Call me Russ L

On the Thursday before the week before the Wednesday From Light

Posted in Blogstuff, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 16 August, 2012

The thought occurs that the previous post is probably a bit too negative to leave at the top of my front page for two whole months, and as such I’d better post something else quickstyle.

That there thing did annoy me, but I still have much love (as I believe the young’ins say) for the Birmingham Opera Company and I’m really looking forward to the Helicoptera. To displace that post, then, I’ll link to the download of this interview with B’h-Op’s Graham Vick (it should be there for a good while but it won’t last permanently, so get it sometime soon). He is, as ever, pretty much the best of us.

I will post something else soon. Probably not, by this point, very many of the various things I’ve sincerely intended to post over the last months, but something. There should at the absolute very least be something about Mostly Jazz, Funk And Soul, because it was amazing.

Wednesday Obscured From Light

Posted in Modern Living, Music, Stage by Russ L on 20 June, 2012

It appears that the tickets for the world premier of Stockhausen’s “Mittwoch Aus Licht” are now available to the public, not that this has been made widely known.

I’m normally the biggest fan of Birmingham Opera Company, but in this instance I can’t help feeling that it might have been a nice idea to let people have a crack at getting these (inevitably highly-prized) tickets before they all sell out. BOP are normally keen to emphasise the extent to which they’re against high-art elitism and in favour of the ordinary citizenry…

(Touch of operatic gloves to Intermezzo, without whom I wouldn’t have know about this. Despite being on the mailing list. Y’know).

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – March 2012

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 28 February, 2012

Oh mercy, there’s one thing I don’t like about March but so very many good things during this March in particular. So very many. Lots of walking tours, lots of opera, lots of HOUNDS, lots of everything.

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 3rd – “Ministry Of Meh” (Belgrade Senior Youth Theatre) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – About the fact that the West Midlands is apparently the “obesity capital” of Europe. I did not know that (although these things are usually based on a survey of about four people).

Thursday the 1st till Saturday the 10th – “Lady Windermere’s Fan” (Blue Orange Arts) @ The Blue Orange Theatre, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Go Wilde in the country Jewellery Quarter.

Saturday the 2nd – Mel C @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Your erstwhile Sporty Spice.

Friday the 2nd – “Time Gentlemen Please!” dance event @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Hip-hop and folk dancing all together: “Clog, Sword and Morris meet B-boying, Popping and Krump”. It may or may not be wrong of me to immediately want to say “En garde, I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style” (and then make a load of slashing noises) when I think of sword dancing next to hip-hop.

Saturday the 3rd – Wagner’s “Tristan Und Isolde” (CBSO/CBSO Chorus) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – This will be the first opera that I’ll ever have seen live twice, fact fans.

Saturday the 3rd – Great Gran’s Great Games” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Nan’s swimming, for ages four and up.

Saturday the 3rd – Joe Cutler’s “Ping” (The Coull Quartet) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – Music for quartet and four table tennis players. No, really.

Monday the 5th – Teeth Of The Sea @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham -
The psychedelic industrialistas who were, according to me and various others, the best band of Supersonic last year.

Tuesday the 6th till Saturday the 10th – Welsh National Opera mini season @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Continuing what has turned out to be a very operatic month indeed (see also the 3rd and 21st), here you have La Traviata on the 6th and 9th, Beatrice And Benedict on the 7th, and The Marriage Of Figaro on the 8th and 10th.

Tuesday the 6th till Saturday the 10th – “The Diary Of Anne Frank” (Touring Consortium Theatre Company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – I can’t pretend that the idea of a big-stage version of Anne Frank in a big-stage theatre that normally has musicals and glossy “shows” strikes me as an enormously good idea, but you never know. There is potential for it to be interesting.

Wednesday the 7th till Saturday the 10th – “The Glass Menagerie” (Dudley Little Theatre) @ Netherton Arts Centre, Netherton – Which of the Williams’ is the best at Tennis? Why, Tennessee Williams, of course (arf).

Wednesday the 7th – Chris Wood @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Awake, arise, you drousy sleepers.

Thursday the 8th till Sunday the 11th – Crufts @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – HOUNDS.

Thursday the 9th and Friday the 10th – “Mummy Mafia” (First Floor Theatre) @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – In which the posh mothers don’t like the ordinary ones. It’s mommy mafia round here, we’ll have you know.

Thursday the 8th – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Blimey, that is a soul-funkin’ lot of days and nights.

Friday the 9th till Saturday the 17th – St Padraig’s Day Festival @ various places in Digbeth, Birmingham – With the parade itself on (helpfully) the 17th. (EDIT: And by ’17th’ I mean ’11th’, obviously).

Friday the 9th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – A Fairport gig, a Fairport gig, the first one of the year (Disclaimer: it’s probably not really their first gig of the year).

Friday the 9th – The Presidents Of The United States Of America @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Your first peach-related band of the month.

