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 they’re 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 doing 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 Back 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-shop 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).
Gig-going frequency has actually picked up a bit, for the first time in a fair old while.
The list of plays I went to this year is something beyond pathetic.
I don’t feel like I read anywhere near enough in 2014. A bad year.
Oooooh, it’s Supersonic Festival time again, or rather it was on the 30th and 31st of May. I like Supersonic, as those fool enough to have looked at this blog before might know. There wasn’t one last year (instead we had Bring To Light, which was a kinda-sorta Supersonic-lite done in combination with the Library Of Birmz opening celebrations), but it’s back, it’s in its natural home at The Custard Factory, and it’s in ‘Limited Edition’ form (read: smaller and over two days, just like it used to be in the olden times). I hope that this means that the having-Supersonic-in-October experiment is over. It had a good run and the brief bursts of rain and dither-inducing cold were a thousand times less severe/frequent than they might have been expected to be for the time of year, but I do think that it would only have been a matter of time until there was a serious weather-stinker.
Further nostalgia for the ghosts of Supersonics past came from the fact that it all took place in spaces around the pond again! Said water feature wasn’t drained for a stage, which was a bit of a shame – I always felt that the outside/pond stage was one of the defining features of Supersonic. Even after they stopped using it. I didn’t see anyone jumping in for a quick swim, but I imagine that somebody did at some point.
There’s also a new restaurant and venue in place of the old Med Bar, called Alfie Birds. Outside of the fact that I find the name “Alfie” to be entirely insufferable (“Alf” and “Alfred” are lovely names. “Alfie” strikes me as being as vile as vile can be), they name themselves after Mr Bird but don’t appear to serve anything with custard on it. Something has gone awry somewhere, and for a change I’m confident that it’s not my fault.
I don’t actually like custard. That’s not the point.
Finally, the main stage: an erstwhile unused bit in the far corner. It’s a big room, sure enough, and grubby enough to satiate those who are particularly into the noisy-sound-as-reflection-of-urban-decay tip. Musical vibrations were causing chips of paint to fall off the ceiling. You could theme an entire blog post around using that as a metaphor for… something or other. I’m not going to bother trying. Even I have trouble parsing my own nonsense nowadays.
Let’s have some brief thoughts on the acts and artistes I especially liked:
~ Anta – Sabbath riffs combined with what would have been called solos if they’d been played further along the guitar neck. There used to be loads of instrumental bands like this. Maybe there still are, I dunno. All of that sounds cynical but I liked ‘em, they shifted some air.
~ Ex-Easter Island Head – Fourteen (count ‘em) guitarists, and a drummer to act as the cherry on top. We all know that ‘having a double figure number of band members’ is always a foolproof way of being good live, and so it went with E-EIH. So many guitars all doing the same thing at once produces a pleasingly ringing timbre. The bells on the drumkit made me think of xmas, not Easter. The droney bit had washes of feedback that felt like waves breaking on a Pacific beach, so there’s your Easter Island.
~ Agathe Max – Violin and loadsa pedals (I assume, I couldn’t see ‘em. Seems like a safe bet though). A one-woman orchestra, at times. A one-woman shoegaze band, at others. Ferocious feedback drones (no really: she was the only one all weekend to make my head feel all wobbly) at other times still. Hypnotic at all of the times.
~ Rattle – Two drummers. Vocals acted as a flat layer for the percussive groove to sit upon. They were hypnotic, too, but in a very different way to Agathe.
~ Alien Whale – Ex-members of a bunch of bands that you’ve heard of and I haven’t. Instrumental big rock (moments of 60s psych too, I suppose), and a lot more fun than I initially thought it might be. Some fantastic Eric Clapton-esque guitar-playing faces were pulled.
~ Youth Man – This band seem to be the talk of the town nowadays. Black Flag-ish, maybe? Well, no, they don’t sound like that, but abstractly they do have that Punkfast-into-Sabbath type o’thing. More melodic than all that, though, too ( Dead Kennedys, I suppose). There are definitely better reference points, but I can’t think of them. They were much more ferocious than I expected, given the channels through which I’d heard about them (a lesson about assumptions that is always worth re-learning).
