This will be even less use than my effort last month, but there we go. It’s too hot. Far, far too hot. Don’t take the fact that I’m melting into a little puddle as any sort of hint that there aren’t a whole imperial sack-full of things going on beyond this small selection.
‘Festival’ quick hits (because everything that ever happens in Birmingham calls itself a festival, as well as some things that happen outside of it) – The Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival between the 3rd and the 12th; The Colmore Food Festival on the 3rd and the 4th; The Godiva Festival between the 3rd and the 5th; The Black Country Festival on the 14th (with other activities going on all month); the Belgrade Theatre’s July Festival between the 8th and the 19th; the Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival between the 10th and 12th; The Cradley Women Chainmakers’ Festival on the 11th and 12th; the Birminghamfest theatre festival between the 17th and the 2nd of August; the Walsall Town Festival between the 18th and the 26th; Simmer Down on the 19th.
Gig quick hits – Burt Bacharach at Symphony Hall on the 1st; Mary J. Blige at the NIA on the 3rd; Fleetwood Mac at the NEC on the 4th and the 7th; The Wonder Stuff and The Twang and Rhino & The Ranters at The Wulfrun on the 5th; Bette Midler at the NIA on the 9th; Cannibal Ox at The Sunflower Lounge on the 10th; Beres Hammond and Bunny Wailer at The Academy on the 18th; The (‘official’) Drifters at The Wulfrun on the 24th;
Badly Drawn Boy at Brum Town Hall on the 25th; The Bus Station Loonies at The Rainbow on the 26th; The Sonics at The Institute on the 28th; Otis Gibbs at The Kitchen Garden Café on the 29th.
Theatre quick hits (please also pay particular note to ‘Birminghamfest’ above) – “Me At The Zoo” at Brum Rep on the 7th and 8th; “A Greek Chorus” at The Old Rep on the 8th and 9th; “Greywing House” at The Old Joint Stock on the 10th and 11th; “You Are The Jury” at The Drum on the 12th.
I also want to plug this just because the very existence of it probably winds up serious football fans – The National 5s League at The NIA on the 29th. Now I’m going to admit in advance that I don’t have the clearest idea what the flip this is. Nevertheless: football is a boring sport, I’m sure that we can all admit that. A really boring sport. They all run up one way for a bit, then they all run up the other way, then they all run back again. A ball flies around between them but they don’t seem to have a fat lot of control over it. Once, twice, or maybe three times per game someone will score a point. No-one hits anyone else. Utter bullshucks. Here, though… here they purport to mix football with “music, dance, monster trucks and pyrotechnics”. I don’t know if it’ll be any fun to watch, but it’ll be sure to make the purists’ piss boil and that is a worthy aim in itself. Don’t think that your protests have cancelled this forever, football fans. It will return, harder and stronger and more ridiculous.
So what was all this then?
The Lunar Festival took place between the 5th and 7th of June, at the Umberslade Estate in the very posh Warwickshire village of Tanworth-In-Arden (Nick Drake’s hometown, don’tchaknow). It doesn’t really have too tight a theme, but there is a sort of folk-y prog-y hippy-ish vibe to the entire affair. This is only the third one, and only the second that I’d been to – I went to one day of the 2012 one (it was very cold and there weren’t very many people there), but since then they had a year off in 2013 and I missed 2014. I really enjoyed myself, although we ended up leaving before the last band on each day (a shame in the cases of Tinariwen – although I have seen them twice before – and Public Service Broadcasting. Not a shame at all in the case of The Bootleg Pigging Beatles).
Which things that were better than “That was quite good”?
~ Gigantic Woodbird: Aw, the Gigantic Woodbird was lovely. Its inevitable fate was a bit sad, but I liked it. There were also bipedal animals around the place all weekend, seemingly led by Crow and Stag. You also had Badger, Fox etc. This will become important later.
~ Zervas & Pepper: CrosbyStillsandNashandYoungicespialadocious, even though the sound of it is something quite… lovely, actually.
~ Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin: I’d always assumed that I wouldn’t like Goblin, just from the way that people talked about them. How wrong I was. Heavy keyboard riffs a-plenty, with some quite metally bits and some quite funky bits too. Not as spooky and eerie as I’d assumed old-timey horror film soundtracks would be, but I’m entirely happy to admit that I don’t really know whereof I speak when it comes to that sort of thing.
~ The Fall: The band create fantastic rhythms, propulsive and insistent. Mark E. Smith oafishly groans “WARG BLARG ZARG” (or noises to that effect) over the top. I do think they’d probably be better off without him.
~ Jane Weaver: Ace. Focussing on the recent spacerock-y stuff rather than the older folky stuff, she floated beautifully over those controls that were set for the heart of the sun. One of the highlights, just as she’s been one of my favourite listens of late.
~ Mark Radcliffe & Galleon Blast: I will point out here (as I always point out when I get the chance) that Mark Radcliffe’s “Showbusiness” is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read in my life. Galleon Blast were great pirate-y fun, too, particularly when I could actually get into the tent (lots and lots of people were interested. They probably should’ve been on the main stage). “The Theme From Captain Pugwash” was a highlight. Radcl-O was fun as a compère all day, too (certainly better at the job than certain other BBC DJs found at other related festivals *coughMoseleyFolkcough* *coughJaniceLongcough* hint hint hint).
~ My Brightest Diamond: I initially thought (upon returning back from the over-running Galleon Blast) “Ooh, a synthpop Carina Round”. Lots of other elements came in as the set progressed, and I started to think “Ooh, maybe (just maybe) what I actually want current-day Carina Round to be”. Anyone who knows me will know how strong that praise is. It’s a “maybe”, though.
