Call me Russ L

Festival Festivities 2018: Ay! Get away from that food! (Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul)

Posted in Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 4 August, 2018

I decided to try to write about the music festivals this year and (in the process of doing the first one) decided that I couldn’t be arsed with writing about the actual music too much, and instead would try to identify a theme for each festival. I can’t help but feel, though, that we need some sort of objective measurement so that posterity will know which one was Best. There’s only one definite empirical measure I can think of, really: a sousaphone count. I didn’t see any at Supersonic.

Mostly Jazz Funk And Soul 2018 contained…

One sousaphone!

I might have enjoyed Supersonic more this year, but by the empirical measure MOJFAS wins.

I went on the Friday (Jimmy Cliff day) and the Sunday (Sister Sledge day) – I’ve already seen Candi Staton (headliner on the Saturday) a couple of times and those two days looked like the better line-ups overall. Incidentally, I have seen Jimmy Cliff a couple of time before too (but I like him a lot more) – the programme stating “as far as we can tell, Jimmy hasn’t played live in Birmingham since the 80’s” can be easily forgiven given , given that the small number of people at his Academy/Ballroom gigs in 2003 and 2012 suggested that barely any sod knew about ‘em in the first place.

Themes, then. I couldn’t really detect one for most of the way through. The penny began to drop during Sister Sledge’s set. There were plenty of bits I liked amongst their crowd-hyping arena nonsense, but it all seemed very endearingly confused. “Lost In Music” was used as a framing device that carried on for about three weeks – wandering off into long solos, stopping entirely before starting again, and moving sideways into completely unrelated songs before returning. It went everywhere and anywhere possible before the final resolving chord, like a disco “Tristan Und Isolde” if King Marke decided to do suddenly do bits of “Le Freak” and “Love Like This” for no obvious reason. This was the whole thing in microcosm – the theme of Mostly Jazz was that it was just a bunch of unrelated stuff that happened, some of which was good.

Musical turns of note: Namiwa Jazz, Ash Walker Experience, The Brass Funkeys, Jimmy Cliff (obvs), Noya Rao, Jazzlines Ensemble (with an assist from Young Pilgrims), Laura Misch, Ezra Collective, Fred Wesley & The New JBs (also obvs), Roy Ayers, and I’m going to give a special ‘uncategorisable’ award to Sister Sledge and their strange ways.

Supersonic didn’t have anyone who could be considered as going in an uncategorisable list. Up your game, weirdo noise bands – you not even as enigmatic as Sister Sledge.

(Title quote courtesy of The Jungle Brothers)

Advertisements

Festival Festivities 2018: Thank Your For Your Medicine (Supersonic)

Posted in Films, Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 25 June, 2018

There’s that Supersonic Festival, that they have. It really is the best one. It may not be the best individual festival in any given particular year, but it is so obviously and clearly the best one overall.

According to the programme, the theme for 2018’s Supersonic is ‘Ritual.’ This is a good theme and I like it, but I’m not sure I could feel it shooting through the entire weekend (or at least not in any overt way, beyond symbol-manipulation in general). Daniel Higgs was certainly ritualistic (I liked his set a lot, although I do feel that Jennifer Walshe led a psychically similar charge to more effect), but for openly presented magic I think we’re mainly talking about the Dennis McNett procession. This was amazing. Doogus T. Doggua and The Four Great Animal Spirits Of The Cardinal Directions led Rattle on a little cart and all the rest of us (many of whom were be-masked) from Floodgate Street to the Custard Factory in a celebration of whatever meaning you wanted to give any of it all. It made me very happy. There was no fire involved, and so my usual ritual pre-occupation of entropy can’t be applied, but on the other hand there were lots of animals – every year I say in the post-event survey that Supersonic Festival should involve more animals. Persistence can sometimes pay off

The moment of Wolf Limbo as Doogus T. Doggua had to bend backwards to get under the passage to the Custard Factory courtyard will make me smile forever. And that’s a sentence that you don’t get to type every day.

Beforehand, I’d have guessed that the theme was ‘Shirley Collins’. It did actually seem like the 2018 Birmingham Shirley Collins festival, between the film showing, talk/onstage interview, and performance (all of which I went to. The actual performance was magical. A top ten live set of all time, I’d say, barely even scratched by people trying to make it all about themselves). This all maybe points towards what may be the real theme – the cycle of departure and return over time. Consider how Shirley went to America with Alan Lomax but came back, and then lost her ability to sing with disphonia but is now back. The non-prodigal daughter of English song returned to us. This isn’t something to be taken for granted, as we see from the other film that I watched during the festival – Betty Davis hasn’t ever made the return journey.

This is all apt because Supersonic itself has returned (partially) to the Custard Factory, which really feels like the place where it’s supposed to be. Things have changed (the pond has been bricked over) and there have been losses (the big lizard has gone from outside the Med Bar), but we’re all here, back, and surviving. Just like our Shirl.

