the 17th – The Women Chainmakers Festival @ Bearmore Mound Playing Fields, Cradley Heath – In honour of the 1910 Mary MacArthur strikes. Apparently this has been at the Black Country Museum in previous years, but they’ve chosen to stop hosting it because they’ve decided that the union presence there was getting too uppity (sorry, ‘political’). Disgraceful stuff from an institution I normally like a lot.

Saturday the 17th – Pow-Wow Literary Festival @ The Prince Of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham – Talks and speakers all day, about matters literary. There’s also a Capoeira demonstration. For some reason.

Saturday the 17th – “Off The Cuff” (Offstage Theatre Group) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Improvised comedy business with the audience shouting out suggestions etc, but apparently there are free Jaffa Cakes too. That’s every bit the endearing bonus that it’s calculated to be.

Sunday the 18th – Bearwood Shuffle @ Lightwoods Park, Bearwood – We didn’t come here looking for trouble, we just came to do the Bearwood Shuffle. Free live music at the bandstand in the middle of the park, headlined by Aziz.

Sunday the 18th – The Digbeth O’Lympics @ various places in Digbeth, Birmingham – Usually involving snail racing and welly wanging and whiskey drinking and so on.

Sunday the 18th – Gary Numan @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – He really didn’t look very well in the backing videos used on Battles’ last tour, but presumably that was intentional.

Sunday the 18th – Rick Wakeman @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Keyboards and capes.

Tuesday the 20th till Saturday the 24th – “The Jungle Book” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Taking after the Disney one, it looks like, although I expect it won’t have the songs from that. Or will it? I love me some “Bear Necessities”, as all right-thinking folk do.

Tuesday the 20th till Saturday the 24th – “Hobson’s Choice” (All & Sundry Theatre) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Give ‘em the boot.

Wednesday the 21st – Susan Murray’s “Photo Booth” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Solo comedy show based on 25 years of collecting passport-sized photos of people.

Thursday the 22nd – Sham 69 @ The Robin 2, Bilston – There’s gonna be a Bilston breakout.

Friday the 23rd – Boxing (Dave Coldwell promotions) @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Headlined by everyone’s fave Max Maxwell versus one Martin Robins, and also featuring quite a few debuting fighters.

Friday the 23rd – Julian Sands’ “A Celebration Of Harold Pinter” @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – So the story goes that Pinter’s illness left him unlikely to be able to speak at a charity reading, and as such he trained this Sands fella up to take his place. He now continues to read in (as it says on the tin) celebration of the master. Apparently this is also directed by John Malkovich, which is certainly a thing.

Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th – Miniatura International Dolls House Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I don’t really know anything much about miniature/dolls houses, but I do always think they’re very clever.

Saturday the 24th – The First Bite Theatre festival @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Thirteen short plays/performances (from a variety of local groups) performed in different places throughout the MAC.

Sunday the 25th – Echo And The Bunnymen @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Spare us The Cutter. Well, actually, no – play it, please.

Sunday the 25th – Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – More folk etc etc.

Wednesday the 28th – Martin Simpson @ The Red Lion, King’s Heath, Birmingham – That bloke who’s got that Dad (also: even more folk etc etc etc).

Wednesday the 28th – Josh T. Pearson @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Yeah man dang ol Texan fella from Lift To Experience solo stuff I tell you hwhat.

Wednesday the 28th – “Macbeth” (Icarus Theatre Company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – I love “Macbeth”, it’s just so gangsta. This is, apparently, an appropriately violent production of it. But then…

Wednesday the 28th – Guy Masterson’s “Shylock” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – … speaking of Shakespeare in Wolverhampton on the 28th, here you have a one-man show in which Tubal from “The Merchant Of Venice” takes us through the history of anti-semitism.

Thursday the 29th till Sunday the 2nd of October – Harmonic Festival @ mostly at The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Outre jazz craziness. This includes an eleven hour long piano performance and a trumpety quartet influenced by Meshuggah, things I can’t help but approve of.

Friday the 30th – GBH @ The Wagon & Horses, Digbeth, Birmingham – Rity babies attacked by cats.

Some things I went to, some things I didn’t go to

Posted in Films, Modern Living, Music, Stage by Russ L on 29 September, 2010

Not only the actualities but also the possibilities that never were, ayit.

~ In a Barbie world: To The Town Hall of Birmingham on the 8th of September, for Modified Toy Orchestra. Micronormous (is there a website?) opened, a fella from Pram doing stuff in the vein of the parent band’s darker material. Both times I’ve seen him now it hasn’t quite clicked for me, and I can’t really put my finger on why. MTO are of course always fun, here exhibiting stuff from their upcoming album (although they have been playing some of these songs for years). Since Brian Duffy has been everywhere in the media lately I’ve no need to have a token stab at explaining the circuit-bending behind it all, and can go straight on to saying that “Qwerty” is always an enjoyable singalong and the video playing behind “Freeno And Olaf” is still the most lovely thing I’ve ever seen (it was introduced as a “Utopian Love Song”, too – I’m glad they’ve dropped the noble but non-working stratagem posited here and punctured et seq). The new one “Great Kings Fall” had a really interesting backing video, too – piles of coins built up to examples of architecture associated with various past regimes, before giving way to the expansion and contraction of modern cities (many levels. Or maybe I’m misreading it entirely). I (Along with many others) really do think MTO’s main strength is the way that they so effectively combine brain-stimulating cleverness and smile-inducing fun: they know that it’s important to both Kraftwerk and play (sorry). (Incidentally, gang, BrianDuffyHasABigBrain has an enormous amount of videos from/photography of/words about this gig if you care to have a look).