~ Kawa Circus: I really wanted to see their Floriferocity performance, due to the “Alice” connection (one of my minor obsessions), but there was a switcharoo for some reason and I ended up seeing the traditional Rajasthani circus performance instead. Some of the tightrope tricks went a bit wrong and I didn’t follow the narrative elements at all (my problem, not theirs), but it was fun to watch.
~ Pretty Things: – I didn’t really know all that much about them. I really should have (and I will put right this woeful ignorance, particularly after this great set). Like a fried r’n’b-ed up version of The Kinks, before spinning off sideways into hippy-psych fun. And then off sideways again into an extended Bo Diddley sequence.
~ Wilko Johnson: Reports of his death have been greatly etc. Hugely enjoyable (and exceptionally tight) hard-edged r’n’r/r’n’b, but the best bit were the facial expressions. Wilko was casting around murderous looks left right and centre, whilst Norman Watt-Roy… I do not know what the facial expressions of Norman Watt-Roy can be described as.
~ Föllakzoid: I was not aware that Zun Zun Egui had fallen off the line-up until the compère said so immediately before they were due to play (I still don’t know why) (EDIT: Ah, nuts, they’ve split up), and that was a particular disappointment given that they were one of the bands that I was most eagerly looking forward to. Happily, their short-notice replacements Follakzoid turned out to be A-to-the-mazing. Neu! gone dubby, perhaps? That would be too boring a description. I prefer to imagine that the relentless groove of their music pushed me forward a week into an alternate universe version of the Supersonic Festival, where the bass met the Komische met the incongruous between-song references to Sepultura. This was all fine by me. Only the fact that it was taking place in a field in rural Warwickshire posed any sort of conceptual challenge. They seemed to win over quite a lot of other folks too, incidentally, but possibly not in the same way.
~ Rhino & The Ranters: Yeeeeeeeeeeee-haaaaa, up-tempo (and ever so slightly punky) bluegrass with sufficient energy and enthusiasm and sense-of-fun to spare. Again, it seemed as though a lot of people were having trouble getting into the tent (I managed to swerve my way in at the front, though, like a proper Man-With-No-Name cowboy).
~ The BBC Radiophonic Workshop: Wow. What a time in which to live, when we can see the BBC Radiophonics Workshop playing live. Using actual instruments, though! I can’t help but feel that Delia would have been disappointed with that. I couldn’t be disappointed by incidental music from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”, with “Telstar” or particularly (of course) with the theme from “Doctor Who”.
~ RM Hubbert: Auld R.M. Hubbert/Sat in a cubbert/drinkin’ his bottle o’ Bucky/Along came a wee gadgie/He said “Ah, ya pure radgie”/And I’ll end this rhyme now if you’re lucky.
~ Benajmin Folke Thomas: Affable American troubadour-style folk from a Swedishman for whom folk(e) is his middle name. He had a very affable manner as well as nice music and a lovely joke about an ice-cream man. Actually (upon thinking about it) ‘affability’ was a theme of the day, between the singer of Rhino & The Ranters (is his name ‘Rhino’? He should have joined the bipedal animal crew), R.M. Hubbert, B.F. Thomas, and…
~ Julian Cope: There had actually been a little drone flying around all weekend, filming from on high. I was really hoping that it might hover into view in front of Cope-O, solely due the likelihood of him hilariously freaking out at the sight of it. Imagine it now – he’d throw his hands into the air, wiggle his fingers, scream “OH LORDY-LORD THE ALIENS ARE HERE!” and run for his life. None of that happened, sadly. He’s occasionally a bit of a nobhead but a tremendously affable and entertaining one, who could go on for days with his anecdotes if needs be. He kept using the phrase “psychedelically informed” with an air of superiority, though, and things that took place shortly later showed just how small his lysergic worldview really is.
~ The Sun Ra Arkestra: Oh my life, Marshall Allen is 91. The fact that he’s still blowing his saxophone with such gusto is surely evidence that their knowledge and understanding of the celestial balance must be true and correct. You have a solid grooving bedrock with the out-there lunacy over the top, of course, akin perhaps to a solid base of gravity keeping big ol’ rocks in regular orbit around a star and enabling the unbelievable complexity and craziness of life to arise on the surface of (at least) one of them. The music, as I gather they say, of the spheres. At the end of their set, they left the stage for…
~ The procession: … the nicest imaginable version of “The Wicker Man”. The bipedal animals who’d been around all weekend led the procession, followed by the Sun Ra Arkestra (with gentle brass and drums) and a mini-choir. They advanced up to the aforementioned Gigantic Woodbird and then (to my slight surprise) on past, continuing to the Helter-Skelter in the top field. The animals went up and around/down, before returning to Gigantic Woodbird, who was promptly torched while the animals danced and the band played on. It felt like a shame, but as Gigantic Woodbird’s entropy was accelerated and its heat energy returned to the cosmos I began to understand why all of this needed to take place. That sun, those big ol’ rocks, all the unbelievable complexity and craziness of life, all the happy animals, and even the wise Arkestramen with all their understanding… all will eventually succumb to the beautiful universality of heat death. Entropy will increase chaos until there is nothing but. All will be one and one will be infinitely varied.
What could have been better?
A few more bins (and recycling). A lot more space for the second stage (the Bimble Inn tent was quite cool, but often not big enough for the number of people who wanted to see some of the bands playing in there). A heck of a lot more Zun Zun Egui. Fewer cold periods on the first two days. A heck of a lot fewer Bootleg Tossing Beatles.