Saturday the 10th – The Stranglers @ The Academy, Birmingham – Your second peach-related band of the month.

Saturday the 10th – “Bite Size” (various theatre companies) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – Lots of short plays, throughout the days. Well, it’s only one day, but that didn’t rhyme.

Sunday the 11th – Cannibal Corpse @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Those sensitive purveyors of songs about hammer-smashed faces and suchlike.

Monday the 12th – Mark Lanegan @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – You do have to wonder what he actually did to those poor trees.

Tuesday the 13th till Saturday the 17th – “Waiting For Godot” (A Talawa Theatre Company/West Yokshire Playhouse) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Nothing, as ever, to be done.

Tuesday the 13th – Joan Baez @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The night they drove ol’ Brummie down.

Tuesday the 13th – “The Ethics Of Progress” (Unlimited Theatre) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – Quantum for the perplexed. Although that was by somebody else.

Wednesday the 14th till Sunday the 18th – the Flatpack Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – The vaunted, feted, celebrated annual festival of films and film-related doings, courtesy of those good folks at 7 Inch Cinema. The line-up abounds with huge amounts of stuff, not least Laurel & Hardy in a church, films on a boat, biking, cinematic remixes, the best film ever made, digital projectors, psychedelic music, Yam-yam-ery, magnets and magic lanterns, and oh so much more.

Wednesday the 14th – The Three Degrees @ The Jam House, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – (Insert stock grumble about The Jam House here).

Thursday the 15th till Saturday the 1st of April – Still Walking Festival @ various routes around Birmingham – A festival of walks (in the sense of “guided tours around places”, not in the sense of “keep fit”. Although it no doubt will help with that if you go on enough of them).

Thursday the 15th till Saturday the 17th – “The Big Bang” science & engineering fair @ The NEC, Marston Green, BirminghamScience~! For free. Free science.

Thursday the 15th – Chris Addison @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Although I don’t know what he’s doing here, given that they were meant to be filming a new series of “The Thick Of It” aroundabout now (and, much as I hate to say it, that’s altogether more important).

Friday the 16th – “Undefeated” boxing bill (Coldwell Boxing) @ The New Bingley Hall, Hockley, Birmingham – Headlined by a local derby between Jamie Ball and Nasser Al Harbi for the English light-middleweight title, which sounds suspiciously like a proper fight.

Friday the 16th – The Spaghetti Western Orchestra @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Doing Morricone and such. (Edit: just realised that this is part of the Flatpack Festival, as above).

Saturday the 17th – The Dubliners @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Every year they play at Brum town hall for St Padraig’s day, every year I think “surely that’ll be the best gig ever”, and every year I fail to get around to getting a ticket before it sells out.

Tuesday the 20th till Friday the 23rd – “Ann Boleyn” (ETT/Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – *Counts on fingers* … beheaded?

Tuesday the 20th and Wednesday the 21st – Harold Pinter double bill (European Arts Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – With The Dumb Waiter and The Lover.

Wednesday the 21st till Saturday the 31st – Jonathon Dove’s “Life Is A Dream” (Birmingham Opera Company) @ The Argyle Works, Bordesley Green (or is this still Digbeth?), Birmingham – Right, seriously now: even though there’s Flatpack and Crufts and everything else this month, this is the big one for March (and quite possibly all of 2012). And that’s no insult to any of the other lovely things going on. This is a new opera based in Calderon that has been specifically written (by Jonathon Dove, libretto by Alasdair Middleton) for the Birmingham Opera Company, whose performances place you in the midst of an immersive world rather than have you sit there looking at a stage. Go go go go go to this, you will not regret it.

Thursday the 22nd – The Four Tops / The Temptations / Tavares / The Crystals @ The NIA, Birmingham – It’s a soul bonanza.

Friday the 23rd till Friday the 30th – “Irminsul: You Are Lost” @ Perrott’s Folly, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A collaborative art project (full list of artistes at that link), and also a good excuse to go up Perrott’s Folly, which you don’t get absolutely every day (although there have been a few things there before).

Friday the 23rd – Syleena Johnson @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Tonight, she’s gonna let go. (EDIT: Note well, if it’s important to you for transport and such – it’s a club-night type of gig and Syleena will be on later in the night).

Friday the 23rd – Boxing (Frank Warren Promotions/First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Headlined by Enzo Maccarinelli vs Shane McPhilbin for the British cruiserweight belt.

Friday the 23rd – Dave Swarbrick @ The Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – The usual “any given month must feature at least one of the Watersons/Carthys” rule seems to be having a rare break, so have someone affiliated with them instead (see also the 7th).

Saturday the 24th – Discharge @ The Ballroom, Birmingham – Why?

Saturday the 24th – Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) @ The NIA, Birmingham – No longer featuring Nate Marquardt. Let’s hope someone else does the Gouveia finishing sequence instead.

Monday the 26th till Saturday the 31st – “Spamalot” (theatre company?) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – It is a silly place.

