Call me Russ L

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.

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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: February 2015

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well by Russ L on 31 January, 2015

Soul 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. That’s not the way it works.

From the 31st of January all the way up to the 11th of April – “Birmingham Show” @ Eastside Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – An art exhibition that concerns itself with three questions: ‘What is the art of Birmingham?’ ‘Is there an accent to Birmingham’s art making?’ and ‘How is Birmingham useful for the production of art?’. Potentially very interesting – I often feel like there are common threads that I can’t quite put my finger on amongst local stuff.

Sunday the 1st – Joe @ The Academy, Birmingham – Soul month! I’d call Joe ‘alright’ rather than ‘great’. I might not have mentioned him here were it not for A) the respect-worthy lack of effort that went into his stage name, and B) that concept album he did that was set in Possilpark.

Sunday the 1st – “Gaza: When Fire Rained Down From The Sky” @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – A talk from Musheir El-Farra, who recently wrote a book of the same name about victims of Israel’s 2008 campaign.

Monday the 2nd – Jefferson Starship @ The Robin 2, Bilston – The current touring version of Jefferson Starship, doing the music of Jefferson Airplane. I’ll leave you to decide whether that’s a retrograde step or not.

Tuesday the 3rd till Saturday the 7th – “The History Boys” (Sell A Door Theatre Company) @ The Belgrade Theatre, CoventryGordon Alan Bennett. (Also on at The Alexandra between the 23d and the 28th).

Wednesday the 4th till Saturday the 7th – “The Glass Menagerie” (Warwick University Drama Society) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Studio), near Coventry – Tenner C. Williams. Tenner him? I barely know him.

Friday the 6th till Saturday the 21st – “Harvey” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Theatre (The House, Birmingham) – Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit etc.

Friday the 6th – “The Tell-Tale Heart” @ The Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Birmingham – Readings and film showings and stuff hidden under the floor, all in honour of Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday.

Saturday the 7th till Saturday the 21st – “Only A Day” (Belgrade Theatre Company) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – A fox and a boar watch over the birth of a mayfly. For children aged seven and over.

Saturday the 7th – “Inside” (Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company) @ The MAC (the Hexagon), Edgbaston, Birmingham – About Stockholm Syndrome. You know, that one where you fall in love with your pet moose.

Sunday the 8th – “Only Fools And Boycie – An Evening With John Challis” @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – I saw him as the voice of The Book in that touring version of Hitchhikers the other year, which was interesting casting. This, I assume (and sort-of hope), will consist of him doing this for an hour and a half.

Tuesday the 10th till Saturday the 14th – Matthew Bourne’s “Edward Scissorhands”(New Avenues) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – They won’t let me have scissors. Not the sharp ones, anyway.

Tuesday the 10th till Saturday the 14th – “Forever Young” (Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company & Oldham Coliseum Theatre) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre), near Coventry – Aging pantomime actors try to prove that it isn’t all behind them. That’s a plot description. I’ve no idea if it functions on a meta level as well or not.

Tuesday the 10th – Kenny Garrett @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Jazz sax-o-mo-phone. I expect that a lot of people get him mixed up with Kenny G. I also expect that he doesn’t like that very much.

Wednesday the 11th – The CBSO’s “Shostakovich Uncovered” @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The 11th symphony (“In The Year 1905”) with an explanatory talk/performance attached. It’s also being done as part of the ‘War And Revolution’ programme on the 15th, and if you like Shosto then there’s also first piano trio on the 26th.

Friday the 13th (whoooo) – Macy Gray @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Soul Month! I know “I Try” got really flipping irritating the first time around, after it was projected into every semi-stable bit of air in the entire world non-stop for about two years running, but listen back to it now – it’s lovely. There has, presumably, been some more stuff since then too. Maybe I should try to hear some of it.

Saturday the 14th – Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – My first thought when I heard the name was a reflexive “Oh yes, and what precisely is quite so postmodern about it all?”, but they do actually appear to be applying signifiers out of context to see what they end up doing. So…

Saturday the 14th – Gruff Rhys @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Star of “Not The Nine O’Clock News” and “Alas Smith & Jones”, latterly more well known for larking about on boats. What?