~ But is it art?: Artsfest ran from the tenth till the twelfth, and (insert stock thing about people not getting as annoyed if it didn’t have “art” in the title here). There definitely seems to be less there every time, though, and in this year of austerity there was even less still. On the Friday we only popped up for a little bit to see a couple of sets of pop music, Goodnight Lenin (you probably know them by now. West coast folk rock typathing, ace) and OST (is their actual name “OST” or “Old School Tie”? Indie-dance typathing, OK-ish). On Saturday we watched Treefrog Theatre’s “Three On A Match” at The Old Joint Stock Theatre (set in a very literal class war in the near future. Very funny, and a hell of a lot darker than any of Treefrog’s plays I’ve ever seen before. While I’m on the subject, what do they do for the rest of the year? They’re always a highlight at Artsfest but I never hear of them doing anything anywhere/time else); had a little diversionary non-Artsfest trip to Edgbaston Nature Centre; saw the Birmingham Royal Ballet performances in Centenary Square (including the ace Printer Jam. The performance on the day was a lot sharper and sexier than the one in that video); watched a bunch of fillums in the Cresent Theatre (highlights were definitely the documentary about the old statue of King Kong in Brum [incorporating this news item here] and Stephanie Zari’s “Marigolds”); and finally, of course, went to the CBSO’s Classical Fantasia, which is always fun and always has some fantastic fireworks.

~ Eh? Whaddya mean “We could well meet one day mate, maybe in a pub”? You live next-door to him, you clown: I was planning to go and see The Twang on the Sunday of Artsfest, but on the actual night I couldn’t really be arsed.

~ You fools! These are good biscuits and they cost four pounds!: After going back and forth in my thoughts more times than I bothered to count, I eventually decided not to go and see Half Man Half Biscuit at the Robin 2 in Bilston on the 15th. It was £18 on the door, and (while I have in the past ended up paying more for artistes I’m less bothered about) I just didn’t want to encourage that sort of silliness. Eighteen quid (sixteen in advance, whoopy-doo-dar) is just plain too much for this size of gig. I found out afterwards that Dean Friedman got up on stage with them, although that doesn’t give me any additional regret given that I’d never heard of him outside of their song “Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman”.

~ Somewhere that’s green: I took the parentals to The Rep for Little Shop Of Horrors on the 15th, as part of mom’s birthday doings. It’s a bit disgraceful that this was the first theatre trip I’ve had all year (if you don’t count the aforementioned Artsfest bit), especially in the year of this, but I can’t change that now. It was lovely stuff, anyway – precisely what you want from “Little Shop Of Horrors”. High energy, good comic timing, an inventive set (as so often at The Rep), ace puppeteering movements for Audrey II, great fun. Big smiles were a-smiled.

~ Don’t throw bloody spears at me: I didn’t go to “The Magnificent Seven” boxing card at the NEC for a few reasons (not only being occupied with the aforementioned theatre trip, but also due to the facts that A) I’ve decided that the NIA is my size limit for boxing unless I’m assured that there are going to be big screens; B) Macklin vs Barker was called off; and C) I got the feeling it wouldn’t finish till 3 in the morning and I’d end up paying a fortune to miss half of it), but that may be for the best given that the argy-bargy in the stands sounds like it may have gone a bit further than fun and games. Ah, Zulus. I still say hoorah for the kind of card-as-a-whole matchmaking that this was a crazy example of.

~ Did you hear the one about the Englishman, the Irishman and the German?: I didn’t go to see The Pope on the 19th either. Probably should have done, on general “when am I going to get to see that again?” grounds. The discourse around the whole thing has been massively irritating, though, and I find myself disagreeing with every possible ‘side’. Don’t nod in agreement, I’m talking about what you said as well. Especially what you said, in fact.

There have been more things that I’ve been to since then (and, obviously, even more that I haven’t) but I think I will cut it here for the time being.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: September 2010

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 August, 2010

All of the usual staples of LOTTSADITWM (music, theatre, fighting sports, things calling themselves “festivals”) and a few little additional oddities too.

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.

Wednesday the 1st till Saturday the 18th – “Little Shop Of Horrors” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Feeeeeeed me Seymour.

Thursday the 1st – “Precious Things” (My Little Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Strange characters attend an exhibition of a nazi-sympathising artist in a play looking at ethics in art.

Friday the 3rd till Saturday the 5th – Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park, Moseley, Birmingham – The fifth annual Moseley Folk Festival. The big headliner this time is Donovan, and there’ll also be chances to see Turin Brakes, Fyfe Dangerfield (see also the 25th), The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, The Unthanks, John Renbourne, The Destroyers and a whole tonne of others in an absolutely lovely setting. In spite of all that, I’ll still be asking for my money back if The Divine Comedy don’t play “My Lovely Horse”.

Friday the 3rd till Saturday the 5th – Birmingham Punx (sic) Picnic 2010 @ The Adam & Eve, Digbeth, Birmingham – With GBH, cider, Runnin’ Riot, Cracked Actors, cider, Contempt, cider…

Saturday the 4th & Sunday the 5th – “Peppa Pig’s Party” @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – I’ve never seen any of Peppa Pig’s programmes but I do think she’s so very very cute.

Saturday the 4th – “Opium: The Confessions Of Thomas De Quincy” (Skewed View) @ The Vaults, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham and then apparently later on at The Old Crown, Digbeth, Birmingham – Based, as the name would suggest, in Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions Of An English Opium Eater”. The Vaults is a restaurant but I doubt that’ll be on the menu.

Sunday the 5th – The Rotary Club Country Music Festival @ Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A counterpoint to Moseley Folk, I suppose.

Sunday the 5th – Heart Of England Judo tournament @ The NIA, Birmingham – “Consider fully, act decisively” – Jigoro Kano.

Tuesday the 7th till Saturday the 11th – “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (Wolverhampton Youth Musical Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Thoroughness, that’s what you want in your modernity.

Wednesday the 8th – Modified Toy Orchestra @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The circuit-bending gaffers will be premiering their new album, “Plastic Planet”. That was me just trying out this useage of “premier” as a verb. I don’t think I like it. I probably won’t do it again.

Friday the 10th until Sunday the 12th – Artsfest @ all over Birmingham – It’s that time of the year again. Details are customarily scarce, but the main stage in Centenary Square (apparently they’re fencing off a chunk of Broad Street too, to mitigate for the space lost to library-building works) will have the usual CBSO “Classical Fantasia” on Saturday night, and a pock’n’rop thing on Sunday headlined by The Twang.

Friday the 10th until Sunday the 12th – Birmingham Zine Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Fanzines have always been and will always be around, obviously, but they do quite recently seem to have become more a lot more fashionable in various circles. Still: hooray for DIY and boo to the insistence that all information must flow downwards from the massahs and hooray for zines.

Friday the 10th – Gorillaz @ The NIA, Birmingham – I still think that Murdoc from Gorillaz and Cain Dingle from “Emmerdale” are the same person. (EDIT: Postponed till the 17th of November, see comments).