Wednesday the 28th – “I, Bertolt Brecht” (Fuschia Films & Media) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A documentary play about the fella, based on experiences with his own theatre company.

Thursday the 29th till the 8th of April – Fierce Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – The annual art/performance art festival, and another one with countless things of interest: here we have one-to-one book readings (intense), guided tours of Berlin in Birmingham, HOUNDS, Viking funerals of your personal messages, and going off into the unknown under a blindfold.

Thursday the 29th – The Osmonds @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Apparently their last ever UK tour. Cra-zy Hor-ses WAAAAAAA~! WAAAAAAA~!

Thursday the 29th – “Coffin Up” (Village Idiots Mask Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – What happens when a funeral director can’t get enough business by ordinary means.

Friday the 30th – Grouper @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – That would be the American ambient lady Grouper, not the local covers band who have (for some reason) decided to use the same name.

Friday the 30th – The Selecter @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Just a simple show, on their radio. Although this is a gig, at The Robin.

Friday the 30th – The Destroyers @ The Prince Of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham – The new album is out!

Saturday the 31st till Saturday the 7th of April – “The Pillowman” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Martin McDonagh’s tale of authoritarian interrogation. “You wrote that so it was you what done it.”

Saturday the 31st – Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (Heart Of England Singers) @ Shirley Methodist Church, Shirley, Birmingham – O Fortuna, Velut Luna, and on you go.

My Progeny, Your Prize

Posted in Music by Russ L on 23 January, 2012

My “Doing Stuff In 2012” campaign began on Wednesday the 11th, with The Royal Opera (under Sir Antonio Pappano) performing “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” at Symphony Hall (and this was actually the start of that wonderful room’s twenty-first birthday celebrations, so hurrah and hooray). This was a concert version rather than staged/costume, which is a bit of a shame in some ways given that I do like a bit of staging, but it looks like theme of the year is going to be “as many operas as possible” and so I’ll take what I can get.

There is a plot, of sorts: Pogner of Nuremburg declares that his daughter Eva will marry whoever wins the Master Singers competition, and (beyond having a preferred candidate) she doesn’t seem to mind abiding by this. From this we can conclude that there’s some sort of inherited mentalism in the family. Eva hopes that the knight Walther will win and indeed he has the invaluable support of the song-writin’ wisdom-spoutin’ loud-hammerin’ cobbler Sachs, but the clear favourite is the irritating town clark and general fussbudget Beckmesser. Both love and musical stardom are to be gained in this high-stakes singathon~! It’s Wagner though, ayit, and as such loooong. We were going for just over five hours and three quarters, although that did include two intervals that were thirty-five minutes each. For some reason. I’m very much a child of my times when it comes to attention span, but I think I held up pretty well and I certainly enjoyed it. The other typical facet of “it’s Wagner though, ayit” was mercifully avoided, with Beckmesser not being made in any way stereotypically Jewish (not that I expect that this does actually happen much, nowadays).

We were due to have the vaunted Bryn Terfel amongst the singists, but he pulled out. I have gathered since then that this is apparently not uncommon, and should probably have been expected. The cast we did have were strong, although I would liked a bit more volume from them in general (from up in the cheap seats they were all melting into the orchestra at times). I particularly liked Toby Spence’s insouciant reading of David, and Wolfgang Koch deeming to emphasise the reflective aspects of Sachs. The ROH chorus made for the (collective) hero of the night, though, bringing great power and doing a fantastic job of the ‘riot’ bit at the end of the second act.
There are a couple more accounts here and here for the detail that I’m not capable of supplying, but rest assured that I enjoyed myself. There’s loads of Wagner at Symphony Hall this year, too, so it won’t be the last time.

2011 End-Of-Year Count: Live Music (Opera)

Posted in Music, Stage by Russ L on 31 December, 2011

I have decided that I really, really like going to see an operation. I went to a few this year (even though I didn’t manage to go so far as writing about any of them), and hopefully there’ll be plenty more in The Twelve.

(more…)

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Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – November 2011

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 October, 2011

Cats, hares, tortoises, seabirds and bears of possibly a couple of different types – it’s animal month.

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.

Ongoing through the month – “Shout” festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Brum’s festival of Queer/LGBT culture. Includes, amongst many other things, ”A Tale Of Two Symphonies” with the Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra (an entity of which I was not aware until just now), and tales of Stevenage.

Saturday the 29th of October until Saturday the 12th of November – “Macbeth” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – I love Macbeth. It’s just so gangsta.

Tuesday the 1st and Wednesday the 2nd – “Stig Of The Dump” (Mind The Gap Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – I loved the book as a child.

Tuesday the 1st – Melvins @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – One of those bands who I like, but don’t like as much as everyone else who likes them seems to like them, so everyone else who likes them doesn’t listen to me properly and just decides that I don’t like them. But I do like them. Just not as much as etc. etc. etc.

Tuesday the 1st – Natty @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Children get your culture, and don’t stand there and gesture or the battle will be hotter.