It’s the abridged remix of LOTTSADITWM. That list is never exhaustive, of course, but this particular version will be even further away than usual. Better than me not posting anything at all though, eh? For some obscure value of ‘better’.
~ Not actually in the West Midlands but very close nearby, you have The Lunar Festival in Tanworth-In-Arden from Friday the 5th till Saturday the 7th. The line-up looks amazing, albeit with one notable disappointment (and it really is a disappointment – having The Bootleg Beatles as a headliner, I mean come on now. I know that it’s easy enough to just not watch them, but it seems like a statement and not one that I like. Next year’s headliners: Platinum Abba, Nearvana and… oh, I don’t know, I don’t follow these bloody things. Is there a tribute band called Puns ‘n’ Roses?). Still, though, other than that you have Tinariwen and Wilko Johnson of Dr Feelgood as your other two headliners. You have big names like The Fall and the Sun Ra Arkestra and some sort of performing version of the BBC Radiophonics workshop. You have Jane Weaver (Gotta See Jane, as R. Dean Taylor so wisely noted) and Zun Zun Egui (they absolutely blew the roof off the place at The Sunflower Lounge in March. Definitely worth seeing). You even have the opportunity to camp there, if you fancy behaving like some kind of beast of the field.
~ Actually, if I’m mentioning festivals in the surrounding counties then it would be remiss of me not to point out The Knitted Character Folk Festival in Temple Grafton on the 6th. And you know how I feel about being remiss. If you take a knitted version of a folk music artist and a CD of three of their songs, then your hand-made homunculus might be able to perform in between the less woolly turns. I know this sounds like a “Study the diagram, Dougal” moment but I promise you that I am not making it up.
~ Iechyd da, baby: The Welsh National Opera are bringing one of their seasons around to The Hippodrome. The theme is “A Terrible Innocence” with Richard Ayres’ “Peter Pan” on the 11th and Claude Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” on the 13th, and for good measure you also have the production of “The Magic Flute” that they brought around last time on the 10th and 12th. It really is a shame that these clash with Supersonic, but there we are.
~ Speaking of which… Thooperthonic ith back. Not at The Custard Factory, though! That’s going to feel strange. The first night is at Brum Town Hall, and then after that your main bits will be at Boxxed and The Crossing (is that the theatre space in the South Birmingham College building?) as well as fringe events at various other places. Your musical line-up includes Holly Herndon (seemingly everyone’s fave all of a sudden, and rightly so), The Pop Group (I need to get around to actually listening to them at some point), Richard Dawson (oh my days. Really now. A Richard Dawson gig is… I cannot even describe a Richard Dawson gig. I mean this in the best possible way. Go and see Richard Dawson), The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble (i.e. the one from Goldfrapp who isn’t Alison Goldfrapp, leading a large ensemble all playing Moog Synthesisers), Liima (the new version of the amazing Efterklang, a band I loved dearly), The Bug vs Dylan Carlson, Six Organs Of Admittance, Ravioli Me Away as well as loads of others, and there are loads of exhibitions and installations and talks and what-not besides.
~ The erstwhile Birmingham Municipal Bank building (opposite the library) will have a rare open week between the 20th and the 28th, so that’ll be worth a looksee inside. There’s an exhibition in there of Birmingham Post archive photos of hidden spots in Birmingham, although I’m not sure whether or not that’ll be the same exhibition as the one that that was in Curzon Street Station last year.
~ Gig quick hits: Nas at The Institute on the 4th; Discharge and Chaos UK at The Actress & Bishop on the 5th; Dan Whitehouse with BJ Cole at The Glee Club on the 5th; Fleetwood Mac at the NIA on the 8th; Bridget St John and Michael Chapman at The Kitchen Garden Café on the 9th; Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at The Glee Club on the 10th; The Cadbury Sisters at The Glee Club on the 12th; The Burning Hell at The Coal Vaults on the 16th; John J Presley at The Hare & Hounds on the 17th; The Moody Blues at The NIA on the 20th; Dead Kennedys sans Jello at The Academy on the 23rd;
The Bus Station Loonies at The Actress & Bishop on the 26th (EDIT: Wrong month, wrong venue); John Legend at The NEC on the 26th.
~ Theatre quick hits (it’s not particularly helpful doing it like this, I realise, but I suppose you can just click through if you like the title): “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” at The Hippodrome up until the 6th; “The Siege” at The Rep between the 4th and the 6th; “Black is The Colour Of My Voice” at The Old Joint Stock on the 12th and 13th; “Silence” at The Old Rep between the 17th and the 20th; “Hands Up – Don’t Shoot!” at The Drum on the 19th; “The Boy Who Became A Beetle” at The Arena on the 19th; The BE Festival at The Rep between the 23rd and the 27th; The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre at The Old Joint Stock on the 27th.
“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
MY POINT EXACTLY.”
Possibly the finest statement of existentialism that anyone has yet managed.
It is a shame, but as he wrote himself – think of it as leaving early to avoid the rush.
“Words in the heart cannot be taken”.
One Douglas Noel Adams once wrote of feeling tremendously disillusioned when he saw a hack comedian perform the standard hack joke about an aeroplane’s black box.
““These scientists eh? They’re so stupid! You know those black box flight recorders they put on aeroplanes? And you know they’re meant to be indestructible? It’s always the thing that doesn’t get smashed? So why don’t they make the planes out of the same stuff?” The audience roared with laughter at how stupid scientists were, how they couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag, but I sat feeling uncomfortable. Was I just being pedantic to feel that the joke didn’t really work because flight recorders are made out titanium and that if you made planes out of titanium rather than aluminium they’d be far too heavy to get off the ground in the first place?