Saturday the 11th till Saturday the 18th – “A Dolls House” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Ibsen and his dislike of 19th century sexism.

Saturday the 11th – “Muay Thai Champions Trophy” Muay Thai card (Fightsport Events @ The NIA, Birmingham – Including one of those eight man/one night tournaments that we all love so much.

Saturday the 11th – The Drifters @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Saaaaturday night at the… erm, theatre…

Saturday the 11th – The Furious Five @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Don’t… push… them,… ‘cos they’re… close… to… the… eeeeedge…

Tuesday the 14th until Sunday the 19th – The British Science Festival @ various places in Birmingham but mostly the universities – It’s poetry in motion/She turned her tender eyes to me/As deep as any ocean/As sweet as any harmony…

Wednesday the 15th – Half Man Half Biscuit @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Comic lyricists extraordinaire. I really am very sad that it took me as far into my life as it did to investigate their works.

Thursday the 16th – Mahler’s 8th symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The Birmingham Mahler Cycle (running till June) begins with “The Symphony Of A Thousand”.

Saturday the 18th – Fun Lovin’ Criminals @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Stick ‘em up, punk.

September the 18th – “The Magnificent Seven” boxing card (Frank Warren Promotions) @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – “The Seven Samurai” was a far better film, but never mind. It’s so-called due to there being no less than seven twelve-round fights on this card as well as more stuff too. In one of the more anticipated domestic fights of recent times, Matthew Macklin is scheduled to take on Darren Barker for the British and European (both at once, it’s like the olden days) middleweight titles. Assuming they all occur as planned, Nathan Cleverly then fights Karo Murat in a WBO world light-heavyweight title eliminator, Enzo Maccarinelli fights Alexander Frenkel for the European cruiserweight title, Ryan Rhodes faces Lukas Konecny for the European light-middleweight title, Derek Chisora takes on Sam Sexton for the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles, Kell Brook fights Michael Jennings for the British welterweight title, James DeGale faces Carl Dilks for the WBA International super-middleweight title, Frankie Gavin takes on Michael Kelly for the Irish light-welterweight title, and Don Broadhurst fights The Dreaded TBA for the English super-flyweight title. Not including at least one additional four-rounder on the bill, that’s potentially 104 consecutive rounds of boxing. Blimey. (EDIT: Barker is out. Bad hips apparently. Shame really, that would’ve been quite the fight…).

Sunday the 19th –The Pope @ Cofton Park, Rednal, Birmingham – As the old Belfast joke goes: “Yeah, but I’m a Catholic atheist…”

Sunday the 19th – The Digbeth O’Lympics @ various places in Digbeth, Birmingham -Including snail racing and cardboard-box sailing.

Tuesday the 21st & Wednesday the 22nd – “The Caretaker” (London Classic Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolvehampton – “It’s Pinter…”

Wednesday the 22nd till Saturday the 25th – “Enron” (Headlong Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – I actually thought this was called “Enron – The Musical”. Unless that’s something different.

Wednesday the 22nd – Schostakovich’s 8th Symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Banned for a bit, in the USSR. I find that difficult to believe, it’s so unlike Schostakovich…

Thursday the 23rd till Saturday the 25th – “Duck Variations” and “The Brothers” (Duck Brothers Productions) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A double-bill of comedic plays, the first by David Mamet do you see do you see.

Thursday the 23rd – Wagner’s “Tristan Und Isolde” (The Philharmonia Orchestra) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The UK premier of this enormously well-regarded production, featuring backing visuals by Bill Viola.

Saturday the 25th – “BAMMA 4” mixed martial arts card (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts) @ The NIA, Birmingham – In which Tom Watson (Not The MP) will take on the bloke who did that Stamford Prison Experiment knock-off thing. There’ll be lots more fights too, including an interesting battle between two very good prospects when Eugene Fadiora faces Gunnar Nelson.

Saturday the 25th – Fyfe Dangerfield @ The (AHEM) Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – The building that has previously (in whole or in part) constituted The Barfly, The Sanctuary, The Institute, Digbeth Civic Hall and (apparently) a Methodist chapel is now re-opening as The HMV Institute, presumably because if you ask ten people off the street what they think about “branding” they’ll sincerely beseech you to add more company identities into the names of things for no obvious reason. Obviously I’ll be ignoring the “HMV” in this in the same way that most of us ignore the “O2” in The Academy (unpleasantly, though, I have recently heard a few people refer to The Academy as The O2. This is despicable and must cease immediately – you’re only encouraging them, ferchrisakes). Anyway, your man there from Guillemots will be playing on the 25th.

Saturday the 25th – Steve Ignorant’s “The Last Supper: Crass Songs 1977-1982” @ The (AHEM) Academy 2, Birmingham – Crass are quite possibly the last band from whom I would expect to see ex-members doing nostalgia gigs in big corporate venues, but this could be interesting nevertheless.

Saturday the 25th – “Whose Shoes” (Theatr Lolo) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – One poor young’un acquires a younger sister, who wants to half-inch her awesome slippers. Being a sibling-less type I can see how this would be bloody infuriating. For 5-7 year olds. (EDIT: I mean the play is for 5-7 year olds, not that it would only be irritating for 5-7 year olds. The shoe-teefin’ would be annoying for anyone).

Sunday the 26th – Paul Heaton @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Of The Beautifully Southern Housemartins fame.

Sunday the 26th – Deer Tick @ Taylor John’s House, Coventry – Intense country-rock. I am told by trustworthy fellows that they’re quite the thing, live.

Tuesday the 28th till Saturday the 2nd of October – “The Habit Of Art” (National Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Alan Bennett, ladies and gentlemen.

Tuesday the 28th – Mark Ronson @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – I risk the wrath of Bounder by invoking this name.

Thursday the 30th and then every Thur/Fri/Sat for five weeks hence – “A Play, A Pint And A Pie” (Paines, Plough and Òran Mór) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – For only ten of your English pounds you can have a pie, a drink and see one of five new 45 minute plays. Dinnertime performances, too.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: September 2009

Posted in Combat Sports, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 2 September, 2009

There wasn’t an August, but it really doesn’t seem like there’s never much that’s particularly exciting in August. This particular list is even less exhaustive than usual, and also even more music-dominated than usual, but that’s what I’ve managed to come up with. Sorry. The comments box is as open as ever for the awesome stuff I’ve missed, if you feel like using it.

