Call me Russ L

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

Posted in Books, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 28 March, 2017

The lesser-spotted LOTTSADITWM post returns. I don’t think I’ve ever previously pruned the list (in the sense of putting something down to include and then deciding “nah actually that looks rubbish”) as much as I did this time.

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).

Saturday the 1st – Urban Voodoo Machine @ Ceol Castle The Castle And Falcon, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – That sort of gypsy-swingy type of thing that always seems to me like it’s everywhere in spite of the fact that I can’t actually name that many bands who do it (suggesting that it is not, in fact everywhere). Supposed to be absolutely amazing live.

Saturday the 1st – New Model Army @ The Robin 2, Bilston– Here in the land of opportunity, watch us revel in our liberty/You can say what you like but it doesn’t change anything/Because the corridors of power are an ocean away.

Saturday the 1st – Lethal Bizzle @ The Kasbah, Coventry – Pow pow fester fester.

Saturday the 1st – “The MMORPG Show” (Knightmare Live) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – From the people who make “Knightmare Live” (see the 15th), this seems to be a fantasy roleplaying game (including dice-rolling) done onstage. You’ll probably know from that sentence whether or not you’ll be interested this or not, but I expect it’ll be hilariously funny (their other show certainly is).

Saturday the 1st – Copter @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Oh mercy, Copter are back! Here they’re doing a live soundtrack to a screening of The Warriors. Never seen it, but if I understand things correctly then this is the point where I’m supposed to make a reference to something called The Lizzies.

Sunday the 2nd – Goodnight Lenin @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Father I’ll be leaving this place before this evening. Not the place of the gig. I’m sure that’ll be good.

Monday the 3rd- Billy Ocean @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Get out of my dreams, get into my Symphony Hall.

Tuesday the 4th till Sunday the 9th – Flatpack Film Festival @various venues in Birmingham– Whooo Flatpack! This year includes (amongst loads of other things) Sir Cliff, the cut, virtual reality, Jonathan Coe, wasting food, Terri Walker, tiny diorama-come-hologram versions of film scenes, and that posh new hotel.

Tuesday the 4th till Saturday the 8th – “The Machine Stops” (Pilot Theatre & York Theatre Royal) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – The E.M. Forster story, adapted for stage. Only Connect in a very different way.

Thursday the 7th and Friday the 8th – “The Visit Of The Old Lady” (Newman University Drama Department) @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play about (possibly) the follies of trying to scam an old lady.

Friday the 7th – “Alice in Wonderland” (Ballet Theatre UK) @ The Albany Theatre, Coventry – You know me, I like anything “Alice”-related. This is presumably a dancey one, given that it’s from an outfit called ‘Ballet Theatre UK’.

Friday the 7th – Trope / Young Pilgrims @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Jazzy soul and a band with a sousaphone. As I have said more times than can be calculated, the sousaphone is the best instrument by far.

Saturday the 8th – “Surge In Spring” @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A day of loads of different jazz performances (some ticketed, some free), all co-ordinated by that busy fella Sid Peacock.

Sunday the 9th – Melanie C @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Clearly the best Spice Girl.

Monday the 10th and Tuesday the 11th – English Touring Opera’s season @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – Doing Puccini’s Tosca and Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience. Oh how I hate The Grand etc etc.

Tuesday the 11th – Stormzy @ The Academy, Birmingham – So is he going to fight Dillion Whyte or what?

Wednesday the 12th till Saturday the 15th- “The Testament Of Mary” (Old Joint Stock Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Mary, after the death of the young fella.

Wednesday the 12th – The Who @ The Barclay Card Arena (NIA), Birmingham – Who?

Thusday the 13th – British Sea Power @ The Academy, Birmingham – When I saw them, they (I assume it was them or done on their behalf) had distributed tree branches for people to wave. I imagine that won’t happen in the Academy.

Thursday the 13th- The Destroyers @ The Prince Of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham – Their ‘Easter Exuberance’ gig. Wasn’t/isn’t The Prince of Wales meant to be closing (or was that just your typical Moseley Melodrama?).

Friday the 14th – The Hot 8 Brass Band @ The Institute 2, Digbeth, Birmingham – Sousaphone.

Saturday the 15th till Thursday the 20th – “Elmer The Elephant” (Riverside Performing Arts) @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – I’ve always thought Elmer was really cute.

Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th – Rick Astley @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Click it. Go on. Click it.

Saturday the 15th – “Knightmare Live – The Game Has Changed” (Knightmare Live) @ Civic Hall, Brierley Hill – The reader may or may not recall the telly programme ‘Knightmare’, but it was the genuine highlight of my week when I was little. This is an intentionally comical onstage version and believe me – it’s almost unspeakably funny.

Sunday the 16th – Giggs @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Talking da ‘ardest.

Sunday the 16th – Kano @ Lab 11, Digbeth, Birmingham – Still minding his Ps and Qs after all these years.

Tuesday the 18th till Thursday the 20th – “Bucket List” (Theatre Ad Infinitum) @ The Rep (The Door), Birmingham – The concept of the ‘bucket list’ is one of things that gets really annoying by dint of having caught on so massively in the popular imagination in spite of having a stupid name. This play, being about a murdered Mexican political activist, doesn’t seem to have much to do with that. So that’s alright.