I began to pick away at the joke. Supposing Eric Morecambe had said it? Would it be funny then? Well, not quite, because that would have relied on the audience seeing that Eric was being dumb, in other words they would have had to know as a matter of common knowledge about the relative weights of titanium and aluminium. There was no way of deconstructing the joke (if you think this is obsessive behaviour you should try living with it) that didn’t rely on the teller and the audience complacently conspiring together to jeer at someone who knew more than they did.”
That, basically, is Jeremy Clarkson’s entire act. Pretend to misunderstand something, and mock it on the basis of that. That is why he deserves to be sacked (and/or taken outside and executed in front of his family).
It’s human (and I wouldn’t generally think of him as human) to lose your temper and hit someone. Sack him (and/or take him outside and execute him in front of his family) for the real reason of relentlessly and unceasingly being a complete tosser, not this.
That said, though, please do sack and/or execute (etc) him. I think we’ve all put up with quite enough.
There’s always loads in March – Crufts, Flatpack, Frontiers, the WNO coming around, St Padraig’s, loads. March this year is no exception, and has plenty of non-regular delights too (Sooty, sousaphones, loads). I was going to waffle on here (in my usual grumpy fashion) about the NIA now being ‘The Barclaycard Arena” (I see the NEC Arena has changed names again, too), but I cant be bothered anymore. Sod ‘em. Sod ‘em all.
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.
Sunday the 1st – “Hercules” (The English Concert) @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Handel’s oratorio, so more your ‘tale of jealousy causing strife’ than your ‘twelve labours thereof’.
Sunday the 1st – “…And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel” (Finishing Touch Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Stan visits the dying Ollie. Shame that this couldn’t have been performed at The Bartons Arms, really, with its L&H connections and all.
Tuesday the 3rd and Wednesday the 4th – “Nursing Lives” (Vamos Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Last month I wrote “Stories of nurses, performed by “the UK’s leading full mask theatre company”. Presumably not just surgical masks, then.” This month I can’t be bothered to think of anything extra to write.
Tuesday the 3rd – “Adorno and Art” talk and book launch @ Eastside Projects, Birmingham – One Dr James Hellings has written a book of that title. I expect the “Adorno took our symphonies away” view will be thoroughly debunked therein. Dunno, meself.
Wednesday the 4th till Saturday the 7th – Welsh National Opera @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – The Welsh National Opea company rolls into town for one of its mini-seasons, although there doesn’t seem to be a theme this time around. You do, nevertheless, have a gala performance with the lovely Lesley Garrett on the 4th, Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” on the 5th and 6th, and Humperdinck’s “Hansel And Gretel” on the 7th.
Wednesday the 4th – In This Moment @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Every time I hear their name, I think involuntarily of Martine McCutcheon’s “This Is My Moment”. That’s quite different, musically speaking. I would like to hear her have a stab at melodic metalcore, though.
Wednesday the 4th – John Renbourn & Wizz Jones @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Folk guitarerarering, and plenty of it.
Wednesday the 4th – Barbara Dickson @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – She knew him so well.
Wednesday the 4th – Mellow Peaches @ The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham – Excellent rootsy bluegrassy country-bluesy type o’band. I think they’re first on the bill with other artistes at this one, but apparently it’s only a pound to get in.
Friday the 6th till Sunday the 8th – Bandage Live @ various venues in Birmingham & Sutton Coldfield – Various benefit gigs for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The website isn’t exactly a thorough listing, but I know that a Paul Murphy gig is part of it.
Friday the 6th – Hawkwind / Focus @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Or the current version thereof, you know how it goes. I’m sure this’ll be mindbending nevertheless.
Friday the 6th – Mob 47 @ The Adam & Eve, Digbeth, Birmingham – I swear that they used to call this sort of thing “Discore” rather than “D-Beat” when I were a lad. If neither of those terms mean anything to you then I’d take a wild flying guess at saying that this gig probably won’t be your type of thing.
Friday the 6th – “Ideas Of Noise” @ Minerva Works, Digbeth, Birmingham – An evening of ‘noise used creatively’. Sarah Farmer seems to be putting it on but I’m not sure if she’s actually performing or not. I like the sound of a “harsh noise ballet” by Justin Wiggan and Genevieve Say.
Saturday the 7th till Saturday the 15th – Birmingham St Padraig’s Day Festival @ all over Digbeth, Birmingham – The parade (3rd largest in the world etc.) is on the 15th, this year. The closest thing to any listings that I can find for the fringe festival is this.
Saturday the 7th – Revolt @ The Coal Vaults, Coventry – Amazing-beyond-amazing feminist and LGBTQIA+ postive punk night. This time you’ll have Liines, The Ethical Debating Society, Big Joanie, and Bad Horse, as well as there being DJs and spoken word and zines and all sorts of lovely stuff.
Saturday the 7th – Grant Nicholas @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – Yer fella from Feeder. Believe an old man when I tell you that Feeder actually used to be alright before they became really boring.
Sunday the 8th – The Unthanks @ Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – Folk music and clog-dancing. The new mania that’s sweeping the nation.
Sunday the 8th – The 2015 Soul Acoustic Tour @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Headlined by Carroll Thompson, and also featuring Raheem Bakaré (I got there too late to see him supporting D’Angelo a few weeks ago, which is a shame since he seems like he could be quite interesting).
Sunday the 8th – “Pathways & Places” (Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Stan’s Café) @ The CBSO Centre, Birmingham – A BCMG family concert, with the always-amazing Stan’s Café people providing visuals. There are also “activity cafes” an hour before each performance, in which you can contribute to the music that will eventually be played.
