Call me Russ L

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – October 2012

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 September, 2012

Well, it’s the first time I’ve managed one of these in a long time. It’s a big month, too – it’s not just the Book Festival that one might traditionally have associated with October and the Supersonic Festival that one might associate with October nowadays, although they certainly are both there in all their glory. Have a look.

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.

Up until Friday the 5th (plus other stuff after) – “The Rootless Forest” @ on the cut outside the New Art Gallery/Wharf Bar, Walsall – There’s a wood on a barge that’s been floating down the cut between Brum and Walsall, and will by sitting at the latter end for the first five days of October. It’ll then be planted on solid proper Black Country earth at the arboretum on the 10th, and there are talks’n’such at The New Art Gallery on the 6th and The Birmingham Institute of Art And Design on the 16th.

Ongoing till Thursday the 18th – West Midlands Human Rights Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham and Wolverhampton – Fillums about naughty people. And the victims of naughty people.

Tuesday the 2nd till Saturday the 6th – “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner” (Birmingham Repertory Theatre) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – “What were you thinking about at the time?” “I wasn’t thinking anything, I was too busy breaking in” etc.

Wednesday the 3rd till Sunday the 7th – Horse of the Year Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – A HOYS is a HOYS, of coys of coys.

Wednesday the 3rd – “Not Known At This Address” (Tin Box Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – On the subject of letters and their emotive properties, which is a thing I sort-of feel needs to be celebrated even if I never actually do write any letters these days.

Tuesday the 2nd – Dvorák’s 9th “New World” symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – An afternoon performance. To be compared with the 24th.

Tuesday the 2nd – Schostakovich’s 7th “Leningrad” symphony (The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The evening performance. Marking 70 years (-ish) since it was premiered. My textual interpretation last year remains the definitive performance during that time.

Tuesday the 2nd – “Seconds Out” (Reform Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Boxing play #1.

Wednesday the 3rd – Carina Round @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Once upon a time my absolute absolute favourite, although I’m nowhere near as fussed nowadays. Still quite fussed, though.

Thursday the 4th till Saturday the 13th – Birmingham Book Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – With loads of interesting stuff, as ever. A couple that jump out at me immediately are Patrick Gale & Femi Oyebode talking about goodness/badness in fictional characters, and David Edgar on the similarities between theatre and poetry.

Thursday the 4th – Coppe’ / DJ Vadim / Modified Toy Orchestra @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – An interesting bill from the good people of Soundkitchen. It appears to be club times rather than gig times, though, so be aware of that.

Friday the 5th till Sunday the 14th – Birmingham Comedy Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – In the eyes of many this is probably the third festival-type-thing that October is particularly known for, but I’m completely humourless.

Friday the 5th – Rory McLeod @ The Station, Kings Heath, Birmingham – That’ll be the singer-songwriter who did the theme music for “Creature Comforts”, not the snooker player.

Friday the 5th – Azealia Banks @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – The more aggressive version of Nicky Minaj, if you like.

Friday the 5th – Rodney Bewes’ “A Boy Growing Up” @ The Town Hall, Stourbridge – That’ll be Rodney Bewes as in the Likely Lad who wasn’t James Bolan. Hide in the church if you don’t want the details of this one-man show spoiled for you.

Friday the 5th – Alex Brockie’s “The Inferno Kid” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – The tale of a poor and broken down ex-pro-wrestler, which is a subject that I find ceaselessly fascinating.

Saturday the 6th – Devon Sproule @ The Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – She just seemed so likeable at Moseley Folk.

Saturday the 6th – Ruts D.C. @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Ruts da capo.

Saturday the 6th – “Roll Out The Barrel” @ The Light House, Wolverhampton – A “civilised Black Country afternoon celebrating the history of the British pub”, with fillums and ales and bacon’n’grey pays.

Sunday the 7th – Napalm Death @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton– They’re supporting Soulfly, but I expect that’s neither here nor there.

Thursday the 8th – Shonen Knife @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Managing to play the ingénue for three decades is a pretty impressive feat, I reckon.

Tuesday the 9th till Saturday the 13th – Puccini’s “Turandot” (Midland Opera) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – That’ll be the one with that “Nessun Dorma” of yours in it.

Tuesday the 9th till Saturday the 13th – “The Plough And The Stars” (Abbey Theatre) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Seán O’Casey’s Easter Rising play. It caused riots in 1927 but hopefully won’t here.

Tuesday the 9th till Saturday the 13th – “Beautiful Burnout” (Frantic Assembly Theatre Group) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – Boxing play #2.

Tuesday the 9th – Inspectah Deck @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – The rebel, he makes more noise than heavy metal.

Wednesday the 10th – Michelle Shocked @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – It was ages before I had the “oh I see what you did there” moment regarding the “shell shocked” in her name. I’m just not all that quick on the uptake, bless me.

Thursday the 11th and Friday the 12th – “The Good Person Of Sezuan” (MAT & Sister Tree) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Brecht at the Arena #1 (with added Jamaican setting).

Thursday the 11th – Terrorvision @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – Given that they often used to be called “The Slade of the 90s”, this would seem like an apt place for them to play.

Thursday the 11th – John Cale @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – I always get him mixed up with J.J. Cale. It’s as though they did it on purpose.

Friday the 12th till Monday the 15th – Birmingham Zine Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Zoom towards some ‘zines.

Saturday the 13th – Ray Davies @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – That Kinky fella.

Monday the 15th – Michael Chapman @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Finger-pickin’ good guitar #1.

Wednesday the 17th till Saturday the 20th – “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard (Birmingham School of Acting) @ The Blue & Orange Theatre, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Quite possibly the greatest post-war play, I think.

Wednesday the 17th till Saturday the 20th – “2.8 Hours Later” @ around Brum – A city-wide game where you run around and avoid the zombies. I can’t decide if it sounds fun or irritating, but I’m leaning towards the former.

Wednesday the 17th – Jefferson Starship @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Oi, don’t laugh. They built a city on rock and roll. You and I probably couldn’t build one out of Lego.

Wednesay the 17th – Alexei Sayle @ The Public, West Bromwich – Ullo,ullo,ullo,ullo, Ullo John Got A New Motor. He’s also on at The Wulfrun in Wolves on the 24th.

Thursday the 18th till Saturday the 27th – “Eat!” (Birmingham Rep Theatre & Black Country Touring) @ The Roundhouse, Birmingham – Drama based in submitted personal stories about food and eating. This is the venue, here – it was unfamiliar to me, but maybe you know it.

Thursday the 18th – Mellow Peaches @ The ICC/Symphony Hall foyer, Birmingham – Ace folk-blues stuff and it’s all for freeeee…

Thursday the 18th – Rick Astley @ The Academy, Birmingham – Link as dictated by tradition.

Friday the 19th till Saturday the 21st – Supersonic Festival @ The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – Ooh crikey, it’s crept up on me a bit this year. Supersonic is always amaaaazing, anyway, although I expect that anyone likely to be reading this already knows that. This year you’ve got your The Bug, you’ve got your JK Flesh, your Merzbow, your Jarboe, your Zeni Geva, your Modified Toy Orchestra, your Drunk In Hell, your Ore (collaborating with KK Null), Sensational/Torture, Mothertrucker, Lichens, PCM, Six Organs Of Admittance, Islaja, Hey Colossus, SWLLWS, a Black Sabbath-themed walking tour, remote control cars on records, sing-a-long with Kim Gordon, stuff for the young’ins, rituals regarding Brum’s little stream… you name it, you’ve got it.

Friday the 19th – The Drifters @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – You’re more than a number in their little red book.

Saturday the 20th – Down @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – I suspect someone will end up regretting having this one clash with Supersonic. Although it’s only a short distance down the road and you could pop out, I suppose.

Saturday the 20th – Soweto Kinch @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Saxomaphone, saxomaphone. Also: MC-ing.

Monday the 22nd till Wednesday the 24th – “Mother Courage And Her Children” (Blackeyed Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Brecht at the Arena #2.