Also, I suppose, the narrative of leaving before returning requires a sequential time’s arrow of the sort that doesn’t really make any sense without entropy. So nyaaaah.

Musical turns of particular note: Housewives, Joasihno, Jennifer Walshe, Cattle, Yerba Mansa, Youth Man, Mario Batkovic, Daniel Higgs, Group A, Mesange, and obviously Shirley Collins.

(Title quote courtesy of Dennis McNett).

End-Of-Year-Count 2017 – Films

Posted in Films by Russ L on 31 December, 2017

Not ‘my’ medium, but I watched a few more this year than last.

(more…)

End-Of-Year-Count 2017 – Books

Posted in Books by Russ L on 31 December, 2017

The more important list, I suppose, within the obvious field of “What I done on me holidays” not being in the least bit important at all. The standard disclaimer applies: the fact that I read it doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with it or like it or don’t think that the author is an oaf etc etc etc.

(more…)

End-Of-Year Count 2017 – Popular Music Gigs

Posted in Music by Russ L on 31 December, 2017

Too old for this malarkey, but soldiering on anyway.

(more…)

End-Of-Year-Count 2017 – Stage

Posted in Stage by Russ L on 31 December, 2017

This isn’t too bad a total, by my standards.

(more…)

End-Of-Year-Count 2017 – Operations

Posted in Music, Stage by Russ L on 31 December, 2017

Not a huge number, this year.

(more…)

Tracks and Field

Posted in Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 18 September, 2017

I haven’t written about a gig in ages. This is a problem, really, given that I can’t talk to people and my only way to vent my frustration with the world/discuss my deteriorating physical and mental health is to do so through a thinly veiled subtext in a blog post about a gig. I was originally planning to write about all of the festivals I went to this year (I’ve planned to do that before. Didn’t do it then either). I got something half-written about Supersonic, but that went by the wayside (quick version: Supersonic was good).

I want to do at least one, though, so I’m going to tap this out now in one take. It’s the only way I can guarantee that it’ll get done. Plus it’s either that or watch the Billy Joe Saunders fight from the weekend, and there are limits to my masochism.

Beyond The Tracks is the new festival from the people that brought you Moseley Folk, Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul, and the Lunar Festival (good pedigree, I’d say), and it seems to be their attempt to do a bigger and more young-person’s-popular-music oriented affair. It was to be held at Eastside Park – “Isn’t that the bit of grass outside Curzon Street Station?” I wondered. “Can’t be big enough, surely.”

The line-up seemed to divide neatly over the three days – a dancey/electronic day on the Friday, a plodder guitar band day on the Saturday, and a not-exactly-Captain-Beefheart-but-maybe-a-teensy-bit-more-unusual day on the Sunday. I bought myself a Sunday ticket.

I’m getting ahead of myself though (and you know how I feel about getting ahead of oneself). Prior to the festival, I popped to Victoria Square for the demo/rally about the bin-worker’s strike. Banner Theatre’s First Of May Band were playing when I arrived, because of course they were. They’re always at these things to play/fill time/get on peoples’ nerves. They’re a marginally less sinister fixture than the tankies and the swappies, I suppose. Carl Chinn was wandering around, though, and that was somehow faintly reassuring.

There were speeches. Big Lenny Mac (as I have decided he should henceforth be known) spoke. Apparently he put a score in the strike fund collection bucket, so that was good. Carl Chinn turned out to be speaking! That’s why he was there. He was great, actually – really angry. I didn’t think he had it in him. I was greatly amused when one of the speakers said something along the lines of “the real militants are in the council house” and all the *Socialist Party guys all suddenly went stony-faced.

I’m not making light of the cause, I hasten to add. This is really important. Mercy, I even went and stood in a public square in the vicinity of a bunch of swappies for it. If you need the selfish-git version – would you like it if your employer suddenly told you they’d be paying you five grand less? The more frequently they get away with it, the more frequently it’ll happen.

I know you don’t need the selfish-git version really, though. You’re lovely and a decent human being.

Over to Digbeth for the festival, then. It turns out that Eastside Park is that bit of grass outside Curzon Street station (what did they call it before the mass collective Ali G delusion descended and people started using the name ‘Eastside’, then? That seems like so long ago. I should’ve asked Carl Chinn), but weirdly it looks a lot bigger when it’s fenced in. It was interesting, because you could see the actual city over the walls. To the right, there was a surprisingly lovely view of The Eagle & Tun and the trains coming in and out of Moor Street (oh wow maybe the name has something to do with the railways. I’d assumed they just meant ‘better than heroin’). To the left, massive edifices jutted out to the sky and I was reminded of the Tom Waits lines “the buildings never fall down, they are the teeth of the town”. Don’t read too much into that, I’m almost continually reminded of those lines.

Fairground rides, too! They were a nice addition. They didn’t get much use early on in the day, but seemed to find a few more customers later on when everyone was pished.