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.

Wednesday the 2nd until Saturday the 19th – ‘Cabaret’ (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome, c’mon in. Or similar. We saw this production last year and it was quite good. Certainly less afraid of facing up to the nasty side of it all than a lot of big-budget touring musicals would probably be. I’m not sure about the extent to which the cast is the same as that one, but Wayne Sleep is definitely still playing The MC.

Wednesday the 2nd – Seasick Steve @ JB’s, Dudley – One of these occasions when the booking at JB’s really surprises you. Apparently it’s their 40th anniversary do and proceeds will be going to cancer charity ’The Proton Effect’. Scott Matthews is also on the bill, in proper Black Country fashion.

Thursday the 3rd – Maths @ The Flapper, Birmingham – Chaotic metally punk, or even screamo if you feel the need. They’re quite good from the bits and bobs I’ve heard, but more importantly than that they call themselves ‘Maths’ rather than ‘Math’. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that, in these times of everyone wanting to pretend to be an American.

Friday the 4th till Sunday the 6th – The Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park, Moseley, Birmingham – Headlined by Saint Etienne (folk you say?), Beth Orton and Jethro Tull, whilst also featuring Swarbrick:Carthy, Ade Edmondson’s band, Keli Ali, Cara Dillon and a load of others. Bert Jansch won’t be there as originally advertised, due to ill-health.

Friday the 4th till Sunday the 6th – Birmingham Punks Picnic @ a few places in Brum – Cannon Hill Park on Saturday afternoon for cheap cider (no doubt), then gigs in the evening: The New Inn in Balsall Heath has Drongos For Europe and more on Friday then GBH, Runnin’ Riot and others on Saturday, whilst The Wagon & Horses in Digbeth has a line-up that includes Assert on Sunday.

Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th – “Off The Cuff” music event @ The Flapper, Birmingham – On the one hand it doesn’t look like Rolo Tomassi are doing this anymore (unfortunate) and their MySpace page doesn’t actually tell you which bands are playing on which day (stupid), but on the other hand some of the acts will be playing on a docked barge on the canal outside (brilliant).

Monday the 7th – Tori Amos @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – She’s ace, although she wasn’t that good when I saw her live a few years ago. But she is ace.

Thursday the 10th – The Drifters @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – To repeat what I said in a previous LOTTSADITWM: “Or a version thereof, at least. No Ben E. King or Clyde McPhatter, for obvious reasons.”

Thursday the 10th till Sunday the 13th – the opening of the new version of the Birmingham Academy @ The, erm, new version of the Academy, Birmingham – The previous toss-hut has closed its doors to be demolished (well, good) and a new ‘un is due to open. Let’s be positive – while it’d be outright stupid to hope that most of the problems with the old place will be rectified, perhaps the new place will be a better building and so perhaps some of the structure-related stuff will be better. Any sort of improvement would be a blessing, really. The opening doings involve four days o’ gigs headlined by Birmingham bands who have achieved fame (relatively) recently: Editors on Thursday, The Twang on Friday (apparently with nine other bands, although obviously it’d make life far too easy if the Academy website were to tell us who they are), The Streets on Saturday, and Ocean Colour Scene (bless) on Sunday. Lovely to see ‘em showing their commitment to the full ethnic make-up of Birmingham’s music so early on.

Friday the 11th till Sunday the 13th – Artsfest @ all over Birmingham – Annual free-family-fun-weekend that everyone bar me seems to hate. Typically there’s no sign of a line-up/timetable yet, but there is a list of ‘themes’, including the anniversaries of the death of Matthew Boulton, the birth of Charles Darwin, and the creation of… Barbie. I’m not making this up. (EDIT: The leaflets are out now, got one through the door today. Still nothing on the website, though). (EDIT EDIT: The timetable is on the website now. See comments below, too).

Friday the 11th – Electric Wizard @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Dooooooooooom.

Sunday the 13th – The Men They Couldn’t Hang @ The Robin 2, Bilston – They really should get TMTCH on at the Moseley Folk Festival, now that I think about it.

Friday the 18th – Boxing (First Team) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Steve Saville has a go at Scott Lawton for the English lightweight title, and if you’re into slebriteez then Angel McKenzie from ‘Big Brother’ faces our own local Lyndsey Scragg. I am completely confident that Lyndsey will absolutely wreck her, so let me know if you can find anyone running a book on it.

Sunday the 20th – The Digbeth O’Lympics @ various pubs in Digbeth – Although the website just shows you a flyer and doesn’t tell you what the events are (‘not wanting to let on about the line-up’ seems to be the theme this month, doesn’t it? Event promoters, you’re all rubbish. All of you), but in this case I don’t suppose it matters that much. Have a pint instead.

Tuesday the 22nd – Massive Attack @ The Academy, Birmingham – Currently running back at two members, I think. Possibly.

Tuesday the 22nd – Theo @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Fantastic loop-pedallin’ maths-rock one-man-band who rocked both your socks and mine at Supersonic this year. He’s first on the bill, with Fook Boottons headlining.

Wednesday the 23rd – “Under Milk Wood” (Guy Masterson) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Dylan ‘That’s lovely, you see, isn’t it’ Thomas. This claims to be “perhaps the ultimate rendition” of it, with a very strategically placed ‘perhaps’.

Thursday the 24th – The Wildhearts @ The Academy, Birmingham – Will my unbroken run of failing to attend any Wildhearts and/or Wildhearts-related gigs since June 2001 continue? The sensible money would say ‘yes’.

Saturday the 26th – AMMA @ Banks’ Stadium, Bescott, Walsall – The latest in the always-fantastic series of amateur MMA cards put on by Marc Goddard and co. The most recent bill I can find is here.

Monday the 28th till Saturday the 3rd of October – “Dinnerladies” (The Comedy Theatre Company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – The telly series was one of the greatest telly serieseseses ever, I think (by which I mean that it was really good, and not that I’m trying to damn it with faint praise). Obviously I don’t know how good this is.

Monday the 28th – the live version of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – I was really quite overjoyed to walk past Mornington Crescent tube station when I went to London in February.