Monday the 9th till the 30th of April – BOM Fellows Show @ Birmingham Open Media, Birmingham – A work-in-progress sort of exhibition, with the ten ‘Fellows’ of BOM showing ideas in development. Includes Pete Ashton’s meditation about the overuse of the word ‘mighty’ on Instagram.
Monday the 9th till Saturday the 14th – “Jeeves And Wooster in ‘Perfect Nonsense’” (some sort of production-specific touring theatre company) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – Starring Robert Webb as Bertie and Christopher Ryan as… Seppings? Apparently. I can’t remember who that is.
Monday the 9th – Clean Bandit @ The Academy, Birmingham – I’d seen the band name ‘Clean Bandit’ around for a good while before I realised that they were that-band-who-do-that-‘doodly-doo-doo-do’ song, but I was always amused by it. ‘Clean Bandit’. I don’t know why that tickles me so much.
Tuesday the 10th – Idlewild @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Believe an old man when I tell you that Idlewild also actually used to be alright before they became really boring.
Wednesday the 11th – “One Man ‘Breaking Bad’: The Unauthorised Parody” @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Dunno about this. It surely requires at least two people to do the best bits (i.e. Badger & Skinny Pete routines). (Also on at Warwick Arts Centre on the 14th).
Thursday the 12th – An Evening With Arthur Brown @ The Robin 2, Bilston – ‘An Evening With…’ rather than ‘The Crazy World Of…’, so I assume he’ll be telling anecdotes more than he’ll be setting fire to his own head.
Thursday the 12th – Pharoahe Monch @ The Oobleck, The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – Simon Says Fuck You.
Thursday the 12th – “Ways of Something” @ Vivid Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – A screening of a remake of John Berger’s “Ways Of Seeing”, in which 60 second clips of contemporary artists’ work are spliced in. It’s very important that you watch to watch the original series too, of course. And to read Walter Benjamin’s “The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction” as well, while we’re at it.
Friday the 13th (whooooo) – GoGo Penguin @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Penguins, in my admittedly limited experience, don’t need much encouragement to act. They will go at the very slightest provocation, whatever going might entail. Also here you have some twinkly-piano jazz-come-electronics.
Friday the 13th (whooooo) – Dan Walsh @ The Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford – The instrumentals are always the best when it comes to clawhammer banjo music. They always sound like the background theme to a chase scene.
Saturday the 14th till Saturday the 21st- “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Younger readers might be amused by a joke using the phrase “Ratched-ass girl” but I don’t know anything about all that.
Saturday the 14th – Lionel Richie @ The Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham – Q. How does Lionel Richie answer the phone? (Aaaaalltogether now…) A. He says “Lionel Richie speaking”.
Saturday the 14th – Europe @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – It’s not the penultimate count-up. No sirree. That’s absolutely not what it is.
Saturday the 14th – The Sooty Show with Richard Cadell @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – I didn’t know there was such thing as post-Corbett Sooty! Little Cousin piggin’ Scampi appears to have buggered off, too, so there’s plenty to celebrate.
Saturday the 14th – Zun Zun Egui @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – Indie-rock by way of Afrobeat, and you can hear their new album in its entirety here.
Saturday the 14th – “La Traviata” (Ellen Kent Opera & Ballet International) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – The only one of these Ellen Kent productions I’ve ever been to see was an absolutely shambolic attempt at “La Boheme” at The Grand, a couple of years ago. They had some bad luck, though (as well as being in a horrible theatre). I’m sure that not absolutely every performance they do of an Italian opera set in France is like that every time.
Saturday the 14th – “Tear Up At The Tower 7” Muay Thai @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Good luck to Si Whitehead and everyone from K-Star Legacy.
Sunday the 15th – The Strawbs @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Actually it’s a triple-bill of Carl Palmer (of ELP fame), Martin whatjacallhim (of Wishbone Ash fame), and The Strawbs (of The Strawbs fame). Unlikely bedfellows.
Sunday the 15th – Chris Wood @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Folk music. Yeah, that’s right, I’m bored of thinking up wood/tree/forest puns every time Chris Wood does a gig.
Sunday the 15th – Hirax @ The Asylum 2, Hockley, Birmingham – Thrashthrashthrash!
Monday the 26th till Friday the 27th – Frontiers Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Two weeks of unusual contemporary music. There’s a you-name-it selection of stuff: Jonathan Harvey’s “From Silence”, everything in Beethoven’s 5th played by one woman, Indonesian Gamelan, jazz themed around intra- and inter-state conflict, I-don’t-even-know-what themed around the number ‘108’, you name it…
Tuesday the 17th till Tuesday the 31st – The Young Rep 2015 Festival: ‘Manifesto’ @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – The youth theatre festival based around ‘punchy’ political ideas. Including a cut-up version of Hamlet, Pies, British Values, and loads and loads more.
Wednesday the 18th – Alabama 3 @ The Robin 2, Bilston – I’m in a lonely room, Hank Williams sings a lovesick tune. I’m sure it won’t be a lonely room for this gig, though. I expect it’ll be quite busy.
Thursday the 19th till Sunday the 29th – Flatpack Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Flatpack! Brumagem’s primary festival of film and film-related activity. It’s another you-name-it job: the biggest one for me is a Richard Dawson gig, but there’s also Peggy Seeger, the Swedish Monty Python equivalent, the Odyssey done with cardboard cut-out characters, cats, more cats, I felt sorry for that cat, air guitar, you name it…
Thursday the 19th – Spandau Ballet @ The Genting Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Yes, they’re playing there. It’s… TRU-WOO!