Tuesday the 1st – Bill Bailey @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Hawk The Slayer’s rubbish (do I make these references a touch too oblique at times?)

Wednesday the 2nd – Motorhead / Anti-Nowhere League / UK Subs @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Motorhead are clever – although they may have been playing more-or-less the same set for 381 years, they always make sure their annual autumn tour is a package-affair with other bands you might want to see. This time it’s all a bit punky.

Wednesday the 2nd – “Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks” (The Foundry Group Theatre) @ The Forrest Arts Centre, Walsall – A comedy about Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks, which is one of ideas that I suspect we all wish we’d had first.

Thursday the 3rd – The Bad Shepherds @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – On their “First Farewell Tour”, which is at least honest.

Friday the 4th till Sunday the 6th – Cake International – The Sugarcraft & Cake Decoration Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I saw the most gorgeous cake that was shaped and decorated like a bunch of roses, recently. I was enormously impressed, it was beautiful.

Friday the 4th – Anna Calvi @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – She’s smaller than you’d imagine, in real life.

Friday the 4th – Toumani Diabate @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Playing his Kora. They should get him on with a choir, then you could have choral kora.

Saturday the 5th – UFC 138 (MMA) @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Heh, a UFC card in Brum and I’m not going. I should be ashamed to call myself an MMA fan or such.

Saturday the 5th – Acid Mothers Temple @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The over/under on how long they play for is set at 3.5 hours. Put your predictions in now, please.

Saturday the 5th – “The Hare And The Tortoise” (Tutti Frutti Productions & York Theatre Royal) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – Postscript scene here.

Saturday the 5th – An evening of Janacek and Dvorak (CBSO & City Of Birmingham Choir) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Just make sure you get a good seat and don’t have to sit uncomfortably to see, or you might end up with Czech neck. See also the Welsh National Opera entry below if you fancy a bit more Janacek.

Sunday the 6th – Glen Campbell @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – His last ever ever tour ever before retirement.

Sunday the 6th – The Drifters @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Any resemblance to any original band members living or dead is purely coincidental.

Sunday the 6th – Focus @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Dutch yodelling (also: prog-rock).

Monday the 7th – Ghostface Killah @ The Institute (The Library), Digbeth, Birmingham – It’s been a very Wu-Tang-y year in Brum, 2011 has. Assuming he turns up.

Wednesday the 9th till Sunday the 13th – Slava’s Snowshow @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Not just for kiddies, this really is one of the most visually astonishing things that you’ll ever see.

Wednesday the 9th – Guillemots @ The Institute (The Library), Digbeth, Birmingham – Call ‘em a doctor.

Thursday the 10th – The Damned @ The Academy, Birmingham – On their 35th anniversary tour, which is pretty much guaranteed to make some folks feel extremely old.

Thursday the 10th – Paul Murphy @ The ICC (Symphony Hall foyer), Birmingham – Your man from The Destroyers, playing as part of the ongoing Folk For Free series.

Thursday the 10th and again on Saturday the 12th – Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Derrr, derrr, du-duh-duh, derrr, derrr, de-deh-deh, dun dun dun dun der dun dun, dun dun dun dun der dun dun. That’s my transcription of the invasion theme. I’m telling you, sheet music will be a thing of the past once my notation system catches on.

Friday the 11th and Saturday the 12th – “The Importance Of Being Earnest” (New Century Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Possibly unfortunate timing, given the recent big Birmingham Rep version of this, but I suppose it could be fun to compare and contrast. Featuring (it appears) suitcases (not handbags) used prominently in the staging.

Friday the 11th – “Fighting The Cuts” (Banner Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Apparently a cabaret performance themed around resistance to the current government. That doesn’t sound like the type of thing you see every day.

Friday the 11th – “Sacred and Profane Love in 13th Century France” @ St George’s Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham – As performed by Sinfonye. What a title, though. What a dream of a title.

Saturday the 12th till Sunday the 20th – Grand Slam Of Darts 2011 @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – So I hear they’re starting to catch up with Phil Taylor nowadays, finally. I’ve always recommended not having heroes.

Saturday the 12th – Opeth @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – There’s always one “band I used to be into but have drifted away from over the years, for no obvious reason” every month, and your Swedish prog-folk-blues-metallers here are November’s representatives.

Saturday the 12th – Bellowhead @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Often said to be one of the best live bands going. I haven’t seen ‘em so I wouldn’t know, but people do say this.

Saturday the 12th – “Breaking Down The Wall” @ New Art Gallery, Walsall – Live poetry, percussion and graffiti. Connected with the Salaam Islamic Arts Festival.

Saturday the 12th – “Play School” (Mid*Point Theatre) @ A.E. Harris, The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Presented as just as games evening, although I’m not so sure it wont turn out to be something a bit more, well, theatrical. Apparently they will provide board games and organise “low tech sports”. This leaves me wondering what a hi-tech sport might be. Robot Wars?