Wednesday the 30th – ‘Canal Music’ @ outside The Flapper, Birmingham – This is a lovely idea for a tour: Lisa Knapp and Leafcutter John are playing a series of gigs up the length of the Grand Union Canal. It ends in Birmingham (obviously), outside The Flapper. I don’t know if they’re actually playing from the barge or not. If they are that’ll take a bit of the novelty away from the “Off The Cuff” thingy mentioned above.

Over three months of Out-And-About in one go: It’s the hugenormousive catch-up digest

Posted in Books, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 31 October, 2008

Ye Gods. I haven’t told y’all about any of the out-and-about things I’ve been up to since mid-July. That’s over a quarter of a year ago.

I couldn’t make my mind up how to go about it, that was part of the problem. Another catch-up post (in which I briefly mention what I’ve done, so that it’s documented and thus actually happened) seemed like the obvious thing to do, but there have been a few things over the last couple of months that seemed to need a full post on their own. Inspiration struck after a lot of umming arring: why not both? Lovely stuff. Most things will get mentioned in a perfunctory fashion in this post. The odd few things that seem to require more words (this isn’t necessarily related to how good they were) will get a post of their own afterwards.

So… one Saturday towards the end of July (I forget the precise date, but it was definitely before all of the rest of the things in this post. 26th, probably, but I make no promises) saw the latest Chess-meet between myself and James ex-Trucker, at The Briar Rose. I managed to win another game! I also lost another two. That puts the running total at something in the region of 381-2-1 in his favour, but I will even the score one day.

Kings Heath’s loveable Hare & Hounds was the venue for the night of Friday the 1st of August (oh my God. How long ago that was…), with a Capsule-promoted Japanese double-bill taking place. The night was spoiled to some extent by a pillock acting like a pillock, but both of the bands were ace. Nissenenmondai made for a great instrumental collision between Can, Battles and Lightning Bolt. Acid Mothers Temple’s set (such of it as I saw – they went on for ages. For a change I’m not bothered about late runnings, though: I think I got my fill of them) was in a lot more of a straightforward 70s rock veign than I was expecting, but there were still plenty of (old) Pink Floyd styled freakout bits. The openers came away with the honours of the night, if you ask me, but both bands were very good.

The 20th of August saw a day-trip to Aberystwyth. Note well, all of you non-regular travellers to Wales – it seems to be the custom in fair Cymru for certain trains to separate, with some carriages going in one direction and some in another. Yes, this had the predictable consequences on us. Yes, it was entirely my fault.

That aside (well, not just ‘aside’. It was funny), we had an absolutely lovely day. Aberystwyth, for some reason, had a great number more Hassidic Jews wandering around than you’d expect (and I’m not making that up). We bought a sheep and a penguin.

Birmingham Opera Company’s ‘Idomeneo’ on the 22nd was good beyond belief, but deserves a post of its own. We’ll come back to this. (EDIT: Yes, here).

Friday the 29th was occasion for seeing Clutch at The Barfly (which you now enter via the old Sanctuary entrance, fact-fans). Beset by unfortunate but unavoidable delays, Clutch were already on by the time we got in there. Ah well.

I can’t really mention any more than I have already that I find Clutch to be The Best Rock Band Going At The Moment. Bluesy and boozy yet still with untold energy and actual fantastic songs, and most of all grooooove. They’re about the only band who can jam as much as they do and still remain interesting to me. There wasn’t any harmonica at this gig (for some reason) and there were some omissions from the setlist (I know this will always be the case for a band with as many albums as Clutch, but still: no ‘Cypress Grove’. Booooo), but highlights like “Escape From The Prison Planet”, “Electric Worry” and “Promoter (Of Earthbound Causes)” were high indeed.

(Other accounts can be read here, here and here. Not sure about the setlist in the last one, though: I’m pretty sure they played “I Have The Body Of John Wilkes Booth” at some point in there. It was ages ago, of course; I could easily be wrong).

For the 30th, then, I caught a train over to Leamington Leam, to be picked up for the drive to REM’s Twickenham concert (this sort of feels like one that should get a post of its own, but I don’t really have all that much to say about it) by the incomparably wonderful Matt’n’Chel. They’d had an absolutely mad weekend and deserve salutes for even being awake, never mind travelling darn sarf for a gig. Twickenham Stadium is an impressive sight when you get in there, although you do get a hell of a lot of low-flying planes heading towards Heathrow.

We arrived in time for the half of “Sao Paulo”, Guillemots’ last song. A shame, since it was sounding absolutely fantastic with added percussion jam and such, but there we are. Such things can’t be helped. Editors were the piggies-in-the-middle. The sound wasn’t so great, sadly, and their already echo-y (ta Matt) atmospheric indie rock was made even more echo-y by the sound and less atmospheric by the bright blue sky and periodic aeroplanes. Still very good, though, with choons from first album working really well.

REM were, unsurprisingly, great fun (setlist here). They sounded a touch (only a touch) more rocky-sounding live than one might have expected, and a fair few of their more well known songs were excluded (most obviously no “Everybody Hurts”, but also no “Stand”, no “Star 69” etc. They have an even huger back catalogue than Clutch, though, so no-one can really complain), but did play a fair bit from my fave album “Document” (“Disturbance At The Heron House”, “Exhuming McCarthy” and of course “The One I Love”. No “Finest Worksong”, though) and even “Country Feedback”. Stipey (as he’s known to his friends), meanwhile, made for an endearing frontman. My only complaint would be that the hurrah-ah for Obam-ah stuff all got a bit Leni Riefenstahl at times. I’ve no problem with bands talking about things that are important to them, but pictures of politicians displayed on the big screens can begin to feel like a bit too much…

(There are reviews of this here, here, here, here, here, and no doubt a bunch of other places but I’m bored of looking now).

The End-Of-August Weekend O’Gigs culminated with the last day of the Moseley Folk Festival, on Sunday the 31st. This is another one that’ll need a post of its own, though, so I’ll come back to that. (EDIT: Heeeere y’go).

Gomez, lord love ‘em, decided to mark the tenth anniversary of their first album (“Bring It On”) by doing a tour in which they played the entire thing in its entirety every night. On one hand, it seemed a lot like pointless nostalgia and smug self-reference. On the other hand, it is a good record and I’d never seen them before. I ended up going to The Academy (bah) on Wednesday the 3rd of September.