Music then. The first turn after I got there was Nadine Shah, and she turned out to be the best of the day. Going between Nick Cave and a gothy-er version of “Let’s Dance” era Bowie (made sense when I heard it, honest). She has an absolutely commanding stage presence and her saxophonist plays an actual rusty saxophone. I don’t know why that’s cool but it is. It was going green and everything. The big Krautrock-ish finale with the regimented rhythm and mad sax honking seriously kicked my figurative arse.

Dorcha were next and I like Dorcha. I liked them at Supersonic when I saw the end of their set there, I liked them here, and I really need to investigate them further. They are, of course, very difficult to describe. Weirdo songs, lots of different instruments, lots of time changes, loads going on, ranging from twee to ferocious howling… could mean anything. But they are really really good.

Peter Hook & The Light were a bit of an oddity. Pub rock/punk covers of Joy Division turned out to be a bit more fun than you’d imagine, but I was still moved to wonder why we’re all, collectively, like this. I tweeted that I was disappointed that they didn’t play World In Motion and Hooky ‘like’-d it! This is second only to the time that I was auto-retweeted by the computer programme running Bootsy Collins’ Twitter account.

Dark clouds were gathering. Massive damp gaseous arsewits, looming in the sky. We all know massive damp gaseous arsewits. Most of us have to work with some of them. I don’t see why we should have to deal with them in our leisure time.

Ah well. I’ve seen Hoopla Blue a couple of times before and been relatively indifferent to them. So it went here, too. A proggier version of jangly 80s indie, maybe? I quite liked the bits that sounded like Club Tropicana. There’s enough for everyone.

I was expecting to be fairly indifferent to Slowdive, because indie legend-bands that you’ve never actually heard before generally turn out to be “Well… they were alright.” Happily I was wrong and they turned out to be great. Dreamy, echoey, all of the other adjectives that probably get used t describe them every single time, but a really pretty sound. During their set I saw a hyperactive orange butterfly and a rainbow in the distance, highlighted against the massive damp gaseous arsewits in the sky. Neither flutterby nor rainbow seemed like precisely the right visual metaphor for the sounds that I was hearing, but they weren’t completely inaccurate either and so really you just have to make do.

The rain started during their last song.

A few fellas with bandanas/ski-masks/whatever over the lower two thirds of their face stepped onto the smaller stage and I thought “oh cool I didn’t realise that Brujeria were playing.” I knew it wasn’t them (it was actually an outfit called Blackash) when a bloke bounded out wearing space goggles (disclaimer: they weren’t space goggles. Disclaimer to the disclaimer: I don’t actually know what space goggles are, so they might have been space goggles), but I also knew that this was the right band to create a ritual to dispel the rain. These silly-billies are playing at mixing Neu!-by-way-of-Föllakzoid motorik with Fatboy Slim-esque comical big beat. I feel that this is a noble aim and I enjoyed them. The rain did too, and stopped until they’d finished (told ya).

The rain then came back, stronger and more vengeful. It was also COLD. Very COLD. I was COLD.

Wild Beasts turned out to be neither wild nor beastly. A watered down Depeche Mode was not enough to frighten off the rain.

I missed most of Victories At Sea’s set because I was playing “hide from the rain under the awnings of the bar tent”, and you could neither see nor hear them from there. When I did eventually venture out, they sounded halfway between how they sounded last time I saw them and how I’d gathered they normally sound from various bits’n’bobs that I’ve read. It was like your watered down Depeche Mode recently modelled by others nearby mixed with that feedbacky psych guitar that goes “shrrrriiiiiiiiioooooaaaaawwww” like steam coming out of a kettle. They were OK, I suppose.

The Jesus & Mary Chain weren’t doing any sort of feedback malarkey, and as such they were just your basic Ramones/Spector-ish pop-rock band. Rubbish. Boring. Also it was COLD and I wasn’t in the best of moods by this point. Due to being COLD.

Josefin Ohrn & The Liberation were really good, though. Neu/motorik again (maybe an unsung influence on the day’s programming. Although I’ve said before that it’s easy to hear Neu! in everything once your mind starts leaning that way), all rocky and driving. Not quite aggressive but leaning that way.

And finally, Editors. I have a long and complicated history with Editors (I remember way back when they were called Snowfield, which is a far better name for a band. ‘Editors’ has always sounded rubbish. It’s almost like renaming Digbeth ‘Eastside’or something stupid like that), which I was going to recount here but there’s no point really. We can abridge it to “I like the first album, which may well be an Echo & The Bunnymen knock-off but it’s an astonishingly good one”.

Here… oh mercy, they made me chuckle at least. Apparently they think they’re U2 now, even down to having a leather-clad overacting frontman. Occasionally (“All Sparks” in particular) they sound like the Platonic/Russtonic idea of the Editors that I think I like, but mostly it was all drowned in the effort to sound big. They’re not the band I used to like anymore. That’s OK, I suppose. I daresay I’m not the person they used to be completely unaware of anymore either.