Sunday the 13th – Thomas Dolby @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Science~!

Monday the 14th till Saturday the 19th – “Keeler” (can’t seem to find the theatre company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – The play about the Profumo Affair that is apparently very well regarded by Christine Keeler herself.

Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 26th – “Bagpuss” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Bagpuss! He’s so lovely.

Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 19th – Welsh National Opera @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – With Don Giovanni on the 15th and 18th, Katya Kabanov on the 16th, and The Barber of Seville on the 17th and 19th.

Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 19th – “Oh What A Lovely War” (Blackeyed Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Hasn’t this been on at The Arena for about fifteen runs in the last few years, or am I just imagining it? I’m not saying that this is a bad thing.

Tuesday the 15th – Wire @ The Institute (The Temple), Digbeth, Birmingham – I’d got the impression from somewhere that this was supposed to be a “doing Pink Flag all the way through” gig, in the way that all old bands do with their great albums nowadays, but it doesn’t look like it actually is. I have no idea where I got that idea from.

Wednesday the 16th – (MF) Doom @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – His name’s, Doom, they wonder who he is but don’t wor, -ry, believe me he’ll get busy. When it comes, to, poetry he’s got plenty, la la laa. La la, la la, la la.

Thursday the 17th to Sunday the 20th – “Autumn Almanac” @ Ikon Gallery, Birmingham – A four day affair with local createurs of sundry stripe. Includes a 7 Inch Cinema film selection (themed around the date it’s on, the 17th of November) and Doom-Tuba courtesy of Ore (they were amazing at Supersonic), amongst many other things.

Friday the 18th – The Beat / The Selecter @ The Town Hall, Bimingham – On my radio in the bathroom.

Friday the 18th – Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Town Hall, Walsall – Including Martin Gethin’s first local fight in ages.

Friday the 18th – Rihanna @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – And also at the NIA on the 29th. She’ll need a big umbrella indeed if everyone in venues of those sizes are to be invited to stand underneath.

Friday the 18th – The Dwarves @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Once upon a time The Most Dangerous Band On The Planet, then a polite little pop-punk group, and I don’t actually know what they’re up to nowadays.

Friday the 18th – “The Lonely Clouds Of Guernica” (Come As You Are Arts Northwest) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A play concerning the fact (and I didn’t know this one, but it seems hardly surprising) that Bush’n’Blair wanted Picasso’s “Guernica” covered up at the UN when they were a-having wars.

<iSaturday the 19th and Sunday the 20th – The Warley National Model Railway Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Choo-choo and indeed chug-a-puff. Is that Warley as in right here in Sandwell? Cool.

Saturday the 19th – The Supreme Show of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Look at this, I mean really now.

Sunday the 20th – Morbid Angel @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – Surely the deathliest death metal that ever died metallically.

Tuesday the 22nd till Saturday the 26th – “The Producers” (West Bromwich Operatic Society) @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – It’d be good if people dressed up for this in a manner similar to how folk do when they go to see “Rocky Horror”, ‘cos then we’d all have an excuse to carry our blue blankets around with us.

Tuesday the 22nd and Wednesday the 23rd – “A Clockwork Orange” (Volcano Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Apparently “Volcano Theatre Sidestep the cult movie and recapture the shock of the original novella”, which is good because I love the book and have never particularly liked the fillum.

Tuesday the 22nd – Beverley Knight @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Our Bev. There may be higher-energy artists and there may be artists in higher heels, but you won’t find a greater combination of the two.

Wednesday the 23rd and on until 2012 – “The Sleeping Beauty” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – From the perspective of the fairy who cursed Beauty to sleep in the first place.

Wednesday the 23rd until Sunday the 27th – The BBC Winter Good Food Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Incorporating, pleasingly, The World Cheese Awards.

Wednesday the 23rd – Alabama 3 @ The Academy, Birmingham – Actually, Opeth aren’t this months only candidates for “band I used to be into but have drifted away from over the years, for no obvious reason”.

Thursday the 24th till Saturday the 26th – “Hobson’s Choice” (The Luke Players) @ The MAC (Theatre Space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – I always think “Harold Brighouse” sounds like more of name for a gangster than for a playwrite. ‘Ard ‘Arry Brighouse from Landan taaahn.

Saturday the 26th – Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band @ The Cross, Moseley, Birmingham – Oh, Geno.

Saturday the 26th – Dimmu Borgir @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – It’s billed as “An evening with Dimmu Borgir”, and so I do hope they’ll be taking questions and relating humorous anecdotes about their lives. Whilst wearing corpsepaint.

Saturday the 26th – Martin Carthy @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – If it’s a month with a vowel in it then you can be sure that at least one of the Waterson/Carthy family will be playing somewhere in your county.

Sunday the 27th – Deep Purple @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Plus a full orchestra, ‘cos they’re a bit like that, that Deep Purple.

Tuesday the 29th – Flogging Molly @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Faith and begorrah, you can’t beat a bit of the auld Irish-American punk.