Tuesday the 23rd till Saturday the 27th – “Steptoe and Son” (Kneehigh Theatre/West Yorkshire Playhouse) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – HAAAARRRROOOOLD etc.

Tuesday the 23rd – Sparks @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – I’m sure that the town will be big enough for the both of them.

Wednesday the 24th till Saturday the 27th – “Twelfth Night” (Warwick University Drama Society) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio space), near Coventry – Apparently featuring performances inspired by Robert (Anton?) Wilson and music inspired by Tom Waits.

Wednesday the 24th – Eddie Reader @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – She has been foolish too many times, now she’s determined she’s gonna get it right.

Wednesday the 24th – Rolo Tomassi @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Do you love anyone enough to… alright, I’ll stop.

Wednesday the 24th – Dvorák’s 9th “New World” symphony (Dresden Symphony Orchestra) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – To be compared with the 2nd.

Wednesday the 24th – Rosemary Hawthorne’s “The Knicker Lady” @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – A comic exploration of the history of underwear (in aid of Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice).

Thursday the 25th – Alice Cooper @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – He doesn’t have cable? What a dumbass.

Thursday the 25th – Seth Lakeman @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Oh, Kitty Jay. (Edit: He’s at Warwick Arts Centre on the 11th, too).

Friday the 26th – Lionel Richie @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – I know I’ve said it a million billion times before, but it’s true nevertheless: he looks like a crocodile.

Saturday the 27th – Don McLean @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – That good ol’ boy, drinking Whisky and Rye.

Saturday the 27th – Efterklang @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – Efterklang with an orchestra will be a magical thing, it really will. This is one of the big tips o’the month from me.

Saturday the 27th – Immortal Technique @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – I am all about the Marxism in hip hop.

Saturday the 27th – Wizz Jones and John Renbourn @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Finger-pickin’ good guitar #2 and #3.

Saturday the 27th – Nicky Minaj @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – The less aggressive version of Azealia Banks, if you like.

Tuesday the 30th till Friday the 2nd – “Schroedinger” (Reckless Theatre) @ A.E. Harris, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Inside the cat’s box.

Tuesday the 30th till Saturday the 3rd of November – Johan Strauss’ “A Night In Venice” (Tinker’s Farm Opera) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – A modern dress version, with references to Berlusconi and such.

Tuesday the 30th – Every Time I Die @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – I remember one time that I saw this lot back in the day, when the singer’s pupils were so dilated he could probably see into the future. It was hilarious.

Tuesday the 30th – Goodnight Lenin @ The Institute (Library room), Digbeth, Birmingham – They’re supporting a band called Dry The River and I don’t know anything about all that, but it’s Goodnight Lenin.

Tuesday the 30th – Sauna Youth / Cold Pumas @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – SY: rambunctious garage punk. CP: wall-of-echoey-sound post-punk and my favourite band name I’ve heard in ages.

Wednesday the 31st – “Der Golem” film showing plus improvised organ from Nigel Ogden @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Horror film plus live music #1.

Wednesday the 31st – “The Phantom Of The Opera” plus the Midlands Fretted Orchestra @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Horror film plus live music #2.

Wednesday the 31st – Steve Tilston @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – In a break from the usual rule, there doesn’t seem to be any of the Carthys/Watersons playing in the West Mids this month (ah, there probably are. I’ve most likely just missed ’em). Have a Tilston instead.

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Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: October 2010

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 September, 2010

There are distinct themes to things happening this month. I will let you discern them for yourselves, lest my pointing-out of them might lead others to think that there may be a faint hint of the less-than-serious about the things I write here.

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.

Friday the 1st till Sunday the 10th – Birmingham Comedy Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – In prior years this has been mocked for just being a banner headline put up over the comedy tours that’d be coming by anyway, but there definitely looks like there’s a lot more happening this time. This here The Awkward Silence sketch stageshow sounds interesting, and I can only assume that an outfit known as Men With Bananas would have to be good.

Saturday the 2nd till Saturday the 23rd – “Art Heist” events @ New Art Gallery, Walsall – An interactive typathing, in which you can plan how you’d half-inch a piece of art from a gallery. I really hope this doesn’t turn out to bite the New Art Gallery on the arse in the future.

Sunday the 3rd – Oxjam’s 11 Bus thingy @ the outer circle, Birmingham – Buy your ticket, board the 11 outside the Hare & Hounds, and be given a tour of Brum with “musical entertainment” on the bus over the course of the day. All for charidee, too.

Tuesday the 5th till Thursday the 21st – The Birmingham Book Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Hooray! Raphael Selbourne talks about what constitutes a city’s culture, Catherine O’Flynn talks about her new book, lots of people discuss what it’s like to be a refugee in Birmingham, and lots and lots more.

Saturday the 2nd till Saturday the 9th – “The Birthday Party” (The Crescent Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – There seems to be loads of Pinter around just lately.

Saturday the 2nd & Sunday the 3rd – GB Judo World Cup For Women @ The NIA, Birmingham – “If there is effort, there is always accomplishment” – Jigoro Kano

Saturday the 2nd – “I Am A Camera” (Jadis Shadows) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – So “The Berlin Stories” novels were made into this play which was made into a film which was made into the musical “Cabaret” which was then made into a film itself. Oh Sally Bowles, what a complicated web you weave.

Saturday the 2nd – Mouse On Keys @ The Public, West Bromwich – Japanese groovo-jazz-rock. If I know mice, they won’t play “The Entertainer”. That’s a Cats On Keys thing.

Tuesday the 5th – Kelis @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Artists impression of what the gig will be like here.

Wednesday the 6th till Sunday the 10th – Horse Of The Year Show @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – A horse is a horse, of course. Of course!

Wednesday the 6th & Thursday the 7th – “The Good Person Of Sezuan” (Matt & Sister Tree) @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – A version of the Brecht play done in patois. It’s on at The Arena in Wolves on the 14th, too.

Thursday the 7th till Saturday the 9th – “Sounds Of Space” events @ Town Hall & Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Music, talks, a mobile planetarium, and all sorts of celestial superfun.

Friday the 8th – Rodney Bewes’ one-man version of “Three Men In A Boat” @ the town hall/library theatre, Stourbridge – Rodney Bewes as in the one from “The Likely Lads” that wasn’t James Bolan. I suppose we now know what happened to him.

Saturday the 9th – Kings Heath charity shop crawl @ the High Street, Kings Heath, Birmingham – They should come over here to the Black Country. We have some towns that consist completely and entirely of charity shops.

Monday the 11th – Stiff Little Fingers @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – One of the most righteously powerful punk bands ever, once. They’ve done some other stuff since then too, but let’s dwell on the positives.

Tuesday the 12th – Midge Ure @ The Robin 2, Bilston – So, HMHB last month was £16 advance/£18 door. TMTCH later this month is £15 advance/£16 door. This gig, with the actual famous artist out of the three that stood out to me, is less at £13 advance/£15 door. They actually are using a dartboard to set these prices, aren’t they?

Wednesday the 13th till Saturday the 16th – “Doctor Faustus” (Birmingham School Of Acting) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – I’ve often wondered what sort of price the devil would offer me for my soul. Ten quid and a bag of chips, probably.

Wednesday the 13th – Napoleon IIIrd @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Epic electronic pop from Napoleon the Thirdrd.

Thursday the 14th till Saturday the 16th – “Tuning Out With Radio Z” (Stan’s Café) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – An interactive theatre performance, where you can make suggestions to the two radio DJs it concerns. I’m not sure if this is the full 8 hour version or not.

Thursday the 14th – Arrested Development @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – The happiest of happy-hop.

Friday the 15th till Saturday the 6th of November – “The Cherry Orchard” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Chekhov/no you Chekhov etc. Starring Josie Lawrence.

Sunday the 17th – Jeff Beck @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Shouldn’t he be playing in Wolverhampton, really?

Sunday the 17th – The Men They Couldn’t Hang @ The Robin 2, Bilston – See above re: prices at The Robin for another example of how the Ironmasters always get their way.