Thursday the 20th – The Toasters @ The Flapper, Birmingham – American Two-Tone might well seem like an unusual notion, but here we are.

Thursday the 20th – Thomas Truax @ The Tin, Coventry – Invents new instruments. Has a name that sounds like a Viking.

Friday the 21st – “Tamburlaine” (Yellow Earth Theatre) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – An adaptation of Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine The Great”. He wasn’t really a shepherd, I gather.

Saturday the 22nd – First Bite Theatre Festival (China Plate Theatre) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A day of work-in-progress theatre, some of which (I’m not sure how you ‘win’) will go on to be played at the larger ‘Bite Size’ festival later in the year. Once bitten, twice… bitten again?

Saturday the 22nd – Discharge @ Ceol Castle The Castle And Falcon, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – The Punks Alive people are doing well with putting on the punk legends this month (see also the 28th and 29th) – at this gig you have not only Discharge but also Antisect and Anti-System.

Sunday the 23rd – “Folkin Great 2017” @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Folk alldayer, headlined by Steve Knightley (standard caveats apply) and also featuring your fave and mine Katherine Priddy.

Sunday the 23rd – John Hinton’s “The Ensonglopedia Of Science” @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – A song about science for each letter of the alphabet. Might make a good pairing with “600 People” on the 29th.

Monday the 24th – Rag’n’Bone Man @ The Academy, Birmingham – Your big sloppy soulman who does actually look like he could drive a wagon around shouting “Iiiirooon”. Which may be the point.

Tuesday the 25th and on till the 6th of May – “To Sir With Love” (Young Rep) @ The Rep Theatre (The House), Birmingham – Most famous as the Sidney Poitier film, here adapted for the stage by Ayub Khan-Din.

Tuesday the 25th and Wednesday the 26th – “Out Of This World” (Mark Murphy’s V-TOL) @ Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – A woman descends into a medically induced coma, plus ‘explosive’ choreography and special effects. Which wouldn’t seem to line up well with a coma on the face of it, but there are no bonus points for being obvious I suppose.

Tuesday the 25th – Deafheaven @ The Institute 2, Digbeth, Birmingham – Black metal meets post-rock. The people of those things hadn’t used to like each other, back when I was a young man and still knew anything about this sort of malarkey.

Tuesday the 25th – Hannah James’ Jigdoll @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Studio), near Coventry – You could, if you were so inclined, have a two-night folk + clog dancing extravaganza. This would be the first night.

Wednesday the 26th and on until the 4th of May – The Stourbridge Literary Festival @ Katie Fitzgeralds, Stourbridge – Supporting Amnesty International and War Child. I approve of literature in pubs.

Wednesday the 26th till Saturday the 29th – Soweto Kinch’s “The Legend Of Mike Smith” @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – The stage version of Soweto’s “…Mike Smith” album. Although he has had another album since then.

Wednesday the 26th and Thursday the 27th – “A Conversation” by Nigel Barrett & Louise Mari @ Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – Based in a 1927 book about how to be witty and charming in conversation. I am notably bad at the ol’ conversing game myself, so I should probably go to this.

Wednesday the 26th – The Unthanks @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – You could, if you were so inclined, have a two-night folk + clog dancing extravaganza. This would be the second night.

Wednesday the 26th – “Streets Paved With Gold” by Victor Edwards @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – About the windrush immigration. Not Dick Whittington.

Wednesday the 26th – Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Mental note: don’t call him Seth.

Friday the 28th – The Selecter / The Beat @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – This seems to be the version of The Beat with Ranking Roger, rather than the other one.

Friday the 28th – ‘British Blockbusters’ with the CBSO and Mark Kermode @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham– Music from the talkies, introduced by a man with massive hands.

Friday the 28th – Subhumans @ Ceol Castle The Castle And Falcon, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – Punk legends continue. Seems like a surprising venue for this sort of malarkey, although I’ve never actually been there so what do I know.

Saturday the 29th – Ed Tudor Pole @ The Flapper, Birmingham – And here’s your other punk legend. For at least some values of ‘legend’.

Saturday the 29th – “600 People” (Third Angel) @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Comical show about evolution and astrophysics. Might make a good pairing with “The Ensonglopedia Of Science” on the 23rd.

Saturday the 29th – Shirley Collins @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – She’s back and the world is better for having her around again.

Saturday the 29th – Jehst @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – UK hip-hop veteran. Also the promoters for this one are called “Bam! Bam! Bam! And The Diplomats Of Sound”, which I really quite like.

Sunday the 30th – Swingamajig @ various venues in Digbeth, Birmingham – The annual festival. I always thought I had an idea about what type of thing this was, but apparently I had it very wrong given that Freestylers are playing. Mr Baaaadman~! This fella looks like he might be fun, too, and Rhino & The Ranters are always enjoyable.

End-Of-Year-Count 2016: Opera

Posted in Music by Russ L on 28 December, 2016

More than last year, at least.