There’s not a lot to say about this one: it went pretty much as one might expect. The sound was very rough to begin with but cleared up after the first few songs, “Tijuana Lady” sounded gorgeous, and “Rye’s Wagon” was epic. An encore featured a few more recent songs and a new one, and… Well, it was good stuff. I’m still not sure what the purpose of the exercise was, but it was good stuff.

(Another write-up here).

Life was a Cabaret (old chum) at The Rep on Friday the 5th. Blimey, Wayne Sleep isn’t half a funny looking little troll-thing (and thus very well-suited to the role of the MC in this, of course). Samantha Barks was just-about-passable as Sally Bowles, and (to my surprise) the production didn’t shy away from facing up to the Nazi themes throughout the play, often quite graphically. I enjoyed it.

(Reviews here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and probably elsewhere).

Birmingham’s annual weekend o’free stuff took place between Friday the 12th and Sunday the 14th. The best bit was unquestionably Stan’s Café’s Of All The People In All The World (AKA The Rice Show). That’s something that deserves another post on its own, though (EDIT: here). We went to a whole tonne of things outside of that, so I’ll just mention the best bits: the Hair exhibition at the art gallery (not part of Artsfest as such, but lots of fun. Anything where you can try on wigs will always be fun); the lights projected onto the wall of the council house on Friday night; Treefrog Theatre’s “Paradise Mislaid”, in which Satan challenges God to a game of Monopoly for the future of creation; MDCC Theatre’s Shakespeare quiz and short-form version of his history plays; the sheer number of helium balloons that one could see making their break for freedom on the Saturday afternoon/evening; the ‘Classical Fantasia’ performance with the CBSO, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Opera Company (far less Proms-ish than last year, and I’d hazard not quite as good, but it was a wonderful thing to hear our King Idomeneo from a few weeks before singing “La donna è mobile”. They were never going to top the fireworks from the previous year, I suppose); the preview reading of the beginning of “The Bad One” (we’ll come back to that in a bit); and Birmingham Library Theatre Company’s “Advice To Iraqi Women”, an oddly unnerving performance demonstrating (I reckon) the contradictions in a safety-first health-conscious society that sends it’s citizens halfway across the world to die in wars.

(There are probably five squillion things about this across the internets, so I’ll just link my mother’s account of our weekend).

Netherton Victoriana Day on Saturday the 20th was a bit crap (just not enough there, really), but we did get a chance while we were over there to pop into Ma Pardoes/The Old Swan, which was great.

The Approximately Infinite Universe tour bumped down into The Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath on Tuesday the 23rd: a series of collaborations between Finnish and American musical artistes which varied in quality but made for a good evening overall. Kemialliset Ystävät & Axolotl were on first, doing a sort of Pram-esque dreamscape sort of thing that occasionally threatened (just threatened) at funkiness. There was also some drone of the kind I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard a thousand times before. Es and Fursaxa did a really enjoyable thing that could be described as something akin to ritualistic psych-folk. ‘Dream Triangle’ played drone of the kind I’m absolutely sure we’ve all heard a thousand times before. Islaja, Blevin Blectum and Samara Lubelski seemed like the b(l)est of the lot, albiet by far the most song-based. Islaja really does have a very affecting voice, complemented well by the driving wobbly bass that kept surfacing. We had to leave before they’d finished (what with the time having been what the time was and would later have gone on to have been), but they definitely got my ‘ensemble of the night’ honours.

Wednesday the 24th saw me (just me. A gig on my own; usually so common, of late so rare) heading to Digbeth’s Barfly. Punk-funk types Mirror! Mirror! are a band I always think I probably could like but then actually end up thinking are just OK-ish. Rolo Tomassi, meanwhile, were and are awesometacular. Choppy-changy assortments of guitar and keyboards and screaming and clean vox are made to feel both random and unpredictable and perfectly cohesive and right, all at the same time. They’re (yet) another band I’ve written about too many times to have anything to add now, but they’re bloody ace.

(There’s a Brum Live review here).

A trip to The Rep Door on Friday the 26th, for Women And Theatre’s The Bad One. A look at the dangers of repressing emotion and creativity staged in a fairytale gothic setting, the script didn’t exactly shake out a massive number of new or original observations but was very nicely executed. Janice Connolly (better know to me as ‘Holy Mary from Phoenix Nights’) was wonderful, just about (only just) managing to keep the excess of broad comedy on the right side of annoying by dint of strong performance, while Susie Riddell gave a good turn as Jackie (this was most strongly disputed by one of our party), effectively altering her mannerisms to suit the arc of the plot. Good but not great, I’d call it overall.

(Some others liked it, some others didn’t, some others did).

Coldrice! On Saturday the 27th of September, this one was. I’m not quite sure how much I’m meant to say or not: this was the first time I’ve ever been to one of their semi-secret invite-only gigs, at a location I’m absolutely certain I can’t mention (if you’re interested in future ones then you can get yourself on the path to attending with the information I’ve already provided). We absolutely loved it, though – a great atmosphere and some great bands. The Solomons started affairs off and absolutely rocked: a two-piece (guitar/vox and drums) playing a sort of blues-rock (Led Zep writ large at times) with the odd grungey bit. Some fun riffs combined with a really effective sense of dynamics, as well as the singer having an interesting voice (unquestionably American-aping, but interesting. I won’t mention the former thing, though, ‘cos apparently they don’t like it. Nope. Won’t mention it at all). Band of the night were fellow locals-playing-American, Black Mekon. I’ve already mentioned my like for them elsewhere, what with their high energy rock’n’roll and such. It almost feels like I’m damning them with feint praise (since so many bands can be described thusly) but they were genuinely energetic, genuinely rocking and to reasonably authentically rolling. Also: masks. The Jam Messengers (AKA Rob K & Uncle Blucher) were on last, the leastmost band of the night in terms of music (although amazing considering that they were a two-piece consisting of one guy singing and one guy playing guitar, singing the backing vocals and pedalling the hi-hat and the kick-drum) but a massive, massive, massive amount of fun. They could easily have been irritatingly wacky, but your man’s peace-and-love-and-sex spreading preacherman vibe was hugely entertaining. Also: they were spitting images of Prince & Dave Gorman.