Wednesday the 30th till Saturday the 3rd of December – “Joseph K” (Birmingham School of Acting) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – A modernised version of “The Trial”. I am keen on Kafka, kid.

Wednesday the 30th and on until next year – “The Jungle Book” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Bear necessities and Mother Nature’s recipes.

I really feel that I should be able to come up with a Wagner pun for this title, but nothing is coming to mind

Posted in Music, Stage by Russ L on 27 October, 2010

It may have been (approximately) forever and a day ago but it is nevertheless the case that I went to Brum Symphony Hall on the 23rd of September, to see and hear The Philharmonia Orchestra (under Esa-Pekka Salonen) at this production of “Tristan Und Isolde” that everyyoot was/is talking about.

I’ll get the small number of bad things out of the way early: I am a child of my times and not built for anything four-and-a-half hours long, even if you I do get two half hour breaks in the middle; the vaunted Bill Viola backing visuals really weren’t anything special (quite pretty/cool to look at times I suppose, with funky fiery and watery effects, but the imagery was pretty cack-handed); there was some small inconsistency when it came to the physical aspects of the staging – some things were acted out by the soloists, and some weren’t.

With those small things aside, I can happily say “Crikey De Cunha, this was great stuff.”

The staging was magnificent (outside of the tiny complaint above) – obviously it wasn’t quite Birmingham Opera Company in Walk-Among-Us terms but they did use the whole space, with singers and players turning up on the balconies around the room at different times. Given that I was up in the top tier (“the cheap seats” to you), the choir filing behind us and letting rip was spine-tingling, as was the “Shepherd’s Pipe” cor anglais part eerily floating in from somewhere to our left. It worked particularly well in a visual way for the first act, too – Symphony Hall does look a bit ship-like (in a funny sort of way. This may just be me), and that bit is set on a boat.

Our soloists were also all great and conveyed their characters well. I especially liked Violetta Urman as a very earthy Isolde, and Jukka Rasilainen as a stoic-right-up-until-the-point-of-losing it Kurwenal.

I really must actually go and see opera more often.

(Other accounts abound, try here, here, here, here, here, or here).

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

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 29 November, 2009

I’m sure there must be lots more lovely Christmas stuff, but I can’t seem to find very much of it. Nuts to New Year. This is the West Midlands, not Scotland.

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 6th of Feb – “George’s Marvellous Medicine” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Mixing up everything in your medicine cabinet is not recommended at home, kids. Unless you’re genuinely thirsty.

Until Saturday the 9th of January – “A Christmas Carol” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Seems fair to me to say that “Marley was dead: to begin with” is the second greatest opening line in all of literature.

Between Tuesday the 1st and Saturday the 19th – A whole tonne of Capsule stuff to celebrate ten years of ‘em @ various venues in Brum – There’s loads of stuff. I’ll list the lot (and just link to their event pages) for the sake of completeness, so this doesn’t mean I’m seriously recommending SunnO)))~!111: Monotonix, Esquilax, Beestung Lips and Cum Dogs at Vivid in Digbeth on the 1st; Tunng, Six Organs Of Admittance, Lightning Dust And Bella Emerson at the Town Hall on the 2nd (this is the one I’m most looking forward to); Lightning Bolt, Tweak Bird and Pete Prescription at Vivid on the 8th; Sunno)))}}}]]] and Om at The Asylum in Hockley on the tenth; Pram and Light Trap at Vivid on the 11th; a free afternoon film showing at Vivid on the 13th with a buffet and pictures provided by 7 Inch Cinema; Beak, Einstellung and Thought Forms at Vivid on the 16th (Edit: That one is cancelled. Poo.); some sort of evening social or suchlike at Vivid on the 17th; and a final partay with Modified Toy Orchestra, PCM, Calvados Beam Trio, Una Corda and Stinky Wizzleteat at Vivid on the 19th. You owe me a pint if I’ve managed to put all of those links in without cocking up the code at all. (EDIT: There’s also one in association with Heat And Light at Vivid on the night of the 13th, with Sudden Infant and Nic Bullen).

Tuesday the 1st – Alice Cooper @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Giving a golf seminar, perhaps.

Thursday the 3rd till Saturday the 12th (but not the 7th) – Aston Hall By Candlelight @ Aston Hall, Aston, Birmingham – This year themed around the Victorian household entertaining a royal visitor.

Thursday the 3rd till Saturday the 5th – “The Just Price Of Flowers” (Stan’s Café) @ A.E. Harris, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Inspired by Brecht, but not actually one of his (apparently there has been some confusion). Parallels are drawn between modern-day financial nuttery and 17th century Dutch tulip nuttery.

Friday the 4th – Chris Addison @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Ollie Ollie Ollie, Oi Oi Oi.

Various dates between Saturday the 5th and Saturday the 19th – Verdi’s “Othello” (Birmingham Opera Company) @ The Argyle Works, Bordesley, Birmingham – Birmingham Opera Company’s version of “Idomeneo” last year was greater than great can be. Judging by the postcode, the venue for this should be somewhere in the general vicinity of here.