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End-Of-Year-Count 2016: Popular Music Gigs

Posted in Music by Russ L on 28 December, 2016

Yes indeed, it’s time for the end-of-year listmania.

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Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – November 2016

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 October, 2016

Well we all collectively never – it’s a “Lots” post! For the first time in a very long time! Judging by the things that are happening, November 2016 will apparently be remembered both as “Goth Month” and as “Pride And Prejudice 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).

Currently and up until Saturday the 12th – “What Shadows” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep/Library Of Birmingham (The Studio room), Birmingham – About Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech. I swear this better not be an apologetic, not right now.

Monday the 1st and Tuesday the 2nd – “Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons” (Walrus Theatre) @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – A play about what would happen if there was a limit to the number of words you could say in your life. If that was the case then I’d say ‘banana’ a lot rather than ‘lemons’, and squeeze more syllables out of the quota.

Monday the 1st till Wednesday the 3rd – ‘Emerge’ theatre festival @ Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – I don’t know if there’s a theme, but there are polar bears and dolphins and allsorts more.

Monday the 1st till Friday the 5th – “Heads Will Roll” (Told By An Idiot and Theatre Royal Plymouth) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – Inspired by the search for El Dorado, and featuring “live music from one of Barcelona’s most unique musicians”. That could mean a lot of things, really.

Monday the 1st till Monday the 14th – Coventry Peace Festival @ various venues in Coventry – On one hand I like the idea of granting ‘peace’ an ontological status beyond ‘the absence of conflict’. On the other it seems a bit glib. But still! Lots of different stuff to see and participate in.

Wednesday the 2nd – Andy Irvine @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Your man from Planxty. Not that one. One of the other ones.

Wednesday the 2nd – “Gothic Tales” (European Arts Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – GOTH MONTH. Although in the ‘gothic literary tradition’ sense rather than the ‘kohl’ sense, in this case. Adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” (I just went to see another one of those, funnily enough), H.G. Wells’ “The Red Room” and Charles Dickens’ ”The Signalman”.

Wednesday the 2nd – The Mouse Outfit @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Nine hip-hop mice, nine hip-hop mice, see how they rap, see how they rap…

Thursday the 3rd – Echo & The Bunnyman @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Not part of goth month as such, but certainly affiliated.

Thursday the 3rd – Flamingods @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – Psycho-rhythmic freakouts with a bunch of interesting different instruments. It took me a while to realise that the name was mean to be as in “flamingo” rather than as in “on fire”.

Thursday the 3rd – “The Collector” (Kathryn Barker Productions)@ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A Iraqi translator working for American interrogators encounters a committed supporter of the old regime.

Friday the 4th and Saturday the 5th- Capsule’ “Supersonic 2017 Launch Party” @ Centrala, Digbeth, Birmingham – There’s gonna be a Supersonic Festival next year! Wa-hey! And this is a harbinger of it. Two nights of varied stuff, headlined by Xylouris White – Jim White of The Dirty Three in collaboration with the Cretan lute player Giorgos Xylouris.

Friday the 4th – The Specials @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Bernie Rhodes knows: don’t argue.

Friday the 4th – Smoove & Turrell @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – I’ve seen ‘em live before and I still have trouble believing that his voice comes out of his body.

Friday the 4th – Politics And Theatre Symposium @ The Rep/Library Of Birmingham (Studio), Birmingham – I think it’s more-or-less exactly what the name suggests.

Friday the 4th – “Coulrophobia” (Pickled Imaged Theatre) @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Why is everything clown-related lately? Clowns this, clowns that. It’s like that period in the late 90s/early 2000s when people suddenly started saying ‘monkey’ in every other sentence. But I digress. I don’t think the clowns in this play are clowns for your kiddies.

Friday the 4th – “Maddy And The Invisible Band Of Groovers” (Invisible Flash Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Probably the best title for a play that I have ever seen.

Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th – The National Pet Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I’m gonna go and get me an ocelot.

Saturday the 5th – “Midlands Calling”punk alldayer @ The Wulfrun Hall, WolverhamptonSham 69! Subhumans! Also Angelic Upstarts, UK Subs, GBH, 999, Drongos and loads of others.

Saturday the 5th – Elaine Paige @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Nothing is so good it lasts eternally/perfect situations must go wrong. Entropy, they call it. Wasn’t it good? Oh so good.

Sunday the 6th- Saxon @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – I should bloody well hope that the band will play on, if you’ve paid for a ticket and all.

Sunday the 6th – The Mission @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – GOTH MONTH. Apparently it’s their 30th anniversary tour. So many years, so much dry ice sacrificed for the cause.

Sunday the 6th – David Essex @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham (and also at Wolves Civic on the 27th) – I’ll brave your cries of “WHAAAAT? NOOOOO!” and acknowledge that I don’t actually think the thought of a David Essex gig is an exceptionally interesting thing. I just wanted to self-indulgently tell an anecdote. Up until about a-year-or-so ago, I’d managed to never have heard of this Joey Essex figure who’s apparently a big telly star nowadays. When I heard tell of some of his exploits (I forget precisely what he was supposed to be up to), it didn’t make any sense at all to me. It just wouldn’t compute that he might be doing this. Naturally, I was thinking of David Essex.