Monday the 18th – Badly Drawn Boy @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – [Foghorn Leghorn]“Boy, ah say boy…”[/Foghorn Leghorn]

Tuesday the 19th till Saturday the 23rd – “The Author” (News From Nowhere/Royal Court Theatre) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – A play written by a playwright within a play written by a playwright.

Tuesday the 19th – Colour Presents… @ The Victoria, Birmingham – A night, they say, of exploratory scoundscapes and space travel. Whether or not you get any of that, you will get music from Port-Royal, Milimetrik, and Arc Vel.

Wednesday the 20th till Saturday the 23rd – “Untitled” (Fuel) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – Two brothers separated at birth, one with name and one without.

Friday the 22nd till Sunday the 24th – Supersonic Festival @ The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham (with fringe arty bits at other places in Digbeth) – I have misgivings about a partially outdoor event being moved from July to October (I foresee both widespread illness due to people standing in wet clothes in the cold and widespread injuries due to how murderous the Custard Factory boardwalk and the steps down to the pond are going to be once the rain has its way), but I certainly don’t have misgivings about the line-up: Godflesh, nearly-Neu!, Melt Banana, Nisennenmondai, Chrome Hoof, Peter Broderick, King Midas Sound, Zeni Geva, Napalm Death, Voice Of The Seven Woonders, PCM, an indeterminate number of guitars playing for seven hours, and a big pile more. The best line-up yet for me, on paper at least (also see the 23rd below).

Friday the 22nd & Saturday the 23rd – “Almost Human” & “Precious Jewel” (Nobody’s Perfect Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A double-bill in which a computer programme evolves out of itself and Elizabeth I encounters a hiding Catholic Priest.

Friday the 22nd – Ramesses @ The Asylum 2, Hockley, Birmingham – Dooooom. It’s unfortunate for all concerned that this is clashing with Supersonic, but there we are.

Saturday the 23rd – Supersonic Kids gigs @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A Supersonic Festival offshoot for the young’ins (2-7 years), with Dosh and Glatze. What a brilliant idea.

Satuday the 23rd – KRS-ONE @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Artists impression of what the gig will be like here.

Sunday the 24th – “The World’s Largest Orchestra” @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Presumably this is the exact opposite of the world’s tiniest violin.

Tuesday the 26th – Manic Street Preachers @ The Academy, Birmingham – They may not be very manic or street, but I suppose some might say they preach.

Wednesday the 27th & Thursday the 28th – “From Me To 3792” (OJS in-house) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – An ordinary woman is moved to write to a prisoner on death row in America. Why’s that, then? That is what this play looks at.

Wednesday the 27th – The Psychedelic Furs @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – A band I always expect to be a bit more well-remembered than they actually are, given the fondness for 80s indie-rock exhibited by many in recent times.

Thursday the 28th till Saturday the 30th – “Rum And Coca-Cola” (Talawa Theatre Company) @ The Drum, Newtown – A play concerning a faded Calypso band in Trinidad, directed by Don Warrington. It’s definitely a month for fellas from old sitcoms.

Thursday the 28th till Saturday the 30th – The Birmingham Beer Festival @ The Second City Suite, Birmingham – There are always beer festivals everywhere, obviously (and that’s a good thing), but this one also promises extra entertainment including music and games of “shove ha’penny”. I really don’t feel that as much shoving is delivered unto ha’pennies as is deserved, nowadays.

Thursday the 28th – The Dillinger Escape Plan / Rolo Tomassi @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Well there certainly will be some sudden time-changes on this particular evening, that we can be sure of.

Thursday the 28th – Chrome Hoof @ Taylor John’s House, Coventry – As I wondered a little while back, I wonder how long it’ll be before people start turning up to Chrome Hoof gigs in silver jumpers they’ve made themselves?

Friday the 29th – Juice Aleem @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – As part of the Inqlab “conscious club night” benefit for Pakistan flood relief.

Saturday the 30th – The Destroyers @ The Midland Arts Centre, Edgbaston, Birmingham – I may have mentioned them once or twice before.

Saturday the 30th – Seth Lakeman @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – I am always surprised by the fact that some people think of “Seth” as a tough urban kind of kind of name rather than a folky Emmerdale-y kind of name (see also: flat caps). This here Seth is definitely one of the latter type.

Sunday the 31st – Youngblood Brass Band @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – A punk-hop brass band, or “riot jazz” as they have it.

Sunday the 31st – Nightingales / The Coutesy Group @ The Old Wharf, Digbeth, Birmingham – Two of the local post-punk bands most (but not entirely) likely to go clonk when you think they’ll go ping and go ping when you think they’ll go spa-roowie.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – May 2010

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 29 April, 2010

We could reasonably rename this month “M-M-May” (MMA, didjaseewha.. oh, forget it), but there’s also the grand re-opening of The MAC, The Flyover Show, Pride and lots of juicy-looking gigs and plays. It’s a good ‘un.

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.

Up until Saturday the 15th – Birmingham International Dance Festival @ various venues in Brum – The dance festival continues, with plenty of stuff to be seen. There are even free outdoor affairs involving The Destroyers between the first and the third.

Saturday the 1st and fortnightly thenceforth – Scene Not Heard afternoon mati-knees-up @ The Island Bar, Birmingham – Those road-ready gangstars over at the Scene Not Heard blog are going to be putting on a series of free (that’s free) Saturday afternoon (that’s afternoon) gigs at The Island Bar (that’s a central location). This, I feel, is a good idea. Clicky for the line-ups.

Saturday the 1st until Monday the 3rd – Midland Arts Centre re-opening weekend @ The Mac, Edgbaston, Birmingham – After what feels like forever and a day, it’s finally back. The big re-opening fantabulansa includes (amongst a tonne of other things) audio walks, music, and the city singing.

Saturday the 1st – Cathedral / Church Of Misery @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Doooooooooooooooom (as ever).

Sunday the 2nd – Mark Lanegan @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – A singist I’ve always enjoyed where I’ve brushed up against his cannon (“Ballad Of The Broken Seas” with Isobel Campbell, that one Screaming Trees album that I’ve got on tape somewhere) but never got around to investigating more thoroughly. I should, really.

Sunday the 2nd – Beres Hammond / Gregory Isaacs / The Heptones @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Reggae is generally known for its bass, but this is quite the treble-bill. DidjaseewhatIdidthere?

Sunday the 2nd – “The Electric Carnival” @ various venues in Digbeth, Birmingham – Half the town is going to be cordoned off for an enormous 9,000-capacity dance-orama. Fatboy Slim is your main headliner, alongside Skream, Stanton Warriors, Utah Saints and scores of others.

Monday the 4th until Saturday the 8th – “The 39 Steps” (Fiery Angel Arts & Entertainment) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – A comical version of John Buchan’s old espionage-orama.

Tuesday the 4th till Saturday the 8th – “Kursk” (Sound And Fury) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – Submarines a-sinking onstage.

Tuesday the 4th – Marvin / Theo / Mills And Boon @ The Basement, Birmingham – A strong line-up indeed of not-completely-straightforward popular music: Trans Am-ites du La France, one-man twiddly biddly diddly, and rarely-seen of late Beefheartmeat.

Thursday the 6th and Friday the 7th – “Raspberry” (Fittings Multimedia Arts) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Musical theatre based on the life and songs of Ian Dury.

Thursday the 6th – Bolt Thrower @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – Never has there been a concept more likely to delight than that of GamesWorkshopMetal.

Thursday the 6th – Crëvecoeur @ the Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Like a folksier and Frenchier version of Pram, maybe.

Thursday the 6th – Dr Feelgood @ The Jam House, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – I’m given to understand there was a documentary about them recently. Haven’t seen it meself, but it seems a safe bet that this’ll probably be packed as a result.

Friday the 7th – Rihanna @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Very fond of her brolly, this young lady.