~ Sarah Kenchington – Oh my life. She played a prepared wheel, foot pumped brass that she poured water into, a drumpet (exactly what the name suggests) pointed into a wheelbarrow, and something like a… Oh, I don’t know. Something like a pedal sewing machine built out of percussive instruments, string instruments, and a typewriter. This may well have been one of the greatest things that I’ve ever seen. After Sarah Angliss at Bring To Light last year, it has become more than apparent that it is very important to make sure that you see any ladies called Sarah who build their own instruments/devices.
~ Karen Gwyer – This was some energetic and interestingly layered dance music. Once upon a time I would have been able to tell you what type and (on a good day) maybe even make references, but I don’t remember the words any more. I’m old. My leg ached too much to actually dance but I enjoyed it.
~ Jenny Hval – The artist I was most keen to see, but I somehow hadn’t thought much beforehand about how the actual context would affect her songs. In a great big ol’ room (and amplified appropriately), her whispered confessions and matter-of fact statements become boldly proclaimed boasts. She does boast well, though. Her own manner was adorably sheepish-to-unhinged (“I recently became aware that I am Norwegian, so I’m very polite and then shout rude words very loudly”).
~ Notable absences (to save anyone asking) – It was a shame that Pharmakon cancelled (some herbert tea-leafed her passport, apparently), ‘cos I did particularly want to see her. I did like Sleaford Mods when I saw them last year but they do definitely veer into the territory of a pub bore moaning about other pub bores at times, and so not seeing them here wasn’t the end of the world. I like Swans, too, but (whisper it) I’m not thaaaat bothered. They were getting a bit dull before I wandered off last time they were at Supersonic.
Next one please!
(For lots of links to things that others have said, have a goosey at the Collective Memory).
There’s not going to be any possibility of a Lots post, so here are just a handful of recommended and/or eyecatching things for between now and the rest of the month:
~ Birmingham Opera Company are doing Mussorgsky’s “Khovanschina” (here retitled “Khovanskygate: A National Enquiy”) every even-numbered day from the 22nd up to the 2nd of May, in a big tent in Cannon Hill Park (not that disused picture-house that always has the carwash signs on it in Harborne, as I swear it was originally supposed to be. I’m sure I haven’t just made that up. It would be a bizarre thing to imagine, wouldn’t it?). You have to pick a numbered seat when you buy tickets, but it does appear to be the usual walk-amongst-them B-Op thing. If you listen to nothing else that I ever tell you, pay heed to the fact that you must always go to every Birmingham Opera Company production because they are always amazing.
~ The Shout Film Festival is taking place between the 23rd and the 27th, mostly at The MAC but at a few other venues too. Lots of LGBT-themed filmy goodness.
~ Dan Stuart, erstwhile of country rock types Green On Red, is at The Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath on the 24th. I do quite like his recent “The Deliverance Of Marlowe Billings” album. Jace Everett is laying too, and whilst I haven’t had a listen to him yet (and I do want to get this posted without any further delays, so I’m not going to do that right now) I gather he did the theme music for one of those television programmes that you like so much.
~ If you want to make it two nights in a row of Americana offshoots at The Hare & Hounds, Wildflowers are there on the 25th. This is the gig that was meant to be at The Sunflower Lounge last month prior to postponement, and while it’s a shame that we won’t be able to say “Wildflowers at The Sunflower” we will be able to point out that the evening involves both flora and fauna (Wildflowers/Hare/Hounds, you see). As I mentioned recently, the singer has elsewhere been described as ‘The punk Dolly Parton’. I still can’t think of a better thing to be described as.
~ Damo Suzuki (of Can fame, as you know yourself) is playing at The Chuckery Club in Walsall on the 25th, which is pleasing (given that The ‘Sall hasn’t quite been a hotspot for international touring artistes during recent years). Apparently a nine-piece band has been assembled for a freaky-deaky jam with him.
~ “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” will be taking place at The Hippodrome on the 27th, although it isn’t one that’s being recorded for broadcast (I didn’t know they did dark matches). Mornington Crescent.