Sunday the 6th – The Skull @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Ex-members of Trouble and so on, but the main thing here is that you’ve got a doom metal band called “The Skull”. They know what the flip is going on.

Sunday the 6th – Eliza Carthy @ The Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventy – There’s a hole in my bucket, dear ‘Liza, dear ‘Liza. I imagine that she won’t play that.

Tuesday the 8th till Saturday the 12th – the Welsh National Opera come to town @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – The theme this time around is the obscure playwright Billy Shakespeare. You have Verdi’s Macbeth, Andrei Tchaikowsky’s (not P.I. Tchaikovsky. I am certain you know that, but it’s confused me in the past) The Merchant Of Venice, and (moving diagonally sideways into the world of musicals) you have Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate.

Tuesday the 8th till Saturday the 12th – “Pride And Prejudice” (Regent’s Park Theatre) @ The Rep, Birmingham – PRIDE AND PREJUDICE MONTH. Starring the man who played The Definitive Lenny at this very venue many yeas ago, Matthew “You Bet!” Kelly.

Wednesday the 9th – Chas & Dave @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – A few years ago I wondered if C&D’s “last ever tour” of the time was reeeaaaally actually going to be their last. I was assured that it was. Heh.

Thursday the 10th till Sunday the 13th- “The Seventh Wave” electronic music festival @ various venues in Brum – Including gigs from :Zoviet*France and Wolfgang Flür o’ Kraftwerk, a conference, and allsorts.

Thursday the 10th till Sunday the 20th – Shout festival @ various venues in Birmingham – You know you make me wanna… have a festival of queer arts and culture. There’s loads happening, have a look.

Thursday the 10th till Monday the 28th – BASS Festival 2016 @ various venues in Brum – This year’s theme is “Hip Hop 360”. Loads of things happening including gigs from Jazzy Jeff and Slick Rick, but the absolute can’t-miss one will be The Robert Glasper Experiment playing at Brum Town Hall on the 20th.

Thursday the 10th – An evening with Glen Matlock @ The Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – “Sacked me, they did. Got this other fella in, instead. Needless to say I had the last laugh.”

Friday the 11th – “Nabucco” (Ellen Kent International) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – You could do a Verdi Double this week if you wanted, between this and the WNO’s “Macbeth” performance. A Verdouble, if you will.

Saturday the 12th – The Wailers @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – I was about to say that it’s basically Aston Barett plus backing band nowadays, but upon inspection it looks like he isn’t even with them anymore. But still, they’re playing.

Saturday the 12th – the Singha Grand Slam Of Darts @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Sports that you play outside are stupid.

Saturday the 12th – Roni Size @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – It’s a DJ set, but I see a lot of appeal in the idea of charging around the place and insistently demanding “WHO… TOLD… YOU… you could do it like… THIS?” of people.

Satuday the 12th – Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (Opera Anywhere) @ The Botanical Gardens, Harborne, Birmingham – I bet this’ll be nice, amongst the flowers.

Sunday the 13th – Billy Bragg & Joe Henry @ The Butterworth Hall, Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – Touring following their joint album themed around railroad songs. They’ve added some great lyrics to “The Theme From Thomas The Tank Engine”, I’ll tell you.

Sunday the 13th – Lacuna Coil @ The Institute 2, Digbeth, Birmingham – Another not-quite-goth-month-but-definitely-affiliated event.

Sunday the 13th- New Model Army @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Nuts to Cromwell, though.

Sunday the 13th- The Low Anthem @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Used to be called The High Anthem, but age has its effect on the vocal chords.

Wednesday the 16th till Saturday the 19th – “Beautiful Thing” (can’t find the theatre company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – I wasn’t really aware of this but apparently it’s famous. And even more so after the Stan’s Café folks plugged it.

Thursday the 17th – Alabama 3 @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Apparently their 20th anniversary tour. It’s all about the anniversaries nowadays.

Thursday the 7th – The Skatalites @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – With the original vocalist, which (if I’m to be honest) I wouldn’t have expected.

Thursday the 17th – The Hollies @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – All they need is the air that they breathe, and food, and shelter, and clean water. And to love you. Possibly jam on it as well.

Thursday the 17th – “Against Prejudice – Ira Aldridge In Coventry 1828” (Warwick University’s Multicultural Shakespeare Project & Belgrade Theatre) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – So apparently an under-21-year-old black man became the manager of a theatre in Coventry… in 1828. This will feature a documentary about him followed by a trip to the site of the actual theatre, as well as excerpts from the plays he put on.

Friday the 18th – Public Image Ltd @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Yes, I agree that Lydon is a tosser. But still.

Friday the 18th – Roachford @ The Kasbah, Coventry – Now and forever: There’s no fog!

Saturday the 19th – Laura Mvula @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Songs that can lift your spirits, songs that can jig your foot.

Saturday the 19th – “Going For Gold” boxing card (UKO Boxing) @ The Town Hall, Walsall – I have no idea about the local boxing scene anymore, but it looks like Martin Gethin is still going so good luck to him.