Nadine Shah won, then, in spite of a low seed. Dorcha in second place, Blackash third, Slowdive fourth and J. Ohrn in at fifth. Also Carl Chinn, he was good as well.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – June 2017

Posted in Books, Films, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 31 May, 2017

I struggled to get this one done and it may show, but here we are! Three months running! June is all about (but not only about) Supersonic, which is looking like it’s going to be even more amazing than usual this year.

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 (although, happily, no-one ever does this anymore).

Thursday the 1st and Friday the 2nd – “Scorch” (Prime Cut Productions) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – ‘A story of first love through the eyes of a gender-curious teen’ but apparently based in recent court cases, so this might not be the most happy and joyful of plays.

Thursday the 1st – “The Day Of Czech Culture” @ various venues in Birmingham, I think – There’s an exhibition at the library and a film night at the Gunmaker’s Arms and presumably other things, although it seems hard to find out precisely what.

Thursday the 1st – Jasper Carrott’s “Stand Up And Rock” @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – He used to be a folky, then a comedian, and apparently now he’s a rocker. One is reminded of Dylan going electric.

Friday the 2nd – Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – I’ve often thought that ‘Jah Wobble’ is a perfect name for a bass player. And only just now thought that this is probably why he uses it.

Friday the 2nd – Fofoulah @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – West-African-influenced jazz/mix-of-allsorts. Young Pilgrims are also on the bill, because There Must Be Sousaphone.

Friday the 2nd – “Transmission” @ Vivid Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – Sound art pieces about the ‘deprecation’ of FM Radio broadcasts. That’s an interesting choice of word. Religious overtones and such.

Sunday the 4th – “From Legends To Light Years” family day @ Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – From The Tales Of Birbal to The First Hippo On The Moon. From a distance the theme for this seems more like “not a theme at all”, but I daresay it’ll all make sense on the day.

Monday the 5th till Saturday the 10th – “The Crucible” (Selladoor) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Witch please.

Tuesday the 6th till Friday the 30th – Wolverhampton Artsfest @ various venues in Wolverhampton – Loads and loads of stuff, although I suspect some of it is “things that would’ve happened anyway kicked under this festival banner”. Which is very Brum-esque, but there we go. You have Lego, pink elephants, an Angela Carter documentary, Reynard The Fox, and naughty muppets.

Tuesday the 6th – Thea Gilmore @ The MAC (theatre), Edgbaston, Birmingham – On her 18th album! That’s mad, for someone who started in my times. She truly has been a Thea Gil-more and not a Thea Gil-less.

Tuesday the 6th – An evening with Arundhati Roy @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Until recently I has always assumed that the author of “The God Of Small Things” was a man. It may be the ‘Roy’ having some subconscious affect or (more likely) it may just be that I’m very stupid.

Thursday the 8th – Martha Tilston @ The Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham – I’ve already seen Steve this year, so I’ll be able to do The Tilston Double. Last year I did The Tilston Double-Double, by seeing them both twice. (In addition: I initially got the impression that this was happening at the Kitchen Garden Caff, then found out that it was at the Hare & Hounds, and have since had an email saying that it was no longer at the H&H and was actually at the KGC. I’m going to bet that it’s probably happening somewhere on that road in Kings Heath, but I wouldn’t really want to specify where).

Thursday the 8th – Beth Rowley @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – I thought she was fare more famous than this sort of venue-size would suggest. But then again I am always bad at judging these things.

Thursday the 8th – “Idle Women Of The Wartime Waterways” (Alarum Theatre) @ Centrala, Digbeth, Birmingham – During the war[/Albert], so-called ‘idle’ women started working on the canals. This is about that.

Friday the 9th – “What If The Place Falls Out Of The Sky?” (Idiot Child) @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – “What if how I feel at 4am is the truth?”, they ask. At 4am I normally feel the cat making a nuisance of herself, so I don’t know.

Friday the 9th – “Carmen Fire And Fate” (Cervantes Theatre) @ Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – “Carmen” from the perspective of Carmen. Which is a good thing to do, I think. Actually I think someone should create something where she and a cured Violetta meet and live happily together. Sod all those men.

Saturday the 10th – “Apollo et Hyacinthus” (Classical Opera) @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Mozart’s cautionary tale about frisbee safety.

Sunday the 11th – “Power Folk 4” @ The Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Birmingham – Mainly-folky (but also a bit jazzy and a bit indie-y) alldayer and barbeque in the beer garden, headlined by the wonderful Conservatoire Folk Ensemble.

Monday the 12th till Tuesday the 20th – Monkathon @ various different venues across Birmingham – Every piece from Thelonious Monk’s repertoire, performed over several gigs. Thelonious Monk is still the best name that anyone has ever had or is ever likely to have. Not bad at the piano, either.

Tuesday the 13th – Kraftwerk @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Touring their new album “The Computer Is A Mayor Now”.

