GDFAF #2: Heavy Trash/Copter/The Micragirls/The Destroyers/Andy Hamilton & The Blue Notes/Gabbidon (7/10/7)
I was definitely looking forward to seeing the inside of the Town Hall, since (as non-locals may not know) it has only re-opened this weekend after years and years of being… well, not open. Given this, I suppose we can forgive a few cock-ups and mistakes in the runnings while the Powers That Be there figure out how they’ll go about things. This isn’t to say that it’s not worth pointing out when things descend to farcical levels of bad planning, though. First of all, my ticket told me I was in the left side circle, row B, seat 14. All well and good until I got inside and saw that, according to the signs inside, seat 14 of row B was in the right side circle. Hmmm. Flipping a non-literal coin, I decided to believe the ‘seat’ designation on my ticket and head to the right. When I eventually (eventually. I’m coming back to that, just one sec) got up there, I found that I should have been on the left, and the appropriate seating was on that side. The tickets were correct, the signs on the wall in the damn building were wrong.
Somewhere between these bouts of nervous confusion and subsequent dread realisation, my fellow punters and I were herded into small spaces like pigs in a pen. The ‘starting in ten minutes’ tannoy announcement rang across the building and the roped-off doors leading out of the foyer were opened. We all headed onto the staircases (or corridors, for those with tickets to the stalls), and there our passage was blocked for nearly 25 minutes. Apparently soundchecks were still going on. Quite why that means we weren’t allowed into the hall is beyond me, but in the meantime we were all densely packed onto a staircase. There were old ‘uns about in need of a sit-down, never mind the phrase ‘fire hazard’ that comes screaming to mind. I suppose we got a chance to admire a bit of the building that we wouldn’t normally have paid a lot of attention to. Erm… the plastering was very smooth. Obviously a professional job.
As I’ve said, the place is new and so we can imagine that the procedures that they’ll use are still being established, but nevertheless: Naughty Town Hall people. Slapped wrists. Don’t do it again. And get your signs re-written while you’re thinking about it.
With ingress eventually gained (and seat eventually found) I got my first look at the town hall’s hall’s interior. More smooth plastering, and then higher up you have neo-classical windows and pillars moulded onto the walls and a big gold star thing on the ceiling. It’s not mindblowing but it is appropriately stately.
Right then, the acts. Confusing me entirely, it turns out that the ‘History Of Reggae’ set – that was originally advertised as being done by Andy Hamilton – was done by Birmingham’s favourite reggae-band-who-only-seem-to-play-at-publicly-funded-events, Gabbidon (I am, apparently, completely wrong about that, but it was certainly the impression I’d gathered). The promotional bumpf suggested “a potted history of the journey of reggae from Africa to Europe”, for which read “an excuse to play some cover versions, with the occasional half-arsed attempt at a bit of narration between songs.” I can’t complain, of course – although I don’t really like covers bands, as a one-off I can’t fault the chance to hear a selection including “Lively Up Yourself,” “Long Shot Kick De Bucket,” “Trenchtown Rock,” “Israelites” (and so forth) played by a band with loads of groove and energy and some beautiful singing. Loads of fun and I really enjoyed them, therefore, but I do hope someone decides to do the ‘journey of reggae set’ idea properly one day too.
Andy Hamilton And The Blue Notes followed, playing some lift music. While I offer him all the respect and deference accorded to everyone of Category D pension age and while there was lots of good musicianship and all the rest of it, I’m interested in ‘art’ and ‘entertainment’ rather than ‘craftsmanship’. A skillfuly-grouted brick wall is not as interesting as Westminster Abbey, and so it went here. All was dull until his last song, a ska-jazz sort of thing that made for great grooving fun.
Oh, those Destroyers. They’re like ‘Fiddler On The Roof’, but you’re not entirely sure why he’s on the roof and are just praying for the best. Or something. They are, without question, the best local gypsy-danceband going and I do mean that. At this gig I got chance to see their sensory-overload collaboration with The Dholblasters, which was like some sort of 37 sided sonic medicine for your lugholes (EDIT: Oh wow, here’s a video of it). “Song For This City” (I think. The “Are You Ready” one) is always great, and it’s cruelly funny to see old ‘uns at a gig like this jump out of their seats when everything gets suddenly louder (I know, I know). This is currently the one that the rest of the fortnight has to beat.
A couple of hours were killed in the Briar Rose before heading Southwards, to The Hare and Hounds in good ol’ Kings Heath. It used to be a boozer; now it’s a ‘bar’. I quite like it, although I liked the old version more. It’s a shame we can’t have both.
It was rock and/or roll night, anyway, with Finnish band The Micragirls opening and proving to be a massive pile of fun. Bubblegum rock ‘n’ roll at times, garage rock at others, a little bit of Ramones, a touch of Spector girl groups and one almost psych-blues bit. Lots of stage presence and really good songs. Fun!
Between bands I suffered some drunk with stinking breath trying to talk at me with saint-like equanimity before Copter started. The Destroyers and Copter in the same day, a man just can’t lose. Their Rolling From The C5 business avoids being a silly retro-exercise by means of being reallyreallyreally good and having enough energy and testifying soul to power the time machine that was presumably necessary to get it in the first place.
Headliners Heavy Trash are the new band of Jon Spencer (of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion fame), and despite featuring the legend-to-those-who-consider-him-a-legend himself were probably the least of the night’s three bands. Still very good, though. They were a lot more rockabilly than I was expecting, and still full of testifying r’n’r goodness, but perhaps stripped of a little bit of potency by having to play immediately after Copter.
I committed the ultimate Goodfaff sin of leaving before they’d finished, due to being slightly concerned about the busses on a Sunday. Does this make me a bad person?