Stevie Wonder returned to Birmingham for the second time in just over month (his first European tour in lord-knows how long, but his second Birmingham gig within it) and we had the pleasure of being there (after a second visit to “Of All The People In All the World”. I will be coming back to that in a subsequent post, I promise. [EDIT: As above, here]). He was more or less exactly as you’d expect Stevie Wonder to be, which is – needless to say – very good. Also: he’s still blind. There was a slight touch of too much soloing at times (oh hey lets introduce the band and let them all have a go at it in the usual boring-as-motherfork fashion), some outright bizarre things going on here and there (getting the promoter onstage for an applause at the end), but mostly really good. There were obviously highlights a-plenty, perhaps predictably including “Signed Sealed Delivered”, “Superstition”, an amazing rendition of “Higher Ground”, and why y’know I actually like “I Just Called To Say I Love You”.

(Most of the reviews that I can find online relate to his other Birmingham gig a month before, but there is this and this).

My first ever trip to The Glee Club took place on Wednesday the 8th, to see Mark Steel (why do I always get such a strong urge to add an ‘E’ onto the end of his surname?). For me, this will forever be remembered as the night my beau was described as ‘The Most Pedantic Woman In The Midlands’ by a famous comedian. Nothing else I could say would even come close to living up to that. Steel-y boy was very funny, anyway; this show discussed how a 40-something goes about squaring up his leftiness with everything else going on in life, and was very clever as well as being hugely and warmly humorous.

(There’s a review here).

The lefty-comedian jamboree continued on Tuesday the 14th, with Mark Thomas at Adrian Boult Hall (as part of The Birmingham Book Festival), although this wasn’t a stand-up comedy set as such. Still hugely funny, he talked about his new book and read bits out before answering questions. Hilariously, Coca-Cola (y’know, the multi-squillion-billion-unit-of-currency-makers) seem to think that he’s “picking on” them. The real world continues to lampoon itself far more effectively than any satire ever could.

It was to Birmingham Symphony Hall on Wednesday the 15th, for another genuine legend in the form of Stephen Stills. I’m only really familiar with odd bits of his 30+ year cannon and so a lot of what he played was far less familiar to me than (it seemed to be) with the vast majority of the audience, but naturally I enjoyed it no less. It was a game of two halves (Oh, Greavsie. Silly Tory), with the first half (acoustic with occasional band accompaniment) sounding fantastic and achieving particular heights during “Treetop Flyer” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”. His age did seem to be catching up with his voice at a few points, but literally (and happily) only at a few points. The electric/rockier latter half (after an interval) had long spells of what were little-more than strings of standard pub-rock/blues-rock clichés, but certainly still had its moments. The closing “For What It’s Worth” was great, as was the encore of “Love The One You’re With” (its quite bizarre lyrics aside). Definite enjoyment.

(Another account here).

The Roots Manuva gig at the ever-sickening Academy 2 was the place to be (or just the place we were, possibly) on Friday the 17th, even though the venue does get my vote for worst gig room going (even worse than the main Academy room). Good lord was it hot in there, even if we did end up moving to another part of the room where it was even hotter and there was even less space halfway through. Sigh. I was surprised to find that Rodney didn’t have a band this time (he has both of the previous times of seen him), instead going for the DJ + sidefolks approach. This has to be the leastmost Roots Manuva gig I’ve yet been too, but he it was still reasonable grooving fun. “Witness (1 Hope)” absolutely tore the place apart, naturally. It always does. His weed-addled between-song speeches about buying “two trainers” (pairs or individual shoes? I suppose we’ll never know) were as endearing as ever.

The UFC card at the NIA on Saturday the 18th unquestionably deserves a post of its own. Unquestionably. (EDIT: here we are).

The book festival rolled on, and Carol Ann Duffy graced Adrian Boult Hall on Tuesday the 21st. I love Carol Ann Duffy, writing as she does lines that are often witty, and always extremely clever but never obscure. This evening consisted just of readings, with no chance for audience questions or anything. There seemed to be quite a few poems from “The World’s Wife” (I have read that, but years ago), as well as a sequence from Rapture (which I absolutely adore. It didn’t include “Give” from that volume, though, my joint-absolute-favourite of hers alongside “Deportation”). I can’t say she has a great voice for reading, sadly, but you acclimatise.

An afternoon off work was booked for Thursday the 23rd, to go and see Tony Benn at The Grand in Wolverhampton (‘orrible theatre, but never mind). I don’t believe in heroes, but if I did then good ol’ ‘Tone would be one. Bless him, the man is a legend. He’s fairly deaf these days (there was something akin to donkey chaos when you combine this with the fact that questions from the audience were coming from both the balcony and the floor but with neither of the theatre-employees carrying the microphone knowing who should go next), but every bit as sharp-witted, passionately humane and committed as ever. An example to us all. I really, really enjoyed this afternoon. His phrase about democracy taking power away from the market place and into the polling station/away from the wallet and into the ballot was brilliant.

Capsule struck again on Friday the 24th, this time at The Hare & Hounds. Bilge Pump opened, sounding not quite as funky as I seem to recall them from the first time I saw them but still pretty good. They were something akin (in broad terms) to Gang Of Four adding funk and stadium rock parts. This is, of course, a likeable thing. Beestung Lips seem to be everyone’s favourite band nowadays, and as far as gestalt decisions go I don’t think that’s a bad one. They’re like a high-speed Jesus Lizard drooling the amphetamine back out of their mouths, or maybe a something someone doing something possibly to someone else or something. Half of the fun is deflecting the bodies flying around the dancefloor away from yourself, obviously.
I had to leave halfway through big-time touring American headliners Oxes, but they were OK with their math(s)-post-rock instrumental doodling lark (yes, that’s right: mathS). I’d been led to believe beforehand that they’re use of boxes was more exciting than as a little platform to get on and off the stage with, but there we are. I approve of having a nice little rug on stage when you play. I approve of this most strongly.

I got quite excited when I heard that Gabrielle was supporting Al Green at The NIA on the 28th, with thoughts of hi-larious “ghost/toast” lyrics to laugh at. It was then pointed out to me that I was getting her confused with Des’Ree. Oh well. Gabrielle turned out to be as bland as you’d expect.