Monday the 21st till the 10th of December – “The Wind In The Willows” @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Be careful before you book a ticket, though – word reaches me that Mr Toad may have been sacked for punching the producer. The pompous oaf.

Monday the 21st still Wednesday the 23rd – “Shakespeare, His Wife, And The Dog” (Bated Breath Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – Bill and Anne have lost their dog.

Monday the 21st – “Pride And Prejudice” @ The Albany Theatre, Coventry (and also at The Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton on the 23rd) – PRIDE AND PREJUDICE MONTH.

Tuesday the 22nd – Sisters Of Mercy @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – GOTH MONTH.

Tuesday the 22nd – She Makes War @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – It’s styled as one of your “An evening with…” affairs (if you look here), so there may well be more chat than usual. She was very funny when I saw her and apparently she has done comedy in the past.

Wednesday the 23rd – Terrorvision @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Playing “Regular Urban Survivors” all the way through on yet another of those anniversary tours. Dog chewed t’handle.

Thursday the 24th till Sunday the 27th – the BBC Good Food Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – “Good food? But that’s my favourite type of food!”

Thursday the 24th till Sunday the 27th – The Trip To Birmingham Tradfest @ various venues in Birmingham, mostly Digbeth – Irish folk festival, with tooralooraloo and maybe a tooraloorali as well.

Friday the 25th – Bus Station Loonies @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – A surprising venue for this band to be playing. But there we are.

Saturday the 26th – Future Of The Left @ The Flapper, Birmingham – Some of the best song-titlers of our times. My current fave would have to be “Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop”.

Saturday the 26th – An Audience With Lesley Garrett @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – Look, sod off, I like her.

Saturday the 26th – Goodnight Lenin @ Muthers Studio, Digbeth, Birmingham – They used to be a West-Coast-American-folk-rock type band. Nowadays they have keyboards and riffs and allsorts. We live in crazy times.

Sunday the 27th – Mark Kermode @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre Space), near Coventry – God, Kermode, your hands are massive.

Tuesday the 29th – The Damned @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Another goth month affiliate.

Wednesday the 30th – Shalamar @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – They’re gonna make it (wait for it, waaaait for iiiiiiit) a night to remember.

End-Of-Year-Count 2015: Popular Music Gigs

Posted in Music by Russ L on 27 December, 2015

A year in which you get to see Richard Dawson three times and Public Enemy twice is a good year, ah reckons.

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End-Of-Year-Count 2015: Opera

Posted in Music by Russ L on 27 December, 2015

Far, far fewer than the last few years.

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A small selection from the Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – July 2015

Posted in Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well by Russ L on 1 July, 2015

This will be even less use than my effort last month, but there we go. It’s too hot. Far, far too hot. Don’t take the fact that I’m melting into a little puddle as any sort of hint that there aren’t a whole imperial sack-full of things going on beyond this small selection.

‘Festival’ quick hits (because everything that ever happens in Birmingham calls itself a festival, as well as some things that happen outside of it)The Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival between the 3rd and the 12th; The Colmore Food Festival on the 3rd and the 4th; The Godiva Festival between the 3rd and the 5th; The Black Country Festival on the 14th (with other activities going on all month); the Belgrade Theatre’s July Festival between the 8th and the 19th; the Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival between the 10th and 12th; The Cradley Women Chainmakers’ Festival on the 11th and 12th; the Birminghamfest theatre festival between the 17th and the 2nd of August; the Walsall Town Festival between the 18th and the 26th; Simmer Down on the 19th.

Gig quick hitsBurt Bacharach at Symphony Hall on the 1st; Mary J. Blige at the NIA on the 3rd; Fleetwood Mac at the NEC on the 4th and the 7th; The Wonder Stuff and The Twang and Rhino & The Ranters at The Wulfrun on the 5th; Bette Midler at the NIA on the 9th; Cannibal Ox at The Sunflower Lounge on the 10th; Beres Hammond and Bunny Wailer at The Academy on the 18th; The (‘official’) Drifters at The Wulfrun on the 24th;
Badly Drawn Boy at Brum Town Hall on the 25th; The Bus Station Loonies at The Rainbow on the 26th; The Sonics at The Institute on the 28th; Otis Gibbs at The Kitchen Garden Café on the 29th.

Theatre quick hits (please also pay particular note to ‘Birminghamfest’ above)“Me At The Zoo” at Brum Rep on the 7th and 8th; “A Greek Chorus” at The Old Rep on the 8th and 9th; “Greywing House” at The Old Joint Stock on the 10th and 11th; “You Are The Jury” at The Drum on the 12th.

Opera quick hits – Opera North’s “The Flying Dutchman” at Symphony Hall on the 5th; Midland Opera’s “The Thieving Magpie” at The Crescent Theatre between the 15th and the 18th.