Saturday the 8th – Shady Bard @ The Flapper, Birmingham – Indie-folk mournful mini-orchestra. I didn’t like them the first time I saw them but I’m willing to acknowledge that was probably the wrongest I’ve ever been about any band ever.

Monday the 10th – Faust @ The Rainbow Warehouse, Digbeth, Birmingham – Why if these 70s Krautrock bands aren’t everywhere nowadays. They’re the proverbial buses of music.

Monday the 10th – Flight Of The Conchords @ The NIA, Birmingham – Is Murray in the stage show? Murray is my favourite, he’s ace.

Tuesday the 11th and Wednesday the 12th – Lisa Hammond & Rachael Spence’s “No Idea” @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – It seems that they went out and asked passers-by what they thought their show should be about, and then made a show out of that. Meta~!

Tuesday the 11th – Gogol Bordello @ The Academy, Birmingham – Premium.

Wednesday the 12th – Grails @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – If you think of “Journey of The Sorcerer” by The Eagles as light, then this band sound like darkness. Look, it makes sense in my mind, alright? The first gig of what’s looking like a busy month for Capsule.

Thursday the 13th till Friday the 15th – “Tuning Out With Radio Z” (Stan’s Café) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A (six hour long~!) theatrical performance that’s also broadcaste as a radio show at the same time.

Friday the 14th until Saturday the 5th of June – “Noises Off” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – An farcical farce.

Friday the 14th till Sunday the 16th – “English Originals” folk festival @ Symphony Hall, Town Hall & The ICC foyer, Birmingham – This year’s version of the annual folk happening. This time around they have Graham Coxon, Bellowhead and a whole pile more.

Saturday the 15th – Mixed martial arts (BAMMA) @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – The first of the big MMA cards this month. Alex Reid is no longer on this (to the surprise of more-or-less nobody), but there’s still a strong card with some good bouts to see. Weichel vs Sinclair and Reed vs Grimshaw are my tips for the fights of the night.

Saturday the 15th – The 44th KUGB national Karate championships @ The NIA, Birmingham – Or if on the other hand you like a bit more “HAI-YA~!” in your martial arts, you can go here.

Sunday the 16th – “Claytime” (Indefinitearticles) @ The Mac, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A play, they say, with clay, that 3-6 year olds can join in with.

Monday the 17th and Tuesday the 18th – Daniel Kitson’s “66a Church Road – A Lament Made Of Memories And Kept In Suitcases” @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A one-man-show about you one man there having to move from his beloved old flat. Very well regarded, I understand. It’s also at the Warwick Arts Centre from the 19th to the 21st.

Tuesday the 18th till Saturday the 22nd – “Morecambe” (Feather Productions) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Not Eric Morecambe himself, for the usual obvious reasons. This is a play about his life.

Wednesday the 19th – Alicia Keys @ The NIA, Birmingham – I saw her a few years ago and it was nearly (not quite) ruined by the ludicrous amount of onstage skits ‘n’ such. Hopefully she doesn’t do that anymore.

Thursday the 20th – Chrome Hoof @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The best tinfoil-robe-wearing disco-krautrock-metal band to have come out in many years, and I really mean that.

Friday the 21st – “Out Of Chaos” (Temple Theatre) @ A.E. Harris building, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – In which six people meet up to get something off their chest, rangin from tales of tube journeys to the creation of the world. This play is also acting as a fundraiser for the upcoming Birmingham European Theatre Festival, which sounds potentially very exciting.

Friday the 21st – Mixed martial arts (10th Legion Championship Fighting) @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Part of The Martial Arts Show, with a card involving Jess Liaudin and Pete Irving, amongst others. Hold your breath, though, because also at the Martial Arts Show…

Saturday the 22nd – Mixed martial arts (Cagewarriors Fighting Championships) @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Cagewarriors FC is back! Oh wow. A four-man/one-night tournament for Dan Hardy’s old welterweight belt, a mini-amateur tournament, title fights galore, Rosi Sexton… oh, this is going to be ace.

Saturday the 22nd until Saturday the 5th of June – “Young Readers In Birmingham” festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Plenty of events and festivities in the name of persuading the little bleeders to get a-reading.

Sunday the 23rd – Mixed Martial Arts (Fightstars) @ Oceana, Wolverhampton – If you’re not completely MMA-ed out after everything else, there’s a smaller card here headlined by likely-looking prospect Eugene Fadiora vs TBC (No card on their website, naturally, but there are some details in this messageboard thread).

Monday the 24th – “I See With My Eyes Closed” (Stan’s Café/Birmingham Contemporary Music Group) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A collaboration between Stan’s Café and the BCMG which apparently is “not quite theatre and not a straight-forward concert”. It could, therefore, be almost anything conceivable. I’m not sure that describing it like that is the best way to avoid disappointing people. Some folk can conceive of some pretty amazing things.

Tuesday the 25th till Saturday the 29th – “The Harder They Come” (Theatre Royal/UK Arts) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – A stage version of the film with the best soundtrack ever (and that’s an official Russ L verdict).

Tuesday the 25th till Saturday the 29th – “Sus” (Eclipse Theatre) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – A play based around institutional racism on the eve of Thatcher’s election.

Tuesday the 25th – Billy Ocean @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – When the going gets tough, the red light spells danger. Pick up the pieces and put it back in my car. Love really hurts without sharing the same dream. Those got more feeble as I went along, didn’t they?

Tuesday the 25th – 7 Inch Cinema night @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – With various films and Romana Scmalisch’s mini-cinema.

Wednesday the 26th – Pendulum @ The Academy, Birmingham – Really and truly a band called “Pendulum” should be a swing band, but never mind.

Wednesday the 26th – Acid Mothers Temple @ The hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Psych-rocking Japanistas of considerable repute.

Wednesday the 26th – Art Detection Services @ The Vaults, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – They have sophisticated technology that can tell whether something is art or not, probably to within only a few decimal places. This is an Arc do.

Saturday the 29th and Sunday the 30th – Birmingham Pride @ on and around Hurst Street, Birmingham – Apparently still the largest LBGT festival in Britain. The Parade’s theme will be “Equality Over The Decades”, and amongst the many acts performing you’ll find Tight Fit. Bonus points for the first person to name the band who warned against a Tight Fit reunion in song.

Saturday the 29th – Slayer @ The Academy, BirminghamSLAYAAARRRGH

Saturday the 29th – the Flyover Show @ under Hockley flyover, Hockley, Birmingham – The third of Soweto Kinch’s annual urban celebrations in the coolest possible location for a gig. Janet Kay, Speech DeBelle and Ms Dynamite head the bill.

Saturday the 29th – The Birmingham Book Festival’s Spring Thing: A Festival In A Day @ The Conservatoire, Birmingham – A day of literary speakers, including (amongst others) Carol Ann Duffy, Stuart Maconie, and Samantha Harvey.

Monday the 31st – Dead Meadow @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Psych-rocking Americanistas of considerable repute.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: October 2009

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, LOTTSADITWM, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 September, 2009

It’d really make a lot more sense if October was the eight month rather than the tenth, wouldn’t it? Oh well.

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. (EDIT: This paragraph is not some obscure joke. It actually means what it says. By all means add me to your mailing list or whatever-have-you, but sending me a message that specifically asks for your function to be posted on here will not lead to it being posted on here).

Thursday the 1st – An Evening With Joan Baez @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The evening they drove ol’ Dixie down.

Friday the 2nd till Sunday the 11th – Birmingham Comedy Festival @ various venues in Brum – Part of the grand Birmingham tradition of grouping together a bunch of events that would most likely have happened anyway and calling it a festival. There are still, no doubt, many chuckles and guffaws to be had – checky here for the line-up.

Friday the 2nd – Zu @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – I-talian jazzy metally… I dunno, just bloody lunacy. They were ace at Supersonic.

Saturday the 3rd – Boxing (Warrior Promotions) @ The Holiday Inn, Birmingham – Presumably a dinner show (boo hiss etc). The latest chapter in the ongoing Birmingham vs Black Country derby takes place here, with Eddie McIntosh vs Quinton “Greatest Name Ever” Hillocks.

