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.