I also want to plug this just because the very existence of it probably winds up serious football fansThe National 5s League at The NIA on the 29th. Now I’m going to admit in advance that I don’t have the clearest idea what the flip this is. Nevertheless: football is a boring sport, I’m sure that we can all admit that. A really boring sport. They all run up one way for a bit, then they all run up the other way, then they all run back again. A ball flies around between them but they don’t seem to have a fat lot of control over it. Once, twice, or maybe three times per game someone will score a point. No-one hits anyone else. Utter bullshucks. Here, though… here they purport to mix football with “music, dance, monster trucks and pyrotechnics”. I don’t know if it’ll be any fun to watch, but it’ll be sure to make the purists’ piss boil and that is a worthy aim in itself. Don’t think that your protests have cancelled this forever, football fans. It will return, harder and stronger and more ridiculous.

The 2015 Festival Of Music Festivals #1: The Lunar Festival

Posted in Music by Russ L on 20 June, 2015

(Added subsequently: As may be obvious from the format of this post, it was due to be the first of a series in which I wrote about all of the festival-type music events that I went to in year. It didn’t progress any further, because I am lazy).

So what was all this then?

The Lunar Festival took place between the 5th and 7th of June, at the Umberslade Estate in the very posh Warwickshire village of Tanworth-In-Arden (Nick Drake’s hometown, don’tchaknow). It doesn’t really have too tight a theme, but there is a sort of folk-y prog-y hippy-ish vibe to the entire affair. This is only the third one, and only the second that I’d been to – I went to one day of the 2012 one (it was very cold and there weren’t very many people there), but since then they had a year off in 2013 and I missed 2014. I really enjoyed myself, although we ended up leaving before the last band on each day (a shame in the cases of Tinariwen – although I have seen them twice before – and Public Service Broadcasting. Not a shame at all in the case of The Bootleg Pigging Beatles).

Which things that were better than “That was quite good”?

~ Gigantic Woodbird: Aw, the Gigantic Woodbird was lovely. Its inevitable fate was a bit sad, but I liked it. There were also bipedal animals around the place all weekend, seemingly led by Crow and Stag. You also had Badger, Fox etc. This will become important later.

~ The Commentators: I really do believe that there is no public event that would not be improved by having Stan’s Café deliver running commentary.

~ Zervas & Pepper: CrosbyStillsandNashandYoungicespialadocious, even though the sound of it is something quite… lovely, actually.

~ Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin: I’d always assumed that I wouldn’t like Goblin, just from the way that people talked about them. How wrong I was. Heavy keyboard riffs a-plenty, with some quite metally bits and some quite funky bits too. Not as spooky and eerie as I’d assumed old-timey horror film soundtracks would be, but I’m entirely happy to admit that I don’t really know whereof I speak when it comes to that sort of thing.

~ The Fall: The band create fantastic rhythms, propulsive and insistent. Mark E. Smith oafishly groans “WARG BLARG ZARG” (or noises to that effect) over the top. I do think they’d probably be better off without him.

~ Jane Weaver: Ace. Focussing on the recent spacerock-y stuff rather than the older folky stuff, she floated beautifully over those controls that were set for the heart of the sun. One of the highlights, just as she’s been one of my favourite listens of late.

~ Mark Radcliffe & Galleon Blast: I will point out here (as I always point out when I get the chance) that Mark Radcliffe’s “Showbusiness” is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read in my life. Galleon Blast were great pirate-y fun, too, particularly when I could actually get into the tent (lots and lots of people were interested. They probably should’ve been on the main stage). “The Theme From Captain Pugwash” was a highlight. Radcl-O was fun as a compère all day, too (certainly better at the job than certain other BBC DJs found at other related festivals *coughMoseleyFolkcough* *coughJaniceLongcough* hint hint hint).

~ My Brightest Diamond: I initially thought (upon returning back from the over-running Galleon Blast) “Ooh, a synthpop Carina Round”. Lots of other elements came in as the set progressed, and I started to think “Ooh, maybe (just maybe) what I actually want current-day Carina Round to be”. Anyone who knows me will know how strong that praise is. It’s a “maybe”, though.

~ Kawa Circus: I really wanted to see their Floriferocity performance, due to the “Alice” connection (one of my minor obsessions), but there was a switcharoo for some reason and I ended up seeing the traditional Rajasthani circus performance instead. Some of the tightrope tricks went a bit wrong and I didn’t follow the narrative elements at all (my problem, not theirs), but it was fun to watch.

~ Pretty Things: – I didn’t really know all that much about them. I really should have (and I will put right this woeful ignorance, particularly after this great set). Like a fried r’n’b-ed up version of The Kinks, before spinning off sideways into hippy-psych fun. And then off sideways again into an extended Bo Diddley sequence.

~ Wilko Johnson: Reports of his death have been greatly etc. Hugely enjoyable (and exceptionally tight) hard-edged r’n’r/r’n’b, but the best bit were the facial expressions. Wilko was casting around murderous looks left right and centre, whilst Norman Watt-Roy… I do not know what the facial expressions of Norman Watt-Roy can be described as.