Sunday the 4th – Kickboxing and MMA (Eclipse) @ Oceana, Wolverhampton – FC kickboxing and amateur MMA, I believe.

Sunday the 4th – Frank Carson @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – It’s the way he tells ‘em.

Monday the 4th – Boxing (Pat Cowdell) @ The Holiday Inn, Birmingham – Another dinner show (boo hiss etc).

Tuesday the 6th till Thursday the 29th – The Birmingham Book Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – This one actually isn’t as per the description of the comedy festival as above. The line-up can be seen here; there are plenty of highlights, including a discussion with the Tindall Street Press Booker Prize nominees on the 8th, talks about David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” (timely. More soon) and Will Self on the 17th, a thing about J.B. Priestley’s “English Journey” (with his son and, erm, Stuart Maconie. Isn’t he the fella from all of those Channel Four “I Love The Whatsit”/”Top One Hundred Whatsitcalled” programmes?) on the 23rd, and Karen Armstrong speaking about her new “The Case For God” on the 29th.

Wednesday the 7th till Sunday the 11th – Horse Of The Year Show @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Neigh, neigh and thrice neigh.

Thursday the 8th – Lethal Bizzle @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Bring some beef you lose some teef POW POW.

Friday the 9th – Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Venue, Dudley – I still have no idea where “The Venue” is.

Sunday the 11th – An Afternoon With Pam Ayres @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The afternoon they drove ol’ SouthofEngland down.

Sunday the 11th – The Destroyers / The Old Dance School / The Toy Hearts @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Three of the finest local fun-folk/trad sorts, playing as part of The Town Hall’s 175th anniversary. The Destroyers are obviously the best band ever and you mustn’t say otherwise.

Monday the 12th – Echo & The Bunnymen @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – The band that actually could cut the mustard.

Friday the 16th and Saturday the 17th – “The Idiot Colony” (Red Cape Theatre) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – A group of women are offered some respite from their confinement in a brutal asylum when they get to talk to each other in the hair salon. Based on true accounts.

Friday the 16th – “Revenger’s Tragedy” (Jadis Shadows theatre company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – With murder and incest and scandal in general. Also on at The Old Rep in Brum the following night and Hall Green Little Theatre (new to me) on the 23rd and 24th.

Saturday the 17th – Dizzee Rascal @ The Academy, Birmingham – There really is very little that’s more fun than saying “bonkers” in a deep voice. Try it right now and you’ll see what I mean.

Tuesday the 20th till Saturday the 31st – “The Grapes Of Wrath” (English Touring Theatre/Chichester Festival Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Waitin’ on the ghost of Tom Joad.

Wednesday the 21st – Therapy? @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – I’m still no closer to figuring it out: how many question marks does one use if asking a question in which the last word is the band name Therapy??

Wednesday the 21st – The Tennessee Three @ The Jam House, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Not actually backing Johnny Cash here, for obvious reasons. Luther probably won’t be playing the boogie woogie here either, for similarly obvious reasons.

Friday the 23rd – Morrissey @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – I don’t think he’s miserable at all, I reckon it’s all just a show.

Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th – Spandau Ballet @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – No, they are playing there. It’s (wait for it, wait for it) TRUE.

Sunday the 25th – Editors @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – I still think “Snowfield” was a better name for them, but there you go.

Monday the 26th – The Proclaimers @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – I don’t think they’re Scottish at all, I reckon it’s all just a show.

Tuesday the 27th – ZZ Top @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Ah come on now. You’re looking at me as though this needs explaining.

Tuesday the 27th – Billy Talent @ The Academy, Birmingham – Good quality Canadian melodic punk/emo types, and I just now see that apparently they were originally called “Pezz”. Do you remember those “Pez” sweeties, with their own little dispenser-type-things? They were ace. I recall having one with Goofy’s head on. So, anyway, Billy Talent.

Wednesday the 28th till Saturday the 31st – “Dreams Of Violence” (Out Of Joint/Soho Theatre) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – Political activism (I can’t help but think of the “blowing up a panda” joke from ‘The Young Ones’ every time I hear that phrase) comes easier than a messy homelife for the main character of this play.

Thursday the 29th – Efterklang @ The Asylum, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – A Danish band who make music that sounds more beautiful live than you can imagine, and I’m assuming you’re someone with a fantastic imagination. Go to this.

Thursday the 29th – Marc Almond @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Probably the best pop star named after a nut since Johnny Cashew. Or Slipknut.

Friday the 30th and Saturday the 31st – “The Houdini Exposure” (Little Earthquake theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Know what I mean, ‘Arry. A dramatised version of his mission to expose séance Daniel Home as a fraud.

Over three months of Out-And-About in one go: It’s the hugenormousive catch-up digest

Posted in Books, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 31 October, 2008

Ye Gods. I haven’t told y’all about any of the out-and-about things I’ve been up to since mid-July. That’s over a quarter of a year ago.

I couldn’t make my mind up how to go about it, that was part of the problem. Another catch-up post (in which I briefly mention what I’ve done, so that it’s documented and thus actually happened) seemed like the obvious thing to do, but there have been a few things over the last couple of months that seemed to need a full post on their own. Inspiration struck after a lot of umming arring: why not both? Lovely stuff. Most things will get mentioned in a perfunctory fashion in this post. The odd few things that seem to require more words (this isn’t necessarily related to how good they were) will get a post of their own afterwards.

So… one Saturday towards the end of July (I forget the precise date, but it was definitely before all of the rest of the things in this post. 26th, probably, but I make no promises) saw the latest Chess-meet between myself and James ex-Trucker, at The Briar Rose. I managed to win another game! I also lost another two. That puts the running total at something in the region of 381-2-1 in his favour, but I will even the score one day.

Kings Heath’s loveable Hare & Hounds was the venue for the night of Friday the 1st of August (oh my God. How long ago that was…), with a Capsule-promoted Japanese double-bill taking place. The night was spoiled to some extent by a pillock acting like a pillock, but both of the bands were ace. Nissenenmondai made for a great instrumental collision between Can, Battles and Lightning Bolt. Acid Mothers Temple’s set (such of it as I saw – they went on for ages. For a change I’m not bothered about late runnings, though: I think I got my fill of them) was in a lot more of a straightforward 70s rock veign than I was expecting, but there were still plenty of (old) Pink Floyd styled freakout bits. The openers came away with the honours of the night, if you ask me, but both bands were very good.

The 20th of August saw a day-trip to Aberystwyth. Note well, all of you non-regular travellers to Wales – it seems to be the custom in fair Cymru for certain trains to separate, with some carriages going in one direction and some in another. Yes, this had the predictable consequences on us. Yes, it was entirely my fault.

That aside (well, not just ‘aside’. It was funny), we had an absolutely lovely day. Aberystwyth, for some reason, had a great number more Hassidic Jews wandering around than you’d expect (and I’m not making that up). We bought a sheep and a penguin.

Birmingham Opera Company’s ‘Idomeneo’ on the 22nd was good beyond belief, but deserves a post of its own. We’ll come back to this. (EDIT: Yes, here).

Friday the 29th was occasion for seeing Clutch at The Barfly (which you now enter via the old Sanctuary entrance, fact-fans). Beset by unfortunate but unavoidable delays, Clutch were already on by the time we got in there. Ah well.

I can’t really mention any more than I have already that I find Clutch to be The Best Rock Band Going At The Moment. Bluesy and boozy yet still with untold energy and actual fantastic songs, and most of all grooooove. They’re about the only band who can jam as much as they do and still remain interesting to me. There wasn’t any harmonica at this gig (for some reason) and there were some omissions from the setlist (I know this will always be the case for a band with as many albums as Clutch, but still: no ‘Cypress Grove’. Booooo), but highlights like “Escape From The Prison Planet”, “Electric Worry” and “Promoter (Of Earthbound Causes)” were high indeed.