The Reverend Al Green looked a lot more sprightly than I remember him being the last time I saw him, although still every bit as Cosbyesque. I’m getting to know what an Al Green gig consists of by now: highlights as ever included “Let’s Get Married”, “Let’s Stay Together”, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, “Tired Of Being Alone”, lots of roses handed out to lucky ladies, a selection of little bits of other peoples’ songs he loves, and of course the closing “Love And Happiness” with the horn riffs that work so well live. Familiarity does not breed, contempt, of course (and nor does a lack of “Take Me To The River”) – this was magnificent a life-affirmingly joyful. Probably the second best time I’ve seen him: better than last time, but not as good as that first one at Symphony Hall.

(More reports here and here).

That brings us to the end of October, which seems like a perfectly sensible place to stop being as we’re at the end of October. Henceforth I’ll try to keep up to date.

Maybe.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – September 2008

Posted in Combat Sports, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 28 August, 2008

Rumours of my blogging death have been greatly exaggerated.

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 Saturday the 13th – ‘Cabaret’ (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep, Birmingham – You know what life is, old chum? It’s a cabaret. You know what to do.

Wednesday the 3rd – Gomez @ The Academy, Birmingham – Playing their first album in its entirety. Aaaah, pointless nostalgia. It is a very good album, though.

Thursday the 4th – Boxing (Ricky Hatton/Ringside Promotions) @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Bizarre one, this. Ricky “Did I Mention That I Still Drink Down The Local And Play Darts? ‘Cos, Y’know, I Still Drink Down The Local And Play Darts. Did I Mention That?” Hatton is trying his hand at being a promoter, and it has somehow worked out that one of his early practice efforts before he can put on a supercard will be a £381,987 per ticket dinner show in Brum in association with the not-visibly-active-of-late Ringside Promotions. Happily, it seems that Matty Hough has decided not to retire after all and will be having a stab at a British Masters title at this one.

Thursday the 4th – Mothertrucker @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – Birmingham’s best instrumetal sorts playing their first gig in ages, at this new (-ish) Asylum place. I’ve heard it’s meant to be good.

Friday the 5th – Copter @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Album launch party for Brum’s finest testifying soul’n’rollers. Apparently you’ll get given a code to download the album for free if you attend this.

Saturday the 6th of September – ‘The Tell Woman’ @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – For ages 5 to 8. The lady who was La-La in The Tellytubbies plays The Tell Woman, whose skirt contains many stories.

Sunday the 7th – Heart Of England Judo Championships @ The NIA, Birmingham – JUDO.

Monday the 8th – Stevie Wonder @ The NIA, Birmingham – One that doesn’t need explaining. He’s at the same venue on the 4th of October too.

Thursday the 11th – Meshuggah @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Oi vey. Polyrhythmicy complicatory MetalSwedes. Ay ay ay.

Friday the 12th – Boxing (1st Team) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – It’s a very boxy month, this here September. This one has the return of Dean Harrison after his summer off (the ‘international masters’ title is up for grabs. Oh yes.) (Edit: actually, no, it looks like he ain’t fighting on this one now) as well as your fave and mine Lyndsey Scragg and a whole pile of others.

Friday the 12th till Sunday the 14th – Artsfest @ all over Birmingham – As ever, we’re only two weeks before what’s meant to be one of Birmingham’s biggest annual events and the Artsfest website itself contains absolutely bugger all about what is actually going to be happening. Handy. Stalwart sorts have assembled such details as they can here and here. Artsfest usually makes for some nice trips out, anyway.

Monday the 13th till Sunday the 5th of October – “Of All The People In All The World” (Stan’s Café) @ A.E. Harris Factory, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Rice! Representing people! From the gang that bought you the amazing “Cleansing Of Constance Brown” and it sounds absolutely ace, just click the link. Here’s a map to the venue.

Saturday the 13th – Project X @ Busk, Birmingham – The big thing with the several hours worth of things, there. Busk is a new venue opposite the Alexandra Theatre, apparently, and so the map may be worth linking to. The line-up includes Rich Batsford and 360 and lots of other luvverly stuff.

Saturday the 13th – The Wyvern Cat Club Show @ Cocks Moor Leisure Centre, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Exhibitionist cat is exhibitionist.

Sunday the 14th – Boxing (Warrior Promotions) @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Max Maxwell drops back down to light-middle for a stab at being a two-weight Midlands champ. Rob Kenney from Wolverhampton opposes him, but (and alas) I’d be really surprised to see a Black Country victory in this particular fight.

Wednesday the 17th – Torche @ The Medicine Bar, The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – Supporting The Despicable Pelican, but don’t let that put you off. I initially thought that Kayo Dot were meant to be on this tour, but it seems that I am wrong.

Saturday the 20th and Sunday the 21st – GB Women’s Judo World Cup @ The NIA, Birmingham – JUDO.

Saturday the 20th – Netherton Victoriana Day @ the town centre, Netherton – [in-joke]There’s nothing sexier than shabby Victoriana[/in-joke]. There’s a market and a fair and suchforth out in the street during the day, then ‘Olde Tyme Music Hall’ in the evening at Netherton Arts Centre, with Aynuk of Aynuk & Ayli fame.

Monday the 22nd – Nile @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Ancient-Egypt-themed death metal. That really should be the greatest thing in the world ever.

Tuesday the 23rd – “Approximately Infinite Universe – A Caravan Of Raw Sound Magic From Finland And The US” (Capsule) @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The Brum stop of a very intriguing looking tour, featuring collaborations between intriguing-looking American and Finnish artists. I particularly like the sound of Islaja, with her “spookily affecting chemically-altered late night torch style”.

Wednesday the 24th – Rolo Tomassi @ The Barfly, Digbeth, Birmingham – Exceedingly good Sheffield screamy/noisy/time-change-y sorts. One of the highlights of Supersonic this year, in my view.

Wednesday the 24th – Heavy Trash @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Jon Spencer [in-joke](no, not that one)[/in-joke] and his current merry band of rockabilly dusty funsters.

Monday the 29th till Saturday the 4th of October – “Zero” (Theatre Absolute) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – An interesting-sounding dystopic kinda play, told from the perspective of a translator at a torture camp.

Monday the 29th till Saturday the 4th – “Absurd Person Singular” @ Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – The famed Alan Ayckbourne comedy. I thought I saw this at The Rep once, but on reading a description of it I’m not sure anymore. Hmmm.

Tuesday the 30th – Travis @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Ah, sod off. I like them.

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