~ Föllakzoid: I was not aware that Zun Zun Egui had fallen off the line-up until the compère said so immediately before they were due to play (I still don’t know why) (EDIT: Ah, nuts, they’ve split up), and that was a particular disappointment given that they were one of the bands that I was most eagerly looking forward to. Happily, their short-notice replacements Follakzoid turned out to be A-to-the-mazing. Neu! gone dubby, perhaps? That would be too boring a description. I prefer to imagine that the relentless groove of their music pushed me forward a week into an alternate universe version of the Supersonic Festival, where the bass met the Komische met the incongruous between-song references to Sepultura. This was all fine by me. Only the fact that it was taking place in a field in rural Warwickshire posed any sort of conceptual challenge. They seemed to win over quite a lot of other folks too, incidentally, but possibly not in the same way.

~ Rhino & The Ranters: Yeeeeeeeeeeee-haaaaa, up-tempo (and ever so slightly punky) bluegrass with sufficient energy and enthusiasm and sense-of-fun to spare. Again, it seemed as though a lot of people were having trouble getting into the tent (I managed to swerve my way in at the front, though, like a proper Man-With-No-Name cowboy).

~ The BBC Radiophonic Workshop: Wow. What a time in which to live, when we can see the BBC Radiophonics Workshop playing live. Using actual instruments, though! I can’t help but feel that Delia would have been disappointed with that. I couldn’t be disappointed by incidental music from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”, with “Telstar” or particularly (of course) with the theme from “Doctor Who”.

~ RM Hubbert: Auld R.M. Hubbert/Sat in a cubbert/drinkin’ his bottle o’ Bucky/Along came a wee gadgie/He said “Ah, ya pure radgie”/And I’ll end this rhyme now if you’re lucky.

~ Benajmin Folke Thomas: Affable American troubadour-style folk from a Swedishman for whom folk(e) is his middle name. He had a very affable manner as well as nice music and a lovely joke about an ice-cream man. Actually (upon thinking about it) ‘affability’ was a theme of the day, between the singer of Rhino & The Ranters (is his name ‘Rhino’? He should have joined the bipedal animal crew), R.M. Hubbert, B.F. Thomas, and…

~ Julian Cope: There had actually been a little drone flying around all weekend, filming from on high. I was really hoping that it might hover into view in front of Cope-O, solely due the likelihood of him hilariously freaking out at the sight of it. Imagine it now – he’d throw his hands into the air, wiggle his fingers, scream “OH LORDY-LORD THE ALIENS ARE HERE!” and run for his life. None of that happened, sadly. He’s occasionally a bit of a nobhead but a tremendously affable and entertaining one, who could go on for days with his anecdotes if needs be. He kept using the phrase “psychedelically informed” with an air of superiority, though, and things that took place shortly later showed just how small his lysergic worldview really is.

~ The Sun Ra Arkestra: Oh my life, Marshall Allen is 91. The fact that he’s still blowing his saxophone with such gusto is surely evidence that their knowledge and understanding of the celestial balance must be true and correct. You have a solid grooving bedrock with the out-there lunacy over the top, of course, akin perhaps to a solid base of gravity keeping big ol’ rocks in regular orbit around a star and enabling the unbelievable complexity and craziness of life to arise on the surface of (at least) one of them. The music, as I gather they say, of the spheres. At the end of their set, they left the stage for…

~ The procession: … the nicest imaginable version of “The Wicker Man”. The bipedal animals who’d been around all weekend led the procession, followed by the Sun Ra Arkestra (with gentle brass and drums) and a mini-choir. They advanced up to the aforementioned Gigantic Woodbird and then (to my slight surprise) on past, continuing to the Helter-Skelter in the top field. The animals went up and around/down, before returning to Gigantic Woodbird, who was promptly torched while the animals danced and the band played on. It felt like a shame, but as Gigantic Woodbird’s entropy was accelerated and its heat energy returned to the cosmos I began to understand why all of this needed to take place. That sun, those big ol’ rocks, all the unbelievable complexity and craziness of life, all the happy animals, and even the wise Arkestramen with all their understanding… all will eventually succumb to the beautiful universality of heat death. Entropy will increase chaos until there is nothing but. All will be one and one will be infinitely varied.

What could have been better?

A few more bins (and recycling). A lot more space for the second stage (the Bimble Inn tent was quite cool, but often not big enough for the number of people who wanted to see some of the bands playing in there). A heck of a lot more Zun Zun Egui. Fewer cold periods on the first two days. A heck of a lot fewer Bootleg Tossing Beatles.

A small selection from the Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – June 2015

Posted in LOTTSADITWM, Music, Stage, Well by Russ L on 31 May, 2015

It’s the abridged remix of LOTTSADITWM. That list is never exhaustive, of course, but this particular version will be even further away than usual. Better than me not posting anything at all though, eh? For some obscure value of ‘better’.