(Other accounts can be read here, here and here. Not sure about the setlist in the last one, though: I’m pretty sure they played “I Have The Body Of John Wilkes Booth” at some point in there. It was ages ago, of course; I could easily be wrong).

For the 30th, then, I caught a train over to Leamington Leam, to be picked up for the drive to REM’s Twickenham concert (this sort of feels like one that should get a post of its own, but I don’t really have all that much to say about it) by the incomparably wonderful Matt’n’Chel. They’d had an absolutely mad weekend and deserve salutes for even being awake, never mind travelling darn sarf for a gig. Twickenham Stadium is an impressive sight when you get in there, although you do get a hell of a lot of low-flying planes heading towards Heathrow.

We arrived in time for the half of “Sao Paulo”, Guillemots’ last song. A shame, since it was sounding absolutely fantastic with added percussion jam and such, but there we are. Such things can’t be helped. Editors were the piggies-in-the-middle. The sound wasn’t so great, sadly, and their already echo-y (ta Matt) atmospheric indie rock was made even more echo-y by the sound and less atmospheric by the bright blue sky and periodic aeroplanes. Still very good, though, with choons from first album working really well.

REM were, unsurprisingly, great fun (setlist here). They sounded a touch (only a touch) more rocky-sounding live than one might have expected, and a fair few of their more well known songs were excluded (most obviously no “Everybody Hurts”, but also no “Stand”, no “Star 69” etc. They have an even huger back catalogue than Clutch, though, so no-one can really complain), but did play a fair bit from my fave album “Document” (“Disturbance At The Heron House”, “Exhuming McCarthy” and of course “The One I Love”. No “Finest Worksong”, though) and even “Country Feedback”. Stipey (as he’s known to his friends), meanwhile, made for an endearing frontman. My only complaint would be that the hurrah-ah for Obam-ah stuff all got a bit Leni Riefenstahl at times. I’ve no problem with bands talking about things that are important to them, but pictures of politicians displayed on the big screens can begin to feel like a bit too much…

(There are reviews of this here, here, here, here, here, and no doubt a bunch of other places but I’m bored of looking now).

The End-Of-August Weekend O’Gigs culminated with the last day of the Moseley Folk Festival, on Sunday the 31st. This is another one that’ll need a post of its own, though, so I’ll come back to that. (EDIT: Heeeere y’go).

Gomez, lord love ‘em, decided to mark the tenth anniversary of their first album (“Bring It On”) by doing a tour in which they played the entire thing in its entirety every night. On one hand, it seemed a lot like pointless nostalgia and smug self-reference. On the other hand, it is a good record and I’d never seen them before. I ended up going to The Academy (bah) on Wednesday the 3rd of September.

There’s not a lot to say about this one: it went pretty much as one might expect. The sound was very rough to begin with but cleared up after the first few songs, “Tijuana Lady” sounded gorgeous, and “Rye’s Wagon” was epic. An encore featured a few more recent songs and a new one, and… Well, it was good stuff. I’m still not sure what the purpose of the exercise was, but it was good stuff.

(Another write-up here).

Life was a Cabaret (old chum) at The Rep on Friday the 5th. Blimey, Wayne Sleep isn’t half a funny looking little troll-thing (and thus very well-suited to the role of the MC in this, of course). Samantha Barks was just-about-passable as Sally Bowles, and (to my surprise) the production didn’t shy away from facing up to the Nazi themes throughout the play, often quite graphically. I enjoyed it.

(Reviews here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and probably elsewhere).

Birmingham’s annual weekend o’free stuff took place between Friday the 12th and Sunday the 14th. The best bit was unquestionably Stan’s Café’s Of All The People In All The World (AKA The Rice Show). That’s something that deserves another post on its own, though (EDIT: here). We went to a whole tonne of things outside of that, so I’ll just mention the best bits: the Hair exhibition at the art gallery (not part of Artsfest as such, but lots of fun. Anything where you can try on wigs will always be fun); the lights projected onto the wall of the council house on Friday night; Treefrog Theatre’s “Paradise Mislaid”, in which Satan challenges God to a game of Monopoly for the future of creation; MDCC Theatre’s Shakespeare quiz and short-form version of his history plays; the sheer number of helium balloons that one could see making their break for freedom on the Saturday afternoon/evening; the ‘Classical Fantasia’ performance with the CBSO, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Opera Company (far less Proms-ish than last year, and I’d hazard not quite as good, but it was a wonderful thing to hear our King Idomeneo from a few weeks before singing “La donna è mobile”. They were never going to top the fireworks from the previous year, I suppose); the preview reading of the beginning of “The Bad One” (we’ll come back to that in a bit); and Birmingham Library Theatre Company’s “Advice To Iraqi Women”, an oddly unnerving performance demonstrating (I reckon) the contradictions in a safety-first health-conscious society that sends it’s citizens halfway across the world to die in wars.

(There are probably five squillion things about this across the internets, so I’ll just link my mother’s account of our weekend).

Netherton Victoriana Day on Saturday the 20th was a bit crap (just not enough there, really), but we did get a chance while we were over there to pop into Ma Pardoes/The Old Swan, which was great.

The Approximately Infinite Universe tour bumped down into The Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath on Tuesday the 23rd: a series of collaborations between Finnish and American musical artistes which varied in quality but made for a good evening overall. Kemialliset Ystävät & Axolotl were on first, doing a sort of Pram-esque dreamscape sort of thing that occasionally threatened (just threatened) at funkiness. There was also some drone of the kind I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard a thousand times before. Es and Fursaxa did a really enjoyable thing that could be described as something akin to ritualistic psych-folk. ‘Dream Triangle’ played drone of the kind I’m absolutely sure we’ve all heard a thousand times before. Islaja, Blevin Blectum and Samara Lubelski seemed like the b(l)est of the lot, albiet by far the most song-based. Islaja really does have a very affecting voice, complemented well by the driving wobbly bass that kept surfacing. We had to leave before they’d finished (what with the time having been what the time was and would later have gone on to have been), but they definitely got my ‘ensemble of the night’ honours.

Wednesday the 24th saw me (just me. A gig on my own; usually so common, of late so rare) heading to Digbeth’s Barfly. Punk-funk types Mirror! Mirror! are a band I always think I probably could like but then actually end up thinking are just OK-ish. Rolo Tomassi, meanwhile, were and are awesometacular. Choppy-changy assortments of guitar and keyboards and screaming and clean vox are made to feel both random and unpredictable and perfectly cohesive and right, all at the same time. They’re (yet) another band I’ve written about too many times to have anything to add now, but they’re bloody ace.

(There’s a Brum Live review here).

A trip to The Rep Door on Friday the 26th, for Women And Theatre’s The Bad One. A look at the dangers of repressing emotion and creativity staged in a fairytale gothic setting, the script didn’t exactly shake out a massive number of new or original observations but was very nicely executed. Janice Connolly (better know to me as ‘Holy Mary from Phoenix Nights’) was wonderful, just about (only just) managing to keep the excess of broad comedy on the right side of annoying by dint of strong performance, while Susie Riddell gave a good turn as Jackie (this was most strongly disputed by one of our party), effectively altering her mannerisms to suit the arc of the plot. Good but not great, I’d call it overall.

(Some others liked it, some others didn’t, some others did).