*** Pick Of The Month~! ***
Friday the 20th – Fanfare Ciocărlia @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – At least some of the people reading this are likely to be fans of The Destroyers, and to those (and everyone else, actually) I would recommend Fanfare Ciocărlia. This gig does seem to be seated, though. If any gig at the Town Hall ever begs for the seats to be taken up, it’ll be this one. People are going to want to have a Balkan Boogie. They have two sousaphones! Two!
Friday the 20th – Stiff Little Fingers @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Don’t leave anything lying around at the gig. The venue might end up being evacuated if they find something that get mistaken for a sus… sus… sus… suss us sussuspect device.
Friday the 20th – Warpaint @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Now that I think of it, ‘Woad’ would be a good band name.
Sunday the 22nd – Dropkick Murphys / The Mahones / Blood Or Whiskey / Resistance 77 @ The Academy, Birmingham – The ‘Celtic Punk Invasion’ tour. Once I would have made a joke about the massive total of one of the bands being from a Celtic Country, but it did eventually dawn on me that this would be close to breaking the “you never, ever get to tell anyone else what their identity is” rule. And I do that that’s a very good rule to live by.
Sunday the 22nd – Seth Lakeman @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – His name always makes me think of the old ‘spaceman’ joke. What do you do if you see a Lakeman? Fish in it, maaaaaan…
Sunday the 22nd – Malcolm X Film Festival @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – Accompanying events nationally. I continually find myself irritated by those who purport to forget the definition of the word ‘necessary’ when trying to find reasons to dislike Malcolm X.
Monday the 23rd till Saturday the 28th – “Arcadia” (English Touring Theatre & Theatre Royal Brighton Productions) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – The best English language play of our times, sez me. Also you can nick bits of the dialogue to explain entropy to people.
Tuesday the 24th till Wednesday the 1st of April – “A Passion For Birmingham” (can’t seem to work out the name of the theatre company) @ Birmingham Cathedral and The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Jesus in Brum.
Tuesday the 24th till Saturday the 28th – “All My Sons” (Talawa Theatre Company) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – See the next entry, if you would.
Tuesday the 24th till Saturday the 28th – “The View From The Bridge (Touring Consortium Theatre Company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – Given how far in advance theatres make their bookings, you’d have thought that they would have avoided having two big Arthur Miller Productions in the same area on exactly the same dates. Or maybe it’s deliberate counter-programming? If they’d both been in Birmingham then someone would have called it ‘Millerfest’.
Tuesday the 24th – Usher @ The Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham – I remember the time when he got mistaken for one of the venue’s actual ushers. Oh, the hilarious sitcom-style misunderstandings that occurred.
Tuesday the 24th – Oysterband @ The Robin 2, Bilston – I condone any folk act named after seafood.
Friday the 27th till Saturday the 11th of April – “Blood” (Belgrade Theatre & Tamasha) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Anglo-Asian Romeo & Juliet.
Wednesday the 25th till Saturday the 28th – “Alice” (Crescent Youth Theatre) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – A modern version of Alice, with your Wonderlandy characters helping her with bereavement.
Friday the 27th – Cara Dillon @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Her fiddle player’s “bit scared” story absolutely cracked me up when I saw her.
Friday the 27th – Prince Phillip @ The Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham – “It’s all the fault of the bleddy Chinese, don’tchaknow…”
Saturday the 28th – Ameriie @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – *DRUMS* Na-na-na-na-na-no…
Saturday the 28th – The Selecter @ Warwick Arts Centre (Student Union Copper Rooms), near Coventry – It’s just a simple
show gig on my radio at Warwick Arts Centre.
Monday the 30th – “Collidoscope” (Freshold Theatre & Untitled Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – Anna deals with upset in her life by becoming Madeleine Carroll. This is a genius idea and I’ll have to try it myself.
Tuesday the 31st till Sunday the 26th of April – “Shrek – The Musical” (Dreamworks Theatricals) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – I wonder if they work “It’s Not Easy Being Green” in there, since it’s a musical?
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.
From the 31st of January all the way up to the 11th of April – “Birmingham Show” @ Eastside Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – An art exhibition that concerns itself with three questions: ‘What is the art of Birmingham?’ ‘Is there an accent to Birmingham’s art making?’ and ‘How is Birmingham useful for the production of art?’. Potentially very interesting – I often feel like there are common threads that I can’t quite put my finger on amongst local stuff.
Sunday the 1st – Joe @ The Academy, Birmingham – Soul month! I’d call Joe ‘alright’ rather than ‘great’. I might not have mentioned him here were it not for A) the respect-worthy lack of effort that went into his stage name, and B) that concept album he did that was set in Possilpark.
Sunday the 1st – “Gaza: When Fire Rained Down From The Sky” @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – A talk from Musheir El-Farra, who recently wrote a book of the same name about victims of Israel’s 2008 campaign.
Monday the 2nd – Jefferson Starship @ The Robin 2, Bilston – The current touring version of Jefferson Starship, doing the music of Jefferson Airplane. I’ll leave you to decide whether that’s a retrograde step or not.
Tuesday the 3rd till Saturday the 7th – “The History Boys” (Sell A Door Theatre Company) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry –
Gordon Alan Bennett. (Also on at The Alexandra between the 23d and the 28th).
Wednesday the 4th till Saturday the 7th – “The Glass Menagerie” (Warwick University Drama Society) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Studio), near Coventry – Tenner C. Williams. Tenner him? I barely know him.
Friday the 6th – “The Tell-Tale Heart” @ The Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Birmingham – Readings and film showings and stuff hidden under the floor, all in honour of Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday.
