Call me Russ L

Let’s get the rest of last year out of the way

Posted in Do Not Use These Companies, Music, Stage by Russ L on 10 January, 2011

A post in which I chronicle my 2010 doings between Supersonic and the end of the year. Mostly gigs, but not entirely.

28/10/10 – To the crappy-but-not-as-bad-as-the-old-one Academy 2, Batman. The impact that Rolo Tomassi have live often seems to vary pretty widely, and this one was somewhere in the middle. They had their gentle mellow bits that sound like sitting on the lawn in a nice garden and followed them with the chop’n’change dagga-dagga-graargh bits that sound like the outside of a building falling down the flight of stairs inside it like some kind of M.C. Escher bidnizz blah blah blah run-on-sentence to sound breathless. ‘Cos that’s a bit what their music would be like if it was a linguistic construction: confusing and silly and not really anywhere near as clever as the author would like, but fun nevertheless.

Unrealistic expectations always turn out to be a bugger, and in this instance I had the archetypal “thinking that a band are something other than what they actually are”. I used to really like The Dillinger Escape Plan and I saw ‘em a couple of times back in the day, but I’d not really kept up with them and prior to the week before this gig I’d never listened to any recorded stuff outside of the “Calculating Infinity” LP. Upon finally having a go with some more recent material, I found out that they’ve acquired some really unconvincing-sounding melodic choruses from somewhere. I don’t think this suits them one little bit, although I may keep listening to see if a figurative penny drops. This new-found but actually-old side of them particularly failed to work at this gig, for me – the headfork that I want from TDEP shined through at times, but a lot of it seemed akin to bad teen-angst singy metalcore. I left before they finished.

It’s probably mostly my own fault, what with the aforementioned unrealistic expectations and all. Lots of other folks seemed to absolutely adore this gig. I’m not dismissing them entirely and I will keep trying, as I said.

On the plus side, it seems that they now have a song called “Gold Teeth On A Bum”. Just imagine the downright delightful American-English-into-actual-English based misunderstandings to be had. “La, good sir!” trilled Emma Darlington-Smythe, as she coquettishly fluttered her fan; “It would be inappropriate for a young lady in my position to allow you to bite me on the arse, even with such a well-appointed gob.”

31/10/10 – It was off to the The Bunny ‘n’ Bow-wow in Kings Heath on the 31st. First on were Tempting Rosie – pop-rock come ska-punk, initially leaving me unconvinced but by the time they’d finished I’d ended up thinking they weren’t without their charms. I recall thinking either that their slower/dubbier bits were a fair bit better than their more up-tempo bits, or possibly the other way round. It was months ago now, I forget.

“It’s so myoooosical” cooed one overheard punter during the Youngblood Brass Band’s set, and yes indeed it certainly was music. Really really good music, though, even better than I remember them being when I saw them at The Barfly back in the day. They call it Riot Jazz, brass a-plenty groovy stuff with rapping and percussion. Amazing. Mostly, though, I would like to talk about the sousaphone. This is surely the best instrument going and I would really like to see it used more frequently. Soooooousaphone~! There were a few brass-taking-the-place-of-everything covers – (I recall “Bad” and “Ain’t Nobody”), and I will never get tired of that horn-imitating-scratching bit.

A fantastic set. I hope they come back over soon.

13/11/10 – My first visit to The Asylum’s smaller room, the inventively named Asylum 2. It’s tacky, but there you go. We need venues.

Alunah did some stock stoner rock stuff, and I wasn’t enormously keen. On the plus side they did have some likeable riffs here and there, and I thought the authentic Cream-ish guitar tone was great. Selfless’ metallic punk/grind was fun, and Dunc’s pissed between-song banter was even more so. This is probably what I wanted from Fukpig a few weeks before at Supersonic, although the thought occurs that it’s also possibly what I might have got from Fukpig if I’d seen them in a small venue.

Sally – Doooooooooooooom. Not as loud as I remember them being back in the olden days (although who knows), but still: dooooooooooooooooom.