Coldrice! On Saturday the 27th of September, this one was. I’m not quite sure how much I’m meant to say or not: this was the first time I’ve ever been to one of their semi-secret invite-only gigs, at a location I’m absolutely certain I can’t mention (if you’re interested in future ones then you can get yourself on the path to attending with the information I’ve already provided). We absolutely loved it, though – a great atmosphere and some great bands. The Solomons started affairs off and absolutely rocked: a two-piece (guitar/vox and drums) playing a sort of blues-rock (Led Zep writ large at times) with the odd grungey bit. Some fun riffs combined with a really effective sense of dynamics, as well as the singer having an interesting voice (unquestionably American-aping, but interesting. I won’t mention the former thing, though, ‘cos apparently they don’t like it. Nope. Won’t mention it at all). Band of the night were fellow locals-playing-American, Black Mekon. I’ve already mentioned my like for them elsewhere, what with their high energy rock’n’roll and such. It almost feels like I’m damning them with feint praise (since so many bands can be described thusly) but they were genuinely energetic, genuinely rocking and to reasonably authentically rolling. Also: masks. The Jam Messengers (AKA Rob K & Uncle Blucher) were on last, the leastmost band of the night in terms of music (although amazing considering that they were a two-piece consisting of one guy singing and one guy playing guitar, singing the backing vocals and pedalling the hi-hat and the kick-drum) but a massive, massive, massive amount of fun. They could easily have been irritatingly wacky, but your man’s peace-and-love-and-sex spreading preacherman vibe was hugely entertaining. Also: they were spitting images of Prince & Dave Gorman.

Stevie Wonder returned to Birmingham for the second time in just over month (his first European tour in lord-knows how long, but his second Birmingham gig within it) and we had the pleasure of being there (after a second visit to “Of All The People In All the World”. I will be coming back to that in a subsequent post, I promise. [EDIT: As above, here]). He was more or less exactly as you’d expect Stevie Wonder to be, which is – needless to say – very good. Also: he’s still blind. There was a slight touch of too much soloing at times (oh hey lets introduce the band and let them all have a go at it in the usual boring-as-motherfork fashion), some outright bizarre things going on here and there (getting the promoter onstage for an applause at the end), but mostly really good. There were obviously highlights a-plenty, perhaps predictably including “Signed Sealed Delivered”, “Superstition”, an amazing rendition of “Higher Ground”, and why y’know I actually like “I Just Called To Say I Love You”.

(Most of the reviews that I can find online relate to his other Birmingham gig a month before, but there is this and this).

My first ever trip to The Glee Club took place on Wednesday the 8th, to see Mark Steel (why do I always get such a strong urge to add an ‘E’ onto the end of his surname?). For me, this will forever be remembered as the night my beau was described as ‘The Most Pedantic Woman In The Midlands’ by a famous comedian. Nothing else I could say would even come close to living up to that. Steel-y boy was very funny, anyway; this show discussed how a 40-something goes about squaring up his leftiness with everything else going on in life, and was very clever as well as being hugely and warmly humorous.

(There’s a review here).

The lefty-comedian jamboree continued on Tuesday the 14th, with Mark Thomas at Adrian Boult Hall (as part of The Birmingham Book Festival), although this wasn’t a stand-up comedy set as such. Still hugely funny, he talked about his new book and read bits out before answering questions. Hilariously, Coca-Cola (y’know, the multi-squillion-billion-unit-of-currency-makers) seem to think that he’s “picking on” them. The real world continues to lampoon itself far more effectively than any satire ever could.

It was to Birmingham Symphony Hall on Wednesday the 15th, for another genuine legend in the form of Stephen Stills. I’m only really familiar with odd bits of his 30+ year cannon and so a lot of what he played was far less familiar to me than (it seemed to be) with the vast majority of the audience, but naturally I enjoyed it no less. It was a game of two halves (Oh, Greavsie. Silly Tory), with the first half (acoustic with occasional band accompaniment) sounding fantastic and achieving particular heights during “Treetop Flyer” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”. His age did seem to be catching up with his voice at a few points, but literally (and happily) only at a few points. The electric/rockier latter half (after an interval) had long spells of what were little-more than strings of standard pub-rock/blues-rock clichés, but certainly still had its moments. The closing “For What It’s Worth” was great, as was the encore of “Love The One You’re With” (its quite bizarre lyrics aside). Definite enjoyment.

(Another account here).

The Roots Manuva gig at the ever-sickening Academy 2 was the place to be (or just the place we were, possibly) on Friday the 17th, even though the venue does get my vote for worst gig room going (even worse than the main Academy room). Good lord was it hot in there, even if we did end up moving to another part of the room where it was even hotter and there was even less space halfway through. Sigh. I was surprised to find that Rodney didn’t have a band this time (he has both of the previous times of seen him), instead going for the DJ + sidefolks approach. This has to be the leastmost Roots Manuva gig I’ve yet been too, but he it was still reasonable grooving fun. “Witness (1 Hope)” absolutely tore the place apart, naturally. It always does. His weed-addled between-song speeches about buying “two trainers” (pairs or individual shoes? I suppose we’ll never know) were as endearing as ever.

The UFC card at the NIA on Saturday the 18th unquestionably deserves a post of its own. Unquestionably. (EDIT: here we are).

The book festival rolled on, and Carol Ann Duffy graced Adrian Boult Hall on Tuesday the 21st. I love Carol Ann Duffy, writing as she does lines that are often witty, and always extremely clever but never obscure. This evening consisted just of readings, with no chance for audience questions or anything. There seemed to be quite a few poems from “The World’s Wife” (I have read that, but years ago), as well as a sequence from Rapture (which I absolutely adore. It didn’t include “Give” from that volume, though, my joint-absolute-favourite of hers alongside “Deportation”). I can’t say she has a great voice for reading, sadly, but you acclimatise.

An afternoon off work was booked for Thursday the 23rd, to go and see Tony Benn at The Grand in Wolverhampton (‘orrible theatre, but never mind). I don’t believe in heroes, but if I did then good ol’ ‘Tone would be one. Bless him, the man is a legend. He’s fairly deaf these days (there was something akin to donkey chaos when you combine this with the fact that questions from the audience were coming from both the balcony and the floor but with neither of the theatre-employees carrying the microphone knowing who should go next), but every bit as sharp-witted, passionately humane and committed as ever. An example to us all. I really, really enjoyed this afternoon. His phrase about democracy taking power away from the market place and into the polling station/away from the wallet and into the ballot was brilliant.

Capsule struck again on Friday the 24th, this time at The Hare & Hounds. Bilge Pump opened, sounding not quite as funky as I seem to recall them from the first time I saw them but still pretty good. They were something akin (in broad terms) to Gang Of Four adding funk and stadium rock parts. This is, of course, a likeable thing. Beestung Lips seem to be everyone’s favourite band nowadays, and as far as gestalt decisions go I don’t think that’s a bad one. They’re like a high-speed Jesus Lizard drooling the amphetamine back out of their mouths, or maybe a something someone doing something possibly to someone else or something. Half of the fun is deflecting the bodies flying around the dancefloor away from yourself, obviously.
I had to leave halfway through big-time touring American headliners Oxes, but they were OK with their math(s)-post-rock instrumental doodling lark (yes, that’s right: mathS). I’d been led to believe beforehand that they’re use of boxes was more exciting than as a little platform to get on and off the stage with, but there we are. I approve of having a nice little rug on stage when you play. I approve of this most strongly.

I got quite excited when I heard that Gabrielle was supporting Al Green at The NIA on the 28th, with thoughts of hi-larious “ghost/toast” lyrics to laugh at. It was then pointed out to me that I was getting her confused with Des’Ree. Oh well. Gabrielle turned out to be as bland as you’d expect.

The Reverend Al Green looked a lot more sprightly than I remember him being the last time I saw him, although still every bit as Cosbyesque. I’m getting to know what an Al Green gig consists of by now: highlights as ever included “Let’s Get Married”, “Let’s Stay Together”, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, “Tired Of Being Alone”, lots of roses handed out to lucky ladies, a selection of little bits of other peoples’ songs he loves, and of course the closing “Love And Happiness” with the horn riffs that work so well live. Familiarity does not breed, contempt, of course (and nor does a lack of “Take Me To The River”) – this was magnificent a life-affirmingly joyful. Probably the second best time I’ve seen him: better than last time, but not as good as that first one at Symphony Hall.

(More reports here and here).

That brings us to the end of October, which seems like a perfectly sensible place to stop being as we’re at the end of October. Henceforth I’ll try to keep up to date.

Maybe.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: October 2008

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 September, 2008

Festival~!