Saturday the 7th till Saturday the 21st – “Only A Day” (Belgrade Theatre Company) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – A fox and a boar watch over the birth of a mayfly. For children aged seven and over.
Saturday the 7th – “Inside” (Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company) @ The MAC (the Hexagon), Edgbaston, Birmingham – About Stockholm Syndrome. You know, that one where you fall in love with your pet moose.
Sunday the 8th – “Only Fools And Boycie – An Evening With John Challis” @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – I saw him as the voice of The Book in that touring version of Hitchhikers the other year, which was interesting casting. This, I assume (and sort-of hope), will consist of him doing this for an hour and a half.
Tuesday the 10th till Saturday the 14th – Matthew Bourne’s “Edward Scissorhands”(New Avenues) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – They won’t let me have scissors. Not the sharp ones, anyway.
Tuesday the 10th till Saturday the 14th – “Forever Young” (Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company & Oldham Coliseum Theatre) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre), near Coventry – Aging pantomime actors try to prove that it isn’t all behind them. That’s a plot description. I’ve no idea if it functions on a meta level as well or not.
Tuesday the 10th – Kenny Garrett @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Jazz sax-o-mo-phone. I expect that a lot of people get him mixed up with Kenny G. I also expect that he doesn’t like that very much.
Wednesday the 11th – The CBSO’s “Shostakovich Uncovered” @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The 11th symphony (“In The Year 1905”) with an explanatory talk/performance attached. It’s also being done as part of the ‘War And Revolution’ programme on the 15th, and if you like Shosto then there’s also first piano trio on the 26th.
Friday the 13th (whoooo) – Macy Gray @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Soul Month! I know “I Try” got really flipping irritating the first time around, after it was projected into every semi-stable bit of air in the entire world non-stop for about two years running, but listen back to it now – it’s lovely. There has, presumably, been some more stuff since then too. Maybe I should try to hear some of it.
Saturday the 14th – Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – My first thought when I heard the name was a reflexive “Oh yes, and what precisely is quite so postmodern about it all?”, but they do actually appear to be applying signifiers out of context to see what they end up doing. So…
Saturday the 14th – Gruff Rhys @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Star of “Not The Nine O’Clock News” and “Alas Smith & Jones”, latterly more well known for larking about on boats. What?
Saturday the 14th – Fascinating Aïda @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The Cheap Flights song absolutely cracked me up.
Saturday the 14th – Professional Boxing @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Ah, I have no idea who the local boxers are nowadays. The balcony in The Civic is a great place to watch fighting sports, though – you get a great view of the ring. There’s also boxing at the Holte Suite at the Villa ground on the 20th and at Bescot stadium on the 21st, but again I dunno.
Sunday the 15th and Monday the 16th – “The Snail And The Whale” (Tall Stories) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – A snail wants to see the world and so hitches a ride on the back of a whale. You don’t know how much I’d like to do that.
Sunday the 15th – The Dublin Legends @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – “Will they ever be called ‘The Dubliners’ again?” (Wait for it, wait for it) No, nay, never, no nay never no more…
Sunday the 15th – “UK Burger Battle Valentine Special” @ Spotlight, Digbeth – You get to eat two burgers from two different chefs and judge them. The winner gets… I dunno, indigestion I expect.
Sunday the 15th – Echo & The Bunnymen @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Rescheduled from last year, due to illness. I think one of the Bunnymen was poorly. Echo was notably annoyed about having to cancel gigs.
Monday the 16th till Saturday the 21st – “The Honey Man” (Birmingham Rep Theatre & Judy Owen Ltd) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – An old Caribbean beekeeper is harassed by the daughter of the his landlord. This one has been well-regarded for a long time now. (It’s also on at The Arena in Wolves on the 24th, and… y’know, I swear I saw it on somewhere else in February but I can’t quite seem to locate where. Sorry).
Tuesday the 17th till Saturday the 21st – “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time” (National Theatre) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – With the usual caveats about representation. And the usual caveats about The Grand Theatre.
Tuesday the 17th – D’Angelo @ The Academy, Birmingham – Soul Month! I like this trend of famous artists releasing albums on two-minutes notice, it’s fun. Particularly when, like Dang (as he is known to the non-boring), you’re famous for hardly releasing albums at all.
Tuesday the 17th – “Alice In Wonderland” (Box Tale Soup) @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – A puppetry version, which actually does strike me as a very good medium for it.
Wednesday the 18th – The Decemberists @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Any band that do a video based in a scene from “Infinite Jest” are alright by me.
Wednesday the 18th – Hey Colossus @ The Flapper, Birmingham – Doom-come-post-rock sorts, who were something beyond amazing the first time I saw them and then a bit dull the second time.
Friday the 20th – Sleaford Mods @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – I’m not entirely convinced that he’s not just a pub bore moaning about other pub bores, but I’m open to be persuaded.
Friday the 20th – Mitch Benn @ The MAC (Theatre Space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Like Jeremy Hardy, tours mostly to prove that he exists in the corporeal world and not solely on the radio.
Friday the 20th – St Patrick’s Day Charity Event @ The Irish Centre, Digbeth, Birmingham – It seems that the Birmingham Saint Padraig’s Day parade (3rd largest in the world etc) has had its funding cut. Money is being raised, and this here is a benefit gig with loads of Irish music (including The Father Teds).
Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22nd – “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus” (Big Wooden Horse Theatre Company) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Studio), near Coventry – Good advice for living, as well as the title of this play for children three and older.
Saturday the 21st – Earth @ The Oobleck, Digbeth, Birmingham – Yer contemporary drone band, not Black Sabbath under their original name. Or Earth, Wind & Fire. Or Manfred Mann’s Earthband.