Saturday the 14th – Fascinating Aïda @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The Cheap Flights song absolutely cracked me up.

Saturday the 14th – Professional Boxing @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Ah, I have no idea who the local boxers are nowadays. The balcony in The Civic is a great place to watch fighting sports, though – you get a great view of the ring. There’s also boxing at the Holte Suite at the Villa ground on the 20th and at Bescot stadium on the 21st, but again I dunno.

Sunday the 15th and Monday the 16th – “The Snail And The Whale” (Tall Stories) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – A snail wants to see the world and so hitches a ride on the back of a whale. You don’t know how much I’d like to do that.

Sunday the 15th – The Dublin Legends @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – “Will they ever be called ‘The Dubliners’ again?” (Wait for it, wait for it) No, nay, never, no nay never no more…

Sunday the 15th – “UK Burger Battle Valentine Special” @ Spotlight, Digbeth – You get to eat two burgers from two different chefs and judge them. The winner gets… I dunno, indigestion I expect.

Sunday the 15th – Echo & The Bunnymen @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Rescheduled from last year, due to illness. I think one of the Bunnymen was poorly. Echo was notably annoyed about having to cancel gigs.

Monday the 16th till Saturday the 21st – “The Honey Man” (Birmingham Rep Theatre & Judy Owen Ltd) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – An old Caribbean beekeeper is harassed by the daughter of the his landlord. This one has been well-regarded for a long time now. (It’s also on at The Arena in Wolves on the 24th, and… y’know, I swear I saw it on somewhere else in February but I can’t quite seem to locate where. Sorry).

Tuesday the 17th till Saturday the 21st – “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time” (National Theatre) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – With the usual caveats about representation. And the usual caveats about The Grand Theatre.

Tuesday the 17th – D’Angelo @ The Academy, Birmingham – Soul Month! I like this trend of famous artists releasing albums on two-minutes notice, it’s fun. Particularly when, like Dang (as he is known to the non-boring), you’re famous for hardly releasing albums at all.

Tuesday the 17th – “Alice In Wonderland” (Box Tale Soup) @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – A puppetry version, which actually does strike me as a very good medium for it.

Wednesday the 18th – The Decemberists @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Any band that do a video based in a scene from “Infinite Jest” are alright by me.

Wednesday the 18th – Hey Colossus @ The Flapper, Birmingham – Doom-come-post-rock sorts, who were something beyond amazing the first time I saw them and then a bit dull the second time.

Friday the 20th – Sleaford Mods @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – I’m not entirely convinced that he’s not just a pub bore moaning about other pub bores, but I’m open to be persuaded.

Friday the 20th – Mitch Benn @ The MAC (Theatre Space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Like Jeremy Hardy, tours mostly to prove that he exists in the corporeal world and not solely on the radio.

Friday the 20th – St Patrick’s Day Charity Event @ The Irish Centre, Digbeth, Birmingham – It seems that the Birmingham Saint Padraig’s Day parade (3rd largest in the world etc) has had its funding cut. Money is being raised, and this here is a benefit gig with loads of Irish music (including The Father Teds).

Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22nd – “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus” (Big Wooden Horse Theatre Company) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Studio), near Coventry – Good advice for living, as well as the title of this play for children three and older.

Saturday the 21st – Earth @ The Oobleck, Digbeth, Birmingham – Yer contemporary drone band, not Black Sabbath under their original name. Or Earth, Wind & Fire. Or Manfred Mann’s Earthband.

Saturday the 21st – MMA (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Wolves council had a bit of a “ban this filth” fit over MMA a few years ago and cancelled an event that was due to take place at the Civic (in spite of the fact that MMA fights had already taken place there, on a kickboxing card. I know, I was there), so I’m glad that’s all settled down. This card features mega-prospect Tom Duquesnoy, and (as I mentioned above) this is a good venue for fightsports. One Paul Taylor is fighting, too, but sadly it’s not that Paul Taylor.

Saturday the 21st – Pete Rock @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – CL Smooth’s mate. They reminisce they reminisce.