Thursday the 15th till Sunday the 18th – The BBC Good Food Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – [Insert usual joke about the ‘good’ seemingly being redundant]

Thursday the 15th till Saturday the 17th – “The Beggar’s Opera” (students of Birmingham Conservatoire) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – True but not particularly interesting story: up until just now, I’ve always thought it was “The Beggars’ Opera” (plural).

Thursday the 15th till Saturday the 17th – “The Little Mermaid Jr” (Birmingham Youth Theatre) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – An adaptation of the Disney one, so no dying at the end. Now that I think about it, she should go and hang out with Carmen and Violetta.

Thursday the 15th – Gwen Dickey / Odyssey / Heatwave @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – Car washes, boogie nights, return journeys to roots, etc.

Friday the 16th till Sunday the 18th – Supersonic Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Oh mercy me. Supersonic is always fantastic, but this one looks particularly good even by its own high standards. There’s Richard Dawson, whom I guarantee will blow your socks off (he always does). There’s Jenny Hval, whose most recent album is her best. There’s Xylouris White, who played the best live set I saw all last year. Anna Von Hauswolff is being given free reign with the big organ in the Town Hall. Broadrick & Martin are back together. I can’t believe I’m going to be seeing The Space Lady! I’m really looking forward to seeing Colin Stetson (really now, get a load of this)! There are reliable turns like Melt Banana (also playing for the kiddies), Big Joanie and Zu, and there’s always a load of ancillary arty stuff/exhibitions/installations. This is going to be bosting.

Friday the 16th – “A Black Country Fairytale… Ay It” (Fizzog Productions) @The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Important missionary work, heading into That Birmingham to spake to the baywindered folk.

Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th – “Summer In Southside” @ around the Hippodrome/Hurst Street/Arcadian Centre etc, Birmingham – Saying ‘southside’ is like brushing your teeth with a stick, obviously, but this seems to be themed around having a country show in the city and it’s all free. And there are sheep! I love sheep. Also dogs! And ducks! And Destroyers!

Saturday the 17th – Warwound / Police Bastard @ The Castle & Falcon, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – An evening of incredibly heavy crusty punk.

Saturday the 17th – Shy FX @ The Kasbah, Coventry – “Original Nuttah” was actually about me. Did you know that?

Sunday the 18th – Otis Gibbs @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Otus the Songwrotus (of a lefty folksy-rootsy sort). He also does a really good music history podcast.

Sunday the 18th till Tuesday the 20th – “Sarah And Duck’s Big Top Birthday” (Polka Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – I like the theme song to Sarah And Duck.

Monday the 19th – Mark Lanegan @ The Institute 2, Digbeth, Birmingham – The (comparatively) forgotten/actually interesting one from all of your grunge malarkey.

Monday the 19th – Idina Menzel @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – LET IT GOOOOOOOO! LET IT GOOOOOOOO!

Thursday the 22nd till Saturday the 24th – “Phedra” (Birmingham School Of Acting) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Euripedes trousers etc etc. Although this is Racine.

Thursday the 22nd – The Giant Balloon Show @ Penn Hall School, Wolverhampton – Bloonz~! Giant ones.

Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th – “Uncle Ben” (theatre company…?) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Either the popular local comedy or some packet rice. One of the two.

Friday the 23rd – YolanDa Brown @ The MAC (theatre), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Saxomophoooonnnne.

Saturday the 24th and up until the 23rd of August – “Dinosaurs In The Wild” @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – The blurb promises ‘living’ dinosaurs (no really, it does). I’m not sure if they’re the same dinosaurs that ate the botanical gardens last month.

Saturday the 24th – “Idomeneo” (CBSO & chorus) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Wolfy’s finest opera, I think (well… admittedly there are loads I haven’t heard).

Saturday the 24th – Revolt @ The Tin Music& Arts, Coventry – Coventry’s periodic feminist gig/club night. All the ones I’ve been to have been ace. This time with Dispute Settlement Mechanism, Nim Chimpsky, Brutalistas and others.

Monday the 26th – Beverley Knight @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Our Bev.

Tuesday the 27th till Saturday the 1st – The Welsh National Opera @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – No theme to this season, as far as I can tell, but there’s a new production of Der Rosenkavalier and revivals of Madam Butterfly and Die Fledermaus.

Tuesday the 27th – Pam & David Humphries’ “A Virtual Tour Of The Outer Circle” @ The Gunmaker’s Arms, Birmingham – A talk on the subject of the Number 11 Bus. Seems like a good moment to link this.

Wednesday the 28th – Flogging Molly @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Faith and begorrah, it’s yer auld Irish-American folk-punk. Really good live.

Wednesday the 28th – “Octopus” (Paper Tiger Productions/Greenwich Theatre) @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Three women, who all look very different, have to prove how British they are. Also promised is The Power Of Punk.

Wednesday the 28th – Rainbow / The Sweet @ The Genting Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – “Not obvious bedfellows” I thought at first, but on reflection I can see it. Ritchie Blackmore, of course, remains the most Spinal Tap-esque real person to ever have lived.