Saturday the 21st – MMA (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Wolves council had a bit of a “ban this filth” fit over MMA a few years ago and cancelled an event that was due to take place at the Civic (in spite of the fact that MMA fights had already taken place there, on a kickboxing card. I know, I was there), so I’m glad that’s all settled down. This card features mega-prospect Tom Duquesnoy, and (as I mentioned above) this is a good venue for fightsports. One Paul Taylor is fighting, too, but sadly it’s not that Paul Taylor.
Saturday the 21st – Pete Rock @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – CL Smooth’s mate. They reminisce they reminisce.
Sunday the 22nd – Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The second most famous folky from Barnsley and the second most famous folky from the Lakeman family, making something first class when combined.
Sunday the 22nd – Mahler’s First Symphony by the CBSO Youth Orchestra @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – And if you like Mahlo, there’s the sixth symphony on the 26th and the 28th.
Sunday the 22nd – “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” @ Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – With Jack Dee and the surprisingly corporeal Jeremy Hardy and all o’them other fellas. Mornington Crescent.
Monday the 23rd – “Woyzeck” (Splendid Productions) @ The MAC (the Hexagon), Edgbaston, Birmingham – I always forget that this was a play before it was an opera.
Wednesday the 25th till Thursday the 7th of March – “The King’s Speech” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company & Chichester Festival Theatre) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – P-p-p-p-p-p-poker F-f-face, Granville. With Jason Donovan! Wow.
Wednesday the 25th and Thursday the 26th – Selina Thompson’s “Chewing The Fat” @ Warwick Arts Centre (Studio), near Coventry – I can’t help but chuckle about the fact that Warwick Arts Centre’s page for this comedy/theatre performance about weight/body image finishes with “Theatre Supper: Enjoy a post-show supper in Le Gusta…”
Wednesday the 25th – The Jesus & Mary Chain @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Doing their vaunted “Psychocandy” album. Feeding the feedback back.
Wednesday the 25th – Michael Chapman @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Fun fact: between September 2011 and February 2013 I saw Chappo and his bluesy fingepickin’ guitarin’ five times, which seems (to me) like quite a high times-to-time ratio for seeing someone non-local. I’ve not seen him before or since.
Wednesday the 25th – “The Cloth Of The World” (The Fetch Theatre Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A puppetry performance inspired by Hereford Cathedral’s Mappa Mundi, which is an intriguingly mad concept. Includes mermaids, mandrakes, and gold-digging ants.
Thursday the 26th till Sunday the 28th – “Ava’s Wedding” (students of Birmingham Conservatoire) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – A new opera, by Michael Wolters of the Conservatoire. The libretto (by Alexandra Taylor) is apparently influenced by soap operas, making this a soap opera-opera. If you will.
Friday the 27th – Richard Herring @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – I used to love “Fists Of Fun” and “TMWRNJ”, but I’m afraid to go back and try to watch them again. I have a faint worry that it might just turn out to have been a load of wacky-student crapola.
Friday the 27th – Syleena Johnson @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Soul month! It’s really not clear to me whether she’s supporting Faith Evans, or they’re doing some sort of joint tour with ‘em all together on stage at once.
Friday the 27th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The soirée at the just harbour town (‘Fair’,’port’… geddit?).
Friday the 27th – “Nursing Lives” (Vamos Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Stories of nurses, performed by “the UK’s leading full mask theatre company”. Presumably not just surgical masks, then.
Friday the 27th – Mark Thomas’ “Cuckooed” @ Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre), near Coventry – The tale of how a friend of his turned out to be informing about his activities to BAE systems. I suspect the same thing is happening to me. Only BAE Systems don’t care about me and wish that this person would stop bothering them.
Saturday the 28th – The Black Keys @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – I have a vague memory of being more-or-less indifferent to the odd songs of theirs that I’ve heard (maybe. I dunno, I’m reasonably sure I’ve heard their own stuff but I have no distinct recollections), but that Dr John album that their frontman helped him out with is really good so maybe they are worthwhile after all. Or perhaps it was all just Dr John. He has a sazzle of gris-gris in his hand, as you know.
Saturday the 28th – “Bag Lady” (Hidden Gems Productions) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Eve the bag lady is angry. This play would seem to be about why.
Saturday the 28th – Broken Bones @ The Adam & Eve, Digbeth, Birmingham – Your band that grew out of Discharge. Finish your Soul Month (!) with some thrashin’ punk.
(Via Swizzle, and it says volumes about me that word of this had to float off to Oxfordshire before coming back, given that it concerns the constituency I live in. I’m dozy, we all know that).
It would seem that one Rob Buckman wishes to stand as a parliamentary candidate in the general election, in some obscure little backwater known as
The Endz Warley. It also seems that he needs to raise a monkey for the deposit.
You can go and donate over at the Kickstarter page. There’s a video, too.
I’ve chipped in. I would’ve done anyway, but having been in hospital a few days ago has somewhat reinforced my liking of political parties who don’t want to privatise the NHS. I wouldn’t have actually thought it possible for my feelings about that to get any stronger, but here we are.
Having said that, it’s hard to imagine him unseating John Spellar. I can’t even promise a vote for him – a spike in UKIP support around here seems really, really far from inconceivable. If I have to once again brace myself and vote for that thing posing as the Labour party in order to keep them out, then I will.
One last point: I know his hair is annoying, but you shouldn’t let that put you off. And I don’t often say that about annoying hair.
I thought that this was going to be a weak total, but recounting shows that I actually went to 17 this year (equalling that heady operatic golden era of 2012).