Sunday the 22nd – Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The second most famous folky from Barnsley and the second most famous folky from the Lakeman family, making something first class when combined.

Sunday the 22nd – Mahler’s First Symphony by the CBSO Youth Orchestra @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – And if you like Mahlo, there’s the sixth symphony on the 26th and the 28th.

Sunday the 22nd – “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” @ Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – With Jack Dee and the surprisingly corporeal Jeremy Hardy and all o’them other fellas. Mornington Crescent.

Monday the 23rd – “Woyzeck” (Splendid Productions) @ The MAC (the Hexagon), Edgbaston, Birmingham – I always forget that this was a play before it was an opera.

Wednesday the 25th till Thursday the 7th of March – “The King’s Speech” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company & Chichester Festival Theatre) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – P-p-p-p-p-p-poker F-f-face, Granville. With Jason Donovan! Wow.

Wednesday the 25th and Thursday the 26th – Selina Thompson’s “Chewing The Fat” @ Warwick Arts Centre (Studio), near Coventry – I can’t help but chuckle about the fact that Warwick Arts Centre’s page for this comedy/theatre performance about weight/body image finishes with “Theatre Supper: Enjoy a post-show supper in Le Gusta…”

Wednesday the 25th – The Jesus & Mary Chain @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Doing their vaunted “Psychocandy” album. Feeding the feedback back.

Wednesday the 25th – Michael Chapman @ The Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Fun fact: between September 2011 and February 2013 I saw Chappo and his bluesy fingepickin’ guitarin’ five times, which seems (to me) like quite a high times-to-time ratio for seeing someone non-local. I’ve not seen him before or since.

Wednesday the 25th – “The Cloth Of The World” (The Fetch Theatre Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A puppetry performance inspired by Hereford Cathedral’s Mappa Mundi, which is an intriguingly mad concept. Includes mermaids, mandrakes, and gold-digging ants.

Thursday the 26th till Sunday the 28th – “Ava’s Wedding” (students of Birmingham Conservatoire) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – A new opera, by Michael Wolters of the Conservatoire. The libretto (by Alexandra Taylor) is apparently influenced by soap operas, making this a soap opera-opera. If you will.

Thursday the 26th – Rick Wakeman @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Keyboards and capes.

Thursday the 26th – “Broke” (The Paper Birds Theatre Company) @ The MAC (theatre), Edgbaston, Birmingham – About debt. There’s a lot of it about.

Friday the 27th – Richard Herring @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – I used to love “Fists Of Fun” and “TMWRNJ”, but I’m afraid to go back and try to watch them again. I have a faint worry that it might just turn out to have been a load of wacky-student crapola.

Friday the 27th – Syleena Johnson @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Soul month! It’s really not clear to me whether she’s supporting Faith Evans, or they’re doing some sort of joint tour with ‘em all together on stage at once.

Friday the 27th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The soirée at the just harbour town (‘Fair’,’port’… geddit?).

Friday the 27th – “Nursing Lives” (Vamos Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Stories of nurses, performed by “the UK’s leading full mask theatre company”. Presumably not just surgical masks, then.

Friday the 27th – Mark Thomas’ “Cuckooed” @ Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre), near Coventry – The tale of how a friend of his turned out to be informing about his activities to BAE systems. I suspect the same thing is happening to me. Only BAE Systems don’t care about me and wish that this person would stop bothering them.

Saturday the 28th – The Black Keys @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – I have a vague memory of being more-or-less indifferent to the odd songs of theirs that I’ve heard (maybe. I dunno, I’m reasonably sure I’ve heard their own stuff but I have no distinct recollections), but that Dr John album that their frontman helped him out with is really good so maybe they are worthwhile after all. Or perhaps it was all just Dr John. He has a sazzle of gris-gris in his hand, as you know.

Saturday the 28th – “Bag Lady” (Hidden Gems Productions) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Eve the bag lady is angry. This play would seem to be about why.

Saturday the 28th – Broken Bones @ The Adam & Eve, Digbeth, Birmingham – Your band that grew out of Discharge. Finish your Soul Month (!) with some thrashin’ punk.