Call me Russ L

End-Of-Year Count 2018: Books

Posted in Books by Russ L on 1 January, 2019

I’ve just put these in alphabetical order by author.



End-Of-Year Count 2018: Films

Posted in Films by Russ L on 1 January, 2019

This is the one that really might not be completely spot-on.


End-Of-Year Count 2018: Gigs

Posted in Music, Uncategorized by Russ L on 1 January, 2019

No worries at all about any of these having been missed, since I have the the ongoing list on this very blog.


End-Of-Year Count 2018: Stage (including operations)

Posted in Music, Stage by Russ L on 1 January, 2019

There were some problems with this list.


Festival Festivities 2018: This was all carefully planned, but that doesn’t seem to have made any f’n difference (Lunar)

Posted in Modern Living, Music, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 25 August, 2018

Lunar Festival, at the Umberslade Farm Park in posh Tanworth-In-Arden. Just the Sunday for me, for this one. The Stranglers were by far the least interesting of the three headliners, but the line-up through the day looked good (it later occurred to me that this was because most of the bands were already familiar to me, which isn’t necessarily the best way to approach these events, but then again it’s not like this was Supersonic) and you get the bonfire on the Sunday. FIRE! At last!

Let’s get the important bit out of the way. Lunar festival contained…

No sousaphones! Not even one in the brass band for the procession. I’m a bit disappointed by that.

The themes were clear, at least. There was some ooblocks about ‘Seven Elements’ in the programme and preliminary blah, but what we really had was the traditional four elements and plenty of them. Water from sky – oh mercy, so much water fell from the sky. So, so much. Earth, in the form of mud. Air, in the form of wind. And later on FIRE. (Also stands to be noted – having the Lunar Festival on the weekend of the blood moon eclipse seemed apt. Apt, I say).

Didn’t it rain though, children. It didn’t seem so bad to begin with – after all, Dorcha were on first and they’re a great band to twirl your umbrella to (being, as they are, a wolfpack of Mary Popinses). After a while it starts to get you down, though. At my lowest I was tempted to abandon the music entirely and go into one of the indoor bits in the other field, but then I realised that was also somewhere around the time that Jess Phillips was running a No Homers Diane Abbotts club (VIP seats reserved for Lord Ashcroft) in one of them. You don’t want to blunder into that by accident.

Jane Weaver summoned the first bit of sun we saw all day (regrettably she also summoned Janice Long as an unadvertised compere) and that seemed right and fitting, but that didn’t last. Still, it was actually quite a nice day by the time that it wasn’t daytime anymore, and then we got the procession and bonfire (FIRE)! Great for drying your bum. The pyre was just a big triangle this time, though, rather than the (previously) customary Gigantic Woodbird. I don’t know if it makes me bloodthirsty to want to burn an animal in effigy. Sapthirsty, maybe.

Musical turns of note: Dorcha (with and without Damo Suzuki), Galleon Blast, The Swampmeat Family Band, Jane Weaver, AK/DK, Songhoy Blues (band of the day), and I don’t know who the brass ensemble doing the procession were but, y’know, them.

(Title quote courtesy of Mark Radcliffe).

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)

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.


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.


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.