Thursday the 29th – Madball @ Mama Roux’s, Digbeth, Birmingham – New York Hardcore from a bunch of fellas that you wouldn’t want to run into down a dark alley. I initially got confused and somehow had the idea that this gig was at Scruffy’s. That would’ve been mental.

Thursday the 29th – Sebastian H-W’s “Chokolatul” @ The Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – I try to avoid just quoting from the blurbs for this, but this one says that it’s “part live cooking show, part one-man-stand-up, part confessional live art, part twisted Phil Colins tribute act”. Make of that whatever you will.

Friday the 30th – Fred Thomas’ Polyphonic Jazz Band @ The Red Lion, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Jazz standards done through Baroque-style counterpoint. A good idea that seems so natural now that someone has thought of it.

Friday the 30th – “Dial Medicine For Murder” (dunno the theatre company) @ The MAC (theatre), Edgbaston, Birmingham – About murderous physicians. Of particular note now I write this, given that ‘orrible surgeon has just been convicted.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – May 2017

Two months in a row! We can fairly say that the stars have aligned, and not just because it also appears to be Space Rock 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 (although, happily, no-one ever does this anymore).

Monday the 1st – Sing-A-Long-A-Frozen @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – LET IT GOOOOOOOO~! LET IT GOOOOOOOO~!

Tuesday the 2nd – Best Of The BE Festival (various theatre companies) @ Warwick Arts Centre (studio space), near Coventry – Short theatre pieces from last year’s BE Festival, including one about the Hitler salute which (in reading the blurb for this) I’ve just learned is also called the Bellamy Salute. What the hell, David?

Tuesday the 2nd- Justin Wiggins’ “Collapse” @ The Conservatoire, Birmingham – Now that the cruelest month is over, we have a ‘live sonic essay’ melding T.S. Elliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ with noise and doom metal.

Wednesday the 3rd – An evening with Roberto Duran @ The Irish Centre, Digbeth, Birmingham – I dare you to make a “no mas” joke to his face. Go on. I dare you.

Friday the 5th till Sunday the 7th – “Delia@80” @ different venues in Coventry – Lots of stuff happening to celebrate (what would have been) the 80th birthday of Our Lady And Saviour Delia Derbyshire, with the centrepiece being a big concert at the Cathedral.

Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th – Mark Farrelly’s “Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – You don’t want to see civil servants naked. I’m near sure of that.

Friday the 5th – “In Tents And Purposes” (Viscera Theatre) @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – “… just like the gypsy woman said!”

Friday the 5th – Skinny Lister @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Inland sea shanties. Not Craig Charles though, he comes around later in the month.

Saturday the 6th till Saturday the 20th – “The Laramie Project” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre (studio), Birmingham – I’d never heard about this, but it seems like it’s very well known. A play constructed from interviews with the people of the town of Laramie, WY after the homophobic murder of Matthew Shepherd. Sounds like it’ll be enormously harrowing.

Saturday the 6th – Soweto Kinch @ The CBSO Centre, Birmingham – Saxomophooooone. Also emceeing. Is there a Flyover Show this year?

Saturday the 6th – The Comet Is Coming @ The Tin Music & Arts, Coventry – Crazy psych-jazz. (Also: space).

Sunday the 7th – “Ulla’s Odyssey” @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – An opera based in The Odyssey, including puppetry. Also there’s a lovely cat in the one promotional photo.

Monday the 8th and Tuesday the 9th – English Touring Opera @ Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – Tosca, and some Gilbert & Sullivan thing.

Monday the 8th – Bonfire Radicals @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Unusual pan-European folk instrumentals (well, mostly instrumentals). They were fantastic when they played at the Crescent Theatre the other week.

Tuesday the 9th – Napalm Death @ The Institute, Digbeth, BirminghamYUURWY

Tuesday the 9th – Katatonia @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – It’s all over the front page, you give me Road Rage… no, wait, not that Catatonia. This is the Swedish Katatonia.

Tuesday the 9th – Punch Records’ “Welcome To My City” tour @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – Five hip-hop/r’n’b/soul artists do a rotating headliner tour through the five cities they’re from. It’s good to see the good ol’ DIY-style gigswap catching on in other styles of music. Brum’s own is Gambimi.

Tuesday the 9th – An evening with Ian McCulloch @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Better known as Echo from The Bunnymen.

Wednesday the 10th till Saturday the 13th – “Little Shop Of Horrors” (MTW) @ Warwick Arts Centre (studio space), near Coventry – I’m just a mean green mother from out of space and I’m bad. But enough about me.

Wednesday the 10th till Saturday the 13th – “Bedroom Farce” (Dudley Little Theatre) @ Netherton Arts Centre, Netherton – Alan Ayckbourne’s naughty people.

Wednesday the 10th – The Hot 8 Brass Band / Hackney Colliery Band @ Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – All sousaphone, all the time! Well, not really, there are other brass instruments too. Hackney Colliery Band are also doing the Rep in Brum on the 13th.