20/11/10 – The A.E. Harris Building in The Jewellery Quarter, for Birmingham Opera Company performance of Stravinsky’s “The Wedding”. “Absolute Sensory Overload” would appear to be the phrase I’m looking for.

The music almost seemed like a faint and distant background note to support one million billion squillion brides and grooms rushing all around you in every possible direction, singing and dancing and doing some very unlikely things. It’s be impossible to describe even if it hadn’t already been impossible to see more than a tiny fraction of, taking place all over the entire factory as it did. Seeing breakdancing done to a different rhythm to the music you can here is strangely disorienting in general, never mind seeing it done by someone dressed in a groom’s wedding suit. There were somersaults. There was a bride getting taped into a small cardboard box. There was a groom doing a headstand in a bucket, and that was before things started.

Sensory overload, as I say. That’s a good thing, if you ask me, as is the Birmingham Opera Company. I hope they go back to doing a full-scale full-dress epic next year, though.

21/11/10 – There was another dugong (also known as a manatee/matinee) courtesy of Eat A Book Records at Digbeth’s The Wagon ‘n’ ‘Osses, and I’d like to voice my approval once more of daytime gigs. Daytime gigs are A Good Thing. I do think that maybe after two of these particular ones (there was one the previous month too, look) the novelty may be wearing off ever-so-slightly and so I’m might be a square and look to see if I actually like any of the bands next time, but that’s my own problem – daytime gigs are great. At weekends, anyway. It’s just like going down the drinker in the afternoon, only there are bands as well.

This one was bolstered by the presence of a lovely doggy, wandering around and giving big mournful eyes to anyone with a bag of crisps. I think she was a greyhound (it seems a bit nutty to be able to have a greyhound with brown and darker brown tiger-y stripes, but there you go. She may have been a whippet, actually. For someone who has been to Crufts twice, I certainly am crap at identifying dogs). I was initially concerned that the noise might not be good for a pooch, but she didn’t seem in the least bit bothered. I’d dare you to try and name a single activity that wouldn’t be improved by having an animal to fuss, and so it went here.

There were some bands, too, dull as that may seem in comparison to Dog News. Crash Night did a two-piece (guitar/vox and drums) doom-turning-to-grindy-bits thing for their short set, and it was quite fun. The lack of bass robbed the slower bits of a bit of impact but worked well for creating a shrill violent sound during the speedier bits (DIGRESSION: I mention this mostly because it led me to wonder about my own conditioned responses. Why should slowmetalz have to be bassier/heavier/weightier? I do not have a reason, but felt this nevertheless. Perhaps I should have to go through a deprogramming process) and the two-tone siren feedback between songs was an interesting change from the usual “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” noise. Bird Calls were doing an 80s emo/Dischord Embrace/Rites Of Spring lark, which was decent enough. They lose points for not having any actual bird calls during their set (set yourself up against Little Sister and you’re bound to fail), but gain them for having one nimble-fingered motherfaxer of a bass player, and then lose some again as a result of him doing the bass-strung-up-high-as-though-you’re-trying-to-cover-an-imaginary-exposed-nipple thing. I’ve never been able to approve of that, visually speaking. I nevertheless found them enjoyable at the time.

Things got more Welsh thereon, and Harbour (Dag Nasty seems to be the usual comparison for them, which I can sort-of see although they’re a lot shoutier than all that) suffered from a lot of technical difficulties. I don’t think I’d have liked them as much as I did last time even if that hadn’t been the case, though. Facel Vega, lastly, were the band of the day even with a stand-in drummer. They also played 80s emo-indie-punk stuff, but less obviously homage-y than Bird Calls and a lot more energetic and enervated.

4/12/10 – Although I’d never been to one before this, (secular) gigs in churches seem to be becoming quite a bit more common of late. This was at St Paul’s in the Jewellery Quarter and – contrary to the predictions of several eminent theologians – I didn’t burst into flame upon entering.

St Pauls is Anglican, anyway, so it’s not like it’s a proper church.

Oh my days, there’s nothing more fun than pretending to be sectarian.