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.

Until Sunday the 5th – “Of All The People In All The World” (Stan’s Café) @ A.E. Harris Factory, The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Also known as The Rice Show and acclaimed by many (including me) to be The Actual Best Thing Ever.

Wednesday the 1st till Friday the 24th – Birmingham Book Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Brum’s annual literary festival (festival~!). There’s lots of interesting stuff a-scheduled – read on down.

Friday the 3rd till Sunday the 12th – Birmingham Comedy Festival @ various venues, Birmingham – The annual comedy festival (festival~!). Some annoying nonsense, but good stuff too – highlights include a Curates Egg do with John Cooper Clarke at The Hare & Hounds on the 3rd, and Mark Steel at The Glee Club on the 8th.

Saturday the 4th – “Space Day” @ Birmingham University, Edgbaston, Birmingham – LOOOST IN SPAAACE! All sorts of extra-planetary physics-based fun.

Saturday the 4th – Van Morrison @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Like the good ol’ strict ‘n’ stern Ulster protestant he is, Van The Man has decreed that no alcohol is to be sold at this gig. I wouldn’t go so far as to proclaim that this heralds the death of personal freedom, though.

Saturday the 4th – Stevie Wonder @ The NIA, Birmingham – Ooh, I’m really looking forward to this one.

Saturday the 4th – “Steve Coogan Is Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters” @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – You’ve got to love that for tour-naming.

Saturday the 4th – The Ting Tings @ The Academy, Birmingham – Already sold out, although we’ve heard that one before from The Ting Tings.

Saturday the 4th – Muay Thai @ The Light Bar, Wolverhampton – Knees knees knees! Wolves’ Firewalker gym vs Leeds’ Bad Company gym.

Wednesday the 5th of October until Thursday the 6th of November – Birmingham Early Music Festival @ Various festivals in Birmingham – A festival (festival~!) of Rites And Revels.

Sunday the 5th – Balti In The Park @ Balsall Heath park, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – Mostly, food. But also live music. And stalls. And face painting. But mostly food.

Tuesday the 7th – Stevie Winwood @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Still keeping on running, after all this time.

Wednesday the 8th until Saturday the 11th – “The Boy With The Bomb In His Crisps” (Mad Half Hour) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – A play based on the tales of people who have journeyed to Coventry and Colchester. The story behind the (absolutely magnificent) title is here.

Wednesday the 8th till Sunday the 12th – Horse Of The Year Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – A horse is a horse, of course, of course…

Thursday the 9th – The Streets @ The Academy, Birmingham – Apparently he talks about fields and countryside and such on this new album. Pastoral Streets, what a notion.

Saturday the 11th – Billy Ocean @ The Academy, Birmingham – Aaaaw, he’s just so cuddly.

Monday the 13th till Friday the 17th – “Romeo And Juliet” (Shakespeare’s Globe) @ The Custard Factory – I have no concrete info, but apparently this may or may not be happening. Matinee performances only though, according to the information Nyki Getgood has acquired over at that link. On weekdays. Fantastic planning, there.

Monday the 13th – Cyndi Lauper @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Just wants to do something-or-other.

Tuesday the 14th – Polarbear: “If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me” @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – Hip-hop based storytelling. I’ve heard many good things about this.

Tuesday the 14th – Mark Thomas @ The Conservatoire, Birmingham – Part of the Birmingham Book Festival. This show is based around Mighty Mark’s looking into the ways and doings of Coca-Cola.

Wednesday the 15th – Stephen Stills @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Ah well now you see the thing here was that I was going to go to this and then I wasn’t and now I am again but all the time I thought I’d never heard any of his music outside of Crosby Stills And Nash And/Or Young but it turns out that “Love The One You’re With” which I liked but didn’t know who it was by was actually by him. So that was quite good. Yes.

Wednesday the 15th – Elbow @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – The band that beat Burial in the big national music quiz or whatever it was. Haven’t listened to this new album that they got the honours for, but they were lovely when I last saw/heard them a few years ago.

Wednesday the 15th – Spiritualized @ The Academy, Birmingham – Without the gospel singers this time, if I’m correct, but still bound to be amazing.

Thursday the 16th – Will Self @ The Conservatoire, Birmingham – Why if it ain’t young Billy Self in the best of health. Author, journalist, raconteur, cultural pundit, and Birmingham Book Festival performer.

Friday the 17th – Roots Manuva @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Summonin’ up the power of Banana Clan.

Friday the 17th – Black Diamond Heavies / The Solomons @ The Dragon Bar, The Barfly, Digbeth, Birmingham – Another night of blues ‘n’ roll brought to you by them Coldrice reprobates.

Saturday the 18th – UFC 89 @ The NIA, Birmingham – Headlined by Mike Bisping vs Chris Leben (Bisping, sub, R2. Yes that’s right I said ‘sub’), and also featuring the UFC debut of longtime fave of mine Dan Hardy (against Akihiro Gono. Hardy by decision). Speaking of longtime faves of mine, Paul ‘The Relentlessly Saddling Yampy Terminator’ Taylor (you know, the one from God’s Chosen Black Country) will also be fighting Chris Lytle (Taylor, decision).

Saturday the 18th – The Creeping Nobodies / The Courtesy Group @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – A Curates Egg night, so quality is assured.

Sunday the 19th – Scorpions @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Whistle whistle, whistle whuh-whuh-whistle-whistle…

Tuesday the 21st – Carol Ann Duffy @ The Conservatoire, Birmingham – Again as part of the Birmingham Book Festival. One of the best contemporary poets, with recent controversy to boot. If you’re really a fan then you can also attend a discussion of her work led by Roz Goddard on the 9th.

Wednesday the 22nd – Eddie Reader @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Your lady there who used to be in the wonderful wonderful wonderful (‘Perfect’, even) Fairground Attraction.

Wednesday the 22nd – Seth Lakeman @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – More fiddling folking fun with Seff.

Thursday the 23rd until Sunday the 26th – “Hello Digital” @ Various places in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Hereford – The Midlands’ first digital festival (festival~!), apparently, although I don’t myself have any idea at all about precisely what is meant to connect this seemingly disparate string of events. Some of it looks interesting, though, such as the Field Of Light at Millennium Point and Capsule’s Big Up The Metalz thingy at Wolves Art Gallery.

Thursday the 23rd – An Audience With Tony Benn @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – Tony ‘Uncle’ Benn, speaking of the days when Labour was real Labour.

Thursday the 23rd – A. C. Grayling @ The Conservatoire, Birmingham – Another book festival affair. Grayling considers and speaks on the subject of reading, particularly as a “critical, challenging and subversive process”.

Friday the 24th – Capsule Night @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Watch Oxes on boxes, shake your hips to Bee Stung Lips, and do The Bump to Bilge Pump.

Friday the 24th – Boxing (First Team) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Not sure who will be fighting on this one, but it’ll no doubt include some of our local faves. (EDIT: Seems to be cancelled).

Sunday the 26th – Lau-Gar King Fu National Championships @ Cocks Moor Woods Leisure Centre, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Hai- and indeed –Ya.

Tuesday the 28th – Al Green @ The NIA, Birmingham – The Reverend Al Green, ladies and gentlemen.

Tuesday the 28th – Slayer @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – And if you fancy an arena gig that couldn’t be more different to Al Green, there’s always Slayaaaarrrrgh. (EDIT: Alright, so no an arena gig: it’s been moved to The Civic).

Wednesday the 29th – Feed The Birds @ Woodgate Valley Country Park, Bartley Green, Birmingham – The rangers show you how to make a feeder and feed the birdies properly, for free.

Friday the 31st – Boxing (Sports Network) @ The Aston Events Centre, Aston, Birmingham – Pity poor old Uncle Frankie; Calzaghe’s left him and Khan got splattered across the canvas. Every ticket sale for this event is vital. He might not be able to afford this week’s ivory backscratcher otherwise. Also: Macklin/Broadhurst/Costello etc.