Friday the 5th – Frank Sidebottom @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Fantastic showbusiness.

Saturday the 5th – Boxing (dunno who’s promoting) @ The Hilton Hotel, Coventry – Including Max “Max” Maxwell vs Martin Concepcion, in what must be Max’s 381,789th Midlands area title match (EDIT: or 4th, if you want to be boring and accurate).

Sunday the 6th – Madball @ Busk, Birmingham – Hardcore for tuphguyzzz. I will forever maintain that “Droppin’ Many Suckers” is one of the greatest names that anyone ever has called and ever could call an album.

Monday the 7th – The Unthanks @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – North-Eastern folkifiers formerly known as “Rachel Unthank And The Winterset”. I’m glad they’ve changed their name. OtherUnthankSister didn’t outwardly appear to do any less than Rachel, so it’s fairer this way.

Tuesday the 8th – Jodi Ann Bickley @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Interesting and endearing poetry, happening at the same time as the ’Freestyle’ photography exhibiton.

Wednesday the 9th – Alexander O’Neal @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Or rather “80s soul nuisance Alexander O’Neal”, as the in-joke that you won’t get has it.

Wednesday the 9th – Seth Lakeman @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Frequently fancied fiddler fascinates folks (with) folk.

Wednesday the 9th – The Bookhouse Boys @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Like Tindersticks on holiday in Hawaii, or somesuch.

Wednesday the 9th – “Arc” (with Graft) @ The Vaults, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – The first of a new monthly art night, with a different set of artists each time. Here ‘Graft’ (whoever they might be) will bring a Jewellery-with-other-meanings exhibition from “The Institute Of Meaningful Interaction” and artist Mark Baldwin appearing as part of the structure of the building. Apparently. All very vague as a result of the fact that no sod seems to have a web presence because… I don’t know why not. I love The Vaults, though, it’s a great place.

Thursday the 10th – Madness @ The Academy, Birmingham – Mavva Brahn’s got her knees up, presumably in the process of skanking. This one is (unsurprisingly) sold out, but they’re also at The Civic on the 17th.

Friday the 11th – “Resistance, Revolt, Rebellion: A Double Bill of Civil Disobedience” (Kindandgenerous Productions and Emma Purshouse) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – In Love And Taxes, current Brum poet laureate Adrian Johnson and Jessi of Eastfield bring songs and stories recalling the popular opposition to the poll tax. In “Are You Sitting Comfortably?”, Emma Purshouse tell poems of “rebellion, revolution and armchair inactivism”.

Sunday the 13th – Basement Jaxx @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Let’s all have a disco, let’s all have a disco.

Sunday the 13th – Depeche Mode @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – A band who I’d say have been quite the unsung influence on quite a fair bit of music in recent years.

Tuesday the 15th – Public Image Limited @ The Academy, Birmingham – Given that my LOTTSADITWM often feature metal and boxing, it seems only too apt that a band who put out an album called “Metal Box” should be in here. Also: post-punk legends, Country Life butter etc.

Wednesday the 16th till Sunday the 20th – “The Snow Queen” (Screamingvoiceyouththeatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Screamingvoice etc.etc. are absolutely ace, they really are.

Wednesday the 16th – Nile @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Ancient Egyptian themed death metal, and I can’t see how you could possibly think that isn’t the best idea ever. Nothing I’ve ever heard by them is quite as good as the concept, but Krisiun are on the bill too and they’ll blow your earwax free (I mean that in a good way).

Wednesday the 16th – The Pogues @ The Academy, Birmingham – [Slur]Dirty old Towwwwwwwwwwn…[/slur]

Friday the 18th until Friday the 9th of January – Funworld @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I don’t see how anyone could dislike a world of fun. It’s a huge indoor funfair (including, apparently, a “300ft bungee slingshot”. Indoors, I’ll repeat with vague concern) and has to win the all-time title for “event I’ve been handed the largest number of the same flyer for”.

Saturday the 21st – The Beat’s xmas party @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – 30 years since they started, apparently (see also the 27th).

Monday the 21st – The Wildhearts @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – My unbroken run of not managing to see any Wildhearts or Wildhearts-related gigs since 2001 will definitely continue here. They’re still ace though.

Monday the 21st – Musical Youth @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Don’t take the mick, you know which way you need to pass it.

Wednesday the 23rd until Sunday the 3rd of January – “The Gruffalo (Tall Stories) @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – They had The Gruffalo plodding along as part of the Reindeer Parade in town recently. I thought he was cute.

Friday the 25th – IT’S CHRIIISTMUUUUUUS!

Sunday the 27th – Drongos For Europe’s xmas party @ the Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – 30 years since they started, apparently (see also the 21st).

King Idomeneo… Was It Worth It?