Boat To Row were on first, and turned out to be (I think) a version of Bronze Medals reinforced by extra members for the purposes of playing some pure-and-chaste-sounding 60s-ish folk-rock. Pleasant enough, too, I liked them. I have a vague memory that they possibly had some lyrics worth lyricising with, judging by the odd line here and there that is always the most I can ever make out live.

I liked the choral carols played as a between-bands-tape, that was good. I didn’t actually know that mince pies were being sold in the corner in the dead time, but I would’ve definitely partaken if I had. Anyone who knows me knows how much I like a mince pie.

I may be (well, there’s no ‘may be’, I am) applying some stupid stereotypes, but I think that one of the things that makes Goodnight Lenin so very appealing is that they simultaneously appear both older than their years and bursting with youthity youth. They do tap into a vein of good ol’ fashioned classic songwriting, which I (unfairly) associate with the older gentleman, but still have plenty of enthusiastic smart-arsed cheekiness, which seems to accord with their freshness of face . They’ve been written about a fair bit on the local blogs and whatnot (by me too, of course. Y’all know this sumbidge always tries to hop on the bandwagon. Before finding that Birmingham Tours have replaced the bandwagon with a moped. I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll come back to that in a minute), and so the pattern of What One Says About Goodnight Lenin has emerged and I am duty-bound to follow: first I say that they play 70s stylee folk-rock of the American West Coast type o’ style and then I say that they’re probably going to be really famous, for whatever good that’ll do ‘em. Highlights: “Wencelas Square”, as ever (it’s quite the example of a song), and obviously a church made a good venue for them to have a stab at a genuinely acoustic bit with no microphones. There’s got to be a Lenin/religion joke in here somewhere, but I’m tired. So tired.

10/12/10 – A poor show from Birmingham Tours, who’d advertised an open-top bus trip around Brum’s Christmas lights, but decided to swap it for an ordinary non-open-topped bus due to there having been bad weather earlier in the week. I think it’s pretty bad that they didn’t warn people about this, given that we’d all ordered tickets and thus had to leave contact details and that the lack of roof was obviously the main attraction (come on now, no-one would seriously expect all that much from Birmingham’s Christmas lights themselves), and quite a few people didn’t seem too happy about it. I did learn a few facts from the tour guide’s narration, and even warmed to his Alan Partridge/local radio presenter-ish manner after a while, but this wasn’t what we were after. I’m really not sure about Birmingham Tours henceforth. Watch out if they ever advertise some sightseeing by horse-drawn carriage, ‘cos they’ll probably stick you in the back of a transit van.

17/12/10 – My first trip to Digbeth’s new The Institute, the venue currently occupying the building that in my times was The Sanctuary and The Barfly but has previously been a different The Institute, Digbeth Civic Hall, a Methodist church, and no doubt a squintillion other things. No Less Than Martha Reeves And The Vandellas were in the former Barfly room, nowadays called “The Library”. For some reason. It looks considerably spruced up compared to how it did as The Barfly, and the fact that there are now two bars in there is a huge improvement (although I can imagine that their placement at the sides will make ‘em pretty hard to get at if the place gets really busy).

After a wait of about a hundred years, No Less Than Martha Reeves And The Vandellas took to the stage. I had heard horror stories about the present-day state of her voice, but although it’s nowhere near what it once was I’m happy to say that it’s also nowhere near as bad as you might have heard. She actually sounds a teensy bit like Tina Turner now that she’s a touch croakier, oddly enough. Problems came more from the backing band than from the vocals – Martha proclaimed them the best musicians she’d ever worked with (I bet she says that to all the boys), but their generic schmoov arrangements didn’t appeal for these songs. The original records have energy, damnit. There was no brass to be found in the backing here, in either the “bold as…” sense or the “them articles what yow blow down” senses.

I don’t want to sound too negative, though, since Martha’s a lovely charismatic figure, and even with the instrumentation getting on my wick these songs inspire such enormous feelings of happiness. “Nowhere To Run”, “Jimmy Mack”, “Heatwave”, “Dancing In The Streets”, “Third Finger Left Hand”, you name ‘em, there’s a massive amount of fun to be had. I also loved the old-lady-dance-moves.

25/12/10 – Then there was Christmas. I always love Christmas.

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