~ Not actually in the West Midlands but very close nearby, you have The Lunar Festival in Tanworth-In-Arden from Friday the 5th till Saturday the 7th. The line-up looks amazing, albeit with one notable disappointment (and it really is a disappointment – having The Bootleg Beatles as a headliner, I mean come on now. I know that it’s easy enough to just not watch them, but it seems like a statement and not one that I like. Next year’s headliners: Platinum Abba, Nearvana and… oh, I don’t know, I don’t follow these bloody things. Is there a tribute band called Puns ‘n’ Roses?). Still, though, other than that you have Tinariwen and Wilko Johnson of Dr Feelgood as your other two headliners. You have big names like The Fall and the Sun Ra Arkestra and some sort of performing version of the BBC Radiophonics workshop. You have Jane Weaver (Gotta See Jane, as R. Dean Taylor so wisely noted) and Zun Zun Egui (they absolutely blew the roof off the place at The Sunflower Lounge in March. Definitely worth seeing). You even have the opportunity to camp there, if you fancy behaving like some kind of beast of the field.

~ Actually, if I’m mentioning festivals in the surrounding counties then it would be remiss of me not to point out The Knitted Character Folk Festival in Temple Grafton on the 6th. And you know how I feel about being remiss. If you take a knitted version of a folk music artist and a CD of three of their songs, then your hand-made homunculus might be able to perform in between the less woolly turns. I know this sounds like a “Study the diagram, Dougal” moment but I promise you that I am not making it up.

~ Iechyd da, baby: The Welsh National Opera are bringing one of their seasons around to The Hippodrome. The theme is “A Terrible Innocence” with Richard Ayres’ “Peter Pan” on the 11th and Claude Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” on the 13th, and for good measure you also have the production of “The Magic Flute” that they brought around last time on the 10th and 12th. It really is a shame that these clash with Supersonic, but there we are.

~ Speaking of which… Thooperthonic ith back. Not at The Custard Factory, though! That’s going to feel strange. The first night is at Brum Town Hall, and then after that your main bits will be at Boxxed and The Crossing (is that the theatre space in the South Birmingham College building?) as well as fringe events at various other places. Your musical line-up includes Holly Herndon (seemingly everyone’s fave all of a sudden, and rightly so), The Pop Group (I need to get around to actually listening to them at some point), Richard Dawson (oh my days. Really now. A Richard Dawson gig is… I cannot even describe a Richard Dawson gig. I mean this in the best possible way. Go and see Richard Dawson), The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble (i.e. the one from Goldfrapp who isn’t Alison Goldfrapp, leading a large ensemble all playing Moog Synthesisers), Liima (the new version of the amazing Efterklang, a band I loved dearly), The Bug vs Dylan Carlson, Six Organs Of Admittance, Ravioli Me Away as well as loads of others, and there are loads of exhibitions and installations and talks and what-not besides.

~ The erstwhile Birmingham Municipal Bank building (opposite the library) will have a rare open week between the 20th and the 28th, so that’ll be worth a looksee inside. There’s an exhibition in there of Birmingham Post archive photos of hidden spots in Birmingham, although I’m not sure whether or not that’ll be the same exhibition as the one that that was in Curzon Street Station last year.

~ Gig quick hits: Nas at The Institute on the 4th; Discharge and Chaos UK at The Actress & Bishop on the 5th; Dan Whitehouse with BJ Cole at The Glee Club on the 5th; Fleetwood Mac at the NIA on the 8th; Bridget St John and Michael Chapman at The Kitchen Garden Café on the 9th; Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at The Glee Club on the 10th; The Cadbury Sisters at The Glee Club on the 12th; The Burning Hell at The Coal Vaults on the 16th; John J Presley at The Hare & Hounds on the 17th; The Moody Blues at The NIA on the 20th; Dead Kennedys sans Jello at The Academy on the 23rd; The Bus Station Loonies at The Actress & Bishop on the 26th (EDIT: Wrong month, wrong venue); John Legend at The NEC on the 26th.

~ Theatre quick hits (it’s not particularly helpful doing it like this, I realise, but I suppose you can just click through if you like the title): “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” at The Hippodrome up until the 6th; “The Siege” at The Rep between the 4th and the 6th; “Black is The Colour Of My Voice” at The Old Joint Stock on the 12th and 13th; “Silence” at The Old Rep between the 17th and the 20th; “Hands Up – Don’t Shoot!” at The Drum on the 19th; “The Boy Who Became A Beetle” at The Arena on the 19th; The BE Festival at The Rep between the 23rd and the 27th; The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre at The Old Joint Stock on the 27th.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: March 2015

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage by Russ L on 28 February, 2015

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.

Thursday the 5th till Sunday the 8th – Crufts @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – HOUND CONVENTION.

Thursday the 5th – Janáček’s “Glagolitic Mass” & Berlioz’ “La Mort de Cléopâtre” (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – An interesting combination.

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 – “Elephant Man” (Fourth Monkey Theatre Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – He is not an elephant. He is a human being.

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.

Saturday the 7th – Whisky Birmingham @ The Bond, Digbeth, Birmingham – Whisk(e)y is the life of man, as The Clancy Brothers taught us. I dunno, I don’t even like it all that much. See also the 27th.

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 their 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 and Saturday the 28th – Midlands Whisky Festival @ The Town Hall, Stourbridge – See also the 7th.

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.

Saturday the 28th – Professional Boxing (TOP Promotions) @ The Holte Suite, Villa Park, Aston, Birmingham – Hey, Lee Jones is back!

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?