Wednesday the 10th – “The Soul in The Machine” (Saltmine Theatre) @ St Martin In The Bullring, Birmingham – About the founder of the YMCA, but probably not featuring The Song. Also on at The Albany in Coventry on the 12th.

Thursday the 11th – “A Womb Of One’s Own” (Wonderbox) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A dark comedy, but about the real troubling subject of unwanted pregnancies. Fun trivia: apparently Paul McGann likes it.

Thursday the 11th – Procol Harum @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – They could play the great big organ if they’re doing the Town Hall.

Thursday the 11th till Saturday the 13th – “Am I Dead Yet?” (Unlimited Theatre) @ The Rep (The Door), Birmingham – Death plays #1: Concerning resuscitation.

Friday the 12th till Saturday the 14th – Imagined Isle 2017 @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – “A folk festival of the imagination” is the subtitle, and… no, too easy. Featuring Fairports, Jon Boden etc. The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble are amazing.

Friday the 12th and Saturday the 13th – Adam Ant @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – It faintly amuses me that he may actually qualify for his own pension by now.

Friday the 12th – “Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon” @ The Institute 2, Digbeth, Birmingham – I haven’t looked up what “Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon” actually is, because nothing that really exists could live up to that name.

Friday the 12th – British Association Of Mixed Martial Arts @ The Genting Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – I’m glad to see that Ronnie Mann is still going, I always liked watching him. You could have a big weekend of fightsports if you went to both this and…

Saturday the 13th – “The Homecoming – Kal Yafai vs Suguru Muranaka” (Matchroom Boxing) @ The Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham – First title defence for Brum’s first world champ for a century. Stourbridge Sam Eggington is on the bill too, as well as Gamal Yafai, Frankie Gavin etc.

Saturday the 13th – Independent Birmingham festival @ The Bond, Digbeth – Celebrating Brum’s independent restaurants/pubs/etc. It looks as though phrases such as “street food” and “pop-up” and so-on will be used liberally, but if that doesn’t turn your stomach too much then you’ll probably find some lovely things to eat and drink.

Sunday the 14th till Tuesday the 30th – Birmingham Cabaret Festival @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – They sent out an email calling upon you to “See the best that the UK cabaret circuit has to offer in the intimate, decadent surroundings of our theatre”. It is genuinely unclear to me what is supposed to be ‘decadent’ about a plain black room. Nevertheless, ‘How Eva Von Snippisch Won WWII’ sounds fun.

Sunday the 14th – “The Death Show” (Outer Circle Arts) @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Death plays #2: Concerning mortality and peoples’ attitudes theretowards.

Monday the 15th till Wednesday the 17th – “Pint Of Science” @ various pubs in Birmingham – Scientists giving talks in the boozer. Probably a lot more accurate than most impromptu physics lectures that I’ve heard or given in pubs in the past.

Monday the 15th – “Sukanya” @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Ravi Shankar’s opera.

Tuesday the 16th till Saturday the 20th – “My Country: A Work In Progress” (The National Theatre) @ The Rep/Library Of Birmingham (The Studio), Birmingham – Carol Ann Duffy’s play (she does those too) featuring testimonial from youngpeople after the Brexit vote. It’s also on at the Warwick Arts Centre between the 25th and 27th.

Tuesday the 16th- Hawkwind @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Space Rock month (OG division).

Wednesday the 17th till Saturday the 27th – “Tommy” (The New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich/Ramps On The Moon) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – Tina Turner was the best in that film. Although then again Tina Turner is the best in everything. Has there ever been a photograph more stage-musical-esque than this? I believe not.

Wednesday the 17th- Natalie Imbruglia @ The Institute 2, Digbeth, Birmingham – Performing songs plus recitations of the great speeches from “Neighbours”. Possibly.

Thursday the 18th till Saturday the 20th – “Home Chat” @ The Old Reader, Birmingham – The recently revived Noel Coward one.

Thursday the 18th – Kathryn Tickell @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – The smallpipe-playing sister of your fella with the long arms.

Thursday the 18th – Jane Weaver @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Space Rock Month (formerly folky division).

Thursday the 18th- “Paradise lost” (Lost Dog) @ Thimblemill Library, Smethwick – A one-man (for solitude sometimes is best society) words/music/dance retelling of “Paradise Lost”.

Friday the 19th till Sunday the 21st – “B-Side” hip-hop festival @ in and around The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Focussed on the dance side of things, by the looks of it.

Friday the 19th till Saturday the 21st – “Legends” jazz festival @ various venues around the Jewellery Quarter and Hockley, Birmingham – Themed around Blue Note, and featuring a few gigs from Bryan Corbett.

Friday the 19th – Leftfield @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – I always get Leftfield and Underworld mixed up. I like both, but I can’t keep ‘em straight in my mind.

Friday the 19th – Alexander O’Neal @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Alex at The Alex, if you will. Or, as the in-joke with origins way back in the mists of time goes, “80s soul nuisance Alexander O’Neal”.