Posted in Music, Stage by Russ L on 9 November, 2008

(This post is part of the filling-in-the-blanks exercise from my account of the last three months).

Much to my weighty and considerable shame, I’d never seen any of Birmingham Opera Company‘s productions before this (I had seen them doing odds ‘n’ ends at things such as Artsfest and the like, but never any of their own extravagant extravaganzas). They specialise in context-slidey affairs, with unusual venues and unusual set-ups. There was a fuss about them possibly losing their public funding, but happily they prevailed; Mozart’s ‘Idomeneo’ (herecalled ‘King Idomeneo… Was It Worth It?’) was their first big lark since then. It was magnificent.

Our trip to see it was on Friday the 22nd of August. We hopped on the coach (that they’d kindly laid on) outside Brum Town Hall, and were whisked to The Sherbourne Building in Ladywood – a rubber factory, once upon a time. A mourning rite for the king was taking place on the canal as we arrived (missed by most punters, I think). After wandering over to where we were meant to be, yellow horse-shaped stickers were slapped onto us – Trojan POWs must be identified, after all (“We need to keep your kind together”, said the fella a-slapping). Dancers and a griot killed a bit of time before we were led into the antechamber of the building. A man was dragged kicking and screaming into the main room by soldiers; we were rapidly herded in after them, into a holding pen surrounded by trees, shipping containers, a butcher’s table and huge hills of dirt.

The factory, then, had uses beyond the standard ‘an unusual venue used to make you look at this traditional artform a bit differently’ lark – it was a space in which they were able to create an immersive environment (for most of the performance we were pretty much free to move around the created landscape) for the audience. Of this I approve.

The performances were amazing. I have to admit to being a touch baffled by all the Maoist imagery – Paul Nihon’s portrayal of Idomeneo was completely convincing but just seemed far too nice and fair to be the authoritarian leader hinted at by some elements of the production. Anna Dennis conveyed the emotionally broken Ilia fantastically, and the scenes between her and her love Idamante (Mark Wilde) were really effective at the extreme close range we happened to find ourselves standing for most of them. Keel Watson’s Neptune was appropriately stentorian too, but the it was the baddies that really took it. Andrew Clarke’s High Priest oozed malice from his platform far above us, and Donna Bateman’s gold-and-sequins-clad Elektra was the absolute embodiment of tarty spite. The (non-professional) choir was also magnificent, giving life to the mass hysteria/popular backlash against Idomeneo’s hard decision that lay at the centre of this reading of the opera.

Brilliant, brilliant stuff. It finished three months ago so I can’t really recommend that you go to it, but if Birmingham Opera Company can continue to put on productions that are anywhere near even close to being as good as this then we should all love them forever.

(Should you wish to read more, have a look at the CIB collective memory).

Fewer things to see and do in the West Midlands: August 2008

Posted in Combat Sports, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 1 August, 2008

There will be no largestyle LOTTSADITWM post for August, and it isn’t entirely the result of my uselessness. It’s August, and so less seems to be happening. You’re not meant to be going to events, you should be playing outside. Damnit. You.

This, then, is just a few things in this county that struck me as being worthy of particular note.

~ Tonight (1st of August) will see the Capsule gal dem put on Japanese psych-noise collective Acid Mothers Temple at The Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath. They played there really not too long ago, and although I wasn’t able to make it to that one pretty much everyone who went seems to say it was an amazing gig.

~ I’d suggest you head on over to the Villa Ground on the evening of Saturday the 2nd, for AMMA. No-head-shots-on-the-ground MMA, from a promotion who always run things well and match their fighters up excellently. I’m particularly looking forward to longtime favourite of this blog Danny Korbely defending his featherweight title against Gareth Pilot. That should definitely be a good ‘un.

~ Rolo Tomassi appear to be playing at something called Summer Slam (yeah, that’s the association my mind made too) at Wolverhampton Civic on the 9th. The rest of the bill looks like a load of cack for the most part, but it’s probably worth noting somewhere at the back of your mind.

~ Hank Rollins, lord love ‘im, will be bringing his ‘Provoked’ spoken word tour to The Glee Club on the 10th. I saw it in January and it’s both funny and interesting.

~ Birmingham Opera Company are going back to their context-sliding ways and occupying The Sherborne Building (formerly a rubber factory) in Ladywood for performances of Mozart’s Idomeneo on various dates between the 12th and the 23rd.

~ It seems that there is a festival of quilts taking place at the NEC between the 14th and 17th. I know it’s too hot now but you’ll want them come winter.

~ Clutch are of course The Best Rock Band Currently Going (as I’ve said far too many times for it to still count for anything) and they’re playing at The Barfly on Friday the 29th for all you lucky people.

~ The Moseley Folk Festival is running over three days this year (the 29th to the 30th) and it’s always lovely. I’m only going to be able to make it to the Sunday, alas, but there’s plenty lined up.

~ In closing, I’ll remind you of this important fact: life is a cabaret, old chum. Come and join the cabaret.

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