Friday the 19th- Steve Ignorant’s Slice Of Life @ The Castle & Falcon, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – As in your man from Crass.

Friday the 19th – Mozart-related business (Time Zone Theatre) @ The Albany Theatre, Coventry – You have Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Mozart And Salieri”, and then a play called “A Night In Vienna” that seemingly incorporates various bits from Wolfy’s operas.

Saturday the 20th till the 4th of June – Jurassic Kingdom Dinoasaurs @ The Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Dinosaurs! In the Botanical Gardens! This is a bad idea, the ones that aren’t eating us will be eating the flowers.

Saturday the 20th till Sunday the 28th – Alchemy festival @ various venues across the Black Country – Affiliated with the Southbank Centre in That London and exploring cultural links between Britain and South Asia. There’s the Bollywood Brass Band and a desi pub bus tour and loads more.

Saturday the 20th – Föllakzoid @ The Castle & Falcon, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – Space Rock Month (Chilean division).

Saturday the 21st – Iron Maiden @ The Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham – It’s your basic Hegel, really. If the thesis is reckoning the Number of the Beast and the antithesis is Up The ‘Ammers, then the synthesis will obviously be running to the hills.

Monday the 22nd till Saturday the 27th – “The Woman in Black” (can’t find the theatre company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – Prepare to be made to feel uncomfortable and disquieted… (wait for it, wait for it)… and that’s just the theatre it’s being held in.

Tuesday the 23rd till Saturday the 25th – “Tank” (Battersea Arts Centre/New Diorama Theatre/Camden Arts Centre) @ The Rep (The Door), Birmingham – About a 1965 attempt to teach a dolphin to speak English. It didn’t work, but the dolphin did do a double backward somersault through a hoop whilst whistling “The Star Spangled Banner”.

Tuesday the 23rd – Lady Maisery / Daphne’s Flight @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Lots of folky ladies but not both on the same bill. This seems like some really unfortunate double-booking – two separate gigs in the same building on the same night, who will presumably have a fair bit of overlap in audience. Maybe they’ll try to stagger the times so you can see both. I dunno.

Wednesday the 24th – Swans @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – On their last ever ever ever tour. And one day someone will actually mean that when they say it.

Friday the 26th & Saturday the 27th – Joan (Milk Presents)@ The Rep (The Door), Birmingham – Drag Joan Of Arc. With a hobby-horse.

Friday the 26th – Dr Feelgood / Eddie & The Hotrods @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Dr Feelgood are no longer fronted by Wilko Johnson (although he isn’t actually dead). Eddie & The Hotrods have never been fronted by anyone called Eddie.

Friday the 26th – The Specials / Toots & The Maytals / Bedouin Soundclash @ outside the NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – A big outdoor thing, by the lake. It may be worth noting that last time Toots Hibbert came around here it was apparently a right bleedin’ mess, so buyers beware and all that.

Friday the 26th – Klashnekoff @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – He will, y’know. He’ll klash your neck off.

Friday the 26th – Messiaen’s “Turangalîla-symphonie” @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Sakari Oramo is coming back, but conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. That’ll seem strange, somehow.

Friday the 26th – Shakin’ Stevens @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – This ole hall.

Saturday the 27th and on until the 3rd of June – “The Witches” (Blue Orange Theatre Company_ @ The Blue Orange Theatre, Hockley, Birmingham – Getting a bit Roald Dahl all up in this witch.

Saturday the 27th and Sunday the 28th – Birmingham Pride @ around Hurst Street, Birmingham – Fifty years since decriminalisation, so this should be a big one. Although sponsored by Manchester Airport, which is just confusing.

Saturday the 27th – The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – …And I asked “Oh Cecil what have you been doing?” and he said “I’ve been eating cabbages”…

Saturday the 27th – Vice Squad @ The Castle & Falcon, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – They weren’t and aren’t currently really the last rockers, but they could be yet.

Sunday the 28th – Funk and soul alldayer with Craig Charles @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Awooga! No sleep till bedtime!

Sunday the 28th – Slade convention @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Including, endearingly, a Slade quiz.

Sunday the 28th – Wolfgang Flur @ The Dark Horse, Moseley, Birmingham – I didn’t think he was particularly interesting when he played in Brum last year, but I’m not going to argue with someone who was in Kraftwerk.

Sunday the 28th – “Birmingham Fearfest” @ The Gunmaker’s Arms, Birmingham – “Celebrating all that is spooky in the second city”, which will presumably include [insert reference to local politician of choice].

Monday the 29th – Tim “Ripper” Owens @ The Robin 2, Bilston – I do tend to feel sorry for the singer who replaces the famous singer and then ends up getting edged out when said famous singer comes back. See also Bailey comma Blaze.

Tuesday the 30th – David Campbell @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Scion of the famous folk/pop-reggae/soup family.

Tuesday the 30th –“Dogs Don’t Do Ballet” (Blunderbus Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – I know at least one dog who would beg to woofin’ differ.